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The Aesthetics of Videogames

Wyatt Andersen, Advisor: Steven Kellert

Can videogames be art? If so, what sort of art are they? As a medium that has emerged within our lifetime, videogames provide the field of philosophical aesthetics with new territory in which to ask traditional aesthetic questions. Exploring these questions helps us to understand what videogames are, and what they have the potential to be. The investigation of these questions required as a methodology the study of traditional aesthetic theories, analysis of the experience of playing a variety of videogames and an assessment of the arguments and conclusions of other writers on this subject. Based on this research, I argue that videogames as a medium do have the potential to be art. Furthermore, I establish three general categories of artistic media: art by reproduction, art by enhancement and art by opening up new aesthetic potential (media of this third kind I refer to as New Artistic Media). The critical feature of videogames that grants them the potential to be a New Artistic Medium is that they are interactive. Their interactive nature allows them to be art in a way quite apart from the novels and films with which they are often compared. However, videogames are not the first art to be interactive; what sets videogames apart from other interactive media is their ability to allow the player and artist to be collaborators in the creation of the player’s aesthetic experience. Furthermore, videogames also allow for multiple people to participate in the game simultaneously, each altering the experience of the others. In these games the collaboration is shared between the players and the artist. This collaborative and creative interactivity is what entitles the medium of videogames to be a New Artistic Medium.