The painting across the room disturbs me. The funny shapes, the vibrant colors, the strange way it’s all put together—it just screams creepy to me. But I guess that would be what some people call “art”, despite the strange vibe it brings to the place. I don’t know why, nor do I really care. I just see it as a painting.
That’s the crux of the argument right there: art is art only if people believe it to be art. Now, that could be one person or several, but all the same it is no less than a work of art in their eyes. Recently, people have been trying to debate whether or not video games are art, with cases ranging from the “we’re not there yet” to the “we’ve been there for a long time”. From their keyboards, these people scream out to the vastness of open cyberspace saying, “Where’s our Michelangelo? Where’s our Scorsese? Where’s our version of The Beatles?”
Many make the claim that we’re already there, citing recent endeavors as Portal, all the way back to simple classics as Super Mario Bros. 3. These are art, right? Well, the case is not clear-cut.
You see, an “artist”—though I use the term “artist” loosely—seeks to create something, discover new things that weren’t there to begin with. Mind you, I believe that any good artist does not seek to create art. That’s not their job, that’s not their goal, and that’s perfectly acceptable.
Take, for instance, the “Mona Lisa”. Why is such a portrait—because that’s all it really is, a portrait—considered to be a marvelous work of art? I can assure you that if Leonardo da Vinci was still alive, he’d be baffled why such a work is even considered “art”. Instead, it became famous throughout the centuries, and gained its acceptance as “one of the greatest works of art ever conceived” over time.
Leonardo da Vinci didn’t set out to create a work of art. He was just making a portrait.
Similarly, when a drawer draws, do we consider the product of the work done as art? If I were to draw a simple stick figure, would that be art? What makes it art? All these questions seldom get answers, so far that I’ve asked. So to compound that even further, at what point do we stop calling drawings drawings, paintings paintings, movies movies, music music, and video games just video games and start calling them art?
The answer lies with those that view the creation. Back to the painting in the room, if I were to call it art, it would be art to me and me alone. Obviously, I’m not the only one calling it art, but for the example, let’s just say that I am. If I were to tell someone that the painting is art, they’d probably correct me, telling me it’s a painting. Is the person wrong? Absolutely not, and neither am I for saying that it’s art.
A good creator, artist, or what-have-you, will actively seek to, not create a work of art, but to bring something to life. This is just as true with video games as it is with anything else. The game designer that actively seeks to make art will be disappointed when it isn’t considered art, and the final product will take forever to push out towards people because of the high expectations that “art” brings with it. The game designer that actively seeks to make a great game will most likely get what they want, and the players themselves will decided whether or not it’s art.
So as for this silly discussion of who’s our Scorsese, what’s our Citizen Kane, where’s our Michelangelo, I say, it really doesn’t matter. Make and play great games, and the rest will follow.
Picture by cartoongirl7 on DeviantART