In the ongoing (and endless) debate over whether video games are art, Chad Sapieha at theglobeandmail.com puts his oar in on the negative side. He fears that games are doomed to irrelevance.

So what’s his case? He points out that other forms of entertainment have a certain timeless quality that allows them to be appreciated as much today as when they were first created.

That’s certainly true. All types of entertainment have their classics, be it in art, music, literature, movies, plays, and so on. But when we come to games, it’s a little different.

Many that are considered today as “classic”, that were “cutting edge” in their time, would also be deemed primitive and crude by today’s standards. The graphics would be ugly, for one thing, and we know how much weight is given to visuals in modern products.

Now, there is a section of the gaming audience that plays the older games (when they can get them to run on today’s rigs), but it’s a small one. Many gamers aren’t even interested in last year’s releases, never mind what came out 10-15-20 years back.

So games lack permanence, at least in the sense of being appealing to any audience in any time. That’s not even counting the difficulty of getting them up and running.

We can put titles in a “Hall Of Fame”, but they sit there, gathering dust and nostalgic memories from veteran gamers. Few want to play them. On the other hand, people are watching classic movies and listening to classic music every day.

From that perspective, we could view games more as “ephemeral art” than anything else. The techniques evolve so quickly, that what is hailed today as “bleeding edge” is old hat by next month.

But does that necessarily mean games are “irrelevant”? What, exactly, does “irrelevant” mean in this context? Games are made for the audience of now, not ten years ago or ten years ahead. Just like every other form of entertainment is made for the audience of now.

However, the industry is dynamic and ever-changing in a way unlike anything before it. And for that reason, it’s really not possible to judge computer games as art by the same standards as other entertainment.

They are something different, and as with anything different, adjustments need to be made. Perhaps in the next few years (though I’m not especially hopeful) this will be straightened out and the argument laid to rest.

So yes, I would say that games are relevant. Perhaps not in quite the same way as a book or movie. But then, games are a unique form, and need to be appraised from a new perspective. Does all art have to be eternal? I don’t think so.

Video Games: Doomed To Irrelevance on theglobeandmail.com