Before I get into this, I am going to say that I am almost 30 years old. I have seen a lot in the world of video games. I have seen games evolve from the days of Mario up to the latest and greatest of today's franchises. I was there at the birth of Master Chief, and I'll most likely die before he does. Let one thing be known that through this, there are a ton of games out there that leave me with something to learn. What I have experienced could mean the world, or nothing to me. There is a saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," and that is most certainly applicable to video games.
This concept has been beaten over the head many times over. So much so that online magazines and blogs have been sighing at the very words, as the onslaught that is the topic: "Are Video Games Art?" still continues to be a major issue on the internet.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Oh shit, another article about this?" But it's not. Instead, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this: Maybe we're not ready for it. I'm saying that with the greatest of intentions. Hopefully you'll see why as you keep on reading.
Like I said before, I have a lot of experience within this gaming realm. I was born into it. I have seen pixels evolve in front of me, from 8-bit squares to fully rendered 3D environments that look prettier than reality. Does that make it worthy of an artistic title? Let's see.
Art is based off mass opinion. Someone sketches a flower on a bar napkin, it is dubbed art because it has been something made using a tool. It's a basic term used to describe that drawing, in the very least. A picture is art because it has been created. Now, drawing said flower in fine detail and making it look like a flower instead of an odd looking turkey, that requires artistic talent. So there is a difference between the two. There is a difference between the drawing of a flower and it actually being an accurate, detailed picture. The great thing is that art has the power to be one, the other, and both. It isn't solidified in stone. In fact, according to Debate.org, 75% of people state that there are no standards to art. This already makes it clear on the value of what art is and how it is viewed as a subjective form. What you and I consider are could be garbage to someone else, and vice-versa.
Now that we understand that art is subject to opinion, we have to accept the fact that some games don't hold the same weight from you to another person. I'll explain.
Remember The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Of course you do! It is one of the top rated games of all time. The game came out in the US in 1998 and received almost unanimously perfect scores. They even did a remaster of it on 3DS not too long ago. It is a title that every human being who claims to like games has to play. If you say you didn't play it, someone will make you. If you say you didn't like it, someone will scold you. The question remains: Is this art? Every fan of the series will say "Yes Steve, it is art!" But that shouldn't be the question we ask. We should be asking, "Why is it art?"
Once again, I have to bring up the pesky concept that art is based purely on opinion. In this case, all the fans would call it art. But people would ask why? This is where we become a bit complicated. See, games can invoke feeling. Older games mostly invoke the feeling of nostalgia. Back in 1998 I was 12. I didn't have much to worry about back then. I think the biggest issue I had was homework. I didn't have that many responsibilities. So it makes sense for us to automatically think back to those days when we play the appropriately titled example of Ocarina of Time. We are naturally using our youth to validate this title as art. It doesn't stop there, because according to a lot of people, the game still holds up. So a game from almost 20-years ago is held to the standards of today and still comes out as a good solid title and not a clunky mess? Then yes, a game like that should be considered artistic. It hits points that give you a positive feeling, which art has been (historically) known to do.
Don't get all excited because I consider Legend of Zelda worthy of being labelled art. You had that opinion way before you read it on here. I'm going to change it up for you right now. On the very same console (Nintendo 64), a game released several months later in May of 1999. That game was Superman 64. I find it necessary to mention this game because it is one of the absolute worst games of all time. It has poor review scores, a ton of people posting videos of them playing this game and failing, and has been used as an adjective to describe other terrible games. Case in point: Superman 64 is the complete opposite of Legend of Zelda. Superman 64 is a terrible title that everyone loves to absolutely hate on. But no one ever stopped to ask if the game can be considered art.
"Whoa! Steve! What the hell man? You can't call that game art! It's terrible! It's clunky, old, and has no redeeming factors."
Now that may be true, stranger on the internet. But I will ask you to set this thought to the side. Don't discard it completely, because we are going to come back to it soon while I make a different point.
Gaming and people who play games have been trying to find a place within society. For a very long time, no one took the industry seriously. Gaming was very much an enclosed, almost temporary hobby that people frowned upon. Gaming was not widely accepted. If you played a lot of games, you were looked at as lazy. But as time went by and people grew up, so did the industry. Now you have conventions, awards ceremonies, and stores dedicated to gaming. You have people dress like characters from popular titles. Gaming has offered so much to people, and the industry's passionate advocates want to make it a medium on par with movies, television, and music. Each of those have their own conventions, ceremonies, and stores dedicated to each of those. Why should games be treated any different?
Remember that thought I said that I wanted you to put to one side? Well, bring it back. Now, as a whole, we wanted games to be treated the same as other forms of media. If we want that then we need to claim all games as an art form. Yes, that also means games like Superman 64. Is it good art? No. It's about as artistic as vomit on a canvas. Yet we have to accept it, because, like the other terrible art out there, people put it together.
The fact that right now you disagree with me is the reason why this community will never actually come together. That is the reason why this topic doesn't actually mean anything. That is the reason why people are so tired of hearing about it. Because the second you say "Yes, Final Fantasy 7 is a work of art. BUT FINAL FANTASY 13 WAS TERRIBLE!" it discredits you. It makes people outside this community tilt their head in an odd way because they don't understand that feeling you are trying to convey. People outside of gaming don't give a damn about Final Fantasy. To them, it literally means nothing.
A movie could be 1 1/2 to two hours long. Anyone can watch a movie. Anyone can look at a painting. Anyone can laugh at a TV show. But not everyone can pick up a controller and immediately understand how a game works. It takes time and patience, two things that a lot of people don't have. To us, it's as natural as drinking from a cup. We need to use our abilities to share how these games makes us feel. You don't have to force people to play them. God, some folks would stop playing five minutes into anything that requires two joysticks. If you explain a game with passion, heart, and soul, people would become more interested in the title. After all, you're trying to get the attention of everyone outside this community.
Don't just say that Final Fantasy 7 is a great RPG. Say why it is a great RPG. "Final Fantasy 7 is a role playing game where you are a man who grows up and takes responsibility for his actions, as well as learning about love and what it means to lose something great. It's a story about how people from different cultural backgrounds come together for a greater good: to save the world from an evil madman." You don't have to go crazy, but saying this instead of being vague goes so far for us all.
If a game is bad, then you say that it wasn't the best game that represents our expectations as a community. I'm sure there are games out there now that also represent this ever-living conundrum. If we all want our hobby to be taken seriously, then we need to come together as a collective form. We need to be vocal without being mad, and we need to treat our medium how others treat theirs: with respect for each other, and for the people who are actually listening to us. After all, we have been in the shoes of heroes and heroines. We have explored planets, taken on armies, and found emotional depth within ourselves. Why not share that with the world?