I believe that if an enlightened person (someone able to distinguish art) were to look at past video games, he would not characterize the games as having artistic qualities. I want to disprove this.
Was all that time I played video games as a kid meaningless entertainment? I don’t think it was. I want to pinpoint the art of video games, and without the heavy use of auxiliary arts (graphics, sounds, music), prove this theory with a prototype.
The main thing that comes to mind is the feeling of exploration. Exploration of an unknown environment with unknown rules.
In Earthbound, the player comes across saturns whom speak in a ridiculous language ($#@!). Does that mean saturns are good or bad? The player interacts with them to figure out they are good.
Similarly, in Shadow of the Colossus, the player must interact with the colossi and the surrounding area to discover new elements which are required to solve the puzzles.
It’s this player interaction. It’s the discovery of game rules. This is unique to video games.
exploration -> player interaction -> discovery/learning -> fulfillment (the good kind)
Hmm..well that’s all I’ve got so far. I was going to draw a prototype, but I felt that the games that exist are enough to demonstrate this. Windosill is a the perfect example. This is enough to make me feel less bad for playing so many games when I was young. I just felt that it wasn’t a complete waste of time, that there was something there, some new experience that interested me.
Maybe there’s more than exploration and player interaction to it. I mean is that really enough to be art? Shouldn’t there be some auteur’s vision here? I dunno. I’ll come back to this if I ponder more about it.
I just realized the past video games I refer to in this post refer to a small portion of all of the games I’ve played. Other reasons to play include competition and social entertainment (with friends). I’m ignoring those games in this post.