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Revisiting Ebert — Games Can Be Art, But Are They? 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the beauty-is-in-the-rocket-launcher-of-the-beholder dept.
At the recent Game Developers Conference, industry vet Brian Moriarty spoke at length about the old videogames-as-art debate. Moriarty found himself reluctantly defending one part of Roger Ebert's infamous argument against the notion: "No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers." What followed was a thoughtful discussion of how games fit in with the definition of art and how the commercialization that almost universally surrounds them can inhibit true artistic expression. Quoting: "Unlike Mr. Ebert, I have played many of the games widely regarded as great and seminal. I have the privilege of knowing many of the authors personally. But as much as I admire games like M.U.L.E., Balance of Power, Sim City and Civilization, it would never even occur to me to compare them to the treasures of world literature, painting or music. ... Video games are an industry. You are attending a giant industry conference. Industries make products. Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art. Kitsch art is not bad art. It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity. And the bigger the audience, the kitschier it's gonna get."
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Revisiting Ebert — Games Can Be Art, But Are They?

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  • True (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So ture

    • No, it's bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:40AM (#35501958) Journal

      No, it's bullshit.

      Almost all art ever made, was made to be sold and most of it was commissioned by some rich client.

      Probably the best example is the Sistine Chapel. It wasn't done as some work of vision and love by Michelangelo. Michelangelo was good at painting, to be sure, but he considered it an inferior art form and he preferred sculpture. He only did that epic fresco because he was offered a shitload of money to do something he didn't like. I.e., he sold out. And even then he hid various FU-s at the pope's expense in it, sorta the renaissance painter's version of hiding a "fuck the pointy haired boss" comment in some obscure source file.

      Is anyone prepared to say that that's not art, because it's commercial? WTF? When did that idiotic notion originate, anyway?

      Art done as an industry, again, is as old as recorded history. There were plenty of professional sculptors and painters who did it as a full time job, and as their way of earning their bread. In fact, the vast majority of them were, by sheer virtue of living in poorer times when you didn't have the luxury of sitting around on the dole and creating art not tainted by commercialism.

      Many made it into an extremely profitable trade, and were very much aware of money and of what the clients want. E.g., Titian is a prime example of that. He even diversified into grain trade in between painting masterpieces. Is anyone prepared to say that Titian isn't art? You know, THE fucking Titian?

      Many had studios where they created a ton of paintings with apprentices. E.g., since I mentioned Titian already, he started as such an apprentice for Giorgione, and apparently quite a bit of Giorgione's art is now considered to be most certainly done by his apprentice Titian. And when he started working in his own name, Titian too in turn took such apprentices to help churn commercial art to be sold, e.g., copies of his earlier paintings.

      He's not even the only one. Leonardo da Vinci is for example another guy who financed his other studies with selling art, started as a worker in such a painter's workshot, and later had one of his own. Mona Lisa, you know, THE famous painting, is heavily "photoshopped", or rather the renaissance equivalent of that: it appears that what was first painted was rounder face, and then he made her thinner and sexier. Presumably because that's what the paying customer wanted. And in the end it was used by Leonardo as basically a way to sell himself, as a sample of what quality shit he can paint. Is anyone prepared to say that Leonardo's stuff isn't art because he sold out? Or WTH?

      • Don't limit art to Michelangelo or Titian either. Art is also things like spinart [wikipedia.org], installations like "my bed" [wikipedia.org] and art by any definition that includes them should include plenty of games as well.

        • by Moraelin (679338)

          I'm certainly not limiting art to that. I'm just using those as clearly recognizable examples of famous artists, which, I hope, nobody is prepared to say "it's not art", although they did the exact same things quited as capital sins that make games not art. I could have used a more modern artist as an example, but then some snob _could_ say with a straight face "yeah, but that's not art either." I'm using Michelangelo, Titian and da Vinci to, basically, head them off at the pass. I don't think many from the

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            I wonder how much of that is because Michelangelo is old? So much of what existed in the time is lost forever for all we know he was just decent compared to what they had, it is kinda like judging ancient Greek or Roman art.

            Well as for the subject of TFA, I would point out the original Bioshock and Deus Ex. How anyone could say those two games weren't art is beyond me, as they carried you into their world and made you think, especially Bioshock with the undercurrent of what it means to have free will.

            I cou

            • by Moryath (553296)

              But to judge the medium by the likes of Activision, where the CEO is a major douchenozzle that has said milking any idea into a cookie cutter franchise is his one and only goal? Really not fair to the medium.

              What's REALLY sad is that Activision started out as a very different entity - a game company that would give the ARTISTS, e.g. the programmers, credit for their works by putting their names on the box (which Atari refused to do).

              From that humble beginning, to today where said fascist douchenozzle outrig

      • Re:No, it's bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:51AM (#35502018)
        Who defines art, but those that admire it?

        Games are their own art, to put it into a classical sense is nonsense.
        • by OakDragon (885217)

          Who defines art, but those that admire it?

          The people that create it.

          In the absence of an objective test to determine if something is art, we should rely on the presentation by the creator.

          I have two books in front of me. Both were carefully written and edited, the results of exhaustive research. The authors presumably take pride in their work. However, one is a novel, and the other is an auto mechanics manual. The novel is mean to be art (no matter its actual merits). The manual, although it might be

          • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

            The novel is mean to be art (no matter its actual merits). The manual, although it might be the best manual around, is meant to be a tool.

            Which I think throws the concept back to the admirer. Said author may not have had art in mind when they wrote the manual. But the outcome may be a manual that becomes a fundamental work in it's field. Someone familiar with auto mechanics and the availability of manuals on the subject may understand this and attribute an elevated position to this particular work; consider it a work of art. And while many others may not see it as art or have such high degree of reverence for the work, the same thing coul

        • by tixxit (1107127)
          It seems like some people like to define art deductively: "I don't know what art is, but that isn't it." Apparently they feel their word is final. I think your definition is the most correct one.
        • by 517714 (762276)
          On that basis paintings of dogs playing poker [wikipedia.org] are near the apex of man's creative expression. The prints of this series are among the most ubiquitous. These paintings have a certain technical merit, but they don't have an enduring aesthetic quality and neither do games.
      • Probably the best example is the Sistine Chapel. It wasn't done as some work of vision and love by Michelangelo. Michelangelo was good at painting, to be sure, but he considered it an inferior art form and he preferred sculpture. He only did that epic fresco because he was offered a shitload of money to do something he didn't like. I.e., he sold out. And even then he hid various FU-s at the pope's expense in it, sorta the renaissance painter's version of hiding a "fuck the pointy haired boss" comment in some obscure source file.

        I think you're missing the point entirely. He was paid "a shitload of money to do something he didn't like" - and he could have done something he didn't like. Instead, he produced something incorporating his own passion, manifested in "various FU-s at the pope's expense". It was sufficiently subtle that he wasn't beaten over the head for it, but sufficiently grand that everyone today can admire it.

        On a smaller and less subtle scale, the trololo video is doing the same thing. You write a jolly song full of s

      • The real debate is perhaps about the actual definition of art. Something people have been unable to agree on for centuries, I don't see that changing because of a blog or forum post. no matter how inspiring it may be.
        • by mcvos (645701)

          Exactly. There are many definitions of art imaginable that would mean most books, films and music aren't art either. So what if most games aren't art, in that case? Movies especially are every bit an industrial product as games are. And indeed, in the early days of the movie industry, it was very much looked down upon. But the medium evolved and matured, and nowadays many movies are considered a form of art. I don't see why it would be any different with games.

          What's more: Van Gogh and many other now-famous

      • by MrHanky (141717)

        Your bullshit detector must be broken, since your "best example" of artistic production was done in an outdated mode. "Most of it" commissioned by rich clients? Your example of one isn't even anecdotal evidence for that. It might have been true for sculpture and painting, back in the days, but it's certainly wrong for literature, film, music (classical being an exception).

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        And how many prints of famous paintings exist around the world? Copied purely for commercial value?
      • by 517714 (762276)

        Don't forget roadsigns. They are art! Paint applied to a flat surface for other than the purpose of protecting that surface is the very definition of art.

        The fresco of the sistine chapel is paint applied to wet stucco in a magnificent edifice. Games are a painted turd in a beige box; the turd being the operating system.

        • Ironically enough, a bunch of art we still have from, say, the Romans was essentially "No Trespassing" signs. Early Romans used to use a statue of Priapus [wikipedia.org] with an enormous erect dick as just that. Often accompanied by a bit of poetry too, to remind would be thieves and trespassers that they're getting it in the ass if caught.

          The Romans, see, were as practical as ever. They didn't mope and wish you ass-rape in prison, they'd just get the job done themselves. That's Romans for you. When they wanted something

      • by hey! (33014)

        You're missing an important part of the argument, namely:

        It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity.

        Video game art, like, say, the design of the latest MacBook, is designed to marketed to vast numbers consumers the artist will never meet. That's a lot different than having to find *one* rich patron, convince him to give you money, and then keep him happy while you are completing the monumental work he can show his buddies as proof of his wealth and refinement. But despite this the product artist doesn't have *less* interference in his work because

      • by NitroWolf (72977)

        You pretty much hit the nail on the head and I agree with you. I also wanted to point out a couple things you didn't, though.

        Video games (at least some of them) are appreciated as "high art" by those able to appreciate the aspects of the game most people are not. Just like the Sistine Chapel and other pieces of "great art," how do you know they are great? Because someone told you they were? Most great pieces of art from our history fall into this category. If you knew nothing of the Mona Lisa and happe

    • by Goaway (82658)

      Quick, everyone! Don't read the article, just reply to out-of-context lines in the summary, or maybe just the headline! Make sure to be angry and call the writer stupid!

  • by selven (1556643) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:09AM (#35501794)

    You are attending a giant industry conference. Industries make products. Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art.

    No shit, Sherlock.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He's not Sherlock, he's Professor Moriarty ...

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      So basically games can only be commercial art in the way the works of Michelangelo and da Vinci were commercial art in their time.

    • You are attending a giant industry conference. Industries make products. Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art.

      No shit, Sherlock.

      Is he even making a distinction between "big-budget" games like Call of Honor 7: Return to Glory and other gems like Bioshock? The fact that Ebert refuses to compare video games to novels indicates that he doesn't. It's hypocritical to the extreme. As a counter-point I could say that novels aren't art because of the money-makers like Twilight. Furthermore, video games have only been around for a few decades. How long as the novel been in existence? Has anyone actually sat down with Ebert and explained the d

  • by srussia (884021) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:13AM (#35501810)
    Art lies in the artistic act itself. Whatever tangible result produced by the artistic act is but its trace.
    • Re:Artifact != Art (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tooyoung (853621) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:49AM (#35503214)
      How do you moderate a post as pretentious?
      • How do you moderate a post as pretentious?

        Pretentious, maybe - but it seems to me that's unavoidable in this discussion.

        I mean, arguing about what is "art"... And everyone seems to have their own idea, which they generally justify on the basis of their own sensibilities...

        It seems to me people confuse the notion of "art" with the notion of "good art", or "noteworthy art", or even just "art I like". There's also a huge degree of (undeserved?) weight lent to the stuff that gets classified as "art" - all manner of offenses are forgiven because It Is

  • by kyrio (1091003) <slashdot&lurkmore,com> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:14AM (#35501812) Homepage
    There are games that are made for artistic purposes, such as The Graveyard [tale-of-tales.com]. There are other games that are so beautiful, in audio and video, that you can call them art (ICO may be part of this group). There are games like LSD [wikipedia.org] that end up being extremely artistic without actively trying to be such. There's also a small genre of games like Yume Nikki [wikipedia.org] that some may consider art, even though the graphic style of the game is generic, the game itself is like a good novel.
    • by kale77in (703316)

      There are other games that are so beautiful, in audio and video, that you can call them art

      I'm not sure whether Entanglement [gopherwoodstudios.com] IS art or just that it CONTAINS art. But it gives me the same sense I get from good/fine art: this should exist.

    • by kyrio (1091003)
      Also, American McGee [reddit.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Follow this line of reasoning Mr. Ebert (and any other skeptics): "Final Fantasy: Spirits Within was a movie. It was considered 'art' by many critics, but was the storyline any good? Most say it was dull and not worth a second viewing."

      "Now consider Final Fantasy 10, a video game. Many claim this is not art, but what about the story? Was the story better than the movie? Of course it was. It was an amazing storyline, better than typical. ----- Therefore if a movie with a mediocre story is considere

  • Again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:15AM (#35501816)
    The article has to be trolling. Are we supposed to point out that many novels, books, paintings etc. were also products of an industry? Plus who cares what is or isn't art, anyway?
    • by slim (1652)

      Plus who cares what is or isn't art, anyway?

      Enough people for there to be a reasonably mature and well sourced http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classificatory_disputes_about_art [slashdot.org]">Wikipedia entry on the subject. ... and, seemingly the readers of every knee-jerk British tabloid cares, every time the winner of Turner Prize is announced.

      • by MrNemesis (587188)

        Sometimes I think the true purpose of the Turner Prize is not to further the causes of artists, but to troll the readers of knee-jerk British tabloids into having an art debate :)

        • by Tetsujin (103070)

          Sometimes I think the true purpose of the Turner Prize is not to further the causes of artists, but to troll the readers of knee-jerk British tabloids into having an art debate :)

          And that is a work of art in itself. :)

    • Plus who cares what is or isn't art, anyway?

      Trendy hipsters? Oh wait, damn your rhetoric.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goaway (82658)

      Yes, presenting a well-constructed and knowledgable argument that says something you don't want to hear is definitely trolling.

  • by Tigger's Pet (130655) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:16AM (#35501824) Homepage

    I feel that anyone seriously considering responding to this should probably do a little more reading first. A good start would be a published article by Aaron Smuts (Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin) which was published in November 2005.
    http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=299 [contempaesthetics.org]
    He puts far more detailed discussion and argument in there than TFA listed above. At the end of the day though, as Len Wein said, "Art is always in the eyes of the beholder." If you think it is art, then for you - it is art. Doesn't really matter what anyone else says about it.

    • It's strange to me that these people cite the big sellers, the AAA titles, the garbage being pushed and acclaimed mostly because of graphics and some new, interesting facet of gameplay. A lot of that stuff is still pretty raw and flimsy, artistically; it's a bunch of show. Bioshock is a good example: a lot of morality based decisions, and a fair sci-fi story, but it's not really more amazing than, say, Xenosaga. Xenosaga was less acclaimed for anything besides being a movie with short gameplay segments;

      • It sounds to me like you agree with GP but you don't know it. What you're saying is the games (or more specifically, genres) you like are more worthy of being discussed as art, but the games you don't think have a deep enough story for you aren't.
        • It sounds to me like the original articles are written by people who look at the TV or at XBox Live stats and go, "Let's play the most hyped up series ... oh, this game is crap. All games are crap." These aren't people who have searched for something; they're picking them up and going, "Hmm, you see? This sucks. Okay moving on."

          The fastest way to qualify something is art is to put a powerful, well-designed, emotionally moving story behind it. People can bicker over paintings of soup cans or chunks of

          • by Culture20 (968837)
            But is the *game* art, or just the story inside the game? Thinking of the story like the other independent artistic elements (images, music), do the rules of the game or the playing of said rules produce art? I say yes. Ebert says no.
            • If a scifi/fantasy writer rewrote Xenosaga cannon as a novel, the novel would be a different expression of the story. It would be a completely different form of literary art. Storytelling itself, however, is art; as we have acknowledged the story is art, then we must also acknowledge that the game represents an execution of the story, and is itself an artful attempt to immerse the user in that story.

              Listen to audiobooks a little. The one for 1984 is well-performed; some others (imagine if Vincent Price

  • by clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:18AM (#35501832)
    The motion picture INDUSTRY cranks out product art too. Green screens and CGI abound. But Hollywood puts on better self-congratulatory award shows. Sometimes. [foxnews.com]
  • Art Snobs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:20AM (#35501840) Homepage Journal

    Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art. Kitsch art is not bad art. It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity. And the bigger the audience, the kitschier it's gonna get.

    People who talk about "Kitch" art are generally the kind of people who think that true "Art" consists of splotches of paint on canvas and rusty iron walls. I'm not going to dwell on this, but I will add that yes, some art is crass and cheap.

    But some art is heartfelt, and worked hard on, and that shows through in the final product. And there are video games which meet that standard.

    Since art is in the eye of the beholder, we could all list off a half dozen games which we consider to be artistic or art, or artsy. These all generally follow some notion of what the general public considers to be "high art", or at least we'd like to think they do. I'm sure art critics would probably scoff.

    But under one of the primary definitions of art, something that evokes emotional response or intellectual thought, it's actually very clear that games are art. I think most people on the forum will have played a game--however primitive--which moved them deeply in some way. And moved them in a more genuine and heartfelt way than any picture of circles has ever moved any art critic.

    I'm sure that for many years, if not forever, games will be dismissed as shallow, sophomoric art. And while it's true that many indeed are, such prejudices will always deny truely great games the recognition, or even the respect, that they honestly deserve.

  • ...treasures of world literature, painting or music. ... Video games are an industry... Industries make products. Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art. Kitsch art is not bad art. It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity. And the bigger the audience, the kitschier it's gonna get.

    It's not like there's a giant commercial industry of movie makers. Or novelists. Or painters. Or musicians. Is this guy high?

    • It's not like there's a giant commercial industry of movie makers. Or novelists. Or painters. Or musicians.

      I see your sarcasm. But unlike the video game consoles, those media don't have a cryptographic lockout preventing those outside the "giant commercial industry" from even getting started.

      • by Haeleth (414428)

        unlike the video game consoles, those media don't have a cryptographic lockout preventing those outside the "giant commercial industry" from even getting started.

        Actually, games are easier to get started in. Good luck getting your music airtime or getting your movie into theaters! But with games, all you have to do is not target consoles. There's a thriving indie sector on the PC, which has precisely no barrier to entry whatsoever. And perhaps you spotted a recent post on this very site from some guy wh

  • Obviously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by itsanx (1534709) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:25AM (#35501864)
    ...he hasn't played Psychonauts by Tim Schafer. It is absolutely masterful in its depiction of humanity. While maintaining an amusing cartoonish style, it touches on the most difficult and painful parts of life. Like art, it teaches us something about life that cannot be taught in any other way.
    • ... You're right, I can't think of another way to learn that a Meat Circus is a right royal PAIN. ;)

    • by dskzero (960168)
      There are many more games that can be considered art in several levels. Another world, for example, could be considered art for its narrative and despiction of an alien world, plus the visual style is quite ingenious. However, as long as games like Flower (and example of a pretentious game), Waco Resurrection (wtf is that) and goddamn Call of Duty are being the study subject, this debate will be biased. Even Ico series or Bioshock could be better examples.
  • by dingen (958134) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:25AM (#35501866)

    In my opinion, intent defines whether something is art or not. The way I see it, if the intent of creating something is to sell it to people, it can never be considered art. And if the intent of creating something so that it will be useful for other people, it can never be considered art. Only when the intent of creating something simply for the sake of creating that thing, it can be considered art in my view.

    • So in your view, art is dead?
  • Why do video games have to reach some mythical, arbitrary level of artistic worth? "Hey, that's a great game that's fun to play, but....oh, it's not a 200 year old painting of nude fat women. Sorry, it's worth less now on the Society Scorecard".

    Get over it already. So some people think video games aren't art. Hell, so what if 99% of the world feels this way. So fucking what? Dickens wasn't writing to make art, he was writing to entertain and sell a product. Michelangelo created David because someone paid hi

    • by metacell (523607)

      Actually, Dickens wrote to address social issues, like poverty, but your point stands.

  • by metacell (523607) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:25AM (#35501874)

    I think it's a mistake to look at the storyline in a computer game and compare it to literature, look at the graphics and compare it to movies or paintings, etc. You need to look at the game as a whole to make a meaningful assessment. And to do that, you need to get your hands dirty and actually play it for an extended period of time. Only then do the strengths of computer games appear: interactivity, immersion and problem-solving.

    Different forms of art compete in different categories. If motion pictures had been judged by the standard of stage plays when they first appeared, they'd have been dismissed as shallow, crude and completely lacking in dialogue. And it would have been just as unfair as comparing computer games to literature or visual arts.

    Perhaps there are no computer games which can be considered truly great works of art (although I think the original Civilization game should qualify), but popular art is also an important form of art.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Yes, thank you! Games are not novels or movies, and they shouldn't be expected to be art in the same way. A game may have crappy plot and characterization, but a Jackson Pollock doesn't have either, and it's still art. Games are a different form of art from either the visual arts or narrative forms. As art, games are closer to dance or architecture or woodworking than movies or novels.

  • Go take a look at Newgrounds.com at the variety of games including fun, experimental, commercial, indie, weird, user-created, ...., games. Then try to say this is not art.

  • the treasures of world literature, painting or music

    I think these things are kind of overrated; if we rated them realistically, it'd be easier to see that games are equally worthy of attention (where the worth is "sure, enjoy them if you want, but they aren't universally life-changing")

    Industries make products

    There are also literature, painting, and music industries; and indie games created by individuals with vision

  • But is it art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:37AM (#35501924)

    I didn't realise art had to be *good* to be /art/. Like, I've seen loads of mediocre paintings, etc. and I'm pretty sure they're still counted as art.

    This whole thing sounds like pretentious BS to me, and that whole world revolves round having something to look down on.

  • "Modern" art. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_raptor (652941) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @06:42AM (#35501962)

    If what passes for "modern" art is art than even the most kitsch, banal, and derivative of video games is high bloody art.

    It is true however that there are few "high art" video games. Most games if they were translated to movies would either be 2nd rate summer blockbusters or "made for TV". But that is due to the market not the genre. Most movies and books are similarly crap.

    However video games can impart an experience in a much more powerful way than any other form of media due to the amount players can relate to the character. When you as the player have to make an important decision it is much more real than reading about a character making that important decision.

    "Art" games are rarely made because there is little professional recognition and support compared to "art" movies or books. Which is needed because the public doesn't buy "art" enough to make it commercially viable.

  • No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers.

    Didn't some University have an English class that studied the game BioShock in place of a text?

    • by slim (1652)

      Didn't some University have an English class that studied the game BioShock in place of a text?

      The first page of Google results says "no", but if you can find a source I'd love to see it.

      Bioshock has some beautiful production design and graphic direction. But it's a glossy piece of pulp fiction.

      If Bioshock, as a whole, is art, then HP Lovecraft is high literature (and I don't think even the keenest Lovecraft fan would claim that).

    • by dingen (958134)
      I think you're thinking of this story [slashdot.org] of a college that placed Portal on the required Booklist.
  • It seems to mean "everything but games" at the moment.

    What kind of things are art?

    Well, the Mona Lisa is definitely art. But so is a big, black square [wikipedia.org]. Geometric shapes [wikipedia.org] also work. Scribbling a beard and moustache on the Mona Lisa is also art, if you're famous enough at least.

    Of course it doesn't have to be a painting. It can be pretty much anything. An urinal [wikipedia.org], a room with a light that goes on and off, the artist's shit [wikipedia.org], wrapping the Reichstag in cloth, or apparently even a dog starving to death in an art ga

    • by vlm (69642)

      So there's an easy way of solving this: somebody just needs to figure a way of getting Tetris exhibited in a gallery, and problem solved.

      Been there, done that, doing it again next year, far as I know. Well not tetris, but some better stuff:

      http://www.intothepixel.com/ [intothepixel.com]

      • They don't seem to accept anything but pictorial art AFAICS. Even by classical definitions of art that's a bit constricting.

  • Braid was Art. Deus Ex got more depth than half the books my mother reads. Art is subjective and we only agree on the tip of the iceberg's looks. Everyone agrees that Braid IS art. But then we can name and argue about the rest, just as we can argue whether Bieber's musique can be put in the same category as Shakespeare's litterature. And second, it's true that "video games" is an industry delivering products, we just can't say Half-Life is similar to CoD. For each it's own appeal, feeling and nature. And j
  • The thing that bugs me is that everyone is comparing games to contemporary art. But books, plays, and music have been developed and refined for centuries, millenia even. Games have been around for, if you stretch things, fourty years.

    If you're going to make comparisons, make them to the early works. Compare games to the early classics - make comparisons to Homer, Euripedes, Aristophanes. There's some surprising parallels between the Illiad and Super Mario Bros., come to think of it.

    If you must make comp
    • by Sique (173459)

      If you consider Citizen Kane the first masterpiece of film, then you don't know much about older movies. Watch "Nosferatu" (1922), "Battleship Potemkin" (1925), "Metropolis" (1927), "Modern Times" (1936)...

  • Video games are an industry. You are attending a giant industry conference. Industries make products. Video game products contain plenty of art, but it's product art, which is to say, kitsch art. Kitsch art is not bad art. It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity. And the bigger the audience, the kitschier it's gonna get.

    You need to stop looking at the video game industry, and start looking at individual titles.

    There is a movie industry, but there are still movies that are called art. There's a publishing industry, but there are still novels that are called art.

    But as much as I admire games like M.U.L.E., Balance of Power, Sim City and Civilization, it would never even occur to me to compare them to the treasures of world literature, painting or music.

    And you need to look at video games for what they are, instead of what they aren't. You can't really talk about plotlines and character development when you're looking at a painting. You can't talk about colors and media usage and brush strokes when you're looking

  • by biovoid (785377) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @07:37AM (#35502388)
    I am Reversebert. I have played thousands of videogames, and consider myself a well versed videogame critic. The other day I watched Transformers: The Movie. And I read a Mills & Boone novel. Then I played Shadow of the Colossus. Based on that, I have decided that movies and books can never attain the level of art that games have. I couldn't interact with the movie or novel in any way! I was a passive spectator and felt like both experiences were already determined for me. Based on such an unfair comparison, neither movies nor books can ever hope to attain the level of art that videogames have.
  • there's about as many games that could be argued are 'art' that there are movies.

    was spiderman 3 art? then mass effect 3 could be art...

    is ICO art or just a moody puzzler? was schindlers list art or just a history lesson? did you care more about the girl in the red coat or about Aeris (Aerith) when she died?

    I mean they put this crap [scienceblogs.com] in museums as "art"

    *anything* can be art or artistic. games can be moving and emotional visually stunning just as much as movies. both have independent branches and corporate fr

  • I love this idea. It means I can tell my wife she's stifling my artistic studies when she nags me to stop playing that video game at 3:30 am. ;-)

  • by Arctech (538041) on Wednesday March 16, 2011 @08:03AM (#35502700) Journal
    Going to repost a write-up of an acquaintance of mine because he has this all summed up quite nicely. It was originally in response to Ebert saying games "could never be art" a few months back.

    I am usually the first person to defend Roger Ebert, but he is just talking out of his ass here. The terms of his argument are ludicrous, he's operating from extreme prejudice and ignorance, and he's using highly loaded terms that are selectively defined in a way that most supports his point of view. I don't care what he has to say here. Either games have provided meaningful personal moments for you or they have not.

    I'm going to refer back to Angel's post because I think "games as art" conversations become immediately bogged down in vapid comparisons to other media. The unique element of games, of any game, are the rules - a collection of agreed-upon (or enforced) mechanics that interact with player choice and action to facilitate some larger meaning.

    Chess is a great game. Its elegance and complexity and apparently limitless depth makes it compelling and endlessly intriguing. It clearly taps into something we find really, really fascinating. The game board is both entirely abstract and deeply metaphorical. If you don't want to call chess a work of art, then you're just being pedantic or snotty. How many artists have employed chess in their works? As a marker of intelligence? As a symbol of rivalry? Of friendship? As a metaphor for the futility of war, or its strategy and beauty? How many chess terms have entered popular vocabulary?

    Games are meaningful creative works. They've been around for a very long time and have long informed our popular consciousness, and video games are just another form. Games help people understand how simple ideas (i.e. rules) can interact in complex ways, or how complex ideas can interact in ultimately simple and exploitable ways, or how certain ideas will inevitably lead towards certain outcomes.

    When a great game comes to a climax, it is not because some animator somewhere really nailed an awesome cut scene. The climax of a great game involves a moment when all of the various rules come together in a way that reveals the meaning and depth of their interaction. In chess, this happens with a checkmate - a moment when the game comes to fruition, where the meaning of every previous move becomes clear, and when player actions intersect in a decisive moment.

    This is why Roger Ebert doesn't give a shit about games: because he doesn't play them. You can't understand games without playing them. You can't have someone sit you down and try to explain Flower with a powerpoint presentation. Games are about learning, not experiencing. When you play a game, you're learning it, and you're playing for those great "Oh" moments where something emerges out of the rules that you didn't expect or couldn't appreciate without seeing those rules in action. Some games do this once or very few times (such as "Train" or "Passage") but are nonetheless great. Other games do this many times (such as Chess).

    It's really frustrating to see essays like Ebert's. It's not because he upsets me (who cares?), but because gamers everywhere insist on ruminating about the "future of games" when in reality games are old as hell. Video games have done some great new things with them, but games are still games, and there's absolutely no reason to defend them when they've done a great job being important parts of our culture for the past few thousand years.

    src, http://www.forumopolis.com/showpost.php?p=3306484&postcount=150 [forumopolis.com]

  • Some people think that covering a room in spaghetti or throwing paint randomly on canvas is art.

    I don't consider it art because any 4 year old can do it. However it still is art.

    Others think that industrial gore metal (or whatever that banging of instruments and screaming is called) is art.

    Again, I don't consider it that because it sounds horrible, however all of the fans of that music would disagree with me. Notice I still called it music, and music is art.

    On the other hand, I think that games like Alice,

  • I think that Portal easily qualifies as "worthy of comparison". In fact, it beats the hell out of the lesser entertainment forms he mentions. I don't even see why people care about having games defined as "art", the great games go so far beyond that. The experience is much more personal in games, you are not forced to spend your time from the outside looking in. You spend your time actually in it. This tool Ebert admits to not have the credentials to make a valid comparison so I don't see why anyone ev
  • Aaaah!

    Look, people need to understand something about this stupidity. Leading beigocrats like Ebert mean something stupid when they talk about Art (pretentious capital letter implied by the beigocracy). They mean, "Art that doesn't offend anyone that matters." Often, this is Art made by people who are long dead, although in film it includes films that win Academy awards.

    Often, Art that is dismissed as garbage when it comes out, but which still becomes influential will be inducted into the canon. Stuff l

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