Video games as art form

One of my fondest and earliest memories of gaming is Alley Cat (The title screen on this video is shown till about 30 seconds in). Other games I remember early on are Prince of Persia and California Games. This was my childhood, later added to by an Atari 2600 (I’m pretty sure that was the version) and games like Space Quest (which I was never good at) and King’s Quest, and Maths Rescue and Word Rescue, Jill of the Jungle and Jones in the Fast Lane. I love how video games are getting their own exhibitions at museums, and even their own museum (ViGaMus) in Italy!

So one of the things that irritates me is the cry that video games aren’t art. I don’t get that? It’s many art-forms in one, visual design, sound and music, writing and storytelling, even choreography (which of course get progressively better over time. In WoW, you can tell what someone is casting or doing by looking at how their character moves, not just their casting bar.)

As an example: Gaming music is damn brilliant – I still have music from games like Heroes of Might and Magic 2 and Baldur’s Gate, and you cannot deny the quality and beauty of the Lament of the Highbourne from World of Warcraft. Yes, I love Sylvanas. (Hail to the Banshee Queen and victory to the Forsaken!)

It also influences the creation of art: visual art, video and sound editing with Machinima. Story telling (as much as people may say the Sims doesn’t have a story line, that’s the point. You create the story!). Fan music is another, and even fashion design with cosplay. My favourite fan artists who use WoW are Oxhorn and WoWCrendor on Youtube. They are awesomesauce.

I’m wondering if it’s the crass commercialism? I say crass, because there is a lot of talk around art as a purely capitalist gain, and the view of that as ‘not real art’ or ‘selling out’. Art should be made for love and passion, because you are driven to it, not because of money. Does this lessen the quality in some way? Is something wrong with video games because they are made to make money, or make the artists who work on them any different than the starving hermit artist?

I’m not saying that’s the one explanation, or even that it’s true, because I don’t know many non-gamers, or non-artists. I don’t know how they formed the idea that video games are not art or what influences them (another thought: the elitist ideals of high culture, Warhol, Shakespeare etc – although, as a lecturer reminded us the other day, Shakespeare was pop/mass culture of that time! – versus that dirty and lowly “popular” culture? For some reason, this still exists.)

(Disclaimer: Not all gamers are like this XD)


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