Are Video Games Art?

Nijinsky-in-Afternoon-of--011

As a video game designer, I feel like I constantly have to defend the relevance of my chosen career. Yes, some people think it sounds cool and fun, but many – especially those born before 1970 – are disappointed to hear that this is what I do. Unlike writing or fine art, game design doesn’t have widespread cultural recognition as a valid form of art and expression. This has always bothered me and, at times, made me feel insecure about what people think about my work. Recently, I had a funny run-in with a capital-A-Artist that made me reconsider the whole question of whether games qualify as art.

I was taking a ferry to an island off the coast of Maine for a few days vacation away from game development. This was in late September, so school was in session and the tourists that swell Maine’s population every summer had thinned out. It was a warm fall day and there were no other passengers above decks, which meant – I thought – that I could relax with a book and forget about the world for a short while.

And then, before the boat had even left the dock, an old man climbed the stairs to the top deck, sat next to me, and asked me if I knew Nijinsky, the great Russian dancer. (I didn’t then, but I sure as hell do now.)

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