There is a common sentiment among art lovers which dubs more mainstream, entertainment oriented objects of expression to not be art. per a definition, it is deemed a way of communicating rich feelings instead of sitting back on the couch with a beer and a video game to mind the afternoon away, or in a less inflammatory way, simply not a pastime that leaves an emotional mark. In reality, art is just a method of communicating an expression of emotion by the creators along to give consumers a satisfying emotional experience–perhaps a profound reevaluation of life or simply emotionally calm in a wondrous escapist world.
Many artforms have been subject to a discourse over their standing as art and resulting cultural and historic value, only gaining respect after decades, sometimes centuries. A discussion of the process of a medium coming or failing can say a lot about biases of specific cultures Right now, video games dominate conversation. While we have yet to see a widespread, somewhat universal acceptance of such games by art critics and thinkers, their early days in the 70s and 80s reflect factors that have kept their value from being seen in an accurate light.
Those two decades hosted a plethora of concerns from individuals bringing out singular views to talk about why games are undervalued, some of which were documented in magazines. Articles contain passionate paragraphs of argument rather than flashy game marketing design surrounding the pieces. One is in Compute! Magazine, a magazine based around providing many short essays discussing computer-based technology in social standing, function, and thoughtful topics. In Issue 109 published in June 1989, a piece by Orson Scott Card is dubbed “Judge Computer Games as Art, Respect Game Designers as Artists, tackling brief emotional disdain towards an outlook deeming video games insignificant. Yet it does not get into the complex issues causing such a common, generally agreed upon artistic statement in the 1980s. In fact, there was little discussion on this matter at the time at all–this is one of the only articles discussing the nature of art in the few editions of the magazine made available on the Internet Archive. The other ones have discussions of a somewhat similar nature but in an incredibly biased way built on outrage, likely to make a silent idea heard. Other magazines in the archive are primarily focused on marketing video games. If we wish to understand the issues causing such a small artistic discussion of video games, we have to look at the nature of its surrounding culture ourselves.
Human interaction with the digital world has been built on the proven profits of mass production starting all the way back in the Industrial Revolution, targeting masses of the same products at large groups of people to create a biased public view in favor of a product. Internet magazines focusing on video games are bent on portraying its contents with a common view: the breakthrough in function putting you ahead of all your friends, the groundbreaking interest compounding mashup between your favorite movies and styles of playing, the sensational experience meant to instill spirit between consumers. It is the fight for the best product which never really comes and a feud so ingrained in our hyped up minds that the fight is really against our old selves, who need constant improvement at all elements of living. The experience of video games and all else become a mere vehicle for this competition. Of course, hyping up products is nothing exclusive to the age of the consumer. Rather, the scale on which exaggeration happens is engraved in enough people’s lives that human lifestyles, culture itself, is fundamentally built on the act of the purchase.
As the experience of the game is secondary, so is the connection to the creators’ passion. Consumers focus on the thrill of the purchase rather on the intricacies of the creation in front of them–which, at face value, is not an issue. The experiences individuals have with what they consume should be whatever they want it to be; the statement that the average person should adjust their choices in entertainment to focus on what is better is completely misguided. The problem comes when marketing leads individuals to have limited understandings of video games, understanding what they play through the lens of that guy in the commercial, not seeing the curation of what they love towards a profitable cultural metamorphosing image.
And so, entertainment critics, artists themselves from other media, and all sorts of folks defining the modern age of art expertise label video games as entertainment, but not art–or at least not yet. While there are passionate creators creating consoles and games, but with such a large segment of distribution and even more so consumption of their process, unintentional or not, being based in industry, it is not enough to declare a new medium of art born.
Yet many other art forms are commonly formed as products just like video games, but have a respectful standing as art. The question comes whether a factor beyond the age of the medium has affected its perception. Cinema took off as a core of mainstream entertainment in the 1910s, and gained a foot in the art discussion only 1 decade later with many artists taking charge of the medium, notably DW Griffith, and some from decades prior, such as the Lumiere brothers and Georges Meiliere, already being regarded as founders of the medium. In games gained a similar popularity in the 1970s, and a decade later had no artistic reception or creators leading game creation or standing as its founders.
For the core of a video game is the experience of taking charge of a world, manipulating and transforming it. Sometimes stricter rules exist, akin to sports and video games. In other circumstances, the consumer has as much a role in creation as the artist, creating crafty designs in a new digital world. While there is an endless list of pastimes, sometimes developed to the status of art, throughout history based on creating an experience instead of observing a predetermined one, none have given the rains of creation to players to the sensory extent as video games do, with complete artificial worlds existing for us to flourish in. Artists are in uncharted waters, developing a new method of psychological experience, taking far more time to develop than film, which had a similar wide array of sensory detail, but without the core element of creation.
The primary emotional experience of games in the 1970s, 80s, and even to a large extent today thus ends up being a form of sensational exertion, based on the freedoms sports and many games provided in the past built on their roles as simple pastimes to numb the mind of the emotional stresses of life. Other types of games existed from here to there, such as board games meant as puzzles for the mind, but not to an extent to create a rich backdrop of art for video games to build off of.
Thrill and marvel are still built in emotions, simple feelings of happiness, affection, and the serenity of an anxiety free state of mind. The joys of consumerism give us perfectly aligned, making video games flourish in the regard of simple entertainment. Such experiences have never been respected as results of art, and with a magnetic culture of sensation numbing out the process of video game designers learning how to create works based in the broad sense of life essential to the age old draw art holds, they continue to control the image of the medium as a continuous route to thrilling exertion.
It is essential for modern thinkers to understand the value behind such experiences to represent video games as accurately as possibly to their values. Sensation has long been a cornerstone of virtually every culture, fashioning temporary escapist heaven from all the life that amazes and scares us, yet never has been regarded as a key element of art on its own, only being seen with mediums such as film and theater that have complex technicals and many works defining the human experience.
Now we have the first major art form primarily based in escapism, and it is continuously dismissed as product by the people who build up values in art lasting centuries. Its representation needs to be amended to highlight the values of escapism, all the passions of those spirited magazine writers and the benefits that are indeed present in modern technological consumerist culture.
Card, Orson Scott. “Judge Computer Games as Art, Respect Game Designers as Artists.” Compute! Magazine Issue 109 , 1 June 1989, archive.org/details/1989-06-compute-magazine/page/n13/mode/2up.
The Evolution of Consumerism from a Historical and Marketing Perspective, digitalcommons.sacredheart.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2171&context=acadfest.
“Merchandising – Video Game and Computer Clips.” Internet Archive, 1 Jan. 1976, archive.org/details/merchandising/1976%20Merchandising/.