Leonardo Meets Mario: Are Video Games Art?

Katamari Damacy

Screen capture from Google Image Search of one of my favorite video games, Katamari Damacy.

I am not a video gamer. I don’t think I have the particular patience and hand/eye coordination to be good at typical video games. Games that use Nintendo Wii, Playstation Move and XBOX Kinnect are the only ones I can even be remotely good at. Aside from the motion activated games the only other video games I have played with any regularity are Pokemon (in 5th grade), Rockband/Guitar Hero,  Katamari Damacy and Peggle.

All this doesn’t mean that I have not tried or watched my fair share of video games.  I have spent countless hours watching Legend of Zelda, Starcraft II and the Call of Duty series being played. I’ve even attempted to play them.  We’ll just consider those attempts at failure.  I really didn’t know video games could be beat until a few years ago because I never had the passion to play them through the end.

However, I definitely agree with the millions of people who consider video games art. I disagree with Robert Ebert when he said “video games can never be art.” I could easily pull apart Ebert’s blog post about why video games are not art. It would be fairly easy, in part because I feel he has a very singular and narrow minded view of art. I find it hard for him to criticize video games as art when he is a major player in the world of cinema.

I would agree that the physical act of playing a video game is not art, but more a skill. Still, people could argue that there is art in the act of playing a video game. Think Jackson Pollock, his art wasn’t about what ended up on the canvas, but how it ended up on the canvas.

Look at the credits and you will see that every video game has a lead art designer.  If  for no other reason, I would be willing to consider video games art based upon the planning stages and illustrations for characters. These are just as much art as any other type of illustration. People can even attend colleges, especially art colleges, to major and study about video games.  In these programs students learn how to create the images we see from their own imagination. They have to draw, digitally render and animate the characters and background.  They have to program dialogue and actions. In the end they have to market and produce the final product.

There is the story, the graphics and the overall experience of the gamer.  Anyone can make another Mario, Zelda or God of War game, however, to make these games different and more appealing to the consumers they have to be aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and imagination. No gamer wants to sit and play a game for hours on end that has the same backgrounds, enemies and effects from level to level. They want to experience something new and different as they progress through the worlds. The more art-oriented and detailed the more the game sparks the imagination of the gamer and pulls them in.

If video games weren’t art, why do people put so much work into what they look like?

If you are still not convinced video games are art check out these video games:

Thanks to all my video game friends who have helped with the examples and led me in certain directions and opinions.

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2 Comments

Filed under Art, Art Technology

2 responses to “Leonardo Meets Mario: Are Video Games Art?

  1. elizabeth beard

    Video games definitelyare Art. I couldn’t design one. So, there you have it.

  2. Ebert is insane! Art takes time, and video games take months, even years to design, so it’s fair to put video games into the art category. I guess it all depends on how one defines art and video games match my definition. Nice post Bridgette!

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