Enter the User: What Turns Video Games into Art.

 Video games as art.

I could go on and on about how modern games reflect society or how the gorgeous graphics that can rival the ancient masters of the canvas or, in addition, how the music score uses the best orchestral arrangements since Beethoven. All true, however, irrelevant to my salient point.

Which is?

Art is not complete until it meets the audience.

That is to say, that any form of art is not complete until it is presented to an audience. It’s sort of like old adage ‘if there is nobody in the forest to hear the tree fall’, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sure, you can argue that a TV show or movie is complete when the final edit is done. But sans an audience it’s just film in a can or flash drive somewhere. The irony is that most forms of what we know as art don’t require much more than simple exposure to an audience to fulfill the stated requirement for completion. You present the sculpture, set the painting on a wall, and broadcast the episode and so on. Art is there, audience is over there, audience admires art, end of story- all very passive if you ask me.

But, video games demand audience participation. They are interactive in a way that takes the above statement (in bold) to the next level. Literally, a game is not complete until someone sits down (or with mediums like Kinect and Wii-mote move about) and plays the game. And, most importantly, play it to the very end. It is up to you, the audience, to finish the game. Now you might say that is the same thing as a movie or a book, but neither requires the level of interactivity that a game demands by its very nature.

The only equivalent to this would be comedic theater, be it stand up or a comedy troop or what have you. If the audience doesn’t laugh at the jokes, then it fails. If the player doesn’t move the controller, there is no game. With games it is not a simple matter of turning the page; it is about doing what comes next. The player moves the story forward, regardless of how linear or threadbare that story may be.

Thus, in conclusion, video games are taking art to the next level by drawing the audience in and demanding they be part of the story as well. It is up to them to complete the work of art.

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