I've occasionally been asked for my comments on video games. Are they art? My quick answer, when asked, has always been a fairly curt "No".And then guess what – Santa brought a PlayStation. Plus a variety of games, old and new. So am I all turned around on the joys of virtual play?
I certainly know (slightly) more. I am no expert (honestly, Lara Croft, I thought you could jump off that cliff without a scratch). But do I still suspect these computer game thingumajigs are the devil's mind candy? Well, no. I think they're a fantastic pastime.
The great defence of video games is that they are not the internet – no offence intended – with its ceaseless assaults on attention span. While many aspects of digital culture minimise concentration (hey you! You know who you are. Please read to the end of this short article before posting a comment …), games demand absolute attention over long periods of time. They create fictional worlds of great conviction and intensity. Above all, in an age when free online stuff is the norm, games have expensive production values and no one seems to resent paying money to reward those.
So in many ways, the world of computer games is an alternative model of digital life – a more creative, even contemplative, style of interaction. Until you post your scores online and blog about which game is better and the whole noise of random comment starts again.
Which brings me back to that old chestnut … can video games be art? And the answer is still No, or at least, Not Likely. It seems a bizarre and irrelevant question to ask. Like, if I was reading Jane Austen and you said, "But is it sport?" No, it's not sport, it's a novel. Why would it need to be anything else?
Electronic games offer a rich and spectacular entertainment, but why do they need to be anything more than fun? Why does everything have to be art?
Very few things count as Art. I would argue that very little art is actually art – because most of it fails, and failed art is not art. We just politely pretend that it is.
Better to create a good game than a bad work of art. Games give us pleasure and freedom. Art also does that, in a different way. But it is rare. I enjoy games. I hate bad art.
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