Are Video Games Ever “High-Class”?

When we think of “art”, the images that come to mind are usually high-class galleries in the city, intricate sculptures displayed in the park, and eclectic painters living in their fancy loft apartments. Art appreciation is thought of as a cultural activity, reserved for those with intelligence and a discerning eye for beauty.

However, gone are the times when only paintings and sculptures were considered true art forms. These days, our society has come to accept a wide variety of media as works of art, from cinematic masterpieces to breathtaking works of literature. We have no trouble seeing the artistry in a beautifully written sentence or an artfully crafted scene in a movie, any more than we would in a Renoir painting or a Rivera mural. How then do we continue to turn a blind eye to the artistry of games?

Of course, video games have not always been prime candidates for the “art” category. One could hardly argue that the pixelated graphics of the first Space Invaders game are worthy of the same awe and respect as Beethoven’s 5th, yet the rapid development of graphics and technology as a whole has suddenly brought this question into the forefront of gamers’ minds. Can society ever accept video games as a valid art form? And, perhaps more importantly, should they?

As far as I’m concerned, yes, they should. WE should. While not all video games qualify as works of art, there are a choice few that may have reached the level of passion that art evokes in its viewers. To use one of my favorite games as an example, a player traversing the world of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess cannot help but wonder at the beauty of the digitally rendered landscapes, filled with carefully created characters and a compelling storyline. Just like a film, the game uses a mixed tale of adventure, love, and pain to draw the player into the artists’ intricate world.

The designers, exactly like dedicated painters, spent months creating every single detail, from towering castles to a single ray of sunlight glinting off the surface of a lake. If a painting of a rural scene can be called a work of art, why then can the same respect not be given to a digital rendering of the same type of landscape? The game did not take less effort, nor less creativity. The tools may have been computer keys instead of paintbrushes, but the result is not less refined simply because it is displayed on a screen.

Perhaps the obstacle blocking us from recognizing video games as art is not a lack of beauty, nor a lack of passion, but society’s simple unwillingness to call mere games “high-class”. Something about the word “game” makes the art community cringe. Society doesn’t want to give video games the title of art because then we’d have to stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in our world (violence, crime, rebellious teenagers, etc, etc, etc….)

Honestly, though, the time has come to stop tossing video games to the side in disgust. Their creators may not be as well-known as Michelangelo and Matisse, but the beauty of their creations should not be labeled as childish decoration for an immature pastime. Video games are here to stay, and the sooner we recognize their artistry for what it is, the sooner we can give their talented, dedicated designers the credit and respect they deserve.


–The Humblebug


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