This Video Might Convince Your Doubtful Friends That Games Can Be Art

For a relaxing time, sit back and watch this terrific PBS short documentary on the artistic merits of video games. The video runs only about 7 minutes, and features NYU's Eric Zimmerman, game designer and researcher Jesper Juul, Kotaku contributor and secret nerdcore superstar Leigh Alexander, and Babycastles curator and designer Syed Salahuddin.

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"Even though games are ancient," says Zimmerman, "there is something about this moment in history that is special. We are now entering a ludic age, an age of play."

"Every game you play," he continues, "it's like a little laboratory for understanding how systems work."

Juul points to some examples of how simpler games have become more prevalent lately, using Minecraft as his main example. Leigh talks about the journeys that games can take us on, as well as the ways they subvert our expectations of narrative, using Bioshock and Portal as examples (while the video's editor sneaks in a quick Grim Fandango shout-out, which I aprpeciated).

Salahuddin discusses the offbeat indie developer Cactus, pointing to Hot Throttle, as well as Jason Rohrer's Passage.

It's a remarkably convincing video, mainly because of how matter-of-fact it is. Four experts talking about the things they value in independent, experimental game design, and doing so in a way that even the skeptical can understand. Good stuff.


You can contact Kirk Hamilton, the author of this post, at kirk@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.

DISCUSSION

From my understanding, this games are art "debate" is useless for several reasons; if you break down the components that make even the worst games, each stands on its own as a form of art. The script is a piece of literary art, the graphics and character designs are graphic art, programming to many is considered an art form in itself, and placing them all together to form a cohesive package (something even Hollywood cannot properly do right most times) is still an "art". So, in essence, the culmination of various forms of art, to produce an entirely new experience is essentially what should be considered art. There really is no debate to be had.

As an art student for the majority of my life, I have found artistic value in many things that the average person would not even considered "art". Yet, if someone else does not see the artistic merit in it, does that make it any less relevant? If you are not involved in the art field in some way, your opinion should not even matter when it comes down to it; art is subjective, and not everyone will understand all the work that is produced. But there is no denying that a medium that takes the best of several styles, types, and genres of art and creates one solid package from it is, for all intents and purposes, ART. And if you don't agree, you are simply deluding yourself.