Are video games art?(2)

Sorry for the long wait! To be honest, I wasn’t very busy with studying. More often than not, I have been pondering on how to approach the topic again and lead it to its end. A lot of questions became interesting obstacles of logic puzzles that I have taken hours to days to solve. Sometimes I scraped the drafts because I thought you guys don’t deserve that meager quality of work. 
The past few days have been a refreshing journey for my studies in video games. 

And finally, I have something of standard to share. You will find that I am highly aggressive in this topic, with my passion for gaming as an added fuel.

My first move starts with attacking literary arts. This is where I hope to shake critics to the ground; those who vehemently refuse to accept video games as an art form and bring up literary examples as art. I will attempt to showcase the strength of a unique form of narrative, different from poetry, prose and essay in an evolutionary medium. We will assert the art-worthiness of video games using extrapolations of the very same guidelines used to accept critically acclaimed literature as an art form.

The core challenge in asserting the art-worthiness of video games lies in that video games demonstrates atypical traits, elements that highly differ from conventional art forms, and sometimes more inclined towards sports. I also realize that sometimes we call our sports ‘games’ and coin professional gaming tournaments as esports. However, inline with what I expressed in Part 1, I refuse to accept it as an art form. Perhaps there’s more than meets the eye of what happens on the battlefield of Halo, DotA and WoW. But that is another story, another time. Back on topic, critics imply that we have to disregard video games as an art form due to it not abiding by principles. Critics refuse to accept them on the basis that they do not conform to institutional teachings and definitions, upheld by various established form of media.

It is a key point to note that various other media – such as photography, film and visual novels have made similar journeys, albeit in slightly different manners which they chose to effectively engage its audience. No doubt that these forms of media are capable of conforming to the definitions of institutional and critical acclaims of art. These is where video games are seemingly beaten to the ground. It is clear that when approaching this topic, we would be exploring the possibility of video games to sit on the same shelf as conventional art forms, and then inevitably we would come to a point where we would have to define or categorize art. That’s the tricky part – freedom of expression is touted as a core ingredient of what makes art truly shine as a creative medium. Therefore it is ironic to establish such a tight boundary, if we were to presuppose a limit which good art and future art works can entail, we limit the progression of art. There will no longer be breakthroughs, each art piece will mirror another. That is a horrifying world to be in.

Arguably, notable studies made on topic by Grant Tavinor attempts to claim that it is viable to consider certain video games as a form of art while conforming to Gaut’s 10 points. In his research paper, he employed the universally acclaimed Bioshock. Other notable works by Michael Burden, Sean Gouglas also supports Tavinor’s claim by using Portal franchise. Both use games as extended examples of how video games can be art while integrating gameplay mechanics with narrative.

I agree that there is a possibility of implementing narrative into game-play like what was done with Bioshock, Portal. Some of my own examples I can currently think of would be Metro 2033 and Braid. Albeit a little different from its predecessors, video games with interactivity as key provides a insane potential for it to rise as a new medium for art.

 Presaging Bogost’s idea of procedural rhetoric, Zimmerman asserts,

It is clear that games can signify in ways that other narrative forms have already established: through sound and image, material and text, representations of movement and space. But perhaps there are ways that only games can signify, drawing on their unique status as explicitly interactive narrative systems of formal play (Zimmerman, 2004, p. 162).

But here we bump into another issue that was slightly raised by them. In their article, Michael Burden and Sean Gouglas stated that Portal is a winnable game. Which is very true. But this creates a problem – what happens if the gameplay over-rides the artistic notions brought forth? It become a struggle of balance between its existence as a game, like sports, with objectives and rules and its existence as an art piece. Could it possible that video games can take advantage of this attribute?

In my search of answers, I came across this.

An excerpt from the works of Michael Burden and Sean Gouglas:

Unlike a film, a videogame can create a story that requires the player to act, to instantiate Chell’s desire to stay alive. The gun stops merely opening portals into other test chambers. The player takes the initiative without knowing what the goal is. Self-reflexively, the game cedes narrative control to the player, demonstrating the power of the videogame medium, which Ebert indicated as a fundamental flaw of story in videogames. It is, in fact, its narrative strength.

What you and I face here, whether to believe video games are art, is something that even gamers and developers both are skeptical about. And yet I’ve come to recognize video games as a new medium unlike any other. It is no wonder we face so much trouble attempting to categorize it in the light of other contemporary art forms. Perhaps, this is what is created by a breach in contemporary artistic definitions – an expression of freedom itself.


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