Transistor – A Great Explanation for Why Video Games Can Be Art Too


    A lot of people say they cannot understand how video games can be art. So, I want to explain this using a video game I recently played.

It’s called Transistor, made by Supergiant Games. And it changes everything.

It opens on our main, badass female protagonist Red. She kneels over the fallen body of a man, a giant sword stabbed through his abdomen, highlighted with neon lights. A disembodied male voice tells her to pick up the sword, screaming at her with increasing intensity because…

They’re coming.

They know you’re here.

They’re coming.

Suddenly, both you and Red are thrust into a world that includes armies of corrupted virus-robots, heartbreak, and tragedy as she is forced to hunt down those who wronged her. Only then can she rest. And you won’t be able to until you finish the game.

    I played the game on an iPhone, not necessarily the best gaming system, but the controls were relatively straightforward. Move around by pressing on the screen and use timed attacks by pressing on a series of moves along the bottom bar. But it’s not even the game mechanics that you play for.


    It’s the story. The art styles. The music.

    The entire world of the game is set in a cyberpunk fantasy of glittering, seductive artist communities, operas turned into burning protests, government leaders dying of heartbreak, and secret biotech conspiracies that end in fatality. Told through snippets of digital newspapers strewn across a completely empty, barren cyberspace, you’re left wondering how beautiful this city looked when it was full of life. Instead, Red wanders through a world corrupted by a robotic virus and shadows of what it once was. A sky that used to change colors at whim. A bodyguard that Red used to be in love with. A life of fame and a beautiful voice that Red has suddenly lost for unknown purposes.

    A murder that ended it all and stole Red’s voice for good, leaving nothing but Red’s sad, broken humming on the soundtrack. Beautiful, yet melancholy. You want to hear Red sing again, but you can’t. She needs to get revenge before she can find her voice.

    Like a futuristic story that’s parts Little Mermaid, parts Kill Bill, and parts Matrix, Transistor is a game that shows that, yes, video games are art too. I think when people say video games aren’t art, they’re thinking of Pacman or the classic “shoot and destroy” video games that tweens are fond of that have scores of blood splashing across the screen. But there are dedicated voice actors that go into video game production. A beautiful soundtrack (in Transistor’s case, music by Darren Korb, vocals by Ashley Barrett) that’s part synth and part crooning jazz tunes from a love song that never gets the chance to finish. And the art style for the character design? Characters are silhouetted in cut-scenes in muted palettes of autumn, silver, dandelion, eggshell, beige, fire and aquamarine and shades of night. The in-game graphics themselves are equally rich and objects draw the eye and fill the screen, but they’re arranged neatly enough that gameplay hardly ever feels cluttered or rushed.

    In conclusion, yes, video games can be art. And Transistor is proof of it.