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Roger Ebert On Why Video Games Can Never Be Art

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the wait-till-you-catch-those-moving-pictures dept.

Games 733

Roger Ebert has long held the opinion that video games are not and can never be considered an art form. After having this opinion challenged in a TED talk last year, Ebert has now taken the opportunity to thoughtfully respond and explain why he maintains this belief. Quoting: "One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them. She quotes Robert McKee's definition of good writing as 'being motivated by a desire to touch the audience.' This is not a useful definition, because a great deal of bad writing is also motivated by the same desire. I might argue that the novels of Cormac McCarthy are so motivated, and Nicholas Sparks would argue that his novels are so motivated. But when I say McCarthy is 'better' than Sparks and that his novels are artworks, that is a subjective judgment, made on the basis of my taste (which I would argue is better than the taste of anyone who prefers Sparks)."

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Then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902642)

if competion in games isnt art Syncronised swimming or any other sport with is no more a sport than ballet.

Re:Then (3, Insightful)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903004)

Any sport without an objective scoring method isn't. It's merely performance art.

Nintendogs (1)

teh31337one (1590023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902650)

Can't win at that. It doesn't fall under "a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film" either

Re:Nintendogs (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902728)

You may not be able to win at Nintendogs, but if you're playing it at all you've already lost.

Re:Nintendogs (1)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902968)

mmmmm...tasty nintendodogs....

Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (5, Insightful)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902654)

At this point it's almost like he's desperately trying to find some way of defining "art" in a way that excludes video games purely because he, for some reason, NEEDS them to not be art.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he's officially passed into hinging his entire worldview in relation to videogames as art on a "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902748)

agreed. As soon as you start to make semantic quibbles you've lost. (even if you're right. which he is not.) (emphatically not. His definition of art is incredible bullshit. The difference between art and games is that you can't win in art? Well that's great. By that definition, his argument is definitely art.)

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (5, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902986)

To expand upon this. In any argument if you start really arguing about whether something "really is" something (i.e. arguing over definitions) then you need to take a step back and ask why either side cares about that particular definition (whether it be "art" or "censorship" or "natural" or whatever). You will typically find that the reason both sides are trying to fight for a particular definition is because that word carries with it a whole slew of additional meaning/emotional-baggage/etc. ("art is deep and important", "censorship is bad", "natural is good", etc.).

So instead of arguing over the definition, you should just step back and argue about the characteristics of the things itself. ("Regardless of whether this is technically censorship or not, let's discuss whether this action is a net positive or negative, whether it is immoral, and whether it should be illegal." "Regardless of whether this product is 'natural' or not, let's study whether it is a net positive or negative with respect to human health." Etc.)

In this case, I don't know exactly what ground he thinks he is defending by excluding video games from the "art" category. When he says things like:

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

I can only guess that he comparing all would-be art to some theoretical perfect art (Platonic ideal?) that any person would be immediately moved by. And by his reckoning, video games don't comes close enough to qualify. I disagree with his implication that we can all agree so objectively on what makes "good art" versus "bad art". I think it's quite obvious that video games have an impact on many people--oftentimes a real emotional impact or one that produces thought and reflection. Again, regardless of whether or not you are willing to call that "art" is of little importance to me: video games have cultural impact.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (1)

quantumpineal (1724214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902788)

Well there's a simple litmus test: Can video games 'contain' art? answer yes, like RPGs especially. Doesn't that therefore make it in and of art? (I feel like I'm getting stupider the more I think on it)

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902928)

I don't think that's necessarily a conclusive argument. I can draw a beautiful picture on page 874 of my personal copy of the federal tax code, but that doesn't make the tax code art.

Without question there is art in video games, but the question is is the video game itself a piece of art? While the various character models, backgrounds, and even cinema clips are art, is the game as a whole? I'd argue that it is, because the design of the gameplay and the storyline, alterable by the user or not, is art in much the same way the architectural design of a building can be art. Additionally, there is such a thing as "interactive art" in which the observer is invited to interact with the art work in various ways. How is this different from a video game?

Of course, ultimately what is and isn't art is in the eye of the beholder. Ebert is entitled to his opinion as to what he considers art, as am I. It just so happens that he's wrong ;).

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903038)

Interactive art doesn't let you "win." There's no boss and often there's no story. And if you bring up non-games, or games that are made to be experienced rather than progress or win, then Ebert argues that you're not making a game anymore, but rather simply making interactive art. I think Ebert's definition is that art can be video games, but video games are not art.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (5, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903100)

If that's his argument, then how does he argue that movies are art? They're just a container for art, writing, stageplay, and audio. It could be strongly argued that camera movements (cinematography) are just mechanics placed on art, not art itself.

Arguing that game rules applied to art isn't art is just as absurd a line of argument - it doesn't matter if it's a game, if the content is art, the product itself is artistic.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (2, Interesting)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903008)

Is he referring to all types of art such as storytelling, music, visual art. Some of these games definitely contain all three but especially the visual aspect. They have some amazing visual artists out there.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (3, Informative)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902884)

At this point it's almost like he's desperately trying to find some way of defining "art" in a way that excludes video games purely because he, for some reason, NEEDS them to not be art.

No kidding. I don't care what anyone says, Portal was art by any sane definition.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902910)

The problem with his comments is that I can probably find a game or art that violates his claims.

[games have] rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film.

Flower, flOw, osmosis, and tetris (slightly less so) are abstract games that have no true objective in which you can simply experience the nuances of sound and art. Sure there is an endpoint, but they can easily be abstracted to have no end point. Then, there are notably games like heavy rain, hotel dusk, and myst, which have story, environments, and music, and the interactivity is more an artifact of the medium. Simply precluding something from being artistic because it's interactive is foolish. Doing so because it usually adheres to certain rules or conventions is even more foolish. Good paintings adhere to different aspects of shading and dimensions. Good music might adopt a standard tempo or melody. Good stories have beginings and ends, chapters and acts. I'd say games are the amalgamation of many art forms because it can have all of the above. Sometimes they don't because of market demand, but that's a different issue.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902950)

Copyright/trademark?

Better minds than I would know, but declaring something NotArt might have legal ramifications. But good or evil?

Schopenhauer (5, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902966)

There are much older definitions of art, like Schopenhauer's. He argues that artistic judgment is the disinterested contemplation of beauty or the sublime. That is a technical definition, but it basically means that art is free from your will, or desire.

If Schopenhauer is right and art is free from the will, then Ebert's idea is not so stupid, and has some intellectual pedigree. For, a game is the embodiment of the will, in that you want to triumph.

Re:Schopenhauer (5, Insightful)

Necreia (954727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903076)

Would that suggest, then, that if an observer and not player of such game - with no interest in victory for the player - appreciates it, that it is then art?

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903024)

The real issue isn't so much how he defines "art", but how he defines "game":

Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.

Its not 1980 any more and in many, maybe even most, mainstream video games "points" are a minuscule part of the experience if they exist at all and "winning" today's games is hardly any different then reaching the end of a DVD, you eventual get there, but that's not the reason you play it.

That said, even with his outdated definition of "game" I would disagree with him, as there is certainly some beauty even in games based around "points" and "winnig" that goes beyond just blunt craftmenship. The reason why Tetris or SuperMarioBros are still remembered 25 years later is because they did something far beyond the average forgettable game. Its a different kind of art then your average movies, but art non the less.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (5, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903046)

Art doesn't seem to have a good objective definition. It's always defined in terms of the things people consider to BE art. Any definition that doesn't use specific works seems to be an attempt at finding a common thread among the works that person considers to be art. Those themes can vary from person to person.

For some, emotional impact is key. A "sterile", though accurate drawing can never be art to them.
For some, technical skill is important. I know I've refused to call a lot of abstract works "art".
For others, social commentary or message is important. A pop singer is mere entertainment (the horror), but replace her lyrics about her boyfriend with ones about the hardships of poverty and she becomes an artist.

I've played video games that could pass muster in any of these categories, and some arguably in all three.

Wth Mr. Ebert, though, a work of art needs to be static. Interactivity, open-endedness, and an ability to win means it's not art. If you make a video game that is missing these pieces, he neatly claims it's no longer a video game. A very nice circular definition if you ask me.

Re:Is it me or is he sounding more desperate? (2, Insightful)

dishpig (877882) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903092)

His "definition" of art is pretty naive.

Melies seems to me vastly more advanced than her three modern video games. He has limited technical resources, but superior artistry and imagination

So he's predicating entry into the category of art on appeal. Art is neither a positive nor negative designation (thus, bad art exists). The definition and evaluation are not the same.

And the idea that participating / winning negates its ability to be considered art is completely arbitrary. There are different genres with different expectations that expand all the time. Most art I can think of already requires participation (also known as viewing, reading, listening, etc) - why should objectives disqualify anything? He gives no answer for that. Pretty weak stuff.

Winning? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902670)

I've never seen a person win a visual novel

Re:Winning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902702)

then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film.

that's because Choose-Your-Own Aventure Books (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902990)

tend to not have pictures :)

Roger Ebert... (-1, Troll)

Braintrust (449843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902680)

...is such a big mouth these days.

Re:Roger Ebert... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902908)

You know Roger, I think the only way to explain this to you is to use a movie quote, since thats what you are most known for.

"The first time someone calls you a horse you punch him on the nose.
The second time someone calls you a horse you call him a jerk.
But the third time someone calls you a horse, well then perhaps it's time to go shopping for a saddle."

How many times do you have to say "Video Games can never be art" before you accept that they can be?

Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.

I cried in the first Mass Effect when one of my team mates had to die (go ahead and get the lols out of the way). The whole game was a more immersive experience, and a better 'representation of a story' than some plays or dances or films I have seen. Even though I could technically "Beat" the game, or "win".

So really, Roger, what you are trying to say is, its not that Video Games can't be art, its that when it reaches that artistic level, its no longer a video game. Am I following properly?

Re:Roger Ebert... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903084)

cried in the first Mass Effect when one of my team mates had to die (go ahead and get the lols out of the way).

lol

No, actually, not lol. Anyone World of Warcraft player who actually bothered to play out the entire Battle of Darrowshire [wowwiki.com] quest chain, and didn't get misty-eyed at the ending, is a soulless undead thing.

It's a game. But it tells an affecting story. If that isn't, to the slightest degree, art, then nothing is.

Re:Roger Ebert... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902988)

Roger Ebert is such a big mouth these days.

It does sort of gape open since he had his lower jaw removed.

Re-Title This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902684)

"Roger Ebert On Why He's An Old Has-Been"

So wait... (1)

Spyware23 (1260322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902688)

Games aren't art because you can -win-? That's a rather bleak and pessimistic view on art. If you aren't allowed to win... I guess you aren't allowed to lose either. The only winning move is not to play... curious.

Re:So wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902776)

yea never mind all the artwork, programming skills and musical talent bleeding out of games these days

you can win, so its null, meanwhile films like (insert this months shit disney cartoon mill production here) should be cherished for all time cause its "art"

the media it is on does not define art

Majority? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902692)

If more people would rather watch Family Guy and South Park than read novels, does it mean Family Guy and South Park are better?

I bet movies had the same kind of arguments against them at the beginning: "Art is only for books and music, movies are not an art form".

Pinball games are closer to art then pc / video ga (0, Troll)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902700)

Pinball games are closer to art then pc / video games.

And a lot of work goes in to the play field in them.

Re:Pinball games are closer to art then pc / video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902834)

And a lot of work goes in to the play field in them.

Oh and I suppose the coder who spends 50 or 60 hours a week creating a cinematic environment is incapable of creating art? Who says that art has to be a tangable thing. Oh... Wait that would be Roger Ebert.

They can be art (3, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902704)

Art is anything that has the ability to inspire emotions in people. Some videogames certainly fit that definition. Few videogames currently have really artistic artwork, but good 3D immersion increases, not decreases, the emotional impact of artwork. Some areas of World of Warcraft are enjoyable just to wander through, e.g. the silence of the snow covered woods or flying on a Griffin. But then, I guess I believe that "art" and "play" are not mutually exclusive.

Re:They can be art (2, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902764)

Art is anything that has the ability to inspire emotions in people.

Then war is art.

Re:They can be art (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902816)

Then war is art.

No one wins in war, so it must be art.

Re:They can be art (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903022)

It's not about who is right. Its about who is left.

Re:They can be art (2, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902818)

War certainly can be artful.

Re:They can be art (5, Funny)

almightyon11 (1577457) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902888)

Oh really, mister Tzu?

Re:They can be art (1)

teg (97890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903034)

Then war is art.

One of the world's most famous books [wikipedia.org] might indicate that, but personally I think war is better [wikispaces.com] perceived [artquotes.net] as [francethisway.com] inspiration [oceansbridge.com] than as an art itself.

Re:They can be art (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902970)

Wow you're worse at defining art than ... well anyone. Many things inspire emotion that are not art. Dogs for example. A newborn. Are they art?

You can't come up with your own definition and show how it applies to video games and say Ah HA! see! ART! It doesn't work that way.

Actually, art is something that serves no purpose other than being itself. That is why video games can't be art. Because they serve a purpose. That is why a newborn isn't art despite it's ability to stir up emotions. Because technically that is so we go on as a species.

Re:They can be art (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903114)

...video games can't be art. Because they serve a purpose. You've obviously never played The Sims or Second Life...

Re:They can be art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31903072)

Art is anything that has the ability to inspire emotions in people.

Like a kick in the nuts?

Art form? Who cares? (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902708)

So long as the game is fun, who needs long-winded discussions about art? Also, many aspects of video games are recognized as gaming, such as pinball art, arcade marquee art, box art, penises drawn in Mario Paint, etc. The game itself doesn't need to be art to be worthy of serious scholarship.

Re:Art form? Who cares? (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902760)

whoops, I meant "many aspects of video games are recognized as art", not "recognized as gaming"

Didn't the end... (3, Interesting)

Hangin10 (704729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902714)

Didn't the end of that quote just become "I know it when I see it"?

You can experience a game (1)

Necreia (954727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902716)

"One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

Tic Tac Toe? Generic FPS? Perhaps. But there are plenty of games that have either a unique artistic approach or interesting story that you can experience when you win. Heck, Final Fantasy 13 is almost exclusively a movie.

Has he never seen a "Choose your own adventure" book? Ugh.

Sony should mail him a copy of ICO. (5, Insightful)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902720)

Nuff said.

ICO is art.

Shadow of the Colossus, was also incredible but it did not have the emotional impact of ICO. However Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the most visually epic games to date, with a very insightful story... it misses the mark a bit but its there if you break it all down. Its an incredible game.

Re:Sony should mail him a copy of ICO. (1)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902974)

Agreed. ICO and SotC are beautiful works of art in their own ways. I'd mail him a copy of Okami, too. If being immersed in living sumi-e paintings isn't art, then what the heck is?

Re:Sony should mail him a copy of ICO. (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903116)

"ICO is art.

Shadow of the Colossus, was also incredible but it did not have the emotional impact of ICO. However Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the most visually epic games to date, with a very insightful story... it misses the mark a bit but its there if you break it all down. Its an incredible game."

Perhaps that was the case for you, but it wasn't the case for everyone. (Which is one of the interesting things about art, not every piece moves everyone the same way.) I personally know one person (and have heard of other cases,) where they were emotionally unable to finish the game because they felt so sorry for the Colossi(?) they were killing.

I'll give him this... (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902722)

If art is something at which you cannot "win," than that nixes almost every reality show out of the pond right there.

I am OK with this.

Wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902734)

American McGee's Alice in Wonderland was art.

That is all.

Damn it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902738)

I thought we were done arguing dictionary definitions by now. Is Roger Ebert just now getting on the Internet? Somebody tell him to go read archives Usenet for a few months to see if he realizes the futility of arguing such bullshit.

Art is art (3, Insightful)

audunr (906697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902744)

Anyone who knows art will tell you that something is art if people who know art say it is.

Seriously, there's nothing more to it.

Re:Art is art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902822)

I know art, have a degree in it, and I can safely say you're wrong.

Re:Art is art (1)

AthleteMusicianNerd (1633805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903044)

Tautology!!!

Greenlight on Roger Ebert, plz. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902746)

That's it. I've had enough.

Rule 34 on Roger Ebert, in the style of The Filthy Critic. NAOOOOO!!

The reason games had any art at all is because a god like John Romero would choose a willing servant to convey the art as does John Carmack.

Examples of games that fail in the art category is World of WarCraft and Savage because the artists did not have a capable conveyance where the engine failed to prove the artistic atmosphere.

Quake 1 is art. Quake 2 and Quake 3 are just like all the rest: all fart, less than art.

Wrong! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902758)

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Obviously he has never played The Sims or Second Life...

Oh, Grandpa! (5, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902778)

Are the rules of games art? Perhaps not.

Are games themselves generally composed of art? Yes.

Does applying rules of games to the art in games negate the artistry? No.

Is Ebert being a curmudgeon again? Yeah.

The average first-rate game contain a good book worth of creative written material, galleries of fascinating and provocative artistic images, and a couple albums worth of creative sound. These things are art - they give the game rules context that creates a story the player enacts... they are a play with a branching script, performed with audience participation.

If that's not art, your definition is flawed.

Ryan Fenton

Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902780)

Film critics have no idea what they're talking about, news at 11.

... that you can win a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902782)

This guy has obviously never played Doom on the "Nightmare" level.

Passage (1)

Bardez (915334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902804)

The game Passage [sourceforge.net] is art in the form of a game if ever I've seen it. The whole damned thing is one five minute metaphor on life.

How is that not art?

You can win an art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902820)

I once won a velvet painting at one of those boardwalk games of skill.

There's a flaw in his logic (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902836)

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game

If that's true, I have managed to make pretty much any video game I've ever played into art.

Roger that (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902852)

Ok, so this [wikipedia.org] is art, but this [wikipedia.org] is not art? WTF?!?

Teddy Roosevelt said it best (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902862)

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

So what would he call all of those pictures??? (1)

AthleteMusicianNerd (1633805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902866)

The models, animations and textures? Also, what about the music. Does he not consider music an art?

Art For Whom? (5, Interesting)

Rary (566291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902874)

Okay, so it's not art because you can "win". That's fine if you're the player. What if you're watching someone else play a videogame? It's kind of like watching a movie, and you can't "win" at it. So, then is it art? And if not, then why is a movie art?

Ballroom Dancing (5, Insightful)

Noexit (107629) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902876)

It's dance, and an art. And yet, you can win at it.

Making a game and PLAYING a game are NOT the same (5, Insightful)

marquinhocb (949713) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902878)

Is Roger Ebert really that dense?

It's like making the argument that a movie isn't art because you're sitting on your ass while watching it, whereas a painting you have to stand up for.

Art is not about the person VIEWING or EXPERIENCING - it is about the creator.

Clearly WATCHING a movie or PLAYING a video game is not art.

MAKING one, on the other hand, can be.

Apparently, change must be resisted! (2, Insightful)

MoriT (1747802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902900)

Considering his panning of Kick Ass because it was too comic book-ish and not chauvinistic enough, I think it is fair to say that Ebert has moved into Get Off My Lawn territory.

I'll hand him an example: Bioshock. Just because Bioshock has an end and ways to loose along the way doesn't mean it's not also an insightful, interactive exploration of Rand's philosophy.

The idea that there is Great Art and then everything else is a product of a limited view of culture that silences most people for the benefit of a few privileged voices. Video games explicitly acknowledge that the viewer contributes to the value of artwork, which challenges the view of Art as Universal Value, transcending the opinion of mere plebes. Since Ebert has vested his life in the idea that some people's opinions of art matter more than other people, specifically his, it makes sense that the idea of participatory art would be incompatible with his world view.

Nonsensical gibberish (1)

Kenoli (934612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902902)

Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film.

So, it's not art, it's a 'representation' of art.


...what?

Limited Horizon (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902904)

He's been pigeonholed in movies so long he refuses to look beyond his boundaries. Whether a story is interactive or not has no bearing on whether it is art. What makes it art is if the beholder draws meaning from it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I don't care. (2, Insightful)

mibe (1778804) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902924)

Seriously, what does it matter? It's all semantics anyway; it all hinges on how you define "art." Mr. Ebert has apparently defined art in such a way as to exclude games. He may as well have posted "Games aren't art because you can win games and you can't win art. Ergo, games aren't art because they are games."

Depends on how you define art. (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902936)

I would say art is any beautiful act of creation.
So is a piece of music a work of art or is a performance of the work a piece of art?
Or are both examples of art.
What about the Golden Gate Bridge, the Handcock building, or the Parthenon?
To me the Saturn V, Supermarine Spitfire, and the Lockheed SR-71 are all works of art but I know an artist that disagrees because as she said, "their form is dictated by their function". I tend to see that as just working within the limitations of your medium.

Now I will say that I do not classify most video games as great art. In fact I would put 99.999% of them in the classification of commercial art but yes they are still art.

Now the big question is can any video game reach the level of what we call high art? So far the closest I feel we have come would would be maybe Myst for visuals, the works of Infocom in for writing quality, and honestly Tetris. As far and an abstract construct that really seems to resonate with everybody on the planet Tetris has got to be a stand out. If nothing else it has become a classic that I wouldn't shocked to see people playing 100 years from now.

In other words, only passive things are art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31902940)

Roger's argument is simply stated: games interact with the audience whereas 'art' doesn't.

I can see his point of view :-/. It's narrow and elitist, but I can see it.

Ico or Shadow of the Collossus, anyone? (1)

__roo (86767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902948)

Clearly, Roger Ebert hasn't played Ico or Shadow of the Collossus. They are easily covered by any definition of "art" I can think of. I've seen very few movies that have as wide a range of emotion and give such an emotional connection as those two games.

(I went to Performing Arts for high school and I've been a musician all my life, so I feel like I can speak with at least a little authority on this.)

If Eberts arbitrary definition of art holds... (1)

cvnautilus (1793340) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902972)

Then choose your own adventure books are also not art because there are rules and objectives (not dying/turning to the right page.) The way I see it video games are so rich in artistic material like graphics, music, narrative, etc., that they are art themselves.

Heavy Rain (5, Insightful)

ink (4325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902980)

You don't "win" or "lose" Heavy Rain. You experience it. It's even less of a game than Flower. I suppose Ebert could say that it has passed through being a video game, and gone on to being an interactive movie (hello Fahrenheit 451) -- but your skill, lack thereof, or intentional supression of it determines how the narrative unfolds. It's unlike most any other "game" you have played, and very moving.

That said, I fundamentally disagree with him. Art evokes an emotional response -- and video games do that in spades. From becoming an avatar in Ultima, to avoiding zombies in Resident Evil, losing Arith in FF VII, exploring your coldwar inner child in post-apocalyptic DC in Fallout 3 and discovering who GladOS is in Portal, video games do that. Denying such is just being snobbish.

Powerthirst (1)

ryantmer (1748734) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902992)

He claims they are not art because you can win them. This must mean that you cannot win at art.

Clearly, Mr. Ebert has never consumed Powerthirst [youtube.com] .

Pfff... (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31902994)

Tell that to the musicians, modelers, mappers, texture artist, people that make capture movements, voice actors.. then then that are not artist, because random critic on the internet that admit not having any idea about games has other opinion.

Is true that games are both craft and art, theres a "usefull" part. But that don't kill the art part.

A good example is movies, movies are too art, but are a mix of craft and art.

I don't even understand how a movie critic can't do the comparation of movies.

Hey Ebert! (0, Troll)

ZekoMal (1404259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903012)

As someone who is currently in the Game Art and Animation major, I just have this to say: Go fuck yourself.

Paper Mario isn't art? Silent Hill isn't art? Pikmin isn't art? Dead Space isn't art? Fable isn't art? There's so many games that have an amazing art direction. So, just because that art is placed in an environment that sets goals, it isn't art anymore? Pikmin would be the exact same experience if we replaced it with Atari graphics? Silent Hill would be just as scary if Pyramid Head was nothing more than a capital T chasing your character that looks like a Y?

Can the artifacts please either die or off or evolve? Please? It's really hindering the progress of the new generation when the old generation is brainwashing the current generation into believing crap like that. Sheesh.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that many of you are in the current generation. I'm not talking about people who get it; I'm talking about the average 'Murican that believes whatever Fox News spits out.

His opinion seems to be art is to be seen (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903018)

He sounds like he feels that art is to be seen and not touched. He claims that "One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome... I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them'. These have rules, points, objectives and an outcome because they are interactive. A story, a novel, a play, dance, ect... these aren't interactive. They are for the most part a static object (object so to speak). I don't feel that art should only be seen and altered only by the artists themselves, but should be accessible and alterable by everyone since to truly be 'touched' by something needs more then just observation, it needs to be able to reach a connecting point with the public. Games allow you to interact and be touched by them. Many games have stories that become more emotionally touching because of their interaction. While it's more of a cliché now, the story of FF7 and death of Aerith become more that much more because of your interaction with her. If you read about her as a novel she didn't appear truly as often enough to gain as solid of an emotional bond with her as you had been able to in the game. But because you had been able to interact with her and choose basic questions/answers with her, this allowed her to become more 'real' then a novel ever could have.

Slightly off the topic, but how about Literature? (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903020)

At the University of North Dakota we recently held our 41st annual Writers Conference [undwritersconference.org] , the theme had a strong focus on New Media. Nick Montfort [nickm.com] , Stuart Moulthrop [ubalt.edu] and Mark Amerika [markamerika.com] were a few of the authors that had come to the conference. The concept of a video game being literature was one of many things discussed.games being literature was one of the topics discussed.

Re:Slightly off the topic, but how about Literatur (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903036)

Doh!

Yargle bargle gargle bargle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31903026)

Direct quote from the audio of the article.

Re: Why Video Games Can Never Be Art (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903042)

A corollary to this is that Ebert can never be taken seriously.

So Toy Story is art. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903058)

But if they made two endings and and a way of picking which one to use somewhere in the middle of the movie then it is no longer art, but a "mere" game?

Or does it take two branches? three branches? forty branches? Before it becomes a "game" and hence not art.

Art Is A Game An Artist Must Win (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903060)

If repeated attempts to achieve an end is core to the definition of a game then art is a game an artist must win, and, to win, must play and play and play. If making art is a game then the end product is at least the outcome of game play, if not game play in the same vein, as much art, especially challenging art requires many attempts to understand the work. If art is defined as something sublime that requires no attempt at understanding and came whole and untainted to the artist's mind then that's not art, that's just bullshit.

Ebert wrong. (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903064)

As an arty type I think games do contain art, and some games have alot of geninune artistic integrity (mostly found in Indie games but Portal I think has artistic merit). I consider games like Miegakure and Love to very much be Art, if in their own way.

If Ebert was saying games are not and cannot ever be Fine Art I would be inclined to agree. Although I would elaborate in saying only commercial big title releases fit this. Once could use game technology to create an art installation, you see. Interactive art is not art? Is that what he's saying? A games interactivity due to rules and goals does not by definition exclude it from being Art. I would go further to say usefulness does strip anything of being Art.

I have pottery by a local artist that I use to serve food on, is it no longer art because it's useful?

Would there be justification for me saying Ebert doesn't not really understand Art, or is immersed in a world where Art has a different meaning (film etc)?

However game devs, script writers and content artists spend too much time playing game and watching movies, not reading enough books and digesting enough genuine Art and Design media. There are exceptions to the rule of course, but this phenomena is self evident in the games industry compared to other digital media including web design where some serious Art really does go down.

They just don't get out in the real world enough, with a sketch pad and pencil and study anything. I can't think how many times I see a outdoor open-world game environment that looks like it was designed by someone who hasn't gone outdoors to actually look at some geology, indeed the average level designers understanding of geology is evidently below high school level. Even just poking around google earth for 10 minutes would helped.

Definitions of Art are important here. But putting some work into and showing understanding and interpretation is a huge part of it, communicating this in any form is Art. Art to some extent exists for no other reason to perform this communication. This is something games can do. Indeed games are a potential conduit for Art.

To win is to end (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903070)

Winning the game is simply another name for the ending. You could call the inexorable resolution of a conflict in a movie 'winning' as well.

I challenge him to play Half-Life 2 and not call it 'art'. You *feel* for the characters; you experience their universe, and you see their struggle. The cinematic in Dr. Breen's office at the end is fantastic, in a scripting and acting sense (yes, I know they're computer models but still).

Mr. Ebert, I have a thought experiment for you. Imagine the movie "Toy Story" was ported to the PC (actually not far-fetched). You are Woody, and you play through the movie. If you don't follow the script substantially correctly, you die and start from your last good location. By the end, you have effectively recreated the movie. If we grant that the film itself is art, why would this 'game' not be?

Of course you can "win" in a movie. (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903078)

Come on. Who does not share the sense of elation at the end of something like Rocky, or when the Ring falls into Mt. Doom? How is that not winning, it's giving you the same feeling of relief and finality that closing out a good game does.

Movies are all about immersion. Books are all about immersion. Games are just giving you another way to get immersed in the story. Even games that theoretically have no story, have one created just by the act of you playing it - a million small triumphs (and thus stories) accumulated on the path to victory. You swap stories about games just as you would really profound or exciting scenes in movies, the only difference is that you had an even more personal experience with the game.

Completly arbitrary reasoning (1)

kiddygrinder (605598) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903088)

there are plenty of games that you can't win or lose if you look at indy game sites you come across them every now and then. there are also plenty of ways to win at art, competitions etc. This man is an idiot, his reasons are arbitrary, why are we even discussing this?

Art is what touches you beyond your senses (1)

mirshafie (1029876) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903090)

A game, novel, painting or dance routine all have some sort of direction. Objectives, rules and outcomes are for a game what paint is for a painting.

What you think qualifies as art is of no relevance. Neither are the author's intentions. It can still be art to somebody else. (However I would argue that an author is necessary for it to qualify as art.) A (de)formed block of concrete in the middle of a square somewhere is not art if it simply invokes the word "art" in your brain, however it is art if it makes you think about something different, something more than the concrete and the square. It's a highly personal experience and cannot be defined by categories.

Music/drawing/writing contests produce art (1)

erwincoumans (865613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903098)

A lot of art seems to be produced even though winning or loosing is involved. Just check out music competitions or drawing contests.

Games can be a rich expression and some of the results are certainly art.

Who? (1)

Howitzer86 (964585) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903104)

Who is this guy, and why should I care what he thinks?

Definitions of art (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31903106)

At various points of time in history, art critics disregarded new art forms now common. This includes music, painting, sculpture, photography and cinema.

Not ALL games are art, but some games WILL be art. Most movies aren't art either.

With games, the art will be in the interaction. Not just telling a story, but letting the gamer create and discover the story himself by playing. A movie might communicate it's message by showing it to the viewer, a game could communicate a message by letting the gamer experience it.

Currently the technology behind games makes it prohibitive (though not impossible) to create games-as-art, but at some point in the future it won't be.

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