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Video games are art and we're only just beginning

A response to Jeff Vogel's post that "Video Games Aren't Art, we're BETTER".

Nick Rust, Blogger

September 12, 2016

3 Min Read

Jeff Vogel recently wrote an opinion piece titled “No, Video Games Aren’t Art. We’re BETTER”, and I must confess that it was easily the most absurd thing I had read in at least a week. This is actually an impressive feat, considering where we are in the 2016 election cycle.

He argues that video games are better than art, which in itself is an odd statement as there is nothing qualitative about the designation of ‘art’. There is just as much, if not more, bad art as there is good. To my knowledge, I have never encountered a similar claim, about anything, being made that anything was better than art. Art is a term without a ceiling; it is a category not a quality.

His principal evidence to his point that video games are better than art is that video games are an experience. To further his point he discusses the experience he had with The Last of Us and its ability to create the experience of the ‘zombie apocalypse’ in a way that would otherwise be impossible for many, very practical reasons.

A perfectly reasonable definition of art is the ability to create an experience, perspective, or insight into some thing (be it an object, an event, a person, etc.) indirectly. Art is the transference of experience, be it emotional, rational, or even instinctual, from one person to many.

The ‘thing’ that Jeff states video games are, which makes them ‘better’ than art, is in fact a rather apt description of art itself. He neglects to actually provide his own definition of art, but I’d hazard a guess that his definition does not do the subject matter justice.

His argument to the point that video games are better than art seems entirely dependent on subjective experience, which considering the topic is art, is fair on some level. However this hardly qualifies as objective proof. Slot machines can be utterly engrossing experiences, but no one is going to argue that slot machines are ‘better’ than art.

Instead of a convincing argument on the status of video games as art, I see a thinly veiled bristling against criticisms on the subject that simply don’t exist anymore. He cites Roger Ebert’s notoriously inflammatory position, originally made over 10 years ago, that video games can never be art as his principal evidence to this point. Ebert himself softened his rhetoric on the subject over the years, and no one, including Ebert himself, cared what Roger Ebert thought about video games. Ebert’s own claim about the status of video games as art was largely technical and not qualitative.

Roger Ebert has been dead for over 3 years. In that time, I have not seen any critic of note carry on his charge regarding the status of video games in art. That ship has sailed. There is near universal accord that video games can in fact be art, and nor do I continue to see a largely dismissive attitude towards video games in the culture at large. Forbes and USA Today, among many other such publications, now have dedicated video game coverage. Popular culture, as  a whole, has not been generally dismissive of video games in over a decade. The defensive position that permeates the opinion piece seemed so out of place I had to check the date on the article.

Video games have arrived. Video games are art, and instead of taking a well-earned victory lap, Jeff has opted to rail against straw men and a film critic that’s been dead for several years.

Nerd is no longer a four letter word, it’s become a six figure salary. The geek have inherieted the earth.We are quickly coming into the golden age of Nerd, and our preferred artistic mediums are games.  



Nick Rust is the host of Literate Gamer Podcast and has generally profound insights into lots of things. You can find him on Twitter @StochasticLife or @LiterateGamer

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