What is art? Are video games art? Should video games strive to be art? Art, as most understand it, is the practice of perfectly emulating the real world without abstraction, simplification, distraction, or any variation or literary devices. The best art seeks to only depict things exactly as they are and never as they could be, should be, have been. In particular, art which bases itself in real places always strives to include every issue pertaining to those places. This is for the sake of fairness—we cannot risk portraying some place in a positive light if that place may have the audacity to be imperfect. There seems to be a new trend in video games, though, which ignores these firmly rooted principles and chooses to focus solely on the primary purpose of the game, and some philosophy majors shamefully forced to write about video games by an unforgiving universe believe these depictions of benevolent distractions are not what reality deserves.
The trend dates back to the Atari 2600, when games like Indy 500 were released without the political discourse of the effects of NASCAR racing on the class gap in the United States during the 1970s. While the game itself was one of the first racing games released for a home console and no doubt revolutionized the genre, the important thing to note is that the racing community of the 1970s, a time of war and hatred and E.T., did not deserve such a kind depiction. This, of course, should have been what people were discussing at the time.
The trend has continued to this day, however. When Nintendo introduced Mario, one of the most if not the most iconic video game characters of all time, the world applauded but no one dared discuss the harm of perpetuating Italian stereotypes and the plight of the blue collar workforce. The only people who discussed the ramifications of dog fighting in the wake of Pokemon was PETA. Some theorize this may actually date back beyond video games, to even the oldest forms of literature and cave drawings.
Of course, these don’t reflect on the games. However, to be clear, when talking about video games it is important to first talk about things that have nothing to do with video games in the context of that video game. Modern journalists are finally realizing the importance of putting depressing, pessimistic discussions of politics above actually discussing the games they are told to write about. As well, they are recognizing that everything in video games can and should be interpreted as metaphoric, even the most mundane of tasks, such as having to leave a starting line in order to begin a match on a racing game. Similarly, the “Pause” screen found in nearly every game in existence is symbolic of our attempts to slow down and forget life only to realize we must eventually return to it.
Philosojournalists in the gaming community are making strides to ensure that even the simplest game can be turned into a boring lecture, in their continued effort to make video games “grow up.” Even games with specific and mostly non-narrative purposes like Forza Horizon 3 and FIFA 17 must be dissected until nothing of the actual game remains. This proves the intelligence of the writer since, like art is only ever a reflection of the harshest realities, IQ is measured by how easily we can derive meaning out of nothing.
Ironically, games that actually do depict the world in realistic ways or tackle sensitive social issues like poverty, racism, corruption, politics, and bigotry are often still subjected to criticism by journosophers. Grand Theft Auto V for instance, while exaggerated, depicts characters in a modern large city who are often forced into crime due to poverty and appropriately humanizes the cycle of crime while also creating a fun experience. Witcher 3 depicts a universe rattled by war and violent racism. However, GTA V is violent and Witcher 3 is the most sexist game ever made, which is why creators must only create a realistic experience minus anything that actually makes it realistic. Actual depictions of discrimination and hatred might make players uncomfortable, so in the future video games must depict the real world accurately so as not to give people the impression the world has any goodness in it, but cannot depict things which might make people uncomfortable.
The philjournosophers say they will proudly continue to tell the gaming community and world at large how to enjoy things and find depressing reality in even the most abstract forms of escapist entertainment.