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Why Video Games Are Considered Art.

An explanation of why video games are considered art, from the perspective of art history. Specifically using the Dada movement to explain why games are encapsulated in the definition of art.

Stephan Frost, Blogger

July 6, 2010

4 Min Read

Ahhh Roger Ebert. Admitting you were wrong. Good for you sir. However there is still a tone in the article you just posted that irritates me. I am glad that you are admitting that you had no place saying that video games are art because, well, you never play them sir. However you still say, essentially, that to SOME people it is art. That isn't good enough for me sir.

This debate has been going on for years. The old "Are video games art" debate. The short answer to the argument is yes, they are art. However I would say that, you know, being in the game industry. However I figured I'd use some art history examples that even critics of video games can even understand and prove to them unequivocally, that video games are art.
I am a big fan of art history. Specifically grand, huge and technically challenging pieces. I love artists like BerniniCaravaggioRafaelMichaelangeloDurerDelacroixde Goya. . . these were true masters of recreating movement in a medium of still images. Their works were awe inspiring and command a great deal of emotional attachment for millions of people. I am one of those millions. I am in awe that these were done HUNDREDS of years ago. (well ok de Goya and Delacroix were more recent but still, they are amazing.)
There are people however that disagree with me, and what my definition of what art constitutes. The Dada movement was a group of people that said, effectively, that these artists were not their representations of artistic masters. Specifically people like Marcel Duchamp. He is mostly known for his work 'Nude Descending a Staircase' a work using the Cubist style. Some critics of the time found it distasteful and hardly art at all. Duchamp made a career of challenging what art really means. Nothing is more evident of that than his piece 'Fountain' where he used "Found Objects" and declared them art. At the time there were critics that hated the idea and found it an insult to call these pieces art.
The Pop Art movement that followed followed numerous ideas from the Dada movement. Using simplicity and everyday images and altering them. Andy Warhol is famous for his prints, using photographic images and silk screened pieces. Again, at the time, there were critics that found this to be insulting to be considered art.
These movements made people some critiques wreathe their hands in disgust. The idea though, was to ask "What is art?" Can everything be art? What is the definition? If anything, the Dada movement proved that art is much larger than famous Renaissance painters. They expanded the definition.
But ultimately it comes to this. . . you may not like video games, but they are a creative amalgamation. ARTISTS make ART WORKS for VIDEO GAMES. MUSICIANS create MUSIC (usually considered art) for VIDEO GAMES. Mixed together with technology, consumers of art now have the ability to experience these mediums differently. They can achieve this different experience through interaction.
Just like those critics that could not stand Duchamp, they must admit, that it is art. It is not their favorite type, but it is still art. There are some that are emotionally moved by games the way they are emotionally moved by seeing a painting, a movie or a sculpture. Hence it IS art.
The definition of art has expanded over the past few years, whether critics like it or not, video games are a part of that definition. In summation I guess one could say, if the Fountain is art, so are video games. I respect your ability to admit your mistake, however addendum to your article would be nice Mr. Ebert.

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Stephan Frost


Stephan Frost has worked in game design, game production and is the writer/creator of the comic Mortifera. He presently works at Wayforward Technologies as a level designer on Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Stephan lives in Hollywood California with his wife Amanda and dog Eugene.

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