Less than a month ago, a video game called Hatred was announced by a development company called Destructive Creations, and it became controversial due to the fact that it’s a game where you play as a psychopathic mass killer who hates humanity and kill as many people as you can. The developers describe the game as a reaction to perceived political correctness in video games and the idea of games as art. That last part has been a debate for a long time, and people still argue over whether video games can be called art.
Some people say that video games are an art-form in and of themselves. But this is very untrue. Some people also say that video games are incapable of being an art-form, or anything more than mere entertainment. This also very untrue. And there are those who say that video games exist only as a commercial enterprise, a business. That’s only half-right.
As I see it, video games are principally a kind of software that presents an interactive world for people to play in, usually with rules influencing how you can play. That is the basic premise of a video game. Everything else, such as graphics, story, environment, and all the details of a game are basically layers of that software world. Now this basic nature can have its artistic and creative merit, and if you think that alone is artistic in its own right, then that’s fine but you’re also kind of missing the point. Video games CAN be artistic, but that doesn’t mean they are works of art in they’re own right. In fact, most video games aren’t artistic in they’re own right, and I’m not just talking about all the popular games that people play today. Today, video games are primarily a commercial enterprise, and it’s been that way since the 1970s, but at the same time video games were never incapable of creative merit, it’s just that art and creative media were not the point and they still aren’t. Video games can be artistic in the sense that they are capable of telling a story, conveying ideas, and presenting an aesthetic world, but the simple truth is that this is not the first thing that enters into their design, nor is it the fundamental purpose of creating a game.
So my opinion on the matter of “are games art?” is no with a but: they aren’t artistic on their own, but they can have artistic merit potentially in terms of what they do aesthetically and in terms of story, or just in the eye of the beholder.