Are video games art? I am not talking about it!

A Stupid Question gets a ponderous and inexact answer/

Are video games art? That was a question long ago. I am not sure if they are or not. I have been bored lately, or the last half-decade, and I go to the Internet. The Internet spurred something inside of me. I suppose it was Mike Rugnetta’s PBS The Idea Channel but most likely it was Daniel Floyd’s and James Portnow’s Extra Credits that spun my interest into this little medium. I had moved back home and was bored. From those two sources I found the Youtube channel Noah Caldwell-Gervais through Chris Franklin’s channel Errant Signal. So basically bored and the yoububes got me interested in playing video games.

There was a debate surrounding this because, well, Ebert and a Court case. Though that ship has sailed and is over the horizon. I can now doubt whether video games are really art. No, that is not what I am going to do.

Typically the argument is a definition of art or video games. This is pretty frustrating because it purposely obscures the argument. This way can lead to the Platonic Ideal of Art. That is something I would love to avoid. The reason I do not know if video games are art is not because definition but rather of semantics. If a pot and an opera are both art, then of course then video games will be art. If you can say Prince’s album Purple Rain and a drawing is art, then of course video games are art. That is not the problem or really anything interesting.

If art stirs the emotions, then video games are art. That is not really anything telling. The problem is the stir of emotions and how they are at play. It would be telling if I revealed I was really talking about the “blockbuster” movie (hey an outdated term!) or a “hit” television show. I am not being dismissive of popular culture. I just would like to take an exercise. This would not be polemic but an apology. What emotions do these things stir? There is a strange craft of genius without genius in the popular culture mix.

I am not saying there is nothing creative, striking, or resonant in modern popular culture. I argue quite the opposite. There is an overflowing that produces a certain over produced blandness if not done well. It is a tricky play to make things. I am saying we have somewhat mastered the art of playing on our affects. This is done easily. People go to school for this. The critical apparatus that was so pessimistic produced popular entertainment at a new level. This is not saying better or worse than previously or really any valuation.

I am vacillation on a concrete thesis because I feel like there cannot be one. This does not mean there is not one. I said I feel like there cannot be one. Video games are excellent at hitting various impulses and affects in great and horrible ways. This is nothing new. However, to simply to stir our emotions about without any purpose does not qualify as meaningful art. This takes a bit of talent that is honed with judgment.

Is Wagner art? See the question. Wagner is art but over extends the play of emotions. It is too German—etc.

This leads the reader to say, “What?”

I am saying the practice of producing things that are artful needs more than a play of emotions. When we say, “Is it art?” I think we are asking is it healthy for us or is it good for us. Then the answer will always hit on, “it depends on the game!” This is the problem and the solution. It is always in the particulars. Is popular music art? Which album? Oh yeah that is truly art. Notice how I scurry away from beautiful!

There is a reason I failed to mention beauty! Oh it is Kant! I am taking aim at the emotional impact, though art is almost entirely centered on beauty. This is a dumb tactic. Though, why do you or me always have to be right all the damn time? There is not a reason.

Though the whole is it or is it not is really obscuring what we are trying to say. Why is something good or bad? I doubt we shall find any answers to that. Certain things are constructed so well but really do not have any reason to exist. This is weird when encountered. This then becomes a whole new subset of hyper art. This is exemplary because it is encountered all the time. Plastic arts and other tangible touchable things simply exist. That is say nothing of value. There are songs on an album that simply exist. There are stories that just exist with no real purpose. That is not a valuation of good or bad. If something lacks a meaning or depth it says nothing of its craftsmanship or its value, it just has no utility.

Big budget movies are often time overstuffed with meanings. A writer will put something in the movie’s theme, then the director, and finally the editor. This is not mentioning the actors, the crew, or the production staff. Anything big is overstuffed with something. There is too much plot, theme, and emotions in big budget movies. This is not saying that they are bad or good. There is no value driven from that! No, I am saying its utility is not a good indicator with it quality.

Movies, music celebrities, video games, and television shows actually exist. We live amongst them in our world. The qualities are more than the commodity that they are. We live amongst popular culture. Whether it is good or not is hard to tell. We live in a mundane extreme place. It is not hyper-reality or virtual but rather an overabundance of things. With the creation of intellectual object the production is overflowing. There are of course factories and mills producing intellectual properties. Of course there is! It is real and not a shared minds eye on these things. Star Wars exist as much a Beyoncé. The reality of Doom or Mario is that someone programmed them, made art for them, sold them and they are played.

Are video games unique? Not at all. Therefor all principals apply to video game as they do to other arts. A video game is played. Well a dance is choreographed, preformed, and then watched. A song is written, played or recorded, and then listened to. A game can be played badly as a story can be read poorly. I can sleep during a season of a show or watch it backwards. I can read the last line of a novel or look at painting wrong. –Wait– look at a painting wrong? I am sure it happens all the time. Done questioned answered!

No? Yes? Who cares!

Basically -what is the purpose of art? That is a daunting question that I cannot answer. Then what is the purpose of an artist? That is still daunting but at least it has an ontic quality. Let us flip the question: How does an artist give purpose? That can be mangled even more. Does the artist create purpose? Ah! Now we are heading somewhere. Not really!

The real purpose is to learn from something and to pick it apart. Then, yes, video games, big budget movies, huge old pop stars- and young ones too, and tee-vee can teach us something. We cannot simply leave valuations out, but then that relies on judgment. The problem is that we cannot wish away things. The real reason for the ponderous stupid question, “Are video game art,” is can capitalism produce art. Hell yeah it can. Capitalism and Communism can create more art than an entire millennium of Monarchy. In fact Capitalism and Communism share that strange quality. Fascism can only produce images of utility, everything is refurbished for utility. Communism and Capitalism can overproduce art. Weird right? I mean even a non-communist state like the Soviet Union can produce an overabundance of art.

Video games are seen in the technological vein of production. This means better and more fancier looking games. It means movies with CGI. It is techo with a pulse. IT is futurism and sci-fi. That leads to criticism and so forth. Then there is anti-future games embracing a modernist aesthetic or retro nostalgic vibe. This happens in every thing.

Then there is the dancing and laughter of play any type of play. Art may not produce beauty or increase joy but it wards off sadness and bleakness. Those young artists in any medium must confess that joy is the ultimate ends of art in some way. It may not increase joy directly but may help either callusing our emotional skin or exercising free play of the imagination. The sublime, the emotional, and the truth linked together in some way. It may not always be tidy and pretty but it must be put together.

How did I get here:

  1. Art cannot be defined easily.

1a. Definitions of art or anything leads to an Ideal

1b. The definition only allows for mimesis

I This makes everything a mimesis.

2 Art may stir the emotions but does not give it any value

  1. Utility is not a measure or value for art.
  2. Art is within the means of production
  3. Intellectual property exists.

6 Judgment makes values in art.

I suppose this has little to do with video game at all. I do not mind that in the least bit because that is not really my aim. I just wanted to not define something when thinking about it. I rather talk about the qualities than the essence of something. I need a bit of distance and patience. I think art and politics share a commonality in the production of joy. If your art or politics does not produce joy then you are doing something wrong.


I doubt many will see this. I do not care much really. It is not that I hate anyone; it is this is a production of necessity. I must write when I am tired and bored. I must write when I feel inconvenienced by it. I must take the untidy strings of thought and pressure them and force them into something. Boredom is not folly but can lead to madness! That is not true but there is something that needs to get out. I need to sharpen my pen!

The question of art is stupid! I mean that is foolish to tempt it after the masters played with it for two hundred years! What is worse is that art is endless in every form. Oh you play music? Well I just have an endless library. Oh? You want to listen to every song? You can! You paint? Look ups any type of style? Oh you just did? Lost of homework for you! You write? Well that is good for you because we live in a hyper literate society! More people are reading in some function! There is literally two and a half millennium of reading for you!

The production of anything, I mean just making or doing anything is work. I must say we are prone to work. I do not think it give us delight. I think we produce work and make work for ourselves. We should make thing that are joyful. That should be a question. I am not sure if we are capable of merely producing joy. I am not sure. However, if we are capable are we doing work? I doubt it.

If you have read this, I am sorry! I mean it! I purposely wrote without an outline. I did this weird experiment. I doubt I will simply just write until I am done quite like this. I mean I still will but I will use it more productively.

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