Video games can be art and these six mobile games prove it

Objective subjectivity

Video games can be art and these six mobile games prove it
First published: | Updated:

| Monument Valley

Art is subjective - that's just about the only sentiment all art critics actually agree on.

However, in the interests of deciding whether or not video games can be, or indeed are, art we need to be relatively objective.

For that reason I've settled on this definition from the Oxford Dictionary as my base:

"The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

Based on this definition, a body of work produced by a skilled human being is art provided that it meets the criteria of being beautiful or emotionally impactful.

Here are six games that match that criteria and, therefore, demonstrate that video games can be art.

Monument Valley
By ustwo

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Monument Valley is one of the best games of last year.

Why is it so good? Well, despite some fiendishly clever puzzling and an enticing atmosphere, Monument Valley was, most importantly, absolutely stunning.

So much so that even none-gaming magazines, websites, and even art critics took notice, comparing it to an M. C. Escher drawing.

Monument Valley is video game art.

Papers, Please
By 3909

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On the other hand we have Papers, Please which could be described as a communist dictatorship simulator.

It's just as depressing as it sounds.

You play as an immigration officer and each level there are people you're allowed, and not allowed, to let into the country.

On top of stamping a massive 'DENIED' sign on half of these desperate people's passports, you also have a family to look out for on one of the most meagre budgets known to mankind.

Art imitates life and that's exactly what Papers, Please does. Is it emotionally impactful? Absolutely.

Alto's Adventure
By Snowman

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An early contender for 'This Year's Monument Valley', Alto's Adventure is one of the most visually striking games I have ever played.

There's a great sense of claustrophobia when you're snowboarding through a dense forest. And it's scary to be so far from civilisation during the night, with only the far too realistic moonlight to guide you.

What's most surprising is how immersive it manages to be without being realistic.

It's stunning in the same abstract way that Monument Valley is, and provides an emotional reaction to boot.

Thomas Was Alone
By Bossa Studios

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When I first booted up Thomas Was Alone I expected an excellent platformer with the most minimal of visuals.

What I didn't expect was to grow attached to a set of squares and rectangles, and be heartbroken when the game was over.

Thomas Was Alone had me close to tears by the end of both the main game and the expansion, despite the fact that all I was doing was moving squares and rectangles.

The minimal visuals, sound design, and narration all combine to create a work of art.

By kunabi brother

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Blek is minimal by design, but all the more beautiful for it.

Each level has a number of dots on the screen and your objective is to get rid of the coloured ones.
You draw a line on the iPad screen and the line will spring to life, repeating your finger movement across the screen.

It's beautiful, minimal, and engaging in all the same ways that the modern art can be.

By Playdead

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LIMBO is a game completely devoid of colour. It's atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful.

The plot is slowly unraveled like a spider's web as you play through, but I won't provide any spoilers here.

It's enough to say that, come the end, you'll be a confused, lost, and weeping mess.

Beauty, atmosphere, and emotional impact - LIMBO is the very definition of a video game work of art.

Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, lively Chris is up for anything - including running Steel Media! (Madman!)