Video games are digital art

Wyatt Waters, Opinion Editor

From ominous, foreboding caves to deep, interstellar space; from nuanced, valiant protagonists to insidious villains; from stories that excite, shock, and thrill to those that shatter even the most stalwart of hearts, video games mean so much more than the sum of their pixels.
In the eyes of many, video games are seen as merely pleasant time-killers, something to play on a smartphone while standing in line or waiting at the bus stop. While the average person likely attributes artistic significance to books, film, and certain television shows, the same consideration is rarely given to video games. This perception is largely rooted in an outdated stereotype that dates back to the era of arcades, during which parents despised video games as scams for cash, one quarter at a time.
While some people’s perceptions might still dwell in those days, video games themselves have evolved far beyond those humble beginnings, becoming a potent and immersive method of story-telling. Today, it is common for story-based titles such as role-playing games (RPG) to run upwards of fifty hours on the first play-through, while competitive online games often capture a player’s attention for tens, if not hundreds of hours.
This is a dual-edged sword, for while it gives video games ample time to reach a level of depth and character development far beyond what’s possible in other mediums, it also means that the player’s interest and investment in the story needs to be maintained throughout those many hours. While not every game succeeds in telling its story effectively, the ones that do end up crafting stories that enthrall, enchant, and engage their audiences.
To realize its full potential, video games rely not solely on the elegance and refinement of their core gameplay mechanics, but also on the strength of the game’s writing, visual style, graphics, and sound design. In this way, video games are a convergence of multiple art forms with science and computer technology, creating game worlds that are as satisfying to look at as they are to play.
Award-winning games such as Journey, Transistor, and Firewatch all excel in the design categories mentioned above, but what truly propels them into the realm of art is their ability to use the game environment to tell the story as much as the characters themselves do. This level of polished design makes game worlds feel alive and dynamic, containing all the wonder and depth of the real world. Indeed, it is the clock-like coordination of these individual pieces that make video games the intense, silly, sorrowful, heart-felt, and rewarding experiences that they are.