Art Game can be thought of as a genre or type of game which places most of the emphasis on the game's artistic or aesthetic value rather than its entertainment value. What that artistic value is depends varies by the author. There is much controversy surrounding the term.
Art games are distinct from experimental games in that experimental games are trying something that hasn't been tried before, rather than aesthetic value, although there is some overlap between the two categories. Art games are also distinct from postmodern games (like masocore) which subvert expectancies and the form of games in order to surprise or otherwise affect the player, although many art games are also postmodern, they aren't all postmodern.
There is a misconception that Art games always contain some "message" and that their main purpose is to convey some message, but developers of such games usually deny that their games have any such messages (see Jenova Chen's quote below). Instead, they see the distinguishing quality as being games which give some value to people besides (or in addition to) entertainment, or as games that may change the player in some way. There is also a misconception that art games are often movies with no or limited interactivity, which is true in some but not all or most cases: although it is true that art games usually have much less "action" than typical games, they often make up for that by other forms of interaction.
The term came into prominence as a way to describe Jason Rohrer's game Passage and Rod Humble's game The Marriage, but was used earlier to a limited degree. Due to the popularity of these two games, especially Passage, more games in this vein began to emerge.
Quotes on art games by Indie DevelopersEdit
- "Game is really just a medium, so anything in a medium can be art or not be art. Art is a communication between the creators and the audience, where non art can also be entertaining. However, there's no intellectual message embedded. Someone said art is for changing the world while entertainment is for leisure." - Jenova Chen
- "Games are not a medium, they're a form, a form of games." - Anna Anthropy
- "I believe everything in life is art, not just games or what people call art." - Matthew Wegner
A common criticism is that many believe that games can't or shouldn't be art, or that all games are art, rather than some games being art and some not. An example anonymous comment from Indiegames.com reads: "I will never consider "art" games to be anything more than a developer's excuse to be lazy and pretentious. -Wat"