I don’t play ‘Minecraft’, so I admit that for this article I had a lot of help. In fact I barely ever made it past ‘Sims 3’, with a very thin smearing of ‘Runescape’. But whatever. I know a lot of people that do play it, and I have seen for myself the time and eff ort that goes into creating the games themselves and the hours put in by players, who experiment with the core materials to create beautiful structures of their own. Indeed, such commitment is easily comparable, and to some extent exceeds that of modern artists. However, can something created largely for its entertainment value be described as art?
The suggestion that video games can be art is not completely revolutionary. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has several video games now as part of its permanent Architecture and Design Collection. Of the selected list, the museum commented, “The games are selected as outstanding examples of interaction design…and one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity. Our criteria, therefore, emphasize not only the visual quality and aesthetic experience of each game, but also the many other aspects – from the elegance of the code to the design of the player’s behaviour – that pertain to interaction design.”
According to your average bogstandard dictionary, art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Indeed, it is clear how the creation of the game can be considered art. But what about the players themselves? Are they artistic creators?
I briefly looked online at some ‘Minecraft’ creations. Many show an incredible level of skill and architectural engineering. With ‘Minecraft’ versions of the Taj Mahal, the Pokémon Grass Gym, the Tower of Babel and Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings, the creative scope itself is vast. Players have also added an educational element to the game; in 2014, a 1:1 scale recreation of Denmark was launched to teach urban planning and geography in schools. This reflects other formative attempts of art over the years. ‘Minecraft’ also has the advantage that it is not limited spatially like other art forms, as players are able to create whole cities. The potential for collaboration is also unprecedented.
Of course, there has been unavoidable controversy over the use of computers in the creation of art. But equally, there are many things in art galleries all over the world whose artistic qualities many struggle to understand. Just because something is popular, does that discredit its right to the title? Personally, I think it only enhances it.