This is something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now, even before the latest commentary on Roger Ebert’s widely publicised notions a few weeks ago that games are not art.
It’s a topic that keeps popping up from time to time, and is it always seems to come from quarters of the entertainment industry that are deeply entrenched in the old ways of doing things. Ebert for instance is a movie critic and consequently sees movies, and probably to a lesser extent, television as art. He’s involved in that industry and knows the processes and participants intimately and regards what they do as art.
On the other hand, Ebert doesn’t know much about the game industry. He displays his ignorance by making the blanket statement that games aren’t art. He doesn’t know the participants in the game industry, or the artistic processes (or procedural processes) that go into making a game. His pronunciation has no more meaning than a English literature professor claiming that Shakespear is art while comic books aren’t.
However, there’s one very good way to determine what if games, or anything else for that matter, is art.
Is it produced primarily through creative means?
By that I mean, is there a creative process involved. Movies have writers, artists, set makers, costumers, cinematographers — dozens of individuals who apply the creative process to the movie. Thus, a movie is art.
Games have writers, artists (2D and 3D), set designers (3D modellers), cinematographers (game designers) — dozens of individuals who apply the creative process to the game.
Thus, by the very same criteria that we consider a movie as art, a game is art.