Art interactive games are a form of contemporary art that seeks to combine aspects of visual art, storytelling and interactive computer gaming to create a unique experience for the person playing the game. This form of art can be executed in several ways. The game might be an installation in a gallery that gives each visitor a chance to play while others watch. Alternately, interactive websites could be used so the viewer can experience the game in his or her own home. Most art interactive games are designed to express a message or challenge thinking and, therefore, can be intentionally lacking in some of the more traditional game dynamics of commercially produced games.
Several original art interactive games that have been displayed over the years involve the use of immersive technologies such as virtual reality headsets and motion tracking cameras. The primary purpose early in the development of the genre was to place the viewer into a digital environment with which he or she could physically interact. As technology progressed, so did the types and complexity of the software. A popular theme within this type of interactive art and performance art has been to blur the lines between reality and the digital world.
When computers became more commonplace and commercially produced video games became popular, art interactive games began to expand outside the domain of gallery installations. The Internet helped to fuel the spread of new concepts in art games. Some software companies focused solely creating games in which the user would move through a story, sometimes affecting its outcome. These art interactive games were usually designed to look and operate differently than traditional video games.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with the proliferation of handheld devices, art interactive games have taken on a new meaning. Interactive artists have been able to use special software to allow a handheld device to act as a window into a digital world that exists on top of the real world. This type of art can only be seen with a handheld device, but the device must be pointed at a real, specific location, such as the side of a certain building. At that point, the art is revealed on the screen as if it were really there.
Location-based art interactive games also have been developed. These involve using the viewers themselves as the pieces in a game. One or more viewers use their cell phones or other devices as an interface into a virtual server. While moving physically through a city or building, the devices track those motions and display their progress through the game structure. The purpose is often to bring a group of people together around a revealed message or to a set location.
Not every critic accepts art interactive games as a form of true art. There are even game publishers that do not feel that any game, no matter how it is designed or implemented, should be considered art. Communities of interactive artists do exist, however, and new works are constantly being added to the genre despite the criticism.