I’ve most often seen GMing described as an art or a craft (and I tend to use craft myself). Arguably, it could also be described as a science.
This might sound like navel-gazing for the semantics-minded, but I see value in understanding what each term means when applied to GMing. And really, GMing is all three of these things.
Dictionary.com defines these three terms as follows:
Art: “Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation” and “The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.”
Craft: “Skill in doing or making something, as in the arts” and “An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry.”
Science: “ Methodological activity, discipline, or study.”
(There are, of course, many other definitions of all three terms. I’ve picked the ones that I think apply best to GMing.)
I would argue that GMing is all three — art, science and craft — with the exact percentage of each coming down to a combination of your personal GMing style, the RPGs you play and the preferences of your group.
GMs tend to learn by observation as well as practice (art), and certain aspects of GMing — like game prep — can be very methodological (science). Done well, the outcome can be beautfiul (art again), and GMing is, in a roundabout way, an occupation that requires a varied and specific skillset (craft).
What do you think?