Are Videogames Art?


Cory Arcangel “Super Mario Clouds”

This is the first question that Ian Bogost asks in his first essay. Before we get into this question, it would be important to mention that in his introduction, he feels that videogames are just as much a medium as photography, writing, music, or film. He feels that any of these mediums can either take you into a fantasy world (Grand Theft Auto…) or into a realistic world with realistic subjects (Darfur Is Dying and Hush).

However, he also admits that it is hard to pinpoint what is and isn’t art. We know that in the first two decades of the twentieth-century “avant-garde changed art for good”. This was the time when art reacted to Realism and Impressionism and movements like Futurism, Surrealism, Cubism, and Dada emerged. So, how can one define if some videogames are art or not, if art history itself is constantly changing “trends and ideas within each historical period”?

Bogost believes that if we start with the videogame designer who is first a game developer and then an artist, then that will be one type of videogame. But, he then mentions “game art”, exhibited in galleries and museums and gives Cory Arcangel’s “Super Mario Clouds” as an example.  The game developer wants to make people think and analyze, the same way one would be forced to think and analyze in front of a piece of art. The process is creative since the game player is put in a position of interacting with different aspects of the game. These are called proceduralist games where the player has to think during the play and make choices. Some games are more abstract than others (Tetris), and some others are more realistic such as Madden or other sports videogames. As Bogost says, “proceduralism shares some of the values of expressionism in art, especially as both relate to the subjective interpretation of emotion”.

If we compare proceduralism to different art movements, one can say that it encourages creativity and as he said “if nothing else is most certainly a feature of art”.


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