A debate has cropped up over the past couple years over whether video games should be considered art. We can look to a Sun-Times blog post written by film critic Roger Ebert, who said “no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form” – a claim that generated thousands of responses on both sides of the issue – to see just how hot the “video games as art” debate can get. In fact, the debate got so heated Ebert had to back down from his initial stance, showing some remorse in another blog post. Let gamers’ voices be heard!
The debate only intensifies as video games become more thematic, visually stunning and, well, epic. We’ve watched a few video game trailers that made us forget they weren’t new movies coming out, and we’ve seen some absolutely beautiful scenes in the games themselves. An increasing number of games have combined intricate plots with complete musical soundtracks and eye-popping visuals, leveling the argument of the old curmudgeons. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if we see a few more Ebertesque recantations in the coming months.
Let’s take a look at some examples of the artistic transcendence of video games.
Smithsonian Exhibits Video Games
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently featuring images from a large variety of video games as part of its “The Art of Video Games” exhibit, which will run through September 30.
According to the Smithsonian, the exhibition explores the “40‐year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects, the creative use of new technologies, and the most influential artists and designers.”
The exhibit includes imagery from 80 iconic video games, including Pac-Man (1981) for the Atari and Portal (2007) for PC. In addition, gamers get to play some classics, such as Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. Ah, nostalgia.
Video Game Photography
Karl Burke has been pushing the video game imagery envelope a little further and turning it into full-blown photography that is reminiscent of battlefield photographers from the American Civil War.
According to a recent New York Times blog post, Burke says the line between real wars and video game wars is blurring, with many of the latest war video games featuring intensely realistic graphics.
“Very similar things are taking place where there are real consequences,” Burke told the NY Times. “Technology is evolving and heading in this direction of bare minimum of boots on the ground and minimal exposure.”
Although Burke distinguishes his artwork from images of real-world conflict, he’s concerned over the desensitization effect realistic scenes from game images could have on the people playing them. Burke’s video game photography explores the theme of desensitization further by eliminating obvious video game elements like the mini-map and other user-interface displays, leaving only haunting scenes of virtual war.
Art for the Gamer
Have you ever really loved a screenshot from a video game?
You’re definitely not alone. Although developers traditionally used screenshots to advertise their games, screenshots have recently become a way for players to share their in-game experiences with each other: “that dunk was insane!” “I can’t believe you got to the last level so fast!” Several game developers have hosted screenshot contests for their players and awarded in-game rewards to the winners. One gamer has even created a site called Dead End Thrills, which is dedicated to taking captured video game images and enhancing them using professional photography techniques.
So go share some game art with your friends, our artists here at Big Fish Games Studios really appreciate your dedication to the art form!