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The Great Debate: An introduction

Can video games be considered a legitimate art form?

Ethan Young, Blogger

September 24, 2009

5 Min Read

The Great Debate: Can and will the medium of video games ever be considered a legitimate art form, thus making video games works of art?

 Video games, I feel have gotten a bum rap. It hasn't been until recent years that video games have started to move into the forefront of popular culture and electronic media by becoming a major entertainment market. Yet video games still are passed off by the general populace as a form of trash media: something of little to no cultural or artistic value, usually on the same level of associated stigma as comic books and anime (two other underappreciated pieces of culture looked over by the majority of people). Yet video games have grown to the point where they cannot be ignored. Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry, with production companies and markets spanning continents and oceans. Some games have been produced that have been so momentous that they have sold millions world-wideand been labeled as "classics." Everyone who has ever grown up with video games has fond memories of their favorite childhood games (I remember Final Fantasy VI when it was Final Fantasy III because I was too young to know the game was a port from Japan, or being mesmerized by the "3-D" graphics of Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG, or even earlier watching my brother shove a Super Mario World cartridge into a regular NES and it actually working but only half the picture would show since the system couldn't interpret half the pixels, so we had to buy a Super NES). Electronic gaming is an young, innovative, and relatively new medium that has already revolutionized the lifestyle of our generation. Therefore, how can something so momentous NOT be analyzed and judged to see if it has cultural value?

 Thus, my goal with this blog is to determine, through the aesthetic and critical analysis of individual video games, whether or not the medium of electronic gaming can ever be classified as an art form.

But first we must narrow the playing field by having a clear definition of art.

Here are my favorites off of dictionary.com (woot)

 1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, etc.

3. any field using the skills or techniques of art

4. skilled workmanship, execution, or agency., as distinguished from nature; skilled action, artificiality, in behavior

And my favorite!

5. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the works of nature; the conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.

I like the last one because of the fact that video games, as a medium, is something that incorporates so many elements of other mediums and art forms such as music, film, theater, and the visual arts: drawing, graphics, sound, music, acting, movement through space, choreographed movement, dance, editing, animation, etc. It is a revolutionary medium that is breaking new ground and has yet to have guidelines defined for it as to what works and what doesn't; there is yet no true "school of thought" for this medium.

Now the next question is HOW. I will admit, this is a daunting task that I, in all honesty, do not have the credentials, brains, or the time to ever be able to answer this question fully. But hopefully this little forum will be able to provoke thought. This is a medium that many young people are devoting their lives and passion to in the form of careers and hobbies, and thus, as with anything that involves passion and effort, is deserving of careful study and analysis.

So here is what I propose: I will choose a video game, most likely the one that I am currently playing, and in this blog format I will begin to analyze and pick apart the game. From there others can post to share their thoughts and add to mine or even debate mine.

I could literally write a whole post about how I am going to analyze these games, so I will probably just do that so I don't make this one longer, but I will give you the basic overview.

I will be looking at (and bear in mind these headings encompass WAY more than is written)

1. Story

2. Sound

3. Acting (if there are actors)

4. Graphics

5. Originality

6. Gameplay/Technical Details (i.e. technical problems)

7.  Cohesion and Depth- I will explain this one: do all the elements in the game work together cohesively to drive one particular argument or meaning? Or is the game purely a vehicle for entertainment? In other words, do all aspects of the game drive to convey to the audience what the game is truly about.

Anywho, I think that is enough for my first post. I guess I should let you know who I am. My name is Ethan and I am a senior Television, Radio, Film major in the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. I am an aspiring Game Designer, voice actor (I used to be an acting major), and game producer. I am writing this because I have had a passion for video games since I was a small child. Video games have fascinated me and drawn me in with their rich, interactive, and fantastic storylines. They have fed my imagination and tickled my curiousity for most of my life. I feel since these games have been such an important part of my life and mean so much to me, it is finally time to look at why. 

Next Post: I will give you my system of analysis (in-depth) and I will explain what makes video games a different medium from others. Plus! I will look at an oldy but a definite goody, my current conquest...

Chrono Trigger (DS)!

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