Published On: Wed, Nov 19th, 2014

Can Video Games Be Considered Art?

Graphics processing is now so powerful, that many consider new video games to be a work of art. Reviewers often throw this term around to imply beautiful scenery or immersive game worlds. The New York Museum of Modern Art recently took this to a whole new level. In 2012 it unveiled a new exhibition. It featured original artwork from the first Pacman games. Alongside it featured art from Tetris and other retro video games.


This had many art critics in a fierce rage. They wrote long editorials explaining why video games could never be considered art. It is certainly true that many games are mass produced with the sole intention of shifting units. They rely on the mind numbing shooting of aliens or other pretences to sell copies. There is little artwork in these games. However, to dismiss all video games is to misunderstand the industry.

Many games go to great length to build beautiful, creative worlds. Many games create an artwork style that doesn’t exist anywhere else. In the same way that Picasso and Warhol were dismissed for being trite and incomplete, video game art is dismissed. If that is the case, who are these people drawing magnificent worlds and characters? If not artists, what are they? Why then, do the gamers invest huge sums of money in custom PC and games machines? If they are not looking for the most beautiful, artistic designs, what is the point of them?

Character Design

Character design requires the skill and creativity of the very best artists. It is a skill that all the great portrait painters had. It is the ability to capture the emotion and passion in the human form, through artwork. The very best games revolve around intriguing and immersive characters. Gamers form a relationship and an attachment to the characters. Many of these are the most famous characters in all fiction. Mario, Sonic and Pacman, for example, are all iconic designs. These are simply cartoons. Within the more real games, we must buy into the character’s ambition and motives. We do this through their expressions and appearance. Gamers become attached to their characters through the truly artistic creation of the characters.

World Design

Modern graphics power enables game developers to create truly incredible landscapes. In many games, the backdrops are stunning. The detail is incredible. These are often fantasy worlds that have been formed in the minds of artists and designers. To create an immersive world that feels real takes the artistic talent of the best writers and artists.

Many modern games take this to the extreme. One photographer describes himself as a videogame photographer. His website and videos are followed by thousands. The photographer takes screenshots of the most stunning landscapes in video games. He scours the huge worlds looking for the perfect image. The results are as impressive as any high level photography. The landscapes themselves are as impressive as many works of landscape art. His videos have millions of hits.

Levels and puzzles

In the same way that mazes can be considered art forms, so can the puzzles found in video games. Designing gaming levels is a complex process. They must be difficult, intuitive and rewarding. Such a thing can only come from an artistic brain.

Processing Power

Art doesn’t work when it is not reciprocated. There must be a desire for the art. In the case of video games, it is the increasing quest for graphics power. Fans want to be immersed in every detail of the game’s artwork. They want to see it in the highest possible definition. They crave every detail and pixel. There is a reason why gamers spend money on gaming laptops from Chillblast and create custom PCs. It’s the same reason that the major consoles push the boundaries of graphics processing. It is to present the artistic vision of the designers and artists in the strongest possible form.


As with all art, the beauty is in the variety. Some modern games seek to create the most realistic fantasy worlds. They create incredibly detailed landscapes and beautifully real characters. The results are fascinating, hyper-real photographs of another world. They are the equivalent of art Realism – every pixel faithfully representing a true depiction. On the other hand, video games also allow for a more imaginary art style. They have embraced everything from art-noir to impressionism to abstract art. Here are some of the best examples.

Final Fantasy – Final Fantasy is famous for its hyper-real depictions of fantasy worlds. They look so real that you could easily become part of it. Its beauty is in the character design and landscape art where the futuristic worlds come alive.

Limbo – Limbo was an independent made game. Its appearance was likened to film noir and its success was widely attributed to its unique artwork. It created an eerie and mysterious atmosphere that powered the gameplay. Limbo won plenty of awards for its art style as a result.

Shadow of Colossus – Shadow of Colossus is at the other end of the spectrum. A huge game where every screenshot could be a framed painting. It was developed as a concept game to heavily feature these stunning worlds as pieces of art. The gameplay itself takes place within these incredible worlds.

Monument Valley – Monument Valley is a simple but moving mobile app game. It proves that mobile gaming doesn’t have to compromise artwork and beauty. You become part of an MC Escher-esque world where the landscape is not quite what it seems. You explore Escher puzzles and get lost in its striking colour schemes.

Bioshock – Bioshock features some of the most life-like graphics ever created in video games. It is the gaming equivalent of Realism. It strives to create the most real-life experience in gaming. As we move into a world of virtual reality and augmented reality, this will only develop further.

Rather than dismiss video games, art lovers should learn to embrace them. As with any artform, they are varied and push boundaries. Behind every game is a passionate and talented artist pouring their heart and soul into their work. If that doesn’t count as art, what does?