The game has existed for as long as humans have been around, or even longer. Almost all mammals are able to play: usually the process of hunting or intraspecific competition is artificially reproduced in this way. Cultural critic Johan Huizinga wrote in his book ‘Homo Ludens’ that any sphere of our life is a kind of a game — including politics, war, dance and art. The game has taken root very deeply inside human civilization and over time from just an immanent activity it evolved into a separate type of a digital art.
In order not to choose one of the many confusing and abstract definitions of art, we can use its generally accepted understanding. It is a way of artistic perception of reality, a dialogue with the world and other people in a metaphorical form. Art is a certain aesthetic, a form that contains an idea or a narrative. Not every video game meets all of these criteria, but this will be discussed later. The first video games that we consider as part of art and modern culture appeared in the 90's and gradually gain not only a huge audience, but also a significant part of the market, starting to compete with cinema and television. With the development of technology, video games acquire more and more means of expression, deeper and more diverse plots, and eventually a cult status. Now we are seeing numerous video games awards, famous developers and studios, fan communities, scientific research and other inevitable companions of any major phenomenon.
It is worth saying that art is always an intermediary, a medium. The fact that a video game is a medium was proved by Jan Bogost in his work ‘How to Do Things With Videogames’. He also saw the infinite potential for creating simulations of entire worlds, which we see today in AAA games like ‘Cyberpunk 2077’, and the ability of games to become a space for any conversation: about politics, sex, education, religion. At this point they absolutely overlap with cinema, and if the whole difference between a movie and a video game is in the format of perception, then it should not even be taken into account: we have been watching movies as we want for a long time: alone or in company at home, in the cinema or on a phone. With the release of projects like ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ and ‘Death Stranding’, the line between art forms disappears completely.
Games as an interactive medium and artistic method are used in contemporary art works. A screen in the exhibition space that can be used by the visitor to play a game is already a common practice for galleries and museums. The exhibition space can be designed as resembling a video game, like the GARAGE Museum of Contemporary Art and Novoe Architecture Bureau did at the exhibition ‘Assuming Distance: Speculations, Fakes, and Predictions in the Age of the Coronacene’ in 2021. The viewers were invited to follow a route along special trails and a floor surface that was made of luminous squares and connected the museum halls. The very process of exploring the exhibition space was transformed into a gamified process reminiscent of arcade video games, questionnaires and scanwords.