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Can Video Games Be Art? April 28, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Art and Music, Dwight Furrow's Posts.

Roger Ebert argues that video games in principle cannot be art.

But I’m not at all sure what his argument is. He never quite says what something must be in order to be art.

The only shred of an argument I can find in his essay is this:

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome.

But if one of Calder’s mobiles was displayed with instructions to count the number of rotations per minute and win a prize, would it be any less a work of art?

I’m no gamer so my knowledge  of video games is rather limited. But I don’t see why someone could not devise a video game in which elements of the game were presented in such a way as to induce an aesthetic experience.

It may be that no game currently on the market would qualify as a work of art; I doubt that video game creators are aiming at artistic merit.  But why are video games in principle incapable of being art?

The relevant question with regard to the artistic merit of any object is this: Does the assemblage of elements form an ordered arrangement with aesthetic properties? A video game could be elegant, graceful, or beautiful. It could be a powerful evocation of thelife of a people or a disturbing glimpse of chaos and decline. It can possess unity, clarity, or symmetry. Since video games can possess aesthetic properties what precludes them from being art?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



1. Asur - April 28, 2010

I can never quite shake the impression that the better we define art, the less like art what we define becomes.

Shooting from the hip, I’m going to say that art is nothing other than whatever people individually feel to be beautiful, and ‘great art’ simply that on which a great many people so agree.

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