Videogames are NOT art… and why should they be?

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  • Go ahead, spit on me if you like, but I’m with Roger Ebert on this one when it comes to videogames and “art.”

    The only difference is, I don’t mean it as an insult.

    To be honest, I don’t even understand why people want to consider videogames an “art.” Seems to me that this movement is just a bunch of gamers looking to be validated. As if somehow games don’t count unless they can be put in a category like a Picasso or Renoir.

    Videogames are not art anymore than movies or novels. These are crafts, molded by creative craftmen.

    Videogames, like movies, involve the efforts and contributions of multitudes of people and talents, each giving a little piece of themselves to give birth to something new.

    Art, however, is about emotion and perception. About ideas and thoughts. About challenging the manner in which we look at the world and how that realization can alter us and our view of reality.

    Videogames don’t do that, and why should they. They are a form of entertainment. Creative and imaginative, yes. And completely deserving of respect and praise. But art? No.

    I can’t say that swimming through tunnels as Lara Croft or jumping on Koopas has ever caused me to radically alter my thoughts on life. As I stormed the beach at Normandy, I didn’t somehow feel enlightened, nor did I gain insight into the everyday when I realized you could remove the blur effect over naked Sims.

    Videogames are a craft of entertainment, and have the potential for being fun distractions from reality. They can provide you with thrills and chills, and even make you feel scared and stressed.

    But so does a roller coaster, yet I don’t hear anyone looking to deem them art.

    Sure, there’s an art to things – even the design of a roller coaster. That doesn’t mean the creation itself is “art.” There is art in making a good game. And there are visual flourishes that can create stunning sights, like the sunsets and sunrises in “Red Dead Redemption.”

    Yet these aspects of a game do not somehow make the creation as a whole into art.

    And that’s not a bad thing. Why do we need to say videogames are art? Why can’t they be terrifically clever, well-crafted pieces of entertainment? Why do we feel that somehow that’s less than anything else?

    There is incredible effort and skill that goes into making a great game. And let’s be honest, most games fail far more than they succeed. Making games ain’t easy, there’s no debate about that.

    It seems to me that those who try to argue that games are art are simply looking for acceptance. As if somehow they aren’t respected, and if they can get people to see videogames are “art,” then it has meaning. It has purpose. It’s important.

    Videogames are important. They entertain us, they thrill us, they give us someplace to go when our lives get so out of control that we want to scream. Like films or a good book, they provide us with an escape, and often make us feel better and in control of things.

    They provide us with a feeling of joy and accomplishment, a sense that perhaps we achieved something, no matter how small or insignificant. And maybe, just maybe, they help us get through the rough times and provide just a little bit of sanity in a world that seems to be increasingly askew.

    To me, games have meaning, they have purpose, they give us something positive.

    Who gives a crap if it’s art or not.

    Follow me – if you dare – at twitter.com/SheridanWriter

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