ART lovers may raise an eyebrow at the thought of videogames being classed as works of art — but one university lecturer has launched a campaign with that aim.

Games designer Chris Bateman, a lecturer at the University of Bolton , wants videogames to be classified as art and given better legal protection.

And next week Mr Bateman will be taking his campaign to Edinburgh Interactive, one of the games industry’s leading festivals.

He argues that British game designers lead the way in producing inventive and beautiful digital worlds, and their artistic work can and should be afforded more protection by using the first amendment of the United States' constitution.

Mr Bateman, aged 40, said: “If video games were classified as art, they would have more protection against unnecessary censorship or restrictions. A lot of games publishers are based in the US and it's the world’s biggest single market for games, so any restrictions in the US would affect players across the world.”

A censorship law in the US, for example, would affect all games in the world because developers cannot afford to lose the US market revenue, he says.

“Everyone who plays games has something at stake in the question of whether games qualify as art.”

Debate has become especially heated in recent years, after American film critic Roger Ebert declared games could never be art in April 2010.

Mr Bateman said: “Although I strongly disagreed with Ebert’s view, it was great to see this issue being brought into the spotlight.

“Although most video games aren't very good works of art, there are already games that I believe are great artworks — including several made in the UK.

“The playable ghost story Dear Esther was made in Brighton, and Brit programmer Ed Key is one half of the team behind Proteus — a truly beautiful digital world.”

As well as the legal issues, he says games will always play second fiddle to other media, such as films, television, music and painting if they are not classed as art.

He said: “If you want a medium to grow, you have to nurture it.”

Mr Bateman has written a book, Imaginary Games, which explores the relationship between art, games and our powers of imagination.

He will appear at Edinburgh Interactive on Thursday, August 9.