Asking Big Questions

Asking Big Questions #002: “Are video games art?”


“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
-Desmond Tutu



Greetings, NPCs! We’ve another community event lined up for you.

To articulate our never-ending quest to raise the standard of discussion and civility in the world of gaming, we undertook the first in a series of “Asking Big Questions” posts back in May. In that first entry, the question was “What have you learned since you started blogging?” My heart was warmed by the response we received. Many of you shared your experiences, your anxieties, your histories with us and bared your souls to each other. I found that brand of humanity inspiring; we were transparent and open with our peers and ourselves.


If you weren’t around or otherwise didn’t participate, I highly suggest you take a look at some of the answers furnished by the great and sometimes very much unsung writers out there among us. Some of them left their responses in the comments, while others created entire blog posts dedicated to expressing what they learned through the blogging process.

And now to business… Let my colleague, the Evergreen Sage Mage, explain:


Recently in the Mage Chat, a few of us had a rather heated discussion on the issue of whether games are art. There were a lot of ideas being thrown around at what seemed like light-speed, so it was hard to keep up. Not all mages were present to share their two cents so, fired up by the conversation, The Purple Prose Mage and I took some time to bounce some ideas around and came up with a writing challenge, in the spirit of openness, where anybody who wants to voice their thoughts on the issue has a chance to do so. We proposed TWRM to host it, and there you have it. Here’s what we came up with for the second Big Question Challenge!

If you are interested in sharpening your pencils and have some thoughts to share, you are cordially invited to write up a response to the issue within a week of this posting. 500 words maximum. This first post you are reading is the announcement post, and after we collect the mages’ responses we will put them into a follow-up post for everyone’s enjoyment, next Monday.

Are video games art? Should video games be considered art pieces? Should some games be considered art, and not others? Why? What does it all mean?!

ff3-nes-sage2 -the Evergreen Sage Mage 


Video games as art. The subject crops up now and then (like a weed or like a rich harvest, depending on your perspective). To some it’s an important discussion to have. To others it’s largely irrelevant, and some say it ought to remain that way.

Allow me to briefly phrase where I stand on the issue, below the 500 word limit!

Since The Well-Red Mage’s inception, I’ve approached video games as an art form in general terms but not in absolute specificity, meaning I don’t consider every single video game ever to be “artsy” or to have been created explicitly to be art. It’s hard to classify the odd fan-service or running around blowing heads off online as art.

However, my broad working definition of art as “a deliberate, meaningful, expressive activity which creates artifacts or otherwise observable effects” means that I fundamentally disagree with those who say video games are not art because they’re not hung up in a museum. Not only are there actual video game museums now with physical art pieces hung there, but that limited definition of art excludes art history and other obvious art candidates which cannot be hung in museums: storytelling, literature, poetry, symphony, dance (which is indeed interactive, just like video games). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t believe music to be art, and yet music isn’t the same thing as paintings, sculptures, or artifacts.

It’s precisely because “art” is so broad, including visual, musical, interactive, and design aspects, that I consider games to be art. Note that I think this is regardless of whether a select group in majority or a collective of authorities on the subject deem something to be art or not. I don’t think that just because Ebert didn’t consider them art that that means that games are not actually art, for a specific example. I lean more toward art in the creation not the observation. I don’t think that anyone or any group can make authoritative claims on what human activities and effects do or do not count as art, because the creator of such an activity or effect may have expressed themselves through that vehicle in a way which the critic in authority has no jurisdiction over. So I want to be careful in saying what isn’t art, and err on the positive rather than the negative.

For me, “games as art” is not a plea for legitimacy from others outside gaming. It’s not a plea for legitimacy for my work either, since I believed games were art well before I began writing about them. It’s a plea for those who enjoy games to appreciate them in a deeper way, including deepening the conversation, but it is not a plea for making games less fun. Great thing about gaming is there’s a lot of variety.

But don’t just take it from me! One of the beautiful things about being individuals is that we have our own individual thoughts and opinions. Don’t let the collective decide for you. Don’t buy into mob mentality or whatever’s popular. Certainly don’t let celebrities and authorities figure out the world for you. I will do whatever I can to maintain this site as a hub for mutual respect even through disagreement, so let’s hear some varying takes on whether video games are art or not! Our contributors are going to have the opportunity to express their own opinions very soon.

We’d like to invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts on this important (or not so important) issue. You can either leave us a comment below or if you feel so inclined you can write up a whole blog post and link back here, detailing the nuances of your personal beliefs and arguments.

Either way, agree or disagree, I believe our world is richer for us talking to each other.

In your service,
-The Well-Red Mage


Here’s a short(ish) list of articles on the topic:

“Video games can never be art” (Ebert)

“Right. Moving on…[My Response to Ebert]”

“5 good reasons games are not art”

“For France, Video Games Are as Artful as Cinema”

“Are Videogames Art? Time Will Tell”

“Sorry MoMa, video games are not art”

“Are video games art: the debate that shouldn’t be”

“Games aren’t art, says Kojima”

Some video format stuff of some relation:

Brenda Romero – “Are Games Art?”

Kellee Santiago – “An argument for game artistry”

Extra Credits – “‘Art’ Is Not the Opposite of ‘Fun’ – Why Analyzing Games Makes Them Better”

Idea Channel – “A Defense of Overthinking Pop Culture”

Errant Signal – “Keep Your Politics Out of my Video Games”

Games as Lit. 101 – Counterpoint: “Interactivity Invalidates Art”

Games as Lit. 101 – Counterpoint: “You Can’t ‘Win’ Art”

Games as Lit. 101 – Literary Analysis: Art Games

Games as Lit. 101 – Artistic Responsibility

Games as Lit. 101 – The Challenge/Experience Shift

Games as Lit 101 – Do Social Issues Make Art Better?

Arcademia – [Interview] James Portnow Guides Designers with Extra Credits [art and games addressed around 3:48]


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81 replies »

  1. Good Gravy!
    Lord C here, I shan’t be formin a full post, as it turns out, tryin ta use wordpress on Vodafone internet or suspiciously ganked wifi is a no-no… *Sighs*
    So, to comment:
    Basically, as is just my understanding, in order to the points every1 made:
    1, are videogames art? Yes.
    2, does wanting external validation make you a bad person? No.
    I suffer from depression & sadly my self-worth (or lack thereof) is directly tied to most peoples belief that I’m a fat, lazy, workshy, idiot of the lowest orders *Sighs*
    So, I can assure you, external validation is not always needed per she, but it does improve some peoples joy.
    3, the older people, as mentioned by Richenbaum, are not ‘old’ people, I assume he simply means people currently older than himself, Lord C is 32 & every1 older is sir or madam, but I digress…
    I assume he means the ‘older’ generation of gamers (pre-3D, etc) & their, usually quite stubborn, almost continuous refusal to appreciate ‘new’ or ‘younger’ things,
    To echo his 2nd statement, I do not mean all ‘old’ people are curmudgeonly stick in the muds decrying our “weirdly wondrous & sometimes terrifyingly obscure worlds”(RPGs) “shooty bang bang festivals” (FPSs) or walkin simulators (“Where’s t’game?)
    I know that from personal experience, a ‘closed wall’ induhvidual cannot be reasoned, bargained or argued with (Terminator!) they simply stick to their guns of ‘I disapprove dammit! & so should you!’
    & finally, 4, Lord C has mentioned his views somewhat in previous comments, but, to briefly reiterate previous statements:
    FF7 is art (It just is!! *Grins*) because of the sheer real world altering force of it’s existence, Journey is art because it carries you quietly & respectfully thru delicate musical ruins in a pseudo religious setting whilst brilliantly stimulating your emotions (the golden sand slide: Purest Heartfelt Joy, the 1st meeting of the ‘Lightning Dragons’ as you creep thru a dark cave, I’m not ashamed to admit, as I watched t’playthrough, I missed 1 in a dark patch, it moved, roared & I’ve genuinely never been so unnerved by something like that EVER! & I’ve played Silent Hill 1,2&3 on my own IN A DARK ROOM!)
    Dear Esther is art, because it literally gives you a world, & says: “Here’s this. Care or don’t, it doesn’t matter either way, I persist whether you believe or not, like Santa, gravity or God (no emails please! I’m vaguely religious but I accept others aren’t, & that’s OK!)
    If you’ll permit Lord C a brief indulgence…
    I have personally always referred to books as ‘Doors’ I.e. whenever depression gets Really bad, & I can’t read, I refer to it bein like ‘A wall slamming down over my doors, (& the pain is very real!)
    If you’ll allow me to stretch my metaphor, videogames are ‘3D doors’ where, more often than not, a world (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest et all) aesthetic (Journey, Unraveled, Black: The Fall, etc) sense of a specific place & time (Cthulhu series) or, at least, a vague sense of something indefinably fun, that also seems… More! (Katamari Damacy, Bishi Bashi Special, etc) these are all valid & beautiful forms of art.
    For those that must have comparison, I give you not Mona Lisa (overrated, IMHO… Jk!) but instead Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl With Pearl Earring’ you can truly believe, given enough time, that she will move, or breathe.
    Games simply take this magical ‘possibility’ & make it (but gently, & often with more respect & care than you’d believe necessary.. FF7 again! *Grins*) an ‘inevitability’ &, thankfully (for me at least!) usually quite beautifully too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice! I’ll look forward to that! I’m definitely interested in hearing responses that take into consideration such thoughts as “are ALL video games art?” I’ve seen a lot of citing specific examples, but then on the other hand there are some ugly games hahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Coming from the contemporary art world, each year we attend
    various art fairs of varying caliber. Most art fairs are booths
    arranged with some sculptural pieces, and around 6 -10 rectangle
    paintings. Multiply that by 200 or so booths, you are looking at
    several thousands pieces of art in the same dimensions. Is a
    rectangle actually creative? Not really. With all the shapes in
    the universe creativity is reduced to a rectangle? Similarly with
    Instagram. All the creativity in the universe is stuck inside a box.

    How can anyone think outside the box when they are putting
    everything in the shape of a box (or rectangle?) Games create
    additional vital elements, interactivity and immersion. Instead
    of standing behind a rope, or looking at a painting behind glass
    the viewer is encouraged to play, interact, explore, & become
    immersed in the artwork and narrative. It is a multi-layered and
    nuanced experience, with music, humor, dialogue, visuals, trials,
    and errors. For thousands of years artwork was static, capturing
    a moment in time, now viewers are encouraged to enter the work,
    creating their own moments and experiences that last a lifetime.

    Look but don’t touch is now replaced with play to your hearts content.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Video games are the next evolution of both art and storytelling.

        It is really exciting to see how quickly advancements in technology
        have pushed both genres forward, with more developments to be
        experienced in the not so distant future. Top actors have already
        transitioned to voice acting in games embracing the medium.
        Look how far the world of film has come in the last century, the
        same progress is in store for video games. It really is exciting to
        imagine and experience what comes next in the gaming world.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m excited to see another answering big questions post come up! I found your blog via the previous question, as (I think) Lightning responded to it. I happened to find that post (a random and happy coincidence that led to me following two wonderful bloggers) and, intrigued, followed the link to the original post. I’m contributing to the conversation this time around! Though my post may be a few words over the limit after adding an aside to the intro and remembering for the hundredth time that video game is two words, not one (I struggle a great deal in the spelling category).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I do accept computer games as art. According to, art was defined as “the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria”. I feel this statement applied to computer games as this medium is subject to aesthetic criteria and they do have to power to affect the participant emotionally. I feel that every computer game is considered a work of art, but different games have a different quality of art (similar to how each painting is also a work of art, but the Mona Lisa of a higher quality than a simple watercolour landscape).
    I also feel that computer games, as a medium, have shown how they can be used to demonstrate different styles and reflect the feelings of their developers. Many games have a highly realistic design and seemingly attempt to convince the player that they are witnessing actual events (such as the Metal Gear Solid series). Some games use more simplistic graphics and absurdist visuals (the Mario games for example). A few games seem to have managed to create a highly surreal effect, which resembled the dreamscapes of Salvador Dali (such as NiGHTS into Dreams).
    Many also consider that good art should invoke an emotional response in the viewer and encourage them to consider themes suggested in the art itself. I feel computer games also manage to accomplish this idea. The aesthetics and music of computer games can help set a mood and cause the player to feel certain feelings. The fact that the player controls the game also allows the player to interact with the game more fully than other art mediums. I remember feeling apprehension at playing the Arnham Knights level of the Medal of Honour: Frontline game because of the effective way it portrayed the horrors of war. The level was set in the city of Arnham during the Second World War and many buildings were ruined and the narrow streets were filled with rubble. The music was slow and mournful, with the fearful cries of soldiers adding to the sombre mood. It was also a level where (unlike the rest of the game) allied soldiers could die, without the player having to restart the level to save them, which added to the bleakness as allies could be massacred, but the player had to continue. I also feel that many real-time strategy games effectively portray the desperation of fighting a hopeless battle. In a game, build a base and wait for the enemy to attack with a powerful army and witness the players’ doomed attempts at success. During the attack, defences would crumble, armies would be slaughtered, fear would increase as more enemies arrived, soldiers would be sacrificed to try to kill deadly enemy units, civilians would dies, buildings would be destroyed, desperate attempts would be made to get more fighters, civilians would be forced into useless attacks or sent to hide and the player would feel slight hope that one ally would be hidden to allow the battle to continue. I feel this sequence of events recreates a sense of fighting an unwinnable war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think that naming interactivity as distinctive to video games as an art form doesn’t really take into consideration other traditionally defined art forms with varying levels of interactivity. Dance is interactive and has been considered an art form pretty much universally. Certain methods in symphony and choral music can be interactive. There are post-modernist art museums where the visitor actually creates a part of the exhibit, interactively. Even the observance and discussion of an art piece is a part of extracting its meaning, and that’s interactive. What are your thoughts there?


      • There are artworks which do include interactivity and some art forms are naturally interactive, but I do feel that computer games are one of the art forms which use interactivity as the basis of the art form itself and in an unique manner. With most art forms, the artist had already decided the form of the work. With story-telling mediums (such as literature, films and plays), the story, characters and actions within the work has been determined by the writer alone. With computer games, the story outcome has been created by the developer, but the character actions are largely decided by the player (with some aspects pre-determined by the developer), which actually subtly decides the personality of the character. A skilled player can make the hero seem more impressive than a hero controlled by a less able player. Some games alter the story depending on the characteristics of the hero, which range from changes to storyline to smaller differences in dialogue, based on the actions of the player. I do not feel computer games are completely interactive though. In the example you mentioned (the post-modernist artwork, where the viewer can create piece of the art), this seems to be fully interactive, with the viewer having full control over the final artwork. In computer games, however, the player still has to follow a pre-determined route to complete the story and has less control over the physical environment and design of the game.
        Do you agree?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I pretty much agree. I don’t think that interactivity in games is absolutely unique out of all art forms, but as you pointed out there are exceptions on both sides. Some accepted art forms are interactive, some aren’t. At the same time, some games are more interactive than others, also taking into consideration the amount of freedom along a certain path which the developers allow. There’s another aspect to interactivity with art, as well, which is the question of whether the act of being the observer adds a layer of interactivity to the art piece: does the reflection upon the meaning and extrapolating and expounding upon the meaning of the art so enrich that piece that it becomes a part of it to some extent?


  5. thats definately a good point. Games cna be art, but doesn’t necessarily all games are set out to be art. Either way, that 2nd part of the point doesn’t dismiss that games can be art. I’ve played some deep well crafted experiences over my life and they are definitely art to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I doubt I’ll have time to make a post even one that’s limited to 500 words or less, but I do want to say I read some of the arguments against games being art, and many of them seemed to have quite a few flaws. For example Kojima stated, “Art is something that radiates the artist…if 100 people walk by and a single person is captivated by whatever that piece radiates, it’s art” This is a poor argument because I’m certain at least 100 people were captivated by such games as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VI, Dear Esther, SOMA, The Last of Us, Journey, and numerous others. People are still talking about FFVII’s integral scene after 20 years. People are still arguing over whether or not Dear Esther is even a game.

    Art is that which inspires emotion in the spectator, and just because there are things being *called* art currently (I’m pretty sure there was an exhibit where the creator threw garbage on the floor), that doesn’t make all art crap and unworthy of attention or discourse. Hell even the garbage on the floor is worthy of discourse insofar as we can discuss what it says about our society and culture that some of us would accept something like that as art, but not believe a game that warns about the dangers of disregarding bioethics and environmentalism (FFVIII), one that tears to the heart of existential horror is asking “What is consciousness?” (SOMA), or one where you walk around a deserted island as a ghost unable to change, only able to observe, and lamenting what you couldn’t save (Dear Esther) is not both artistic and poetic.

    As for the “you can’t compare it to anything by a poet, novelist, etc.” if that’s the game, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing with my FFVII comparison essays, the most recent one just posted as a comparative to Greek tragedy with an emphasis on Oedipus or my plans to compare it to ASOIAF. I’m also not sure what the creators were doing when they used historical and mythological references for names, I feel as though some of these people either don’t know enough about games or they don’t know enough about popular story motifs or they may just not know that both games and other narratives share these and cross over. It’s like when George R R Martin stated that he was the first person to come up with the idea of an ice dragon when I’m almost certain they existed in D&D. It seems as though these people are speaking out of ignorance, and this is not meant as an insult insofar as the term’s usage. I do wish they’d be more informed before stating their opinion, because it would save a lot of time.

    Damn…is that 500 words? Lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey you did it! I think the part where I disagree with Kojima is that even if no one is there to be captivated by the radiance of the art, it’s still art. It’s like if no one hears a tree fall in a forest, does it still make a sound? Of course it does. Sounds occur even if there are no human ears to perceive them. So too, an artefact which lies undiscovered and unseen is still a work of art even though nobody alive has seen it. Art is art because of the presence of the artist, art in the creation, in my opinion. The inspiration and observation is secondary.

      Coming on Monday is a collection of responses to this question from the mages, who are gamers, and know about game, and some of them are against games being art, so you’ll have to come back to respond to the arguments against!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Completely agree with you. I’m honestly more shocked than anything that anyone, especially a game developer, can’t see that games are art. I can kind of understand Ebert since he probably never even watched a game. I’ve always thought that tree in the forest question was so freaking arrogant when people would answer there was no sound. Sounds don’t exist just for human ears. Human ears exist in order to pick up sound hehe. Even I’M not that narcissistic *sniff*

        I suppose I shall have to! I’m curious as to what their arguments against it are, especially considering my point about how it’s hard for me to fathom how anyone who is a gamer/knows games can’t see the artistry in them, but I should withhold my judgment until I see their reasons! I’m happy to see that you and I concur on this point 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s the nucleus of my position, and it’s why I’m phrasing all of video games as an art form though individual video games may not be “works of art” or “artsy”, though getting into artistic perspectives and techniques in visuals and music can be examples of art in non-art games. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Alex Sigsworth and commented:

    Are video games art? That we’re even having this conversation means there’s no definitive answer, which means that it comes down to “because I say so!”. A lot of the arguments for video games being art will often interpret the definition of art as being something which can accommodate video games, but before arguing why something can be classified within a specific category, you also have to define what the thing is first.

    The video game is still a very recent medium compared to literature or film, which have existed long enough to develop into something that people understand. We still don’t really know what video games are capable of being, because the boundaries are still being pushed. We’re the pioneers, we’re just starting it. Therefore, any artistic merit that video games will ever come to have will only ever be given by students of the subject in years to come, in the same way that the first wave of film critics, like Truffaut, understood film making principles enough to do things with it that hadn’t been done before. Creators often don’t understand their creations as much as their fans. The first art films were made by people who’d studied films that came before in order to understand the process, and then use that process to different ends. That’s how I expect video games will develop. We understand how video games work, but there doesn’t yet to appear to be anyone who’s developed a video game in a way that establishes and redefines the medium in the same way that happened with film.

    Comparing video games specifically to film is, I understand, a biased perspective, but in arguing the artistic merits of a genre, there needs to be an example genre with-which to compare it, and film is the closest one.

    I don’t know if the definition of a video game will ever be defined in my lifetime, and that’s okay. In maybe a hundred years time, video games will be studied as much, if not more than, film. And its students will understand the important ones, which form a pathway of evolution of techniques that eventually lead to whatever video games have become by that time. The dots can only be connected by looking backwards, and we’re still basically at the beginning of the trail. We need more samples, and that will take time. But we do at least have a reference for how our understanding will develop. We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves; this is how I think video games will come to be considered art, if they ever do. All we can do is stay focused on the video games of today. We have to lay the foundations. Because, compared to the video game players of the future, we don’t know anything at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Yay! I was waiting for the next Big Question 🙂 I’ll likely do a blog post about this. Thanks, my mage friend! I honestly needed something to write about, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s a difficult discussion to have because, as you pointed out, “art” is such a broad term. It’s very subjective. I guess my stance would be that video games can be art but don’t necessarily have to, or need to, be. At least in my own definition, “art” is something that attempts to express an idea or concept, or tries to make a lasting impact on the viewer. Compare games like Madden versus That Dragon, Cancer. One is clearly trying to make a point, & provoke feelings other than “enjoyment” from the player. Pixels work just as well as paint or ink for expressing ideas, if that’s what the creator wants.

    Maybe it’s the impact the medium leaves on the viewer that determines “art”. If a game sticks with you, made you confront ideas you never had before, or can be discussed in terms other than just gameplay, it might be art. Again, it’s all up to the viewer. Some people see “impactful” games as boring, like when Dear Esther came out. The same is true for other mediums. I personally hate Citizen Cane as a movie, though I do understand it’s importance to cinematography. I think I might have stumbled upon something there… maybe art is something that, even if you personally don’t “enjoy” it, you can at least appreciate it for what it is or trying to do.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter to me. There is an art to making a great game, & I will continue to enjoy them for a variety of reasons. I don’t feel the need to defend video games as art, because I do agree it can come across as crying for legitimacy from outsiders. Yes, it does irk me when ill-informed people act as though games continue to be solely for children, despite that not having been the case for years. But I don’t need others to validate my views. “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi and thanks for sharing your thoughts in our little community question! It sounds like you’re leaning toward the “art in the observation rather than the creation”. I can see that that validates the worth (or lack of worth) in a viewer’s eyes and I think it’s a part of the total perspective of art, the other being what you mentioned as what the creator wants “art in the creation”. I think that’s the safer definition or leaning, considering that it prevents a group of people or authorities from declaring something to not be art even if the creator intended it to be. The opposite would be the creator calling their work non-art while groups declare that it in fact is (which I don’t think happens too often), so “art in the creation” seems like the better choice experientially to me.

      Ultimately, you’re right in that one of the best options is considering the value of something even if you don’t personally like it. And of course, the question has little to no bearing on whether we can enjoy games or not. I consider them an art form but even if I woke up tomorrow to find that they were objectively defined as non-art by every breathing human being, I’d still enjoy them. I don’t need that validation either. It sounds like we really agree, and then of course you won me over with one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes 😀


  10. Yes, they are. Some of them have far more artistic value than the majority, as with any form of culture, but many video games have moved me as much as great films, classic novels, and famous symphonies. I’m sure I’d get a verbal lashing from sophisticates for stating that. Video games may be mainstream now, but many folks still dismiss them. My sister considers them entirely childish, for instance, but it’s an opinion born out of ignorance – she doesn’t play games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for sharing! If you’d like, since you’re a contributor, you’re invited to share a 500 word argument on the subject (post coming next Monday). If you want to participate, you can send me your segment on Discord. If not, no worries! The interesting thing is there are verbal lashers on both sides, multiple sides of this issue. It’s already been fairly controversial.


  11. Oh, I know the answer to this one! “Yes.” That was easy. Next question.

    In all seriousness, several years ago, I remember watching an interview with the man who created Space Invaders, and it convinced me that not only are video games art, they have been this whole time. I feel a lot of indie creators in the late 2000s/early 2010s tried to go into their projects trying to prove to skeptics that games are art, but I feel in doing so, they tended to lack focus. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t really care for Limbo. I’ve found the games that make the most profound artistic statements such as Undertale are the ones in which you could tell that the creators went into their projects knowing exactly what kind of experience they were trying to craft and succeeded in doing so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your response, Red! What’s your take on the assertion that some games are works of art whereas some games aren’t (cash cows, sequelitis, clones, etc.)? How does that sit with the idea that games are an art form? I think bringing up indies is another important facet of this conversation, so keen observation there.


      • I think the semantic debate of whether something is or isn’t art is a bit reductive. At the end of the day, there’s bad art and good art, and I’d say the medium managed to cover quite a lot of ground in such a short time. I also believe the whole artistic statement/product is a false dichotomy. Fans like to extol the value of the auteur theory, but there have been plenty of instances where the blatant cash grab ended up better than the passion project. If the passion project is inherently always superior to the cash grab, then critics would need to declare Battlefield Earth a superior effort to The Godfather movies, and that would be messed up to say the least.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I don’t not disagree. 🙂

          Were the Godfather movies a cash grab? Just curious. I think, and this is getting down into interesting details, when we say “the cash grab ended up better than the passion project” we’d have to describe how it’s better. Is that measured in sales? In that case, the cash grab is designed solely to sell whereas the p. project isn’t. Are the majority cash grabs better in terms of breadth of content, marketability, accessibility, fan base and fame? That may also be symptoms of their being cash grabs.

          On the flip side, merely being artistic doesn’t guarantee total quality, absolutely. I wouldn’t make that claim. I’ve seen some really crappy indie movies (and games) in my life that were passion projects but they weren’t as exciting as the Avengers, for instance. Speaking generally, it seems to me that the passion projects are “better” only in a meaningful artistic sense of depth (if done well) vs the cash grab clones, which are successful in their own right but on different terms. In that sense, is there a narrower margin for measuring success for the p. project vs measuring the success of the cash grabber? Probably you’d still need to compare each title individually, but then I guess that’s why people write reviews, eh?

          Sorry, that was all stream of consciousness of sorts. I actually had no idea how to respond to your comment! I think it’s an interesting question and I like hearing so many perspectives on it, so thanks!


          • When I say better, I basically mean how well it has stood the test of time and how highly regarded it is by critics. Granted, I realize that just like everyone else, they can get it wrong too, but this isn’t one of those cases, as two of the films in that trilogy are considered classics while Battlefield Earth is the punchline of innumerable “bad movie” jokes.

            And yes, many people involved with the creation of The Godfather movies primarily did so for money to pursue their own goals. It’s quite interesting; I’d say you should look into it.

            Liked by 1 person

            • So I will humiliatingly admit that I’ve never seen the highly regarded Godfather films. It’s something I’ll look into, on your recommendation! I think there’s a lot of overlap with what we’re talking about, too. Likely there are passion projects that are also very passionate about making money. Battlefield Earth I have seen… and we’ll leave it at that hahaha!

              Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t really think it’s “insane,” I think it’s important to come back to questions like this. It’s especially important when (like this one) they were never definitively answered, rather it just stopped being discussed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s definitively answered every day, any time anyone under 60 picks up a game. It’s a matter that’s objectively settled simply by looking at the definition of the word art. Picking at the semantics of the terms aside, the only people that still claim to be unable to see any art in games are those of the older generations that are stuck in their ways of hating and fearing just about anything related to modern technology, and that kind of willful ignorance is insane by multiple definitions of the word.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m sorry, but I don’t really think that’s the case. First, discriminating against people based on their age doesn’t really make for an effective argument; Shigeru Miyamoto, for instance, is 64, and Fumito Ueda of Shadow of the Colossus fame is edging up on your defined limit of 60 as well. We shouldn’t attempt to exclude people from a conversation based on demographics before we have any idea of what they actually think.

          In any case, I feel like there might be a misunderstanding here. We’re not discussing whether one can “see any art in games,” we’re discussing whether or not games themselves are art. In other words, “Do games contain art?” is the question you’re framing in this comment, and the answer to that is undoubtedly “yes.” We can see “art” even in games that the gaming literati don’t approve of. Call of Duty’s music is certainly art, for instance; it’s difficult to see a gorgeous vista from Halo as anything but art; Assassin’s Creed’s character designs are certainly art.

          The question we’re talking about in this post, though, is “Is it an inherent trait of the medium?” That’s a more difficult question. It’s complex because there are many definitions on what is and isn’t “art.” Are all video games art? If not, then who gets to define which ones are and are not? If they are, then what about games like Hatred, or a Unity asset flip, or, horrors, Call of Duty? Are those still art? I think many might say they aren’t…so then perhaps there are degrees of games being “artistic?” If that’s the case, then again, who gets to define what rubric we use to determine how artistic a game is?

          We can go on like this for pages. What is the value of games being art? Should we forgive poor game design decisions if they were made for artistic purposes? Why is it important that they are or are not considered art? For many people it’s an emotionally-charged issue; for many others there’s money riding on games being taken seriously as art works instead of children’s toys. How do those factors play into how we consider games as an art form?

          Questions like that are what we’re trying to discuss here, I believe. Saying that those questions are already answered is incorrect because clearly they’re not, and I don’t think there’s any harm in having the discussion.

          Liked by 1 person

          • *Sigh* You got me. I’m just here to be mean to poor old people and “exclude them from the conversation”.

            I understand the question just fine. I’m sorry that you took my response to it personally, to the degree that you feel the need to imply that I’m trying to stop you or anyone else from talking about this. That was not my intention, and I never actually said anything of the sort, but I’m sure going to back out of this right now, because this is one game that I have absolutely no interest in continuing. Go on, be free. FREE LIKE THE WIND!


            • No need to back off if you have things to say! I’m engaging in discussion with you, that’s all. You’ve clearly got plenty of thoughts on the topic, you’re clearly able to articulate them well and I’d love to hear them, even if they contradict my own. That’s what TWRM is all about. If I made you feel like you weren’t welcome to talk about this, then that’s my bad and I apologize. 🙂

              This is, as I said, a topic where people’s emotions tend to run high and I completely understand that – I grew up in a world where video games were toys for kids and if you played them past a certain age there was something wrong with you. I’d argue that we’re still living in that world, really, people are just less obvious about it. It’s being able to talk about things that will help us end that stigma. I just feel that we need to be honest about our motivations when we talk about whether or not video games are art and what the importance of that might be.

              And trust me, nothing related to video games has never made me feel any emotion other than hunger. I have a glandular issue that keeps me from taking game-related topics personally. Doctors say it’s incurable.

              Liked by 1 person

    • As Well-Red said, for many it really is a non-issue and that is absolutely fine. That isn’t to say that a question such as this has little or no value.

      One way to look at this question is to see it as an writing challenge invitation where anybody who wants can try to craft as strong an argument as possible within the 500 word framework. So although it may be a dead donkey, it can still serve as a way for writers concerned about games to enhance their writing skills. Another way that it may be of benefit is that by collecting people’s thoughts on an issue can be a great way to build community. Personally, I think that it would be great to see where other budding writers, that I’m becoming more familiar with, stand on this issue. I want to know what they think on questions such as these. I want to see their idiosyncratic rhetorical flights of fancy.

      In essence, you might call it a kind of ice-breaker. It might not be breaking new ground when it comes to ideas, but it can be a great way to build more rapport with an ever-growing group of writers. The gaming community, if there was one, might believe the issue to be done with, but you’d be surprised about the diversity of perspectives on this issue that are both within and without the vague and nebulous gaming circle.

      So what’s your take, I’d love to hear you expand on why this question is insane, …just as long as it doesn’t go beyond the 500 word limit. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wasn’t suggesting that no one should talk about it, it’s just amazing to me that there are people out there that still need convincing of it. The kind of people who usually try to tell you silly things like “those video games aren’t good for you!”, and then turn around and sit on their asses watching TV all day. I just can’t wrap my head around that kind of thinking.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I see a lot of that with video games, but never has it been related to age. It’s always, in my opinion, related to exposure. Folks who grew up around them see them like any other form of entertainment. I’ve had 20-somethings and 50-somethings and everywhere in between rag on me about enjoying video games. It’s never meant to be aggressively insulting of course, but you’d be surprised how, even in 2017, _tons_ of people know absolutely nothing about video games yet have only the strongest opinions of them.

          I think discussing these types of topics in this way can eventually make its way into a real life conversation with someone who doesn’t think that video games are art, not in the slightest. You and I may be preaching to the choir here, but maybe in a few weeks months or years this topic will come up at a family party, a social gathering, etc. Then we can hopefully educate someone.

          Though truth be told, some people are just walled gardens, ain’t nothing getting in there. And I too can’t wrap my head around that line of thinking.

          Liked by 2 people

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