Video killed the radio star, but television’s reign is coming to a close. One look at the entertainment charts reveals that video games have become the media giant of the 21st century. Gaming devices occupy over half of US households, and analysts predict that the industry—recently valued at $74 billion—will continue to grow. While video games’ popularity is clear, one question remains unanswered: are video games art?
Any game can be divided into multiple components: graphics, sound, presentation, and gameplay. The first aspect refers to the game’s visuals. Simply put, graphic designers strive to make the game look nice. Creating visually appealing objects is one of the oldest arts in the book. But what about the others?
All games feature extensive audio components—chairs creak when they move and bushes rustle as characters brush through them. Many games also contain orchestral scores by Hollywood composers. Similar to their movie counterparts, video game soundtracks help construct immersive and believable environments. Sound brings a game’s world to life and allows it to realistically react to the player’s activities. Most everyone would consider music and sound design art forms as well. Gameplay and presentation, however, prove somewhat trickier to unravel.
Video games differ from television in that they allow the player to interact with the world. By simply grabbing a controller a person can direct what happens on screen. Called gameplay, this experience is widely considered the most important part of a game. The these interactions determine the ease with which the player can become immersed in the game—the best gameplay draws the player into the game’s world and makes her feel at one with it.
Presentation refers to how the final product holds together. Do the graphics, sound, and gameplay complement each other? Do they follow the same art style and convey the same tone? Every developer’s ultimate goal is to create a cohesive, enjoyable experience. While each part of the game can be looked at separately, presentation describes the success with which they come together.
Art is about creating an experience. Video games push classic art forms to new heights by introducing an interactive element, allowing players to construct the experience for themselves. They give old art new dimensions by leading people through a journey in which they drive the piece’s development and progression. If there’s one aspect of this new media giant we can be sure of, it is that video games are art.
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Comment question of the week
Are video games art?