The exact definition of art is up for debate. Some argue that is any expression of creative skills and imagination, though some go further by stipulating that their primary purpose should be for the enjoyment of their beauty rather than something more practical.
Therefore, it’s easy to argue that a painting, a piece of music, a fiction book, or a movie are works of art since they are all creative works that are enjoyed by their viewers, listeners, or readers because of their inherent “beauty”.
However, can the same argument be made about games?
The Individual Elements of Art
If you break games down into their individual elements, they are made up of individual pieces of artistic expression. Modern titles usually have a complete narrative that has been crafted by a team of scriptwriters, stunning visuals that have been painstakingly illustrated and modelled, and a soundtrack that brings the elements to life.
When you combine them together, games have become a medium to tell stories in a similar way to other forms of art. The main difference is that games are more interactive than just about any other storytelling device since they give the “audience” control over at least one of its characters.
The Commercial Side of Games
Most games cost money. You either purchase the entire title upfront, pay for a monthly subscription, or are afforded the opportunity to purchase in-game items through microtransactions. In some cases, you may hand over your cash for more than one of these reasons.
This isn’t always the case, as some titles can be enjoyed at no cost. Some of the best free to play online games include poker, video slots, and roulette, though you can find just about any genre available for free in some form. However, even many of the most popular free titles, including Fortnite, League of Legends, and CS:GO, still include some form of monetization.
This commercial aspect of games is necessary because without being paid for their efforts, most developers would have to find work elsewhere, meaning many of the most popular titles would go unmade.
It could be argued that the primary creation of most games is to generate profit for its developers and, therefore, they don’t meet the definition of art as being something that’s primary purpose is for the enjoyment of its beauty. However, the same argument can be about music, television, movies, paintings, and art, so it seems unreasonable to say that games aren’t art because they are commercial products.
The Scientific Aspects of Games
Games are more than just some animations and music though. They’re made with thousands of lines of code to tell the computer, smartphone, or console what to display on the screen.
Centuries of scientific endeavour have made games possible. Without the invention of electricity, light-emitting diodes, semiconductors, or the internet, modern games wouldn’t exist.
There’s more to it than that too. A lot of science goes into measuring the popularity of different elements of games so that publishers can understand what parts of their products are enjoyed by gamers and which bits aren’t.
Armed with this data, they refine their content to maximize the appeal of their titles so that they can sell them to as many players as possible. This could, potentially, disqualify them as being classed as art since they’re not the complete expression of creative skills and imagination. That said, this research and data analysis helps to create content that is enjoyed for its beauty by more people.