Monday, 2 December 2013

Computer Games History Personal Enquiry - Are games art?

If I were just going on the basis of my own personal opinions, I would say yes, games are art. I believe anything that is created and/or deemed art by the person who created it means that it is in fact art. I don't believe anyone gains anything from suggesting to others that what they have made isn’t art, because I don’t understand how to you can tell someone that what they’ve made isn’t the thing they intended it to be. So if I apply this theory to games, they must surely be art if people on the team are labelled ‘artist’. I’m also sure the creators would argue their own case that what they’ve made is art after they had spent copious hours thinking about things like colour theory, just as a painter would.

However, of course I know that not everyone will jump on my bandwagon of accepting the fact games like ‘Call Of Duty’ could be placed alongside the artistry of ‘Van Gogh’, but I’m here to state my point.  In an attempt to convince the non-believers, I found a very recent part of gaming history to reveal that games are now ‘legally’ considered art in America. In 2011, the US National Endowment for the Arts included interactive media in the list of possible art forms which could try for a grant, meaning that by allowing games to receive art grants they are therefore affirming that they are a type of art.

Legalities or not, people will always have their own view regardless, and so perhaps a look into the past may well describe how art, and more specifically artistic change has flowed through games since their conception. But where is the start of games? Of course, I have discussed the beginning of video games in previous posts, but surely all games, even the interactive giants we see today, came from the basic idea of playing. Chess, with its footing in popular culture for many many years now, found its origins in 550 AD. Competition, and the will to win comes from way prior to this though, and mankind’s nature to win is where all types of games and play come from. You want to achieve your goal, and you want to succeed in winning, even if it’s just you against the game.  So here we see an immediate need for improvement, in terms of someone feeling like they’re winning. Games and video games especially, want to give the player the best possible experience in order for them to come away and feel that immense sense of achievement, and in simple terms, that they had fun. The great art of games is the way a developer tries to enhance this experience for the player using all sorts of techniques such as creative stories, relatable characters, immersive landscapes etc. Is this not the same as what a film or a piece of artwork tries to do?

You could compare how the artistry of gaming has in fact improved in a similar way to film and traditional art. However, this is not to say that older films, and the painters of centuries ago weren’t as good as the ones today, because even with games we know that a good ol’ classic now and again is rather refreshing. The artistry has improved due to the development of better tools. If you take the example of film, the invention of ‘Technicolor’, and its perfection in 1932 meant that people would no longer have to watch their world with an unfamiliar lack of vibrancy, but instead could see it with colour and feel totally immersed within it. The same sort of invention helped the art world move forward, with the introduction of paint tubes in 1841 which made it much easier for artists to apply thicker layers of paint and choose colour more spontaneously due to having no restrictions from mixing pigments as they went.

Vincent Van Gogh (1889) The Starry Night [Online Image]. Available from:

Gaming has developed in a very similar way, but more notably through graphics more than anything else. As new mediums in which to play games were developed, much more complex software was available in order to model and programme games. During the years that ‘Pong’ and ‘Pac-Man’ ran the show, graphics were limited to what now seems like a teeny tiny amount of pixels, showing no 3D form whatsoever and using a very basic colour palette. As games moved on, graphical tools improved. 3D wasn’t a thing of the distant future anymore, and along with the 90s generations of consoles, became something that wasn’t rare to see within a game. Colour palettes expanded, and instead of using a few basic primary colours, developers could choose relatively large specific sets which would fit the mood of the game and its environment. Basically, games went from chunky square blocks running around sickly coloured worlds to games where you feel like the characters have more interesting features than you do. These changes and developments which have happened in such a short space of time have allowed for beautiful games to be created, and truly immerse players within worlds, enhancing experiences just like other forms of art have done so.

Pong (1972) Pong Gameplay [Online Image]. Available

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011) Skyrim Gameplay [Online Image] Available from:

Games are art. They create places for people to run away to and visuals which a player interacts with, just like you’d interact with a painting in a gallery by talking about it. Games draw you into the story, just like a film does. I feel like games are a culmination of art forms such as music, visual art, literature etc. and that’s why people are scared to pinpoint it down as art because it’s not quite any of the categories. I believe games should be their own category; it’s just the baby of other art forms waiting to find its feet and become as socially accepted as others.

For now, if you still don’t agree with me, I’ll leave you with this video, I found it rather interesting and relevant.

PBS (2011) Video Games/ Off Book/ PBS [Online Video]. Available from:

Bibliography -

Smithsonian Seriously Amazing (2012) The Art Of Video Games [Online] Smithsonian. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13].

Kotaku (2011) This Video May Convince Your Doubtful Friends That Games Can Be Art [Online] Kotaku. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13].

The Escapist (2011) Games Now Legally Considered an Art Form (in the USA) [Online] The Escapist. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13]. (2008) Origins Of Chess [Online] Chess. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13].

Technicolor Film Invention [Online] Technicolor Film. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13].

Smithsonian (2013) Never Underestimate The Power Of A Paint Tube [Online] Smithsonian. Available from: [Accessed 01/12/13].

No comments:

Post a Comment