Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Are games art?

As a first post onto my blog I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring regarding this thorny issue. Recently this argument has been brought back to the forefront of games related journalism by Roger Ebert, who stated that games can never be art.

As a gamer and an artist i felt that my ideas were impartant to this argument - after all, I am surely the overlap on the venn diagram that started this idea. Before I reveal my own beliefs, I would like to discuss my background thinking.

One quote I heard - from RockPaperShotgun - argued that games HAD to be art - "If a hundred artists work for five years on something, how can the end result not be art?" (Apologies if I have quoted that incorrectly)

I think this kind of thinking deviates from the argument in question. As an artist, there are many things that I create that are - quite literally - not art. I may draw or create something simply because someone asked me to or because I just thought it would look cool. Not really an art way of planning or creating work.

I feel the argument revolves around an old question within the art world - what is the difference between a craftsman and an artist? Both work with a set of tools and both work from a brief set by an outside party. The artist may create something that inspires, but so may the craftsman.

As an example, I am an artist and my brother is a carpenter (Not really, he never finished his apprenticeship - but lets assume for the sake of the argument that he did), we both can use the same materials to make an object in our chosen profession. Both objects will have a use and both objects will be made to the best of our abilities - lets say I make a sculpture and he makes a chair. Both of these objects will bring joy, as looking at good art can (again assuming I make good art and don't cock it up!) but everyone enjoys sitting down in a good chair as well. Assuming as a last point that both of our objects are made to the same level of technical expertise (a lot of assumptions here, but im trying to level the argument). The real question is, what makes mine art and his furniture?

Is it because he was trained to use his tools, whereas I was trained to use my mind? If that is true, then games are not art. Modellers go through a lot of training and practice learning their chosen modelling program.

Is it because he created something with a use outside of aesthetics? If that is true, then games are not art. Chairs are not necassary to human existence, only human comfort. Games are not necassary, they are a luxury as well.

The answer is up to all of us really, whether we choose to view them as art or not. As a culture, the choice is in our hands. If you believe games are art, then don't let me detract from that - art is, after all, subjective and the final say is up to the person viewing, not the person who made it (or the person making a blog post about it)

For what it's worth, I personally feel that games have more in common with a gallery. They are beautiful constructions, but not art. However, they do contain art. Art can be seen within a videogame, but not in the form of a videogame as a whole.

Please disagree and argue with me, it's what I enjoy most :)

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