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Video Games are Art

I very much wanted to do the cliched start where I defined video games and then either challenged the definition or built on it but guys, if you’re reading this and you don’t know what video games are, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with here.

I grew up in a generation where the only people playing games were nerds. Games weren’t as mainstream as they were back then in the early nineties and having a personal gaming console was practically unheard of. So, most of us were stuck with having LAN parties in cyber cafes, playing hours and hours of Condition Zero & eating shitty pizza with cold-drinks and paying by-the-hour for the privilege. My teen years were spent doing this instead of chasing girls or doing other more acceptable things, at least, as per my parents. Because,you see, video games are generally seen as something stoners or nerds do. People with no life and no ambition. Let alone the acceptance of a hobby that gives people joy and doesn’t harm anyone, video games in themselves have tons of benefits, which I’m not going to get into because that’s not the point of this rant that I’m on.

I’m here to tell you that video games are unequivocally and without a doubt art and its high time they got their due recognition. No questions, no arguments about it. What started with a simple game of Pong has now exploded into a billion-dollar industry which manages to bring together the best of artists, programmers, scientists, voice actors, musicians and God-knows how many talented people.

Anybody arguing to the contrary, please go to YouTube and check the giraffe scene from The Last Of Us and make sure you watch it in full HD. The sheer mastery of the scene in itself is something else altogether but if you’ve played the game like I have, it not just gives you goosebumps, it’ll also leave you with a weird sense of melancholy, longing and a wringing pain in the gut. Go to any Assassins’ Creed game and go to any viewpoint and synchronise the game. If the combination of that haunting music & scenery doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing will. Become Spiderman in Marvels game of the same name and jump & swing your way through modern day New York City & if that doesn’t make you grin like an idiot, nothing will.

Any visual medium that can have that kind of effect on a person deserves to not be flippantly dismissed as a child’s toy, something which is trivial & non-artistic. However, the onus is also somehow on the gaming industry to churn out products that will make it be taken seriously, in itself a herculean task, given the shortening attention spans with people moving on the next big thing in the blink of an eyelid.

What needs to be understood is that any game needs to have the perfect combination of story, gameplay, music, visuals & voice acting for it to work. Also, like books, music, movies, video games will communicate ideas-even pass on social messages-through familiar literary devices & through features distinctive to the medium. It can be argued that it is an emerging art form and like any other emerging art form, it depends on existing communities for recognition & legitimisation. Another conundrum faced by many is that games intrinsically are artistic, but they need not be necessarily art in order to have cultural value. They could just as easily be an aspirational kids toy which adults use to exercise their imaginations and take a break from the daily grind. In short, gaming can be whatever you want it to be. You might consider it high-art and be heavily invested, but there might be some who are more casual about it and see it as something to give them a break from the daily routine.

It is to be noted that unlike any other visual medium, gaming is fast changing with not only a steady increase in the quality of graphics and gameplay, but also new tech like VR (Virtual Reality) headsets being integrated more & more into modern gaming systems. We are slowly but steadily headed in the right direction with stuff like E-sports being brought more and more into the mainstream. It remains to be seen what direction the industry will take but we seem to taking the right steps. If you’re one of those people heralding the industry forward and championing gaming in general, in the words of the immortal Keanu Reeves, “You’re breath-taking.”

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