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

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the beauty-is-in-the-rocket-launcher-of-the-beholder dept.

Games 278

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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True (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501792)

So ture

No, it's bullshit (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501958)

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?

Re:No, it's bullshit (2)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502008)

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.

Re:No, it's bullshit (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502480)

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 snob segment are prepared to say "yeah, but Michelangelo isn't art" ;)

Re:No, it's bullshit (4, Interesting)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502018)

Who defines art, but those that admire it?

Games are their own art, to put it into a classical sense is nonsense.

Re:No, it's bullshit (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502022)

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 subversive lyrics and the censors censor it. So you hum the song with such over-the-top enthusiasm that you carry the spirit without uttering any words. Much later, we appreciate the feel-good sentiment.

Just because you're paid to jump through a hoop, it doesn't mean you can't take the opportunity to do something much greater.

Re:No, it's bullshit (2)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502280)

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.

Re:No, it's bullshit (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502536)

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 painters weren't appreciated during their time either. Many new art forms need time before the mainstream will appreciate them. The real problem with games is that it's hard to appreciate old games. They were written for old machines that nobody has anymore (which is why emulators are so culturally important!), and their old blocky graphics and 8-bit color makes them unattractive to look at. Then again, isn't the same true for black & white movies? Or pre-renaissance paintings? Or old books written in archaic language?

Appreciation for games as art will come. People like Ebert and Brian Moriarty are just members of the generation that won't get it yet.

Re:No, it's bullshit (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502402)

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).

Re:No, it's bullshit (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502620)

When did that idiotic notion originate, anyway?

Second half of the 18th century during the epoch of Romanticism [wikipedia.org] (just look at all the crap that age brought us!).

Re:True (2)

Goaway (82658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502020)

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!

Re:True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502156)

If we called you stupid, would that be art?
 
The ghost of Salvador Dali possessed me to write this.

Brian Moriarty (3, Funny)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Brian Moriarty (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501888)

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

Re:Brian Moriarty (1)

supertrinko (1396985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502004)

Starting up a Saloon in megaton sure is gonna be a step down for him.

Artifact != Art (2)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501810)

Art lies in the artistic act itself. Whatever tangible result produced by the artistic act is but its trace.

Never Heard of ICO, Bro? (4, Informative)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501812)

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.

Re:Never Heard of ICO, Bro? (2)

kale77in (703316) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501846)

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.

Re:Never Heard of ICO, Bro? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501994)

Personally I think you're confusing something that is done "artistically" with something that is "art". I think these are two different concepts.

Re:Never Heard of ICO, Bro? (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502482)

Also, American McGee [reddit.com] .

Re:Never Heard of ICO, Bro? (2, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502588)

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 considered art, so too should a game with a superior story be considered art."

BTW:
In the 1920s and 30s many critics also dismissed movies as "trash" rather than art. No doubt Ebert would vehemently disagree with those critics, and yet he's falling into the same trap of dismissing a technology just because it's new.

Again? (4, Insightful)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Again? (2)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501860)

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.

Re:Again? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501870)

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

Trendy hipsters? Oh wait, damn your rhetoric.

Re:Again? (1)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501880)

Better, who cares if it's art or not, so long as it's fun and engaging? That's the point of a game (or book, or movie, or TV show), yeah?

Re:Again? (2)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502066)

I don't think the snooty critics would agree with that. Fun is optional, and engaging is not enough.

If the "point" of a movie is merely to engage, then Die Hard is equivalent to Koyaanisqatsi. If the point of a book is merely to engage, then Harry Potter is equivalent to The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Die Hard is a great film; so is Koyaanisqatsi. But they are very different, and it's useful to have a word that helps us distinguish between them. "Art", however vague a term it is, is the best one we have.

Does the gaming equivalent of the "art movie" exist? I reckon Braid qualifies. The Path qualifies.

Re:Again? (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502106)

Koya-whatsit? Ah. Some arty film I've never heard of before, and likely will never hear of again.

Re:Again? (2)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502128)

See, you're starting to get it.

I do recommend Koyaanisqatsi though, even though I have to copy/paste its name rather than type it.

Re:Again? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502678)

The problem is that art is also used as a moniker to call one thing more valuable than another. Using the term "art" for other purposes leads to equivocation problems.

Re:Again? (2, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501988)

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

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502266)

I don't know if you are right about whether or not he wants to hear it, he probably doesn't. But you are definitely right when describing his argument. It's just so true!!

Another Expert's view (3, Insightful)

Tigger's Pet (130655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501824)

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.

Re:Another Expert's view (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502104)

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; but it would have made an excellent novel (I wish for a novelization often). You can call these about "even" artistically, but Bioshock got a hell of a lot more attention and lauding.

You'll find a lot of the same with games like i.e. Halo, which its fans say has a "deep story" but really it's the flimsiest expression of any kind of story possible. The game is simply an FPS with rainbow sprinkles; but Reach got so much serious attention. This is what these people are looking at, instead of the deep RPGs like Xenosaga or Tales of Symphonia, or games like Legend of Zelda (often a masterpiece of visual and architectural [Level design!] art, with light but well-integrated story elements; apparently Miyomoto wants to avoid heavy drama, too bad...).

Re:Another Expert's view (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502160)

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.

Re:Another Expert's view (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502362)

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 welded metal; but they have difficulty arguing when the arrangement of dyes and inks makes words (even poetry and haiku), or when the same ugly sculpture is chiseled out of stone with a hammer. Thus I usually point to things like Golden Sun to make my point, because even if you don't like it, you can't argue that the story isn't there unless you're functionally retarded. (The Legend of Zelda reference above was a stretch in this respect, and likely to be laughed at by these sort of people as "not art.")

You can argue that someone picked a stock beat, stock bassline, and cursed a lot into a microphone and called it music; you can't look at a deep and complex story and argue that somebody just clicked a few buttons and pumped this out in 10 minutes, even if it's "just another guy wanting to be Tolkien" (the stock response to "fantasy book I didn't like" -- mind you, one of the best series I've read was a sci-fi series that the author directly admits is a retelling of Wagner's "The Ring Cycle"). People accept movies as art because it's a medium for telling a story, and people accept all written word as art by default. Make the same association with video games and you win the argument.

Realize that even this article is, "Okay, well video games CAN be art but... they're not." It's not "These games I played, they're not art;" it's "I admit they can be art, but nothing anyone has ever produced in this form was ever of any artistic value, ever." There is an inherent fallacy in this argument: the converse accident. Everyone I've met speaks English, so everyone in the world must speak English, yes? What would you suggest to combat the argument?

Movies, on the other hand.... (3, Insightful)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501840)

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.

Re:Art Snobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502432)

I agree with you 100%. Any time I listen to Aerith's Theme, I'm reminded of Aerith's run-in with Sephiroth in the temple and it still brings a tear to my eye. Anyone who enjoyed playing FFVII was moved by it and even though the graphics are subpar to today's standards, that game, with its amazing story and music, was better than a majority of movies I've seen, many of which would be considered art.

Terrible, TERRIBLE comparison. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501848)

Film, art, music, all of that are products of industry too. Barely any of it is made for the sake of making it because those people enjoy it.

Difficulty in making an artistic piece does not make decide whether it is considered art or not. That is STUPID.
Many artistic pieces through the years have costed loads in currency to produce over long periods, especially architectural art pieces.

There are game developers out there who make games for the sake of making games, for their love and passion of games.
Looks like that makes their games art going by this silly argument.

Also, why the hell to people listen to, and give attention to, that idiot Roger? He is as bad as Jack Thompson. Stop giving these people attention, PLEASE.
I don't care if he was the best and greatest of yesterdecades, he is a tit NOW. I'm getting tired hearing about his awful elitism bullshit.

Braid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501854)

What about Braid? That had a very moving story, that you were involved in helping to move along personally. Trine is another example.

The Space Quest series, Kings Quest, Police Quest, Day Of The Tentacle, Monkey Island, etc. all had excellent stories and were very artistic in their own fashion. Along the same lines, Beneath a Steel Sky is probably on par at the very least with Bladerunner, and all-time cult classic in terms of dystopian stories akin to Brazil.

There are hundreds of more games I haven't even played yet that the same could be said for.

Most "Art" is "Commercial Art" (2)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501856)

...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?

Re:Most "Art" is "Commercial Art" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501890)

I was about to say much the same thing... except the part about the commenter being high.

Re:Most "Art" is "Commercial Art" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501954)

If you read the article, you would see that he discusses this point:

"So, what does the tasteful, expert connoisseur Roger Ebert have to say about the relationship between the cinema and art? Just this: "Hardly any movies are art.""

His argument is that it is true that the vast majority of books, movies etc. are entertainment. However, they still have examples of "art". He argues that this is not the case for video games, not having a single example of "art".

Lockout chip (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502340)

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.

Re:Lockout chip (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502604)

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 who's sold more copies of his game on iPhone and Android than most console titles ever sell?

Obviously... (3, Insightful)

itsanx (1534709) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Obviously... (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502134)

... You're right, I can't think of another way to learn that a Meat Circus is a right royal PAIN. ;)

Re:Obviously... (1)

itsanx (1534709) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502240)

Great to hear that you too learned something! :) I learned many things that do not translate to words.

It's all about intent (2)

dingen (958134) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's all about intent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502000)

So the Sistine Chapel isn't art, then?

Michelangelo refused to paint unless he got paid for it. In fact, he detested painting; he was a sculptor at heart, and he considered anything not done in three dimensions to be trash. He only painted the Sistine Chapel because the Catholic Church paid him gobs of money to do it.

Yes, one of the greatest works of art in the history of western civilization was a commercial product made by a guy who considered it his old shame.

You can take your communistic definition of art and shove it up your arse.

Re:It's all about intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502102)

So you are basing your definition of art on someone else's intentions? No offense, but that's just stupid. A work of art is a work of art regardless of the circumstances under which it was created.

Re:It's all about intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502136)

Wow, that was dumb. The Mona Lisa and Sistine Chapel ceiling were both commissions. Paid, commercial art.
QED, you're an idiot.

Re:It's all about intent (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502178)

So in your view, art is dead?

Re:It's all about intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502214)

You're entitled to your opinion, but you ought to back it up with some examples.

Most of the great works of art in history, as well contemporary, have been commissioned pieces (my personal favorite, John Singer Sargent, worked almost entirely on commission). The only reason so few have been commissioned by corporations until recently was that corporations DIDN'T EXIST until very recently in world history. Since their introduction, they have responsible for commissioning a significant portion of recent artwork. (For example, the whole Art Nouveau movement was essentially commissioned art for commercial purposes!)

If I were to define art, it's some sort of process or skill that there are some people who are willing to do it regardless of whether or not they get paid. They will still take the money if offered, but if not paid would continue to do it regardless. It's more like obsessive-compulsive, rather than idealistic high-mindedness. (Example: Van Gogh)

Re:It's all about intent (1)

dingen (958134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502674)

If I were to define art, it's some sort of process or skill that there are some people who are willing to do it regardless of whether or not they get paid. They will still take the money if offered, but if not paid would continue to do it regardless. It's more like obsessive-compulsive, rather than idealistic high-mindedness. (Example: Van Gogh)

That's exactly what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying artists cannot be paid an still create art. But it has to be the intent of the artist to create exactly this piece of art. If he has an ulterior motive, and is changing the way the art is created to suit this motive, then it cannot be art. So if you design a movie to make people come to the cinema, it's not art. But if you create a movie to create that movie, then it can be art.

Re:It's all about intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502696)

Close. Don't worry about intent.

Art is unnecessary. When you are singing to yourself in the shower for no particular reason, that is art. When you draw pictures in the sand with your finger while waiting for a friend to pick you up from the beach, that is art. It's not required that the entirety of whatever you do is unnecessary, it is just that the unnecessary parts are art. The architect had to include doors or you couldn't get into the building, but his decision to make the whole building resemble a ship when seen at an angle? That's art.

So yes, video games are art.

Comparing things that offer no reasonable basis for comparison is a waste of everybody's time. Which is better, Coca-cola or the Apollo 6 mission? Curtains or the band Genesis? The oral polio vaccine or Shakespeare's plays? Useless questions.

I would pick Ico, which I think tugs on your emotions as effectively as any number of acclaimed motion pictures. It also looks fantastic for its age, which can't hurt in a comparison to the movies.

Why are we so hung up on this? (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501872)

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 him to do so. In another 100 years people may start really feeling this way about video games....or maybe they won't. In the end, it doesn't make a shit bit of difference. Play video games, enjoy them. Stop worrying what other people think about them.

Re:Why are we so hung up on this? (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501894)

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

Different types of arts (3, Insightful)

metacell (523607) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Newgrounds (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501878)

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.

Games Are Not Art (But Contain Art) (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501910)

I examined Ebert's comments back when he made them and thought about them after the initial knee-jerk reaction of "YES THEY ARE!!!!" and, sadly, also agreed.

My reasoning is that video games *contain* art. but can't be considered art as a *whole*.

Think about it. A museum *contains* art. However museums themselves, as a whole, are *not* art. Walking through a museum isn't a piece of art, although there are quite a few pieces of art within it. The art within the museum, however, can be removed from the museum and *still* contain as much of that quality deemed as artistic as they did within the museums. Video games, then, are containers of various bits of art. Be they the graphics, the storylines, the music or what have you are each *individually* easily labeled as art, however the video game as a *whole* was not something I could consider to be art.

Of course, this is just based on the dozens/hundredish games that I've personally played. Perhaps, out there is a game where the very control scheme, the experience as a whole, not the story, not the designs, not the music, but a combination of them all in tandem with the gameplay mechanics/control scheme/what have you combine in such a way that there's some form of gestalt, delivering a final experience with resonates with my very soul, but I don't see that happening with anything I've played as is.

Yes, some stories are amazing and touch the soul, but that's merely the story. Yes, some of the graphics are evocative of something ephemeral, but that's just the graphics. Yes, some music is truly awe inspiring and shakes the foundations of my being, but that's just the music. The story or the graphics or the music or even the combination of the three does *not* constitute an actual game. Those things could be separated from the game itself and still hold the same power as they did within the game, perhaps even becoming *stronger* without the necessity of gameplay interrupting the story. Games involve gameplay, anything else is just a movie. And I have not ever seen a game where everything, *together*, combined into something that reflected the human spirit.

Sorry friends. Games are not art. Games *contain* art, and some are quite amazing. However games as a whole are not art. Or...at least not yet.

Re:Games Are Not Art (But Contain Art) (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502204)

No painting has ever touched my soul (whatever that means), so I guess those are out as well?

Re:Games Are Not Art (But Contain Art) (1)

tbannist (230135) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502372)

I suspect you might be close to right. I think the world of "Art" does not yet have the ability to evaluate a game's artistic merits. Take a step back and look at all what art is. It is paintings, sculpture, movies, photographs, and music. There is a critical difference between each of these formats and games. Art is fixed, games are interactive. So you might be right that games are not art but that's a failing of art, art critics are just not up to the task of understanding games.

Re:Games Are Not Art (But Contain Art) (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502554)

Some museums are art within themselves. Some books too - fabulous works that live a life far beyond their contents. But I agree in principle - those are few and far between compared to the number of galleries and paperbacks that, while pedestrian, contain art far beyond themselves.

Re:Games Are Not Art (But Contain Art) (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502618)

Some museums are art within themselves.

Indeed, the Natural History Museum in London is a work of art, even though its contents mostly are not.

Treasures? (1)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501916)

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

This debate is fucking retarded. (1)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501922)

There is no authority who decides what is and what is not art; art is whatever people say it is. Obviously this is objective and differs from person to person, but art doesn't need consensus to be art. If you think video game are not art, that's fine. But if you try to tell me that I can't think of video games as art, fuck you right in your jawbone hole.

But is it art? (4, Insightful)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Penny Arcade weighed in on this at PAX East (1)

Skellbasher (896203) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501926)

They were short and to the point. A video game is made by many people practicing many artistic disciplines. It is absurd to think that the final product isn't art.

Re:Penny Arcade weighed in on this at PAX East (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502530)

TFA rebuts this argument quite succinctly -- with an animation, even!

"Modern" art. (3, Insightful)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

BioShock (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#35501986)

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?

Re:BioShock (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502114)

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).

err...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35501998)

What is the sex of the great A'tuin?

"Art" is a meaningless word (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502042)

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 gallery. Movies initially weren't art, but now they are.

It doesn't need to have an intention behind it, even. If you make up any random bullshit [wikipedia.org] and manage to convince enough people that is art by inventing some convoluted explanation, then after you admit it's all made up nonsense [ecclesiastes911.net] everybody else will just say that you can make art without intending to.

I think Duchamp really nailed it by proving that whatever you can get an art gallery to exhibit becomes art. 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.

Re:"Art" is a meaningless word (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502116)

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]

Re:"Art" is a meaningless word (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502500)

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

Video games vs. interactive art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502060)

Personally, I think video games can never be art, simply due to the nature of games. Games are defined by rules, and the intention of games is to provide entertainment and challenges. If you are being entertained or are competing, do you really have the time for being inspired, for contemplating life, for challenging your philosophical views, for developing yourselves as a empathetic human being? That is not what games give opportunity for IMHO. Instead, games serve the purpose games always have served: to compete, to train and enjoy it, to develop problem solving skills, to have a recreational activity, to have something to get together about (LAN parties, MMO's, hobby, etc.).

If you make a video game that doesn't contain rules, that doesn't have challenges, without social interaction, but instead does the same thing "great art" does, then yes, that game could likely be called "great art". But would it then really be a video game, or would it be interactive art? IMO, games can never be art, and they shouldn't be confused with interactive art. Conversely, interactive art is definitely possible, and several of the examples given earlier of artful video "games" seems to fit the category of "interactive art" much better than the definition of a game. And this "interactive art" definitely have the potential to be very great art, due to the possibilities of interactivity.

Re:Video games vs. interactive art? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502250)

Or in other words, blah blah blah, it's not art :)

By the way a lot of non modern art isn't meant to inspire, force contemplation of life or challenge your philosophical views ... it's simply meant to be pretty and nothing else. To me it seems aestheticism would be just as much an obstacle to true art with your reasoning as rules based gaming.

Following your reasoning to it's conclusion, only completely abstract non utilitarian media can be art ... as soon as it's pretty, entertaining at a base level or has any use whatsoever those very qualities will stand in the way of finding the time for being inspired, for contemplating life, for challenging your philosophical views, for developing yourselves as a empathetic human being. To me it seems only modern art can be art to you.

Re:Video games vs. interactive art? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502398)

By the way a lot of non modern art isn't meant to inspire, force contemplation of life or challenge your philosophical views ... it's simply meant to be pretty and nothing else.

A lot of modern art (for certain definitions of modern) is meant to make you think about the the definition of "art", as we are doing now.

Duchamp's urinal, discussed in TFA, is a prime example of that. Duchamp is effectively saying to the viewer "OK, you think you know what art is -- but I've signed my name on a urinal I bought ready-made, given it a title, and they're showing it in a gallery. And you're standing looking at it, stroking your chin."

And then, as if to make things even harder, the first one's lost. There are several in galleries -- none more valid than the other. They're signed as Duchamp pieces, but he had an assistant fake his signature.

Now, you might look at something like that, and say, "no, in my opinion that's not art". But you'd be in disagreement with the "art world" -- the people who decide what goes in galleries -- so you'd be obliged to give it some thought. And having provoked that thought, does the piece now qualify as art?

If everything I had just described was a lie -- if in fact nobody has put a urinal in an art gallery; they've just talked about it -- would the the reflection about the nature of art that it inspires be just as valid? Or does the concept only become worthwhile when you implement it? What if I made a "game" in which I just plonked a urinal from a 3D model library into the Quake, and allowed you to virtually walk around it?

I think it's fascinating.

Re:Video games vs. interactive art? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502654)

Or in other words, blah blah blah, so this might be art ...

strategy vs action/adventure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502074)

Am I the only one who noticed that this guy only referenced strategy games?
Like arcade games, this genre isn't intended to be artsy but simply entertaining.

ITT: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502088)

ITT: Engineers discussing art.

Re:ITT: (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502370)

No, we are discussing semantics. Only an artist could believe a definition of art could be objectively true, engineers are smarter than that.

Art... (2)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502098)

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 just because one of them is less "Artistic", it doesn't mean that what is similar is also "Not-Artistic".

One Word... (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502144)

Rez

Bad comparison (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502166)

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 comparisons to films, make comparison to early films. It was fifty years after the invention of film that we got our first real "masterpiece", Citizen Kane. By that logic, we won't have a game masterpiece for another decade.

It seems to me that art is considered great based (1)

ColePEET (861091) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502174)

"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." It seems to me that art is considered great based on the amount of emotional response it stirs up in the person interacting or observing whatever medium the art is based on. I would almost agree with the gentleman speaking, almost. There have been a few games that really get up into your soul, get under your skin and get your heart pounding. Thats as close as the industry really gets, except for System Shock 2. That game was a bonafide masterpiece of art. Maybe I'd even go so far as to say Gears of War 2 multiplayer can be some fantastic performance art, under certain situations, like when the last man standing on his team hunts down and chainsaws the remaining three men on the other team. If I've gone that far I'd have to include BF1942 as well, if there is two teams playing very seriously sitting back and watching is incredible. It's like a war movie. "Hero" the old movie filmed within the engine, theres a word for this, mechinama? mechina? something? was quite a good short film. Except that there are no lives on the line, almost no human interest sections, gears and bf1942 can be beautiful, and raise an emotional response like sports can. System Shock 2 is the only game to transcend the trappings of the industry. And it does it through the emotion of fear, which is kinda hilarious. my 2 cents.

Re:It seems to me that art is considered great bas (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502468)

It seems to me that art is considered great based on the amount of emotional response it stirs up in the person interacting or observing whatever medium the art is based on.

TFA rebuts this with the example of a video of someone stomping on animals.

That said, loop it, give it a pretentious title, and display it in a gallery -- someone would call it art.

Re:It seems to me that art is considered great bas (1)

ColePEET (861091) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502666)

Indeed it would be, but it would not be taken seriously, unless it was someone smashing a urinal perhaps? I jest I jest. I would think that some of the more abhorrent emotions wouldn't be considered, but there is certainly lots of people who love having certain emotions stimulated, as evidenced by the commercial success of films like SAW.

Why do we even need to ask? (1)

Bleek II (878455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502238)

I have a BA in Fine Studies (along with a Acc. in Computer Science) and I can tell you with 100% certainty that video games are art. Art is at it's most basic level the conveying of an idea or ideas through a craft (simplified statement). This doesn't mean that all video game are high art and in fact I'm not sure any meet that standard but they are art. It is fair to compare them to films because it's popular art, and it's fair to say that many games are the Art equivalent of Men in Black II. But there are a good number of games which convey a number of great visual, emotional, and cultural ideas.

Silliness (0)

FlapHappy (937803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502288)

Art critics are the zealots of a religion. They look for some spark of divinity in the product of man's efforts but like all other religions fail to substantively prove their point. What is divine and what is not? What is ART and what is not? I suppose our unelected clergy might be able to tell us!

It is up to every human on the planet to decide for themselves what they consider to be art. To believe otherwise is to become sheep bound mindlessly to a misguided flock.

seriously? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502298)

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 at a novel. And dissecting video games based on the criteria we use for things that aren't video games just isn't going to work well.

Video games offer immersion and interactivity that traditional media like painting and sculpture and film and prose do not. You aren't told how a room looks. You aren't given a static image of the room. You aren't given a nice camera pan of the room. You actually walk into the room, choose what to look at, approach the things that interest you.

The characters in a video game may not qualify as art. The graphics and imagery may not qualify as art. The soundtrack may not qualify as art. But, taken as a whole, the experience of moving through and discovering this world may very well qualify as art.

Can we stop revisiting Ebert? (4, Funny)

biovoid (785377) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502428)

"It's commercial art. Art designed to be sold, easily and in quantity. And the bigger the audience, the kitschier it's gonna get."

And what art pray tell isn't designed to be produced, bought, resold, reproduced... all for consumption by an adoring audience... for profit? I have a gut feeling MOST of the works attributable as artistic classics were done, commissioned, solely for their commercial potential. If that's the line of reasoning then perhaps all those traditional "artists" wouldn't mind returning their coin on principal in defense of their superior, pure "art".

*crickets*

Yeah, didn't think so.
If it's something done as a means of making a living it's more akin to a craft/trade (skilled and though highly subjective in the "artistic" case...). In and of itself, "art" is a subset categorically filed under PRODUCT. Just as literature, painting, music, and film are industries with their respective commodities driving their little slice of the economy.

Long story short, bad definitions of "what is" is. A bullshit question deserves a bullshit answer.

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502498)

Art is an arbitrary designation that only recently has become important in any way. It has become a snobbish way of creating a division between the masses and the "intellectuals". These days art is stuff that the average person hates, stuff that's of no value unless you subscribe to the propaganda spewed by artists. Calling things "art" is a way of tagging popular things as unimportant while making niche things seem more important than they are.

The art propaganda wants people to believe that in order to be good humans they must join the faith of the art movement and love the crazy smears produced by artists that have found a way to get the maximum amount of sellable product with the minimum of effort. Is it not a testament to the worthlessness of modern art that the masses cannot appreciate it? The idea that popularity and value as art are separate is fostered by bad artists. The great masters of the past? Their works appealed to the masses, that's why they are so valuable. The artists who produce works only a small clique sees as a good thing get forgotten.

define art. (1)

SpinningCone (1278698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502552)

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 franchises. the concept of art is up to interpretation and the argument is all a bit silly.

 

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35502558)

Games can't be compared to literature, music or paint because they are a combinations of two or more of those media, god damn it, it's like comparing the general quality of the assembly of a motor with the individual quality of it's parts. If you are going to make comparitions it should be with things like theater or movies, that are also combinations of diferentes media.

Also if crap like Twilight can be considered art just because they were released as novels, then my frikin Shadow of The Colosus deserve it's own exhibiton on the Louvre presented as screenshots.

Hell yeah, it's art (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502612)

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. ;-)

Video games are art, because games are art. (5, Insightful)

Arctech (538041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35502700)

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]

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