Are games Art? Fallout 3 Designer Fred “fizzbang” Zeleny replies:
I voted a big yes on this poll, with the knowledge that games, like books, painting, or any other medium, can be art, but aren’t always.
The definition of “art” is in the eye of the beholder, and what inspires one person to call art can leave another person nonplussed or bored. But I’ve absolutely seen games that I’d call art – which is to say, experiencing them inspired my thinking on matters and changed my way of viewing the world.
There have been many of them, ranging from indie PC games like Passage to large PC games like Fallout, to console games like Rez or Portal or even Jet Set Radio Future, and even to games that aren’t entirely contained in the realm of the virtual, with ARGs like I Love Bees. Many of these games appear simple at first, and could be easily dismissed by the jaded, but in playing them, I found new ways to view the world and discovered new ways a story or a space could be experienced.
Of course, a game doesn’t have to be “art” to be a good game. There are many mature, quality games that I wouldn’t call “art”, just as there are lots of things I’d call “art” that I wouldn’t even remotely describe as “mature” – or sometimes, even as “quality”. And I reject the implication that games on consoles are automatically immature, just as I’d reject the assumption that a book sold at a major bookstore was somehow dumbed-down just because it was readily available to the public.
The game industry could certainly benefit from more artistic experimentation from developers, and more appreciation and acceptance of new approaches from fans. And I think this is happening: indie game development is gaining more and more momentum. This is particularly true with PC and web-based games, but there’s also a good variety of small-scale games being developed for X-Box Live Arcade or the like. Supporting the games you like on this scale makes it increasingly likely that larger versions of those types of games will appear.
Furthermore, the game-playing audience is expanding, and their tastes are becoming more varied and sophisticated: not only is the average age of gamers going up (even the average console player is over 18), but the variety of game-players has also been increasing, with gender ratios of gamers slowly equalizing, and with games being more widely accepted in mainstream culture. A lot of this is a direct result of the widespread nature of casual and console gaming – it has made games more common, and as people who grew up with console gaming have become members of society, they’ve brought their love of gaming with them.
The result is that games, as a medium, are exploring more territory today than they did in the past. Sometimes that leads to art, sometimes that leads to good gameplay, sometimes that leads to garbage, and most of the time it leads to something in-between all three. Just find the games you like and support them. And if you can’t find any you like, then make your own!
Interesting, this topic was started by stefix at the Bethesda Games Fallout 3 Forum.