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Abstract

In this article, the question of whether or not video games could be considered art is explored, as well as what this means for video games as cultural products. Using an interdisciplinary approach, I suggest that there are some games we can consider “art”, and that these games are not only different aesthetically speaking, but are also different from a media-effects standpoint. The article consists of three main sections, an aesthetic review, a content analysis, and a pilot study. In the aesthetic review, I employ different perspectives from aesthetic philosophy in order to come up with criteria for what an “artistic video game” would be like. Next, in the content analysis, I take three critically acclaimed games, Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect 2, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apply my criteria to them to see if they fit the bill as “artistic games”. Finally, in my study, I compare these three games to games that did not meet my criteria (such as Angry Birds) in order to see if participants had higher rates of “flow”, in the tradition of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, while playing the artistic games category. Results from the study indicated that artistic games did have higher rates of flow than non-artistic games, which suggests that we rethink why people play video games, and what we should expect from games as cultural products and as media experiences.