How is GTA V Art?

The question we must answer this week is, how are videogames art? In particular for me, how is Grand Theft Auto V, (, art? To me it is and let me explain why. I believe that Howard Becker would agree that GTA V is art. His concept of “collective/social activity” that leads to the division of labor it takes to create art exists in traditional forms of art such paintings, and modern forms of art such as movies. These concepts also exist heavily during the process of developing video games as well. Critics say that video games cannot be art because you cannot point to a particular artist/creator, but the same can be argued for painters and movies. Movies have directors, producers, actors, crewman who all come together, (collective activity), to produce a “masterpiece.” Famous and popular artists use students to help create their “masterpieces.” So, who is the author?

I argue that it does not matter. You do not need a sole creator/artist for something to be considered art. The classic argument that artists create their masterpieces to try to create their own meaning is a fading concept in modern art.  Art’s meaning is no longer being held in the artist, it is being found by the person observing/experiencing the art itself according to Roland Barthes. Barthes calls this the “Birth of the Reader,” and for video games this holds true as well.


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GTA V’s meaning is different for everyone. For the creators of the game it was most likely economic reasons, such as money. But for every person who purchased the game, the meaning is different. For me, it is to take a break from doing homework and just relax and have fun. For others, it might be to release their inner demon and kill innocent people, (I hope this is not the case for anyone in our class). The point is, video games, paintings, movies, books, all give and have different meanings for everyone but they are all still art. Howard Becker points to this concept when he mentions the different “Art Worlds.” Each world has a different culture and each world is appealing to only certain people but they are all still art. GTA V is art.

While playing the game for the past two weeks, I found my own meaning and was in awe of the amount of time and work it took to create this game. The collective activity it took to create the game makes it wrong to point to only one “creator,” but having one “creator” does not determine if it is art or not. The meaning I took away from playing the game makes it art. When I observe a painting in a museum, I find myself in a different world escaping reality and determining my own meaning. I do the same with books, movies and video games. They are all art with their own unique cultures and some people simply enjoy each culture more than the other. Some people say that a certain culture is the “ideal” art form, such as G.W.E. Hegel for example. Each Art World, regardless of their different cultures, is a form of art.


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Additional Sources:

-Howard Becker. (1982). “Art Worlds and Collective Activity” in Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press: pp. 1-39. [PDF or]

-Roland Barthes. (1977 [1967]). “The Death of the Author.” In Image, Music, Text. New York: Hill and Wang. [PDF]


3 thoughts on “How is GTA V Art?

  1. I really like your argument that every art world requires collective activity to make it complete. I tried to argue the same thing in my blog as well. I find it fascinating that when you dig deeper to find out how a certain piece is made, it becomes difficult to assign authorship to one person.


  2. Could you not say that Rockstar games is the author in the specific art world? Did Rockstar not employ all of those people who collectively worked on the project? I do agree that it is a collective activity, as Becker puts it, and in its own art world, but is it not to say that the collective activity was directed and orchestrated by Rockstar? Agree? Disagree?


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