Video Games Are Art?

As we peel off the packaging of a new game, maybe it’s Pokemon or Bioshock, do we stop and appraise it? Looking at the careful design of the artwork and think: well this probably reflects post-cubism – or some other crap like that. Most likely not, I mean, neither do I. We just throw in the game and go on for the ride. Of course, I think with a video game we’re dealing with a complete package, so you really can’t have so many of those thoughts until you really see it for what it is and try the game out. So what does this have to do with anything? Well I’d like to point out a bit about two events related to this idea of video games as art, one of them involves the Smithsonian.

Not so recently in the video game world, a flagrant comment was thrown out by someone from Hollywood, Roger Ebert – I guess he’s important? – to the wording of, “Video Games can never be art.” His argument rambles on as he goes on to pick games like Braid, Flower, and Waco Resurrection as his victims, which he lofts against the likes of Plato, Picasso, and Piccard.


I won’t go into depths about his argument, which I feel is more or less equal to when an adult takes a small child to an art museum and tries to make him or her interested in a painting consisting of green paint blobs on a white frame. I’m not saying that some of the examples he puts up aren’t good, but I don’t think he sounds any less bombastic by taking on an entire art form he knows nothing about and later admits he hasn’t played much despite recommendations, “…especially given the volume of messages I receive urging me to play this game or that and recant the error of my ways”

I would honestly just toss aside his argument through his opening paragraph, in which he already leaves his title quote and switches to, “Perhaps it is foolish of me to say “never,” because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.” He is clearly uncertain in his claims, and I feel like if he can’t even stand behind them in the first place he really shouldn’t have written the succeeding paragraphs.

Despite any of my thoughts on this situation, Ron Gilbert, creator of the Monkey Island series wrote his own, nice and prompt rebuttle to Ebert, which I’ll just sample some of his quotes from it.

His own direct responses being more or less, “The problem is Roger has not played the right games, or any games.  Roger is a master at understanding movies and there is no person I respect more than him when it comes to understanding film and it’s importance.

But games?  Not so much.”

He then makes a nice long statement on the nature of video games and how we interact:

“The games I was playing and wanted to make were adventure games and I didn’t see much difference in how they told a story from how a movie told a story except they were interactive.  I saw them as an extension of the linar narrative of film.  I saw them as not only a way to tell a story with real characters, real emotions and real ideas, but one where the viewer got to participate in the story.  They got to touch it and twist it and become part of it and make it their own.”

So why am I pulling up something over a year old and no longer even so controversial – though I would say that is an argument for another time anyway – when the video game world has continued on unfazed? Well because if they weren’t before, Video games just became art. As of May 5th, the list was released of video games that will be featured in the future Video Games exhibit in the Smithsonian – Due next Spring.

The nicest thing about the whole display being set up is that it asked the opinions of world as to what games should be in it. Up until the end of April, fans worldwide had the chance to vote on titles from Atari to Xbox. For the complete list check out, here. If you want just general information about the whole exhibit, then you can look either on the Smithsonian’s page for it, or you can check out The Art of Video Games’ site.

So who can we expect to see showing up to this gala – taking place between March 16, 2012 – Sept 30 – well I wouldn’t be surprised to find Donkey Kong brushing shoulders with Sid Meier’s Pirates and Zelda saying, “Hi!” to Starfox for starters.



2 Responses to Video Games Are Art?

  1. Neurotic Youth says:

    This is a fucking awesome post.

  2. Mike says:

    I agree to most of it , although they should only have put 1 game per serie ( the most praised ) The legend of zelda is good but in my opinion the only ones that deserved to be in a Museum is the original and Ocarina of time ( Because of their impact at the time )

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