What If I Told You that Video Games are Humanity's Highest Art Form? Hear Me Out

Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

Photo by adrianna geo on Unsplash

You might look down your nose at someone playing PONG and sarcastically remark,"Indeed, humanity has reached its pinnacle of expression." I certainly won't argue that video games, on average, fail to contend meaningfully in the arena of the arts. But it doesn't have to be this way, and I'll show you why.

Until video games came along, the highest forms of human creativity were these:

🌎 THE REALM OF HUMAN ARTS as defined by your humble gamedev 🎨

- 🖼️ Visual Art (anything you can look at)
- 🎹 Music (anything you can hear)
- 📕 Stories (logical series of circumstances and the activity of rational agents)
- 💃 Movement (dance, athleticism)
- 🎭 Acting (strongly related to stories and movement)
- ✒️ Writing (expression and language)

And granted video games started with PONG and did not have room for much more than some pixelated visuals art that hardly qualified as art in the classical sense. But video games brought something special to the already very complete-looking realm of human arts. Something that was not previously possible.

Video games are a new way of experiencing all of the highest forms of human art at once.

Every one of the arts listed above can be elements in a video game. Video games enable us to take Visual Art, Music, Stories, Movement, Acting, and Writing, and tie them all together into an interactive experience that is unique to the person playing.

Whereas before one could hear a story, video games allow you to be a character inside a story. Whereas before one could observe and appreciate athleticism, one can experience simulated athleticism through their character in a video game.

Furthermore, video games activate a part of our brains that none of the other human arts can. It's the part of your brain that thrives on challenge and improvement. Both humans and animals have mechanisms by which they learn and grow through effort and challenge, and in both humans and animals these efforts elicit a dopamine response in the brain. It's called Play. Play is a survival instinct that prepares creatures for survival by practicing survival, and rewards this effort with good feelings. Dogs play-fight with each other, which is fun for them, but it prepares them for real fights in the future. Humans solve problems, which is fun for us, but it prepares us to solve real problems in our lives. The consequences of these problems may vary from survival to inconvenience, but it's still how our brains work and it's a beautiful thing.

Video games are a new way of experiencing all of the highest forms of human art at once.

So, the experience of play that video games provides us with is a fundamental part of how it can transform humanity's greatest arts into something transcendental. Play should not be overlooked in its importance in being human. In fact, consider that the pursuit of all human arts is a actually a form of Play, and you'll start to see the importance of Play in how we develop as individuals.

Combining the highest forms of human art with the instinctual need for play, that is, challenge and effort, is the ultimate end of video games. When you combine all of these things, you end up with something truly sublime.

All of this is even more true with the advent of Virtual Reality. If you haven't tried VR, you really should. It's a truly transcendental experience that is guaranteed to blow your mind. To me it just reinforces the fact that all of the highest human arts can be brought together in the medium of video games for an experience greater than the sum of its parts.

Furthermore, video games activate a part of our brains that none of the other human arts can. It's the part of your brain that thrives on challenge and improvement.

However, this vast potential does not equate to vast fulfillment of potential. As with anything, potential doesn't mean much unless it is fulfilled.

I'm not saying that all video games ought to be great works of art worthy of a spot in a museum. However, I am saying that those who make games ought to consider that their work _could_ be worthy of a spot in a museum.

Think about it. If you can give a flat, 2D, unchanging painting a spot in a museum, why couldn't you put an interactive piece of software that allows the user to experience entire worlds into a museum?

I'm not throwing shade at paintings. I'm just saying that video games are a medium that can include all of our other mediums, and therefore could potentially stand on the same pedestal as the other forms of art that humans have appreciated and treasured for thousands of years.

Does every game need to be a masterpiece, combining all of the human arts into a perfect sublime creation? No, definitely not. And it would be disastrous if that was the standard for all games, because I don't think another video game would ever be finished.

Have any video games ever reached this lofty status I am describing? Potentially, yes. Millions of gamers, tasteless as they may be, could certainly recount for you handfuls of games that have changed their lives, made them feel real emotions, made them attached to characters, stunned them, and enlightened them in ways that could not be achievable outside of the interactive medium.

I will refrain from mentioning any particular game here as it would likely only cause contention. I just want to make clear to you that video games have the great potential to be humanity's highest form of art, because it combines all of humanity's highest forms of art.

Like a canvas meant for oil but instead covered in crayon, video games also have the great capacity to fail in living up to this great calling.

I want game makers to think about this and appreciate the weight of game making. I want them to think about the power in their art. The potential in their craft.

I want the world to see video games as interactive art and explore it seriously, rather than dismiss it as something only enjoyed by immature, Cheeto-fingered adolescents.

I have long seen video games in this way. I won't pretend for a second that every game I make will achieve all of these lofty goals, but I am always trying to achieve some of them with each project.

I won't pretend that every game on the shelf is worthy of such high praise because most of them aren't. But we need to change how we think about the art of video games so that we can start achieving these high aims. You can't get somewhere if you don't believe it exists.

And it's dangerous to go alone.

I'm releasing my first video game this month (for free!) and before I go I'd like to invite you to follow my journey as I strive to attain these lofty goals.

Operative.Online Tactics achieves my dream of distilling a First Person Shooter into a turn-based card game. All the fun of a shooter without the frustration of bad reaction times! You can check it out on my website at https://enchiridion.tech/pages/dev

Thanks for reading. Let's bring gaming to another level.

Dominus Vobiscum,
Nick


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