Are video games art? On one hand, this sounds like an odd question to pose since it seems that anyone can make the case for anything being art.
Art, as defined by the English Oxford Dictionary, is, “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
According to this definition, anything is art. When a person looks at a piece of abstract or impressionist art hanging in a respected museum and says, “My three-year-old cousin could have painted that,” they are voicing their opinion of what quality art actually is. To these individuals, something that is art is more than paint splatters or a bunch of metal melted together. But technically, as long as your three-year-old cousin is a human with creative skill and imagination and produced the work, it would still be art—perhaps not high art, but art all the same.
However, when video games are discussed as art, there is usually at least one person who will scoff and say they are not. If something is considered art by the mass public it typically means that the work is timeless, or that it says something about life that is relevant both in the time it was made and in the future and is remembered.
When it comes to remembrance as what makes something art it could be argued that yes, video games are an entertainment media that are remembered in the pop culture hive mind. From the point-and-click adventure games of the 1980s such as King’s Quest to the pick-your-own-path style of horror and adventure games like Until Dawn that has become more popular over the past few years, video games have made a lasting impact.
Video games are one of the most immersive media formats of all time. As opposed to entertainment media such as books and movies, video games put the audience directly in the place of the protagonist and make the game their own story in a way. The audience member is the one making the choices and moving the story forward, they are not just along for the ride.
You could also take the word of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Back in June of 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court passed down the ruling on the case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association saying that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects video games just like films, plays and books because they are art.
Just a few months before this ruling, the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) decided to consider video games as eligible for artistic funding. This means they are a legally recognized art form.
So, are video games really art? Legally in the United States, yes. As to what the term “art” has come to mean in modern culture? The answer is still yes.
Carlee Jo Blumenthal
Kelly Sikkema for SUU News