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The Media Entertainment Games

'Games Are Not Art' - The Fault of Game Journalists 149

Roger Ebert has gone on record stating that he doesn't think games are art, and may never be up to the level of film as a medium. Kyle Orland responds on the Video Game Media Watch site, saying that if anyone is to blame game journalists are at fault for that perception. From the article: "The question of whether or not games are art is a hotly contested one, and one I don't want to get into in depth here. Suffice it to say I think they are, as far as they are capable of providing deep emotional experiences that can change the way we look at the world. If you agree that games are art (or will at least grant me the premise), here's another question more relevant to the focus of this site: Have we, as critics, given people like Ebert enough reason to believe that games are art?"
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'Games Are Not Art' - The Fault of Game Journalists

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  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:24PM (#14157578) Homepage
    Remember that the mainstream view of the Games industry is the MTV Video Game Awards and the XBox commercials. Nobody ever gave Ebert a copy of Myst, Monkey Island, Ico, or any of the other classics of the art.
    • True enough, but even these titles would require considerable effort to classify as art as games.

      I'll take Ico as my example. I only recently played this (less than a month ago), despite having received recommendations for years.

      Despite the elapsed time, I was still blown away by some of the great visuals. The plot wasn't awful either, which was a nice surprise. But there the good stuff ended. Games cannot claim to be art solely because they contain great graphics and quality writing. And there is no wa
      • Fine then. Settlers of Catan - yes, it's a boardgame - but in any PC game case you could describe the programming, the simulation, etc. as the "art" rather than the gameplay itself.

        And by breaking an artform into it's component media to discard "art" you open the possibility of denying that any number of things are "art" - for example, take a Pixar film - the animation is art, the script is art, the modelling is art... but is it an art to put it all together? If so, then I don't see how a game is exempt f
        • I just think its stupid that this whole situation is even being considered. If a scripted film can be art, then a scripted video game is art too. The addition of interactivity does not inherently change anything besides the fact that it stimulates the brain even more. And like all art there are only a few gems amidst a vast field of coal. Although, I would say that currently there really are very few game writers that really push a story line to invoke any emotions besides happiness and hatred. Unfortu
    • Re:Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DreadPiratePizz ( 803402 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:13PM (#14158777)
      Such games you mention certainly contain art. I will not argue that Myst does not contain wonderful visual creations. I will not argue that Monkey Island contains good comedic writing. But under it all, it's just a game, and a game, in and of itself, is NOT art. A game is a set of rules. Good games are fair and involve skill, and therefore fun to play, and poor games are unfair or require little skill. Creating a good game is not an art, it is simply picking from established principles. Even "innovative" games are not different, the Sims basic game mechanics are no different from an arcade shooter: to survive. Ebert's point is well taken. An artist is in control of their work, the experience they give the viewer is pivital to the work. How then can you call a game art when the experience is NOT controlled by the artist? Sure, the game designer can try to control as much as possible, but then doesn't it become more like a movie or a book? Marathon's story was excelent, but it was all conveyed in text form via terminals. Many modern games use cutscenes to drive the experience. Video games must fall back on these art forms: film and literature to give their stories a boost. Could you effectively tell a story with no scripted encounters, and no textual passages? Possiblely, as in the sims, but that would be the PLAYER'S story. It's impossible for the game designer to create a meaningful story without resorting to one of these two art forms. This of course assumes that the story and the experience is that art. You can certainly create an FPS that takes place in a painting or photo gallery. But would that be FUN? Would that be a good game?
      • Simple idea for "art" game. Sim Auschwitz. Run a factory/camp in Nazi Germany, with no scripted encounters, following a Peter Molyneux style of gameplay. Considerations include funding, productivity, and the risk of being labeled treasonous if he's too nice to your prisoners. The game would have a clear effect on the player (as the player gets to experience the decisions that lead him to kill the annoying or sick workers, let Mengele perform experiments there, and ultimately stuff his workers into the f
      • By your logic, I conclude that movies are not art. In a movie, you are either forced to rely upon dialog (falling back on literature), visual impact (which simply reproduces the work of a painter or sculpter), or the interactions of humans (like, say, a play). Hell, plays and literature are built on oral traditions -- they can't be art, either. I am sorry, but your logic is flawed.
  • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:26PM (#14157592) Homepage
    I don't think most of the movies he reviews are art either.
    • What is Art (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      To me, any work that requires creative thinking and stirrs up emotion, is art. Anything that does not, is not.

      Brave New World is Art. Citizen Kane is art. Casablanca is art.

      Pearl Harbour? That is not art. It is an escape, sure, but it is not art.

      Same with games. Quake 3 is art. Mario Kart is not.

      Sure, there is art in the game, obviously (the characters, etc). But the work as a whole is not art unless it evokes some kind of emotional presence.

      Now, art is subjective. Just because Pearl Harbour does not evok

      • Contrast & compare:

        Quake 3 is art. Mario Kart is not. with

        To me, any work that requires creative thinking and stirrs up emotion, is art.

        You, sir, have obviously never played MK. Also, Quake 2 was more 'art' than quake 3.

  • It doesnt matter whether some splipper wearing pipe smoking anal rentetive thinks that games are art or not, the industry will still keep pumping millions upon millions of pounds into it anyway, because people keep on buying. I wouldn't have said that the latest Star Wars film was art but it sold didnt it? Made a bit of money didnt it?
    • While I agree that the opinion of elitists and critics should not be taken too seriously, we should ask more of video games than what makes a big profit - snobs and philistines are equally obnoxious. I rarely find the top-selling movies and music satisfying at all, because to my tastes they are repetitive fluff. I want something deeper than what most people are currently shelling out tons of money for, and I'm sad to say that currently video games seldom offer it. I don't share Ebert's skepticism, though. I
    • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      Unfortunatly Ebert is one of the few big name critics who will consistently give a thumbs up to well done cartoons and anime. If we can't convince _him_ that games are art then how are we supposed to convince the _real_ art snobs?
    • I really, really, really don't think Roger Ebert was trying to claim that video games aren't successful, marketable products. I also don't think he was claiming that all movies were art. The points you're trying to make should already be obvious to everyone, and are kind of irrelevant to the discussion.

      I'm tentatively siding with Ebert on this subject. You can have exceptional graphics that immerse you completely in the world being presented, an intricate plot with compelling characters, and a string of
  • Art is subjective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by faloi ( 738831 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:27PM (#14157620)
    What constitutes art for one person may be a stack of scrap iron to another. I don't think we should care much about whether Ebert thinks video games are art. What difference would it make anyway? Last I heard the video game industry isn't so strapped for cash they're looking for NEA money.
    • What constitutes art for one person may be a stack of scrap iron to another.

      So I take it you've seen the Watts Towers [wikipedia.org]?
    • I agree that art is subjective, but I think we should keep money as a different issue. Excepting ridiculously famous classics, most serious art loses more money than it makes.

      That being said, games are art because countless gamers say they are. As the number of gamers increases and as the average age of the gamer increases with it, the number of people who agree with this point will rise. Ten or twenty years from now when all the people who hate games are retiring and we take over the world, the fossils li
  • Problem number 1 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:28PM (#14157633)
    Define "art".
    • Define "art"

      an archaic present second singular of BE?

      Nope, games are not art.
    • Thats easy... http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=art [reference.com]

      art
      n.
      1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
      2. a. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
      b. The study of these activities.
      c. The product of these activities; human works of beauty consid

    • Easy:
      1. Excellence of craft
      2. Meaning at multiple levels

      This definition doesn't rely on "beauty" or subjective notions, and you can pretty much find a 1:1 mapping between it and something you consider art.

      "Excellence of craft" simply speaks to execution: is it well-done, or is it sloppy? Note this doesn't exclude things which are "artistically sloppy" or similar: they should also be executed excellently! This doesn't preclude subject matter.

      "Meaning at multiple levels" means, if you have, say, a pict

    • I learned in a class in college (named Art & Literature, one of those Liberal Arts classes i was forced to take) that something could only be considered art if the "experts" considered it art. I never did find out what that ment, seems kinda catch-22ish to me. Who would the experts be, in the case of painting? The artists, or those who consume the art? The problem would be the same with games.

      I would venture that a great number of games are not art, but there are a select few who are, and those ones ar
    • Define "art".

      Something that the elite can appreciate but the masses can never hope to enjoy.
    • From the Oxford English Dictionary:

      noun 1 the expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture. 2 the product of such a process; paintings, drawings, and sculpture collectively. 3 (the arts) the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, and drama. 4 (arts) subjects of study primarily concerned with human culture (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects). 5 a skill: the art of conversation.

      It's a bit wordy, but essentially games are art. Reg

  • What is art? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neo ( 4625 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:30PM (#14157656)
    The question of "What is art" is not an easy one to answer, but IMO most games are not art. My working definition of art is as follows:

    Art is that which is created by an artist with the intention of communicating with their audience.

    Most games are not attempting to communicate, but are rather trying to entertain their audience.
    • So by your definition, Saving Private Ryan isn't art, but an illustrated dictionary is?
      • So by your definition, Saving Private Ryan isn't art, but an illustrated dictionary is?

        I believe that the creators of Saving Private Ryan were attempting to communicate something to the audience, thus it would qualify as art. Did you not feel anything after viewing that movie?
        • I certainly did. Most of all I felt entertained. Sure, I thought about various issues surrounding warfare, in particular how we use it in entertainment media, but I've done the same thing after picking through an encyclopedia or playing Advance Wars.
          • I certainly did. Most of all I felt entertained. Sure, I thought about various issues surrounding warfare, in particular how we use it in entertainment media, but I've done the same thing after picking through an encyclopedia or playing Advance Wars.

            Again, this comes back to intention. Did the creators of Saving Private Ryan intend to communicate something about warfare? Was there a message intended by the actors, directors, etc?

            Now in Advanced Wars, I don't think there was an intention to communicate a m
        • I felt sad after I killed some of the Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus, like I had killed some elegant beast. Would this make it qualify as art? The developer was clearly trying to communicate something. GTA has missions in it similar to scenes from The French Connection and Live and Die in LA, how can those be classed as art but a game not?

          Games can be artistic, and in fact some are. They may not measure up to the legendary films, book and poetry, but they may in time. Keep in mind that most of those medi
          • I felt sad after I killed some of the Colossi in Shadow of the Colossus, like I had killed some elegant beast. Would this make it qualify as art? The developer was clearly trying to communicate something.

            If the developer was attempting to communicate this feeling, then yes, it's art.

            GTA has missions in it similar to scenes from The French Connection and Live and Die in LA, how can those be classed as art but a game not?

            Just because something looks similar to something that was art, doesn't make it art.

            Games
            • Obviously you're not a post-modernist snob.

              They say the intention of the author is irrelevant, that the work should be judged entirely without reference to what the artist might have been trying to say.

              Personally, I think the whole thing is an attempt to wrest control of art away from the artists. "I don't care what you meant to say, I'm here to tell you what your work actually communicates." That sort of thing.

    • "Most" movies these days only attempt to entertain as well. "Most" genre-based fiction only attempts to entertain.

      All forms of media are art, whether they communicate the existential state of the human condition or communicate what a gunshot to the head might look like. It all doesn't have to be so literary. A piece of work can be aesthetically pleasing for a myriad of reasons beyond communicating something directly and coherently.

      Video games are perhaps the most complex out of all media today because
      • You've touched on a good point. Many things that are created are just craft and are not art. Art requires intention. Craft requires skill.

        A great movie that entertains but which was never intended to convey a message isn't art. An artist must intend to create art...
    • Most games are not attempting to communicate, but are rather trying to entertain their audience.

      That's true, but it's also true about most movies, most books, and most songs. People are simply much more willing to pay money for entertainment than for communication - and in fact if you consider "making someplace prettier" to be a form of entertainment then I'd also say most paintings and most sculptures qualify as entertainment more than as art.

      But, just as with all those other media, there are some excepti
      • But, just as with all those other media, there are some exceptionally artistic games, and in fact I'd say that the medium has more potential than traditional art forms.

        I agree. I am very excited about interactive art/games.
    • Most games are not attempting to communicate, but are rather trying to entertain their audience.

      Indeed [dcccd.edu]?

      "The sender intends -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- to accomplish something by communicating. In organizational contexts, messages typically have a definite objective: to motivate, to inform, to teach, to persuade, to entertain, or to inspire."
      [Emphasis added.]

      In case you want to dispute my source, I should also point out that most people learn the four primary purposes of communication (to info
      • Allow me to edit:

        Most games are not attempting to communicate, but are rather trying to entertain their audience.

        Most games are not attempting to communicate as art, but are rather trying to entertain their audience.

        You kinda have to be here for the entire thread to get that, but I'm guessing you just jumped in.
    • "Art is that which is created by an artist with the intention of communicating with their audience.

      Most games are not attempting to communicate, but are rather trying to entertain their audience."

      Take a movie like Independence Day. What does it doing? It's entertaining you. What's there to communicate? Oh, we're going to save the day from the evil aliens! Yay!"

      Now take a game like Deus Ex. "Life imitates art. Art imitates life." Not sure how that goes but Deus Ex definitely imitates life. Nanotechn
  • I may not know art, but I know what I like!
  • This is something... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by th1ckasabr1ck ( 752151 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:35PM (#14157720)
    This is something that I spend a decent amount of time thinking about/discussing - I'm a game programmer, and once in a while this topic comes up. The real tough part of this problem is defining art.

    Can games be beautiful? Absolutely. Look at Doom 3 or Ico, both beautiful in completely different ways. Can games be emotional? Sure. Check out Valkyrie Profile or Final Fantasy or whatever. Can games make you think? Definitely. Do these things combined make them art? I have no clue, mainly because the definition of art is so subjective.

    Personally I don't think we should view the games we are making as art. It's really easy to forget with games that we are making a product (software) to sell to a consumer. Any time that we are doing something in the game which does not increase the value of our product to our potential consumer, then we are tilting off course. It seems to me that if the decisions we make are consumer driven, then that tends to lean us away from the 'art' label.

    • You don't need to define art. There are things which have lasting value and things which don't (although that's not necessarily a requirement for art). People agree on it generally, given thoughtful openness to the experience. Chess and Go have enduring value. If any game is to be considered art, they are. Is there a computer game that is on that level? Pong? ADVENT? Pac Man? Tetris? Doom? maybe, maybe - all changed gaming culture and our perception of games. Consider Doom: I was there, man, I was there. Th
    • Most if not all of of Michaelangelo's famous creations were paid-for products.
  • Really, why does this make the news?
    Most of us who play videogames since our childhood recognize some of them as true pieces of art. Right off the top o' my head, I can cite a gazillion pretentious poshy videogames, and a dozen times more "b-movie-direct-to-VHS-style" video games.

    Why should be sound angry when some old dude who obviously doesn't get on with the times does whatever EVERY OLD PERSON DOES, AND WHAT WE WILL ALSO EVENTUALLY DO, LIKE IT OR NOT?
  • by Deanasc ( 201050 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:43PM (#14157803) Homepage Journal
    Clearly Roger Ebert doesn't get it. He hasn't immersed himself in the plot and story line of a game like Grand Theft Auto. Games like GTA are more than literature, more than cinema. They're a completely immersive multimedia experience where the story is told not only in the splash screens before game challenges but in the radio stations as the character is driving around or in the billboards and cityscape that the character passes by. That's a more immersive environment then anything Eisenstein, Bergen, Wells, Speilberg or even Bruckheimer could ever hope to bring to their audience.
  • Games are a Medium (Score:5, Insightful)

    by breadbot ( 147896 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:45PM (#14157836) Homepage
    Is paint art? Of course not. It's a medium. Games can be created artistically or not, just like paint can be used to express truth and beauty or simply to cover a wall.
    • Games can be created artistically or not, just like paint can be used to express truth and beauty or simply to cover a wall.

      99 Rooms [99rooms.com] is a good example of an artistic game.
      • Wow, thanks a lot! That was incredible. People, check it out!
        Don't forget to turn up the volume. I played 20 rooms before realising that there probably was a soundtrack as well. The sound is very important for the experience.

        I'd consider it an installation more than a game, though (don't know if "installation" is the correct word in English, they're usual in modern art exhibitions, and usually technical in nature).

        Do you know of more games like this? Share :)
  • Well, he's basically saying games have no cultural value, other than wasting some time. The same could probably be said for just about all the music, movies, tv, books and magazines published. But this assumes that he is capable of measuring the cultrual value of a thing, which I doubt any observer is.
  • wrote an email to ebert in response to this. in it, i noted that it might be too soon to make any sort of assessment. as a gamer, i certainly believe games have come out that qualify as art. but when ebert compares video games as an ostensibly artistic medium to film and literature and music citing that there are no examples of games that measure up to the classics in those other forms, i think he's being unfair. gaming is still in its infancy. how long was music being created or writing or film before
  • by Bill Walker ( 835082 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:53PM (#14157933)
    Nic Kelman begs to differ:
    Considering its subject, Video Game Art (Assouline, 300 pp., $29.95) is surprisingly thick with text. That's because it's the brainchild of a novelist, 28-year-old Nic Kelman, who strives to make the case for this ever expanding genre as a genuine art form, drawing analogies to film, myth, and literary epics. Even for the gaming averse, though, a flip through these pages is revelatory, suggesting the sheer range of intricate dream-scapes and brain-tickling phantasms buried amid the clichéd ghouls and fembots.

    (text from this week's Village Voice)
  • from (TFA):
    "To my knowledge, 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."

    First and foremost, it requires quite an investment to enjoy a video game to its full potential, unlike a play, or a movie, or a book, which can range from a $10 price tag and a couple hours of your time, to $30-40 and a couple days. An epic video game with a great storyline can take days, or months of a casual gamers time t
  • I don't know if this point has been made before, but I think that the closed platforms on which games run will make it almost impossible for them to have any kind of long term cultural impact. It really depends if they'll be available and playable 20, or 50, or a hundred years from now.

    I know that things like MAME are keeping the old games alive, but is it really going to be possible to emulate a 360? That's a pretty complicated machine, and DRM is built into the very fabric of it.

    In many ways, we're in s
    • The source code to the games will be available somewhere. Also true that the Xbox 360 has DRM built in but the computers of tomorrow may well be so powerful that they can brute force the DRM right out of the game. Imagine MAME for a PS3 game running on a quantum computer where speed is measured in yotta flops. The games will live on.
  • by lpangelrob ( 714473 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @01:01PM (#14158007)
    Can we at least show the central basis of his argument?

    There is a structural reason for [video games being inferior to film and literature]: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

    The appropriate question, therefore, is: does the introduction of player choices into a material inherently undermine the authorial control of a work of art, videogame, book or otherwise?

    I think the answer is no. But search for "interactive movie" and you can see where the argument comes from.

    • So changing the ending of a movie because the focus group didn't get it is not the same as player choice? I think it is.
    • Really, even movies and books aren't art, then - they are not entirely passive things, they do require the viewer or reader to make choices (minimal choices, and certainly films and books don't react, but the material is still processed differently depending on what choices the audience makes).

      Authorial control is never absolute - it is a matter of degree. Movies and books tend to have more, video games tend to have less. Some movies and books allow less control than others A book or film might go into grea
  • by hudsonhawk ( 148194 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @01:07PM (#14158058)

    Every single comment so far is about Ebert. Attacking him for being fat, or for having a stupid opinion. I think we can all agree that games can be art. We can all site anecdotal examples of games that raised goosebumps, made us laugh, or made us cry. Ebert is not the world's definitive voice on aesthetics, and to his credit he made a very qualified statement there - games are not art to him.

    But that's all beside the point. Ebert's comments provide context for a very good article here, one that raises a lot of excellent points. The video game press is extraordinarily pathetic. Something won't be considered "serious" art unless it evokes intelligent critical discussion, not fanboy-esque 8 page reviews that focus on the graphics, speculate on the frame rate, and the quality of the sound.

    Imagine if all art were reviewed the way video games were. If Premiere gave movies ratings on their special effects, if Rolling Stone scored music according to the sound quality of the recording, if the New York times spent long periods of time talking about how good the typeset was of the new Phillip Roth novel. Who would read such garbage? Why do we?

    Great art - perhaps even true art - transcends its medium. Its fans and evangilists don't get caught up in the nuts and bolts. We can acknowledge and admire the Mona Lisa's revolutionary use of perspective, but that's not what stirs our emotioins when we look at it.

    • I seem to remember Roger Ebert giving the Rundown a good review because it was fun to watch, according to his idea of what makes a movie fun. How is that any different than reading a review of a game to find out whether or not it will be fun for you? Sure, they discuss graphics and sound, but doesn't that all add into the enjoyability of the game? If, this very day, [pick a great movie] was released, but the audio sounded like you were listening to it through a tin can, the acting was something akin to Resi
      • Independent films come along all the time that are shot in video, or cheap DV, with mono sound. Blair Witch isn't a great example (being that it's a terrible movie) but it ought to prove my point. El Mariachi was ugly, sounded bad, and had poor special effects. Few of its reviews dwelled on these things.

        Likewise, lots of independent music is recorded on cheap 4-track recorders and cheaper microphones. Some of my favorite CDs are awful, awful recordings. It doesn't make them any less brilliant.

        As for you
    • But movies are reviewed that way. They can have beautiful cinematography and special effects but have bad (or good) editing or story, etc.

      In fact, see Ebert's review of The Polar Express [suntimes.com] which talks about the effects, etc.

    • Who would read such garbage?

      Apparently I would.

      I subscribe to Computer Music [computermusic.co.uk] which has a section where they critique user submitted songs based on their technical/production merits, which at least to me makes for an interesting read, especially as the songs are included on a DVD which comes with each issue of the magazine.

      There are also sites like DVD Journal [dvdjournal.com] which mostly focuses on the technical side of DVD releases.
  • Debate Fu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @01:09PM (#14158071) Homepage Journal
    Once a student of Master Huang publicly lost a debate. As was the custom, he reported to his teacher to be disciplined for his failure. The disciple said, "Master, I am ashamed to report I have suffered a humiliating public defeat."

    "How is this possible?" his teacher asked, "Have you not trained eight years under my tutelage?

    "My opponent was an authority. I could not overpower him." sighed the student.

    Master Huang replied, "It matters not. All opponents are equally defeatable. Did you not learn the First Precept?"

    "As we all did on our first day of training: 'Ignorance is the foundation of debate. That which is understood is not debatable.' But I did not understand the topic at all, and I still lost!" whined the student.

    "Idiot!" exclaimed the master, "Your ignorance is not at issue, it is your opponent's. He who understands this cannot be defeated, even by the Jade Emporer."

    "But my opponent was skillful! He does nothing but argue about pointless matters all day! How can I a student of only eight years defeat such a man?"

    Master Huang was moved to pity, and decided to give the student one last lesson. "I see you have not learned," Master Huang said. "Either I am a poor teacher or your are dull student. Nonetheless I will try one last time to teach your the use of the First Precept. Attack me as your opponent did!"

    "Master I dare not!" exclaimed the student, "You are most venerable and I do not wish to dishonor you!"

    "You dishonor me by your cowardice!" roared the Master. "Show me your opponent's attack!"

    The student reluctantly began, "Games are not art..." but was instantly dumbfounded to find himself upside-down and flying through the air. "This is most wondrous!" thought the student, as he watched entire continents slip away below him. He began to wonder how far he would travel, when he suddently slammed into something hard and fell to the ground. He looked up in wonder to behold the Seven Pillars of Heaven. He had been hurled twelve thousand li in a space of a few breaths.

    The student felt a pang of concern as to how he would return, when a sound drew his attention. He was stupefied to see Master Huang relieving himself on one of the Pillars. "Master, how did you arrive here so quickly?"

    "Quickly!" laughed the master, "I could gone to each of these Pillars in turn, peed on it, and returned in the time it took you to get here!"

    "How is this possible master!" cried the student, "Teach me the secret I beg you!"

    Master Huang said nothing but pointed high on the Pillars. The student saw that each pillar had a word inscribed on it in characters like flame as tall as an earthly mountain. Together these words made the phrase:


    HE DEFINES HIS TERMS, YOU DISPUTE THEM.
  • by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @01:10PM (#14158090) Homepage

    What's interesting is that this argument is old...and I'm not talking about the argument over whether or not video games are art. Every time a new artistic medium arises, participants (artists, critics, educators, people involved in the business around other mediums) claim that the new medium isn't "art".

    Many universities are still entrenched in the debate over whether or not to consider photography a classical art. One-by-one, educational institutions are accepting photography as a form of classical art. The fact is that over time, new mediums are eventually accepted as art, and the naysayers lose. The media with which Roger Ebert is a critic, film, was not always considered art either. There was debate over this media as well. Of course, TFA [edge-online.co.uk] puts this argument much more eloquiently than I can.

    It is irrelevant whether or not there is a unanimous acceptance of video games as art. All it takes is a critical mass of participants to consider a media art, and it's pretty much there. The credibility of an art form amongst educators doesn't really matter, except maybe in a legal (first amendment) sense.

    The fact is that this is more of a generational issue. Video games are especially new to a fellow like Ebert, who is entrenched in the media that he is famaliar with. It is clear that Ebert is stuck in his ways and does not want to accept any new media into his worldview. Ebert admits [suntimes.com] to making a judgement of video games while being unfamaliar with video games. He claims [suntimes.com] that since the user is required to make choices and participate, that it is somehow inferior to other forms of art. I tend to disagree, since the viewer/reader/listener must take an active role in interpreting the art, thus taking an active role and making decisions in the outcome of their experience in the work itself.

    • Well said. In the distant future movies may no longer be considered art either. I mean after all, how can a 2-dimensional noninteractive medium possibly be art? I mean that's just crazy talk! This reminds me a bit of that Futurama episode in which Fry is sitting around listening to "classical music", actually rap music extolling the virtues of the buttocks (Bender paraphrase).
    • This quote from Ebert:

      "That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept."

      Really shows exactly how clueless he is about games. Notice how he mentions "artistic importance as a visual experience". Of course he would think of it this way, the films he watches are only audio/visual experiences and as a non-gamer this is how he perceives games.
      Because you see, interactivity is not allowed in his definition of art:

      "...writing that I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior
      • ...Well, Ebert how many hours have you spent watching films that you have given a thumbs down too? The film industry is full of crap that has no artistic merit whatsover. There is as much shovel-ware in cinema as there is in video games. The basic situation is that Ebert does not understand games and is just the old guard of an older medium...

        I couldn't agree with you more. Ebert is trying to hang on to what he knows and undestands. It's not not that video games are above or beneath him...he has just

  • ...is this comment right here:

    "The question of whether or not games are art is a hotly contested one, and one I don't want to get into in depth here. Suffice it to say I think they are ..."

    Why not getting into it in depth? Would that be the whole point posting a response refuting Mr. Ebert's claims?

  • Until we all agree on a definition of art, it's pointless to argue that something is or is not art.
    • No it isn't!

      Reminds me of the Monty Python argument sketch [mindspring.com]

      It's bascially a personal opinion if something is art, though there is no shortage of people who will tell you what to think if you let them.

  • Have we, as critics, given people like Ebert enough reason to believe that games are art?

    I definitely think so. Games reviewers, like Ebert, give a description of the set and setting, plot, experience, describe the taste left in their mouth when the game is done, and finally give a qualitative score based on all elements put together. However, because games are "put together" in real time and not in advance like movies, game reviews are swayed by the technical prowess of the product. In a way this is
    • You've missed the point. Of course they are 'art'. In they same way a poster of two kittens on a blanket is 'art'. There is lighting, focus, composition etc. The question is are games 'Art'. By 'Art' I mean high-brow art with depth to them.
      • Can they be discussed seriously?
      • Do they offer insight on the human condition? Do they have engaging metaphors?
      • Pose questions worth debating?
      • Leave you exposed to something new you have not considered before?

      Considering the way mosts geeks (I suspect) would snicker

      • One important aspect of art is that it tells a story, even if it is a static image or sculpture. Games tell a story in a more blunt fashion, of course, but just the same they flesh out minor details that might never be considered in a painting or novel. In Knights of the Old Republic, nearly every item you pick up has a short back story, thereby making every element of the experience alive.

        Another aspect of art is to put the viewer in the shoes of the artist, which games exceed at, for those who care
  • Brother! You look like a faaat man in need of an ass-bruisin'!
  • Ok, Pixars Toy Story... CGI Right? That was art. ID's Doom 3... CGI Right? That isnt art? Same deal... Games are as much art as movies under these principals
  • I can't believe this repeatedly comes up like it's some mysterious question that needs to be worked out. Just like every other artform in existence, they range from commercial work that would be considered "craft" and definitely not "fine art", they have a middle point of indie games that are more arty and experimental but still accessible (maybe Katamari or Colossus), and there are extremely experimental games that are more about expression or defining the nature of video games.

    I think the problem with
  • Movies will never achieve the kind of art that paintings or sculpture achieve. So it's fair to assume that games will never achieve the kind of art that movies are. They're inherently different.

    However, there are books and movies that require your interaction to be complete, so it can't be the interaction aspect of games that denies it art status. Citizen Kane intended the viewer to make his own image of the reporter since he is intentionally obscured throughout the movie. Books typically rely on your i
  • Semantic squabbles like this properly hinge upon analysis of terms. But of course it's not really about semantics, is it?

    The question itself is disingenuous. The questioner does not care whether games are in a class, "art". It's really about power. If "art" has a power to control people, if "artists" can allocate the resources of other people, and "games" are a subclass of "art", then "game artists" have increased power.

    But one essential difference between games and other sound and vision arts is that g
  • It takes any new entertainment form time - decades to centuries - to move from being seen as pop entertainment to accepted as an art form. Novels, film, television, they all went through a stage where they were seen largely as mass-market pablum (whether or not all of what was being produced really was that), with no other possibilities. Eventually, it was recognized that although not all (novels, films, TV shows) are great works of art, it is possible to create ones that are, and more and more were create
  • you can't difinitively say that games is an artform until you decide what is art. so i think this is a stupid line of questioning.

    art is art when someone important says so.
    art is art when i say so.
    art is art when i like it.
    art is art when someone important likes it.
    art is art as long as it's done by an artist. ...

  • Not to rain on everyone's parade, but ... doesn't he have a point? I quote: "To my knowledge, 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."

    In what way is this statement false? I love games, I play them constantly. I think some are beautiful, others enthralling, and others make you think. Some are finely-tuned fun for ways you can't quite explain, but keep going back to play.

    But there are none that
    • But there are none that are masterpieces. None that will still be enjoyed by our grandchildren, and mentioned in schoolbooks. And until there are, he's right. I'm not saying it's _impossible_ that there could be such a thing, just that there isn't right now.

      If you look at a close cousin to video games, i.e. board games, we already have a few that span more generations than film, games such as Go [boardgamegeek.com] and Chess [boardgamegeek.com]. We even have some modern board games that have been played by generations like Monopoly [boardgamegeek.com].

      I'd be wi
  • Ebert is a dinosaur, but reviews do suck. Should Rolling Stone rate an album by giving 1 to 10 for fidelity, listenablity, cover art, replay value, and non-composite overall? Such a thing would be ridiculous, but that's basically what game reviews do. Game reviews need to be more like music reviews: don't tell me about the 'plot' (lyrics) or 'graphics' (fidelity). Tell me about what kind of experience I will have with this product! Compare it to past works and genres. Explain how it's better or worse than o
  • You can't.

    Believe me I've taken years of philosophy classes and art history classes and if you can come up with
    a definition of art that *is exclusionary* in any way, you'll be wrong.

    Art has expanded to encompass all things. (urinals, shit, toasters, underwear, garbage, noises, etc.)

    All that is necessary to make something art, is quite literally "for its maker to proclaim it as art".

    So, Roger (since I know far more about art than you): "I declare the videogame I am currently coding to be art".

    There. Try yo

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