Art for art’s sake. To answer the question that plagues video games – namely, whether or not they are an art on a par with plays or paintings, you first need to answer the question: ‘What is art?’
You often hear people say, ‘you have to suffer for your art,’ but why? Surely suffering for the purposes of entertainment is just suffering for the sake of suffering. It’s not like someone’s life depends on whether an opera is any good, it’s just someone’s evening, so why all that effort?
Does anybody really like opera, does it make any sense? Who does ballet appeal to? What do they represent? Does anybody really act the way they do in plays or in movies? Do games represent real life or parody it, or make a mockery of it? Does any of it matter? Actors and dancers are treated like performing chimps, and for what? What is the meaning of art and why is it so important?
The truth might be there is no meaning of art, no definition that isn’t so convoluted and vague that not even the people describing it fully understand it. Is the importance of art dreamed up or is it real? It’s possible art is like currency, important because of the importance placed upon it. It has no real value on its own, just as money is just paper without people to spend it. The point I’m trying to make is that so much importance is put on what is and isn’t art, that the meaning of art is completely lost and instead it just becomes an impossible standard attainable only by those art forms that destroy their competitors by definition.
“like theologians of various trends exclude and destroy each other… In poetry, the old romantics deny the Parnassians and decadents; the Parnassians deny the romantics and the decadents; the decadents deny all their predecessors and the symbolists; the symbolists deny all their predecessors and les mages, while les mages simply deny all their predecessors; in the novel, naturalists, psychologists and naturists deny each other. And it’s the same in drama, painting and music”
Art is like a virus, it attacks and consumes all its rivals until it becomes the highest form of art and anything else is just swept away. It’s territorial like an animal and that’s why it refuses to acknowledge video games as an art, just like it refused to acknowledge films before that, and Jazz before that, and even plays because it fears for its own survival.
Art is just this conceptual mess of nonsense telling everyone else that they’re not the same as it, when art itself has no idea what ‘it’ is. Art is the emperor’s new clothes, it’s there and it isn’t, it stands on the shoulders of the other mediums it denies. This by no means answers the question ‘what is art?’ it just sort of tip toes around how the art community thinks. If anything it raises more questions. It’s often the case when you try to solve a riddle as old as this you find more questions than answers because the meaning of art is as elusive if not more so than the meaning of life.
The true aim of art or what should be the aim of art is self preservation through commonality (Burke 1729-97). Much as with games, there are stories the world over of people making friends and getting married through games because what links them is commonality. Commonality is more powerful than the usual bindings that tie people together like money and convenience. Art is an educator, it teaches us about culture and people and, more importantly, how to be: it socializes us.
“The aim of the whole life of mankind is the welfare of social life”
It’s argued that the main aim of art is in fact beauty, but it’s not as much beauty as it is ‘good’. Art’s ideals run in parallel with mankind’s in that they aim to improve life. But beauty is not restrained by good nor evil, beauty is just beauty. Beauty could be a baby penguin feeding it’s chick as much as it could be a group of mallard ducks gang raping a female mallard duck. So beauty is not a good way of defining art, as it lacks intention and it can be found everywhere. In other words, beauty has no agency. It’s ethereal, it’s subjective, art needs to have purpose behind it, it needs to make a point and convey some meaning or emotion from the artist.
It’s important as a subject because being an artist and creating art is the closest to being a god any human will get and even though I don’t necessarily believe in god I use that term because it adequately encompasses what I need to say. An artist is a creator; he/she is trying to encapsulate what was made by nature and what is captured by their senses, uniting not only the beauty of the natural world but the beauty of their perception of said world in something that they have created that they can share with the world. Think about this in terms of games, I think the best way to discover the mysteries of the universe would simply be to create a new one. Game’s designers are in a way trying to make sense of the mysteries of life by duplicating them, they create to discover the meaning of creation.