“Here we go again.”
That was Tim Schafer’s reaction when I recently asked him the question, “Are video games an art form?”
No doubt, it’s a topic that has been bandied about many times before. But with games like Okami, Katamari Damacy, Electroplankton—not to mention more mainstream releases like Metal Gear Solid—being hailed by critics (if not always consumers) these days, it’s hard not to bring it up once again.
founder of Double Fine Productions (www.doublefine.com), the San
Francisco-based development studio responsible for 2005’s award-winning
Psychonauts (an artistic game in its own right), seems to agree, despite his initial reservations.
“I think it’s a worthwhile question to consider, just because it’s about the future of games,” he says.
likewise abounded when other influential developers were confronted
with the same question; though, like Schafer, all eventually admitted
its continued importance, especially when considering the industry’s
For instance, Ian Bogost, Ph.D., founding partner of Atlanta-based Persuasive Games
says, “It’s an extremely simplistic question, but the spirit of it is
worthwhile. In essence, we’re asking, ‘What are video games capable of
as a medium?’ And that’s a very good question to ask.”
Denis Dyack, president of Silicon Knights (makers of Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem,
among others), agrees. “It’s a very important question to ask,
especially to game developers, as it helps give metrics to where the
mindset of the industry is.
“Even asking such a
question is an indication that our industry is maturing and games are
becoming a dominant form of entertainment,” he adds. “The most popular
forms of entertainment—TV, music, poetry, books—went through the same
Peter Molyneux, no stranger to avant garde games (it’s certainly an apt description of some of his creations, like Populous and Black & White), acknowledges the importance of pondering the artistic status of the gaming industry’s products.
no doubt games tick all sorts of arts ‘boxes’ and affect culture as
fully as any other art forms,” he says—for him the question developers
should be asked is, “What are the consequences of games being art?”
Lionhead Studios' Black & White 2
Back to the Question at Hand
however, is a question to be tackled at another time and in another
article. Instead, the question of the day is “are games an art form?”
Unsurprisingly, the answer among game developers is a resounding “yes.”
Schafer’s opinion, “Art is about creatively expressing thoughts or
emotions that are hard or impossible to communicate through literal,
“Can you use games to do that? Of course you can,” he asserts.
Advergame designer Santiago Siri—he also maintains the aptly titled website GamesAreArt.com—holds even higher regard for gaming’s status as an art form.
“Games are not just art,” he says. “They are the most revolutionary form of art mankind has ever known about.”
feeling is mutual for Dyack. “I feel video games are probably the most
advanced form of art thus far in human history,” he suggests. “Not only
do video games encompass many of the traditional forms of art (text,
sound, video, imagery), but they also uniquely tie these art forms
together with interactivity.
"This allows the art
form of video games to create something unique, beyond all other forms
of media. Simply expressed, you can put a movie in a video game but you
cannot put a video game in a movie. Video games are the ultimate form
of art as we know it.”
Not everyone is ready to place a copy of Super Mario Bros. alongside the Mona Lisa, of course.
Well, maybe just this once.