The fog rolled across the desolate fields, consuming everything in its path. It brought with it the smell of burnt flesh, gunpowder, and sweat. The screams could be heard through the mist, familiar screams of humans in pain, dying, mixed with the screams of the aliens, their bloodcurdling hoots ricocheting off the eardrums with a sharp pang. His heartbeat quickened, and the blood began to course through his veins as he approached the cacophony of misery that was the fog. He steeled his nerves, kissed the cross hanging from his neck, and sprinted in.
Am I the only one who wants to know what happens next and what was happening in the first place? The narrative is the ultimate captivating medium to transmit a story. Reading is universally fascinating (specifically fiction) because it essentially introduces a whole new world to the reader. The reader is introduced to the story but not spoon-fed the details, enabling the reader to engage his/her imagination. This engagement of imagination translates into a captivation with the world that the mind inevitably creates when reading. This imaginary sanctuary takes the mind on new adventures allowing him/her to truly immerse his/her self in the hybrid book/imagination world that has been created.
Videogames and movies are much less effective in engaging and holding the observer. The observer is shown what the world looks like and who the characters are. This diluted version of a book disengages the imagination and helps cultivate a mind accustomed to reduced stimulation. This is not the way to develop creators, thinker, writers, and other members of the creative community, yet the trend in society seems to be heading towards a lower level brain function at an alarming rate.
Reading cultivates the mind and I hope that it does not die out, to be replaced by the likes of movies and videogames as substitutes. Although they have their place, there is nothing that cultivates the mind better than a good book.
Take aside any random person on the street. Go ahead, do it; they won’t mind. Ask them a simple question, “Are video games art?” What will their response be? Unless their either a gamer, a techie, or fairly young, most will answer with the same thing: no. After all, how profound can something like Halo or Grand Theft Auto be when compared to Michaelangelo’s David or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony? It seems obvious that video games are purely entertainment, and hold little more value, artistically or otherwise. While this may be true, our definitions of “art” change drastically over time, whether it’s caused by advancements in technology, philosophy, the natural sciences, or any of a number of reasons. Because of this, it will only be a matter of time until society’s views on video games change and they are seen as a fine art.
This has certainly been the case historically. Painting, for example, has evolved so much, just in the past 600 years, a wink in the eye of time. Up until the Italian Renaissance, paintings were for the most part limited to flat, two-dimensional Madonnas.
However, from that point on, Artists experimented with many new techniques, including linear perspective, as illustrated by Raphael’s Madonna:
The School of Athens
The evolution of painting did not stop there, though. Impressionism, made famous by Vincent Van Gogh, discarded realism in favor of wide, sweeping, emotional brush strokes. Pablo Picasso’s cubism, which throws reality out the window, borders on absurd. Both movements, like video games, were highly criticized at the time, and yet today they are hailed as some of the greatest works of art known to man.
Historically, as new forms of media have taken rise, they have not been met with the kindest of welcomes. As feature films grew in popularity, they were seen as a threat to the theatre industry, and hardly qualified as art. Yet today, classics such as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Godfather, and Dr. Strangelove: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb are seen as artful masterpieces. Likewise, many had the same attitudes toward television as it was introduced to the public. However, both fiction and nonfiction pieces alike (Roots, for example) are virtually unanimously agreed upon as works of art. Therefore, it is inevitable that video games will follow this same cycle. Are they works of art today? That’s a stretch, but what about the future? It’s almost certain.