A couple of days ago, I watched a YouTube video where a group of people were discussing whether video games should be considered art. Although I did find the conversation intriguing, I did notice two pronounced errors in the discussion. These two errors are very common—I’ve noticed—when people discuss abstract concepts. The first error, to my understanding, was that they never clearly defined what they meant by art. The second error was more implied than stated. They spoke in such a way as to suggest that art was something independent from what it labeled. This is a Platonic mistake, a belief in forms.
I, of course, believe that if we are to discuss something honestly, we must first identify it. The question now is, how do we identify art?
Things are never as complicated as we tend to make them. We have a gift as a species for making a mess out of everything. We do this because we are trying to be nice. We have become fearful of identifying things because we don’t want to make people feel left out. This is another mistake, of course; because our duty—if indeed we seek understanding—should always be towards the truth. And the truth just means don’t bullshit yourself. Well, then, what is art?
Because we live in a point in time where much of history is available to us—at least in comparison to our ancestors—this is a fairly easy question to answer. Every single piece of art—whether paintings, writings, architecture, music, sculpture, etc.—is trying to evoke an emotional response in us.
I think it was either Goethe or Nietzsche who said that ‘art is the language of the emotions.’ I believe this to be true. In a higher sense, however, I will say that art is a shared emotional experience through an artificial medium. The great artist is someone who has felt something intensely and through his chosen craft can make others not only understand what he has felt but also participate in what he has felt.
Returning now to the YouTube video, I will say that the medium by which emotions are evoked and shared is not as important as the quality of what is being shared. In short, of course, video games are art. Video games are doing what art has always done: share experiences, evoke emotions, tell a story—art.