Video Games and Art

by Garrett Ashley

I don’t particularly like this argument, and I don’t care whether people think video games are a form of art or not. I think it’s a silly thing to worry about. I grew up playing video games because I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t like playing outside, and I still don’t. I loved to draw, build castles out of Legos, dig tunnels in the sand when the power was out. Video games are among the things that have allowed me to (sorry for the cliché) fuel my imagination. Video games offer something that other forms of art don’t really offer—choice. The Nostalgia Critic talks at length about choice and has what I believe is the most convincing and well-worded argument for video games as an art form I’ve ever heard—here’s the video.

I’ll let the Nostalgia Critic do the talking for me.

If I were to bury myself in the conversation of video game artfulness, I’d look for a gaming company that doesn’t develop products for profit. That’s a silly thing to do, isn’t it? But I’ve heard a thousand times that art is not something that is done for profit—it’s anti-art. I don’t exactly agree with this. I believe Stephen King is just as capable of making art as Alice Munro. A work of art can become a bestseller overnight. It’s not unheard of. But let’s agree to disagree—things that are made for profit are not art. And it seems that 99.9% of video games are made for profit. That’s not so bad, is it?

So I’ll shift my attention to Nintendo for help. Nintendo single handedly saved the gaming industry with its intellectual properties. And recently, Nintendo has gone downhill in terms of sales. They’re not the only gaming company that has its gimmicks (touch screens, voice commands, motion control, etc.) but for whatever reason, the company continues to hold onto their old IPs. Are audiences getting tired of Mario? Mario doesn’t use a machine gun, and he doesn’t smash zombies with an electric hammer (to my knowledge). It’s beside the point to say that Nintendo needs to create new IPs and develop better third party support (it’s difficult to code games for their hardware). What I’m interested in, and why I feel game developers are not just after your hard earned money, is that companies like Nintendo are releasing titles and IPs for the love of doing so.

I think Shigeru Miyamoto says it best in a quote I dug up in an old issue of Game Informer:

“I could make Halo. It’s not that I couldn’t design that game. It’s just that I choose not to. One thing about my game design is that I never try to look for what people want and then try to make that game design.” – issue 200, pg 85.

There are a whole list of quotes from Miyamoto here that I absolutely love.

Someone said either on Game Trailers or Machinima that Nintendo is like an old-grandpa company that resists the new generation of gamers’ expectations. Sorry for the lack of citation. They could sell their IPs off to Sony or Microsoft (God forbid) and just make handheld consoles, but they don’t. There’s a new console in every race. I think it’s a work of love, and I respect that. That’s sort of what art is, I think.

– You can find more info about Garrett on our contributors page.

9 thoughts on “Video Games and Art

  1. Pingback: Zero to Hero 6: A New Element | The Writing Catalog

  2. I like Miyamoto’s quote as it raises a very interesting conundrum for the artist: to pander to their audience or to be didactic and authoritarian? I feel there’s a balance between telling a story in exactly the way I want to while also placating the demands of the reader. However, the key stands in your last two lines. People respect artists for doing what they do instead of caving to mass demand.

    Interesting read, thank you.


    • Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you liked it, and I am very happy to see Garrett’s getting some feedback on his first post here. 🙂


  3. Reblogged this on Part Time Monster and commented:

    – In case you missed it last week, this is the first post by Sourcerer contributor Garrett Ashley. I’m interested to know what you think about this: Are video games art? When you look at a piece of creative work, how do you decide whether it is art or not?


  4. Pingback: Roundup! | The Writing Catalog

  5. Pingback: Gaming Post Tomorrow! | Sourcerer

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