Video games can be equal in cultural value to literature, fine arts

Are video games the underdog in American and worldwide culture?

When a person hears of things like Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix, and Gone with the Wind, they are rightly believed to be very much culturally enriched.  It goes with famous music pieces as well.  Knowing groups like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Frank Sinatra, and Ludwig van Beethoven, they are also considered very knowledgeable about human culture.

One group that tends to be ignored in all of this is the video game culture.  Since the invention of Pong in 1972, video games have become just as much a part of our culture as any work of fiction that had come before it.  People who hear the “Mario Theme” have a memory of growing up with that song.  People who see the Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series recognize it.

As the industry has grown, the games that are being produced are becoming more and more artistic.  However, there are some who believe that the video game industry can never be more than a diversion.

Roger Ebert wrote a blog post responding to a video, which was responding to his previous statements about this issue.

In it, he wrote, “No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.”  Now, he admits in his post that he could be biased due to his love of the film industry.  However, there was the girl who he was responding to who has another good point.

“And in fact, most mediums of art, it began as completely un-artistic modes of communication,” said Kellee Santiago at a TEDx conference in 2009.

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Video games began as a simple process of passing a digitized ball from one side of the screen to another.  However, when one looks at the games of today, Santiago said that games are not yet truly artistic, but there is a disagreement here.

Not wanting to be a web worm, but really, the best definition of what art is, probably came from Wikipedia.

Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect.”

It’s true that back when games were first starting, they didn’t have the level of cultural significance that they do today.  All forms of the expanding creations of humanity were the same way.  Back when film first came out, the same debates that are happening now happened then.  Can moving pictures be considered art?  Some thought so, and that is how people like Roger Ebert were born.

Ebert is a very smart man, but he doesn’t seem to understand the significance that video games have on our modern culture, and artistic expression.  When one thinks about it, it is very clear.  The same elements that make up great cinematic or literature works make up great games.

Ebert does not believe that games give people the same level of emotional interaction, that they aren’t able to touch people.  Well, this is too subjective to say in a flat statement.  There was a lot of emotional energy in the game Silent Hill 2, when the main character is facing his own demons, brought to life by the evil forces at work in the town of Silent Hill.

People can relate to the tragedy of Titus from Final Fantasy X, when he had to make the choice to sacrifice everything, even his own existence, to help these people who he had come to know and care so much about.

Really, what is the difference between a person reading about great battles, to a person experiencing them in the Call of Duty series?  The vlogger, Grappling Ignorance, had a very good idea about this.

“I’m talking about challenging video game developers to apply the same interactive, visually beautiful, mentally challenging, tenacity and mastery demanding games that give accurate accounts of world history and great works of literature.  The storylines have already been drafted for them.  It’s time to turn them into incredible tools for supplementing educational lessons.”

The idea is very novel, to be sure.  When one thinks about how engaged the young demographic is with video games and how they are connecting and bonding with people all over the world, there really is no good reason that video games shouldn’t be considered artistic and used for education.

For too long, it has been the basic premise that if a person sits in a chair and reads a book or ponders a work of art like a painting or sculpture, they are the intellectual superior of a person who sits down and enjoys a good video game.

Great games all have great stories, compelling characters, and worlds that a person can lose themselves in.  Really, how is any other form of art different?