Roger Ebert is a very angry man. The award-winning film critic and all-around grouch has been railing against video games as a style that "can never be art," and has caused a community of gamers and artists debating the artistic value produced for small and large screens.
The Smithsonian in Washington DC decided to weigh in on the debate rather heavily by hosting an exhibit on video game art, which focused on the evolution of gaming as a medium by featuring playable copies of Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower. The exhibition is on display through September 30.
5. Mass Effect
Bioware's generic space-themed title casts the player in the malleable role of Commander Shepard, an intergalactic badass that saves planets and kisses aliens. The game's plot is relatively rigid. Within the plot, however, players are given a variety of ethical decisions that tilt a character towards the game's ethical binary of "Paragon" and "Renegade."
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Modern Warfare serves as a symbolic parody of war movies intercut with the harsh realities of human conflict. The player begins the game as a member of an elite commando unit with a mission to stop the terrorists. He does this by killing a lot of nameless bad guys.
The game shifts its narrative to an unnamed American soldier about a quarter of the way through, and then the opportunity to use English major powers arises. Eventually a nuclear bomb explodes, and the player is actually granted control of their character as he staggers and croons his death rattle. The immediate expectation upon receiving control was "Well, I've soaked a million bullets. Why not a nuclear bomb?" I was answered by a summary fade to black.
1. Minecraft (and honorable mentions)
This is not by any means the most artsy game of all time. It's just one of hundreds of outlets seen in gaming as an outlet for creative expression. Players create pixel art, massive structures, and dedicate hundreds of hours to create lego cities online with their friends.
Even without sandbox games like Minecraft, gamers will continue creating emergent art stemming from the supposedly-mindless entertainment millions of us enjoy. Below are links to other artsy-ish games that you might find enjoyable.
Braid: Interesting deconstruction of game design
Bastion: Comforting narrator explains well-drawn murder spree
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Galatea: Interact with a living sculpture within the confines of a text adventure
Dear Esther: Noncombat exploration-based game with a unique narrative
Machinarium: Cute steampunk adventure