Are Video Games Worth Studying?

From a literary perspective, are video games worth studying, or should you put down the controller and pick up a book?

  • There is certainly something to be said for the level of artistry that games have achieved in recent years. This justifies intellectual criticism of these new developments and, in turn, justifies criticism of previous "less artistic" developments for a better historical understanding and appreciation of the form (e.g. we don't study The Sneeze as a masterpiece of cinema, we study it as landmark event in the history of film; so too will be the case with Pong). However, I think it is high time that Video Games Studies truly becomes a field of its own. Your use of the word "literary" feels inaccurate, which may be a contributing factor as to why many literary scholars are quick to reject Video Games as a form, since they see it as a low-brown infringement on their domain. At the moment, most academic work surrounding Video Games has been contained in Film (as its closest relative with regards to media) and Theatre (as its closest relative with regards to interactivity) Studies, but it strikes us as being too different from either of these to real belong within them. Only with a Department of its own can the form (and its societal appreciation) truly begin to flourish, as was the case when Film Departments began to appear in the 1920s. – ProtoCanon 7 years ago
  • I think that a interesting way you could pursue this topic is to discuss the Video Games as an art/art form debate. Because if video games are art, then the argument can be made that they deserve to be studied on the same level as art or film. Additionally, I think that thinking about how much of video games are "intentional" could be an interesting angle to pursue. For example, the creators the video game make a conscious decision on art style, what moves a player can do, how the game plays, and what perspective is the game in (3rd or 1st). These are conscious decisions made by the creators, similar to how authors make conscious decisions about how they construct a narrative such as 1st or 3rd person, what information the reader knows about and what is hidden from the reader. – SeanGadus 7 years ago
  • I agree entirely that Video-Games should be studied as an artistic medium; I personally find them to be a somewhat more interactive medium than conventional art-forms though, which leads to a sort of rift between studying games and, say, film studies. Nonetheless, they should be examined, if not just for the artistic choices made by their creators but the story choices as well. Most games today have a defined storyline or plot in them (though some don't, which is fine). However, the way a developer can portray that story can vary widely across games: some games, such as the Legend of Zelda franchise, give the player a relatively deep pool of lore to sift through just by playing the game. However, other games, such as Cave Story or Superbrothers Swords and Sworcery have a more subtle way of giving the player the story, and may leave parts up to us as players to interpret. There are also games like FEZ and The BInding of Isaac, which have purposefully cryptic storylines which the players must explore for themselves, giving them a greater sense of accomplishment when something finally "clicks" than if they were merely given a predetermined plot point. – bwmaksym 7 years ago
  • Literary studies cannot remain so rigid. For one, the concept of "literary worth" is rapidly changing as self-publishing options are becoming more and more profitable and accessible. Therefore, what deserves to be published (and therefore read) is subject to change. At the same time, other forms of media have been considered "unworthy of academic study" for generations. At first it was film, then it was pulp and genre fiction, and now it's video games. Video games are not literature, nor are they film and therefore need a specific set of tools to analyse their critical and philosophical significance. Yet, they still provide us with a message, they still use visual and audial aids to immerse us in reality, and they still often follow some sort of narrative structure. To think that video games are undeserving of the title of "art" or too banal for intensive literary study is absurd. – X 7 years ago

Article on this topic

Want to write about Games or other art forms?

Create writer account