[Editorial] The need to defend video games as art.

Video games can never be art. So what?
Author: Parjanya C. Holtz
Published: April 25, 2010

When I was a kid, I had a ton of Legos. I actually had enough Lego bricks to build a city that had its own spaceport, airport, docks, fire-brigade and police station. There was probably more that I can't remember, but yes, for most of my childhood my room's floor was not walkable. I never managed to complete my masterpiece as there was always more to build and special parts to bug my parents about getting. It was a never ending work-in-progress, and every night before falling asleep I imagined what it would be like once I actually finished building and got to playing with all those Legos I collected for all these years.

Even at the tender age of nine I somehow sensed the irony of it all. Obviously, I couldn't fully comprehend the situation, but yeah, there were moments when I asked myself what would happen once I actually managed to complete it. More importantly, I knew that a time would come when playing with Legos would be something I couldn't get away with without isolating myself as a weirdo.

Now, at the age of 21, I've long found something other than Legos to play with. And yet, it's still something that I can't fully convey to the people around me; videogames. While some might “get-it”, others (including my parents) don't. “You're wasting your time son!” they say. “No, I'm not, look at this game, it's art!” I keep screaming out of my digitally sophisticated cave while fiercely pounding the circle button in God of War III.

But what if, God forbid, they're right? What if what I am doing is a waste of that one life I've got? What if I one day wake up and realize that all those hundreds and thousands of hours that I've put into video games were just a primitive form of wasting my time that lead to no where? What if playing video games is just a more sophisticated way of playing with Legos? What if all those so-called video game journalists that keep defending their beloved medium as a form of art from people like Roger Ebert are just as delusional as Ebert himself?

Are all of these reasons as to why we as “game experts” feel the need to start a debate with a film critic that de facto knows nothing about video games?

Oh yes, I'm no better than any of you. My first reaction was one full of anger and emotion. I turned on my computer and forcefully started hammering words of rage into my keyboard. I wanted to prove Ebert wrong. Wouldn't it have been for my two more experienced and therefore much wiser colleagues JD Cohen and Aram Lecis, I would've probably ended posting my mediocre reply to Ebert and thought of myself as the winner of this fruitless debate. I'm glad they stopped me.

“I've played games that had better acting, visuals and story than many movies I have seen. Does this make it art? Don't know, don't care. A urinal in a restroom is a place to relieve yourself but hanging in a museum a urinal becomes art. The term "art" has been so diminished over the years its application has become almost meaningless.“ -Mark.

Are we really this desperate to find meaning in what we do? Do we really need to prove to our surroundings, and even more importantly to ourselves, that what we do isn't just a meaningless waste of time?

It sure seems like it.

The thing with video games, and just about anything in life is, that as long as it makes you truly happy you shouldn't have to justify it to anyone, not even yourself. If a game like God of War makes you cry, so be it! There's no shame in that.

If we in this industry want to be considered as grown ups, we should act as such. Starting a flame-war with an old man really doesn't seem like the right way to go here, does it?

Now, how about we just end this pointless discussion and instead concentrate on what's important? I mean, would people like Ebert be more right if we would just ignore them? Probably not. Well, then stop wasting your time and instead play some Bad Company 2 with me! I need all the men I can get.