Video games adding new horizons to worlds of art

An interesting controversy regarding video games is the debate of seeing video games as an art form. The concept of video games as an expressive medium is a controversial topic within the entertainment industry. Even though video games are legally protected as creative works by the Supreme Court of the United States, the philosophical concept that video games are considered works of art remains in question, even when considering the contribution of many creative aspects such as graphics, storytelling and music. Even art games, which are designed to allow the player to express themselves artistically, are questioned by some critics.

When I think of video games being used as an artistic medium, I think of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. The game itself has been nominated and won numerous awards since its release in June. The story is set 20 years after a pandemic that has changed life as we know it. In a post-apocalyptic world where society has collapsed, nature has reclaimed its domain, creating contrastingly beautiful imagery to the harshness of civilization. The earth is inhabited with people who are infected with a cordyceps fungus that has turned them into zombies. Along with that threat, there are also groups of dangerous people that will do anything to survive, including killing you for the clothes on your back. A common comparison and inspiration to this story is the one of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

The two main characters, Ellie and Joel, are some of the most complex characters that I have seen in any video game. These two characters and the growth of their relationship is at the core of this game. In the beginning, Ellie is just cargo to Joel, and Joel is just another dude stuck with Ellie. But as months pass and plans don’t work out, they rely on each other for survival, and their relationship grows to one resembling a father and a daughter. By the end of the game, we see two completely changed characters from the beginning. They are able to regain their sense of humanity and see the world as a new beginning.

This game tells a lot about moral ambiguity. By the end of the story, without giving any spoilers, the game really has you questioning the actions of Joel, as well as your own morals, and you wonder if you could really do what it takes to survive.

With The Last of Us just being one example from a long list of games that include elements of cinematic storytelling, characters, music, acting, design and philosophy, I don’t see how video games can be seen as anything less than an artistic platform.

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