What qualifies as art is bound to be an eternal point of contention, as there is no clear definition and judgements are entirely subjective. However, when reflecting on the dictionary definition that art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”, an informed individual experienced with the medium would be hard pressed to exclude video games. If any modern media, such as cinema or television, is to be considered art than video games must be afforded that status as well. If the purist wants to stick to archaic and antiquated definitions of art in the classical sense, the rest of us can rest easy knowing that such small-mindedness is soon destined to go the way of the dinosaurs.
In a discussion concerning the “cinema of the future”, Alfred Hitchcock once stated that a roller coaster could be considered art and that its architect could be identified as its “director”, for that person meticulously planned the pace and experience of the ride and fine-tuned it to evoke the maximum amount of emotion from its participants. The architect “directs” the ride for the “audience” on board. While this is an abstract and controversial theory, it does fit into that definition of art as an expression of skill and imagination that is produced to be appreciated for its emotional power. In this case, the very experience itself is a creative endeavor. Whether or not one agrees with this interpretation, it just goes to show how open-ended such analysis can be.
Even with all of their innovation and high-tech wizardry, video games remain (and will begin to be seen more and more as) a traditional medium. They are crafted and directed by skilled artists and passionate craftsmen, are composed of visuals with the same basic aesthetics as a film or painting, and most of the time act in service to classical narratives and stories. Mario may not have the scholarly status of Mona Lisa yet but it is impossible to know what generations decades, and even centuries, from now will reflect back on as the artifacts of our culture. Space Invaders could very well be heralded as the advent of science fiction in interactive electronic media.
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk