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Big Ideas: Are video games art?

The idea that video games could be classified as art is a fairly recent one, emerging right around the time that we began to include narrative as a game element. All too often, the subject is brought up by detractors of the form as a way to look down upon a medium to which they feel no attraction. The underlying conceit is ridiculous of course -- if video games aren't art, then they have no lasting cultural value, and may therefore be dismissed as mere juvenilia. Yet video games are, nevertheless, quite a large part of our culture, and the lingering perception that they are made only to be entertainment for adolescents does the entire industry a disservice.

However, merely positing the possibility that video games might be art isn't enough to ensure that they are art. Part of the problem lies in our definition of what art is, and what it isn't. Once we've defined that to our satisfaction, we have to endure the much more difficult task of judging whether it applies to video games. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we need to ask ourselves the question "Does it matter?"

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