Daily Archives: January 16, 2003

Is it Art?

I’m reposting this from my old site as a test of the archives:

Since games and art is being discussed quite a bit lately I thought I might post an article I wrote a couple months ago, but never got around to posting.

But is it Art?

In recent years many advances have come to the world of videogames. The visuals have become ever more photorealistic and the gameplay has become more refined to name just two. However, there has been at least one area where videogames have not advanced, and that area is, as one may guess from the title is, “Are videogames art?”

The answer to this question really depends upon whom you ask. This,of course,is part of the problem in coming up with a definative answer to this question. Ask ten people to define art and you will get ten different answers. As one saying goes, “I can’t define art, but I know it when I see it.” Art is subjective and so each person has their own definition of what art is, and depending upon that definition, they will draw their own conclusion as to whether videogames are art. By looking at both sides of this question, it may be seen that it is not videogames that are flawed, but rather the question itself. Instead of asking, “Is it art?” perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Why do we care?” and “Why do they need to be?”

On one side of the “Is it art?” issue, there are those who would say, “No.” A person who claims that videogames are not art most likely has a narrow definition of art. A narrow definition of art typically includes only the most “high culture” and refined styles. Mona Lisa and Motzart are likely to be their standards of art. They are not interested in “art”,but “Art” with a capital “A,” the kind that has velvet ropes in front of it, and people with snooty accents.

Obviously, what such a narrow and stuffy definition of art does, however, is to clasify things. What is decreed as being Art is good and distinguished, what is not Art is trash, lower class and common. However, this attitude serves a broader purpose of classifying the classifier. If a person passes judgemnet on a work by decreeing that it is or is not art, what is really happening is not a passing of judgement on the work, but the classifyer is really attempting to prove that they have a more refined taste than others, that they are better than other people. So to say that something is not art really says more about the person who is making the distinction than the actual distinction itself. So to say that something is not art is an elitist move that only serves to reinforce the closed culture of old money and snobbery. Besides, do you think that the majority of people who regularly partake of high Art would ever acqnowledge the artistry of Quake?

To say that videogames are in fact art is to take a wider, more pragmatic view of the term art. It is to say that art is a term that is subjective. A wider definition of art implies that nearly anything can be art and that art is any creative human act. However, this definition still classifies beteen art and not art, even if only in broader manner. To call something art is still to pass judgement on it.

This is why it seems that the question, “Are videogames art?” should be thrown out. There are other questions that are more pertanant. Why does it matter if it is art? What does it get the gaming community? Who benefits from calling it art and why? All of these are questions that need to be asked when one tries to argue the “Is it Art?” question. It does not seem that much if anything is gained by videogames being classified as art. A bit of respect perhaps, but there are those that will never accept the form as art, because they are too narrow minded, and too entranched in the old ways of defining art.

If one feels strongly that videogames need to be considered art in order to gain respect, perhaps what is really going on is that someone feels a bit ashamed of their hobby and is in need of something to help raise their self esteeme. If that is the case, then there are more serious questions than whether or not videogames are art. And if it is true that one of the reasons that the gaming community wants to be considered art is for respect or a self esteme boost, then I sincerely doubt that being considered art will solve those problems. A question that needs to be asked then, is not “Is it Art?” but “Why do we care?”