Video games as an art form
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The concept of video games as a form of art is a controversial topic within the entertainment industry. Though video games have been afforded legal protection as creative works by the Supreme Court of the United States, the philosophical proposition that video games are works of art remains in question, even when considering the contribution of expressive elements such as graphics, storytelling and music. Even art games, games purposely designed to be a work of creative expression, have been challenged as works of art by some critics.
- 1 History
- 2 Artistic expression in games today
- 3 Controversy
- 4 List of artistic video games
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The earliest institutional consideration of the video game as an art form came in the late 1980s when art museums began retrospective displays of then outdated first and second generation games. In exhibitions such as the Museum of the Moving Image's 1989 "Hot Circuits: A Video Arcade", video games were showcased as preformed works whose quality as art came from the intent of the curator to display them as art. Further explorations of this theme were set up in the late 1990s and early 2000s with exhibitions like the Walker Art Center's "Beyond Interface" (1998), the online "Cracking the Maze - Game Plug-Ins as Hacker Art" (1999), the UCI Beall Centre's "Shift-Ctrl" (2000), and a number of shows in 2001.
The concept of the video game as a Duchamp-style readymade or as found object resonated with early developers of the art game. In her 2003 Digital Arts and Culture paper, "Arcade Classics Span Art? Current Trends in the Art Game Genre", professor Tiffany Holmes noted that a significant emerging trend within the digital art community was the development of playable video game pieces referencing or paying homage to earlier classic works like Breakout, Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Burgertime. In modifying the code of simplistic early games or by creating art mods for more complex games like Quake, the art game genre emerged from the intersection of commercial games and contemporary digital art.
At the 2010 Art History of Games conference in Atlanta, Georgia, professor Celia Pearce further noted that alongside Duchamp's art productions, the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, and most immediately the New Games Movement had paved the way for more modern "art games". Works such as Lantz' Pac Manhattan, according to Pearce, have become something like performance art pieces. Most recently, a strong overlap has developed between art games and indie games. This meeting of the art game movement and the indie game movement is important according to Professor Pearce, insofar as it brings art games to more eyes and allows for greater potential to explore in indie games.
In March 2006, the French Minister of Culture first characterized video games as cultural goods and as "a form of artistic expression," granting the industry a tax subsidy and inducting two French game designers (Michel Ancel, Frédérick Raynal) and one Japanese game designer (Shigeru Miyamoto) into the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In May 2011, the United States National Endowment for the Arts, in accepting grants for art projects for 2012, expanded the allowable projects to include "interactive games", furthering the recognition of video games as an art form. Similarly, the United States Supreme Court ruled that video games were protected speech like other forms of art in the June 2011 decision for Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.
The lines between video games and art become blurred when exhibitions fit the labels of both game and interactive art. The Smithsonian American Art Museum held an exhibit in 2012, entitled "The Art of Video Games", which was designed to demonstrate the artistic nature of video games, including the impact of older works and the subsequent influence of video games on creative culture. The Smithsonian later added Flower and Halo 2600, games from this collection, as permanent exhibits within the museum. Similarly, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City aims to collect forty historically important video games in their original format to exhibit, showcasing video game interaction design as part of a broader effort to "celebrate gaming as an artistic medium". The annual "Into the Pixel" art exhibit held at the time of the Electronic Entertainment Expo highlights video game art selected by a panel of both video game and art industry professionals.
Artistic expression in games today
After many years of debate, the conclusion of incorporating video games under the "Arts" category has been drawn. As mentioned above, video games now receive the same amount of IP protection as all other art forms such as books, plays and movies. As one of the fastest growing multi-million dollar industries, video games have become a worldwide phenomenon with a global production and consumer network. They are now considered a language, a "tool of expression and change" especially for young people. Young people tend to spend more time in comparison to other age groups when it comes to playing video games. This tool of expression can be treated like storytelling through media for example. Films, plays and narratives are all storytelling methods that are as well considered forms of art.
Not only can video games provide a form of entertainment, many video game artists are embedding social issues and personal connections into their storyline and graphics to convey a message to their players. Much like how fine art projects can move peoples' emotions, games can promote a positive societal change and evoke emotions as well. Navid Khonsari, creator of the first person shooter game, "1979 Revolution" aims to bring players the experience of how it would have felt like to live during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. This game hopes to guide players through a journey of the not so fortunate events in history. With graphics being generated to resemble the scenes of the Iranian Revolution, it is much like a documentary narrating and unfolding a piece of history through the lens of the game play. Khonsari, coming from an Iranian background wishes to show and remind people that there are real life problems such as this one in the world today that should be addressed and kept in mind. One of the best ways to voice his artistic expressions is through storytelling within the game.
Another video game creator who ties in personal emotions into his work is Ryan Green. Green created the game "That Dragon, Cancer," a role-play game about the life of him and his wife coping with the loss of their baby boy who lost a battle to cancer. Green created this game based on a true story as a way to express his feelings during the hard times he encountered. This game also serves as a reminder to his players that no matter how hard times may be there is still "hope and you should always have faith." As Green was creating this game, he saw video games as a window of opportunity to spread cancer awareness to gamers who play his game. As well, Green wanted to send positive messages of hope to those in difficult times through the narrative that will be revealed as gamers continue to play the game.
Video games evoke all the same elements as a film with a focus on the narrative. Using its images, graphics and audio components to tell a story to its audience serves as "an influential form of narrative art" as explained by the Smithsonian. The audience then reciprocates with the game by engaging with the game through playing or watching/ discussing the gameplay. These forms of artistic expressions now have their own expos-e, at the American Art Museum located in Washington. This exhibit showcases the evolution of art within video games and the long road it travelled since the 1970s before it was given the labeling term "art." This exhibit wishes to remind all of its audiences that Video games are too, forms of art. It is evident that video games are becoming emerging forms of digital story telling which is an essential part of the human life and evolution.
The characterization of games as works of art has been controversial. While recognizing that games may contain artistic elements in their traditional forms such as graphic art, music, and story, several notable figures have advanced the position that games are not artworks, and may never be capable of being called art.
American courts first began examining the question of whether video games were entitled to constitutional guarantees of free speech as under the First Amendment, in March 1982 in the case of America's Best Family Showplace Corp. v. City of New York, Dept. of Bldgs. In a brace of similarly decided lawsuits in 1982 and 1983, precedent began to be established for finding that video games were no more expressive than pinball, chess, board- or card-games, or organized sports. This began to change in 2000 as some courts began to make rulings in distinction and carving out narrow exceptions for some elements of video games. By April 2002, controversy over the topic was still a legal reality as Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr., upon reviewing gameplay from "'The Resident of Evil Creek' [sic], 'Mortal Combat' [sic], 'DOOM,' and 'Fear Effect'" ruled in Interactive Digital Software Association v. St. Louis County that "just like Bingo, the Court fails to see how video games express ideas, impressions, feelings, or information unrelated to the game itself." In 2011's Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association the United States Supreme Court ruled that games are entitled to First Amendment protection, with the majority opinion reading, "Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player's interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."
Theory of legitimation
Emerging art forms depend upon existing communities for recognition and legitimation, even as they compete with those incumbents for ideological and material support. Games have faced suspicion from critics of established media, just as film, television, and comics were once doubted. Keith Stewart, games editor for The Guardian, sees mainstream media as preferring to approach games from the angle of the human stories surrounding them – making indie games with identifiable creators attractive to journalists. Critical communities devoted to games have likewise embraced auteur theory of games' artistic potential as underpinned by the creative visions of sole creators.
Auteur theory has led to some overlap between indie status and artistic cachet, with critics praising stylistic choices in indie games, when those same choices would be deplored in a commercial game. Rather than defending the medium as a whole, proponents of art games attempt to create a separate milieu opposed to video games they accept to be low culture. In practice, indie auteurs often receive commercial backing, while mainstream creators such as Shigeru Miyamoto and Peter Molyneux are increasingly viewed as auteurs as well. The conflation of indieness and artistry has been criticized by some, including Anna Anthropy, Lucy Kellaway, and Jim Munroe, who argue the characteristics that distinguish indie games from the mainstream are not inherently artistic.
Munroe suggested that video games often face a double standard in that if they conform to traditional notions of the game as a toy for children then they are flippantly dismissed as trivial and non-artistic, but if they push the envelope by introducing serious adult themes into games then they face negative criticism and controversy for failing to conform to the very standards of non-artistic triviality demanded by these traditional notions. He further explained games as a type of art more akin to architecture, in which the artist creates a space for the audience to experience on their own terms, than to a non-interactive presentation as in cinema.
Portal designer Kim Swift believes games can be artistic but denies that they need to be art in order to have cultural value. She feels video games should aspire to be toys through which adults can exercise their imaginations.
Roger Ebert on video games as art
The question of whether video games may be fairly considered art rose to wide public attention in the mid-2000s when film critic Roger Ebert participated in a series of controversial debates and published colloquies. In 2005, following an online discussion concerning whether or not knowledge of the game Doom was essential to a proper appreciation of the film Doom (which Ebert had awarded one star) as a commentary on the game, Ebert described video games as a non-artistic medium incomparable to the more established art forms:
To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.
In 2006, Ebert took part in a panel discussion at the Conference on World Affairs entitled "An Epic Debate: Are Video Games an Art Form?" in which he stated that video games don't explore the meaning of being human as other art forms do. A year later, in response to comments from Clive Barker on the panel discussion, Ebert further noted that video games present a malleability that would otherwise ruin other forms of art. As an example, Ebert posed the idea of a version of Romeo and Juliet that would allow for an optional happy ending. Such an option, according to Ebert, would weaken the artistic expression of the original work. In April 2010, Ebert published an essay, dissecting a presentation made by Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany at the 2009 Technology Entertainment Design Conference, where he again claimed that games can never be art, due to their rules and goal-based interactivity.
One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a [sic] immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.
Ebert's essay was strongly criticized by the gaming community, including Santiago herself, who believes that video games as artistic media are only at their infancy, similar to prehistoric cave paintings of the past. Ebert later amended his comments in 2010, conceding that games may indeed be art in a non-traditional sense, that he had enjoyed playing Cosmology of Kyoto, and addressing some replies to his original arguments.
Although Ebert did not engage with the issue again and his view remains mired in controversy, the notion that video games are ineligible to be considered fine art due to their commercial appeal and structure as choice-driven narratives has proved persuasive for many including video game luminary Brian Moriarty who in March 2011 gave a lecture on the topic entitled An Apology For Roger Ebert. In this lecture Moriarty emphasized that video games are merely an extension of traditional rule-based games and that there has been no call to declare games like Chess and Go to be art. He went on to argue that art in the sense that Romantics like Ebert, Schopenhauer, and he were concerned with (i.e. fine art or sublime art) is exceptionally rare and that Ebert was being consistent by declaring video games to be without artistic merit inasmuch as Ebert had previously claimed that "Hardly any movies are art." Moriarty decried the modern expansion of the definition of "art" to include low art, comparing video games to kitsch and describing aesthetic appreciation of video games as camp. After addressing the corrupting influence of commercial forces in indie games and the difficulty of setting out to create art given the "slippery" tools that game designers must work with, Moriarty concluded that ultimately it was the fact that player choices were presented in games that structurally invalidated the application of the term "art" to video games as the audience's interaction with the work wrests control from the author and thereby negates the expression of art. This lecture was in turn criticized sharply by noted video game designer, Zach Gage.
Other notable critics
In a 2006 interview with US Official PlayStation 2 Magazine, game designer Hideo Kojima agreed with Ebert's assessment that video games are not art. Kojima acknowledged that games may contain artwork, but he stressed the intrinsically popular nature of video games in contrast to the niche interests served by art. Since the highest ideal of all video games is to achieve 100% player satisfaction whereas art is targeted to at least one person, Kojima argued that video game creation is more of a service than an artistic endeavor.
At the 2010 Art History of Games conference, Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey (founding members of indie studio Tale of Tales), argued in no uncertain terms that games "are not art" and that they are by and large "a waste of time." Central to Tale of Tales' distinction between games and art is the purposive nature of games as opposed to art: Whereas humans possess a biological need that is only satisfied by play, argues Samyn, and as play has manifested itself in the form of games, games represent nothing more than a physiological necessity. Art, on the other hand, is not created out of a physical need but rather it represents a search for higher purposes. Thus the fact that a game acts to fulfill the physical needs of the player is sufficient, according to Samyn, to disqualify it as art.
Gamers were surprised by this controversial stance due to the frequency of prior third-party characterizations of Tale of Tales' productions as "art games," however Tale of Tales clarified that the games they were making simply expanded the conception of games. The characterization of their games as "art games," noted Samyn, was merely a byproduct of the imaginative stagnation and lack of progressivism in the video game industry. While Tale of Tales acknowledged that old media featuring one-way communication was not enough, and that two-way communication via computers offers the way forward for art, the studio argued that such communication today is being held hostage by the video game industry. To enable and foment this futuristic two-way art, suggests Tale of Tales, the concept of "the game" must be eviscerated by games that do not fit within the current paradigm and then "life must be breathed into the carcass" through the creation of artworks Samyn and Harvey refer to as "not games."
In 2011, Samyn further refined his argument that games are not art by emphasizing the fact that games are systematic and rule-based. Samyn identified an industry emphasis on gameplay mechanics as directly responsible for the marginalization of artistic narrative in games and he described modern video games as little more than digital sport. Pointing to systemic problems, Samyn criticized the current model whereby the putative artist must work through a large and highly efficient development team who may not share the artist's vision. However, Samyn does not reject the idea that games, as a medium, can be used to create art. To create art using the medium of the video game Samyn suggests that the artistic message must precede the means of its expression in the guidance of gameplay mechanics, the development of "funness" or economic considerations must cease to guide the work's creation, and the development process must embrace a model wherein a single artist-author's vision gains central primacy.
Escapist editor-in-chief Greg Tito said, "Games are amazing pieces of art because they allow you to succeed or fail in goals that are separate from your own."
In 2012, Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones published an article arguing that games are more like a playground and not art. Jones also notes that the nature of creating video games robs “one person’s reaction to life” and that “no one owns the game, so there is no artist, and therefore no work of art.” Despite Jones’ argument, there are a variety of video games made by one person that many critics view as an art form such as Papers, Please.
List of artistic video games
This is a partial list of video games considered to be works of art by art critics and video game reviewers.
- Tempest (1981) – an arcade tube shooter with vector graphics by Atari Inc. PBS Idea Channel described it as a strongly aesthetic experience, comparing it to paintings.
- The Myst series, beginning in 1991 with Myst – a graphic adventure based on pre-rendered scenarios and a strongly atmospheric, immersive setting. The level of detail allowed by the use of CD-ROM as the storage media was a technical achievement at the time, praised for the way the limitations of the format were overcome and used as part of the game story.
- Doom (1993) – a violent game whose transgressive thrills make it, according to Guardian games editor Keith Stewart, "natural heir to the splatterhouse cinema of the pre-digital era".
- Cosmology of Kyoto (1995) – an open world graphic adventure exploring Japanese myths in ancient Kyoto. Together with Myst, it was reviewed by film critic Roger Ebert in a column on whether video games can be art.
- Final Fantasy VII (1997, PlayStation) – considered by many to be one of the best role-playing video games, its story includes the death of a major character, aimed to give the player an emotional stake in the game.
- Grim Fandango (1998, LucasArts, Microsoft Windows) – An adventure game which combines elements of film noir with aspects of Aztec mythology.
- Planescape: Torment (1999, Black Isle Studios, Microsoft Windows) – A cult-classic role-playing game that was praised for its detailed writing, defined characters, unique setting and the use of death to progress the story.
- Vib Ribbon (1999, NanaOn-Sha, PlayStation) – a rhythm game known for its unique vector graphics artstyle. Vib Ribbon was collected as part of a video game exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
- Galatea (2000, Microsoft Windows) – Rock, Paper, Shotgun analyzes it as an art game saying that it "transcends that", and calls it "literature" and "not an art game [but] a game about art".
- Deus Ex (2000, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Cloud (OnLive), Playstation 2, Playstation 3 (PSN)) – Ion Storm's cyberpunk-themed video game has been considered a work of art due to its interactive storyline.
- Max Payne (2001, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2) – a highly acclaimed third-person shooter developed by Remedy Entertainment. The game was praised for its use of neo-noir storytelling devices and its thematic connection and frequent references to Norse mythology
- Silent Hill 2 (2001, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 2, Playstation 3 (HD), Xbox, Xbox 360 (HD)) – Team Silent's survivor horror video game has been considered a work of art due to its story; atmosphere; sound design; exploration of psychological ideas such as subconcious; use of psychological horror, of metaphors, of taboo topics such as incest and domestic violence. .
- Ico (2001, PlayStation 2) – a title created by Team Ico that has often been cited as an example of art in games due to its immersive gameplay, evoking narrative and unique style.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001, PlayStation 2) – a stealth game by Hideo Kojima that has been cited as a primary example of artistic expression in video games and an early example of Post-Modernism in video games.
- MusicVR (2002-2004, Microsoft Windows) – a series of two video games, Tres Lunas (2002) and Maestro (2004), under the creative design of English musician Mike Oldfield. Each one set out to be a real-time virtual reality experience combining imagery and music, as a non-violent and essentially a non-goal driven game.
- Half-Life 2 (2004, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – a highly acclaimed first-person shooter developed by Valve Corporation. The game was praised for its artwork, storyline and storytelling, characterization, facial animation, and use of physics.
- Yume Nikki (2005, Microsoft Windows) – An independently-developed freeware game that has the player explore the dreams of a hikkikomori little girl known only as "Madotsuki" as she encounters numerous surreal characters and events while collecting "Effects", most of which do little more than alter her appearance. Yume Nikki has an extremely large fan-base and numerous fan-made tribute games and unofficial sequels have been made.
- The Endless Forest (2005, Microsoft Windows) – Originally commissioned for an art exhibition, The Endless Forest is an MMO in the broader sense of the word. As a stag, the player roams around the forest and interact with other players; though not by words, but by sounds and body language. Another unique feature is that all players are recognizable by their unique symbol and customized appearance, but are otherwise anonymous.
- Ōkami (2006, PlayStation 2, Wii) – An adventure game based on numerous Japanese myths, the game's graphics were designed to appear similar to sumi-e watercolor paintings, and incorporated art-based brushstrokes by the player to execute special moves.
- Shadow of the Colossus (2006, PlayStation 2) – a title created by Team Ico that is a spiritual successor and prequel to Ico. The game is regarded as an important work of art due to its minimalist landscape designs, strong aesthetic, immersive gameplay, powerful narrative and emotional journey. Shadow of the Colossus has been referenced numerous times in debates regarding art and video games.
- Mother 3 (2006, Game Boy Advance) – the sequel of Earthbound, it is a Japanese RPG about the story of two young twins as they fight out an invading force. The game has been praised for its in depth narrative and made well use of its 16bit graphics. The game is also heavy with themes including the importance of a mother, moral fungibility, and dualisms such as nature and technology, and feudalism and capitalism, and is frequently compared to a form of literature. Despite never officially being released outside of Japan, it and it's predecessor served as inspiration to several other games including Yume Nikki and Undertale.
- Dwarf Fortress (2006, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – A roguelike, city-building game where the player creates an expansive world each play-through, allowing them to envision the history and culture for their civilization each time around.
- BioShock (2007, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Mac OS, Cloud (OnLive), Playstation 3) – a title created by Irrational Games then known as 2k Boston, that is a spiritual successor to System Shock 2. The game is regarded as an important work of art due to its immersive atmosphere, compelling storytelling[according to whom?] and the narrative deconstruction of linear gameplay.
- Portal (2007, PC, Xbox 360, Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 3) – a puzzle game developed by Valve Corporation, involving the use of portals to transport the player through space. The game was praised for its innovative mechanics, narrative and storytelling, and writing, especially praising the character of GLaDOS. This game recently became featured as part of the Museum of Modern Art exhibit "Applied Design".
- Braid (2008, PC, Xbox 360, Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 3) – a puzzle-platform game developed by Number None, Inc., which uses time manipulation as its core mechanic. The game is notable for its painterly art style, layered philosophical narrative, and unique approach to game design.
- Flower (2009, PlayStation 3) – Developed by thatgamecompany, the player "controls" a gust of wind through motion controls, guiding it to various flowers around a landscape to gather petals. The gameplay was designed to provoke an emotional response from the player, and was chosen as one of the games shown at The Art of Video Games exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
- Deadly Premonition (2010, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows) – A survival horror that has been described "the strangest video game of the year" and a primary example of "games as art", praised for its "emotional range, from traditional survival horror scares to farcical comedy".
- Heavy Rain (2010, PlayStation 3) – An interactive movie where the player enters quick time events during various sequences, including intense, rapid-paced scenes. The results of the player's choices or actions can cause one of the four main characters to die while the story continues on, causing the player to become invested in the game's story.
- Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, OnLive) – A survival horror game praised for its horror elements, particularly its atmosphere and sound, with many critics regarding it as one of their most scary experiences.
- Child of Eden (2011, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – Similar to Rez, a game made to pass the feeling of synesthesia and expressing subjectively the evolution, the human feelings and evolution of society.
- The Cat and the Coup (2011, Microsoft Windows) – A documentary video game about the life of Mohammad Mosaddegh, former Prime Minister of Iran.
- Dear Esther (2012, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – a first person video game centered around its graphical environment and story. The narrative is provided through monologues as the player journeys through the environment.
- Journey (2012, PlayStation 3); Developed by thatgamecompany, this game has been described as an emotional experience, due to its immersive setting, distinctive visual style, and de-emphasized gameplay.
- Spec Ops: The Line (2012, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Xbox 360) – A third person shooter created by Yager that deconstructs the "shooter genre". Inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Spec Ops: The Line dwells heavily on themes of moral ambiguity, as the player finds themselves struggling to justify their actions in the plot.
- The Walking Dead (2012, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation Vita, iOS, Android) – An adventure game set in the world of Robert Kirkman's acclaimed comic book series, The Walking Dead has been widely praised for its well-crafted story, meaningful player decisions, and believable characters. It is often considered one of the greatest examples of storytelling in video games.
- Beyond Two Souls (2013, Playstation 3) – Tells the story of Jodie, who possesses supernatural powers through a psychic link to Aiden, a bodiless entity, growing from adolescence to adulthood while learning to control Aiden and the powers they share.
- BioShock Infinite (2013, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) – A first-person shooter set in 1912 in an alternate universe where American Exceptionalism is flourishing aboard the flying city, Columbia. The game's narrative challenges concepts of nationalism, religion and racism prevalent during that period, as to provide a "funhouse mirror of American ideological history", according to Ben Popper of The Verge.
- Grand Theft Auto V (2013, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One) – Rockstar Games' open world crime-based title satirizes the modern day lifestyle of the West Coast of the United States, taking place in a city that is a smaller-scale but detailed interpretation of the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding areas, often used by players and artists as a backdrop for their own creations.
- The Last of Us (2013, PlayStation 3) – A game set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, the Naughty Dog-developed title has been stated to be "a masterful marriage of storytelling and game design" and considered the "most riveting, emotionally resonant story-driven epic of [the seventh] console generation".
- Papers, Please (2013, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – a border control simulation game where a political uprising plot develops in the background of mechanical, grinding gameplay that mimics the mechanical, repetitive work of an immigration officer in a fictional country, presenting the player with ethical and moral choices between job and family.
- Proteus (2013, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita) – A procedurally generated game that allows players to explore an expanse of musical environment, where every creature and plant has its own unique musical signature to accompany it, resulting in changes according to where players explore.
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (2013, PS3, PC, Xbox 360) – A story driven game praised for its story, gameplay and experience which it provides. This game has no intelligible dialogue yet provides players with a powerful story and experience.
- Gone Home (2013, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – An exploration game where the player takes the role of a teenaged girl returning to her seemingly-unoccupied home after spending time aboard. Gone Home is praised for its narration, gameplay and atmosphere.
- Kentucky Route Zero (2013-2014, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – an indie episodic point and click adventure game with the focus of the game being storytelling and a "beautiful" atmosphere. The game features a twisting, self-referential narrative, as well as deep characterization through evocative dialogue. Kentucky Route Zero was named Game of the Year in 2013 by Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
- Elegy for a Dead World (2014, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux) – a side-scrolling exploration game where the player writes a diary visible to other players. The player explores three worlds inspired by romantic poets Shelley, Byron, and Keats. While exploring, the player is prompted to make notes on their observations; notes are publicly visible via Steam Workshop. The collective note taking mechanic, representing not only an artistic game experience but also the ability of sandbox-style games to support further collaborative artistic creation by their players, earned it an honorable mention for the Nuovo Award in the 2014 Independent Games Festival.
- Beyond Eyes (2015, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One) – A game centered on a blind girl exploring her environment, where her other four senses are visualized in unique ways for the player.
- Her Story (2015, Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS) – A game in which the player controls a police interrogation database and must piece together how a murder occurred through entering keyword searches. The game features a unique system of storytelling.
- The Beginner's Guide (2015, Microsoft Windows, OS X) – An exploration game by Davey Wreden, creator of The Stanley Parable in which Wreden himself narrates the player through several eccentric, uncompleted games by a recluse developer named Coda, with Wreden ascribing what these games mean about Coda's personality. The nature of the story reflects on the relationship between player and developer in modern game development, with elements of Wreden's own sudden success with The Stanley Parable.
- Life Is Strange (2015, Microsoft Windows, PS4, Xbox One) – A story-driven game featuring hand-painted textures and based on a time rewind mechanic, which affects the development of the story. The game addresses the themes of surveillance, suicide and assisted suicide, as well as ontological search for defined and specific identity and coming of age.
- Undertale (2015, Microsoft Windows, OS X) – A role-playing game where multiple in-game decisions by the player result in many different consequences, including, but not limited to, the actions of non-player characters, the mood and atmosphere of the game and the ending. The game's premise is built around the idea of the player choosing whether or not to kill or spare enemies, and it's overarching story is held together by themes of determination, mercy and consequence. It also features an additional metastory hidden across the game's files and code.
- Ori and the Blind Forest (2015, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One) – A 2D open world platform game where the player controls an orphan named Ori, a white guardian spirit. This game has been critically acclaimed for its gorgeous art, touching narrative, and clever gameplay.
- That Dragon, Cancer (2016, Microsoft Windows, OS X) – An exploration game designed by Ryan and Amy Green designed to help share their experiences in learning and coping with the terminal cancer and death of their five-year-old son Joel.
- Inside (2016, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows) - Playdead's followup to Limbo, Inside is a puzzle-platformer that follows a unnamed boy's trek across a surreal landscape while being chased by pursuers. It uses a wider array of cinematographic elements that, as described by Christopher Byrd of The Washington Post, "It’s a mood piece, a series of expertly framed environments that escalate in their strangeness."
- No Man's Sky (2016, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4) – Players explore a near-infinite procedurally generated galaxy, exploring planets and the flora and fauna that live on them, and other space-bound areas, with sufficient lore which developer Hello Games will allow players to develop their own stories.
- The Last Guardian (2016, PlayStation 4) – The third Team Ico game, following Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, designed around a realistic-acting giant bird-cat-like creature that the player must learn to tend and care for as to be able to entice the creature to help solve puzzles.
- Electronic Language International Festival
- Game canon
- Game Masters, an exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image that explores key artists and designers of the video game medium
- Game studies
- Interactive art
- Machinima, the use of games for storytelling
- Kokoromi collective
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