This is one of the most asked questions of the video games industry, and is an important one to answer. While under the looser interpretations, almost anything can be considered art, the deeper, underlying question I believe is : Are Video Games a high art?
Well if you break it down, video games do contain most major art forms; textures and art assets make up all the environments and character models. Sound design comes from various production studios, and musicians. Cutscenes imitate dramatic shots just as film uses scenes to convey their own stories.
But is it the combination of all these art forms that makes video games art? Or does something else provide that nudge, that line in the sand that separates video games from children’s toys. Where does gameplay come into it? Does a game such as Pong have as much validity as something more modern such as Call of Duty?
In my opinion, yes.
Gameplay, just as much as any other asset, is crucial to discern the tone and mood of each game. The best example that I can think of is the game Dark Souls. This game instills the immaculate feeling of loneliness and challenge. The player assumes the role of one of the very few sane people left in the world, and you have many trials to overcome throughout the experience. The entire world is an obstacle for you to bypass. Each time I defeated a boss or survived a particular area, I was rewarded with the gratifying knowledge that I passed it with my own wits and skill at the game.
Of course this isn’t the only game that captures feelings and provides rewarding experiences well. Skyrim is rewarding with the feelings of growth and discovery. Far Cry 3 is rewarding with the slow change you experience with Jason, as he slowly becomes the survivor and ultimately, warrior of Rook Island. Battlefield captures the immersive experience of being on an actual battlefield and is rewarding to conquer your enemies. The list goes on and on. The point is, each game was able to capture and provide entertaining experiences.
While undoubtedly many people may not appreciate them yet, our AAA games are becoming more and more consistent. Quality has increased to very high levels. Visuals are stunning, sound design impressive, and writing has reached new highs with the past console generation. Gameplay has evolved in many ways and we are now seeing the possibilities of online interaction in our campaigns and single-player experiences.
So to once again answer the question, yes, video games are an art form. Although many may not see it quite yet, the industry has only been around since the late 70’s, it is still coming into its own. It has only been within the past decade or so where video game schools became an actual thing. With all of the industry’s improvements, if you don’t see video games as an art form, you likely will soon.