I got an email from Google Alerts that somebody had mentioned Company on their blog, so I went over to check it out and thank them for mentioning the game. They talked a little bit about how people view video games as an art form (or sometimes, not an art form at all). It piqued my interest, and I ended up rambling on for a while in their comments about how I viewed the subject. I figure it might be at least marginally interesting, so here’s the relevant stuff.
Part of the problem, I think, is that a lot of people don’t realize how broad the term “art” can be. It’s kind of like when people debate about whether or not alcoholism is a disease. It’s not an infection or a cancer or a virus, but diseases aren’t always infections and cancers and viruses. A disease can be anything involving your body that is out of the ordinary (and generally harmful). So, yes: alcoholism is a disease, and video games are art. Maybe a bit of a dark analogy, but a valid one, all the same.
Another element of it is that even if you ignore the semantics, a lot of people genuinely don’t believe that video games have the same potential as the more widely accepted art forms. Honestly, though, I think the opposite: The more you make the audience do, the more powerful the impact can become. The tradeoff is that it’s a hell of a lot harder to make a piece of art behave the way you want it to when you know, with absolute certainty, that the audience is going to interact with the work. It’s not like a painting where they can only see what you want them to see, and that’s all. When you make a video game, you know that it’s not going to sit behind a banister to be viewed from afar. They’re going to pick it up, examine it from all the angles they can find, and often, they’ll even spend time specifically trying to figure out how to break it. And even so, you have to make sure that the audience still sees what you want them to see.
You can check out the full blog post and other comments at Terminally Incoherent.