Don’t worry, this is NOT a post on “are video games art?” – at least not mostly.  I guess it is, because it assumes that yes, video games are art – but doesn’t really argue the point as I think its pretty obvious that, for the most part, they are  – at least the industry is an artistic industry, and art comes from it (as does crap…)  So yeah, you are not getting into yet another one of THOSE posts with this.

I just read an interview between Kill Screen Magazine and professor John Sharp discussing how many game designers and developers have little experience studying art history and concepts, and John’s opinion that they should, and fast.

While the debate between whether or not video games are Art still gurgles up here and there, I feel that most people who work in the industry are in agreement that yes, video games are Art.  There are games that come out that aren’t – that are just profit-machines or labors of, well, labor.  But for the most part the industry does produce a lot of Art.  We just don’t have the terminology to study it, and thus create larger meaning and purpose for it.  Mr. Sharp makes a great analogy between the Renaissance time for sculpture and now; people have been sculpting since we developed a frontal lobe, but we hadn’t studied it as art or developed terminology for it until the Renaissance.  Mr. Sharp mentions that, during the Renaissance, people also focussed so much on defining terms that they missed the greater impact of their work; I would argue that we need those very terms to identify and explain that impact.  Without the vocabulary, we can only point and go “nice”; we needed to define the general norms before we could definite social purpose.

Video Games are going through a similar intellectual movement now, working to be raised as a more respected form and present a larger variety of content: not just shoot-em-ups and RPGs, but existential studies of time, figure, and movement.  But without a shared set of terminology to discuss these movements and examples, without a universal understanding of accepted goals and boundaries, we can’t identify when those boundaries are passed.

And this begins to link back, albeit weakly, to the idea of the Ethics of Games.  As a designer, it is your responsibility to know WHY you are making the choices you make in a game and HOW they will affect the player, not just at the moment they are playing but long after.  Help initiate dialogues about purpose, method, and style.  Create a gamut of terminology and practice that can help the world identify Art from Business in video games, and help raise the industry to a new level of standards.  And I think this is why Mr. Sharp wants designers to study Art History & Theory more thoroughly – learn from how this was done in the past to be able to more quickly accomplish it now.