If you are like me, and you read Roger Ebert’s excellent Twitter feed and blog, you know he sometimes gets on a subject and won’t let go. Recently, one such topic has been how video games can’t be art. Now, video games are pretty close to my heart (as close as movies are to Mr. Ebert’s), and I have felt compelled at times to defend games, but have never posted. Many others did so so eloquently, and Ebert seemed stuck in his ways, it seemed fairly useless. Still, after yet good-natured snipe, I had to get this on record: Video Games Are Art.
I mean, there are some great stories – great stories are art. In modern games especially, there are beautiful images – images can be art. I have certainly been moved by games, perhaps not to the same extent as a really outstanding book, but there are levels to everything. I probably rank games above most picture art, as far as that goes, but it’s different for everyone.
My favorite ‘video game as art’ example is Half-Life. Now, I don’t enjoy horror movies, typically. But the beginning of HL plays out like a horror movie, that is actually supremely enjoyable to me. It produced real tension, as I crept through the ruined Black Mesa facility. Doors bursting open, me wildly swinging the crow bar until the headcrab zombie was dead, then laughing and shaking my head at my own reaction. That’s art, to me.
What causes the outcry about stuff like this is the fact that we gamers are a prickly bunch. We get derided as childish, lazy, violent-offenders-in-waiting who play killing simulators and brain-numbing MMOs. So we are touchy when a major media outlet of any kind takes a shot at us. Even when it’s one we generally like (despite a favorable review for Star Wars: Episode 1).