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This is the research paper that got me out of freshman writing and composition.
Video Games: The Invisible Art Form
Game over. This is the message that millions upon millions of people across the globe are familiar with. However, the source of this widely known phrase is often looked upon with scorn. This social stigma is very widespread and almost completely unaddressed. This is due to the confusion surrounding the subject of video games as an art form. Many people in our society view gaming as nothing more than an entertaining, but ultimately worthless, diversion. However, the case can be made that not only can video games be art, but that they can have meaningful importance and thus be worthwhile. This is supported once you strip away the social stereotype of the common video game player, examine the history of the arts, and look into the definitions of art; also known as art theories. Those who are negatively disposed towards the position of video games as art need to go out and play a video game or not be so quick to dismiss video games as wastes of time and cheap thrills. This is important because the video game industry is growing in popularity and gaining acceptance in our culture. Along with that newfound popularity, there comes greater impact in our culture.
Though video games have been a part of our culture since the advent of Atari’s Pong in the 1970’s, a severely inaccurate stereotype has arisen around the people who play video games (“Pong”). David Smith, co-founder of Media Molecule, the company behind the latest creative smash Little Big Planet, describes the image most people have of gamers in an article published in Game Informer, the world’s most widely read gaming publication, that the average gamer is, “a slack jawed, grunting adolescent male, pale of skin and tending towards either gauntness or obesity” (Smith 24). Smith goes on to describe the reaction most people who hold the stereotype to be true have to that image saying, “[l]ook at him. He should be at the park playing with his friends where he would grow healthy of body and become properly socialized” (Smith 24). This view of the average video gamer is simply not accurate, anymore than racial stereotypes are accurate. In fact, John Rice reports that the latest statistics from the Nielsen company on video game playing simply does not support the stereotype. ‘Casual’ video game players make up the majority of gamers and they tend to be women in the twenty-five to fifty-four year old group, with men of the same age group the second largest percentage (Rice). Does that mean that there are none of those overindulgent gamers who have sold their souls to their television? There certainly are some of those people out in the world. However, like any activity, overindulgence will inevitably lead to consequences on both a physical and societal level.
A semi-major independent video game creator who goes by the pseudonym of Clysm, and make no mistake there is a serious indie gaming scene, holds that there are three general views that those who are against video games believe. The first is that video games are for children and even the ones made for adults are simple amusements. The second view is that they are simply games and incapable of expressing any significant meaning. The final view is that video games are mass produced items and therefore any artistic merit they may have is lost because of the economic motives behind its creation (Clysm).
All of the aforementioned views are correct but only to a certain extent. They can only be believed if one has not looked into the nature of games. The first view is what the majority of people who have had little interaction with the world of video games believe. This view is erroneous since the person holding such a view has probably never experienced a video game that is made as a work of art. There are many immature video games, just as there are many childish films and books. The average person with little gaming experience playing a game such as Madden or Halo is not going to view video games as art (Smuts). The second view is perfectly expressed in a May 2002 ruling by Stephen Limbaugh, a US district judge, saying, “[there is] no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that could possibly amount to speech. The court finds that video games have more in common with board games and sports than they do with motion pictures” (Associated Press, St. Louis County). Many people may get this idea as the result of a confused vocabulary. The word ‘game’ in the phrase ‘video game’ does not reduce the meaning of the content of the video game to the level of a board game. Stephen Limbaugh’s ruling falls apart when one examines the sheer amount of games that have absolutely nothing in common with sports or board games. The final view is simply narrow-minded. This view actively ignores the film industry. No one would argue that film is not a viable medium for art, yet the vast majority of movies are created to make money. Whatever the economic benefits behind the creation, the artists working on the project want their artistic creation to succeed. Also, the existence of an independent video game community directly refutes that view as more and more people such as Clysm create their own games as a form of expression.