Roger Ebert might not think so, but video games are increasingly as much an artist’s medium as an adolescent pastime. This week, San Francisco nonprofit organization MADE began raising funds for a west coast video game museum, and the Smithsonian opened up voting on who should be included in their video game canon. Though most commercial games involve so many producers, technicians, directors, and artists that its difficult to single out one mastermind behind them, an increasing number of independent games are helmed by just one or two masterminds. The recent iPhone and iPad app explosion has given a canvas for some artists to make some gorgeous, brutal, and astonishing work using video games. Click below for our round-up of 10 artists who use video games as their weapon of choice.
Video game artist Mark Essen makes lo-fi, beautiful and harsh video games, from the two person sword-fighting game Nidhogg (above) to the trippy, slightly ghastly Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist. His aesthetic experiments landed his work in a New Museum exhibit at the tender age of 22, and caught the eye of Adult Swim executives, who had Essen design two games for their website. Recently, Essen’s been nominated for three awards in the Independent Games Festival in San Francisco. His work isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but fairly fairly addictive, too: we recommend Flywrench, Essen’s clever homage to old-school arcade games.