Games as an Art Medium Cody mullins

The Problem

It is commonly said that "Video games are for children" or "Video games can never be art (Roger Ebert)". people think that inherently a game is for children or not serious, as expressed in the commonly used phrases "I've grown to old for games" and "Dude, its just a game".

The Reason in Game History

The reason for these stigmas is, for the most part, hard to blame on the consumers. The games industry itself holds a lot of the blame.


In the earlier portion of video games commercial lifespan it was largely directed towards children, because who else are you going to sell your plumber who jumps on mushrooms, and your blue hedgehog who has a hoarding problem with gold rings, the majority of the games being made were made for kids so why advertise for adults. Granted some of the advertising was directed at adults, it was primarily to buy the console for their kids

1990's - Early 2000's

We have a what I would call an overall golden age for gaming from early . the population of people who played games exponentially grew and games where relatively cheap to make allowing for a plethora of ideas to be played with and still be high quality.

Late 2000's - Modern Day

We get to modern games industry, with the sheer numbers of consumers and the increasing quality of games, creating a big name game became a much larger investment then older games were. A single bad title could set a company back hundreds of thousands of dollars now a days larger games could even cost millions of dollars. Because of these set backs, AAA developers have resorted to expanding upon an already working idea rather than making risky and newer ideas. this lead to an age of a lot of mindless shooters or beat-em-ups, based on the large scale success of previous games like "Doom", "Mortal Kombat", and "Castlevania".

With the drop in great innovative content coming from larger companies people assumed that this is what video games are, this 1% situation, video games are all (insert whatever big companies are doing here), while there are hundreds maybe thousands of indie developers making much more varied content with great stories and rhetoric, who go unappreciated and are barely recognized as part of the industry.

The Reason in Difference

Another reason people don't accept games as serious art it the fact that they do have differences from other more accepted art forms.

Some of the differences include the existence of win states (or end states), systems, and interactivity. these are things that have barely, if at all, been explored in other mediums. you cant win in a Picasso, or choose whether jack sparrow swings his sword right or left in "Pirates of the Caribbean". This difference makes people feel different while playing games as opposed to watching a film or looking at a painting, thus making it not feel like "art".

The Reason in Controversy

The controversy that surrounds games and the outcomes of this controversy also largely contributes to the state of video game's appearance.

Just some of the games that have lead to the devaluing of gaming are "Six Days in Fallujah" and "Imagination is Our Only Escape" and contrary to what one might think, these games had great potential and it was actually that fact that they weren't possible that devalued gaming.

"Six Days in Fallijah" was sort of meant as a documentary-ish of one of the deadlier battles in America, it was developed my Atomic Studios and was supposed to be produced by Konami. At the first sign of controversy Namibia backed off immediately showing that games aren't serious enough to show such topics. similarly, "Imagination is Our Only Escape" was supposed to teach about the Holocaust through the lens of a young Jewish boy, but as soon as controversy came about Nintendo of America (the producers) backed out, again showing the immaturity of games, as topics like these can and are shown in artistic mediums such as film ad books.

The Call to Action

"This will take real courage from within our industry, it will take bravery to face critique, and the fortitude to weather outcry. It will ask that we expose our self to short term financial risk and that we don't back down from early losses, firm in the knowledge that we are doing right. we will have to be stead fast under the scrutiny of the world and resolute when we are asked to justify our selves in the court of public opinion. it will ask that, for the moment, we give up ease. But if we can do this we can do good, real good with our medium. If we do this we can expand the industry and bring whole new genres within the purview of games. If we do this we can turn a greater profit, while providing more meaningful experiences and reach audiences hitherto unthinkable. If we do this we can perhaps elevate some small portion of our labor to an art. but if we do this we will no longer be able to pretend as if what we do doesn't matter. If we do this we can never go back to the way it was before"- James (from the Youtube channel Extra Credits)

Whilst this quote more directly addresses developers and producers of games, as consumers and viewers we can still learn from it. We are a part of the hindrance of Games being used as art at the level of other mediums. We can help by merely accepting games as an art.


Extra Credits. "Facing Controversy - How to Stand Up for Games as a Medium - Extra Credits." N.p., 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. <>

Ebert, Roger. "Video Games Can Never Be Art." N.p., 16 Apr. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2017. <>

"Video Game History Timeline." N.p., n.d. Web. <>.


If your interested in game art or game design, I suggest you go watch these Youtube creators

Extra Credits -

Errant Siginal -

Mark Brown (Game Maker's Toolkit) -

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