Are video games art? Undeniably. They are the amalgamation of a variety of creative expertise that result in a product rendered unique by the joining. As the film takes sound, images, acting, lighting, digital effects and editing to create a cohesive, immersive experience, so too does the video game. However, the question of artistry is so often more layered than that. Usually there’s an implication that “art” is something more than the construction of media—that there is a defining characteristic to “art” that moves beyond directly informing the audience’s reactions through conventions of form and becomes something that can be seen as a true statement on the part of the artist. There’s a snobbish air that comes with this thinking, as all forms of expression are statements from the perspective of the artist and are interpreted from the perspective of the viewer, however it isn’t necessarily an inherently wrong line of thinking.
In film, “art cinema” is a distinct style that is defined by the presence of the artist first and foremost—the film’s goal of achieving a cohesive narrative comes second to its role as a vehicle for the filmmaker’s message. While it’s not necessary to break the rules of film-making to accomplish such a task, it’s more likely that in order for the filmmaker to express themselves conventions must be manipulated or done away with entirely, setting it apart from the classical Hollywood style of film-making. Should a filmmaker wish to evoke the painful drudgery that is “everyday life” it may be necessary to do away with spacial and temporal familiarity and have characters appear and disappear from scenes that have no clear connection to each other. Perhaps sound will be highlighted in such a way that it overwhelms the visual, or people will behave as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening when something would strike the viewer as unusual. Without verisimilitude to fall back on, the viewer must now accept that the way they expect movies to behave (and life in this case) has been overridden, and their new job is to discover why. For some, this is an exercise in navel-gazing with no clear purpose (and thus a disappointment.) For others, it prompts intellectual curiosity (and perhaps soul-searching.) While neither response is necessarily more correct than the other, its important to understand that even if you consider what is happening a waste of time, an artistic intention was still there.