The Debate Over Video Games as Intentional Art

Adding more fuel to an already raging fire, Gamasutra's Bryan Ochalla pokes the minds of various industry figures in yet another discussion on video games as art. This time around, the subjects include Double Fine founder Tim Schafer, Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack, and Lionhead Studios designer Peter Molyneux, all of whom agree that games are--or can be--art.

Several of the designers point out games can be exceedingly broad in their level of artistic intent, and should not be judged on their potential solely by their extremes. "Like film or TV or painting, there will be different modes of video game craft," said Bogost, founding partner of Persuasive Games and co-editor of Water Cooler Games. "There will be pop-art games and self-referential postmodern games and exploitative games and games made solely to cash in on intellectual property like Sponge Bob."

After tackling criticism from film critic Roger Ebert, the debate eventually moves into whether games should be consciously designed as art. "If you care about injecting subtext and meaning into your game, then you definitely should [think about creating art as you make a game]," expressed Grim Fandango and Psychonauts designer Schafer. "But if that doesn't interest you then you should spend your time on the part of the game that does, and that's great too. Games don't all have to be the same thing to all people. They can--and should--be completely different depending on who's making them. That's one of the things that makes them art."

"Does a painter decide to make art or paint a picture? Does a composer decide to compose a piece of music or make art? Does a film maker want to make a film or art?," mulled Fable and Populous designer Molyneux, suggesting that the question is largely academic. "I want players to feel a range of emotions, not just excitement—that is my ambition. If on this basis some critics describe this as artistic, then I will feel like I have succeeded."