Can Video Games Be Seen As Art?

Alright, grade 12 #niprockart students, here's a topic that is being hotly debated: should video games be seen as art?
Before we debate in class, you're going to need to beef up your opinion by writing a slightly longer blog post.  I'll help you out.  A bit. ;)

Halo 4 Concept Art by Thomas Scholes

Recently, Jian Ghomeshi shared a great chat on Q, where he opened a somewhat sensitive topic to be discussed.

How do you think the topic was covered?  Do you think anything was missing from the discussion?  If anything was left out, what do you wish you could have contributed?  Do you have any suggestions, based on what you know about video games?

Recently, the Smithsonian had an exhibit dedicated to video games, presenting them as a new form of art.  Read the article by Naina Singh to gain a bit more understanding of our issue.

While you listen to the broadcast, be sure to jot down quotes that you think would help you defend your stance.  If you are going to make a reference to the program, be sure to provide a link in your blog post to give credit to the person whose idea you are presenting.  Keep this in mind while you read the article about the Smithsonian exhibit as well.  If you are unsure as to how to link to their sites, just ask me & we can do this together!

I know that you'll do a great job exploring this topic and defending your opinion once it is formed.  It might be interesting to see if your point of view changes in any way while you are researching this topic!

Be sure to include examples of video games that illustrate your points while you present your ideas on your blog.  Are some video games a bit more artsy?  Why?  Are some games only meant to entertain?  If they are, has art been ignored for the sake of entertainment?

As you might have already guessed, yes, this is part of your final task.  We will be discussing our main learning goal and our success criteria in class together, so if you're reading this over the Christmas break, be prepared to contribute!  We'll chat about this assignment and explore your ideas about what will make this project 'successful'.

Some ideas to consider:

  • What video games have you played?  How does video game design connect entertainment to art?
  • Do you think you enjoy video games that are designed with more thought?
  • Try to find any galleries that consider video games as legitimate forms of art.  What if you could contact someone at that gallery to contribute to your blog post in some way?  Wouldn't that be cool??
  • Use social media to the best of your ability!  Have you ever surveyed anyone?  How is this done?
  • Interview people and get their perspectives.  Record your conversations and use them in a podcast & embed it in your blog!
  • Play a few games!! Try a new game & see it through the eyes of a critic -- enjoy playing, but also think of why it's fun.  Did design have anything to do with it?
  • There are people on Twitter who really enjoy this topic.  Find them & get their opinion to help you & your project!  Hmmm, how would you find these people.....?
  • Is there a creative way to present your project?  You can keep it to a simple blog post, but what if you could do something more??? Will you make your project interactive somehow?  You don't want it to be boring, do you?  Well then, don't make it boring?  THIS IS A PROJECT ABOUT GAMES!!!  MAKE IT FUN!!!  (**don't forget to cover all the criteria though! :) )
There are so many ways to approach this topic.  Have fun learning, playing and presenting!!

**reference to MoMA:
**CBC survey/comments:
**There was a reference to Dada -- read about the artists & reasoning about the very interesting art period here:
**Some of the games mentioned in the broadcast (created by Jenova Chen):
**John Maeda's article in Wired magazine (thanks to @NomadCreatives for the link)
**Are Video Games Art?: (thanks to @MoMAlearning for the link)


  1. What an interesting debate, and I think you can start to see the cultural lines drawn between our impressions about video games and their role in our lives as experiences. I suppose this debate revolves around our own definition of "art." And it also depends on your impression of the value of video game creative elements.
    I think there are some video games that rise up to the level of art but it is still an "emerging art" -- we don't quite know where things are going. There is still the violent nature of games that is part of the popular opinion of what a video game is, and this clouds our judgement of them as an art form.
    That opponent's definition that "art is not interactive" seems wrong to me. I think the interactive nature of art is there, but video games bring that immersive experience to a new level. The player is part of the experience. Isn't that what an artist wants to do?
    This a great topic, worth exploring on many levels.
    Mr. Hodgson
    Sixth grade teacher

    1. Thanks for responding Kevin!
      There are so many aspects to this topic that intrigue me too. So many students invest such a large part of their spare time playing video games, so I'm hoping to give them an opportunity to begin thinking critically about what they may otherwise take for granted. They may question the relevance of 'studying' something that's meant for play, but that's where critical thought begins.
      I agree with your comment about the opponent's view regarding art & its interactivity. There are so many other forms of art that encourage the viewer to somehow become part of the art experience, so to judge video games on this basis seems rather harsh. Immersive experience indeed!
      Thank you for your thoughts,
      Colleen Rose

  2. I hope your student can share their work, when they are done. I'd love to see what they come up with.

    1. It is my hope that they do. Ideally, they'll use their digital portfolios to present their work and share via Twitter (#niprockart), Facebook, etc. Once they're complete, you can bet I'll be sharing them too! :) Thank you for your interest!

  3. Why are music, painting, sculpture, and writing given a pass on the 'What is art?' debate? I bet if you take a survey you will find that the less accessible it is, the more likely people will call it art. For example, since very few people can see a specific painting it will be considered more artistic than a popular song on the radio. Maybe the real question is "Why do we ask what art is?".

    1. There does tend to be a bit of hoity-toityness in the art world, doesn't there? Your thought is very valid, especially after listening to the debate on Q. I was disappointed that the man who criticized video games hadn't actually tried to play any of them. Citing his experiences with Pong just didn't cut it. Why hadn't he investigated the games to have an informed decision?
      Great comment!

  4. I agree with Mr Chamberlain, we had a 'mania' at school at the end of the year (we finish in December in New Zealand) over Minecraft and that definatly became Art as students were using it to create images and pictures that linked into our topic study.
    And Mrs Rose isn't Pong like a really, really old game?
    Mr Webb and Room Five, Melville Intermediate, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

    1. You're right, it is really old! That's why the critic on the radio didn't get a lot of respect from those who advocate for games/game design to be seen as art, since he didn't educate himself on the latest developments.
      I love Minecraft, and I'm glad you brought it into this discussion! My students have been trying to find a way to have it brought into our classroom so that they can use it to help us study architecture.
      Thank you for your thoughts!


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