“I believe that games are not art, and will never be art. Let me explain – games will only match their era, meaning what the people of that age want reflects the outcome of the game at that time. So, if you bring a game from 20 years ago out today, no one will say ‘wow.’ There will be some essence where it’s fun, but there won’t be any wows or touching moments. Like a car, for example. If you bring a car from 20 years ago to the modern day, it will be appealing in a classic sense, but how much gasoline it uses, or the lack of air conditioning will simply not be appreciated in that era. So games will always be a kind of mass entertainment form rather than art. Of course, there will be artistic ways of representing games in that era, but it will still be entertainment. However, I believe that games can be a culture that represent their time. If it’s a light era, or a dark era, I always try to implement that era in my works. In the end, when we look back on the projects, we can say ‘Oh, it was that era.’ So overall, when you look back, it becomes a culture.”
-- Hideo Kojima in the July 2006 issue of Game Informer
I like this quote because I can’t figure out if he is really right or just really wrong.
Kojima is right in comparing games to cars. Both are products manufactured to meet a consumer demand. The aesthetic qualities of the product are, by and large, a residue of the process. Or, as the fine artists like to say, “If you make some in the service of anything but yourself and your art, then it is inauthentic.”
Of course, this avoids that sticky business of literature and film. Charles Dickens wrote by the word, but we don’t have any trouble calling his output literary art. Charley Chaplin went for slap stick laughs, but we don’t hesitate to call him an important performing artist of the early film era.
So, a question worth answering seems to be: “Are games more like cars or movies?”
One other point while we are here—I do like Kojima’s notion that games are culture. That’s a big idea. Painting is not culture. Painting is art. Art reflects and supports the culture. So, to suggest that games are a culture in and of themselves is to suggest a very large conceptual shove of aesthetic product from mere consumption to the creation of culture.