Jesse Schell, Assistant professor of entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and CEO of Schell Games
Marcel Duchamp once said, “I have come to the conclusion that while not all artists are chess players, all chess players are artists.” Gaming and play bear an interesting relationship to art. Like art, play is experimental, creative, flexible and immersive. It is done for its own sake. And like art, games can challenge and transform us. So can video games be art? They certainly incorporate many artistic elements: painting, architecture, music, sculpture, acting, writing, animation and dance.
The games that feel more like art tend to have qualities in common. They do not pander to the player; they are mysterious; they feel more serious than most games; they have a complete, holistic feeling. Such games are rarities, but they exist, and as the form evolves, just as cinema did, more and more of them will appear.
Ian Bogost, Game designer, critic, founding partner of Persuasive Games and author of Newsgames (MIT Press, 2010)
The 20th century saw the following celebrated as art: a urinal placed on a stand, a painting of a coloured square, poetry made of words taken randomly from a hat, an audience cutting the clothes off an artist, industrial paint thrown onto canvas, reproductions of commercial advertisements, a telegram asserting that it was a portrait of its recipient, a barricade of oil barrels on a Paris street and live television images of a Buddha statue. Lest we conclude that these are outlandish examples, consider the artists who produced them: Marcel Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Tristan Tzara, Yoko Ono, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Nam June Paik, respectively. All are celebrated, their status as artists never questioned.
Art has done many things in human history, but in the last century it has primarily tried to provoke us, to force us to see things differently. So maybe we should ask, “How are video games changing our ideas about art?” If the purpose of art is indeed to force us to see something we thought we understood in a new light, perhaps the most fundamental move video games have made in the artistic tradition is in the very eliciting of the question, “Can video games be art?”