Opinion | Video games are an art form

Video games do not simply allow people to spend hours toiling away at a task — they can convey ideas and themes that rival the greatest works of art.


Elena Alvarez

Junior Teresa Mora plays Black Ops 2 in her room at Currier Hall in Iowa City on Monday, February 18, 2019.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor

Art means many things to different people. To some, art is a visual work that shows something: “Mona Lisa,” “David,” “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” To others it is more inclusive, bringing in music, poetry and cinema — all vastly different media that convey meaning. It is my sincere belief that there is something that should be included in this pantheon of media: video games.

To explain, one age-old question needs to be considered: what is “art”?

Countless definitions of art exist out in the world, and many have been changed. Postmodernism and dadaism both challenge the assertions of the mainstream as to what constitutes “art.”

One of the most notable examples of this is “America” by Maurizio Cattelan, a fully functional, 18-karat gold toilet.

Thousands of possible interpretations for it exist, but the most notable takeaway is that it conveys a message.

In that vein of logic, video games are no different from sculptures and paintings and poems. They convey messages through their interpretations and interactions.

“Bloodborne” is a phenomenal game that perfectly encapsulates what it means for a video game to be art. A game about a person hunting down great beasts and humanity’s small insignificance in the cosmos.

To begin with, the visuals must be addressed — they are, after all, one of the most ancient forms of art humans have.

Bloodborne is a beautiful, haunting, game with breathtaking scenes. Inspired by the likes of Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, and Victorian-era architecture, the environments and settings alone are worth experiencing. If the game were placed into a VR gallery much like other works of art are, dozens of hours could easily be spent pouring over every last locale in the game.

Next is the game’s music score. While I have plenty to say on my own, others have said it much better before me. In the comments of the game’s boss musical soundtracks, one classical musician outlined why they enjoyed so much of the soundtrack. One excerpt was particularly striking:

“I just love the strangely beautiful and hypnotic dissonance between the slightly weird upper notes and the rather conventional bass parts. It kind of makes you think of the conflict between the infant great one’s immense power and his helplessness and loneliness without his mother.”

Through the music alone, the game conveys a sense of conflict, loss, powerlessness and juxtaposition without saying a single word.

Then comes the story of Bloodborne. Without spoiling everything and writing an essay on the intricacies of it, this is a brief summation: the player is someone who comes from a distant land in search of a cure for their illness, and is forced into hunting down great beasts after signing a contract to be cured. In this pursuit, they uncover higher planes of existence inhabited by eldritch beings known as Great Ones and how the city they hunt in was plunged into darkness in pursuit of gaining the knowledge of these beings.

All of these aspects and more put together convey messages and themes that strike at what it means to be human. What messages someone gets can be radically different from others who played the same game.

Art is meant to convey messages from the creator to others, no matter how simple or complex, and no matter these messages are received. Just as poetry, and music, and paintings, and more all convey messages, so to do video games.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.