The Instigator
Pro (for)
2 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Video Games are Art on Par with Motion Pictures.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/3/2012 Category: Arts
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,787 times Debate No: 22547
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (17)
Votes (1)





Resolution: Resolved: Video Games are Art on Par with Motion Pictures

*Note: I expect my opponent to argue that video games are INFERIOR to motion pictures.

Video Game(s): any of various games played using a microcomputer with a keyboard and often joysticks to manipulate changes or respond to the actions or questions on the screen AND any of various games played using microchip-controlled device, as an arcade machine or hand-held toy. [1]

Art: The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or more than ordinary significance [2] AND a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas. [3]

Par: an equality in value or standing; a level of equality [4]

Motion Pictures: a sequence of consecutive pictures of objects photographed in motion by a specially designed camera and thrown on a screen by a projector in such rapid succession as to give the illusion of natural movement AND a play, event, or the like, presented in this form AND the art, technique, or business of producing [such]. [5] Often shortened to "movies."

It is assumed that Motion Pictures and Television are arts.

The Burden of Proof is shared; or, I have to defend my position, and you have to defend your position. I can't just rebut your arguments and you just can't rebut mine.

No Semantics, please!

Use in-line citations [7].

Three Rounds, but the first round is just for acceptance.

No new arguments in the final round.

8,000 Character limit, although brevity is encouraged.

Otherwise, standard rules apply.


[6]like this

I hope for a good debate, and may the best debater win.


This should be a fun and thought-provoking debate. I accept the terms.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank FourTrouble for accepting my debate. I hope for a quick and fun debate. And, please, call me USM. It’s easier that way.


Art is a touchy subject. Art is considered an erudite, cultured, snobby thing. Many movies are on those lines. Just look at such recent motion pictures as The Tree of Life and Melancholia are prime examples of this. However, video games can be just as highbrowed and studious. However, most movies aren’t made by Terrence Malick, and there are a plethora of video games that are not as cultivated as such.

However, I think there are three criteria that movies and video games have to meet to be considered “art.” They are:

1 They must have aesthetic appeal

2 They must tell a coherent plot

3 They must deal with philosophical issues

and, with that:

1 Both Video Games and Movies have aesthetic appeal

Recently, a game called Journey came out onto the PS3. It is what could be loosely described as a “platformer” that is also a meditative experience. Critics lathered over it, Entertainment Weekly calling it, “Mythic and mysterious, thrilling and terrifying, [and] built on the double foundation of smooth technical proficience and a very human heart.” [1] It’s also called, as one IGN reviewer said, “The most beautiful video game I have ever experienced.” [2] It’s a work of art, in short. And, very clearly with such works as The Tree of Life and Melancholia movies can be just as beautiful. In addition, the maker of Journey, thatgamecompany, also created Flower and Flow[3], the latter of which one reviewer basically called it only there to look pretty; so Video game beauty isn’t just a fluke (as with games such as Braid and Limbo).[5,6] Also, the Smithsonian recently held an art exhibit detailing early video games.[7]

2 Both Video Games and Movies have coherent (and good!) plots

Portal 2 is a game where one makes portals (duh) in order to solve puzzles in order to advance.[8] I don’t have time to go into depth into the concept of it, but one thing’s for sure: people who call it bad, plot-wise, are out of their mind. It involves you, as the main character, breaking out of Aperture Science and the various complications that go along with it. That includes dealing with one of the best villains that you may see just about anywhere, GLaDOS.[9] The conflict between you and her (although she’s an AI, she’s definitely a she) propels the story forward. It’s a great story. While there have been many a movie where the plot has been excellent (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws), there has also been games where there are great stories to them also, not excluding Skyrim, Silent Hill, and others.

3 Both Video Games and Movies deal with philosophical issues

I am going to say first thing that BioShock is a bloody first-person shooter.[10] It deals with your character, Jack, shooting people and using “plasmids,” genetic mutagens that basically give Jack superpowers, to kill people. However, BioShock is much, much deeper than that. Along the way, it deals heavily with morality. [11] Do you spare that person, because that’s moral, or do you kill them and extract their ADAM (basically, the stuff that makes up Plasmids, correct me if I’m wrong)? [12] Along with such movie classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey; BioShock, along with Shadow of the Colossus, as philosophical works.

With all three criteria filled, video games must be art. But, you rebut, is Modern Warfare 3 art? And I ask you, is Battleship, the movie that is based off of THE FREAKING BOARD GAME, art? Is The Love Guru? Is Bruno?

I await my opponent’s response.

Sources are in the comments.



According to Pro, films and video games have to meet three criteria to be considred "art": aesthetic appeal, a coherent plot, and philosophical depth.

Pro's case

1. The game Journey may be beautiful according to some people, but I doubt artists would find it beautiful, or art historians, or art scholars. When Pro claims it is "as beautiful" as Malick's The Tree of Life, Pro is making an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof. A quick look at revies of Malick's film shows that it is considered by artists, art critics, art historians, curators, public intellectuals, in short, anyone qualified to make the claim that it is art. Who says Journey is beautiful (no claim of it being art yet)? Pro cites Entertainment Weekly, IGN, and various video game companies. But that is hardly a sign of beauty, as these sources are not authorities on the matter. In fact, these sources are entertainment sources, suggesting Journey is entertainment, not art. Beautiful entertainment, but entertainment nonetheless.

Pro claims the Smithsonian held an exhibit on early video games. This tells us that, as a historical phenomenon, video games are art. As a historical fact, many things are considered art that ordinarily are not considered art. You can go to museums and plausibly find the Throne chair of some medieval king. Is that chair art? You can rest assured it was never intended to be art. Hence the question: are video games art in and of themselves? Pro provides no evidence as such. Moreover, Pro provides no reason to think beauty is necessary. For example, atonal music is considered modernist art, but atonal music is clearly not "beautiful." Saying video games are beautiful does not mean they are art.

2. Coherence is a not a factor in determining whether something is a work of art or not. Many of the greatest works of art, including literary, filmic, visual, and musical, are not coherent or representational. In other words, they don't tell a story, they don't represent or mirror reality in any way. Jackson Pollock's paintings are fully abstract. Examples of art films without a coherent plot include David Lynch's Inland Empire or Godard's Weekend. Many of the greatest films are non-linear, telling a story without spatial or temporal coherence. There are more radical examples, such as the films of Stan Brakhage, that eschew narrative altogether.

3. I agree that Bioshock is one of the truly great games ever made, but does this mean it is on par with Fellini's 8 1/2 or Godard's Breathless as art? Well, the game offers various moral decisions, which force the player to undergo various moral reflections. But does this make the game art? Vladimir Nabokov, the writer of Lolita, one of the greatest aesthetic works of fiction in the 20th century, stated that art is about pure aesthetic sensation, not moral reflection or philosophical pedagogy. Gilles Deleuze, french philosopher, wrote a book called "Logic of Sensation" in which he argues that art is affective or aesthetically conceptual, but not moral or philosophical.

What is art?

Kant argues that the aesthetic faculties are set in motion when confronted with beauty, say that of a flower. He called the motion of the falcuties "free play," and it was a persistent free play that Kant relates with the aesthetic.

Per Pro's definition in Round 1, art is two things: the expression or communication of emotions/ideas, and the reader's aesthetic reception. There is a theory (reader-response theory) that says the meaning of all art lies in the viewer, because without the viewer, the art does not in actuality manifest itself phenomenlogically. In the case of a game, the game does not exist without the gamer assuming the guise of a player-character.

The player-character is the player's fictional proxy in the world of the game, allowing them to perceive facts and to perform actions in the game-world. Games require players interact with the world itself. Whereas art can be the passive reception of affect or concept, games require players to interact actively. This is a good thing, because it makes games what they are: fun. But it makes games less artistic, in that it requires the viewer to engage it before the game can affect the viewer. It requires commitment, which is not required by art. Art allows indifference as an aesthetic response, games do not.

What are video games?

According to recent scholarship, games are formal systems of rules and objectives set within a framework of behavioral norms. Gameplay is determined by specific rules, objectives, and norms, which are, in the best games, brought together in a formal interactive fiction.

Bioshock is an excellent example of a game, offering space for players to move and kill mutants with weapons. The objective is to kill Andrew Ryan and escape Rapture. The gameplay involves competition with a number of computer controlled opponents. If all the fictive elements are stripped away, the game would not be a game. Likewise, if all the gameplay mechanics were stripped away, it would also not be a game.

So the key factors in a game are the interactive fiction, and the formal system of rules.

Video games are not art

Why are video games, as a medium, not art? Because art has nothing to do with formal systems of rules and objectives or with a framework for interactive fiction. Do you know what a formal system of rules, objectives, and interactive fiction sounds like? Two things: langauge and life. There is a long history of art, tracing its relation to life, going all the way back to Plato. Plato censors art from the ideal city because art is one step removed from life, and therefore, two steps removed from truth.

Consider: video games offer a formal system which can be populated by aesthetic objects, but populating a formal system with aesthetic objects does not automatically make it art. For example, consider a film about Picasso, and the film is filled with representations of Picasso's artworks. The film captures in one scene Picass's Guernica, a work of art shown in museums Does this automatically make the film art? No. Representing art objects within a formal system does not make something art. This brings me to my next point:

Is a language art? Video games are like a langauge, providing a logical system in which players can move around and do things. People can create art with langauge, but language itself is not a work of art. Poets create art with words, but language, their medium of communication, is just that, a medium of communication. Video games, as an interactive formal system, is a medium that provides the possibility of creating art. Video games are a medium of communication.

This means video games do not actually communicate or express anything themselves. They provide a framework, a formal system, in which players can express or communicate things. But the game itself? Does it communicate anything?

Consider Chess. No one would consider Chess, as a game itself, a work of art. But players who play amazing chess games, and create incredibly aesthetic tactical and strategic combinations and moves, are considered artful. Hence, I want to emphasize the distinction in games between the game itself, Bioshock, and the way players play the game: the player's use of the game as a formal system.

It is possible that a player use a game artfully to create an artful trajectory through the game, but the game itself is not generally considered a work of art.

Video games and films

Does the existence of games like Bioshock, aesthetic and philosophical in content, make some games art?

This would amount to the following argument: because games have aesthetic fictions (which is to say, they contain aesthetic objects) they are art. No, as my example of a film populated with aesthetic objects already showed, representing aesthetic objects does not make something art. Hence, just because games have aesthetic features, beautiful environments, or interesting moral or philosophical concepts, does not make the game art. Out of time...
Debate Round No. 2


UnStupendousMan forfeited this round.


I'd like to thank USM for proposing this interesting topic. Unfortunately, however, because there were only 60 minutes per round in this debate, USM was unable to finish his argument in time. I will extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 3
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TUF 6 years ago
Okay so I agreed with USM in this debate after reading his opening sentiments. It is sad he could not continue.

I felt his case fell in line with what art really was (thankyou fourtrouble, for clarifying that).

1. I think that video games can be artistic. Does that mean all video games are artistic? No. But when an extensive amount of time and effort has gone into making a concept different or more fluent, it is often more apparent that a game can be unique.
Games I feel have heavy art included in their platforms:

Heavy rain
Bioshock (both 1 and 2 contained a lot of artistic gameplay, though some of the game play can get monopolized and boring)
Portal 1 and 2 (my favorite games I have ever played.)
Red dead redemption

Others I cannot think of.

So I would have to say while fourtrouble made a compelling case, I feel he didn't properly adress how a video game doesn't fall into the category of art.

Questions I would adress the con:

Cons attack on C1: Can art not be entertaining? Also this is admittedly "beautiful entertainment". If it can be decribed as beautiful, can it not be art?

In your "what is art section", what qualities do video games not hold that are parallel to specific movies?

I really enjoyed this debate. I am morally inclined to give arguments and conduct to the opponent of the forfeiter, otherwise, I feel USM did a great job with his opening sentiments, and I agree entirely with him.

USM, advice for the future:

I get that things come up that can be time taxing. IF you are going to instigate or accept a debate, try to organize it such that you will not forfeit that debate.

Also try not to wait til last minute to throw up the arguments.

I really liked your arguments, and love these kind of debates.
Posted by Wallstreetatheist 6 years ago
I hate when that happens.

BRO TIP: Type your argument in google chrome, which automatically saves it, so in case you run out of time, you can post your argument in the comments section and ask your opponent to refer to it. If you do not run out of time, just paste it normally, and you'll have a saved copy that is accessible at home, school, and on your phone.

Otherwise, start submitting at T-minus 2 minutes, if pressed for time. It's better to have an argument 85% done than completely lost when the timer runs out.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
I actually agreed with your side, I only took the debate cause it was interesting but i do think bioshock is a brilliant work of art.
Posted by UnStupendousMan 6 years ago
I was rebutting chess! WHY WORLD WHY!?
Posted by UnStupendousMan 6 years ago
I agree. I think that may have been to harsh an expectation for formal debate. I'd like to do the topic again, though. It was fun.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
Meh, 1 hour was too little time for this debate anyway.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
... what now?
Posted by UnStupendousMan 6 years ago
Bleep. I ran out of time. *bangs head* I was about to hit submit anyway... I shouldn't have gone past 1 minute...
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
Didn't realize, kept writing and then realized I had 2 minutes left, panicked, and hit submit.
Posted by UnStupendousMan 6 years ago
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by TUF 6 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
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Total points awarded:24 
Reasons for voting decision: It's a shame that USM forfeited that last round. I will leave an RFD in the comments.