Video games as art, or making art in video games?

A big debate topic today (among those who like to sit around and argue about things that don’t really matter in the long run) is whether are not video games should be considered an art form. Legally,  the Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 2011 that video games are a form of art and therefore protected by the first amendment. In addition to this, in March 201 the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be displaying an exhibition called “The Art of Video Games.” Honestly, these decisions made by major institutions are enough to strengthen my view that video games are, in fact, art.

Now that we have that issue out of the way, I’d like to comment on something I’ve noticed about the artistic means and ends of a video game.   I think that there are fundamentally two types of games when dealing with art. The first type would be a game that presents fully formed, ready to be appreciated art. An example of this would be L.A. Noire. This game combines beautiful graphics, an extremely well designed world, and a gripping story that rivals any blockbuster. L.A. Noire is a perfect representation of a work of art that is given to a player, where interactivity and post-release design are limited.

The second type of game is one where, while the character may or may not be presented with a story, they are presented with both art in the form of an environment and an empty canvas upon which they can create their own art. No other game I can think of illustrates this idea better than Minecraft. Minecraft is a simple game. The world is made of blocks that you can dig up and place where you want them. Basically it equates to being able to gather materials and build whatever you want. This takes time though, and lots of it if you want to make something that looks good. For instance, pictured below is a building that is made in Minecraft. The player made this in the same way an artist would take clay and mold it into a sculpture. I think this shows that some video games are not only an art form, but they are a canvas, a medium, much like clay, that allow those who interact with the game to create something that is strikingly similar to objects that are considered art  by the general public.



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