Video Games / Video Sex

From a recent blog discussion on whether video games are (or could ever be) an art form - I wrote this comment but don't think I got around to posting it.

I often hear the arguments about video games being art applied to other forms. For instance:

Many people believe that pornography can never be art because they can't imagine it being great art. There are two obvious problems with this view.

1) Even if it's true that no pornography is great, that in itself doesn't preclude it from being an art form. If all sculptures but ten bad ones were to be destroyed, sculpture would still be an art form - and one with the potential for greatness in the future.

2) A very small number of porn films are erotic masterpieces - just as a very small number of erotic paintings are more than pinups.

Of course, any movie that sets out to be a masterpiece of any genre is likely to fail miserably. I think classics usually happen by accident.

Now substitute "Horror Novels" for "Pornography".

Now substitute "Video Games".

Finally, ask what pornography, horror novels and video games all have in common, against religious portraits, madrigals and ballet.

Are many religious portraits actually much good as paintings? No. Are some horror novels well written? Yes. So why is there the persistant feeling that a photo of the painting is still better than a PDF of the novel?

It's simple - one has prestige and the other doesn't, and this whole debate is based on a confusion between prestige of the genre and quality of the example.

The question of why one form of media has more prestige than a question of history. But not art history.

Comment on this from Aethelread here.


  1. Well put. I've been harping on for a while now in a series of webzine columns about how games are art (mostly on the 'because I said so' line of reasoning), so I agree wholeheartedly.
    I'd also say that bad porn is art in its own right, following the grandest traditions of Dada and the Theatre of the Absurd. It's just a pity Samuel Beckett never wrote any, although I suspect it'd be two hours of a woman in lingerie sitting around waiting for the guy to show up to fix the cable.

  2. I took two courses in art history at university. I sat through a series of lectures in which “masterpieces” were dissected. I went to the Chicago Art Institute and stood staring at “American Gothic” for 20 minutes trying to work out what’s so special about it. After all that, I have reached the conclusion that art really is all in the eye of the beholder.

    Art, in whatever form, is at its core the end product of creativity, something that exists merely to bring pleasure, something that lifts us above the plane of the plain.

    Awhile ago I posted an original poem on my blog. I got three emails (all from the same person) blasting my syntax, my spelling and my choice of words. He totally missed the point of the sentiment I was trying, however badly, to express.

    To me all art (including bad porn films, horror novels and video games) has some intrinsic value. If nothing else, it's good for a laugh.

  3. Clearly, these people have forgotten that art can be anything, including the erotic and obscene. Archeology and history has shown this time and time again. For example, there's the Kama Sutra, the Turin Erotic Papyrus, or that giant man with the huge penis on a British hillside...not to mention all those nekkid fertility dolls with the big titties and ginormous schlongs dating back thousands of years before Christ was born. Let's not forget the Song of Solomon is an erotic poem in the Bible.