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Video Games & Art

Video Games as Art“A game has the cinematography of a film, the sound design of an album and the storytelling of a novel, plus interactivity and even social elements too. A good film, you watch for 2 hours. A good game, you play for 2000. Games are truly the final refuge of the artist” – Edward Saperia

In my opinion video games are the newest art form. The video game medium has become an international super power over the past 30 or so years, transforming the way people spend their free time. I feel as if video games are the newest form of effective art due to  how video games still manage to do what a large portion of art nowadays is able to do. What both ‘traditional’ art and video games have in common are; the ability to be controversial, the ability to spark emotions in the viewer (player), able to reach a wide audience and create situations that are relatable to the viewer.

When I look at video games I’m always looking at the scenery around myself to see all the detail the developers have put into an area and if you stop and just look, the scenery can look like a moving painting. Take Grand Theft Auto IV & V for instance: both are incredibly popular games that have caused a lot of controversy in their life times and yet if you sit and watch the cities (Liberty City and Los Santos) from a fixed perspective, you are able to see the city live and breathe as the sun rises and sets just as it would in reality. There are so many things in video games that are incredibly beautiful that a lot of the time you will miss if you don’t take the time to look. The game is an incredible achievement in digital media and what can be achieved on the previous generation of games consoles using 8 year old hardware.

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(Image from Grand Theft Auto V)

I also recently looked at the game ‘Journey’ for the PS3 and unfortunately I wasn’t able to play it due to not owning a PS3 but I watched a video of someone playing it on Youtube and throughout the video I couldn’t help but be reminded of Claude Monet’s Impressionist paintings. From what I have seen of Journey, it seems to be an incredibly abstract and thought provoking game which (correct me if I’m wrong) is about a character trying to find the rest of their colony after being left behind. It’s an incredibly beautiful game in which the soundtrack just makes it all that more beautiful as it combines with the scenery in the game world and creates something sublime. (See also: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/04/how-islamic-art-can-influence-game-design/ )

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(Image from Journey, PS3)

And then you’ve got your games like The Elder Scrolls which packs in an incredible amount of story and back story to create a staggering universe that is probably able to rival the size of J.R.R Tolkein’s Tales of Middle Earth. Throwing this huge story into an incredibly large and beautiful world that lives and breathes much like the Grand Theft Auto worlds just creates an interactive, visual novel.

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(Image from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)

So far I’ve only mentioned Open World RPG’s (Role Playing Games) but there is still so much in games such as the Bioshock Series which brought an entirely underwater Art Deco designed city into virtual reality and twisted it to become horrifically aged.

For general video games I like to think that they are a twist on art. Creating some form of mutated version of an art style: The Under-sea city of Rapture (Bioshock), Retro-Futurism Apocalyptia (Fallout), Social Artistry (Grand Theft Auto) and the hybrid of history mixing the black plague with a 1700’s style renaissance era that then combines a steampunk future mix of Victor Antonov’s art direction (Dishonoured – Quite a hard style to pin point).

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(Image from Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1)

Bringing Graphic Design into the discussion would typically be about how the video games are marketed and advertised, yet no one ever speaks about the graphic design in-game. For example, Grand Theft Auto (as a series) is a video game that has recreated Los Angeles, New York City and Miami and so the game developer had to try and create a game world as immersive as possible. Therefore they had designed hundreds and thousands of logos, shop signs, car manufacturers and even the designs on the clothes that non-playable characters are walking around in. The developers over at Rockstar have even gone as far as having a watchable television in-game and have even created genuine and professional looking motion graphics for the in-game programmes.

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(Car brand logos from Grand Theft Auto V)

In conclusion, I think that video games aren’t quite at the stage of ‘art’, yet they are moving toward the label of ‘art’ due to game developers trying to steer clear of the norm of ‘First Person Shooters’ and head toward games with much more art direction. The cultural impact of video games has been incredible and yet not many people realise because it seems to have quietly slipped into mainstream pop culture yet having a huge impact in the news of recent times by causing immense amounts of controversy. It’s a very impressive form of media and it is only gaining more traction by creating virtual reality headsets (Oculus Rift) and gaming hardware/software (Microsofts Xbox Kinect technology) has even been used to guard the border of South Korea.

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