Editor’s note: I don’t agree with Alex that games are currently immune to the kind of judgments he finds so abhorrent between consumers of other forms of expression, nor do I believe that classifying games as art suddenly makes the medium vulnerable to such petty quarrels. Nevertheless, I still find the debate surrounding this issue worthy of discussion. Where do you stand? -Rob
A part of me hopes that games don’t gain the artistic credentials they seek. I don’t care that Roger Ebert thinks video games are incapable of being “high art.” I realize these statements are inflammatory, but let me explain….
Interpretations of art have long been tied up with judgments about a person’s intelligence, and I’d rather not see video games go down that same, tired road.
One way in which I justify playing video games to my wife is that I feel like I’m part of a grand conversation. I read a lot of books and listen to all kinds of music, but I don’t feel comfortable voicing my opinions about either of those.
I’d feel distressed answering questions from a stranger about the contents of my record store bag or MP3 player. Too much personal judgment comes into play with a conversation like that — I’d feel the need to justify my personal tastes out of fear that I might be held to his musical standards.
If I said I don’t like Radiohead, perhaps the most critically acclaimed band of the past 15 years, I would be marginalized by the music press and music snobs alike. I don’t feel like my opinions would be taken seriously.
I feel like this kind of judgment happens because of the art label attached to mediums like music and books.
But if I sat next to someone holding a Gamestop bag on the bus, I would feel entirely at ease asking him what he picked up or what he’s been playing lately.
That’s why I love video games.
I’m comfortable talking about games without being judged by my tastes. If Bitmob Managing Editor Jason Wilson says he doesn’t care for Chrono Trigger, I get the impression that people can accept his opinion and realize that he probably likes role-playing games with a bit more customization.
I love hearing opinions from a seasoned critic and from the average player whose buying decisions are heavily influence by television advertising. Both reactions are valid because games do not have the associated baggage that comes with being considered art. Whereas the kid who thinks that Muse invented progressive rock is laughed at by music snobs.
Please don’t misinterpret my arugment as one against indie games, which are considered by many to be art. I’m all for less killing, more focus on story, better developed characters, and less sexual objectification.
My argument against games as art is not so much a cogent point about the failings of the medium; no, my hope is that the pretensions which come with art never enter the video game world.
I just want people to feel comfortable talking about games in any setting, and I hope that we can all keep judgments about a person’s intelligence out of mind. I want a chance encounter discussing video games with 1UP Editor Jeremy Parish to be enjoyable (even if he’s so sick of random gamers coming up to him).
The day I hear someone say, “Resident Evil sucks, only idiots like that game. You should play The Path if you want to a real survival-horror experience” is the day I no longer want to talk to anybody I meet on the street about video games.
I believe the problem is not necessarily with the idea of art but with human nature. I hope as the young medium of video games moves forward we can keep pretentious airs far away.
Where do you think “games as art” will take the community? Beyond fanboyism and stupid message boards, do you feel tension when you talk to someone else about games?