It’s beyond debate that artists create art for video games, but to what extent does the total video game package count as art? It’s a debate that may never end as a video game doesn’t have much in common with ‘closed loop’ style art like movies, where the art of the package is all that is brought to the table. In contrast video games have more in common with something along the lines of a house.
If someone sees a Frank Loyd Wright house with custom furniture and handmade wood working they would say “ART!”, but if people saw a cookie cutter suburban house decked out with the cheapest fixtures that China can produce “ART!” would not spring to mind, ever. In between the two extremes are a variety of contructs that may be art in some ways, but not in others. Carrying this analogy even further, both a house and a video game can suffer from ‘too much art’. A house can be too ‘Frank Gehry’ and leak all the time and game can be all ‘art’ and no ‘game’ with the same amount of interaction as a DVD remote.
What brought this to the top of my mind was Steve Sailer’s post on how unappreciated video game art is in the same vein as his interest in unappreciated golf course design art. Now how much golf course design is just exterior design writ large is open to debate, but I think that it’s also fair to think that golf course design would have an influence on exterior design of any scale.
However, wouldn’t a better gauge of art be its influences outside of its medium? This is something that golf courses can’t really do (though the case may be made for exterior design in general). With video games on the other hand I have seen its influences primarily in movies. There’s the probable influence the game God of War had on the movie 300, the slicked over, non-stop action of the latest Star Trek film which almost felt like I could play along with, and James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar, which, like the last Riddick film, was made along with the video game (a movie/game which itself seems to borrow from yet a different game).
But when will video games be appreciated as art? I tend to think that this is a generational thing and that in fifty years or so the answer to the question will be so obvious that it won’t even brought up.