The age old question, are video games art? In response to Well Red Mage’s question to all bloggers on whether video games are art, I decided to participate, even if I am a bit late to the game. I also had a pretty good talk with Triform Trinity about the subject over an inerview, which you’ll be reading sometime soon on his blog. I wanted to take the time and state my reasons here.
I can easily and confidently say, hell yes! Video games are indeed art. I’m not going to try a deeply define what is art, but to keep it simple, art is a medium that makes me feel something, whether it be happiness or fear. I think people generally lean towards a traditional painting in a museum and say that is art, but there are many types of media out there that make different people feel different things. So I think art extends to a personal level, and instead of being something society defines, art can be seen at a much more personal level.
At it’s surface, art can easily be seen in video games. Visually, there are some striking games out there that constantly keep pushing the boundaries of what games can do visually.
Okami is one of the first things that comes to kind. Visually, it takes inspirations from Japanese art, and blends them into the world your interact with. It’s as if you are moving around an ancient painting.
The Wind Waker was one of the first big games to implement the beautiful cel shaded technique, giving the game a very cartoony look. Through that, things like exaggerated facial animations were made very effective. There are many more examples out there, but I want to go deeper than just the visuals. Instead, I want to look past the cover into something deeper about ones experience with video games. That is the interactivity of video games, and how they are able to convey the feelings experienced by the character onto the player.
If you recall from earlier this year, I wrote a post about Feeling Helpless in The Grand Scheme Of Things. In this post, I explored on how some of my most beloved games are great because of how they make, and in a way, trick the player into feeling helpless. This extends far beyond just feeling helpless though. There are games that can make you feel emotionally overjoyed instead.
There are probably alot of examples I can use to make my point, but I want to focus on one particular example, simply for the fact that it did elicit such an emotional response and feeling of dread followed by joy for me. That is none other than Journey on the PS3.
In my post about Feeling Helpless in The Grand Scheme Of Things, I spoke about Journey near the end. Spoilers coming ahead for those who haven’t played Journey. At the end of the the game, you are overcome by the forces of nature as you journey to the top of the amount, and essentially freeze to death. Afterwards, you go through some experience and are not only brought back to life, but also revitalized in a new found way. As you come back to life, you have a new found power and are seemingly able to freely fly. You then make this incredible trek over the mountain the once defeated you. Visually it’s a treat, but there was just something about the experience that made me overcome with tears of joy.
It was unbelievably emotional and uplifting experience to go through all this. Why was it so effective? I can’t exactly say why. Possibly because of how the game drives home the point of you being defeated, and has you feel that defeat as you control your character walking until they drop to the ground. Only to be followed by their resurrection shortly after and experience it all first hand, as if you just went through that experience yourself.
What really stands out about this experience, is the way Journey does not have an overlying direct narrative telling you what’s happening and why. You simply experience and interact through the events first hand, and there’s no dialogue, or written text to explain it all or provide any reasons. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for games that convey this and similar feelings and emotions by just letting things play out instead of directly giving away the secret behind it all. It’s such a great example of a very hands off approach to emotional story telling that I see more and more games doing. That to me, is the under appreciated art hidden within the world of video games.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think Video Games are Art? Do you have any similar experience with Journey or any other game? Let’s get chatting in the comments!