EDITORIAL: "Video Games Can Never Be Art"


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 8, 2007
So I wrote an article on my company's Blog and wanted to just post the excerpt here to get some opinions on what you all think the essence of what games can be, and where you think they are headed in the future.

"Video Games Can Never Be Art"

I wanted to take the opportunity to write about something that has effected me personally, on a very real level. And being in a visual profession, I would even go as far as to say that in some ways, has helped shape the way I think and work. That “thing” to which I am referring is video games. Yes, the passion and hobby of Cheeto-popping, shower-skipping, 30 year old basement dwelling “momma’s boys.” And as much flak as my dad liked to throw my way when growing up, I believe that video games’ personal involvement will pave the way to becoming the centralized medium for the future family.

I was born in the 1980’s, during the 2nd generation of these “digital boardgames,” with my fondest game memories being the oldies-but-goodies: Zelda and Mario. These are the “Ben Her’s” and “Casablanca’s” of the medium; the great innovators that pushed the threshold and opened people’s eyes to what the future of gaming could be; and oh what a bright future they paved. These were the forefathers to today’s modern, multi-billion dollar franchises such as God of War, Halo, Uncharted, Call of Duty and were the very games that created a life-long lover in me.

So what inspired me to write this you may ask? Well, I just finished Uncharted 3, the finale in the three part tale of Nathan Drake. Nathan, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake, is trying to learn more about his ancestor, as well as write his own legacy, proving to himself and others he is worthy of his revered name. The game takes you to dozens of locations on multiple continents, weaving a story full of love, revenge, betrayal, and what it means to be a true hero. “Greatness from small beginnings,” the inscription on Nathan’s ring, couldn’t sum it up any better.

So what is it about this game in particular that inspired me to write about it over any other? Simple, its absolute perfection in almost every aspect of creation. From its enveloping story, spectacular level design, excruciatingly detailed texture work, heart skipping clarity of sound design, and tear-jerking character interaction, it just moves me. In essence, the art of it. But can video games be classified as art? I would argue emphatically, yes!

Roger Ebert opened a can of sour worms with thousands and thousands of responses on his blog for stating that, “video games can never be art.” It saddens me really, that someone with such voice and pull in the critic industry would state something so senile. He doesn’t elaborate at all, and readily admits to never playing them, so I struggle to understand his absolute confidence in his own opinion with such (admittedly) little knowledge he has on the subject. And without getting into a deep philosophical rant here, what really defines something as being art? I would simply ask if a beautifully decorated chess set from the 16 century is art? And weren’t movies just the natural progression from photography? Why are video games all of the sudden not allowed into the “club?”

I’m not going to sit here and defend every single video game of being a beautiful piece of timeless art, just like I don’t consider every modern “painting” one; but I want to take a moment and challenge anyone who has never played a video game to give it a chance. It doesn’t really matter if your reluctance is because of cultural contexts, preconceived notions of its participants, philosophical disagreements of its nature, or anything else. Just sit down, clear your mind, and don’t be afraid to be drawn into it. Who knows, you might find yourself laughing, crying and cursing at the television. Ultimately, you’ll see that the semantics of “art” melt away, and you’re left with the writer’s, designer’s and programmer’s brush strokes.

Or in Uncharted 3’s case… A Masterpiece.


Jan 18, 2005
This reads more like a review for Uncharted 3 than the topic of games being art.

Distilled down my opinion of games is that they're on level with portraits, landscapes, albums, films, books. They have the possibility of being an art form, they also have the ability to be mass-produced products of commercialism. They can help you, they can impress you, they can depress you, they can excite you.

Media can be art.
Media doesn't have to be art.

Lincoln 6 Echo

macrumors member
Nov 29, 2005
Weird topic because it's no mystery: videogames are a form of art, DONE.

The fact that everything in most games is drawn, sketched, modelled, coloured, lit by a person's meticulous eye means that it is definitely a FORM of art. It's like film-making or creating music, it's a form of art.

The problem is the title "Video games can never be art" -- it's almost bad english or way to ambigous/vague, unless you have single-handedly defined the word "art" in which you state that it can only be one specific form, which I doubt and would disagree with.

That's just me.


macrumors member
Dec 13, 2011
Nowadays, games are more like the movies. If you think movies can be the art, so games can. But someone may consider “Art” in another way. “Art” is to express certain motions, thoughts, philosophy or others, such as the “Refusing chair” on an art expo. It is a normal chair with a stick cross the armrest and block people to sit on him. As a chair, it is useless. It can serve people no more. As an “Art”, it showed many meanings in this form, such as revolt, rebellion, independence and more. But the games cannot be in this way, as well as the movies. Games are created to serve the people, to satisfy their different needs, feelings and dreams which cannot come true or meet so often in real life. It is more as the services and products, to meet our different mental desires, like bread and drinks to our physical bodies.
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