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Ebert Reclassifies Games as Sports

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the still-not-art dept.

Games 197

You may recall last year's spirited debate touched off by film critic Roger Ebert's assertion that games are not art. He's once again touching that nerve, this time stating that he was too loose with his words. He points out that 'a soup can' can be art; what he meant to say is that games cannot be 'high art'. Says Ebert: "How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in Myst, and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports." The critic goes on to discuss comments from Clive Barker from last year, a gent who took great exception to Ebert's view.

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Flawed argument (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962273)

Stating that games cannot be high art, and backing up this assertion by giving examples of games that aren't (anecdotal evidence) is logically flawed.

He may be right that there are no games currently in existence that should be considered high art, but that does not preclude one from coming out in the future. There is nothing inherent to video games that would prevent this, especially given that what is and what is not "art" or "high art" is entirely subjective.

Re:Flawed argument (2, Insightful)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962399)

People on both sides of the "argument" are engaging in a bit of a futile exercise. As you said, it's entirely subjective. Yet both are trying to prove the others' opinions to be wrong, when that goes against the very definition of opinion.

Re:Flawed argument (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962591)

While you are partially correct, there are aspects that can be debated. The argument itself revolves around the definition of art which, while subjective, will often incorporate the same elements from one to another. The argument stems from Ebert's belief that we don't know what art is while gamers believe that he doesn't know enough about games and their potential.

So, while neither side will "win" the argument, we can learn something from the argument itself and gain greater insight as long as we're open to it.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

the.nourse.god (972290) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962605)

And that goes to the very heart of what art really is. I may think that the Mona Lisa is an amateuristic piece of crap and Nights Into Dreams is the most brilliant art masterpiece of modern times. I may be wrong on both counts, but that doesn't negate the fact that either piece could be considered art.

Re:Flawed argument (2, Interesting)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962635)

You can't be wrong. You can, however, be out of the consensus of popular opinion. Or the consensus of critical opinion. Etc.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963557)

I'll just continue to point to the dictionary as evidence that anyone who takes up the debate is wrong. The definition of "art" is so broad that it can encompass just about anything people make or do.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963579)

Add to that the definition of "opinion."

Re:Flawed argument (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964003)

I don't think it's gotten bad enough for drastic measures like that.

Re:Flawed argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19962433)

Yes, there is. Video games can be used to convey art (e.g., machinima), but by making the player into the artist, it ensures that it will never be art on its own. By giving the player control, a game can never be art.

A play through of the game might be, but the game itself can never be art.

Re:Flawed argument (2, Insightful)

neomunk (913773) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964719)

I disagree. You seem to be implying that art must be a static form, unchanged by the observer, and I cannot agree with such a stipulation.

In fact, I think that several thousand years from now (assuming a social trajectory without massive direction shifts) people may be arguing that a simple flat static painting cannot possibly be considered 'art' because of the lack of full sensory immersion.

Even IF art NEED be a static form, many games are static forms. Play Doom again, the monsters will still be where they were 15 years ago. Many games get around this (to allow for dynamic experience) with pseudo-random number generators, yet still it's a static form within the boundaries of the generator.

Maybe you're saying that art is some singular experience that the artist is trying to convey. Again, I disagree. Humans, being (seemingly at least) analog machines, no two having the same state ever (an assumption, but accurate enough for this discussion) cannot possibly be brought to the same exact singular state by ANY sensory input. The closest you can really come is strongly evoking a mood or environment which suggests and makes obvious the state of mind the artist wishes to convey. I see no reason why that cannot be accomplished with an interactive (uni- or multi-)sensory experience.

I'll take this a step farther. What exactly about running through one of Escher's stairways would reduce a person's ability to understand it's point? In fact I truly believe that with the proper camera angles you could suggest the dimension spanning cubism even more strongly than could be possible with a static 2D print. Imagine running into Dali's "Corpus Hypercubus" in a game, but watching the tesseract unfold before your very eyes then refold with the man's spirit taken along, that would be art if done right.

Re:Flawed argument (4, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962497)

One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art. Since you can choose the ending, it's art just as much as someone slapping a happy ending on romeo and juliet is art. However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art? What if you were to have an expansion to that same game, and you were to play as one of the patriarchs of their respective families, and you find that the only way to save the lives is to make peace, but at the cost of your own? His assertions seem to say that art needs to teach, and to teach you can't have choice in the story. I disagree, I just think there needs to be consistency in the outcomes of the choices. By the way, he would make a great slashdot interview, don't you think?

That sounds like (2, Informative)

Aexia (517457) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962697)

However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art?

Planescape Torment. No matter what choices you make, no matter how good or evil you play, you can't escape your fate.

Re:That sounds like (4, Interesting)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962775)

Missile Command. You can't escape your fate, and that makes it all the more ghoulish. Defcon. You can at best change the magnitude of the global nuclear holocaust, but you can't avert it. Both of these are poignant and, dare I say, artistic games.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962761)

It's interesting that he uses malleability as an argument against videogames being art. 90% of games are highly linear. Look at Mario: you either rescue the princess or you just stand there. Even take something like Deus Ex, which is praised for its non-linear story line. It still just boils down to three endings and there's not much difference between those endings, other that some text and maybe a different cut-scene.
Basically I'm saying that almost every game ever made follows the model that you're talking about, where the outcome is inevitable.

Re:Flawed argument (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962883)

So would a play which involved audience participation, and which was scripted such that according to said audience participation could result in one of several outcomes, then become a sport? I don't know if such a thing would offend the High Poobahs of theatre, but it sounds like a cool work of art to me.

I've never seen a video game that was -that- malleable. They only ever allow what the game authors put into the game that you could do. It was like when I was describing computer RPGs to my roomate, who is familiar with pen and paper RPGs but not CRPGs, and I was describing the bit in the NWN expansion where you get turned to stone by a surprise encounter with a medusa.

"How do they make sure you get to that point instead of running off somewhere else?" he asked, thinking like a game master whose players can ruin their plans.

"Uh, by making that the only thing in the area that you can interact with in any way" was the answer. If they don't give you the option to do something else, then you can't do anything else but stand there and not do what they want.

The fact is that games only offer the illusion of malleability to varying degrees. The ways in which the game designer both gives you choices and constrains the outcomes seems to me to be the very place where "art" can be created in a way unique to video games.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

AgentPaper (968688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964347)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall reading something similar in one of the original Battlestar Galactica novelizations (the one about the big-ass laser on the ice planet - I forget the title). According to that novel, "Caprican tragedy" was a theatre form in which the actors would enact two endings, showing the results from changing a main character's pivotal choice at some other point in the play - to wit, what would happen if Romeo didn't kill himself before Juliet woke up, or if Jean Valjean simply took the Bishop's silver and ran.

Interesting idea, though I imagine it'd be a pain for the actors!

Re:Flawed argument (1)

Bobartig (61456) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963025)

Your example involving Romeo is basically any RPG without multiple endings (and about a hundred other things). It doesn't really matter how you choose to play Diablo II, at the end, you've destroyed world stone and opened the gates to hell. Or something like that. The point is, a game doesn't have to have a malleable outcome.

What would be really nice would be to listen to a debate between Will Wright and this Ebert fellow.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963039)

To me, art is about the emotions it evokes in the beholder. If a piece of work is capable of stirring strong emotions, it can probably be considered art. In video games, the entire experience of playing them can often stir up strong emotions, even if they are not the emotions intended by the creator.

A hallmark of much great art is that it can be appreciated on many different levels by many different people, often in ways the creator of the work never intended. A truly great game could very well do the same thing.

Like I said, it's arguable if any game up to the present has been able to do all of this, but to say it's impossible is, I think, fundamentally misunderstanding what art is.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963045)

However, were he to encounter a game where you play as Romeo, and no matter what you try you and juliet both die, then is it not art?

Hey, Aeris always dies in FF7! ART!

One might argue that modern RPGs full of cut scenes should be considered as art with a bit of sport as a diversion between the cut scenes. Even when there are choices that affect the outcome, such games still have a limited number of outcomes.

Re:Flawed argument (3, Insightful)

Tirno (923929) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963299)

One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art.
I guess that rules out jazz as art, along with any other music involving improvisation.

Re:Flawed argument (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963441)

One of his main points was that malleability destroys any chance of the work being art.
I guess that rules out jazz as art, along with any other music involving improvisation.
Indeed. I believe you've hit upon the ultimate rejoinder to his ignorant assertion. But what do you expect? He's a freakin' film critic. In his mind, if it's not film, it's probably crap. He's a dunce.

Re:Flawed argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19963439)

If I took the Mona Lisa and crumpled it into a ball would it not be *different* art? Or is that 'sport' too?
Ebert is a silly old goat who refuses to acknowledge that he just might be wrong. Treat him as you'd treat any other silly old goat who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Re:Flawed argument (2, Insightful)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963997)

Because then there would be no reason for it to be a videogame. If the outcome were determined, it might as well be a play or film. Ever wonder why videogames either default back to radio (metal gear solid codec), film (any game with cutscenes), or the stage (FFVII or half life 2) to advance the story? Because the medium of videogames can't do it.

The bottom line, the video game is never the optimal way to get across your artistic point, or a story. The only advantage videogames have over film or theatre is the immersion that controlling a character can create. But there are so many downsides. You can only interact physically with the world, thus most game stories are about physical conflcit. The best stories involve emotional conflict. Since there is no way now, or quite possibly ever, to interact with a game character in an emotionally maningful way, as AI like that is way beyond reach, games will either be devoid of emotional conflict, or will defer to other artforms to present it. It's this serious shortcomming that I think makes creating 'art' out of a videogame very difficult.

Re:Flawed argument (4, Insightful)

neomunk (913773) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964841)

How do you interact emotionally with a painting or a film? The complete and utter LACK of ANY AI makes any connection (as you seem to be defining such a connection) impossible. The art EVOKES the emotional response through some sensory input (indeed each piece of art evokes mood differently, even if the difference is subtle) and there is nothing about a video game that cannot give you the same effect.

Sculpture is not art! (1)

nten (709128) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964687)

Because I can choose what perspective to view it from. The creator of a game has put thought into each ending and game style a player might use, and each should not only be fun, but convey a message tailored to that player. I'm a bit extropian in tilt, so I saw Deus Ex in a transhumanist way and chose to merge with the machine. A neoluddite (not meant as a derogative) might get an entirely different message, but it was, no less, intended by the creator.

Okay. (2, Insightful)

aarku (151823) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962289)

Suppose first-person-shooters are sports. Sports are played in arenas and FPSs are played in designed levels. If architecture can be considered art, then the levels of First-Person-Shooter "sports" can be considered art as well. Since the levels of FPSs are an integral part of the sport, by extension the game as a whole is art.

Re:Okay. (1)

Eco-Mono (978899) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962463)

Like Bioshock [2kgames.com] , for instance.

Re:Okay. (4, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962537)

Then he would reply that certain parts of the game may be art (textures, terrain, etc), but not the game as a whole. To extend your analogy, if we were to play tic tac toe on the mona lisa, the game wouldn't be art. The outcome might be, but the game of tic tac toe itself wouldn't.

I personally believe that he's wrong, but it's for more complex reasons dealing with what art is; at its core, that's what all the hubub is about, the lack of a definition of art.

Re:Okay. (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963159)

or, another way to put it: the designs on the helmets don't make the NFL "art".

for the record, i am convinced some existing video games are great works of art, but pointing to great graphics or cutscenes is a dead-end argument. (these are just the helmets)

video games ascend when all the peices -- the art, the story, the mechanics, the interface, the potential actions offered and engaged in -- work towards the same compelling whole and remove the player from the chair he sits in, take him inside the game, and make him a real participant. when you ARE the architect of an epic civilization, or the lone hunted marine on a doomed space station, or a travel agent in the land of the dead, or spiky-haired mercenary, or mute colossus-killer.

honestly, i don't understand how a person can experience these things and NOT come out the other side with the same soul-warming appreciation that good art instills. it's just common sense to those who have.

who cares, who thinks he's an expert? (3, Funny)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962295)

You only need look at Ebert to realize that he understands even less about sports than he does about gaming.

Re:who cares, who thinks he's an expert? (0, Offtopic)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962459)

You only need look at Ebert to realize that he understands even less about sports than he does about gaming.
Other things Ebert considers a sport:
Pie Eating
Watching Pr0n

Re:who cares, who thinks he's an expert? (2, Informative)

gnarlyhotep (872433) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962755)

All you need to do is look at his corpus of work and realize he doesn't even have a full understanding of "high art" in film either. The guy has opined over the quality and worth of Russ Meyer moves, ffs (faster pussycat, kill kill! amongst others).

Ebert doesn't get it, but neither do most gamers (4, Insightful)

timster (32400) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962309)

It's not surprising that Ebert would miss the point of games, as it seems that everybody else does. Whenever this discussion comes up, we'll get pages and pages that go on about the plot or characters or music or whatever, but this isn't the answer; these are mere accidents, non-game art that's attached to a game.

To speak of games as (high) art, we must explore the foundation of the form, and that isn't the plot or music or story, though a great story can be told in a game's context. The art in games is in the experience that they create for the player; the feeling of doing something or being something that you're really not. This isn't a traditional emotional experience that you might get from literature, but that doesn't mean its value is less. We have literature to make us sad or happy or lonely -- games are something different, and that's why this new form is such a treasure.

Re:Ebert doesn't get it, but neither do most gamer (4, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962553)

That's right. For example, most online FPS games make me feel lame and inadequate most the time and then, when someone's connection dies or they have to go feed their cat and I finally manage to kill someone, it aides my ability to delude myself into thinking I might be getting better.

Re:Ebert doesn't get it, but neither do most gamer (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962637)

Games, like other art forms, follow the characteristics laid out in Aristotle's Poetics. Specifically, games raise and lower dramatic tension by posing and answering questions. Ebert misunderstands the basis of art. It is as if I were to say that paintings and theater both can't be art, because their characteristics are so different. Yet paintings too ask and answer questions. We even talk about tension and motion in paintings. We say the eye is drawn this way or that. Why? Because the painting poses a question with it's structure that makes you want to look here as opposed to there. I think dramatic tension is a key component of art. But then, looked at that way, sports are art too, because they raise and lower dramatic tension the same way.

Re:Ebert doesn't get it, but neither do most gamer (1)

dootbran (467662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963731)

I'm completely with you on the first paragraph, I just don't think the underlying game ever becomes art. I just don't see how a set of rules and a victory condition can evoke emotion and be considered art. Think about Chess, great game but not art and playing the game using pieces that are art doesn't change that.

Re:Ebert doesn't get it, but neither do most gamer (1)

RTofPA (984422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964665)

Well, actually, everyone getst he point of games (or should): to have fun and entertain, just like Romeo and Juliet, or the Odessey, or Star Wars. Yet al three of these are art, and, I would say, high art. Anything can be art, such as taking a screenshot of a vista in TES4:Oblivion. The "high" part comes in arranging the pieces of the work in a way that conveys a deeper meaning. Making it allegorical, if you will, but allegories that are consistent to convey a meaning. For instance, Star Wars conveys a deeper, subsurface allegory for the battle between good and evil, and how evil takes root in our lives, and hence contains "high" art. In video games, this can be present in the story line/gameplay as well. I can't really think of any off the top of my head, but they can and do exist, even though only rarely, and I think we will see more and more of them as the genre develops. (Bioshock, for instance, looks promising.)

Play Planescape: Torment. (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962353)

Really. If you ever want a game to show you that an interactive experience can be as much art as any book, try that game. There's many other examples, across all other aspects of art, but games hold many forms of artistic content, and the addition of choice does not lessen that expression.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Play Planescape: Torment. (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962407)

Or maybe just FFVI. The story is a work of art. And if the story is only ONE element of the game, :. the game is art.

And now for a counterexample:
Just because "oops I did it again" sang by britney is both music and a load of crap, that doesn't mean all music is a load of crap, does it?

Re:Play Planescape: Torment. (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962557)

Certainly agreed there - FFVI is one of those games I have to replay every few years just for the timeless combination of unequaled music, profoundly artistic story, and sharpened gameplay mechanics perfected from the previous 5 games. I didn't want to mention it under the circumstances, as every time I find I mention it, a FF6 vs. FF7 argument ensues where I can't help but be partisan and mention my relative disgust for FF7 compared to what came before - my taste only though, and I can still find charming aspects to FF7 despite those tastes.

I'd also mention the Ultima series, particularly Ultima 7 and the Underworlds, though that was in an age where gameplay development only dreamed of the luxury of content (even in mere word count) compared to other media. Like a Moog synthesiser, I consider the result art in terms of pure economy of basic constructed content - such wonderful expression in such limited, carefully shaped environments.

Ryan Fenton

So by his definition... (1)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962357)

Choose your own adventure books are not, nor ever will be, "High art" because the "player" controls the outcome.

Re:So by his definition... (1)

WrongMonkey (1027334) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962667)

Are you trying to disprove his point or support it? Of course a choose your own adventure book cannot be "High Art". Try to imagine a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure of Anna Karenina. There is a mountain of metaphor and plot that would lost if at the end you choose not to jump in front of the train.

Re:So by his definition... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19963017)

Dammit!!!! I was so close to the end. Thanks!

Re:So by his definition... (1)

Who235 (959706) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963041)

What? She jumps in front of a train at the end!

Thanks, man. I was only 50 pages away from the end of the book.

Lazy Art? (1)

jythie (914043) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962373)

Ebert's argument often seems to come down to 'any time the artist has to interact with the subject instead of 100% dictating the experience, it is lesser'.

The problem with 'games as art' is that tree plot lines are much harder to write then linear ones. But there are artists out there who can do it,... I think some of the backlash from people like Ebert is he represents artists who can not do this and are thus feel threatened.

Re:Lazy Art? (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963205)

Ebert's argument often seems to come down to 'any time the artist has to interact with the subject instead of 100% dictating the experience, it is lesser'.

Then is a videogame more like a performance? Much of the traditional folklore of every culture was preserved by bards and storytellers. These people would tell their tales, and would expand parts and gloss over others to suit their audience, gauging their reaction as they went through the story. Yet certainly their performance is a work of art, never quite the same twice but certainly there is a core routine, and a repertoire of common variations around it that the bard will use as the circumstances of the performance require.

You'll see it also in contemporary performances. Watch several shows by the same comedian - say, Bill Hicks or perhaps Eddie Izzard, someone who tends to revisit themes. You'll see the same joke, the same routine performed in different times and places. Certainly the joke is a work of art which that comedian has created and polished during his career. But each performance of it will be different, because the comedian will react to his audience and adjust what he does accordingly. Watch enough shows and you'll come to recognise the extras the comedian bolts on to the joke if he has time or if he thinks a longer build-up will make the audience appreciate the punchline more. Or watch rock performances, and see how each time they'll put together a different setlist dependent on the type of show, where they are on the bill, whether they're pushing a new album, and whether the crowd have started throwing bottles at them.

There are plenty of artforms which are interactive. I think the chief difference is that the typical videogame is one-to-one - it's only your input that determines how the game unfolds - while a performance would be an artist responding to the aggregate reaction of a large audience. But I don't think that's enough to disqualify games as an artform.

Re:Lazy Art? (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963661)

The real problem with "games as art" is that we even have this argument.

First off, the term art is not well defined. It basically boils down to "Art is what I consider art" or "Art is what the majority consider art" or "Art is what the critics consider art." If we had a precise definition of art then it would be easy to decide. But if that were possible, it would have happened a long time ago.

Second, I don't see why people even want video games to be considered art. You don't hear people complaining that other types of games are art. Where are all the Monopoly players getting upset that no one considers it an art. Where are the Scrabble players, the Candy Land players or even the Chess or Checkers players at? Probably playing their games and enjoying them for what they are: games. It's not like having a video game fall into the category of art makes that game more enjoyable.

I'm going to explore the three definitions of art given above.

1) "Art is what I call art" -- If so, then call it art and we have no need for this discussion.
2) "Art is what the majority call art" -- I realize there are lots of different people on the slashdot with lots of differing opinions, but if we use this definition it sure seems bizarre that we have one article where a lot of people spell doom for Nintendo for ignoring the "hardcore" and going after the mainstream and then we have this one where people are declaring that games should be considered art by the majority.
3) "Art is what the critics consider art" -- taking this definition, then it's only a matter of finding a critic who can be respected and who calls games art. I think we have Molyneaux, Meier, Miyamoto, and many others who can be game critics and call games art.

Re:Lazy Art? (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964057)

Where are the Scrabble players, the Candy Land players or even the Chess or Checkers players at?
That would be a game, not games. That is the same as asking where are the Baldur's Gate players, the Super Mario players or even the Command and Conquer or the Pac-Man players at?

A related review: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19962405)

"Two thumbs up! My Ass! Wait, what were we talking about?"

    -Zonk

I prefer Kojima's approach. (4, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962409)

Games are not art.

Games are more like an art gallery. The story is art, the music is art, the graphics are art...

But the game is the package that they all come together in.

Re:I prefer Kojima's approach. (2, Insightful)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962451)

Games are more like an art gallery. The story is art, the music is art, the graphics are art...

But the game is the package that they all come together in.


Then by Kokima's definition, cinema is not art. However... cinema is widely considered the 7th art.

Mod parent up (1)

Chess Piece Face (247847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962521)

I agree - Ebert has chosen to focus on the activity portion of games and ignore the environment completely. Making a game involves everything required to make a film PLUS the gameplay. You could take 2001: A Space Odyssey, break it down into cutscenes, and add interactive tasks (spacecraft flight, etc.) in between. Would it cease to be high art?

Re:Mod parent up (1)

magical_mystery_meat (1042950) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964421)

I would argue yes, because you've taken the determinism out of the narrative. There's no singular vision there anymore. It's "ok, here are some scenes, now you go screw around and feel like you've accomplished something for a little while."

Re:I prefer Kojima's approach. (1)

flymolo (28723) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962673)

I think a game is art; the same way a collage is art. You can't artistically combine art and not get art.
So the creation of a game is an artistic process that results in ART.

But the playing of a game may well be a sport.

Re:I prefer Kojima's approach. (1)

Bobartig (61456) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963699)

Mixed media? That can still be art.

Ever seen a musical? It's got lighting, singing, dancing, acting, scenery, costumes... all art by themselves, and they combine into.. .. wait for it.... art!

There's all sorts of art projects and installations that involve technology and mixed media. There's interactive art that is experienced in different ways, and that experience/interpretation is considered an important element of that art. Games are no different. Ebert is just using an arbitrarily narrow definition of art that would necessarily exclude a lot of things that are already established as art.

This is exactly the same as music critics who argued that jazz wasn't music. Today, that notion is considered absurd. It will take time, probably enough for dinosaurs like Ebert to die off, but eventually games will attain the recognition they've deserved for quite some time.

Art is like beauty (1)

Trojan35 (910785) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962479)

completely in the eye of the beholder.

Definition of Art (2, Informative)

Shifty Jim (862102) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962491)

I think I a lot of people lash out because they fail to understand what Ebert defines at "high art" or "great art." While I respect Mr. Ebert and regularly read and enjoy his critiques on various movies, I'm not in total agreement with him on this point. But, that doesn't not change the fact that he's being attack by people who do not totally understand his argument.

From the Article:

Barker: "I think that Roger Ebert's problem is that he thinks you can't have art if there is that amount of malleability in the narrative. In other words, Shakespeare could not have written 'Romeo and Juliet' as a game because it could have had a happy ending, you know? If only she hadn't taken the damn poison. If only he'd have gotten there quicker."

Ebert: He is right again about me. I believe art is created by an artist. If you change it, you become the artist. Would "Romeo and Juliet" have been better with a different ending? Rewritten versions of the play were actually produced with happy endings. "King Lear" was also subjected to rewrites; it's such a downer. At this point, taste comes into play. Which version of "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare's or Barker's, is superior, deeper, more moving, more "artistic"?

Barker: "We should be stretching the imaginations of our players and ourselves. Let's invent a world where the player gets to go through every emotional journey available. That is art. Offering that to people is art."

Ebert: If you can go through "every emotional journey available," doesn't that devalue each and every one of them? Art seeks to lead you to an inevitable conclusion, not a smorgasbord of choices. If next time, I have Romeo and Juliet go through the story naked and standing on their hands, would that be way cool, or what?

That said, let me confess I enjoy entertainments, but I think it important to know what they are. I like the circus as much as the ballet. I like crime novels. (I just finished an advance copy of Henry Kisor's Cache of Corpses, about GPS geo-caching gamesters and a macabre murder conspiracy. Couldn't put it down.) And I like horror stories, where Edgar Allen Poe in particular represents art. I think I know what Stan Brakhage meant when he said Poe invented the cinema, lacking only film.

I treasure escapism in the movies. I tirelessly quote Pauline Kael: The movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have no reason to go. I admired "Spiderman II," "Superman," and many of the "Star Wars," Indiana Jones, James Bond and Harry Potter films. The idea, I think, is to value what is good at whatever level you find it. "Spiderman II" is one of the great comic superhero movies but it is not great art.

Change vs. experience (1)

Chess Piece Face (247847) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962765)

"If you change it, you become the artist."

How many games can you actually change the outcome of? Using Romeo and Juliet as an example only shows that he doesn't understand how games work - that if the play were made a game he thinks it would have a different ending or multiple possible endings.

I've played through GTA:San Andreas several times and the narrative always starts with CJ coming home and ends with Tenpenny driving off an overpass. What happens in between has some flexibility, sure. But there is no way to damage the narrative.

Re:Definition of Art (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962777)

I know enough to know that Ebert doesn't get to take ownership of the expressions "art", "high art", "great art" with his definitions. Why can't he make up a couple of words instead, and say that games can't be those?

If games aren't art... (3, Funny)

Twintop (579924) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962541)

...where does Mario Paint fit in?!

Missing the point (1)

pifactorial (1000403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962561)

One could certainly make "high art" in the form of a video game. If they weren't interested in making any money.

Video games are made for a market. A market looking for action and entertainment, not a foray into the depths of the human experience. Games don't even try to be high art, and I don't think they should. Perhaps, like a soup can, they'd be better classified as pop art.

Games != sports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19962563)

Sports and multiplayer video games maybe, but what about single player RPGs? If they're sports too, then what about paper RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons?

Who are the jocks going to pester now?

The fact is... there are sports video games, but they are just that, sports video games. To lump ALL video games together as "a sport" is ludicrous.

Leave it too a movie buff to categorize video games...

He's got a point... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19962567)

Also, movies can't be high art because I've seen YouTube and its just a bunch of drunk teenagers and kittens falling asleep. Furthermore, painting can't be high art because its just a bunch of kindergarteners spreading color on paper with their fingers. I've seen both of these, and it outweighs any other knowledge I lack.

people like pinball games for the ART work in them (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962609)

as well as the game part.

Interactivity and Art (3, Insightful)

RamblinLonghorn (1074873) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962659)

"What I should have said is that games could not be high art, as I understand it. How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in "Myst," and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports."

For someone who reviews countless action movie sequels and buddy cop movies, he sure has a poor grasp of how most great works of art are rare "diamonds in the rough." He has listed 2 (?) genres, FPS and point and click adventures. He has never seen the level of detail Bioware put into the characters for their many games. He has never experienced the emotional story of a FF6. He has never tried to see a dynamic artificial world created by the likes of Civilization.

I think Barker is wrong in calling Ebert prejudiced towards games. I think he's just ignorant towards them.

Re:Interactivity and Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19962707)

He has never seen the level of detail Bioware put into the characters for their many games.
So you're saying the game involves art? I don't think he's ever disputed that. A can of soup can have a picture of art on it. Doesn't make the can itself art.

He has never experienced the emotional story of a FF6.
Isn't there a debate about whether the Final Fantasy series even count as games since you really only play battles, and the story always unfolds the same way? In any case, the story may be art, but it doesn't make the game art. The only game in Final Fantasy are the battles, and they're not art.

He has never tried to see a dynamic artificial world created by the likes of Civilization.
Already mentioned, creating the world may be art, but simply setting up the rules and simulation that the world is created in is not art.

What everyone is saying is that games can contain art and that the way someone plays a game might be art. This is true.

Ultimately, the game is not art. It never can be, in the same way that the paints and the canvas are never art but the final painting can be.

Re:Interactivity and Art (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964175)

First, I still don't understand why the "game" portion of a game cannot be considered art. Even if you take Ebert's particularly narrow definition of what art is, that art requires authorial control, I'd still be able to classify a game as art. Art can be the culmination of other art forms. Your only claim to your statement that a game like ff6 is not art is, obviously, because of the game play elements. So in your mind, the "battles", as you state it, are not art. I assume you make this assumption for the same reason as Mr. Ebert, that a battle does not contain authorial control. Well, doesn't it? In a battle, aren't the game designers the ones who created the game play? While you have to interact with it, you're still constricted to the type of movements that the designers laid out for you, or allowed you to discover in a previous scenario. While it may be interactive, it's still very much influenced by the type of experience the game developers wanted you to have. Why it may not be the same exact experience for every player, it is most likely very similar. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is indeed quite a bit of authorial control in game play. Game play is designed to invoke an emotional response, same as the music, scenery or story that accompanies it. There is a certain amount of artistic quality to game play that, when combined with "classic" artworks, can create a rich artistic experience that I believe can be classified as great art.

Re:Interactivity and Art (1)

enderjsv (1128541) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964223)

Oops! My above remark was meant to be a reply to "Re:Interactivity and Art" posted by Anonymous Coward. Sorry.

Games aren't art, Games aren't sports (0)

EEBaum (520514) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962691)

Games are games. Why do people have such a hard time with this?

Re:Games aren't art, Games aren't sports (1)

voltheir (1087207) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963031)

how did this get modded up? {games} and {art} aren't mutually exclusive, and neither are {games} and {sports}. Some games are sports (e.g. warcraft III, rise of nations). Some games are art (e.g. final fantasy). and some games just plain old suck (second life).

Games are a contest. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19963127)

What's wrong with it being a sport? It's not like sports are a second-class citizen, and calling it art will not change anything.

Sports are games (1)

dootbran (467662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963831)

The reason why they have such a problem with it is because they can't get the relationship right. Ebert got it backwards. They both involve rules and a victory condition, sports are just a subset of games that involve some athleticism.

Who cares? (1)

voltheir (1087207) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962721)

He's not even an authoritative source on movies; why would anyone take anything he says seriously about art, sports, or games?

Duchamp and Fountain (3, Insightful)

ShaggyIan (1065010) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962747)

Every time I read arguments like this, the first thing to mind is Fountain [wikipedia.org] . Note: voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century.

If a urinal is the most influential piece of art in a century, do we really care about "high art" anymore?

I have this recollection of a man standing in front of something really stupid and screaming "ART!!!" at it. I don't remember what it was from (I'm sure someone will tell me), but it reinforces the point that "artists" will insist everything is art, just because they made it.

Re:Duchamp and Fountain (1)

AgentPaper (968688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963273)

Personally, I think it's amusing how we contort ourselves into rhetorical knots trying to describe an object as a work of art, when in all likelihood the "artist" knows damned well it's not art, nor did he/she put any work into it, and is just having a fabulous laugh at the critics' and the public's expense. People who claim a urinal tilted on its side is "curvaceous, vitreous and partially reflective" and "represents the imposition of the artist's will on the resulting work of art" are either pretentious gits or completely delusional.

If someone relieves their bowels in Central Park, is that art? Some art critics would say that it is - it challenges perceptions, it can be interpreted on many levels, and it provokes thought and criticism. However, there comes a point when art, regardless of what medium it comes in, has to justify its classification as art, and at some point, the art critic must face up to the fact that this "work of art" is, in fact, a turd. It's not "a self-contained palette of hues and textures" or "a defiant act of humanity against the sterile modern world,"* it's either vandalism or public indecency. Meanwhile, plenty of better art ("better" in the sense that it has aesthetic value in addition to the the points previously mentioned) exists all around us, and yes, in video games as well.

Ebert, and the vast majority of art critics, wouldn't know art if it bit them, and that goes for ALL the arts, including cinema and interactive entertainment.

* ...and I can't believe I actually said that about a turd. Perhaps I should look for a career in art criticism?

Re:Duchamp and Fountain (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963349)

Heh, I remember watching a show that was basically about stupid modern art, and I remember being increasingly incensed with what people were willing to shell out loads of money for. The most egregious one in my mind was the little old lady who paid ten thousand dollars for a pile of red, blue, and silver foil-wrapped Hershey's Kisses. That's all it was, a big pile of kisses dumped in a corner. Ten large. Wow.

But the thing that turned it around for me was when they showed the young modern artist who had successfully sold a shoe polish tin filled to the brim with his own feces for several grand. And after thinking about that little old lady trying to justify the deep meaning behind the pile of hershey's kisses and how she had to spend $10k on it instead of going to CostCo and spending $20 on her own kisses to pile in the corner... it clicked.

A shoe polish tin filled with shit is not art. The act of getting someone to pay you thousands of dollars for your shit in a tin is a stinging criticism of the modern art world, the sycophants who desperately pretend to understand it in order to seem cultured, and is a magnificent piece of "high" art.

One Word: (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962749)

Infocom.

I nearly wept in at least two of their games.

Re:One Word: (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963111)

I nearly wept in at least two of their games.

Ok, let me think, let me think...

Planetfall? And Trinity?

Re:One Word: (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963297)

Planetfall and A Mind Forever Voyaging.

Trinity as well come to think of it. Also Zork III at the very end. I don't think I've enjoyed any media as much.

Re:One Word: (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964409)

Infocom games were amazing; it would be great if they released the old games again, but Activision (the current IP owner) hasn't shown any signs lately of doing so. I emailed them a while ago asking them about rereleasing them, but didn't get a response. I can't have been the only one to try that, and I'm wondering just how many people have to ask for it before they actually think about releasing them again.

So anybody reading this, feel free to shoot them off an email...

Flag boy (4, Insightful)

namekuseijin (604504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962795)

Hollywood is scared of the games industry eating their lunch, which undoubtly will occur in the coming years. They put a high respected puppet to deride games as not being art by taking lame examples of games as art. As if most of Hollywood's output is art!

Here's a quick list for what Ebert should have "played" instead to get a grip:
* A Mind Forever Voyaging, by Steve Meretzky from Infocom
* Shadow of the Colossus, by Sony
* Savoir-Faire, by Emily Short
* The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, by Nintendo
* Deus Ex, by Ion Storm
* Anchorhead, by Mike Gentry
* Super Metroid, by Nintendo
* Spider and Web, by Andrew Plotkin
* Half-Life, by Valve
* Metal Gear Solid, by Konami

and so on...

Interactive art is here to stay! The original author of a work of art does not mean his audience to sit there passively reading/watching the plot unfold, but to activelly participate and change the outcome in ways he could not see. We're still not quite there, but eventually this goal will be reached...

Re:Flag boy (1)

DreadPiratePizz (803402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964121)

keep in mind, I enjoyed all the games you listed. But to include them in a list of "high art" is a bit ridiculous.

Metal Gear Solid- Could be included, but driven almost entirely by cutscenes and codec conversations, with intermittent periods of interactivity. Dangerously close to watching a movie.

Half Life- Equivilant to an action movie with no characters, and all run and gun action. The sequel adds one deminsional characters. Hardly a good story.

Super Metroid- The opposite of metal gear solid. Pretty much all game and no story.

Deus Ex- Full of clichés, ridiculous bugs and scenarios that instantly break immersion. The choices you make at the end can have serious moral consequences, but this is never explored in the game. Your character is emotionless, and the NPCs one dimentional.

etc etc etc. These are great games, because they are fun. The best videogame stories pale in comparison to the best film stories. How could one make Casablanca the game? You can't... because the story is about internal conflict, something you can't control in a videogame. Citizen Kane the video game? Catcher in the rye for wii? Other artforms can capture the human spirit in ways videogames can't. And the video games that do, do it by defering to these artforms (film, radio, theatre), usually through non interactive cutscenes.

The more a game becomes high art, the less of a game it becomes.

Re:Flag boy (1)

namekuseijin (604504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964671)

First, like I said "We're still not quite there" in terms of true interactive storytelling.

We need some true AI, not just for better NPCs than the manually scripted of today but for a host of other goals.

We need NPCs with motives, goals, thirst for knowledge and power and awareness of what is going on in that simulated world and how they can act upon it in a way to benefit them. AI is needed too for the so-called drama managers who should build the plot accordingly to the player's actions. As well as for a narrator that can report in exciting manners what is going on in that world (able to narrate events in a range of literary styles in the case of IF, or to choose appropriate camera angles, perspective and order in which to present events in a 3D game.)

That said:

"But to include them in a list of 'high art' is a bit ridiculous."

As I said, we're not quite there yet. But high/fine art is really just a snotty term to define a range of things that go from Shakespeare popular plays from his days, Mozart's popular operas, Buster Keaton's popular silent short movies and urinols in an art gallery. In the end, anything can be "high art", as far as there is interest in it. I told some chap bellow to bury some cartridges of SMB1 and behold as they are treated as high art by critics in the future puzzled by the sheer ingenuity of this early interactive art example.

"Super Metroid- The opposite of metal gear solid. Pretty much all game and no story."

Games with little story generally go towards providing the player with great freedom in exploring a large area, with a single goal in mind (in this case, capturing the last metroid).

And what a game. So much to do, so many places to explore, so many clever puzzles! And, most of all, what a moody setting! There's you, alone in an alien world full of danger and puzzles in the form of finding out which suit powerup helps you into unlocking the ingenious multibranched level layouts.

Play with lights off.

"The best videogame stories pale in comparison to the best film stories."

Upon concluding the first Metal Gear Solid for PS1, I thought to myself: "Holy crap! It's been ages since I've watched anything coming from Hollywood of this scope." I remain true: the twisted story, top-notch narration, razor-sharp dialogues and voice acting, the soundtrack... there seemed to draw straight from Hollywood's best in the genre. There were some slippery spots here and there in which the drama sounded to be gearing towards the corny side, but the sheer scope of the thing far outweighted it...

Hollywood OTOH seems to have been adopting the plain-stupid-score-oriented-videogame approach, releasing flicks shock-full of action and explosions and almost no story or with corny dialogue.

Besides, not sure you've played those interactive-fiction works I've listed. They seem to be doing far better into putting someone in some character's shoes than anything else out there and some do not feel like games at all. Try Photopia, by Adam Cadre or Galatea, by Emily Short...

Re:Flag boy (1)

bogjobber (880402) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964555)

Uh...Ebert is many things (most of them bad IMHO) but a Hollywood puppet is definitely not one of them.

What is a game? (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19962979)

What happens if my games allows only two interactions, 'previous page' and 'next page' and while doing so it is showing some writing of Shakespeare? Is Shakespeare displayed on a TV (in text form) less art then printed on paper? Is there even a difference? Now, true, most games allow some more interaction then 'previous/next page', but many are really not that far away. Many games don't have much freedom, the story they present is predefined and linear, the only real difference is that the 'next page' trigger is a little harder to reach, hidden in some piece of action sequence or NPC dialog or whatever, that however doesn't really change the story they tell. A game simply can express the same stuff as a movie or a book, since when the interaction is striped down, its really almost the same thing.

However, there is a worthy point to discuss left: When a game gets closer to a movie by using cutscenes, it can be art like a movie. And a game that relies heavily on text dialog can get very close to a book and so be art like a book. But what about the actual gameplay itself? Most games that evoke emotions do so by using non-interactive cutscenes, not gameplay. Can a game evoke emotions in via gameplay itself? I think the answer would be 'yes', but there are only very few games around that ever tried that, let alone succeeded at it in the same way a non-interactive book, movie or cutscene can.

Re:What is a game? (1)

namekuseijin (604504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963115)

"What happens if my games allows only two interactions, 'previous page' and 'next page' and while doing so it is showing some writing of Shakespeare?"

Then it's not a game. But thanks for remembering Shakespeare: his plays were mere popular entertainment in his days. Now they are high-art.

That's it: bury a copy of Super Mario Bros. for a few centuries and unfold as critics in the future bow to its superior intelectual challenges as an early interactive art example...

Re:What is a game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19963983)


Queen: Playwrights teach us nothing about love. They make it pretty; they make it comical; or they make it lust. They cannot make it true.

Viola: Oh, but they can! I mean, Your Majesty, they-- they do not, they have... not, but I believe there is one who can.

Wessex: My Lady Viola is young in the world; Your Majesty is wise in it. Nature and truth are the very enemies of playacting. I'll wager my fortune.

Queen: I thought you were here because you had none.
Well, no one will take your wager, it seems.

Will: Fifty pounds!

Queen: Fifty pounds ? A very worthy sum on a very worthy question.

Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love ? I bear witness to the wager, and will be the judge of it as occasion arises.

I have seen nothing to settle it yet.

hmm (1)

Vexorian (959249) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963007)

"You art cannot be as good as ma art!"

Creation of Art vs Use of Art (1)

NeilRyan (599574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963161)

I like and respect Roger Ebert quite a bit, but here he's confusing the creation of art with how art is used.

He's judging a (potential) work of art by how it's used, rather than by what goes into its creation.

A game may or may not possibly be a work of art - I don't know.

But by Mr. Ebert's own yardstick (the use of the product), nothing hanging in any Museum is a work of art either.

All people do with the things displayed in Museums is to walk and look at them. How artistic that?

Ah, well ...

Re:Creation of Art vs Use of Art (1)

magical_mystery_meat (1042950) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964357)

The difference between art and craft is in the intent of creation. If 50 people come together to create something that does nothing more than express a shared thought, that's art. If those same 50 people create something that is intended to sell a million copies and make them all rich, it's not art. Even the most creative parts of the effort are just craft when there's no honest emotion behind them.

I know, artists need to make a living too, but a true artist will practice their art regardless of any monetary reward. How many of you have a "crazy" aunt that paints or a cousin that plays guitar in a band that writes original material? Those are artists.

It's not a perfect definition, but it's the only one I've been able to figure out.

Painting is not art (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963247)

"How do I know this? How many games have I played? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of games. They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in Myst, and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports."

How do I know this? How many paintings have I looked at? I know it by the definition of the vast majority of paintings. They tend to involve (1) strokes and colors in many variations and plotlines, (2) subjects and lighting, and (3) artist control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with video games.

Both arguments are BS, except that, unlike Ebert, mine was crap by intent.

I give him two thumbs down. Or one finger up, if you want to be artsy-fartsy.

Art or High art? Set a definition first. (1)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963251)

OK, to begin my argument I am going to set forward two definitions that the semantics can be debated evenly upon.

Art [google.com]

Fine Art [google.com] . Yes, I know he said 'High Art', but there was no such definition so I used the next best thing I could find.

Looking at the two definitions, Ebert's statements seem a little soft. The first bullet point for 'Art' seems to support video games of at least qualifying for consideration inside its ranks. Using the first two bullet points for 'Fine Art', the incredibly controversial Super Columbine Massacre RPG [columbinegame.com] can easily be debated as a form of Fine Art. Have fun arguing over that one.

Bullet points three and four under 'Fine Art' seem to support Ebert's assertion. 'Fine Art' is not functional, and to be judged by the theories of art. It also asserts a hard definition for the forms worthy of this definition (painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music). My initial issue with this is the 'theories' part. Theories are built upon to create new theories using new information gathered from the application of the older theories. Is there a cut off point for the validity of a theory in this case? What are the criteria used to establish applicable 'thoery' in this sense? What was the criteria used to establish writing as able to qualify as 'Fine Art' when at one point all that existed was verbal story telling? Ebert compares games with Shakespeare, but according to this definition - that doesn't quite qualify as 'Fine Art' either. Once again, I realize he said 'High Art', but 'Fine Art' and "High Art' are used interchangeably by many.

Bullet point 5 of 'Fine Art' seems to remove everything Ebert has ever reviewed from the definition of 'Fine Art', making him wholly unqualified to define what is and isn't able to attain the categorization. I don't know, maybe Ebert has reviewed a movie that wasn't created for commercial purposes - but I highly doubt it. Even if he has, his references to Shakespeare's writings and Andy Warhol's paintings fail as these were commercial efforts.

Take it one step further, Andy Warhol's paintings were created in his famous studio the Factory [wikipedia.org] . Andy used capitalisms methodologies as a method of delivering his vision. The soup cans weren't art - the ability to create them so efficiently and have people THINK THEY WERE ART was the art. It was a pretty impressive social statement that established him as a great artist, and thereby allowing the definition of 'Fine Art' to be applied to his works. This completely undermines every single one of Ebert's assertions by allowing work to be defined as 'Fine Art' after the fact if the creator can somehow establish their greatness AT ANY POINT IN THEIR WORKS EXISTENCE.

Hell, Van Gogh, and his work, was considered nothing until he DIED - thereby eliminating access to anything that wasn't already created. By this logic, and it has been applied by academics and the plebeians alike, almost ANYTHING can become 'Fine Art'.

Fundamentally, I see this mans statement as a great example of how large the generation gap really is between the Boomers and X on. The Boomers fight to keep their definitions relevant and superior instead of recognizing the disruptive cultural technologies created of the past two decades and embracing the possibilities they enable.

Games not art? (1)

regular_gonzalez (926606) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963307)

Someone needs to get this man a copy of Planescape: Torment stat!

Depends on the game. (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963323)

Probably most games are not art in the normal sense. But there are some. I challenge Ebert to play "For a change" and emerge convinced that it's nor art.

Obviously a film reviewer, albeit a superlative one, is not the best person to make the call, not being aware of the breath of the genre. Not every film is Transformers, not every video game is Doom.

Re:Depends on the game. (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 7 years ago | (#19963409)

Actually, having read TFA, it emerges that he said "Video games". So I kind of agree - I've never played one that I considered to be art.

Ebert is grossly mistaken.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964141)

When he states that the player is actually in control to the same degree as in sports.

In fact, the appearance that the player is actually appearing to affect anything at all is just an example of masterful illusion at work. Ideally, the programmers design a game in such a way that it _appears_ that the player's actions and choices are in control, and for all intents and purposes they can be considered to be, but in reality, the programmer determines what will and what will not happen in a game. In actuality, the CPU is doing nothing more than shoving data around memory and performing mathematical operations on the data. But _EVERYTHING_ that happens in a game is something that the designer put there, whether deliberately, or inadvertently (such as a bug).

Ha! (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964601)

Have you looked at a list of films that he's given kudos to? This guy generally doesn't know shit.

What needs to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19964751)

I disagree very much with his assertation that high art cannot be malleable by the user. Any art major will tell you art by its very nature is malleable by interpretation - and video games are EXACTLY that. You interpret a storyline or what visual evidence you have seen so far in the game, and draw conclusions and epiphanies of meaning from your own personal interpretation.

Take for example impressionism, impressionism uses purposeful blurring effects, and emphasis on reflections to create an image that is defined - but also malleable by the user to be what they want to see - a face may be blurred, allowing a distinct character - but one left to the viewer to finish off and fill in the details that might remind them of their similar looking uncle or something. That's how it grabs people - that's why it's so popular and powerful - because it is malleable to interpretation.

So unless Ebert's idea of "high art" is exclusive of everything post neo-classicism I think he's full of shit - the last few hundred years of art have been about not just telling a story (as in classicism/romanticism/neo-classicism), but telling a story the viewer defines (as in impressionism, modernism, post-modernism, etc).

So now the question is, are gamers really interpreting their world as they define? Or are they more constricted than say, a viewer of a Renoir, by the simple possibilities pre-defined by the game designers as possible endings and variations on story? I say that this is what makes some games art, even high art - the ability for a user to define their world from a meaningful, complex, even beautiful world of choices that can create some sense of epiphany (even a nebulous one we can't put into words) allows some games to become art. For a gamer example, see games like Deus Ex Machina, or Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty, or Final Fantasy VI, VII, even VIII to some lesser extent, as well as Chrono-Trigger. These games all have user defined interpretations of storylines that are not static, but can be conclusive only through interpretation of those events that the designers did not lay out for the gamer. I mean to say that yes, there are sub-quests, alternate endings, and these help to allow a user a personal interpretation of their experience with the 'art', but there is also missing information which, just like the blur effects in impressionist paintings, force users to fill in those unsaid parts of the story they chose - and That is what makes it real art, instead of just a story with multiple endings. Real art IS malleable - otherwise you may as well just take a fucking picture you high-nosed, unintellectual ponce (referring to Ebert).

Stop kicking us out of the Salon de Paris - we're art damn it.

arguing about art is like arguing about genre (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964815)

Arguing if games are art is like arguing if Star Wars is a western. No matter what people have made up their minds and no one will change them regardless of how persuasive the argument. And, in the end, it doesn't really matter since they are terms that only matter if you want them to matter.

I don't care if something is art or not. I don't care if Star Wars is a Western or not. All I care about is if I like them and find them worthwhile or not. The terms you apply to them won't change that.

I dare him to play... (1)

ghostunit (868434) | more than 7 years ago | (#19964879)

I dare this guy to play Final Fantasy VI and Silent Hill 2 and tell me that games cannot be art.

Old people. It's almost as if their perspective of the world freezes at 40 or something. I wonder if this will happen to me too.
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