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Roger Ebert Backs Down On Video Games As Art 265

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-not-his-cup-of-tea dept.
Jhyrryl writes "Roger Ebert has again posted about video games. It's an apology of sorts, for having publicly said that games are not art. He wrote, 'I should not have written that entry without being more familiar with the actual experience of video games. ... My error in the first place was to think I could make a convincing argument on purely theoretical grounds. What I was saying is that video games could not in principle be Art. That was a foolish position to take, particularly as it seemed to apply to the entire unseen future of games. This was pointed out to me maybe hundreds of times.'"
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Roger Ebert Backs Down On Video Games As Art

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:19AM (#32771516) Journal
    I'm intimately familiar with the history of Roger Ebert's comments on video games. From the article,

    Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so.

    Then he goes on to say that there were 4,547 comments left with ~300 supporting his view. He claims it's longer than Anna Karenina, David Copperfield and The Brothers Karamazov.

    What he said is that he shouldn't have said it. That he should have been more informed of video games before making that statement. But, in the end, he's still saying that video games can never be art. Ebert is bull headed. I've seen the footage where he breaks down into a fight [youtube.com] with Siskel. A decent argument [youtube.com] is one thing but Ebert's harder to sway than a dead mule. So he made a statement. And what you're going to get is the definition of the word 'art.' He even admits Sony bent over backwards to give him the chance to play a beautiful non-combat oriented game ... and of his dismissal of this he says, "I was too damned bull-headed."

    Roger Ebert is a brilliant man. However, as oft occurs with brilliance, he will not admit a mistake, a misstep or that he was flat out wrong. You've squeezed all you can squeeze out of him which is basically that he regrets saying it but he still believes it is true.

    We call movies art. We call literature art. We call silence art [wikipedia.org]. We call a single color art [wikipedia.org]. Hell, we even call graffiti art [wikipedia.org]. The crudest symbols our kind could muster [wikipedia.org] gets to be called art. But, goddammit, for some strange reason the second you express yourself through a series of complexly arrange ones and zeros interacting with the viewer, you can't call it art.

    Mr. Ebert, I may be far younger than you and I may be far less informed than you but I cannot understand what possesses you to reserve the word art from being applied to games. I can only take solace in knowing that future generations will see it differently ... permanently.

    • by Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:30AM (#32771602) Homepage

      Roger Ebert is a brilliant man.
      Going to have to disagree with that one. Given his loony statements about children in the US wearing US flag t-shirts on cinco de mayo, I'd have to say that brilliant left the building a long time ago. Though I do wonder how he would feel about mexican children in mexico wearing mexican flag t-shirts on the anniversary of the battle of yorktown.

      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:37AM (#32771674) Journal

        Roger Ebert is a brilliant man. Going to have to disagree with that one. Given his loony statements about children in the US wearing US flag t-shirts on cinco de mayo ...

        People can still be brilliant and yet get other things so painfully wrong you think they're Kim Peek or an idiot savant. Although I find his stances in other realms loathsome, his movie reviews and books on movies nearly mandatory reading for enhancing your appreciation of movies. If ever there were a finer or more well known movie critic, name them. I'm not going to deny this and it's not like this is the only case where this happens. I have Orson Scott Card spouting idiot political drivel in some sort of LDS worshipping context yet I really enjoyed his novels as a kid. This has happened for a long time with perhaps the most extreme case being Knut Hamsun [wikipedia.org]. Yeah it makes me think less of them and their opinions on matters unrelated to their work but it doesn't entirely remove the acknowledgment they deserve in their field.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:30AM (#32772216) Homepage Journal

          If ever there were a finer or more well known movie critic, name them

          There certainly aren't many. And surely none who have reached so many people. Eberts most important contribution is bringing serious film criticism to the masses, without watering down his scholarship.

          And, he has always remained first and foremost a fan, which is always an endearing quality in a critic.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Someone needs to show Roger Ebert Final Fantasy 10. Ya know, just play it in front of him for a few hours. I did that with my mom and she got hooked into the story, and asked me to show her the ending. Modern videogames are basically 30-40 hour long movies, but interactive.

            Roger doesn't seem to realize this because he probably still thinks of games like PacMan. He's living in the past and not knowledgeable about the present state of gaming.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by powerlord (28156)

              The problem is that not only is he aware that he is not knowledgeable, but when presented with the opportunity, he balks and admits that he has better things to do than play video games.
              The blog post basically outlines a fellow Critic arranging with Sony to have a PS3, loaded with games, lent to him, if he would just pick it up, which he doesn't.

              He further admits that he still feels Video Games are not "Art", and that he should not have made the comment without knowing more, but that he doesn't want to lear

        • by geekoid (135745)

          " If ever there were a finer or more well known movie critic, "

          This has nothing to do with brilliant or intelligence. Do I really need to list off several people most people have heard of that are patently stupid?

          Any evidence at all? none of his books show in particular unique insights.

          It's like Weird AL. IS he brilliant, or is his niche so small, no one bothers to care to compete?

      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:50AM (#32772466) Homepage Journal

        In the words of Terry Pratchett, "he's not only not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he might even be a spoon."

    • by Silverhammer (13644) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:33AM (#32771632)
      Roger Ebert has always stuck me as a very humorless man. He finds no real joy in anything. Gene Siskel and then Richard Roeper always provided the smiles and laughs on their TV show, while Ebert just sat and glared. And now that he's been forced by illness to turn inward and spend more time with his own thoughts, he's just gotten even nastier.
      • by Bemopolis (698691)
        Go watch "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" and then come tell me again that Ebert is humorless.
      • by depsax (1226438) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32774416)
        As a ten-time attendee at EbertFest -- formerly known as "Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival" -- and having observed him hosting the festival, and having chatted with him on several occasions, I would say that he is the antithesis of "humorless". No one I have ever met gets more joy out of being at the movies and being with people who enjoy movies.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tverbeek (457094)

      Ebert's definition of art is (still) more restricted than mine. But it's more expansive and inclusive than others' (especially of his generation). The real debate is not whether video games are art (which is mostly a pissing contest about whether they're "good" enough), but whether "art" is open-ended enough to include interactive works like video games. Given the fact that I did an analysis of Riven as a work of new-media art my senior year at art school, I rather strongly feel that is. But there are p

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:30AM (#32772226) Journal

        Since when did something have to be "good enough" to be art? I think that would come as a surprise to Duchamp and the whole modern art establishment he had spawned.

        For whoever doesn't know the story, the whole modern art phenomenon started in 1917 with a guy called Marcel Duchamp, who signed an urinal and sent it to an art gallery under the title "Fountain."

        It was not the first of Duchamp's "readymades", basically just objects he found and signed, but otherwise didn't even make or anything. The first was a found bicycle wheel he signed and displayed under the name "Bicycle Wheel" in 1913. Sometimes he at least used funny names for them, like titling a shovel "Prelude To A Broken Arm" in 1915, others were like that Bicycle Wheel. But the urinal is what became famous and redefined art.

        The funny thing is that Duchamp spells it out in interviews, some even much much later, that he just wanted to destroy "art". He found the whole establishment to be little more than a circle-jerk clique (not his exact words, but the general gist of it) and obsessed with form above and beyond anything else. He wanted to destroy it all. His urinal was supposed to convey the message, basically, "your work is worth as much as this urinal to me."

        But funnily that's not what the art world understood. The art world suddenly found itself trying to imitate the unconventionalism and shock value of that urinal. And it's been in that rut ever since.

        And funnily enough everyone seems to still don't get what Duchamp actually did there, even if you show them an interview where he says it himself. E.g., I remember an interview with Michael Craig where he explains that Duchamp actually wanted to show that even everyday objects can be beautiful and art. (No, he didn't.)

        In the meantime we have a fine arts establishment where a stack of bricks is called art. A tent made of PVC tubes is art. A set of 4 folded and straightened sheets of paper is called art. (No, really, I've actually seen exactly and literally that in someone's private collection.) A glass of water on a shelf is art. Or a hack like Hirst can pay someone else to put a grid of random coloured dots on a rectangle, sign it and not only get it called art, but be acclaimed for it. (Here's one sample of his 300+ pictures made of dots: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/08/Hirst-LSD.jpg [wikimedia.org].) A rectangular box made of sheet metal can be called art. A flickering TV in an empty room can be called art. A crucifix in a jar of piss can be called art.

        We're in a world where calling someone's work "pretty" is the most grievous insult you can get away with in front of a professor, in some arts colleges. But it is an insult and use it only if you want to make an enemy. Nowadays you don't want "pretty", you want "thought provoking", and "original", and such.

        So Ebert is, what, telling me that it isn't art because it's completely unlike what he calls art? Has he checked with the aforementioned modern art establishment? Because it seems to me like that being different is exactly what would make it "art" there.

        (And I've played plenty of games which fit the "thought provoking" criterion too. But then I'm the kind of guy easily provoked in that aspect. E.g., Chucky Egg provoked much thought about the struggle of the working class against the oppressor chickens.;))

        Heck, probably the best example is another painting I've seen in someone's private collection. Essentially it looked like a screenshot of Tetris. No, literally. I'm not exaggerating. Yes, I know what "literally" means. I mean it. It looked not just sorta like Tetris, but exactly like a screenshot of Tetris. Well, except for the part that in actual Tetris two rows should have been removed because they were full, but obviously on the painting they hadn't been. I wonder if it was supposed to be symbolic of the unfairness of life or something ;)

        So basically, let me get that straight: _that_ is art, or so I'm told, but Ebert tells me that if it were actually animated as a game of Tetris, it wouldn't be art any more? Why? It's the same image.

        • by Bemopolis (698691)

          For whoever doesn't know the story, the whole modern art phenomenon started in 1917 with a guy called Marcel Duchamp, who signed an urinal and sent it to an art gallery under the title "Fountain."

          My favorite aspect of "Fountain" is that, the way it is arranged, if you did try to use it as a urinal you'd end up with piss on your shoes.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by kaizokuace (1082079)

            My favorite aspect of "Fountain" is that, the way it is arranged, if you did try to use it as a urinal you'd end up with piss on your shoes.

            If you pissed on most modern art you would end up with piss on your shoes.

        • The problem is, now you've introduced the debate to a rather stupid issue.

          Namely, the point of art is to explain something beyond what is actually there. It must invoke emotion or something, or it's just a thing.

          That's why 90% of photographs aren't art, but the other 10% are. It's because 90% are trying to show the thing that was photographed, while the other 10% are trying to show how the scene made the person taking the picture feel. It's why this post isn't art, but a haiku of a much shorter length is. There's the actual meaning of the symbols, of what is represented, and then, to be art, there's another meaning on top of that.

          The problem arises is that a lot of current 'art' doesn't invoke that second level. It's too obscure, or, as you said, a deliberate attempt to mock the entire process. Hell, a lot of it doesn't even have a first level, or has one that's clearly just been slapped together.

          If it doesn't have two levels that the vast majority of people can distinguish, it's entirely reasonable to take a position that it's not 'art' in any meaningful sense. People don't have to enjoy, or even think it's well done, but to think something is art, they at least have to be able to say 'This is supposed to make me sad, although it doesn't really work'. Even bad art should be able to be recognizable as art, because you can see the (crappy) second level. Often current 'art' is not recognizable, or at least not recognizable to the public in general, and thus fails an 'art test'.

          Of course, pretty much all games have two levels. Often not well, but they have background music, they usually have thematic lighting, etc, etc. They are art, or at least consist of 'art parts'. They don't fail the 'art test' the same way modern art fails.

          Ebert, OTOH, seems to have thought they failed in some other manner, because you had to actively participate in them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Moraelin (679338)

            Oh, I am aware of Ebert's argument that it's not art if you participate in any way, and basically it's such a blatant No True Scotsman fallacy, that I didn't even think it merited being addressed much.

            But if anyone feels that it has to be addressed: having such choices isn't even something video-games only. E.g., since another answer mentioned Manet's Olympia, I'm reminded of another famous nude and arguably the first to present a naked woman as just a naked woman and not some Venus or such: Goya's La Maja

        • by XSpud (801834)

          Though you make some good points Modern Art existed long before Duchamp's Fountain.

          I guess it depends on what the definition of Modern Art is but if you take it to mean art that is experimental, innovative and rejects convention, the 1800's were the beginning of Modern Art. Manet's nude, Olympia (1863) is a good example - not only does he reject aesthetic concerns, the subject is a prostitute rather than the conventional Venus or goddess.

          Duchamp's Fountain really belongs to a branch of Modern Art, Dadais

          • While that certainly has merits, and we could discuss artistic currents more in depth for the rest of the afternoon, I think it doesn't change my main points. If deviating from prescribed art forms to paint a prostitute for pure erotic value is still art (and nobody would call Manet non-art), surely deviating to include an interactive element wouldn't be any worse.

            That said, though:

            1. I don't think Duchamp intended even that, judging by his actual interviews. He didn't try to question what is art and what i

      • Interaction (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LKM (227954)
        The idea that it might make sense to differentiate between "interactive" things and "non-interactive" things and define this line as the line between art and non-art strikes me as odd. There is no non-interactive art. If you read a book, it is your own mind that paints the picture described by the author's word. If you watch a movie, it's your mind that creates the interpretation that gives the work meaning. Art is always interactive; you interact with a piece of art. This is what gives art its meaning. Wit
        • I beg to differ. I have created a piece of art that nobody will never interact with. Truly it is awesome in its artiness. I will sell it to you for $1,000,000. While you can never see, hear, touch, smell or otherwise interact with it, you will be the owner and able to re-sell it at your convenience.

    • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster@man.gmail@com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:50AM (#32771800)

      Roger Ebert is a brilliant man. However, as oft occurs with brilliance, he will not admit a mistake, a misstep or that he was flat out wrong. You've squeezed all you can squeeze out of him which is basically that he regrets saying it but he still believes it is true.

      Yup. This isn't Ebert 'backing down', this is Ebert taking his ball and going home. He just says "I still think I'm right, but I'm not going to argue any more", which is a fantastic strategy in that he can't lose an argument he doesn't have.

      That said, I don't particularly care what he thinks (never been a big fan to begin with). I know what I think, and I know what future generations will probably think. Oh well, his loss if he never plays Braid.

      • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster@man.gmail@com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:58AM (#32771870)

        Did anyone else notice that he changed the pictures on his blog post? When I read it last night, it was all Doom and other bloody horror FPS screenshots. Today it's all Shadows of the Colossus. Perhaps someone caught too much flak (again) and was pressured to backpedal (again)?

        I thought it seemed like a strawman to say 'does this decapitated demon look like art to you?' It would be like using a clip from Porky's to explain why movies aren't art...

        • Somebody really should have told that hack Picasso that if it isn't PG it isn't art before he went and wasted his time on Guernica...

          (this is not to say that Doom is art, indeed, it probably isn't, being roughly on the level of some of the more derivative Rambo clones; but the "ooh, look, it's too bloody and gross to be art!!!" gambit is unbelievably pathetic. Pretty much every "real artist" who isn't painting pastoral landscapes or naked women is busy painting assorted martyrdoms, battles, famous assasi
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094)

        He's saying "I could be wrong". For someone who forms and expresses opinions for a living, that's about the best you can expect. :)

        I know what future generations will probably think.

        Don't be so sure. The future has a tendency to surprise us.

        Oh well, his loss if he never plays Braid.

        And perhaps your loss if you never read one of his books or watch one of his favorite films? Or read one of my favorite graphic novels? There's a lot of great stuff out there to experience, and the fact that someone finds som

        • by Bakkster (1529253)

          He's saying "I could be wrong". For someone who forms and expresses opinions for a living, that's about the best you can expect. :)

          Right, but it's the 'I don't want to argue anymore, because I think I'd lose' part that irritates me. I think he'd need to say 'I'm probably wrong' (rather than 'could be) for it to be an effective mea culpa.

          Also, the fact that he muses that he can't define art in such a way to exclude video games, yet include stuff like participatory art. He's learned, it seems, not to piss anyone else off by calling their medium non-art. Again, the problem is he simply says 'I don't want to argue any more' instead of

        • He's saying something much more honest, insightful, and true than he's getting credit for.

          He seems to be saying that he not only could be wrong, but that he really isn't qualified to comment. He's admitting that he's not willing to get the required experience (play enough games) to be able to comment and be taken seriously. Given these two things, he's bowing out.

          Now, it does seem like it took a lot to get it here. It seems he's acknowledging that he was "bull-headed" and that he's mostly writing this becau

          • by Bakkster (1529253)

            Now, it does seem like it took a lot to get it here. It seems he's acknowledging that he was "bull-headed" and that he's mostly writing this because of the barrage of criticism he's received. But what he's actually said is right on -- he isn't qualified to comment, and if he really wants to, he'd have to both solidly define art and play some games, which he's not prepared to do.

            But he's also still trying to get the last word in, claiming 'I still don't think they're art, I just don't want to discuss it', rather than simply ceding judgment to someone more qualified. Saying 'I can't prove it, but you're still wrong' is different from saying 'I can't prove it, so I might be wrong'.

            And the backhanded apology of "I had to be prepared to agree that gamers can have an experience that, for them, is Art" which implies 'they just have the wrong definition of art', really grinds my gears i

        • by delinear (991444)
          The difference is, of course, that GP wasn't saying Ebert's favourite films or your graphic novels weren't art, in some deliberately derisory and hence inflammatory manner.
    • by turing_m (1030530)

      Mr. Ebert, I may be far younger than you and I may be far less informed than you but I cannot understand what possesses you to reserve the word art from being applied to games.

      The 4,547 comments, of which ~4,200 are disagreeing - I've seen that sort of thing before [youtube.com].

    • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:02AM (#32771910) Homepage

      Actually he quite specifically, and at length admits the possibility that games may someday develop to the point where even he sees them as art. He also admits, that since he refuses to *play* any current games, his opinion is largely irrelevant. Basically he maintains the opinion that in his largely ignorant and limit experience, games he's seen are not art as he defines it. Which is a pretty fair position really.

      As a gamer, there really are a vanishingly small number of games that come close to being "art". The potentially is there, and a few games come close to reaching that potential, but realistically not many. I mean how many variations of "Person with a variety of weapons shoots, blows up, or otherwise destroys various entities intent on destroying the world" have there been in the last 20 years?

      For a gamer's view of why video games have such a hard time being taken seriously, I rather like this [cracked.com] article on Cracked.com. Put simply, until games companies accept that they are no longer producing exclusively for 17 year olds, and until we gamers start refusing to accept that the vast majority of games are produced for 17 year olds games will have a hard time being seen as artistic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)

        I mean how many variations of "Person with a variety of weapons shoots, blows up, or otherwise destroys various entities intent on destroying the world" have there been in the last 20 years?

        How many variations of "nude female" or "pastoral landscape" have there been in the last 100 years? Sure, not all of them are fine art, but that doesn't mean a nude or landscape can't be fine art.

        • There's a difference between variation on a theme and slavish copying. With notable exception most 1st person shooters on the market are essentially Wolfenstien3D with steadily improved graphics. Yes there are exceptions, I never said I agreed with Ebert. There are games out there which approach true art. There may even be some that I haven't played which really are great art. There's a lot more Doom clones though. At least as things stand right now.

      • by delinear (991444)
        I guess the reason movies have such a hard time being taken seriously is because of the amount of garbage Hollywood churns out? Or that music isn't considered art because of all the awful buskers? Or novels aren't art because of cheap pulp fiction romance novels? Or paintings are rendered not-art because of all the potato-prints stuck to the fridges of parents around the world? I wasn't aware that a particular field being massively over-populated with the mundane was reason enough to justify it not being ta
      • I love cracked.com, but that article is wrong.

        I could list 100's of games not target to 17 year olds.

        There happens to be a popular market for those games, but that doesn't mean all game are built for them.

        Nintendo as an excellent line of games not designed for 17 year olds.

        BTW: people 15 to 14 general like those types of games.

        Action movies make a lot of money and are very popular. That doesn't mean there are only action movies.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:07AM (#32771980) Homepage Journal

      Well, Ebert is in good company. Ten years ago when I was heavily into games, there was a (deliberately) little-known site named Planet Crap that gamers in the know and game developers often frequented, and I was on its messageboard quite a bit, and had a few discussions/debates with Charles Broussard [wikipedia.org] about games, art, division by zero, etc.

      One of these debates was whether or not video games were, or could be, art. He was of the opinion that video games AREN'T art, and he was the one behind Duke Nukem.

      Well, I think Duke Nukem 4ever proved him wrong; DN4's protracted absence [wikipedia.org] is most certainly art.

      We call movies art. We call literature art. We call silence art. We call a single color art. Hell, we even call graffiti art. The crudest symbols our kind could muster gets to be called art.

      If you want the REAL definition of art, art is what art historians call art. Silence CAN BE but is not necessarily art, and in fact usually isn't. Whether or not a single color can be art depends on the work; just painting a canvas a single color doesn't make it art. Graffiti? All art is graffiti, but not all graffiti is art.

      Your kid doesn't make art. The cave paintings you linked are art in the sense that science [wikipedia.org] in the 16th century was science.

      Ebert and Broussard are both wrong. Many games are, indeed, art. DN4 certainly is, and I'm sure future historians are going to agree.

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        No authority will tell me what is and is not art. My brain is my own, and no other man's. Such an abstract distinction can be made on an individual basis. Like the Supreme Court on obscenity, "I know it when I see it."

        (For the record, I think just about anything can be art, including video games.)

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      But then again, movies will never be art either.
      And before that, photography would never be art.
      And at some point in time way before that, painting would never be art.

      The only thing we CAN say with absolute certainty is that there will always be art critics that don't know what art is.

    • Actually what he seems to be saying is that he's an old crone with an antiquated definition of "art". His insistence on an author's control over the way a piece of art is experienced rules not just games, but much of participative and experimental theatre out as artforms. Modern art in general often runs contary to that stipulation of control. Ebert is a dinosaur, pay no mind.
    • However, as oft occurs with slashdotters, they will not admit a mistake, a misstep or that they were flat out wrong.

      FTFY.

    • by MobyDisk (75490) *

      as oft occurs with brilliance, he will not admit a mistake,

      Perhaps you define brilliance differently than I do. I think of it as intelligence, or alternately wisdom. Refusing to revise your thinking [slashdot.org] after making a mistake is a requirement for higher-level intelligence.

      If you mean brilliance as in "shines brightly" without regard to what exactly is shining - then he is definitely brilliant. Everyone knows him, and hears his opinions.

      I cannot understand what possesses you to reserve the word art from being applied to games.

      I do. Ebert spent his entire life being paid for his opinion on one particular form of art. He is totally out of touch with this o

    • by Like2Byte (542992)

      Roger Ebert is a brilliant man. However, as oft occurs with brilliance, he will not admit a mistake, a misstep or that he was flat out wrong.

      I respectfully disagree. It has been my experience that brilliant people often do admit mistakes, missteps and/or their wrongness about ideas. Brilliant people learn from their mistakes. Jackasses sweep things under the rug and hope no one notices.

      Smart? Sure. Brilliant? Hardly.

      Thomas Edison: Brilliant!
      Einstein: Brilliant!
      Ebert: Why am I still typing?

      • by idontgno (624372) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:14AM (#32772792) Journal

        Thomas Edison: Brilliant!
        The same Thomas Edison who fought AC power distribution well beyond the point of its having been proven superior and actually successfully deployed in numerous cities?

        Einstein: Brilliant!
        The scientist who fought quantum mechanics to his last breath, in the face of some outstanding theoretical work to the contrary? The man who actually said "I, at any rate, am convinced that [God] does not throw dice." because he completely distrusted the statistical, seemingly random, nature of quantum physics?

        These men are actually some of my heroes, and were since my childhood. But never forget, they're human, and that means they can wind up irrationally invested in their own opinions and beliefs, especially if the state of their art has moved on without them.

        If "brilliant" means "mentally flexible enough to change a strongly held opinion in the face of strong evidence", very few human beings are brilliant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Psmylie (169236) *

      Really, it all comes down to the definition of "art". In my opinion, art is any created work that evokes a thoughtful and emotional response in me, the viewer/listener. I exclude anything that simply tries for a shock or knee-jerk reaction (for example, dropping a crucifix into a jar of urine isn't art in my book, it's an attempt to offend, and in bad taste). There are plenty of games that have done that for me. There are BUILDINGS that have done that for me. The fact that you can interact with it doesn't m

    • by delinear (991444)
      Does it really matter - is he the final arbiter of what constitutes art? Art is incredibly subjective at the best of times, there's no way we're all going to agree on a rigid definition that will let us measure if something is or isn't art, I don't see why people are getting worked up about this. If you see art there, then that's all that matters, whether others can see it or not - van Gogh died as a mostly unrecognised artist, yet now his paintings change hands for millions and are recognised as masterpiec
    • He probably got pwned at Doom or Quake deathmatch in the 90s, refused to play any more games, and this is his way of expressing bitterness.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      But, in the end, he's still saying that video games can never be art.

      No he's not. In the end he's saying that he failed to find a definition of art that can conclusively rule out video games, and that while he doesn't see himself be as moved by a game as by a movie, he can not rule out that some gamers actually have that kind of experience.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      "Roger Ebert is a brilliant man"

      I have never seen or read any evidences he is any more smart, insightful or clever in any way.

    • I would actually agree with Ebert on this one. Video games are not art. They are something much much more. To call them art is to minimize the incredible leap in human creativity that they represent. The field of kinetic sculpture is a good beginning but video games have transcended the realms of mere art a long long time ago. Why are we so concerned about gaining the respect of Luddite art wranglers anyway? The whole issue is rather sad in my view. It's like Harry Potter wanting to be a muggle, or mathemat
  • by suso (153703) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:20AM (#32771520) Homepage Journal

    Given that the man is 68 years old, has been doing movie reviews for a long time and probably one of his first experiences with video games as E.T. for the Atari 2600. I can't say I blame him for having his opinion set in stone for a while. Good to see that he's come around.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:36AM (#32771654) Journal
      Arguably, his stupidity was in saying that "video games can never be art". Saying that "no video game has yet reached the level of art" is controversial; but a respectable enough empirical opinion, particularly back in the bad old days.

      To say that they can "never" be art is either to make a stupid and almost certainly wrong prediction about the technological future, or to attempt to impose a definition of "art" so special-purpose that the statement "video games can never be art" is basically just a tautology masquerading as an insight.
      • by delinear (991444)
        No, his stupidity is in voicing an opinion at all on a subject he even admits he is completely ignorant of. The guy has made a career out of reviewing movies, which he clearly considers art, yet as a medium movies have been around for no time at all and for a good part of their early life they had exactly the same criticisms levelled at them as he's now levelling at games. You'd think even he would be bright enough to realise he might just make himself look stupid by voicing his opinion, but for some people
  • Critics (Score:5, Funny)

    by Silly Man (15712) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:20AM (#32771532) Homepage Journal

    Criticizing movies is not art. Nor even a nice profession :)

    • Re:Critics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yanyan (302849) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:31AM (#32771604)

      As i like to say: Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticize.

      And as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Men over forty are no judges of a book written in a new spirit."

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        If Emmerson was right, then why do I like Cory Doctorow's books? How old was Emmerson when he said that?

        BTW, I never liked Emmerson's work. I wish I had my Wee Book of Irish Wit and Malarkey handy, I'd come up with a counter quote from Oscar Wilde.

    • It amazes me sometimes how many moderators downrate something without actually reading it properly. If you read the moderation guidelines, it does say to focus on positive moderation over negative...

      and maybe Roger Ebert should consider something similar for his criticism.

    • He wrote the screenplay for the masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls [imdb.com]
  • hurrh (Score:5, Informative)

    by naz404 (1282810) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:28AM (#32771578) Homepage
    Summary:

    Ebert explains never played video games, refuses to play them, and bashed them based only based on his own theories. He then slightly apologizes for being an ass and confesses he does not know what art is.
  • by Khue (625846)
    Really? Is it still 1985? I mean wtf... please get in touch with the rest of human kind. http://games.slashdot.org/games/04/12/19/2350234.shtml?tid=98&tid=10 [slashdot.org]
  • by davidbrit2 (775091) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:41AM (#32771714) Homepage
    "Tell Roger to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up."
  • Still a jerk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asukasoryu (1804858) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:45AM (#32771752)
    Ebert admits he was foolish to reveal his opinion but maintains the opinion that video games can not be art. What he should have realized is developing an opinion without proper experience was the mistake. And he still won't invest a few hours to check out a video game. How many hours has he wasted on shitty movies? Ebert just doesn't want to be wrong so he's not going to allow himself to justify his own opinion. Still a jerk.
  • Roger Ebert has never actually played any games. And he's too stubborn now to admit he was completely wrong after probably friends exposed him to modern games.
  • Art in the machine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:51AM (#32771808)
    I have two arcade machines, and I bought both because not only did I like the game play, but also the art of the game. Both are color vector graphic machines (Tempest & Star Trek), and both have beautiful displays. IMHO, the display on Tempest still can't be outdone with an LCD or plasma system. I've also studied the schematics and there is considerable art in the way the designers pushed their extremely limited systems.
  • What is the definition of art? I once heard it described as:

    Art is anything you are willing to exhibit

    If I want to exhibit a turd on a stick - well that's art. You might not like it, but that does not change the facts.

  • by cybaz (538103) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:26AM (#32772174)
    What things constitute art has always been fiercely debated. No one has definitively defined what is art and what is not. At one time there was debate whether photographs could be art. Then it was whether something generated on a computer could be art. As these things gained greater acceptance it was more accepted that they could be considered art. Roger Ebert may be a bit outdated in his interpretation of art, but there isn't any "right" answer.
    • There may not be a "right" answer, but there is a "wrong" answer. The wrong answer is dictating that something is not art. Trying to paint the subject of art (no pun intended) with a black and white brush shows a lack of understanding on the topic.

      • by delinear (991444)
        And specifically saying something that you have next to zero knowledge of is not art is the wrong answer. You would think anyone of standing in the field of criticising the arts would at least venture to learn a little about a subject before venturing a blanket opinion. I probably know a thousand times more about movies than Ebert knows about games, but if I were to say movies are not art, somehow I doubt he'd give my opinion credence.
  • by Howitzer86 (964585) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:32AM (#32772244)
    "Maybe they're art, just not great art. You seem to be looking for absolutes where there should be none."

    Countless works of art has been created, most of them do not measure up to Shakespeare, and a great majority of that art can't be properly compared because they are in a different medium (would you compare The David to MacBeth?). All because they can't measure up or can't be compared does not mean games are not art.
  • ...this time he's way wrong, IMHO. I still haven't found any game that can be considered art per se, but, ultimately, you can make art out of everything [wikipedia.org]. As John Lennon better said it, "I'm an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I'll bring you something out of it."
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Play Clive Barkers Undying.

      Then give my any reasonable definition for Art that doesn't apply.

  • I could make the argument that not all games are automatically "art". Soccer is not art. But with video games, they almost have to contain art. Your avatar is art. The background is art. I could probably find more individual pieces of art in the WoW universe than in the Louvre.

    I just can't see anyone saying that an avatar is not a work of art, to some degree. Yes I realize that this means the doodles in the back of your notebook are technically art too, but I'm okay with that.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Auditorium. There is no avatar, and I suppose you could say the music is "contained" art, but it's beautiful even when muted. And it's beauty comes from the game mechanics (glowy flying bits), not a 3D model or a 2D bitmap.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      A picture doesn't actually = Art.

      Of course, people have come to call the practice of the fundamentals of what you need 'art'. IN other words, art has no meaning anymore.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:43AM (#32772366) Homepage
    Controversy, bemusement, repudiation: the three stages of a classic troll [youtube.com].
  • So he still thinks all video games up until now are NOT art. Rubbish.
  • pac man is a form of absurdist art. the dadaists would have loved it

    you can't tell me otherwise

  • weak arguments (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trb (8509) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:10AM (#32772746)
    In general, I enjoy Ebert, and I'm not a gamer. I have no horse in this race.

    I think Ebert's arguments here are very weak, for example:

    1. He says "That was a foolish position to take, particularly as it seemed to apply to the entire unseen future of games." He already claims that he has not seen the past and present of gaming, it makes no sense to suppose that the future of gaming might change his mind.
    2. He says that if you could change the ending to Romeo and Juliet, then it wouldn't be art. Consider change by addition, rather than by substitution. So Romeo and Juliet is art, but Romeo and Juliet with a bag hanging off its side is not art? What if I remove the bag, leaving the original? Have I restored its status as art? If a game contains 100 new visual masterworks and 100 new musical masterworks and a 100 levels where I frag zombies, is that art? At all?

    A game is clearly a form of expression, and a media container. I don't see how you can argue that the container can never contain art.

  • Small tangent, but reading Ebert's musings on video games reminds me of how my family sees computers; a "computer" is a series of refrigerator-sized cabinets with spinning tape drives, output on green-bar paper, etc. No amount of evidence will convince them that anything smaller is anything other than a "toy", as if there was no progression from the 70s homebrew era. Ironically they have no problems keeping a contradictory thought that the machines they *do* use (Macs, PCs, other devices, etc.) are extremel

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Compared to Big Iron, they are toys.

      That doesn't mean they aren't useful.

  • Posting to undo unintended mod.
  • I don't know what art is...or so I used to believe but now I have come to two firm conclusions, one serious and one humorous.

    If it invokes an emotional response within the observer it is art.

    This makes art relative to the observer, and that's the way it really should be.

    If it's in colour it's pornography, if it's in black and white it's art

    I once saw life sized prints of Helmet Newton's work in the Barbican, but thankfully they were all black and white; a museum is no place to be staring at 6" tall blonde b

  • ...who gives a mad f*ck what he has to say about anything? Let him say whatever he wants. He has the same right to say whatever he wants about anything, just like everyone else in the country. Why in the world should it cause such a ruckus? My reaction to his comments were "Ok Grandad, go back to bed now..." I'm just kind of wondering why any one really cares about anything he has to say about technology or current trends or video games. The man obviously pines for the days when people went to the "theater"
  • In other words... he collapsed under the pressure of a hundred thousand rabid fan boys.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead

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