Beyond the shrill, politicized rhetoric heard in some state capitols, where, in 2006, we've been treated to such gems as "This video game is not even speech. It is a device" and "yes, games are speech, but worthless, disgusting speech", a quiet debate has been emerging on a related front.
Can video games be considered art?
Alexa Moses and Elicia Murray of the Sydney Morning Herald examined the issue recently. The journalists found those who hold that games are not art include influential movie critic Roger Ebert.
The "not art" argument typically centers around the interactive nature of games. Following criticism for dismissing games as an art form, for example, Ebert explained why he considers the game medium inferior to film and literature:
"There is a structural reason for that: video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control."
Some game designers, such as Brisbane studio Krome's co-founder Steve Stamatiadis, agree with Ebert. Although Stamatiadis believes games have the potential to become recognized as an art form in the future, they're not there yet.
On the flip side, Australia's John De Margheriti numbers among those who argue that games do represent a new type of art. De Margheriti is the foudner of Aussie development studio Micro Forte and considered a leader of the video game industry Down Under.
While De Margheriti acknowledges the interactivity argument, he insists that the video game experience is indeed controlled by the creative process.
"The author of the game has written some grand plot line, has created the races, the pretext of the stories... He's constrained you in a series of quests you must do, missions you must complete, objects you have to collect. There is a structure, but it's a structure that's interactive."
Brendan McNamara, game director for Team Bondi, makers of the upcoming film noir PS3 game L.A. Noire, has no doubt his team is creating art. With a project plan that includes 170 pages describing cinematic moments, and 1,200 pages detailing interactive events, the game has a Hollywood-like budget of more than $30 million.
"We control the delivery of the information... We give players a setting and a framework, we control what they see and do. So how are we not authors?"
McNamara wonders if video games are stigmatized because they are a mostly commercial venture. At the same time, he believes that being driven by sales is a good thing.
CM: GP readers, what do you think? Should video games be allowed the title of "art"? Or should a distinction be made between the art as portrayed through the medium, and the medium itself?
-Reporting from the Louvre where he is arguing that the Mona Lisa is not art because oil paints are "just a medium for relaying colour information into our eyes", GP Correspondent Colin "Jabrwock"