Insert Coin: The Issue With Art Games -

Insert Coin: The Issue With Art Games

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I’m going to be classifying some games as art, and others as toys in this video. Please understand that I don’t like to draw a clear line in the sand between what is and isn’t art. As far as I’m concerned, films like Paul Blart, Pixels, Unfriended, and games like Call of Duty, Street Fighter, Galaga, and yes, even G.I. Joe dolls, are all art. However, with games in particular, there’s a very real spectrum, with things like Pac-Man falling closer to the toy side of the spectrum, games like Resident Evil falling somewhere in the middle, and games like Metal Gear Solid, or What Remains of Edith Finch falling on the artistic side of the spectrum. It takes a great deal of creativity to make something like Space Invaders, and even if certain arcade games were clearly following trends to get money out of kids, they are still very much art. However, they might be closer to the toy side of the gaming spectrum. I love classic arcade fun as much as anybody else.

Thanks to the archivists on YouTube who make finding footage of classic games so easy. History, and myself, thanks you.
I don’t like using other people’s footage, but due to the nature of this video, I had to use lots of second hand footage when talking about classic games.

Rather than cover half of this video with text saying which footage came from where, I’ve put sources to the footage used below (in order of appearance):

(Arcade) Asteroids
Shane McComas

Colossal Cave Adventure (PC game)

Arcade Longplay [370] Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
World of Longplays

Space Harrier – Arcade Longplay

Robocop Arcade Game – Playthrough – Deathless
90’s Arcade Games

Arcade Game: Pac-Man (1980 Namco (Midway License for US release))
Old Classic Retro Gaming

God of War 2 – Walkthrough Part 1 [HD]

God of War – Story Trailer | PS4

Amnesia : The Dark Descent – Scary Gameplay Moments

The music in this video is from the Donut County OST by Daniel Koestner and Ben Esposito. Thanks for the fantastic music guys!


  1. This was an extremely difficult video to process. I don't work well with abstract concepts, so it took me tremendous mental effort to try to decipher what you were trying to say here. I don't think this channel is for me, but in the interest of wanting to critique your Undertale video, I first wanted to understand the core philosophy behind the channel, and the "About" section wasn't cutting it, which is why I'm here.The issue with art games mentioned in the title is never explicitly defined. Neither are "art games". In fact, I dislike the term "art", because there's no single agreed-on definition. You explained what it means to you – but not in the video, but the comments section (which thankfully is small enough where it's not unreadable yet – only 38 comments). You said that to you, art is about influencing thoughts that a viewer is having. That's fair, that's enough to provide a framework to base on. So when you say your goal is validation of games as an art form, what I boiled that down to is, you want games to be acknowledged as having potential to be thought-provoking. However, you do not state why it's important that they're viewed as such. One can only guess it's because you like art games, and you want more to be made, and maybe there will be many more in the future if they become less niche.So, what are "art games", exactly? Well, following that train of thought, I've figured an art game is, simply put, clever. You want clever games. I've played The Stanley Parable and Undertale, and that's one adjective I used in the past to describe them both. They do something no contemporaries have done before. To further zero in on what you want, I sense you're interested in cleverness more in the storytelling department rather than the gameplay one. You mention postmodernism in your channel description, so presumably you'd like games that are postmodern, i.e. they aim to deconstruct and discuss the medium.Having worked through this all the way up the relation chain, we can try to tackle the final question: what is the issue with art games? Well, if everything I've said before is correct, then that would mean that it's their lack of public recognition. That's why the now-removed phrase "games aren't toys" from the channel description is emphasised in the video. Games not being widely recognised as art means possibly fewer clever games for you to enjoy.It's just the presentation of this issue in the video that bothers me so much. I get that it's meant to be self-demonstrating and artful to make the viewer arrive at the same conclusion you did by controlling what they think. It's not for everyone, though. If you really want people to recognise video games as an art form, you're not going to convince many of them without good, clearly-stated and most of all objective arguments. It feels like the very formula of this channel is self-defeating. It's like you say in the comments, you know you're talking to like-minded people. You might end up preaching to the choir.Having rewatched that Undertale video just now, I think I finally understand what you've set out to do in your analyses. Is it fair to say you attempt to dissect the game's story and design to come up with your best guess at what intention the game's creator(s) had in mind when designing the game? Kinda like what I'm doing with this channel now, I guess.

  2. Sometimes it is depressing to be unable to share the unique experiences that video games. Most people I know don't play video games. Sometimes it's a little less depressing knowing that maybe some dude on the internet…gets it. Just started watching your channel, keep up the good work. 👍

  3. also i suggest you set up a discord for fans seeing it is better for discussions on video topics than youtube comments

  4. i think that myst is one of the best examples of this idea being taken early on and its sad the industry mostly ignored it despite its popularity

  5. Fantastic video, as usual. In just a few days you became my go to for well-written, really thoughtful game essays. Keep it up man! this channel is a treasure.

  6. Any chance for a Killer 7 video in the future?

  7. I always love the way you format your videos and do you takes on what's behind the curtains on video games, whether it be philosophical like 'I have no mouth but I must scream' or take on how 'Team Fortress 2' is a game you can love, aswell as 'Far Cry 2' being an example of a game of choices that lead to the same fate; an outsider in a foreign land killing people for his own gain.

  8. Despite how artistic a game might be, I don't think we could call it art. The reasons are technical: A game is to be played… so if we call it art, then the player does also art just by playing the game, doesn't he? It's not just like reading a book or watching a movie or listening to music. It's in the game's nature to interact with a player (would I go too far if I said playing a game is like dancing to music? …it doesn't sound right…)

    it's like the difference between sculpting (let's say) Batman as an action figure or as a small statue: both have artistick elements (they could have been made by the same sculptor for example) but the one is to be played with and the other is to be admired. They have different cores. And yeah, the toy can be admired too but it needs to be played with, that's what its artist was focusing on as he was making (/sculpting) it. And of course the statue could be played by someone, sure, but at its core it was made to stand alone.

    Both Ueda and Kojima have openly stated they do not consider their games art. I can easily see them (and other developers) as artists but I believe we shouldn't consider their medium as art although I understand why some people do. (I understand you're emphasizing on something else though)

  9. I know it's an odd thing to compliment butthis is the best thumbnail I've ever seen.
    It's not conventionally eye catching but people interested in the content of the video can easily recognize the scene, the text introduces the focal issue of the video and it's resolution in a way that creates intrigue while still keeping realistic expectations by avoiding the clickbait effect, plus even though it's a consistent style you've always used making your own image even if just by tracing rather than use a screenshot ensures a positive first impression, more like "hard working solo creator giving it his all with what he has" than "another game essaist wannabe with a semi decent mic and a cracked copy of sony vegas".
    Adding to all of that, using it at the beginning of the video with the added flashing adds a nice sense of continuity between clicking the video and the video itself.
    I'm no marketing designer but you sure look like you know what you're doing, very very good job.

  10. I find most walking Sims absolutely boring the only time of walking sim enjoys an RPG. For a few others that are done well and makes you feel like you're not just walking and there's a point

  11. I feel like it's more fair to say "Games arent just toys".

    In your video on The Beginner's Guide there was a comment about how if someone tells you what a story is about they are probably right, but if they tell you that that's all its about they are wrong. We can expand this to what art is and isn't. In that case wouldn't it be wrong to say that games can't be considered toys?

    I haven't played Half Life Alyx yet, but I fully believe it is a toy. Not just a toy, but a toy nonetheless. In one od your videos on that game you were messing around with a rat. I've seen other videos from other creators who play around with the markers, cans, bottles, and other stuff there. In that case the game acts as a digital toy box, litterally filling your surroundings with toys meant to be played with.

    I'm a Nintendo fan, and while its sad that Nintendo doesn't often push big thought provoking stories, I can see the value in their games that just focus on gameplay. They still fill me with joy, just a different kind. In that way they are still very much art, but also a toy. I mean, apparently tge NES literally advertised itself as a toy.

    I think my favorite thing about videogames is that they aren't bound by too many restrictions other than technological limitations. Few books and movies push the limit on what a book or movie can be, but games often do. A toy is one of the many things a game can be.

  12. Great video. That part of Edith Finch gave me goosebumps much like many other parts of the game. Edith Finch is one of my favorite artful, storyline, walking sims.

  13. So I just discovered this channel and I'm very glad I did. Especially as an aspiring game dev/writer myself, I really enjoy this sort of content, so thanks for making these vids!

    With that said, a recent 'art game' that comes to mind is Sky: Children of the Light. Yes it's a mobile game which was designed for casuals/non-gamers, but it has a very strong narrative appeal and conveys everything through visual storytelling and the soundtrack.

    It is also very much focused on friendship, story and mechanics wise (and is pretty much the only reason to keep playing). It would be great to hear your analysis/thoughts about this game though it's quite different than the ones you've discussed. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

  14. I am surprised at how unpopular this video is compared to the other ones on this channel, because to me it seems like the essence of what this channel is all about. You should probably put it on your main page 🙂

  15. Taking a shot every time G.I. Joe is mentioned from hereon when watching these videos chronologically.

  16. I've been subbed to your channel for a while now, but I wanted to look back and see what you had to say in your earlier available videos. A few months ago, I would've seen an art game and been like "That game looks boring. I'm gonna go play Halo now", rather than give the game an actual chance. Then I stumbled upon The Beginner's Guide, and that game changed the way I look at video games.

    Now, something that's a bit more personal to me, I need to make a comment on. On the point about I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (I'll call it Mouth/Scream so I don't have to keep typing the full name out) being too gory for kids, yeah… I can see where that comes from. I haven't played the game myself, and I'm not sure I could play the game if I wanted to (and I do). About 8 years ago (I was, like, 10), my brother was in the middle of a horror phase, where he wanted everything to do with everything horror-related. One day, he stumbled on a let's play of Mouth/Scream, and I happened to be watching over his shoulder. Well, the let's-player was working on an ending where one of the requirements is that everyone except Nimdok (I think that's how you spell that? I've only ever heard the name, haven't read it) is dead, and Nimdok is on his last health point (one more touch of something he shouldn't, and he dies, giving the player the book's ending). The let's-player accidentally kills Nimdok, and the game goes to the bad ending. I see that thing, being 10 years old and already going through a really rough time (my grandpa had died very recently, and my mom's anti-depressants were beginning to make her apathetic to things she shouldn't be), and I'm scarred for life.

    It's gotten to a point where I physically shake when someone brings it up (no shade towards you, by the way, that's not a you problem, that's a me problem), but it also makes me really sad because I've heard quite a bit about how philosophical the game is and how it digs deep into uncomfortable topics, and normally, I'd eat that shit right up! But it's like I physically can't play it because of the trauma related to it.

    Soooo… yeah. Definitely for adults who want to philosophize. Not for children who just want a good scare. (which I didn't want anyway) :))))))))))))))

    Sorry if I rambled, by the way. This is something that's been on my chest for years.

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