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Ebert Reclassifies Games as Sports 197

Posted by Zonk
from the still-not-art dept.
You may recall last year's spirited debate touched off by film critic Roger Ebert's assertion that games are not art. He's once again touching that nerve, this time stating that he was too loose with his words. He points out that 'a soup can' can be art; what he meant to say is that games cannot be 'high art'. Says Ebert: "How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in Myst, and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports." The critic goes on to discuss comments from Clive Barker from last year, a gent who took great exception to Ebert's view.
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Ebert Reclassifies Games as Sports

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  • Flawed argument (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln (21727) * on Monday July 23, 2007 @05:59PM (#19962273) Homepage
    Stating that games cannot be high art, and backing up this assertion by giving examples of games that aren't (anecdotal evidence) is logically flawed.

    He may be right that there are no games currently in existence that should be considered high art, but that does not preclude one from coming out in the future. There is nothing inherent to video games that would prevent this, especially given that what is and what is not "art" or "high art" is entirely subjective.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      People on both sides of the "argument" are engaging in a bit of a futile exercise. As you said, it's entirely subjective. Yet both are trying to prove the others' opinions to be wrong, when that goes against the very definition of opinion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        While you are partially correct, there are aspects that can be debated. The argument itself revolves around the definition of art which, while subjective, will often incorporate the same elements from one to another. The argument stems from Ebert's belief that we don't know what art is while gamers believe that he doesn't know enough about games and their potential.

        So, while neither side will "win" the argument, we can learn something from the argument itself and gain greater insight as long as we're op
    • Re:Flawed argument (Score:5, Interesting)

      by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:17PM (#19962497)
      One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art. Since you can choose the ending, it's art just as much as someone slapping a happy ending on romeo and juliet is art. However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art? What if you were to have an expansion to that same game, and you were to play as one of the patriarchs of their respective families, and you find that the only way to save the lives is to make peace, but at the cost of your own? His assertions seem to say that art needs to teach, and to teach you can't have choice in the story. I disagree, I just think there needs to be consistency in the outcomes of the choices. By the way, he would make a great slashdot interview, don't you think?
      • That sounds like (Score:3, Informative)

        by Aexia (517457)
        However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art?

        Planescape Torment. No matter what choices you make, no matter how good or evil you play, you can't escape your fate.
      • It's interesting that he uses malleability as an argument against videogames being art. 90% of games are highly linear. Look at Mario: you either rescue the princess or you just stand there. Even take something like Deus Ex, which is praised for its non-linear story line. It still just boils down to three endings and there's not much difference between those endings, other that some text and maybe a different cut-scene.
        Basically I'm saying that almost every game ever made follows the model that you're tal
      • Re:Flawed argument (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:53PM (#19962883) Homepage
        So would a play which involved audience participation, and which was scripted such that according to said audience participation could result in one of several outcomes, then become a sport? I don't know if such a thing would offend the High Poobahs of theatre, but it sounds like a cool work of art to me.

        I've never seen a video game that was -that- malleable. They only ever allow what the game authors put into the game that you could do. It was like when I was describing computer RPGs to my roomate, who is familiar with pen and paper RPGs but not CRPGs, and I was describing the bit in the NWN expansion where you get turned to stone by a surprise encounter with a medusa.

        "How do they make sure you get to that point instead of running off somewhere else?" he asked, thinking like a game master whose players can ruin their plans.

        "Uh, by making that the only thing in the area that you can interact with in any way" was the answer. If they don't give you the option to do something else, then you can't do anything else but stand there and not do what they want.

        The fact is that games only offer the illusion of malleability to varying degrees. The ways in which the game designer both gives you choices and constrains the outcomes seems to me to be the very place where "art" can be created in a way unique to video games.
        • So would a play which involved audience participation, and which was scripted such that according to said audience participation could result in one of several outcomes, then become a sport? I don't know if such a thing would offend the High Poobahs of theatre, but it sounds like a cool work of art to me.

          I actually just finished up a senior (undergrad) project involving just that. It was, literally, a Choose Your Own Adventure-style play*, with the audience presented with multiple choices along the way. E

          • by Chris Burke (6130)
            *"Choose Your Own Adventure #178: The Pirate Ghosts of Bigley Manor." Not a real CYOA book, but with a lot of concepts taken from them. Again, I didn't say it was "good" art, but could you really call a show with pirate ghosts *bad*?

            The only way to call it "bad" would be in reference to the lost opportunity to also include pirate moneys, pirate ninjas, ninja ghosts, and ninja monkey robot ghosts.

            But seriously, sounds awesome. I didn't really think that my idea of a choose-your-own-play was original or anyt

            • The only way to call it "bad" would be in reference to the lost opportunity to also include pirate moneys, pirate ninjas, ninja ghosts, and ninja monkey robot ghosts.

              While there weren't any monkeys, ninjas, robots, or the combination thereof, there were some great (by which I mean, ridiculous, slow motion, drawn out) swordfights and every character had the possibility of dying on at least on path. =)
              -Trillian
      • by Bobartig (61456)
        Your example involving Romeo is basically any RPG without multiple endings (and about a hundred other things). It doesn't really matter how you choose to play Diablo II, at the end, you've destroyed world stone and opened the gates to hell. Or something like that. The point is, a game doesn't have to have a malleable outcome.

        What would be really nice would be to listen to a debate between Will Wright and this Ebert fellow.
        • Will Wright is the wrong person to pick. There are many people in the industry that do not find what they do to be artistic, if my memory serve me correctly I believe the Will Write is one of those people and have made statements along those lines. If you want to pick some one from the industry to represent it in a debate, I would go with Ernest W. Adams
      • by eln (21727) *
        To me, art is about the emotions it evokes in the beholder. If a piece of work is capable of stirring strong emotions, it can probably be considered art. In video games, the entire experience of playing them can often stir up strong emotions, even if they are not the emotions intended by the creator.

        A hallmark of much great art is that it can be appreciated on many different levels by many different people, often in ways the creator of the work never intended. A truly great game could very well do the sa
      • by Megane (129182)

        However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art?

        Hey, Aeris always dies in FF7! ART!

        One might argue that modern RPGs full of cut scenes should be considered as art with a bit of sport as a diversion between the cut scenes. Even when there are choices that affect the outcome, such games still have a limited number of outcomes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tirno (923929)

        One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art.
        I guess that rules out jazz as art, along with any other music involving improvisation.
        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art.
          I guess that rules out jazz as art, along with any other music involving improvisation.
          Indeed. I believe you've hit upon the ultimate rejoinder to his ignorant assertion. But what do you expect? He's a freakin' film critic. In his mind, if it's not film, it's probably crap. He's a dunce.
        • by russellh (547685)

          One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art.

          I guess that rules out jazz as art, along with any other music involving improvisation.

          In all seriousness, in jazz, the performance is the art more than the sheet music (if there would be any) or some other abstraction of the music. For games, the performance is what the player does in the game, not what the game developer does. Playing the game is the art, like the performances of chess grandmasters that are praise

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because then there would be no reason for it to be a videogame. If the outcome were determined, it might as well be a play or film. Ever wonder why videogames either default back to radio (metal gear solid codec), film (any game with cutscenes), or the stage (FFVII or half life 2) to advance the story? Because the medium of videogames can't do it.

        The bottom line, the video game is never the optimal way to get across your artistic point, or a story. The only advantage videogames have over film or theatre is
        • Re:Flawed argument (Score:5, Insightful)

          by neomunk (913773) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:39PM (#19964841)
          How do you interact emotionally with a painting or a film? The complete and utter LACK of ANY AI makes any connection (as you seem to be defining such a connection) impossible. The art EVOKES the emotional response through some sensory input (indeed each piece of art evokes mood differently, even if the difference is subtle) and there is nothing about a video game that cannot give you the same effect.
          • by hey! (33014)
            I think you are on the mark, with one small caveat.

            Art does not have to evoke an emotional response. Ebert is biased because he specializes in a narrative art form. Art can evoke a purely intellectual response. It can evoke other kinds of responses for which we have no name.

            Abstract art evokes a response on a level for which I'm not sure there is a precise name: above the level of perception, but not exactly thought. A kind of perceptual kin to the body's sense of proprioception (positional awareness of t
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by lumimies (683249)
          Actually, these guys [storytron.com] are trying to do just that -- create emotionally meaningful interaction with game characters, where the experience is designed by the author of the piece.
      • by Bo'Bob'O (95398)
        There are a huge number of theater productions, many of which indeed considered "high art" that rely heavily on the actors, or even the audience in the flow and outcome of the work. I think I'd agree with the GP, there may not be any right now, but there COULD be high art video games. After all, one of the important compontents of modern art is changing context, it might just not be a GOOD game, but it could very well be good art.
      • by hey! (33014)
        If you frequent art installations, the idea that art cannot be interactive is obviously incorrect. Many modern artists defy the convention that art is something that sits on the other side of a velvet rope in a museum by inviting people to touch or manipulate their work.

        In fact, I'd say interactivity on some level is what differentiates the fine arts from the practical arts, although there is some overlap. The shapes of the cams in an automobile engine have a certain aesthetic appeal, but since they aren'
      • by ultranova (717540)

        One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art. Since you can choose the ending, it's art just as much as someone slapping a happy ending on romeo and juliet is art.

        Which it would be; specifically, it would be a derived work. Would it be good art is another question. In any case, since Rome and Juliet is a theatrical play, and since it is impossible to make each performance exactly like any other, this particular argument is void - Romeo and Juliet is already a dy

    • He may be right that there are no games currently in existence that should be considered high art, but that does not preclude one from coming out in the future.

      flOw is art (a product of human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind [wikipedia.org];).

      He might not call it high art, but that's because high art is by definition not consumed by the masses, its appreciation is an affectation of the higher classes.

      • by usrusr (654450)
        It's not that important who is consuming.

        But in using the word "consuming" you pointed your finger right at the flaw of his arguments: all he talked about was the act of _consuming_ a video game (playing it), which is certainly not an act of art. Just as little as staring at pieces of high art in an exposition is an act of art. He seems to give a little mention to the interactivity of games, but that's also not an argument against video games as art, since big parts of the last decades were dominated by the
        • It's not that important who is consuming.

          But in using the word "consuming" you pointed your finger right at the flaw of his arguments
          Thanks for noticing. I'll be here all week : )
          But seriously, it's a clear case of "old man doesn't like new fangled contraptions, film at 11"
    • by Nazlfrag (1035012)
      They exist to me already. It's a subjective thing anyway, appreciation of art. I see Tetris as high art. It has a transcendent beauty unparalleled by conventional art. Take Knuths stance on this topic of whether software is art or not - he says source code is art, and I agree.
    • by cgenman (325138)
      Could Ebert be participating in a form of self-protection? Here is a man who has invested his life in the art of movie making... and here comes a form of cultural communication which he doesn't understand in the least.

      He probably percieves movie making to be threatened more by the video game generation than any thing else he has seen in the past. This is probably the driving force behind his terribly flawed arguments. Games are the enemy (to him).

    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      Stating that games cannot be high art implies that one has a universally agreed upon definition of art by which to exclude games as a whole.

      Since there is no consencus on the definition of art, it is just one man's opinion.

      I've read many arguments why games cannot be considered art, but none of them valid.
      - Games are interactivity. Plays are performed (interacted) by actors, does this mean that games can be art as long as you're only watching and somebody else is playing?
      - Games have restrictions. Paint has
  • Okay. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aarku (151823) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:01PM (#19962289) Journal
    Suppose first-person-shooters are sports. Sports are played in arenas and FPSs are played in designed levels. If architecture can be considered art, then the levels of First-Person-Shooter "sports" can be considered art as well. Since the levels of FPSs are an integral part of the sport, by extension the game as a whole is art.
    • Re:Okay. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:20PM (#19962537)
      Then he would reply that certain parts of the game may be art (textures, terrain, etc), but not the game as a whole. To extend your analogy, if we were to play tic tac toe on the mona lisa, the game wouldn't be art. The outcome might be, but the game of tic tac toe itself wouldn't.

      I personally believe that he's wrong, but it's for more complex reasons dealing with what art is; at its core, that's what all the hubub is about, the lack of a definition of art.
      • by pezpunk (205653)
        or, another way to put it: the designs on the helmets don't make the NFL "art".

        for the record, i am convinced some existing video games are great works of art, but pointing to great graphics or cutscenes is a dead-end argument. (these are just the helmets)

        video games ascend when all the peices -- the art, the story, the mechanics, the interface, the potential actions offered and engaged in -- work towards the same compelling whole and remove the player from the chair he sits in, take him inside the game,
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:02PM (#19962295)
    You only need look at Ebert to realize that he understands even less about sports than he does about gaming.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by gnarlyhotep (872433)
      All you need to do is look at his corpus of work and realize he doesn't even have a full understanding of "high art" in film either. The guy has opined over the quality and worth of Russ Meyer moves, ffs (faster pussycat, kill kill! amongst others).
  • by timster (32400) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:02PM (#19962309)
    It's not surprising that Ebert would miss the point of games, as it seems that everybody else does. Whenever this discussion comes up, we'll get pages and pages that go on about the plot or characters or music or whatever, but this isn't the answer; these are mere accidents, non-game art that's attached to a game.

    To speak of games as (high) art, we must explore the foundation of the form, and that isn't the plot or music or story, though a great story can be told in a game's context. The art in games is in the experience that they create for the player; the feeling of doing something or being something that you're really not. This isn't a traditional emotional experience that you might get from literature, but that doesn't mean its value is less. We have literature to make us sad or happy or lonely -- games are something different, and that's why this new form is such a treasure.
    • That's right. For example, most online FPS games make me feel lame and inadequate most the time and then, when someone's connection dies or they have to go feed their cat and I finally manage to kill someone, it aides my ability to delude myself into thinking I might be getting better.

    • Games, like other art forms, follow the characteristics laid out in Aristotle's Poetics. Specifically, games raise and lower dramatic tension by posing and answering questions. Ebert misunderstands the basis of art. It is as if I were to say that paintings and theater both can't be art, because their characteristics are so different. Yet paintings too ask and answer questions. We even talk about tension and motion in paintings. We say the eye is drawn this way or that. Why? Because the painting poses a ques
    • "the feeling of doing something or being something that you're really not."

      simstim

      though certainly not art.
    • ...shows it's false. If you take away the story from a movie, you're left with a collection of dailies with no editing. The art of the movie is in the application of all the technical aspects of creating the images and sounds combined with the scripting and editing that merge these into a coherent (or at least cohessive) work. Similarly, the key of making art out of a game involves the combination of the technical aspects with a vision of the story (or stories) it tells via it's various plot lines. I also
  • Really. If you ever want a game to show you that an interactive experience can be as much art as any book, try that game. There's many other examples, across all other aspects of art, but games hold many forms of artistic content, and the addition of choice does not lessen that expression.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Or maybe just FFVI. The story is a work of art. And if the story is only ONE element of the game, :. the game is art.

      And now for a counterexample:
      Just because "oops I did it again" sang by britney is both music and a load of crap, that doesn't mean all music is a load of crap, does it?

      • Certainly agreed there - FFVI is one of those games I have to replay every few years just for the timeless combination of unequaled music, profoundly artistic story, and sharpened gameplay mechanics perfected from the previous 5 games. I didn't want to mention it under the circumstances, as every time I find I mention it, a FF6 vs. FF7 argument ensues where I can't help but be partisan and mention my relative disgust for FF7 compared to what came before - my taste only though, and I can still find charming
  • Choose your own adventure books are not, nor ever will be, "High art" because the "player" controls the outcome.
    • Are you trying to disprove his point or support it? Of course a choose your own adventure book cannot be "High Art". Try to imagine a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure of Anna Karenina. There is a mountain of metaphor and plot that would lost if at the end you choose not to jump in front of the train.
      • by Who235 (959706)
        What? She jumps in front of a train at the end!

        Thanks, man. I was only 50 pages away from the end of the book.
    • by LKM (227954)

      Choose your own adventure books are not, nor ever will be, "High art" because the "player" controls the outcome.

      No, they don't. They may choose from a number of predefined outcomes, but in the end, the outcomes are controlled by the writer.

    • by rolfwind (528248)
      You can smell a BS argument always coming because the very act of trying to define "high art" invites someone to come along and prove you wrong or for the younger generation to ignore you and flock to it. It's not even a debate worth having.

      The only thing that generally seems to define what is art and what isn't is that it seems to always be a man-made somehow (not always). I think this attachment of a human ego as a creator/author/manipulator of the piece is important distinction -- you don't see too man
  • Ebert's argument often seems to come down to 'any time the artist has to interact with the subject instead of 100% dictating the experience, it is lesser'.

    The problem with 'games as art' is that tree plot lines are much harder to write then linear ones. But there are artists out there who can do it,... I think some of the backlash from people like Ebert is he represents artists who can not do this and are thus feel threatened.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297)
      Ebert's argument often seems to come down to 'any time the artist has to interact with the subject instead of 100% dictating the experience, it is lesser'.

      Then is a videogame more like a performance? Much of the traditional folklore of every culture was preserved by bards and storytellers. These people would tell their tales, and would expand parts and gloss over others to suit their audience, gauging their reaction as they went through the story. Yet certainly their performance is a work of art, never qu

      • by jythie (914043)
        Exelent example... I will have to remember the idea of games as preformance art.

        Unfortunately, it is also an possible example of why games would have a hard time being considered 'high art'. Folklore, performance art, etc, are generally considered 'low art' since they tend to be 'pessent oriented' rather then aristocratic in origin.
      • Personally I believe that a well crafted game could one day succeed as a piece of "art".

        Look at a painting for example, it is 2D and shows one thing only from the perspective of the artist. Ebert would presumably argue this is art. OK I can agree with him.

        Now look at sculpture, it is 3D and shows what the artist wants from different views. Still art? I think so.

        Finally look at games, they are 3 dimensional in the sense that they can be approached from different angles and perspectives much the same as a
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:09PM (#19962409)
    Games are not art.

    Games are more like an art gallery. The story is art, the music is art, the graphics are art...

    But the game is the package that they all come together in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      Games are more like an art gallery. The story is art, the music is art, the graphics are art...

      But the game is the package that they all come together in.


      Then by Kokima's definition, cinema is not art. However... cinema is widely considered the 7th art.
    • by Bobartig (61456)
      Mixed media? That can still be art.

      Ever seen a musical? It's got lighting, singing, dancing, acting, scenery, costumes... all art by themselves, and they combine into.. .. wait for it.... art!

      There's all sorts of art projects and installations that involve technology and mixed media. There's interactive art that is experienced in different ways, and that experience/interpretation is considered an important element of that art. Games are no different. Ebert is just using an arbitrarily narrow definition of a
  • completely in the eye of the beholder.
  • Definition of Art (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shifty Jim (862102)
    I think I a lot of people lash out because they fail to understand what Ebert defines at "high art" or "great art." While I respect Mr. Ebert and regularly read and enjoy his critiques on various movies, I'm not in total agreement with him on this point. But, that doesn't not change the fact that he's being attack by people who do not totally understand his argument.

    From the Article:

    Barker: "I think that Roger Ebert's problem is that he thinks you can't have art if there is that amount of malleability in the narrative. In other words, Shakespeare could not have written 'Romeo and Juliet' as a game because it could have had a happy ending, you know? If only she hadn't taken the damn poison. If only he'd have gotten there quicker."

    Ebert: He is right again about me. I believe art is created by an artist. If you change it, you become the artist. Would "Romeo and Juliet" have been better with a different ending? Rewritten versions of the play were actually produced with happy endings. "King Lear" was also subjected to rewrites; it's such a downer. At this point, taste comes into play. Which version of "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare's or Barker's, is superior, deeper, more moving, more "artistic"?

    Barker: "We should be stretching the imaginations of our players and ourselves. Let's invent a world where the player gets to go through every emotional journey available. That is art. Offering that to people is art."

    Ebert: If you can go through "every emotional journey available," doesn't that devalue each and every one of them? Art seeks to lead you to an inevitable conclusion, not a smorgasbord of choices. If next time, I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?

    That said, let me confess I enjoy entertainments, but I think it important to know what they are. I like the circus as much as the ballet. I like crime novels. (I just finished an advance copy of Henry Kisor's Cache of Corpses, about GPS geo-caching gamesters and a macabre murder conspiracy. Couldn't put it down.) And I like horror stories, where Edgar Allen Poe in particular represents art. I think I know what Stan Brakhage meant when he said Poe invented the cinema, lacking only film.

    I treasure escapism in the movies. I tirelessly quote Pauline Kael: The movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have no reason to go. I admired "Spiderman II," "Superman," and many of the "Star Wars," Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter films. The idea, I think, is to value what is good at whatever level you find it. "Spiderman II" is one of the great comic superhero movies but it is not great art.

    • Art is only considered to be art if its static. And The Thinker is considered to be art, yet no one can come to an inevitable conclusion that everyone is satisfied with.
    • Ebert: If you can go through "every emotional journey available," doesn't that devalue each and every one of them? Art seeks to lead you to an inevitable conclusion, not a smorgasbord of choices. If next time, I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?

      Dear Mr. Ebert,
      The world has passed you by, say hello to the old men who were decrying the depravity of the waltz on your way to the special hell reserved for snobs and creationists.

  • by Twintop (579924) <david@twintop-tahoe.com> on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:21PM (#19962541) Homepage Journal
    ...where does Mario Paint fit in?!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:22PM (#19962567)
    Also, movies can't be high art because I've seen YouTube and its just a bunch of drunk teenagers and kittens falling asleep. Furthermore, painting can't be high art because its just a bunch of kindergarteners spreading color on paper with their fingers. I've seen both of these, and it outweighs any other knowledge I lack.
  • by RamblinLonghorn (1074873) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:30PM (#19962659)
    "What I should have said is that games could not be high art, as I understand it. How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in "Myst," and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports."

    For someone who reviews countless action movie sequels and buddy cop movies, he sure has a poor grasp of how most great works of art are rare "diamonds in the rough." He has listed 2 (?) genres, FPS and point and click adventures. He has never seen the level of detail Bioware put into the characters for their many games. He has never experienced the emotional story of a FF6. He has never tried to see a dynamic artificial world created by the likes of Civilization.

    I think Barker is wrong in calling Ebert prejudiced towards games. I think he's just ignorant towards them.
  • by ShaggyIan (1065010) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:40PM (#19962747)
    Every time I read arguments like this, the first thing to mind is Fountain [wikipedia.org]. Note: voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century.

    If a urinal is the most influential piece of art in a century, do we really care about "high art" anymore?

    I have this recollection of a man standing in front of something really stupid and screaming "ART!!!" at it. I don't remember what it was from (I'm sure someone will tell me), but it reinforces the point that "artists" will insist everything is art, just because they made it.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday July 23, 2007 @07:36PM (#19963349) Homepage
      Heh, I remember watching a show that was basically about stupid modern art, and I remember being increasingly incensed with what people were willing to shell out loads of money for. The most egregious one in my mind was the little old lady who paid ten thousand dollars for a pile of red, blue, and silver foil-wrapped Hershey's Kisses. That's all it was, a big pile of kisses dumped in a corner. Ten large. Wow.

      But the thing that turned it around for me was when they showed the young modern artist who had successfully sold a shoe polish tin filled to the brim with his own feces for several grand. And after thinking about that little old lady trying to justify the deep meaning behind the pile of hershey's kisses and how she had to spend $10k on it instead of going to CostCo and spending $20 on her own kisses to pile in the corner... it clicked.

      A shoe polish tin filled with shit is not art. The act of getting someone to pay you thousands of dollars for your shit in a tin is a stinging criticism of the modern art world, the sycophants who desperately pretend to understand it in order to seem cultured, and is a magnificent piece of "high" art.
  • Infocom.

    I nearly wept in at least two of their games.
  • Flag boy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by namekuseijin (604504) on Monday July 23, 2007 @06:45PM (#19962795)
    Hollywood is scared of the games industry eating their lunch, which undoubtly will occur in the coming years. They put a high respected puppet to deride games as not being art by taking lame examples of games as art. As if most of Hollywood's output is art!

    Here's a quick list for what Ebert should have "played" instead to get a grip:
    * A Mind Forever Voyaging, by Steve Meretzky from Infocom
    * Shadow of the Colossus, by Sony
    * Savoir-Faire, by Emily Short
    * The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, by Nintendo
    * Deus Ex, by Ion Storm
    * Anchorhead, by Mike Gentry
    * Super Metroid, by Nintendo
    * Spider and Web, by Andrew Plotkin
    * Half-Life, by Valve
    * Metal Gear Solid, by Konami

    and so on...

    Interactive art is here to stay! The original author of a work of art does not mean his audience to sit there passively reading/watching the plot unfold, but to activelly participate and change the outcome in ways he could not see. We're still not quite there, but eventually this goal will be reached...
    • keep in mind, I enjoyed all the games you listed. But to include them in a list of "high art" is a bit ridiculous.

      Metal Gear Solid- Could be included, but driven almost entirely by cutscenes and codec conversations, with intermittent periods of interactivity. Dangerously close to watching a movie.

      Half Life- Equivilant to an action movie with no characters, and all run and gun action. The sequel adds one deminsional characters. Hardly a good story.

      Super Metroid- The opposite of metal gear solid. Pretty much
      • First, like I said "We're still not quite there" in terms of true interactive storytelling.

        We need some true AI, not just for better NPCs than the manually scripted of today but for a host of other goals.

        We need NPCs with motives, goals, thirst for knowledge and power and awareness of what is going on in that simulated world and how they can act upon it in a way to benefit them. AI is needed too for the so-called drama managers who should build the plot accordingly to the player's actions. As well as for
        • Upon concluding the first Metal Gear Solid for PS1, I thought to myself: "Holy crap! It's been ages since I've watched anything coming from Hollywood of this scope." I remain true: the twisted story, top-notch narration, razor-sharp dialogues and voice acting, the soundtrack... there seemed to draw straight from Hollywood's best in the genre. There were some slippery spots here and there in which the drama sounded to be gearing towards the corny side, but the sheer scope of the thing far outweighted it...
          • "Everything you described there comes from the cinematics. It's film."

            The moody setting doesn't come from the cinematics, it comes from the feeling of attachment to the main character and the knowledge that any false movement and you're toast. It comes from interactivity with the simulated world. I remember vividly such varied interactive moments that are about as startling as the cinematic presentations: trying to hit a hitman (hitwoman) and feeling you're too "nervous" so that you should find a way to
    • by bogjobber (880402)
      Uh...Ebert is many things (most of them bad IMHO) but a Hollywood puppet is definitely not one of them.
  • What is a game? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday July 23, 2007 @07:00PM (#19962979) Homepage
    What happens if my games allows only two interactions, 'previous page' and 'next page' and while doing so it is showing some writing of Shakespeare? Is Shakespeare displayed on a TV (in text form) less art then printed on paper? Is there even a difference? Now, true, most games allow some more interaction then 'previous/next page', but many are really not that far away. Many games don't have much freedom, the story they present is predefined and linear, the only real difference is that the 'next page' trigger is a little harder to reach, hidden in some piece of action sequence or NPC dialog or whatever, that however doesn't really change the story they tell. A game simply can express the same stuff as a movie or a book, since when the interaction is striped down, its really almost the same thing.

    However, there is a worthy point to discuss left: When a game gets closer to a movie by using cutscenes, it can be art like a movie. And a game that relies heavily on text dialog can get very close to a book and so be art like a book. But what about the actual gameplay itself? Most games that evoke emotions do so by using non-interactive cutscenes, not gameplay. Can a game evoke emotions in via gameplay itself? I think the answer would be 'yes', but there are only very few games around that ever tried that, let alone succeeded at it in the same way a non-interactive book, movie or cutscene can.
    • "What happens if my games allows only two interactions, 'previous page' and 'next page' and while doing so it is showing some writing of Shakespeare?"

      Then it's not a game. But thanks for remembering Shakespeare: his plays were mere popular entertainment in his days. Now they are high-art.

      That's it: bury a copy of Super Mario Bros. for a few centuries and unfold as critics in the future bow to its superior intelectual challenges as an early interactive art example...
    • I'm glad you said that "most games" only evoke emotion through cutscenes.

      I think just about every player was inspired to emotion by their first interaction with the Norbert character in Nashkel in Baldur's Gate. In most cases Norbert probably didn't survive the experience, despite the fact that he never did anything to threaten the player. He really was that annoying.
  • by Vexorian (959249)
    "You art cannot be as good as ma art!"
  • "How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in Myst, and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports."

    How do I know this? How many paintings have I looked at? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of paintings. They tend to involve (1)

  • OK, to begin my argument I am going to set forward two definitions that the semantics can be debated evenly upon.

    Art [google.com]

    Fine Art [google.com]. Yes, I know he said 'High Art', but there was no such definition so I used the next best thing I could find.

    Looking at the two definitions, Ebert's statements seem a little soft. The first bullet point for 'Art' seems to support video games of at least qualifying for consideration inside its ranks. Using the first two bullet points for 'Fine Art', the incredibly controversial Super C [columbinegame.com]
  • Someone needs to get this man a copy of Planescape: Torment stat!
  • Probably most games are not art in the normal sense. But there are some. I challenge Ebert to play "For a change" and emerge convinced that it's nor art.

    Obviously a film reviewer, albeit a superlative one, is not the best person to make the call, not being aware of the breath of the genre. Not every film is Transformers, not every video game is Doom.
    • by MythMoth (73648)
      Actually, having read TFA, it emerges that he said "Video games". So I kind of agree - I've never played one that I considered to be art.
  • When he states that the player is actually in control to the same degree as in sports.

    In fact, the appearance that the player is actually appearing to affect anything at all is just an example of masterful illusion at work. Ideally, the programmers design a game in such a way that it _appears_ that the player's actions and choices are in control, and for all intents and purposes they can be considered to be, but in reality, the programmer determines what will and what will not happen in a game. In actu

  • Arguing if games are art is like arguing if Star Wars is a western. No matter what people have made up their minds and no one will change them regardless of how persuasive the argument. And, in the end, it doesn't really matter since they are terms that only matter if you want them to matter.

    I don't care if something is art or not. I don't care if Star Wars is a Western or not. All I care about is if I like them and find them worthwhile or not. The terms you apply to them won't change that.
  • by Blublu (647618) on Monday July 23, 2007 @10:49PM (#19964915) Journal
    I'm sure someone has said this here before, but it's very simple. A painting can be art. Not even Roger Ebert would disagree with that, right? But the act of looking at a painting is not art. Music can be art. The act of listening to music is not art. Movies can be art. The act of watching a movie is not art. Games can be art. The act of playing a game is not art.

    There. Get it now?
  • Most of his responses are pretty ad hominem and snarky. And he really doesn't make much of an effort to define what he means by art, and whether his meaning is consistent with the general public or artistic community.

    I don't know if he's right, but if he's taking the time to write that article and we're taking the time to read it, I expected a little bit more.
  • In this analogy, the Game itself is not the art, but the medium. The sequence of actions you perform within a game may be art. In the same sense that the rumble in the jungle might be considered art, but boxing in its self cannot be.
  • Just let it go. The only times games can achieve the level of control over audience experience necessary to fit the definition of "art" is when they strip so much interactivity out of the experience, they no longer qualify as "games." Who would argue that the cut-scenes in Final Fantasy VII (one oft-cited "arty" game) are anything except movies spliced into the actual game?

    The closest I think you could come is a game like Half Life 2. It is both unambiguously playing by the rules of games (no cutscenes

  • I'd agree generally, but not as a blanket statement. How about Deus Ex, stronger story and characters than virtually any film. Actually I'm not sure you could call all films art, particularly the SFX orgies you often get.
  • by LKM (227954)
    What the heck is "high art"?
  • by TheLink (130905)
    I classify games as games :).

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