Art is everywhere. It can take so many different shapes, and adapt to so many different people. We like to give names to it, to make it fit into different categories. That can seem quite frustrating, regarding the freedom and the wildness of such a concept : but nothing is set in stone, particularly not this list we keep updating every now and then, when something new is invented, like the cinema for example. The cliché of video games having a negative impact on youngsters is still present in the spirits. Some associate it with violence and unproductivity. Many would even consider it unhealthy. Video game used to be a source of conflict between the generations, and still we can see it more and more appear at the end of the arts classification. Now is a good time to wonder where we are now. Have we found our 10th art?
The brief history of video games
A basic definition of video games would be the following: An electronic game in which a player interacts with images on a video screen. From the beginning of video games’ history up until today, this definition has been extended for some of us. What we consider a video game now is a little blurry ; that is why we cannot really say which and when was the first video game. But one thing is cristal clear: It is way older than you think.
The most ancient track of video games we could find was the Cathode-ray tube amusement device, invented in 1947. It was an electronic and interactive game which consisted in a simulation of artillery firing on little targets fixated on the screen. It was nothing fancy and does not match perfectly today’s pickiest definitions of a video game. Indeed, it did not involve the automation and complexity of a computer. Moreover, the cost of production for these devices was way too high, so it was never mass produced, released, nor mediated.
Bertie the Brain in 1950, and OXO in 1952 might be a better fitting candidate to the title of first video games ever. They were machines which permitted players to face a computer at tic-tac-toe. Both were very successful and enthusiastically welcomed by the public. Another game that some would consider is Tennis for Two. William Highinbotham was a physician, part of the team that worked on the atomic bomb. Remorseful for participating to the elaboration of what would later destroy thousands of lives, he might have tried to clean the name of science by making it secure and entertaining, instead of destructive. This is how, in 1958, during the Brookhaven national laboratory’s open house, Tennis for Two became the main attraction of the event.
As fast as technology
The empire of video game had its golden age in the 80′. Then, the giants we still play with today, as Pac-Man, Tetris, Super Mario, Street fighter… began to bloom everywhere. Especially because of the evolution of another wonder in parallel : the home console. The first one was the Brown Box, by no other than Ralf Baer, often called “father of video games”. If it was only produced and commercialized in 1972 under the name of Magnavox Odyssey, the prototype already worked back in 1967!
On top of all the computer gaming which still wins the heart of players, the home consoles kept flowing on the market. Atari, Sony, Sega and Nintendo ruled the gaming empire for years: From the Atari Pong in 1972 to the Playstation 5 in 2020, going through the Sega Master system (1986), the super NES (1991) or the Wii (2006). Consoles could also be in a pocket format to be taken everywhere. The Nintendo switch, out in 2017, is even both a portable and a home console! Today, we are in 2022, and the video game industry does not cease its improvement.
Today, video games rhyme with technical prowess. Every year, there are new games more beautiful and fluid than their predecessors. Consoles are also more and more powerful, able to provide unprecedented performances.
Different point of views
People’s first contacts with video games were successful, as we observed during 1950′ events mentionned above. People love to play, that is a fact. But then, the feelings about video games were not so unanimous anymore. While some dedicate their time to video games, others are more wary about it. It is undoubtedly due to the fear of its incredibly fast progress. It takes time to get used to things, and trying to be cautious is not a bad thing. Shaming one’s passion, is.
To consider that we found in video game our 10th art, we first need to respect it. We can still hear judgemental things such as “video games are mind numbing”, “for children”, “it makes you crazy”, and so on. However, most of the people, when asked the question of “what values and positive experiences video games transmitted you”, will easily express themselves.
In order to know better where it stands in their lives, I went ahead and asked some questions to people more or less used to video games. Hervé, a game design student, says that video games taught him curiosity and tenacity. Julien, another USB volunteer, joins him on this point and agrees that it is a great way to learn. Surprisingly, most of the people think the same. It helps with the reflexes, with the perception and more. They are accessible at a very early age with an educational purpose. Unlike what we could think, elders generally don’t have anything to say against it. They don’t actually hate video games : They invented it! Grandma plays games too. “For children”? My mother and I still enjoy a Call of Duty game together when we have time.
It appears that the bad things everyone has heard about video games come from isolated mouths rather than identifiable categories of people. It is okay, everyone has the right to like or dislike things, but from where I stand it feels like the time where video game was an OVNI is over.
Video games: A new, yet true art
Art is and always was of great interest for us mere mortals. Indeed, it is the manifestation of humanity, its genius, its conscience, its emotions. We can transmit anything through art. Messages, ideas, beliefs, feelings… and beauty, a concept we seem to be very attached to. As a matter of fact, art has made history. That is why it progresses at the same pace as we do.
Have we really found our 10th art ? Video Games have made their proofs regarding its longevity. If it only gained interest and starded evolving less than 50 years ago, it never stopped ever since. Everybody knows the name of this red capped plumber, or of that yellow ball making that famous « Wakka wakka » sound. But as we know, something being famous doesn’t always make it convincing, it is generally more like the contrary: Why would video gaming not just be a trend ? A very long one, but still.
Because behind all those video games that come out each year, there are people. There are game designers, game artists. Video games actually group bits of all the other categories of art. The visual ones, of course, but also the architecture and sculpture with 3D modeling, the literature with the scenario writing and referencing work it takes to create a story, for example. We call “total art” an art that merges different other arts, and Video Games matches this description just like cinema. Music also has an extremely important role in it: Few people remember the Russian « Korobeniski », but of course everyone perfectly knows « The Tetris song » . Several video games, such as « The legend of Zelda » , «Doom » , or « Undertale » to mention only the best known, seduced the public partly for their outstanding soundtracks.
Just like other arts, video games is also used to transmit ideas, it can teach like it can denounce. Here is an example of video game with a purpose one of our volunteers introduced two years ago: Death Stranding: a videogame for the future – Balkan Hotspot
Video games found to be the 10th art?
Should video games be considered art, let alone the 10th one? There is no real argument around it. Every time I asked, the answer was “yes”. Yes, video game brings us a lot of beautiful and important things, just as beautiful and important as the cinema. People are not so scared in general, nor as mortified as they sound to be. Our society changes also in a good way. It tries to grow more tolerant, and even if it takes time, adaptation and acceptation are always possible. Cinema was a good example of that, making revolution far before being accepted. New arts will most certainly follow the same path, and we might have found the current one.
What do you think? Have we really found our 10th art?
* Microsoft Word - definition.doc (utc.fr) * Quel fut le premier jeu vidéo de l’histoire ? - Plarium * Tennis for Two — Wikipédia (wikipedia.org) * Spacewar! — Wikipédia (wikipedia.org) * Alan Kotok - père de la première manette de jeu vidéo (rom-game.fr) * Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device: The First Electronic Game (lifewire.com) * Video game Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster * Video Game History - Timeline & Facts - HISTORY * Le site officiel de Super Mario™ – Histoire (nintendo.com) * Inventor Ralph Baer, The 'Father Of Video Games,' Dies At 92 : All Tech Considered : NPR