There are some topics that are always guaranteed to trigger lively debate, especially where technology is concerned. Is eSport a real sport? Have smartphones made life better or worse? Will we all have abandoned real money for crypto in ten years time? They are all subjects we could weigh up and argue from different perspectives. But there is one question that has proved even more controversial than all of these.
Are video games an art form?
There, we just came straight out and asked it. The reason it is such a tricky question is that it naturally leads us on to the far more complex poser of what is art? For immediate purposes, we will leave that one for the philosophy students to debate. Whichever side of the coin you might favor, even those who argue against video games as an art form in themselves must be forced to admit that there are undoubtedly games out there that have artistic merit.
Still not convinced? Take a look through this list of the most artistic video games ever and you might be forced to reconsider.
Modern games have the depth and complexity of movies, and this forms the basis for many people to argue that they are art forms. But this first entrant was released at the very dawn of home computing, way back in 1981. It was designed by the legendary developer Dave Theurer, who was inspired by the game Pong to start designing games.
Tempest was among the first games to use the vector display graphics that became synonymous with Atari releases later on in the 1980s. The game itself is loosely based on the Space Invaders theme, where the objective is to survive for as long as possible in a hostile environment.
Reviewers at the time praised the gameplay, but in particular, they singled out the visual imagery. In fact, PBS Ideas went so far as to compare it to a painting. Sure, when you put it alongside a modern game, that’s a little like comparing a stone age cave painting with the Sistine Chapel. But surely both have artistic merit in their own right.
The Endless Forest
One of the earlier multiplayer online games, this one was developed by Belgian game studio Tale of Tales specifically for an art exhibition. It’s fair to say nobody had seen anything quite like it when it came out in 2005. The player takes on the role of a deer in a forest, and must explore the surroundings and interact with other real-world players through sounds and body language.
The Endless Forest has been compared to a moving painting, and as such, has gained as much popularity as a screen saver as a game. But those who install it and then fail to fully explore the forest’s seven areas and its unique universe are missing out on a magical experience.
Japanese manga is an art form that is attracting increasing attention in the western world, and its influence is showing up in the most unlikely places. The gaming world is a prime example, and its distinct and visually arresting characters have made it particularly popular on one genre.
Take a look at any online casino site, and you’ll see plenty of Manga style slot games available, offering gamers a chance to spin the reels, and maybe even enjoy a jackpot win, in an artistic setting. Koi Princess is worth singling out as a game that achieves this particularly effectively. NetEnt is the developer, and is a company that consistently comes up with slot games that are about more than just spinning reels. From the Princess herself to the Japanese artifacts, every symbol is painstakingly created.
The RTP of more than 96 percent is also a good reason to give this one a try, and the bonus feature with ten free spins helps your payroll last even longer. If you like slots and you like manga, this is definitely the game for you.
The Unfinished Swan
Here’s something that gives a nod to the more surrealist side of art. Developed by indy game studio SCE in Santa Monica, the story revolves around a boy whose swan has escaped from his picture. When you learn that Terry Gilliam was also involved in making the game a reality, you know you are in for an artistic treat.
The game won a brace of BAFTAs in 2013 for its originality and artistic merit. To say too much more about it would lessen the experience. It’s available on Playstation, PS Vita and Gameboy, so why not seek it out and try it for yourself?
The Walking Dead
The original comic strips by Robert Kirkman are seen as classics of their genre, and Frank Darabont’s TV interpretation has been similarly highly acclaimed. When Telltale Games released this episodic video game in 2012, it received praise from respected authorities like Games Radar, who loved its believable characters and the influence that one decision can have on how the game pans out.
Is any one of the three media, comic book, TV show or video game more “worthy” than another when it comes to artistic merit? There’s no reason why it should be. This is a game that has taken storytelling to new levels, and really makes you believe that those who say games could become more popular leisure pursuits than movies might be onto something.
11:11 Memories Retold
Digixart and Aardman Animations have teamed up to bring us this visually stunning game that is influenced by impressionist art. Set in the final days of the Great War, it follows the fortunes of two protagonists who have joined the war effort for different reasons. The game is a welcome antidote to the “shoot first, ask questions later” nature of so many MMO games. You have the opportunity to truly explore the war-torn world of 1918 and those who inhabit it.
The fact that in doing so, you feel as if you are stepping through a sequence of paintings, makes this one of the most remarkable and artistic releases of the last 12 months.