Video Games: The Disregarded Art Form

Video games are an unsung art form.

Video games are an unsung art form. They amalgamate elements of music, story telling, and visual programming with their soundtracks, story development, and intricate character details. While some may argue that video games solely promote messages of kill or be killed, they're more than the typical assassin game. Their unique, dynamic, creative arrangements of sight, sound, and stories make them worth public appreciation and consideration as a form of art.

For example, by allowing players to choose their unique endings, Undertale, a critically acclaimed indie role-playing game (RPG), allows users to craft their own world using their own imagination. The game puts a clever twist on the standard "fight or flight" interaction of typical RPG games. It allows users to control how the game progresses and offers them the ability to resolve conflicts peacefully. In doing so, the creators of Undertale managed to craft a space where players can develop personalized storylines. The game mirrors reality in the way that, much like how our interactions in the real world impact our social lives, all player actions have results or consequences that impact other characters and the larger communities they reside in. Unlike a painting to be marvelled at on a wall, storytelling is a crucial art form because it captures human emotions and plays with reality through plot lines. But Undertale's artistry doesn’t end at the stories it allows users to craft. Using simple pixel art and 16-bit music, the game's design also serves as a love letter to past RPG games where hardware limitations forced a minimalistic approach to visuals and music. In Undertale, stellar dialogue and storytelling are maximized by its creative arrangement and design, making it a truly artistic game that transcends beyond the average war game.

Another example of an artistic video game is Gris, a platformer game that uses actions such as jumping and climbing to navigate the player’s environment. Gris is split into five parts, each corresponding to one of the five stages of grief. Already, its ability to capture real-life experiences and allow users to feel these universal emotions through a screen render Gris a unique and imaginative game. Moreover, it is also cleverly designed. For instance, the first stage, denial, is set within an empty landscape with dilapidated buildings. The black and white visuals, combined with the destroyed landscape in the background, do a great job in reflecting the initial shock that comes with denial. The player's gradual gain of the ability to move, run, and jump excellently reflect the transition from denial to other, more active phases of grief, such as anger and bargaining. The game's brilliant hand drawn animation and music add to its artistic arrangement. These elements—universal message, clever storyline, and impressive music and visuals—together highlight Gris's artistic value and prove it to be more than shallow entertainment.

Finally, there is LSD: Dream Emulator, a game in which a player aimlessly wanders around a surreal landscape while interacting with various objects that serve no real purpose. Players are put into a level with no real beginning or end, breaking conventional game designs. The usage of starkly contrasting colors, various atmospheric sound effects like footsteps or wind, and strange characters create a world so utterly alien, yet familiar enough to possess dreamlike qualities. By virtue of being an abstract, discordant string of objects and realms, the game is a blank slate that leaves boundless space for interpretation. In fact, Osamu Sato, the creator of LSD: Dream Emulator reflected, "I find [that] my creations are rather contemporary art using game consoles." By forcing players to make sense of the worlds that they are subjected to, the game allows its player to interpret its true meaning for themself. It is, in essence, abstract art: vague enough for interpretation, yet clear enough to prompt a search for meaning.

Video games are too often mislabelled as simplistic plotlines that serve no real purpose aside from satisfying personal pleasure. It is easier to find artistic value in the Mona Lisa than it is in Tetris, a tile-matching game. However, simply because a piece of work doesn't fit the conventional mold of art doesn't mean it lacks artistry. Games, by design, are creative mediums that tie together various arrangements of art, music, and story and thus defined as art, context and production notwithstanding.


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