Video Games As An Art Form

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What is art? That’s not an easy question to answer, and art critics and artists have been debating the topic for a long time. For instance, when photography first emerged, people said it was not an art form. The same happened with film, and with readymade objects like Duchamp’s classic Fountain, which was simply a signed urinal. Over the years, many have suggested that anything can be art when an artist calls it art or it is displayed in a gallery. Since the 1980s, there has been a new debate: are video games art? As you would expect, many people claim that video games are indeed an art form while many others vehemently refute that video games can be art.

Video Games Are Creative Works, But Many Argue They Are Not Art

Legally, video games are regarded as creative works by the Supreme Court of the United States, but the philosophical question remains as to whether they are actually art forms. The famous film critic Roger Ebert publicly battled against the idea that video games could be art in the last years of his life. He wrote several pieces about the subject, which included statements like “video games can never be art” and saying they could never be compared to the works of great, historical artists. Ebert could also have made the point that the most popular casino games online are not considered to be art, even though they often resemble video games. One thing is certain: both video games and online casino games are great fun to play!

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Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds (Photo By Gail)

Video Game Art Exhibitions

Way back in 1983, Video Games Player magazine stated that video games are an art form as much as any other.  In the late 1980s, video games were even being exhibited at art museums. So, surely Roger Ebert is incorrect? One of the first most notable exhibitions of video games was 1989’s Hot Circuits: A Video Arcade at New York’s Museum of The Moving Image. The games in the exhibition were shown to be performed works of art that had been curated as art. Therefore, the argument goes, video games can unquestionably be art. Other art exhibitions of video games followed in the 1980s and onward. Notable exhibitions included 1998’s Beyond Interface at the Walker Art Center in Minnesota and the exhibition Shift-Ctrl at the UCI Beall Center in California.

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Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

Video Games have Become an Established Topic within the Philosophy of the Arts

Although video games were included in art exhibitions as long ago as the 1980s, the debate about video games as an art form only really took off in the mid-2000s. A large amount of literature was written examining whether video games fit into the context of what typically defines the arts. One of the most notable writings was an essay published in the journal Contemporary Aesthetics in 2005, which had the title Are Video Games Art? The writer of the essay, philosopher Aaron Smuts, argued that by “any major definition of art, many modern video games should be considered art.” In 2009, the New Zealand philosopher Grant Tavinor also stated that video games can count as art.

Many other essays, books, and academic papers have been written in support of video games being art over the years. Nowadays, the subject is an established topic in the philosophy of the arts. Books and papers continue to be written on the subject, students debate the topic at art colleges, and gamers . . . well, in general, gamers actually tend to be less concerned with whether video games are art and are much more concerned about how much fun they are to play!

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