Art Games

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 2, 2009

Filed under: Video Games 127 comments

In reading the review of The Path over at Playing with Pat, the author talks about the search for “artistic” games. If you’re trying to defend the notion of games as art (always a surefire flamewar in a can) then you should be able to point at a game and say, “This one”. I know we’ve been over the subject before on this site, but this is a topic that bears revisiting.

I’d actually take the position that just about all games are art, it’s just that 99% of them are “low” art. Nothing wrong with that. So what if the medium has churned out a lot of Walt Disney without producing many Mona Lisas? It’s given us a lot of Lethal Weapons without Citizen Kane. A lot of Three’s Company and not much MASH. The fact that something sucks does not disqualify it as art. Otherwise, it would be impossible to make bad art.

But a couple of “artistic” or “evocative” games can help bolster your argument if you’re in the mood to debate a “games aren’t art” type of person. So, which games would you show to someone to make the case that games are art? My own list would be made up of games that did more than just entertain. They told stories that interested me and continued to provoke thought and curiosity long after I’d stopped playing.

In no particular order:

1) Silent Hill 2 – Just read the linked article. It’s a very interesting study of a man who has been broken very badly in some very subtle ways.
2) Jade Empire – Surprising, beautiful, witty, and well-characterized.
3) Morrowind – This one is a bit odd because most of the game is just an endless series of variations on the “kill ten rats” idea, but the main quest and the villain are pretty interesting.
4) Planescape Torment – I guess this is the gold standard of RPG stoies for a lot of people. I’m not quite in the “PST is the best story game, ever” camp, and the game didn’t completely blow my mind the way it did for some. But the significance of the title is undeniable. It’s deep, rich, diverse, and full of interesting ideas. I’d play this through ten times before I even thought of looking at Neverwinter Nights 2 again. It also makes a pretty good case for hand-painted backgrounds over polygons. Alas that we won’t see another one like this anytime soon.

I wouldn’t suggest the Path, because while the Path is clearly art, its status as a game is kind of debatable. Enough so that I wouldn’t use it as an example when trying to explain the importance of mainstream games to the skeptical. No matter how you classify it, it’s fringe and experimental.

So, what games would you show to someone to make the case for games as art?


From The Archives:

127 thoughts on “Art Games

  1. Nickless says:

    I can’t think of many off the top of my head, but here goes.

    Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn – The villain Jon Irenicus made this game for me, so well acted and written. It took a classic villainous archetype and breathed in fresh life for me. My thinking might be clouded by childhood nostalgia though.

    Discworld Noir – A rather odd example for a little known game with hundreds of unresolved bugs and terrible graphics, but the humour in the dialogue and the complexity of the plot drew me in and had me enthralled.

    Planescape Torment – The quest for self-discovery and the futile struggle against fate combined with the outlandishness of the setting had me.

  2. dyrnwyn says:

    I’m going to have to look into this Planescape Torment thing. It sounds good.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Aside from the ones youve mentioned(well,not really jade empire,since I find KOTOR a much better example),Id add KOTOR,thief(although it might fail due to the difficulty of the first two) and monkey island(especially now when we have a retouched monkey island,with fancy new graphics and voice over).

  4. Vegedus says:

    Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy to the heathens) and Shadow of the Colossus (and probably Ico as well, though I haven’t played it) are definitely art games. They both have their problems though. Fahrenheit is ambitious, with an intriguing plot and some amount of cause->effect, but I almost shouldn’t have to explain how it goes wrong midway through the game. Shadow of the Colossus has atmosphere in bucket loads and a minimalistic story, but kinda dull on as a game.

    What about story driven RPGs in general? Some of the Final Fantasy have deep, meaningful themes and good storytelling and characterisation. Calling them art doesn’t seem appropriate, though. It’s like, The Dark Knight is hailed as a great movie, and not just in amounts of entertainment value, but it’s still a sorta silly superhero movie, so it’s hard to liken it to Citizen Kane or Godfarther or whatever.

  5. F_t_R says:

    Shadow of the Colossus – epic battles, well thought out camera angles and a hauntingly beautiful landscape

    Ikaruga – mainly due to the polarity between black and white and how they managed to make it integral to the gameplay

    The Longest Journey – not only did they create a high tech view of the future, they also created a magical counterpart and managed to link them together almost seamlessly

  6. Deoxy says:

    “story driven RPGs in general” are like books – a video-game version of choose-your-own-adventure books, and some of them are just as badly written as those, too! heh.

    Some of them are really quite amazingly good, though, too.

  7. Gresman says:

    I think most of the games that want to be art try to hard and are to artistic to really be a game.
    Games on my list would be: Vampire Bloodlines (interesting story and has a good gothic athmosphere going on), Mass Effect (good story and characters), Warcraft trilogy including Lore (mostly for the Lore, the characters are on their chosen path because they want to do the right thing but end up losing themselves) and Psychonauts (an under appreciated game with good story and characters and a lot of humour)

  8. Jimmy says:

    My go-to example of games as art has been Ico ever since I first played it. It has a beautiful setting and characters and a simple story with a strong emotional pull.

    But the main reason that it’s my go-to example is the minimalistic interface. There’s no heads up display or health bar cluttering the screen. Your only inventory is whatever your character is holding in his hands. It makes it a lot easier to become immersed, especially if you’re not a gamer.

    I think a lot of people in the games aren’t art crowd just have a hard time getting into games. Ico helps fascilitate player absorption. It also shows a great example of how setting, characters and story come together in a game to make art.

    I’ve seen arguments that obviously, the beautiful scenery is art, but the game itself is not art. Obviously, the story would qualify as art in another medium where it wasn’t sullied by interactivity. I think Ico makes the case that yes, those things are art independently, but the way they come together in the game is also art.

    Gamers love to show people beautiful fps or rpgs with great stories and beautiful environments. To them the art is obvious, but to the nongamer they spend so much time figuring out the controls (Press ‘w’ to go forward?) and being intimidated by pages of character stats that they never get immersed. The qualities that make it a fun are also the qualities that prevent them from seeing the art. They conclude that games can’t be art because for them it’s true, games can’t be art.

  9. Greg says:

    I have a few games on my list that I would categorize as ‘art’:
    Psychonauts – If you haven’t gotten a chance to play this one, you really need to. Very original idea, great gameplay, great imagery. Overall I really enjoyed this game.
    Shadow of the Colossus – This game has very little story, but it makes up for it with the epic battles and stunning visuals. If this was to be graphically remade and put on the PS3, I would most definitely buy it.
    de Blob – While it is a silly game, I still believe it to be art. The amount of detail that went into the game design (the subtle things like the sky colorizing the more you colorize the town and the music becoming ‘bigger’ the more lively the town becomes) is great.
    I’m all for the “games as art” thing, but I do have a question. What do people look at when they say a game is artistic? Are we looking at ‘original’, ‘great art direction’, ‘great story’, ‘great music’, ‘great characters’, or ‘great overall experience’? I use a mixture of these things to rate my games. I don’t classify ‘sequel’ titles, either. I promise, the ‘Mona Lisa 2, Electric Boogaloo’ won’t be as good as the original.

  10. Mario l. says:

    That’s a hard question, for there are many games that I truly loved, but still miss something, and there are others that I couldn’t play.
    I think that most of the first Lucasarts games could be art. They’re clever, beautiful (even if the graphics are old) and entertaining. Day of the tentacle had awesome graphics, story and charachters.
    Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis is still one of my favourite games.
    Monkey Island trilogy (yes, I said trilogy) is wonderful and hilarious.
    You have also to admit that it’s more difficult to make you smile than make you sad.

    Many rpgs like Baldur’s Gate e Neverwinter Nights are wisely made, the stories behind are absorbing as the gameplay. The great number of suplots, the npcs, the location.

    But if you say that art is something that makes you think, not simply something beautiful to look at (or amusing to play with), it’s more difficult choose.
    Chiefly because games are made to entertain and unwind.

    I read many reviews about I have no mouth but i must scream, but never had the chance to play it, though it seems incredibly deep.
    Awfully i couldn’t play silent hill 2, because of the backward compatibility policy of the xbox 360.

    The first alone in the dark was very beautiful (although those polygons now look really ugly).

    It makes me think that only good horror games can stimulate you to think, maybe because to trigger your fear they have to enter into your mind, make you think about the things you are seeing…

    p. s.: I forgot one of my favourite: Another world. True classic.

  11. Factoid says:

    Ico and Shadow of the Colossus both come to mind for me. SoC has this incredible moment where you can’t believe you’re really killing the creatures, some of whom are harmless and non-threatening to you, just so that you can chase the possibility of reviving a dead love.

    Ico has a great deal of beautiful scenery and has this incredible emotional connection between the two main characters. A little boy leading a little girl around by the hand and protecting her from shadow monsters is very profound at times. Eventually you’ll find yourself in a position where you’re completely encircled by shadows and they’re closing in and you’re swinging wildly trying to protect her. The animations sell it very convincingly.

    Bioshock (though I know that’s taboo title around these parts, I still found it to be excellent. It has some incredible writing, a very cinematic presentation and it really digs deep into philosophy, making you really question where you stand on some of the issues that faced the city of Rapture.

  12. Alan De Smet says:

    Another vote for Shadow of the Colossus. It’s technically stunning, just a joy to behold. But (to the games-aren’t-art crowd) that’s not enough. But Shadow shines in the story. It appears shallow: guy with dead love shows in strange land, makes deal to kill a bunch of stuff in exchange for restoring his love to life. Except it’s more complex. There is no filler bad guys, no colorful characters. The experience has been pared down to its essentials. Shadow makes the “stuff” you need to kill grand, special, and (mostly) non-violent until you start attacking. In this way Shadow subverts common video game assumptions that everything you must destroy deserves it. It’s like being asked to destroy the Grand Canyon, chop down the oldest redwood on the planet. You have engaged in a dark pact, and it’s not entirely clear what the real cost is. As with all good dark pacts, the ending is complex, making the question, “Do you succeed?” hard to answer. It’s a haunting, moody work that lingers with you after you finish. As Penny Arcade‘s Tycho said, “The game needs to be seen by every conscious organism on planet Earth. And if that means that you must play it in order to do so, that is your cross to bear.”

    Ico is another gem, although not quite as strong as Shadow. We again have the exceptional technical implementation, the moody feeling. But the story, while rock solid and compelling, has been done a thousand times before. Ico‘s strength is that it has been polished to a unique level. One detail worth caling out is that the Ico, the protagonist, is a kid. He’s not especially strong or dangerous. He spends much of the game wielding a branch. As a result, I felt at risk, even my the relatively easy combat. Another details is that while escort missions usually suck, Ico is one giant escort mission and I didn’t mind. While it won’t work for everyone, I found myself forming a connection to the ethereal girl I was helping. She was clearly completely out of her element, even her universe. The end of the game brought tears to my eyes.

    The “Are games art?” argument aside, both are exceptional games, and I recommend them both to everyone.

  13. TehShrike says:

    For some reason, I always think of StarCraft/Brood Wars first… I always thought the story in the single-player campaign was awesome.

  14. Groboclown says:

    I’m going to put my nominations in a different direction. I think that there are quite a few Interactive Fiction games that could be considered very artistic, such as A Mind Forever Voyaging.

    A quick web search brought me to this poll. I’ve played some of these, and, of those, I happen to agree with this assessment

  15. chabuhi says:

    Syberia 1 & 2
    Blueberry Garden
    Max Payne
    King’s Quest VI
    Endless Forest
    Broken Sword
    Many others …

  16. Zanfib says:

    Valve games. Just listen to the developer commentary and it’s obvious that these guys are artists.

  17. onosson says:

    Ultima III and IV, though that’s going back a ways, for sure. Although story and characters are important elements for those two, I actually do appreciate a lot of games that don’t depend on such things at all. For example, Shogun: Total War, which I felt had a very immersive kind of experience (and one that was artistically done), even though the plot is simply “kill everyone”.

  18. WoodenTable says:

    Civilization 3 and 4. Both have very different feels to them, and neither fits the type of art in the games you mention, with lots of deep, meaningful… metaphors… and storylines… and symbolism stuff.

    But they both qualify as art, or rather literature, in the same way that a good alternate history novel does. It’s hard not to build a sweeping backstory for your chosen Civ as the games go on, especially if unusual things happen.

    The Civ 3 Map Editor in particular is a huge boon to anyone trying to make a fictional world with interesting terrain (for a novel or a D&D world, for example). It has a bunch of options, generates entire planets using plate tectonics, rain shadows, jet streams, soil erosion and various other invisible calculations to make worlds both semi-realistic and interesting, and plops resources down in vaguely plausible and sometimes hilarious places (I have seen more tiny islands inhabited solely by cows than I can count, at this point). And on modern computers, it can make a Huge-sized world in under 15 seconds. I barely ever use it above Standard size, so the world’s usually done if I blink after clicking “generate world”. And then I start slapping cities and civilizations everywhere.

    Is that art? I think so. It takes some work, and makes you think about the world around you. Objectively, I suppose it’s more of a creative tool than art itself, but then what’s a painting other than some dribbly dyes stuck to canvas using a hairy stick? It’s all in whether or not it can grab you by the nose and say “hey, think about this for a second”. Which is highly subjective, but in my case, it seems to work.

  19. stormbringer951 says:

    I’m going to go for Thief, Deus Ex, Planescape:Torment and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (just for it’s sheer beauty of atmosphere).

  20. Neil Polenske says:

    I was GOING to say Portal or Braid, but I realize I can only think of one at the moment: Desert Bus. It IS a game, albeit so simple and monotonous that could be difficult to notice offhand, but that is specifically what makes it art to me.

    This is a game specifically designed to be as boring and un-fun as possible. The fact that this is intentional creates an explicit parody of the very concept behind a videogame.

    To me, the best way to determine whether a game is art (or good art), is to determine how much of an effect the GAMEPLAY has rather than the presentation, since the defining characteristic of videogames are their interactivity. By this standard, Ico would be rather low on the scale as it’s a pretty standard puzzle game. Shadow would be slightly higher, as the ‘puzzles’ are living creatures, but that’s more gimicky than anything else).

    Desert Bus gameplay does this, but taking the road less travelled (hurr hurr) and purposely making the game a chore to play. It may be in the opposite direction than the norm, but it is an artistically valid one…to me at any rate.

    I’ll try to think of more when I can.

  21. Primogenitor says:

    I think “art” needs to be better defined before anything can or cannot be classed as it :p

  22. Neil Polenske says:

    Okay, edit don’t seem to be working, so I’ll add this:

    Shadow would actually rate much higher for the subervise point it’s trying to make regarding the acts you perform as noted by Alan De Smet.

  23. Draco says:

    Earthbound. There’s an example of a post-modernist video game in the SNES era. It’s not only art, it’s older than dirt.

  24. Voltaggia says:

    Definately Braid and Portal. Maybe also Mirror’s Edge…

  25. Ravens Cry says:

    Loom The story of the journey a young member of the Guild of Weavers, who have power over the weft and warp of the fabric of space and time, it uses a highly unusual, yet effective, interface that pulls you through the story. Short, yet delicious, it was going to be a trilogy, but nothing came of that unfortunately.
    Grim Fandango
    A story of life and death, redemption and betrayal, an a setting that combines Mexican mythology, and film moire atmosphere, played out by Day of the Dead calacas dolls. Full of lush and often haunting music, a distinctive visual flare, growing and moving characters, and that Tim Schafer humour, it’s not one to be missed.
    Though praised by critics, it sold poorly, and is one of the reasons Lucas Arts became the Star Wars Game Factory we know today.

  26. Magnus says:

    I’d put my vote in for Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld 1+2.

    Although I’m a big Ultima fan, and would say that the series was possibly the best RPG series ever…

    The story, the graphics, the music, the characters, everything was magnificent, until it was let down a bit by U8 and a lot by U9.

    Important for me is the consideration that it is different than a picture, book, film or piece of music. Otherwise, you end up thinking “that background is amazing” or “that score is fantastic”, without considering the game as a whole. What is unique about gaming is the way each element (characters, storytelling, music, visuals, interactivity) are blended together into something memorable.

  27. Drew says:

    Grim Fandango is a good choice.

    I’d vote for Beyond Good and Evil, which I think is a terribly underrated game. I enjoyed the way it looked, I enjoyed the way it played, it had a nice immersive world, and a good story. All in all, I thought it was brilliant. And I think it’s largely overlooked.

  28. Groboclown says:

    I’ll also nod to Grim Fandango, for the same reasons.

    Though I enjoyed Beyond Good & Evil, and its cousin games Little Big Adventure (which I consider my favorite game, released in the States as Relentless and Twinsen’s Odessy), I don’t consider them a good example of art.

    However, one that isn’t all that great, but was highly unusual and very artistic was Neverhood. A puzzle game set inside a claymation world.

  29. Gregory Weir says:

    To be contrarian: Katamari Damacy. It’s not deep. It’s not solemnly introspective. But it is one of the most vibrant, ironic, and exuberant celebrations of life, joy, and unbound consumerism that’s ever been created. The title of the tribute game for the PC says it all: it’s about the wonderful end of the world. I’m hard-pressed to come up with another title that combines such cheery silliness with such subversive criticism.

  30. Zock says:

    World of Goo
    Today I Die

  31. Groboclown says:

    Ah. I just remembered a set of games that would be considered art, all from

    Judith: an interesting look at different people in different times, living in the same castle, with a dark mystery.

    Pathways: very simple game in concept. At first glance, it seems like an exploration into how our different choices impact the rest of our lives. However, I see it as how the choices the player makes changes the history and future of the character.

  32. Mephane says:

    I would present Portal as a game that definitely is a piece of art. :D

  33. RudeMorgue says:

    Another vote for Planescape: Torment and one for Baldur’s Gate 2.

    I think Portal is, at the very least, artistic in its ability to create suspense and its truly memorable villain. Half-Life 2, Episode 2 has at least two gut-wrenching sequences that are equal to some great moments in film. (“Close your eyes, baby! Don’t watch!”)

    I’d add some interactive fiction titles, both from the Infocom salad days and beyond:

    A Mind Forever Voyaging – You, a self-aware computer, simulate a man in various stages of life in an increasingly dystopian simulated future. It’s heartbreaking.

    Planetfall – Anybody who says they didn’t cry when Floyd died is a liar or an evil robot.

    From the post-infocom era, Photopia by Adam Cadre is incredible, albeit just barely a game and more of a story.

    A sort of gray area is that of in-game or opening cinematics. Some of these are at least as much “art” as the work of animation studios producing features. I’m thinking of the Warcraft series here, mainly, because that’s most of my experience, though I know Japanese games have a very high bar set on these as well. The opening cinematic for Wrath of the Lich King, in particular, resonates pretty strongly.

  34. Zeta Kai says:

    1) Ico & Shadow of the Colossus are pure art. They evoke emotions both deep & subtle. Their effects linger long after the discs are back in their cases.

    2) I’m gonna swim against the current here & recommend Final Fantasy X. It may seem like an odd & commercial choice, but I was genuinely moved by the storyline at several points. I felt the struggle against Sin, the pathos of the main characters’ sacrifices, & the bittersweet (almost Pyhrric) nature of the final victory. Shamus has sung this game’s praises before, but it needs to be said again: this game is great. It is also art, at least in my opinion. Like Shamus & his Bioshock, I made a massive love letter to the game, in this case a 407-page D20 conversion of FFX. I don’t do that for just any game, but FFX is definitely worth it.

  35. I think it is fair to say that games can be MORE than art. Writing isn’t always necessarily an artform. What about a textbook? What about a brochure? What about a stop sign?

    Games can be tools, art, anything really. But I digress.

    -Within a Deep Forest

    Nevermind, I’m gonna be citing a lot of indie examples. Art doesn’t really sell all that well in the mainstream. Well actually, it does… but for some reason we still don’t think so.

    Has Psychonauts been mentioned yet?

  36. RibbitRibbit says:

    To me, Ultima IV. Real quest story, my first “real” RPG before I knew what “mixing spell ingredients” was, years before I rolled any polyhedral dice. And why? Because of the Avatar mechanic that actually rewarded courage, honesty and humility. Made me feel like I’m taking part in a great epic story.

    LucasArts were making great classy comedy in their heyday. Monkey Island, Grim Fandango…

  37. JohnW says:

    Citizen Kane was stupid. It was a quest to find out what his last word, “Rosebud,” meant. But no one was in the room with him when he died to hear it!

  38. Macronomicon says:

    Oh boy. Hmmm….

    BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger
    One of the prettiest games I have ever seen. Also, the gameplay is really good and punishes players who try to run away too much, or block too much, and prevents instant deaths from happening except in the third round when the opponent is at 20% HP or less. Plus, the story is compelling. Not to mention the music.

    Baten Kaitos
    Not well-known, but still one of the prettiest games on the Gamecube. Also, this is the only game that I played which froze my system after four hours of play (Twilight Princess, which was just as pretty, froze it after ten hours). The story is rather involved as well. So many plot twists…

    Tales of Symphonia
    Yeah, people say it is merely a copy of Tales of Phantasia, but I don’t care. Pretty cel-shading, interesting story, and at the point which marked that the first third of the game was over contained no less than seven plot twists in as many minutes. I suppose it helped that the characterization was so well-planned that I fell in love with all the characters (main, villain, and NPC), even the ones I hated.

    Chrono Trigger
    Yeah. Shut up. This was one of the first RPG games I ever played, and the graphics are decent by today’s standards (they were ahead of their time in the early ’90’s when it came out). Though the story was rather convoluted, the characterization was so well-done that Chrono Cross (its very pretty sequel) is often compared as being inferior, due to the horrible characterization except for three or four characters and despite it having a superior story. Also, the score by Yasunori Mitsuda is one of the best examples of music – even better than SquareEnix’s mainstay, Nobuo Uematsu. And Mitsuda has unbelievably improved since.

    Kingdom Hearts
    Only the first one, mind you. The other games in the series are great, but none of them have had the impact that the first one did, at least to me. This was the first time I threw all my prejudices about anything (Disney in particular) out the window in favor of the graphics alone. Yes. All the ones I have noted have been beautiful, but I was drawn to the games for other reasons. Kingdom Hearts drew me in based on the graphics alone. I loved the gameplay and the story as well, despite, or perhaps because of, its child-like views about good and evil, light and dark. The music is memorable as well, though not as good as Mitsuda.

    The only other game I will mention is the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES as that was the first game I ever played, and I’m still discovering secrets that are in that game to this day. Besides, this was one of the first industry-revolutionizing games ever. Also, composer Koji Kondo made his debut in this game and he’s the man who has set the tone for game compositions since. There is probably no one who has not heard the theme song to this game.

  39. Nathon says:

    I think that what really makes video games art is that they open up new dimensions for appreciation. I would argue for sim city (whatever version you prefer) as a good example. Most people are voting for story telling as the way games demonstrate their artistry. That, or with pretty pictures. While I’ll agree that stories and pictures are long established art forms, simulations are also starting to show up in art museums. I see no reason why an interactive simulation should not be considered art.

  40. Dev Null says:

    Define art. Without a definition the discussion is pointless. And because its such a subjective term, with different meanings for different people, the games I would put up would be different for pretty much anyone I was having the conversation with. I’m a loose definitionist myself – I’ll count just about anything man-made which is aesthetically pleasing, from the Sistine chapel to a good ice cream sundae – and pretty much any game you enjoyed fits that definition.

    Points to RudeMorgue for remembering Infocom though; they were fine art. I weep for you Floyd!

    [EDIT: Decided to add something more than just my opinion to the discussion. The most relevant definition from Webster appears to be:

    4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects

    From the most relevant would appear to be:

    1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
    2. the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria.]

  41. guiguiBob says:

    I vote for Tetris for it’s simplicity yet infinite forms.

    Also Katamari Damacy was a pretty artsy game overflowing with joy and weirdness from the gameplay to everything around.

    the Soulcalibur on the dreamcast, as I remember finding rythmes in the fighting styles and going into training modes just to try to make the characters flow through their move.

    Add a vote for Loom and System Shock 2.

    I found experience 112 pretty strange in the gameplay and the game proper. You controlled the game through a surveillance system, lights and a few other security systems, pretty cool and strange. It added a lot to the mystery. I would definetly say it was an artistic game.

  42. Kiwipolish says:

    I’ll chip in another vote for Final Fantasy X, even if Tidus annoyed me – it’s one of the most visually stunning games I’ve ever seen, is a very (I thought) unique world compared to most boilerplate fantasy games, and has one of the most beautifully bittersweet endings I’ve ever experienced. Certain scenes like Yuna dancing on water and the Wall of Human Fayths outside of Zanarkand are still haunting.

    Aside from the other ones everyone else has mentioned (Shadow of the Colossus, Grim Fandango et al.) I’m going to throw in Okami. That game was beautiful on all levels. (And like all games of that ilk, didn’t sell very well.)

    But really, I’m not sure what people think is “art” if they argue video games aren’t it.

  43. DocTwisted says:

    Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are definitely up there for me.
    Also, No More Heroes and Madworld, though it’s more the kind of art you’d expect from Tarantino.

    For the art of storytelling, I’d point to Guild Wars. For cinematography, Final Fantasy VIII’s cutscenes made my jaw drop the first time I saw them.

  44. Juni says:


    I guess Psychonauts, and Deus Ex maybe.

    I subscribe to the definition of art as “Actions or creations not mainly motivated by survival or mating”.

    Shamus… you don’t have System Shock on your list?

    Edit: Chrono Trigger. It’s beautiful, because it created the illusion of a world that lives and breathes so much better than some modern games with much better technology.

  45. Rutskarn says:

    I’m gonna second (or whatever, can’t be bothered to count) Longest Journey.

    Also, if real art hurts, than the story of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is the realiest art there is. I think I broke my wrist from flinging the disk at the wall.

  46. Icarus Tyler says:


    Because it is so entirely surreal and somewhat beautiful at the same moment.

    And most of all because it makes you think. “Wait, did I just kill 90 million people?”

  47. Mari says:

    Just want to third Katamari Damacy. There’s something soul-touching about the simple, bizarre silliness of the thing.

  48. Kalil says:

    I’d like to echo Shadow of the Collossus and FFX.
    I’d also like to add that there were some long moments in GTA:Vice City where I just sat in my car, listening to the stereo, and watching the sun set. I’m pretty sure that must be art. Also, if comedy is art, then VCPR most certainly qualifies.

    EDIT: Oh, and I’m amazed that no-one has mentioned Myst or Riven yet. A lesser known but spectacular title in the same genre is Schism: Mysterious Journey.

  49. Scott M says:

    I’ll go back a few years and mention Myst. At its heart it’s just a puzzle game, but the lush, haunting scenery, the eerie and evocative sound effects, everything combines together to create an experience that cannot be described as anything other than art.

  50. Chev says:

    Killer7 – it’s, so to speak, the crazier version of Silent Hill 2. Instead of being about an almost normal man in denial trapped in a city that brings out the worst in him, it’s about a hitman whose horrible acts have left so unbalanced he’s litterally fragmented into several distinct persons, all trapped inside his head, where the worst doesn’t have to be brought out.

  51. Chris says:

    Shadow of the Colossus

    What about games that help people create art/get creative:
    Crayon Physics Deluxe etc.
    The Sims

  52. David V.S. says:

    I’ll add World of Warcraft to the nominations.

    I have not played in over a year, and still think fondly about some of the vistas, views, and landscapes. (Even some of the places that were among the most annoying to actually play.)

    The game play was usually nothing special, and the social networking features were barely sufficient. But it was hours and hours of eye candy. It was artistic to see, and an aesthetic experience to explore.

    Which makes sense. Of the roughly 2,000 people employed to make WoW happen nearly 800 are artists. (About half are GMs, and the remaining 200 are the “core” of programmers or planning and development.)

    I’m surprised Shamus did not mention WoW, considering this post from June 2008.

  53. vede says:

    I think that saying one thing in a medium is art, and another in the same medium isn’t art, is a very, very stupid thing to do.

    Firstly, there are no real standards for what is and isn’t art, so you’d end up either going with the idea that anything filled with symbolism is art, or that anything simply unusual is art, or maybe just that stuff you like is art.

    Next, you’d have to realize that, overall, calling one game (or song, or whatever) art, and another game not, causes the significance of the word to decrease to nothing. What difference does being art make? Are people not able to like things which are not art? Is “art” FACTUALLY better than “non-art” media? Of course not. If it can’t be any better than other things due to the “art” title, then what’s the difference? There is no difference at all, so people who say “x is art, y isn’t” aren’t succeeding at much other than trying to say that their opinions are better, or make more sense, than someone else’s opinions.

    Honestly, if you’re going to be fair to everyone, ALL games are art.

    The only way you can get any information from your question at the end would be by changing it to something like “Which games are really symbolic?” or “What is your favorite game?” because “Which games are art?” results in a list of every single game ever made.

  54. Carra says:

    Planescape Torment. The Longest Journey. SW: Kotor (never played Baldurs Gate). Grim Fandango. Monkey Island.

    Mostly rpgs and adventures.

    Neglecting to see Walt Disney movies as classics is plain wrong. Snow white is considered a classic by many movie critics. It’s like saying planescape torment is not art compared to the beauty of Crysis. Having realistic graphics is not enough to be art.

  55. WILL says:

    Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, without a doubt.

    I’d add Bioshock (and possibly SS1 and 2) simply because the writing/story is great, but also because it’s got an incredibly art direction.

    Also add KotOR 2, simply because if you understand what the characters mean and really listen to everything they say you get something better written than 75% of movies.

  56. Skeeve the Impossible says:

    I cant believe I am the first one to mention the Metal Gear Solid series. GREAT storyline, interesting and well developed characters, and the graphics on each are always stunning by the standards of the time each game was released. Also I would like to point out that the games creator Hideo Kojima is well known for his devotion and passion for the game. He is a brilliant story teller and deserves to be refered to as an artist.

  57. SteveDJ says:

    I’m surprised it took until comment 49 for someone to mention MYST. Yes, it is old (though has been re-released on newer platforms, like Nintendo DS). But I would consider it, and most all of its sequels, as a pioneer in art-like games. (Though, I think I would pass on MystV – never even finished it :( )

  58. Sean Riley says:

    OK. This is going to be a longish post, because I question the idea. What IS art, in relationship to games? I don’t have a single definition for this. In one respect, all games are, to some degree. Just as every television show is, to some degree. As an advertisement is, to some degree. Artistic skills were put to use in their creation, ergo they are art. (This is the ‘low art’ idea Shamus mentions.)

    But that’s unsatisfying. For me, art is about arousing ideas and emotions in the audience. It’s about connecting with the audience, making them realise things about themselves they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    And when it comes to games, that means more than just having great graphics, or a compelling story. It means the gameplay mechanics themselves must induce that connection. They must somehow force you to reconsider your actions, or to imprint a feeling in you so strong it changes the way you play. In a way, that’s a good guideline. If the game doesn’t change the way you play the game, it’s probably not art.

    The Path therefore counts. It’s a game, I challenge any notion that it isn’t. It has a goal, challenges, and true interaction. At any point, you are free to connect with the wolf, or walk away. The option to just press on to Grandmother’s House is always there. By doing this, it forces you to slow down, to think, to contemplate. I don’t consider it the best art I’ve seen (its methods seem brutal to me) but it’s art. The notions here are to redefine ‘success’ and ‘failure’ for the player, to reject the power-mythology most games subscribe to, and to see railroaded, guided experiences as hollow, and false. I think it succeeds, but not entirely.

    Ico counts. It’s my favorite game ever, so it’d better. The point of Ico isn’t the simple escape story, it’s about seeing another character as human, rather than just a tool. It’s about caring for another creature. And I think it works, beautifully. There is a choice to be made late in the game (it involves a bridge) that I’m almost certain everyone makes, and it proves the game works.

    Shadow of the Colossus also counts. It wants the player to accept the violence of their actions, to see the ramifications of what they’ve done and, again, reject the power-mythology most games accept. This is powerfully done, but I feel never as strongly as in the game’s simple premise: In exchange for the murder of 16 lives, we will restore one.

    Braid: With some reservations. Braid is about trying to connect abstract concepts of play to a story, to think in metaphor rather than literal terms. That said, I don’t think it works. I love it as a game, but I think in the end it fails as art. Great game, though.

    Silent Hill 1 & 2: Both are about forcing the viewer to see that the story they are experiencing is not the story that is being told. Truer for 1 than 2. Both, however, do a brilliant job of making the player feel, truly and in their gut, powerless and revolting. A nod here to Fatal Frame as well; while not as comprehensively brilliant in its desire to minimise the player, it did a great job with making injury and hurt personal and horrific.

    Left 4 Dead: Yes, again, I’m serious. The gameplay mechanics, similar to Ico, make you think of each other as people. It uses the players’ own panic and fear to charge its experience. The game is never stronger than when you’re playing with people who aren’t great at it. My only argument against the game is that it fails when players get too good. Once you feel you can waltz through the experience, the horror evaporates.

    And finally, Far Cry 2. Yes, I’m serious. It counts. Far Cry 2’s goal is the inverse of Shadow’s. It wants you to embrace the power-mythology of most games, and accept every last inch of its dark horror. It wants you to do horrible things of your own volition. It wants you to realise, accept, and integrate the horrid truth of most games. It’s like the film Punch Drunk Love; just as that film took the standard Adam Sandler character but stripped away all false pretense of humour, Far Cry 2 takes the standard videogame narrative and strips away all false pretense of justice or heroism.

    Which games aren’t?

    Farenheit: Not only is it not art, it’s a bad game. By its end, the storyline is ludicrous. The mechanics are asinine. The characters are cardboard and the plotting arbitrary. It has less interactivity than almost any game on the market, and David Cage needs to stop making games immediately, and just make damn films. It’s what he wants to make.

    Metal Gear Solid: With some reservations. I think Hideo Kojima, unlike David Cage, is serious in his intent to make games. And sometimes he succeeds. But my problem is that I don’t think he has a message. He’s trying like crazy to expand the canvas of gaming, but I’m not sure to what end at all.

    Half-Life series: Very important series. Introduced numerous innovations in level design, plotting, and storytelling. But the mechanics are almost entirely irrelevant to this. I love the series, but I wouldn’t call it art.

    So there we go. That’s my take on it.

  59. Shishberg says:

    Ditto everyone who mentioned KOTOR. Also, World of Goo.

  60. Sean Riley says:

    A retraction:

    Metal Gear Solid 2, after a quick discussion with a friend, does count. The game was an attempt to get the player to question the nature of computer games, and what they were teaching you.

    That I did not like it personally does not mean it’s not art.

  61. Jonathan says:

    Baldur’s Gate II and Fallout 1/2, for painting a complete world and making it come alive and make sense. Fallout 1/2 also for the wit and ’50s style artwork

  62. ccesarano says:

    Earthbound, Bioshock, Final Fantasy Tactics and a few others I forget right now.

  63. Julian says:

    I’d say that since gameplay is an integral part of a game, it should also be part of the “art”. An artsy game isn’t the same as an artistic game. For instance, yes, the architecture and character design in Assassin’s Creed are gorgeous, but the gameplay has no relation to the artistic aspect.
    On the other hand, Okami’s posterized, cel-shaded, paintbrushed landscapes, along with its amazing, fitting soundtrack merge seamlessly with the main gameplay mechanic: using your brush to paint the landscape and progress the story.
    The exception to the rule is when the gameplay is minimalistic, to allow more room for the other artistic elements (the sound, the storyline). That’s why I’d consider games like The Path or The Longest Journey.

    Also, the game should (or rather, MUST) evoke some sort of feeling in me through its artistic elements. Okami makes me relaxed, Fatal Frame terrifies me, The Longest Journey and Dreamfall make me feel sorrow and have deep thoughts, those are art. The exception being feelings like boredom or sleepiness, which of course aren’t intended.

  64. Sean Riley says:


    The exception to the rule is when the gameplay is minimalistic, to allow more room for the other artistic elements (the sound, the storyline). That's why I'd consider games like The Path or The Longest Journey.

    I’m curious as to why you say this. I see the observation, but The Path’s minimalistic gameplay was indeed part of the point, I rather felt. I love point and click adventure games, but I’m unsure I can call (say) Monkey Island art.

    But maybe you can. I can’t see how you could really do a lot of those jokes in any other medium. A lot of the jokes came out of the disconnect between the interface and the character’s response. (An example: “Excuse me Guybrush, do you know what ‘Keelhaul’ means?” You choose: “Keelhaul. Noun. To drag someone underneath a ship as punishment or torture.” Guybrush SAYS: “I see what you mean. Thanks.”) So maybe it is art as well.

    But anyway! Why are you letting games that have minimal mechanics off the hook? Shouldn’t even those minimal mechanics contribute toward the art? If they don’t, shouldn’t they be made to?

  65. Diremongoose says:

    I agree with most of the posters above, but my nomination would be Cryostasis.
    It has has subpar action sequences, but it’s all about telling a story at its’ heart. You have to finish it to really appreciate it though. Without spoilers, it gets very abstract at the end.

    Oh, and check out the old freeware game Passage, it’s art without visual beauty that’s surpisingly deep.

  66. Scott says:

    I would agree with most everyone who has commented so far. Most of these games I would place forward for someone to sit down and play for a bit (especially Ico).

    There is one game, that I would only suggest someone play if they were familiar with games, but didn’t feel that they were art. It has no artistic background music, no graphics, and no fixed story. Only one non-player character in one room.
    Galatea by Emily Short

    @Shamus: If you haven’t, you should play this game. Give it an hour, at least, of your time. It will give you a newer and deeper insight into what AI scripting can do when applied by a loving creator.

  67. SatansBestBuddy says:


    Well, for me, my first three guesses would be:

    Shadow of the Colossus – Excellent mixture of game and art, something that makes you feel just by playing it.

    Bioshock – This is a game that does atmosphere, and does it right; it really feels like a city gone to hell that you’re trying to survive in, and “the twist” did wonders in how it could be interpreted.

    Earthbound – I’ll be honest, this game scared the crap outta me better than any Silent Hill or Resident Evil ever did, and it wasn’t just the final boss that did it to me, either.

    That reminds me, I need to get back into Mother 3, I got stuck on a boss and haven’t picked it up in a while, should really go finish that…

  68. Someone mentioned World of Goo – I agree. In fact, when I was playing it this was the exact comment my brother made about it. He said it was very “artsy”. I didn’t consider it like that but he was tight – the style, and storytelling were unique.

    Has anyone mentioned Portal yet? It’s amazing how much story, background and memetic payload it was able to convey just using visuals and sounds. It had little plot, no dialogue, limited monologue from the GLADOS and yet it was captivating. Not to mention it was the only game that was able to make you care about an inanimate object that didn’t do anything. It had unique style, unique way of telling its story and when it hit Steam it hit it so hard that it made a dent in the internet. I mean people still make jokes about cake, buy plush companion cubes and etc…

    Oh, and I’m also putting down my vote for Morroiwind, Silent Hill 2 and KOTOR.

  69. Eric J says:

    Duke Nukem Forever has caused gamers the world over to contemplate the nature of desire, of time, of promises and truth and of existence itself.

    If that’s not art, what is?

  70. Sean Riley says:

    Duke Nukem Forever has caused gamers the world over to contemplate the nature of desire, of time, of promises and truth and of existence itself.

    If that's not art, what is?

    Duke Nukem Forever was simply a long-running piece of performance art?

    Of course! It explains everything!

  71. thvaz says:

    I agree with some very good games who did “that” for me, as in inspire me beyond the simple fact of playing a game. But I think most of you missed the point, because your words to say a game is artistic almost ever are that a game “is beatiful as a painting”, “emotional like a good music” and so on, and forget to think in gaming as a medium art.

    Dwarf Fortress ia an example of gaming art to me. It doesn’t have good graphics ( it doesn’t have graphics at all), it doesn’t have sound effects ( just a little piece of music most find annoying), it doesn’t have even a story. You could say the RNG generates a story for you, but in fact whom create the story is you. And I think this is fascinating.

  72. Legal Tender says:

    Although people are posting a number of what (in my opinion) are wonderful games I’m going to agree with Jimmy up there in using ICO as an example of game as art (of the high type, to follow Shamus’ distinction).

    That game was, to me, mesmerizing. For all the reasons covered by Jimmy, ICO has been the only game into which I have been able to completely immerse myself and I will always love it for that.

    I know this is a deeply subjective topic but playing that game I experienced something similar to the feelings I get whenever I’m exposed to ‘traditional’ art.

    Other games have entertained me but ICO has been the only one that has made me lose myself in it for a little while so it definitely qualifies.

    (Right now I’m wating to get a decent system to give The Path a go to see if I can repeat the ICO experience).

    On a slightly related note:

    @ Shamus: Do you think it would be possible to put one huge *SPOILERS* sign across your various entries on The Path ? I have avoided them because even though I know they are not technically spoilers I have the impression that one should go into this one with as little external input as possible so as to get the most out of the experience.

    Maybe put something that says: THIS IS GOOD. GO AND PLAY IT. THINK ABOUT IT. COME BACK AND DISCUSS. Or something, know what I mean? For the sake of your new (and ‘casual’) readers?

  73. Bret says:

    Deus Ex was once described (By Rock Paper Shotgun, I think) as the Citizen Kane of gaming. Sounds about right.

  74. Sean Riley says:


    I don’t know. I liked Deus Ex, I really did. And it had some useful lessons about moral choice systems (the moral choice at the end is still probably the best in the history of gaming) and it had some interesting stuff going on.

    But its mechanics were a shooter/RPG hybrid, that did little to emotionally engage the audience. I can’t call Deus Ex art, to my mind.

  75. Davin Valkri says:

    An obscure DS adventure game called Hotel Dusk: Room 215, a sort of “visual novel” that went really noir really well(even the characters are in sketchy pencils, which belie their real emotional depth). Most of Cing’s work, really (the developers of Hotel Dusk).

    …I’d want to try to convince as many people as possible of the idea of games as art, so looking outside the adventure genre…

    F.E.A.R. and the System Shock series (less so for Bioshock) certainly demonstrated more effective disconcertment and enervation than most Hollywood movies, and if Vertigo’s considered a classic…

    Also, agree with World of Goo.

    And maybe, for the younger set who might not be interested in horror, inner darkness and deconstructionism, the Pokemon series. There’s gotta be something to it if the bloody Pope gives it his blessing.

  76. James Pope says:

    I’d argue that the very things that Shamus disliked about the Fable games were because the “game” of the game was taking a back seat to the art of the game. That’s generally what I see happening when people start talking about how easy games like the KOTOR series or Mass Effect. While I agree there’s an issue with that sort of balance, I think it’s also an indication that the games are art. That’s to say, it’s more about the artistic experience in any of those games than the gamist experience.

  77. Julian says:

    @Sean Riley:

    Perhaps what I meant to express was that the exception to the “rule” (using the term broadly) were such games were gameplay doesn’t necessarily mesh with the artistic design, but it doesn’t detract from the “Art” of the game. Instead, it elevates it. If The Longest Journey played like an FPS, it would lose all of its charm.
    So, in that line of thought, The Path is part of that “exception” because the gameplay is intentionally minimalisitc. The fact that there are maybe 2 or 3 inputs hepl to illustrate the idea that this game isn’t about getting all the OMGACHIVEMENTS, but rather about admiring the landscape, taking in the story. All the other elements are made to stand out by how little attention the interactivity requires.
    I put The Path as an example to opposed to a hypothetical game where you have the same gameplay as The Path, but no other reason to play. No stories to interpret, no original music, etc.

    As for Monkey Island, I’d rate it as art. It makes me laugh, and the gameplay is integral to the storyline. Oh, and the 3rd one is aesthetically brilliant.

    One question I ask myself when I think “Should I consider this game art?” is “Would this game be hindered by belonging to any other genre?”. To put a ridiculous example, all of World of Goo’s artistic value would be undermined if it had a competitive multiplayer, deathmatch-like mode. On the flipside of the coin, they can imagine if Shadow of Rome was actually an adventure game, or an RPG, under the pretense of “being artistic”. It wouldn’t work, since the heart of SoR is the visceral gamepaly.

    I’m such rubbish at explaining myself. It all makes sense in my head, I swear.

    I’m not crazy.

  78. SoldierHawk says:

    Its been mentioned a couple of times already, but I absolutely have to cast a vote for Shadow of the Colossus. From character design to lighting to architecture, the whole thing is like a medieval painting. Its one of the only games I know that doesn’t require *story* to be evocative. The fact that SOtC’s story is so emotional is just the icing on the cake (from a visually artistic perspective.)

  79. Mort says:

    Shamus, for Planescape: Torment, you said it made a good case for hand-painted backgrounds over polygons… but as I recall, all the Infinity Engine games *were* 3d-based. The levels were very large pre-rendered images.

    (I agree that it was worthwhile, though – the Infinity Engine games had some beautiful locations.)

    There’s an interesting thread on how the engine works here:

  80. DaftSkunk says:

    Most mentionend games, Sacrifice.

  81. JollyBlue says:

    I know this thread is really about video/computer games, not pen & paper, but…

    -Mechanical Dream
    -Little Fears
    -Riddle of Steel, as the “martial art” of RPGs
    -Legend of the 5 Rings 3rd Ed is a good example of “corporate art”, if not “art for art’s sake”
    -Deadlands, because of how they integrate a theme into every part of game mechanics & story

    A few others, but that’s a good start.

  82. Eric(Ninjews) says:

    -little big planet
    -resistance 2
    -Legend of Zelda wind waker
    -God of war 2
    -Final Fantasy X
    -Metal Gear Solid 4
    -Prince of persia

  83. Sean Riley says:


    Have you ever seen “Dogs in the Vineyard” by D. Vincent Baker? It’s fantastic. I’d add that to your list, as well as “Wraith 2nd Edition”, by Richard Danskey. The Shadow mechanics in that alone were… well, unique.

  84. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Sean Riley

    So what if deusex was a shooter/rpg?The blend was done excelent,and way better than many later similar games.The gameplay was easy to learn,highly customazible,and offered a nice replay value.

    So yes,deusex was art by itself,not just cause of its visuals,story,music,but because it packed all those nicely with good gameplay.

  85. Itse says:

    Great topic.

    I don’t play that much these days, so I’m going to mention some old games.

    One that hasn’t been mentioned is Star Control 2. I played it (or the Ur-Quan Masters to be exact) again a few years ago, and still found it absolutely hilarious, and often just weird, thought provoking, with tons of interesting little stories.

    One of the best things about SC2 is that it really doesn’t push any particular path between good and evil, you can quite comfortably play any way you like and be succesful.

    A lot of the time you have no idea what are the potential rewards of one thing or another, and many times your actions have very unpredictable results. That essentially forces you to make choices based on “what would I do” or “what would my character do”, instead of “how do I succeed in this game”. Yet you never forget that you’re playing a game where you’re trying to defeat the evil overlords of the universe. As a bonus, even The Evil has some interesting story points related to it.

    I think there’s something very similar in SC2 as there is in Fallouts 1&2. They’re very much “show, don’t tell” games, where the focus is not on shoving some railroaded epic down your throat. They are rather showing you a point of view, a way to look at the world, and letting you make your own conclusions as to what you should be doing.

    Other great ones mentioned are Planescape: Torment. I consider it one of the absolutely best stories I’ve consumed through any media. I don’t go “now THAT was something I wouldn’t have thought of” often. It happened a lot in Planescape.


    Also, the end of Planescape: Torment is I think very interesting. I hated it at first, feeling robbed. “I did all this work, and you’re telling me there’s nothing I can do to save myself? You just stole my game, invalidated all my choices, the way I played the game.”

    And yet, after thinking about it a little…

    It’s a game about a guy that has lived a thousand lives, some good, many bad. In the big picture of his own existence it’s all pretty much the same. The game you play is just one little part of his existence.

    Even if you can’t save yourself, it shouldn’t matter. You can use that one life you have to make a difference for those around you, to make things better for them. And that should be a reward in itself.

    I think interestingly enough the story can also serve to strenghten quite opposite views of life. You can be a bastard all you want, in the end it’s all the same. If that’s how you chose to spend your time, so be it.

    That’s art for you.

  86. Arthur says:


    I note that the four games you cite also happen to be games that you, personally, like.

    For me, I think one of the hallmarks of a work of “high art” is that it can be recognised as such by people who don’t personally care for it. I don’t enjoy the writing of James Joyce, for example, but at the same time I can recognise that Ulysses is an important and significant work. I think it is vital to be able to do this if we’re going to meaningfully talk about “high art” or “low art”, because otherwise the definition of “high art” becomes “stuff I personally enjoy and think is really really smart”, which isn’t very useful.

    So, are there any examples of games which you would recognise as works of “high art” which you don’t enjoy yourself?

    1. Shamus says:

      Arthur: Shadow of the Colossus. The story was incredible, but the gameplay did nothing for me. I played through the first few levels and watched the YouTube of the rest. Still, it’s art, and the game is beloved by just about everyone.

      Beyond Good & Evil: Good game. I played the PC port, which was so poorly done I couldn’t enjoy the game because I kept fighting the controls. I never did beat the final boss.

      Anything Metal Gear: Some people love this thing. It’s too stupid to be interesting and too verbose to be satire. The controls are inelegant and the mechanics are preposterous. But, HK seems to be connecting with some people and I can’t deny that mixed in with the laughable dialog and situations, MGS4 had some powerful ideas. I was actually hooked by some of the ideas, despite hating the story. Full credit for that.

      Halo: Ha! I am kidding.

  87. empty_other says:

    Art-games. Here is a game which some have undeservely named “low-art”: The Unreal Tournament Series.
    The game itself is just a game, and nothing really artistic.
    But the best of the community made levels themself are equal to the best of sculpted art and paintings, and definetly worthy of being called art.

    While Quake has blocky levels optimised for action gameplay, and Counter Strike have levels optimised for realistic tactical gameplay, UT levels uses more creative freedom, experimenting with lights and modelling.

    But i usually hate playing those maps, because their polygon count is way above playable.

  88. Arthur says:

    OK, followup question: what are the actual criteria for a game being “high art”? What does a game need to have to become Art as opposed to merely entertainment? Why is Halo “low art”?

    1. Shamus says:

      Arthur: Bah. I was just Halo bashing because I’m overdue. Halo (the original) had monotonous gameplay, sterile environments, and a laughably contrived and threadbare story. I wouldn’t try to use it to bring someone into the “games are art” camp for the same reason I wouldn’t make a can of Campbell’s Chicken Soup for someone who said they were in the mood for chicken.

  89. Ergonomic Cat says:

    A Mind Forever Voyaging was amazing.

    And what’s with all the Disney hate lately?

  90. Alex says:

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned Homeworld – the first one. A great atmosphere – for the time, graphics were great. Add a good story with some really interesting moments (Garden of Kadesh was incredible) and a soundtrack that was perfect in delivering the feeling of loneliness and urgency and you get a good poster-child for the Game is Art movement.

  91. ccesarano says:

    Random question: would viral games be on the table as well? Or do they not quite count as video games? The most notorious my mind goes to right now is, but there’ve been a few more for non-video game products as well. They aren’t quite interactive, but they certainly toy with our definitions of “game” and “marketing”.

  92. Arthur says:

    Shamus: by whose standards? There are plenty of people who love Halo; if you really wanted to I could point to articles where people have argued that the series is an extended metaphor for US foreign policy or what have you.

    Also, the reasons you cite as to why Halo isn’t “high art” sound a heck of a lot like reasons you could cite for why Halo isn’t, in your view, a good game.

    You still haven’t outlined what qualifies a game, or anything else, as “high art”. Could you have a really, really, fantastically good game which wasn’t high art?

    1. Shamus says:

      Arthur: Uh. By MY standards, which would be implicit in the question. I’m well aware that some people like the game.

      Defining “high art” is beyond the scope of this article, this comment, and would require way more time than I think the subject is worth.

      If it seems like art to you, then it’s art to you. I probably shouldn’t have thrown the “high / low” distinction in there, since it just begs launching a side discussion that doesn’t really enrich the central question.

  93. Daviot44 says:

    Triad City. They’re more asking the question “can a game be literature?”, but since there’s no universally accepted definition of art anyways, I’d say that this counts.

  94. Greg says:

    I tend to go about the argument through the science fiction route. “Can Heinlein be considered an artist?” “Why?” “So why can’t [this game] also be considered art?”

    Most people will agree that classic SF writers (anyone who is dead that folks recognise the name of :P) count as artists, but the differ on their definitions as to why, so the games I use vary too. My favouriate answer to the why was that “the sort of science fiction you’re talking about explores human nature by talking about how it would adapt to possible differences in the future, rooting out what’s fundementally human from what’s merely a product of our current environment” I love the answer for its own sake and it lets you use the fallout series as your example games.

    Speaking of sci-fi oriented games that could count as art, I’m suprised system shock didn’t make your list?

  95. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Halo isnt high art because its made of cliches.Story,gameplay,graphics,everything is just borrowed and polished from other games.

    As for an example,doom I may be considered original art,but doom II would be just a copy(and thus low art).Sure,it is polished in some places,but the fact is that its just a copy.

    Its the same reason why a live concert is much more artistic than the recording of the same songs,even though those recorded songs can be polished to sound way better.

  96. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    I’m surprised you’d imply M.A.S.H. was high art. But what surprises me more is that in 98 comments the “I guess this is the gold standard of RPG stoies ” goof didn’t get mentioned once – I’m pretty sure you meant “stories”.

    1. Shamus says:

      Gildan Bladeborn: To be honest, I was leeching the opinions of others. I’m a little young for MASH. I liked it, but mostly I remember people making a HUGE DEAL about how meaningful the show was.

  97. Alex says:

    Shamus- Are we talking Halo 1, or the series in general? What you say sums up my feelings on the sequels, but not the first game. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been introduced to the System Shocks or the other ridiculously complicated PC FPS games of yore, but I would never describe Combat Evolved as “monotonous”. I wouldn’t call it “art” either, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

    Also, I was wondering why we only ever got one SotC article out of ya. Now we know. =(


    -Shadow of the Colossus
    -Final Fantasy VII
    -Final Fantasy X
    -Final Fantasy Tactics
    -Vagrant Story
    -Passage(indie game)

    The most recent game I played that even attempted to be more than “low art” would be Bioshock. Shame that only one attempt by mainstream developers for this sort of thing occurs every 2-3 years. Not even movies have a track record that pathetic.

    1. Shamus says:

      Alex: I didn’t play the other games. Yes, I found the first to be really, really tedious. The march through the alien place with the eyebot companion felt like it was about a hundred hours of the some corridor.

      1) Wow. Am I STILL in the same corridor?
      2) Oh my gosh. AGAIN/
      3) AGAIN AGAIN!?! Is this a bug? A joke? Satire?
      4) OH COME ON.
      5) I hate this. I should stop playing, but now I’m really curious as to just how far they will push this.

  98. Sean Riley says:

    @Daemian Lucifer

    So yes,deusex was art by itself,not just cause of its visuals,story,music,but because it packed all those nicely with good gameplay.

    But the gameplay didn’t express the story. This is the crux of my argument. Deus Ex’s message was … well, what WAS it about when it was all said and done?

    I liked it as a game. But I don’t think it had anything to say. The gulf between it and Far Cry 2 (which I do consider art, and said so above) is massive — Far Cry 2’s gameplay trains you to become inured to brutality and horror, holding you accountable for your brutality and horror in the process. Deus Ex’s lets you solve conflicts.

    There’s also a place of respect, in my mind, for games that were not art themselves but taught valuable lessons that later games, which are art, learned from them. Half-Life would be the king here.

  99. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Sean Riley

    Cant comment on the far cry 2,especially since,no matter how much I read about how good it is,I am under the impression of the first part,and it is BAD.But,maybe in time I change my mind,just like with KOTOR.

    Anyway,express the story?Gameplay isnt a story medium.Games dont have to be story mediums as well.Sure,a great story does complement it,but its not a necessity.

    Not all paintings express a story,but they still manage to leave an impression.Not all songs express a story,but they still manage to leave an impression.You cannot judge every medium the same.

    For games,the most important characteristic is immersion.If the game can suck you in,wheter with its music,gameplay,graphics,AI,story,or mesh of all those,it succeded in its goal.

    Id call counter strike art,even though I dont like the game,nor does it have any story at all,or any original gameplay,graphics,or anything.

    Id call halo art for the same reason,if it was just a pure multyplayer brawl,but its not.

    Also,by art here,I mean “high art” as some call it,and not kitsch we get in zillions,even though kitsch is a form of art,although a really bad one.

    Although,this argument is pointless.Art is a subjective thing.Some people consider 4’22” art,some dont.It varies from person to person.

    EDIT:By the way,when you say gameplay,what exactly are you referring to?

  100. Sean Riley says:

    @Daemian Lucifer

    Gameplay isnt a story medium

    And stop right there.

    THAT is the objectionable statement in your answer, to me. Go back and read this post from earlier in the thread.

    Every one of those games expresses its story IN the game mechanics itself.

    Ico makes the link between you and Yorda central, creates gameplay which literally forces you to hold her hand. It snatches you from her and panics you. The entire story could be expressed in that gameplay alone. It makes you feel for her. The story DOES have cut-scenes, but they really more just nudge it. The bulk of the storytelling is in that relationship. It’s pure gameplay.

    Shadow of the Colossus is defined in a single moment of gameplay: The plunging of a blade. The game takes the standard trope of a weak point and uses it as a set up; you can’t win it by a heroic slash. No, you lurch above beautiful creatures, and plunge a blade in. It’s a murderer’s swing. Everything you need to know about that game is right there.

    The Path deliberately LACKS gameplay mechanics, because if it guided you, that would defeat the point. You are ASKED to rebel, to abandon the game’s neatly defined goals and to plunge into the abyss. It can’t hold your hand if you choose to. Again, the gameplay mechanics tell the story.

    As does Far Cry 2. At first, the fact that everyone is trying to kill you seems odd. Where are the innocent farmers and refugees trying to escape? But by doing this, the game breeds distrust in you. Early on, you wonder why enemy jeeps attack you on sight. But later, you’ll have a moment where you realise you’ve started to emulate their behavior.

    As the Jackal says, violence is a disease. And Far Cry 2 infects you.

    THAT is what I mean. These games use gameplay AS story. They express it through your actions.

    And these days? That is where I’m convinced true art lies. Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty 4 are amazing, but every person who plays them will have 95% the same experience as the last person. I criticize David Cage for basically making a movie in game form, and I think deservedly so. But how different is this to Half-Life 2, when it’s all said and done? It’s a matter of degree, not kind.

    The games I’ve described above change that game. It’s not a matter of linearity or open-world, but rather a matter of telling the story not in other character’s dialogue or cut-scenes, but instead expressing the story in your actions. Making you responsible for the story.

    THAT is videogame art.

    (In my definition. But I’m sticking to it.)

    Edit: Also, one more important point. No, games don’t need a story, you’re quite right. But neither do films, or even novels. They can be a pure experience. But whatever this experience takes, games should express it in gameplay, being a game and all. Deus Ex didn’t do that, I feel. That’s why I’m saying what I’m saying.

  101. krellen says:

    So, I guess I’ll only be the third person to mention one of LucasArt’s early works, Loom. Very definitely art in a game. Not only does it craft an engaging fairy tale, but the gameplay itself (being based on musical notes on the distaff) sets is apart from other games, giving a unique experience in the gameplay as well as the story.

    I would also include Starcraft as a game that is art. Starcraft is art in two ways; the story it crafts, the tale it tells through its cinematics and cut-scenes is great story-telling, better than most story-telling we see today. But that alone doesn’t make a game art; Starcraft’s game balance is also art. It is a game so perfectly crafted, balanced and designed as to still be relevant ten years later – an eternity in its field. Starcraft is one of the few games of the past decade that still stands as the gold standard in its field.

    Starcraft is not just art. It’s a masterpiece.

  102. Sean Riley says:

    Yikes. Reading back that last post, it was unnecessarily aggressive. Sorry, Daemian. No offense is intended toward you, I’m simply trying to express my point of view.

  103. Miral says:

    My “Games are Art” list (in no particular order):
    – Ico
    – Planescape: Torment
    – Loom
    – Psychonauts
    – The Longest Journey
    – Beyond Good & Evil

    There’s a few other games (many that I love) that I’m strongly tempted to put on the list, but they just seem less “arty” somehow and don’t really belong (these include the Half-life series, Bioshock, Fahrenheit, Dreamfall, and others).

  104. Fate Stay Night apparently has a pretty sophisticated story. Indeed, in Japan, it’s taken for granted that games are art, so the entire visual novel genre

    Monkey Island. All of the games have had gorgeous artwork and brilliant satire.

    Final Fantasy Tactics is a pretty epic war story.

    Terranigma’s endlessly brutal story was pretty impressive and memorable.

    And why isn’t visual appeal and artistry part of the standard too? TF2’s art deco style is very fun and interesting. The art around FF, Chrono Trigger, etc. are gorgeous. And Nobuo’s music is fantastic composition. The Mona Lisa remains the Mona Lisa even if the Louvre makes you run laps and play a stupid minigame while watching it.

  105. Superkp says:

    I did not read every post, but i did do an in-browser search for this one: ‘Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem’

    I only ever actually watched it being played, and it will drive you crazy. There are variables in that game that make the game itself play out of order, or tilt the viewable area of the screen 1 degree a minute until you are craning your neck – and then snapping it back all at once.

    I also have to echo ‘Shadow of the Colossus’. It is like running around and killing mountains in a painting.

  106. LintMan says:

    @Davin Valkri: I’ll second Hotel Dusk on the DS. For those who haven’t seen it, it looks a lot like the animation in A ha’s Take On Me video.

  107. Patrick says:

    Hey there guys, Its Pat here from I really love the discussion you got going here Shamus! Good stuff. It’s amazing the diversity in games that are being mentioned under the ever ambiguous title ‘art’. I guess the subjectivity surrounding the whole notion of ‘art games’ makes it even harder for developers to make those very games. I mean, if only a certain number of people are going to view your ‘art game’ as ‘ meaningful art’ your not going to get the finicial backing of a publisher! I do commend such titles as Bioshock that try and tackle themes other than the “hero’s journey” or “phyical conflict” like so many games already do, while still catering to the masses who love to blow the shit out of people! But until the games industry changes so developers (well financed and indie alike) are able to take artistic risks, we will never fully explore the potential of video games as an ‘artistic medium’ Those of us who want more will just have to paitently wait!

    Oh and Shamus, I very much agree that all games are art. Just when I use the title ‘art’ im assuming the reader knows I’m saying “meaningful art in my opinion”.

    Thanks again!

  108. Itse says:

    As to the question of “what’s art”…

    I tend to be of the view that if it’s something we do consciusly and intentionally, and it’s not in any way necessary for our survival, you can call it art.

    Art is about stirring thoughts and emotions. Everyone here knows that gaming can be a very emotional experience, even if it’s something as abstract as Tetris. It can also make you think. If it does both, that’s what we usually call art, or good art. Or good entertainment.

    I hate the division between “art” and “entertainment”, by the way. It’s just a fancy way of saying “I think this (art) is worth more than that (entertainment)” in a way that sounds like a universal truth instead of an opinion.

  109. Martin Annadale says:

    My list:
    1) Planescape: Torment. A bit of hard art to swallow now with everyone used to being spoon-fed by games these days. But I’d recommend it to anyone who reads a lot and can recognize a good well-plotted, intricate story when he sees one.
    2) Baldur’s gate 1&2. Awesome, deep characters, both in your party and the villains. Sarevok and Jon Irenicus are both names that will stay with me for a long time. Not to mention Minsc (and Boo).
    3) Grim Fandago. Pure art, in my opinion. Stylish look and interesting characters. I’ve always felt they ought to make a movie of this. You know, for the people unable to finish the game themselves.
    4) KOTOR. Even KOTOR2. Sure they looked dated even on their release dates, but I’m a sucker for deep philosophical discussions in between lightsabre fights.
    5) Mass Effect. The last game on my list is the most recent. It looks and feels like an interactive movie. The story is well-plotted and the characters are generally very interesting.

    I’m really very hopeful for Dragonage: Origins. I’m hoping its going to be something I can show non-gamers. Planescape is awesome, but casual gamers (even some not-so-casual gamers) can’t even get out of the Mortuary.

  110. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Sean Riley

    Nah,I dont see it as aggresive,just argumentative,and I dont mind that.

    Anyway,to counter you:

    First,I think you are mixing gameplay with overal gaming experience in some cases.Most notably,far cry.As far as I know,its a third person shooter,and a bit open ended.So,why is it so different than others of that type?Stalker for example?I didnt play far cry 2,so I cant judge,but to me,I dont see anything special about its gameplay.Its overal experience might be something special,sure,but thats not gampelay.

    Also,fahrenheit fits your definitions perfectly.Yes it is flawed,but thats because it was rushed.And as I heard,thats the fault of the publisher,not the developer.But there are tons of flawed art pieces there.Is the sphinx any less of an art because it lacks its nose?Are ancient statues any less artistic because they lack hands,head and legs?What about tons of unfinished symphonies that exist?Or paintings,and books?So why is a rushed game any different than a symphony made out of scraps someone left when they died?

  111. James says:


    Gorgeous hand-painted backdrops, a tongue-in-cheek parody of the earlier “Super Mario Bros.” titles, and a story that is sure to be a great joy for the player. Braid is most definitely art (even if one of the puzzles goes off the deep end by introducing a concept you have never used and will never use again…)

    Fallout 3:

    Absolutely creates an almost perfect atmosphere. The desperation of the characters is easy to see.

    See also: Ratchet and Clank series (great humor, Pixar quality world, great gameplay)

  112. Carra says:

    I’m surprised and happy to see so many people played Planescape Torment. I played it like 8 years after it was out and still greatly enjoyed it. One of the best games ever made.

    And yeah: Halo wasn’t exactly a great game. I enjoyed it but it was outdated on PC. I had played Call of Duty by then which made playing Halo as a serious downstep. Call of Duty or Half Life 2 would be closer to art.

    I played Beyond Good & Evil a few months ago on PC and I found no problems with the controls. I really wouldn’t call it a bad PC port, I found no bugs and played in widescreen.

    Some of the listed games are on my “to play” list. Baldurs Gate 1 & 2. But how does it hold up today? And Grim Fandango. Where can I buy this game for $10 these days?

  113. Sean Riley says:

    @Daemian Lucifer:

    First,I think you are mixing gameplay with overal gaming experience in some cases.Most notably,far cry.As far as I know,its a third person shooter,and a bit open ended.So,why is it so different than others of that type?Stalker for example?I didnt play far cry 2,so I cant judge,but to me,I dont see anything special about its gameplay.Its overal experience might be something special,sure,but thats not gampelay.

    OK, first off: I barely played Stalker, so I can’t comment too much on it. It was a HUGE influence on Far Cry 2 though, you can’t ignore it, so it’s an important thing to comment on. If there were a console version, I’d be playing it, but I don’t do PC gaming unless there’s a mac version.

    As for Far Cry 2, however, the point I’m making is the way that the game trains you via its mechanics to become ever more brutal, paranoid and vicious in your play, mapped to a story about brutality and horror.

    An example: In the middle of the game, you are badly wounded and nursed back to health by the Jackal, the very man you’re there to kill. (This is a cut-scene, but I can forgive it here. Mostly.) He argues that violence is a disease, infecting everyone it touches.

    Later, I left the safe zone of a town to reach a buddy to the north. Because avoiding conflict is smart as a way to conserve ammo, I chose to swim down a river rather than take a road. But as I swam down, I saw an enemy checkpoint on the riverbed. Nobody had spotted me. I could have gone past completely unnoticed.

    But the game has a system wherein each checkpoint has some nice restock point, and it stays constant for that game. I decided I wanted to know which one that checkpoint had.

    Creeping into the camp slowly, I backed up against a wall jutting out from a hut. I heard at least two voices, and I suspected a third was there. Aiming carefully, I bounced a grenade off the hut, so that it landed on the other side of the wall. A voice screamed, “Grenade!” but it was too late. Two died in the blast. A third ran for cover, but I was already in that cover. He died from my AK-47 swiftly. A fourth, whom I hadn’t spotted, ran for another point. I scurried inside the hut, better cover, and fired through a window. One of the bullets caught his head, and he died too.

    I congratulated myself. I’d not been hit once. It was a perfect assault.

    And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d just murdered four men. For nothing. I didn’t even need anything, I’d just left town. I had plenty of ammo, explosives, and medicine. I killed them because of, what? Curiosity? A sick need for thrills?

    No. Because violence is a disease. And I was thoroughly infected.

    That whole sequence, the moment that taught me that, is gameplay. It’s nothing but gameplay. I was taught, step by step, through gameplay to become a better and more ruthless killer. I was taught, through gameplay incentives, to seek out conflict even when I had nothing to gain from it. And thus, I was taught what a monster I had become.

    THAT is art. That’s marvelous, and it’s something very impressive to me.

    Also,fahrenheit fits your definitions perfectly.Yes it is flawed,but thats because it was rushed.

    No. Farenheit isn’t flawed, unless you count ‘flawed in concept’ as flawed. It’s an outright failure. It’s a game, I suppose, in much the same way that Simon Says is a game. But it’s about 70% cut scene. And sometimes the interactivity is a joke. The much maligned lovemaking scene is a case in point — Why, why should you have to tap up to thrust? What the HELL is the point of that?

    Moreover, Farenheit doesn’t even have anything to say. Someone, I’m serious here, tell me what Farenheit’s theme or message is. It’s sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s one of the most wretchedly bad experiences in gaming for a very long time.

  114. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Sean Riley

    I did pointless killings in zounds of games before,and Ill do it in the future as well.I cant even comprehend the number of buildings that Ive destroyed in starcraft and other RTSs even though there was nothing to gain.And there wasnt any game that taught me to do that,its my perfectionism.Its the thing that drives me to do all the quests in RPGs even though Ive reashed maximum level.Its what makes me collect the last bit of carry over rewards in TBSs before I deal that final punch.Thats no art,thats my weird brain.

    A game that makes me not want to act like that,and not because of some restriction like limited time,now thats art.(half life two,for example,made me want to avoid stalkers instead of just shooting them)

    its simon says in the second half,not the first.Thats why its flawed,not in concept,but in execution.Before that,there are meaningful choices.Before that there is loads of interactivity.Before that,there is lot of character building(you have three characters that you can mold whatever way you like).

    As for the “maligned lovemaking scene”(quotes because its not the one I think of as maligned),the point is that you dont have to watch it.You can choose to just give the stuff back to your ex and let her go home.The exact scene by itself is meaningles,but it should not be viewed by itself.Its part of a much bigger arc.Saying that it is pointless would be just like saying that(to use your example)shooting 4 enemies at a checkpoint after leaving town is pointless.But you arent viewing that action on its own.No,you had a long intro before reching that point.Same here.There is a huge intro before you even have a chance to get your ex into bed.And that intro is extremely meaningful,interactive,and emotional.

    And youre not just tapping up to thrust.Its mouse controlled(I susspect its stick controlled on the console).

  115. Sean Riley says:

    @ Daemian Lucifer (is anyone other than us reading this still)

    Exactly! Part of the cleverness of Far Cry 2 is that it reflects on other games. It’s simply emphasised via the intense paranoia the hostility of the game engenders, and via the devices of the reputation system, etc. As I said above, it’s every FPS you’ve ever played, with all pretense of heroism stripped away. That’s what I admire about it.

    As for Farenheit, I disagree. Once you’re in the sex scene, you’re done. You can’t back out. There’s nothing but juvenile, purile stick thrusting until it’s done.

    And even before the game went screwy it used that stupid Simon Says routine far too much. Farenheit would have been better — maybe still not good, but better — if it had just thought to use traditional game mechanics instead of the silly ones. The scene, for example, wherein your apartment is fracturing under your feet. How much more powerful would that have been had you actually had to jump, plan, and worry about where the pieces were going to?

    But, you see, that wouldn’t have been cinematic. And David Cage has an unhealthy, destructive love of the cinematic. It’s why his games will not work until he gets over it.

  116. Sean Riley says:

    Though to argue against myself a bit, Steve gaynor did a very nice job arguing against my thesis here:

    It seems strange to equate agency and freedom with omnipotence and boundless empowerment. The fact that the player is able to choose his own role within a gameworld doesn’t inherently remove consequence and gravity from the experience. It’s not like any game that opts not to force the player’s hand down a predestined narrative path instantly becomes Crackdown… I find the “do something objectionable, or stop playing” choice to be pretty uninteresting. It’s no different than the choice presented by ‘shock’ filmmakers, be it Kubrick with Clockwork Orange or Rob Zombie with House of 1000 Corpses– “either watch the distressing images we put in front of you, or walk out of the theatre. Can you take it?” It’s juvenile, it’s been done, and I don’t really see how it exploits an interactive medium in an interesting way.”

    That’s a compelling point, and not one I have much of an answer to. Yet.

  117. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Sean Riley(maybe Shamus,but Im not sure)

    What you described about far cry is the same thing that happens in prototype.Would I call that game art?Well,in a way I would,but that be the same way Id call serious sam,painkiller and doom art.The art of mindless slaughter.There is no story in the gameplay of prototype,even though you may identify with mercer and stop to think about those millions youve killed for no reason at all.Also,the way youve described it,its no different than saints row or gta,except that its first person.In fact,it actually has more pointless violence than those 3 games.But thats just my impression based on your description,so its probably wrong.

    Also,you can back out.You can leave the controller.You dont have to do it.Besides,your argument comes down to:Once youve pressed the mouse button,your character will shoot.You cant back out from it.Or,once youve done that jump,you cant just land anywhere.Or you cant get out of the tank in call of duty.

    What you are arguing about is that there is an optional scene,a scene that is very hard to achieve.Its like degrading mass effect for its sex scenes,or gta for hot coffee.

    As for the apartment scene,well that is the point I see as the start of decline for the game.But quick time events have actually worked pretty well before that.This actually is a game that utilizes them the way they should be utilized.Its the only game Ive played so far where quick time events actually work.

  118. Tycho says:

    C’mon people! Grim Fandango must be -nay! IS- the quintessential game as art option. I can’t believe it’s not mentioned in EVERY comment. It excels in all aspects from dialogue to visuals, from characters to story, from its humor to its originality… you name it! It would be art merely by the exceptional art direction… but the characters, the story, the plot and game mechanics/interface…

    Another -albeit flawed- gem no one mentioned is Sanitarium. The game made me FEEL, the whole doll-sister thing…

    Of course there are many other games I just LOVE, like Star Control 2, X-Com, Fallout1&2, Monkey Island and many others… the thing is I just can’t quite bring myself to think of them as “art”.

    (PS: there is no sense in defining art. WHO is capable of deciding what IS and what IS NOT art? Nobody! And at the same time, everybody…)

  119. Swimon says:

    Personally I would argue that nothing is art. The word is to vaguely defined and thusly meaningless. But I get what you’re debating, games that stayed with you and impacted you deeply (making this the definition of art doesen’t work though as everything impacts us to some degree and putting up arbitrary levels of impact on a subjective matter doesen’t really work).

    I’m pretty surprised that “the passage” doesn’t come up more often usually it’s the goto-game for “artsy” which is rather valid actually it says more in 5min without any text or cutscenes than any other game I know does in hours (braid is nothing by comparison). Actually pretty much anything that jason rohrer makes is gold (passage and gravity especially).

    Also Sean Riley I disagree with your view of deus ex it did have meaning. Everything in that game was a preparation for the ending. The sneaking, the ridiculus amount of conspiracies, the AIs and the philosophic discussions all serve the purpose of sowing a deep distrust for everyone and everything (the stealth gameplay does this quite effectively) and painting denton as a messaiah (the nickname “jc” being even more obvious). All this so that in the end you can choose between the past, the present and the future with all their flaws and benefits.

    EDIT: bit long post :/

  120. Kibrika says:

    No one mentioned Still Life? Also, not the game, but the building in the game Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines.

  121. rayen says:

    did anyone mention Twilight princess or for that matter any of the Zelda games? Those are mainstream and trying to wrap your head around link swinging a sword and yelling “YAH!” being art is hard. But just think back to parts of those games, the really emotion invoking parts, Like when zelda flees or when The Deku TRee Dies in OoC or when sister gets kidnapped or Tetra discovers her destiny or the final fight in Wind Waker. Or Midna’s reveal at the end of twilight princess or really since i brought it up i could point to Twilight Princess and use it as a case study for all games being art.

    Morrowind is a good game also because of the sheer uniqueness of it’s scenery. I don’t even know where they got the idea for the dunmer fortresses, vivec cantons and dwemer buildings.

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