Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Art Vs. Entertainment...

It's the age old question:  Are video games art, or are they merely entertainment?

When you think about games like the latest John Madden game, it's easy to say they're entertainment:  Because really, what's artful about a bunch of guys on a football field who all look relatively the same.  There's no sweeping story.  There's no character development.  There's really not much to look at, right?

I don't know...the fog effects, the field, the mannerisms of players.  When an artist sculpts a lump of clay to look like a real person, we call it art.  These players look pretty lifelike to me.  Madden might even lean towards art just a bit.  But mostly, it's entertainment.

How about a better example:  Doom.

Eh...there's really not much to look at.  It's mostly about blasting demons.  There's very little story, per se.  Granted, it sort of defined a genre, but the art value of such a thing I think is pretty low.  This one I'd chalk up to evidence of games being purely entertainment. 

But then, if you look at a game like Grand Theft Auto IV, it's the same kind of a game, really.

You're tasked with shooting, finding, etc, just like Doom.  But these people have personalities, stories, and they're a heck of a lot more believable.  Scenery that looks like some of the best landscape painting you've ever seen?  Check.  Except this stuff you can walk right up to, examine, perhaps even climb on top of in between bouts of blasting drug lords and beating up on hookers.  It's kind of a blurry line.

Further blurring the lines are games like Shadow of the Colossus.

This, in my opinion, is art first and foremost and entertainment second.  Maybe that's just me, but I found myself stopping to stare in awe more often than I was climbing and shooting and stabbing.  It elicits an emotional response with its melancholy missions and its brilliant bosses. 

Maybe that's the crux of it:  Emotion.  Feeling.  Is that what makes a game more art than entertainment?  Is it story?  Beauty?  An emotional response?

Then what about this game?

Flower, for the PS3.  It has little to no story, doesn't really elicit any emotion (at least not for me), and is almost sheerly beauty.  But I would consider this art more than entertainment, I think. 

It really is a difficult question to answer. 

What do you think?


Bryan Ochalla said...

I know this is going to shock you (not!), but I'm firmly in the camp that says games, in general, are (or can be) art. Not all games reach that peak, of course, but not all movies reach it either--yet most people would be hard pressed to say movies, in general, aren't art.

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Very true and prudent thoughts. Thanks for the input. This is going to shock you (not!), but I really value your opinion.

Thanks for dropping in.

Argent said...

There's no reason why a suitably crafted computer game could not be a form of art. If the creators' intentions were to express something to you though the game, then it could well be. Just being pretty don't cut it though, nor does being created just to make dosh - then it's just craft, albeing very well executed craft.