Yes, this is going to be another article attempting to refute Roger Ebert’s stance that video games are not art. Please bear with me for a moment.
What is art? It’s one of those things with a tricky definition, partly because as soon as we draw the line of is and is not, something dares to cross that line. If we are talking about traditional canvas works, we have examples like impressionism, cubism, and my favorite, pop art, to give examples of this changing definition. Andy Warhol famously created art from the everyday and happily mass produced it. When he began he was scoffed at. Art could not be mass produced, they said. They claimed that what he was creating wasn’t art, but years later, we recognize Warhol’s creations as defining a generation. He crossed into the ‘is not’ and forever changed the art world.
That leaves open the question of what we should toss out as art and what we can keep. Certainly everything is not art simply waiting to be redefined? Art, by definition, is a creative expression of creativity and skill to be appreciated by others at an emotional level. Without intent, there is no art. Without a reaction and connection, there is no art. So I ask, why can’t video games fit into this definition? When did art become about anything other than a connection emotionally to the work of another?
Let’s leave out, or a moment, the average everyday game. While we may have deep emotional connections and very real reactions (that early scene after Ezio dons the robe in Assassin’s Creed 2 made me feel like my heart was being wrenched out) to the products of a team of people who pour their heart and soul into a product, I am going to today ignore the mainstream offerings. Art or no art, that is a discussion for another day. What I want to talk about is specifically art games. These are games made specifically to convey a particular emotion or idea. They are created to provoke a profound and lasting effect on the player, leaving every person with a unique and thought-provoking experience.
I have long had a soft spot for art games. As I stated above, I love pop art, and I also love bizarre art movies, performance art, mixed media art, installation art, and other contemporary, strange expressions of humanity. These odd little games stuck with me for this reason. I love novel ideas and creativity.
So starts a series of overviews or reviews of games specifically created, marketed, and recognized as art. Unlike Roger Ebert, I won’t base my decision on videos. I will do what he did not and actually play the games I assess.
Please join me as I enter the world of art games.