These works are a hybrid of traditional and new media which include self-portraiture, interactive, and commentary.

These are new media works which include self-portraiture, interactive narratives and other explorations.

These are traditional media media works which include self-portraiture, commentary and abstract expression.


papers on game Art: games as Art, 2006

Games as ART

Are video games art? The answer depends on one’s definition of art, and the debate is rekindled with the introduction of every new technology and creative method.  Cameras and photography, films and movie projectors, television sets and programs are relatively new technologies widely used for works of art, but in their early days, they were ignored by artists and critics and were not considered modes of fine art. But over time, with debate and display, they have been recognized and defined as art. So perhaps the issue is not whether something can be art, but when will something be recognized and accepted as a form of art.


Since I dare not make predictions about the future and how cultural perceptions might change over the next decade or even the next few years, I would like to focus on the elements and contexts that effect cultural perceptions and might define video games as art.


First, game content plays a roll in whether or not a game is viewed and accepted as art. I would not consider simple sports or driving games to be art because their content does not show me a new way to perceive the world. Now perhaps if a sporting game were to critique conflict or war in some compelling fashion, my perception of the game would shift from entertainment to art. The same would have to be said about first-person shooter and fighting games. To be perceived as art, they would have to be more than just a violent melee. Crucial for a shift of perception would be that these games move from mindless self-gratification to reflective commentary on human nature and humankind’s fascination and bent towards violence and conflict.


Crosser, a game designed and developed by Rafael Fajardo, is a good example of a video game designed to illustrate the conflict happening at the border between the United States and Mexico. As the name suggests, Crosser is modeled after Frogger, a game about frogs crossing a busy street. In Crosser, however, the player is trying to help Juan cross the border. Fajardo designed the game to be more difficult than Frogger by adjusting the controls. They have been subverted to illustrate the difficulty that immigrants experience when trying to cross the border. It is the content and critique of conflict that brings the game into the realm of fine art.


Second, a game’s ability to transport a player into another world also plays a role in shifting perceptions and defining a game as art. It is an element of emotional experience that redefines the game, and this does not depend on the game’s technological and graphic prowess. The game could be green type on a black screen and text only, or it could be photo realistic and 3D, but if the player is immersed in the game and is moved by the experience, the game is art. It is art when the player goes away remembering the experience and gleans some self-perspective.


There are two games that stand out in my mind that have an excellent ability to transport players and to create an overwhelming emotional experience. Silent Hill on the Sony Playstation transports players into a different world and creates an emotional experience through bizarre visuals and gripping audio. I find that the game uses audio so well that I am unable to play it alone, and my friends are unable to play it alone. Animal Crossing on the Nintendo DS is another game that draws the player into a moving experience. In this game, however, the player does not follow a narrative but rather creates the narrative in real time by interacting with other characters and by doing “real life” things like gardening, fishing, and even making art to display in the game’s museum. The game produces an emotional experience, but I am undecided on whether or not I would call the game art. The narrative is well thought out, and the use of non-violence and puzzle solving is quite compelling. But after playing the game, I have not gleaned a new perspective on the world, which is something that I think game as art would create in the player.

A third element that I believe rockets the video game to the status of art is game modification. It is the game mod. This rocket fuel for fine art status comes from something that is not a new concept but has its own following and vernacular. Game mods are akin to Duchamp’s ready-mades; such modifications are a re-purposing of something readily available for popular consumption, and re-purposing not only changes the intended use but subverts and juxtaposes messages.


All mods effect game play, but I would put mods in two categories: those that hinder game play to convey a message and those that make use of standard game play to convey a message. My favorite mod, or in this case “hack,” is Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds. It strips the game of all playable elements by focusing on the playful clouds of the game. The modification shifts the escapism of actively playing the game to the escapism of passively watching clouds go by. The player escapes to childhood and again leans back in the grass and looks up at passing clouds. SOD by JODI, the earliest art game mod, also renders the game unplayable, but SOD forces the viewer to consider the internal structures of the game.  Like Clouds, SOD hinders game play to convey a message to the player.

In looking at elements that change the perception of video game as entertainment to video game as art—that is, the ability to generate commentary and critique, to transport and create experience, and to subvert and juxtapose—I propose that it is not the medium that makes something a work of art but what the medium achieves. It is not what the work is (whether painted image or video game) but what the work does to the player (provoke, move, and change). The more that games exhibit these elements, the more they will be recognized as fine art. Are video games art? I define art for myself as a unique work that encourages interaction, inspires and promotes thought and discussion among viewers. With that definition I see some games as entertainment and others as art.