EDITORIAL: "Video Games Can Never Be Art"

Uncharted 3

A Blog Excerpt From OculusStudios.com

I wanted to take the opportunity to write about something that has effected me personally, on a very real level. And being in a visual profession, I would even go as far as to say that in some ways, has helped shape the way I think and work. That "thing" to which I am referring is video games. Yes, the passion and hobby of Cheeto-popping, shower-skipping, 30 year old basement dwelling "momma’s boys." And as much flak as my dad liked to throw my way when growing up, I believe that video games' personal involvement will pave the way to becoming the centralized medium for the future family.

Nintendo Entertainment System

I was born in the 1980’s, during the 2nd generation of these "digital boardgames," with my fondest game memories being the oldies-but-goodies: Zelda and Mario. These are the "Ben Her’s" and "Casablanca’s" of the medium; the great innovators that pushed the threshold and opened people’s eyes to what the future of gaming could be; and oh what a bright future they paved. These were the forefathers to today’s modern, multi-billion dollar franchises such as God of War, Halo, Uncharted, Call of Duty and were the very games that created a life-long lover in me. So what inspired me to write this you may ask? Well, I just finished Uncharted 3, the finale in the three part tale of Nathan Drake. Nathan, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake, is trying to learn more about his ancestor, as well as write his own legacy, proving to himself and others he is worthy of his revered name. The game takes you to dozens of locations on multiple continents, weaving a story full of love, revenge, betrayal, and what it means to be a true hero. "Greatness from small beginnings," the inscription on Nathan's ring, couldn't sum it up any better. So what is it about this game in particular that inspired me to write about it over any other? Simple, its absolute perfection in almost every aspect of creation. From its enveloping story, spectacular level design, excruciatingly detailed texture work, heart skipping clarity of sound design, and tear-jerking character interaction, it just moves me. In essence, the art of it. But can video games be classified as art? I would argue emphatically, yes!

Nintendo Entertainment System

Roger Ebert opened a can of sour worms with thousands and thousands of responses on his blog for stating that, "video games can never be art." It saddens me really, that someone with such voice and pull in the critic industry would state something so senile. He doesn't elaborate at all, and readily admits to never playing them, so I struggle to understand his absolute confidence in his own opinion with such (admittedly) little knowledge he has on the subject. And without getting into a deep philosophical rant here, what really defines something as being art? I would simply ask if a beautifully decorated chess set from the 16 century is art? And weren't movies just the natural progression from photography? Why are video games all of the sudden not allowed into the "club?" I'm not going to sit here and defend every single video game of being a beautiful piece of timeless art, just like I don't consider every modern "painting" one; but I want to take a moment and challenge anyone who has never played a video game to give it a chance. It doesn't really matter if your reluctance is because of cultural contexts, preconceived notions of its participants, philosophical disagreements of its nature, or anything else. Just sit down, clear your mind, and don't be afraid to be drawn into it. Who knows, you might find yourself laughing, crying and cursing at the television. Ultimately, you'll see that the semantics of "art" melt away, and you're left with the writer's, designer's and programmer's brush strokes.

Or in Uncharted 3's case... A Masterpiece.


UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception™ Launch Trailer (via YouTube UNCHARTED)