Once upon a time, video games were considered nothing more than a means of entertainment for children. That is no longer the case, as the industry has moved on to become a form of art that should be officially recognised as such.
In the current era, video games have a secondary feature besides the amusement of players. They have become the means through which creative teams are able to convey their emotions and display their talents to their audiences. The old story of video games being targeted to children exclusively was thrown out the window a long time ago, as the industry has gone on to, in many cases, largely surpass the revenues of other forms of entertainment.
But why should video games be considered an art form?
We'll be analysing all nine of the world's officially recognised fine arts to reach the conclusion that the gaming industry has become a lot more than we think it is.
The world of video games is heavily based on world-building. We live in a time where the worlds that are created within video games take months of architectural designs to build. The high level of detail in many of these titles is astounding.
A perfect example of this would be the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. One of the most famous places of worship in the entire world, lost its entire north section due to an electrical malfunction which led to a disastrous fire. The blueprints weren't enough to redesign the church and even today it remains in ruins.
After the fire, constructors attempted to rebuild the famous building by looking at its faithful recreation in the Ubisoft title Assassin's Creed: Unity. One of the many games within the popular franchise, Unity's story takes place in France and more specifically in Paris, with Notre Dame being an essential landmark in the game. The cathedral is so well-designed, so incredibly mapped out in every single detail, that the French government asked the developers for their designs in an attempt to help the real-life architects rebuild the areas that were burned down during the fire.
Eventually, it was decided that it couldn't be done, and thus the church remains in disrepair today. Still, this example serves as perfect proof that there are certain games that include such incredible architecture, not only based on historic areas but even on imaginary locations, that even famous architects would come to envy them!
All video game models, and their development into three-dimensional models, have quite a lot in common with the creation and development of real-life sculptures. Video game content creation programs are taught in Universities and are considered a separate art form in and of themselves.
Unreal Engine and Unity are two very popular programs within the gaming industry. Through these programs, each developer has the tools to create whatever they set their mind to, but not only in its basic form. Gaming gives creators the unique ability to bring their "sculptures" to life, breathing thoughts and emotions into them.
Each video game character is a unique sculpture that comes to life and no other art form out there which is based on sculpting can better relay this than video games.
When it comes to video games, painting is essentially the same as sculpting or architecture. Again, there are many examples to choose from, which are based on historical or mythological elements that can be drawn from the Assassin's Creed and God of War franchises, with countless others stemming from the imagination of the creators.
Wall paintings, art paintings, graffiti, even entirely new types of paintings can be found throughout the countless video games out there. And don't forget: for a game to reach the three-dimensional modelling stage, it must first go through the art section of each developer before beginning to take shape.
Whatever we see within our favourite video game worlds was, at one point, designed on a PC with a pen. From a simple tree all the way to a huge cathedral or an entire town, ancient, modern, or futuristic. And all of this is included within the sphere of painting.
Literature and Poetry
Video games have moved beyond the stage of shallow stories and simplified narratives for children (not to say those don't exist anymore either). But considering the evolution of the industry, it was only a matter of time until games were released which would heavily rely on a more meaningful story, poetic dialogue, and a more literary style.
Artistic monologues, psychological commentary, and the inclusion of sentiments of love, hate, sorrow, and suspense are all elements that could help create a masterpiece. And the gaming industry has been embracing this kind of emotional storytelling more and more in recent years.
A great example of this would be Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
Hellblade is so much more than a simple game with incredible visuals and enjoyable controls. It's a game that plays with your mind, awakens your senses, and puts you in the main character's shoes.
The world is not what you think it is. It's not just about the journey of a warrior through Helheim to rescue her beloved.
It's a psychological trip inside the most hidden confines of the mind that you consider to be safe. A world that, throughout all the hardship that you go through, attempts to shape you for the better. To help you accept your failures and leave your past behind. And in the end, it leaves you wondering if any of it even happened at all or if you were just trying to battle your own guilt and fears which were attempting to lock you up in a prison of your own making.
Hellblade is the best possible experience for a person whose life isn't going the way they hoped it would and perhaps one of the few games that can teach you so much while at the same time helping you move forward.
The philosophical contemplations and constant turmoil that is going on within the titular character Senua's mind is one of the best possible expressions of poetry and literature that has been seen in gaming's history.
And that's just one of the hundreds of games out there that have a similar style.
Video game franchises receive awards every year for the incredible tracks and amazing melodies that they produce. Entire orchestras come together specifically to create music for an upcoming title, with many of them dedicated exclusively to video game music and nothing else.
The Riot Games orchestra is a good example of this, as they are exclusively responsible for the music of the incredibly popular MMO League of Legends, both within the game and outside of it.
Additionally, there are many already known bands and artists who have contributed to the development of video game soundtracks. Opeth and Mastodon, two of the greatest metal bands in the industry, had their names included in the God of War soundtrack, while also helping create other in-world sound elements.
Today, concerts are held that feature only the music of gaming's most beloved soundtracks. Concerts throughout the world, based exclusively on music from video games exclusively are held on a monthly basis in many cities around the world, with people scrounging to find a last-minute ticket.
Music is an indivisible part of the gaming industry and without the complexity that it brings, certain titles that have come to be known as masterpieces would have never carried that title.
Video games are one huge theatrical performance. The player is both the actor, the director, and the screenwriter. With their choices and movements, they go to the next part of the story. Of course, there are certain games out there in which the end can be easily foretold.
However, many titles are heavily based on storytelling, giving players the freedom to design the next chapter based on their own preferences, choices, and decisions within the game itself.
To take part in a theatrical performance is considered a lot more interesting than being stuck in a minor spectator's role. Because of this, interactive theatre has bloomed in the modern era, an idea that originally began with video games around 30 years ago.
Highly connected to the theatrical aspect of video games, cinematography is the most unbreakable part of the gaming industry. The culmination of the visual artistry in games, known as "cinematics", have elevated the industry to such a point that a great many people prefer to play games with long cinematic segments that explain the scenario and convey the emotions of the characters, rather than watching a two-hour movie that might not have as much to offer them.
Well-known franchises, such as Tomb Raider and Uncharted have been turned into blockbuster Hollywood films due to their incredible cinematics and scenarios. And the list doesn't end there.
Over the last ten years or so, the video game industry reached a point where it actually helped push the art of cinematography forward exactly as it had done for theatre, by adding the term "interactive" to the concept.
Besides the incredible cinematography and the theatrical skills that can easily be recognised in today's video games, photography is also an art form that can be seen through our consoles or PCs.
Photographs make us feel what the artist sees, through the composition of the scene, the colours displayed, even the angle of the camera. It's not a coincidence that many of the newest and most graphically advanced games today include a photo mode, allowing gamers to create their own works of art. From the breathtaking landscapes of Horizon: Forbidden West and Ghost of Tsushima to the action scenes of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, amateur photographers can now turn to games and social media to become star artists in their own right,
Precisely as it occurs in theatre, in movies, or at your local art gallery, so too can the art of photography be happening on a couch in your home (support local artists, folks!)
Comic books have experienced a "second wind" and that is, in many ways, owing to the video game industry. The complex and time-consuming concept of comic books was revolutionised through video games.
Marvel, DC, and also non-mainstream comics from publishers like Anubis, have all been brought to life in incredible ways by video games, with players truly able to don the cape of their favourite characters.
Some of the biggest gaming hits of the last 5 years have been based on comic books, with more to come. Spider-Man and its sequel Miles Morales have been widely loved, and developer Insomniac Games isn't slowing down, with a Wolverine game will in the works. The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy have received their own games as well, and other Marvel and DC properties will see games released in the next year. It truly is a good time for those whose fandoms cross both comic book and gaming lines.
So, after all that, what are the missing pieces in order for video games to be officially recognised as the world's tenth fine art?
The question is rhetorical of course and the answer is: nothing. When a video game can include all nine art forms within 20 hours, then we should consider every serious attempt at developing a game nothing less than a modern masterpiece.
Who would've imagined something like this, 40 or 50 years ago? The evolution of technology isn't all about social media or the creation of a fancy new machine. It's also about conveying emotions, entertaining the spirit and the mind after a hard day's work, a spiritual journey in an imaginary world, and the dream that someday, we'll also find the strength that the characters on our screens have to cope with every physical, mental or emotional hardship that gets thrown our way.
This is exactly what all other forms of art known to man have attempted to do over the last 10,000 years. Now, it's all in your hand. In a controller. In a game. In the experience of a lifetime.
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