Screen Time: Are video games art?

This was published on July 29 in the Jacksonville Progress. “Screen Time” is a guest column the paper does where people can write their thoughts on the film/television industry. My editor decided to let me have a go at it one day, and I decided to try and put a unique spin on the column. It was really fun to write, and my editor seemed to like it, too.

Before I begin, I would like to note that the title of the column is “Screen Time.” It was never specified what had to be on the screen, so strap in for a little bit of “Video Game Screen Time.”

Almost everyone agrees that films count as works of art. People watch movies for escapism, to have a story be told or to have an emotional response to something. A movie is the application of creativity and skill to catch the attention of an audience and to convey a story or an emotion. The Library of Congress has stored 700 movies on the National Film Registry, as of last year, for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In short: It is a generally accepted fact that movies are art.

But what about video games? Do they count as works of art, too? I would like to argue that, yes, they should! If a movie counts as art, then a video game is not too far of a step away.

First of all, video games accomplish the same things as movies do. They convey a story, they take the viewer out of the world and into a different one, and they cause an emotional response. A video game is capable of causing joy or rage (as evidenced by many broken controllers.) It can have incredible visuals and picture frame-worthy scenes. Some games, much like movies, can even be described as “an experience” instead of just a game.

Some may argue that video games may do these things, but only in a “distracting” way. A video game is just a game, after all. How could someone have serious or deep thoughts about something that’s just meant to be a distraction? My response is simply: Isn’t that what people said about movies not too long ago? Movies are nothing but distractions, and yet people discuss the deeper elements of them and the ideas behind them all the time.

Secondly, I would like to point out all the similarities between making a movie and making a video game. With a film production there is a lot of “art behind the art” going on. Scripts are being written, actors are rehearsing their lines, costumes are being sewn, music is being composed, and the animation department is working to make fantasy a reality.

In case you didn’t know, all of those things happen in video games, too! A video game needs a production team, a director, an art department, musicians, etc. etc. etc. They even need actors, and not just to read lines off the page. Thanks to motion capture technology, many actors can now walk around a set and perform action scenes and get those put directly into the game. Why, if there are so many similarities between video games and movies, is only one treated like art?

For my final point, I would like to point at how art evolves. In the beginning, “art” was cave drawings and simple stone and wooden carvings. Through time people’s skills improved and styles diverged until we have come to the masterpieces that we’ve seen in recent history and today. There are many different styles of art, and people argue about which is best, but everybody likes something. Films are exactly the same. What began as simple moving pictures has become an incredible industry.

Video games are currently undergoing a similar evolution. Long ago, video games were nothing but a series of moving pixels. Today they’re vast works that contain storytelling, music, and animation that can rival the film industry. Today, people are experimenting with virtual reality, choose your own adventure games and new methods of gaming. This evolution is sure to continue, just as the evolution of films and other works of art.

To conclude, I feel that video games should count as works of art, much like movies. Video games accomplish the same emotional responses and escapism as movies. Movies and video games also have very similar processes of creation and other qualities. Lastly, video games have evolved, and continue to evolve, just like films.


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