Thursday, July 1, 2010

Roger Ebert: Maybe video games CAN be art!

Yes, I know I already talked about this debate. Sorry, you're going to get a bit more. Just a bit though. Before I do so, you do need to go read my first post on this topic, way down in like April. (April 20, in fact.) It's very possible that it's still my best post yet.

Now, if you're still with me or have come back from reading that one. you have something else to read, assuming you haven't. Roger Ebert's concession, which is here.

If you noticed, he said that he personally still thinks video games can't be art, but admits the validity of one of the most common arguments--that he shouldn't be talking about something he has next to no experience in. I can agree with that, but he also says a whole bunch more. (He can be just a bit long-winded sometimes) Eventually he gets around to repeating his reason for video games not being art, that being they're not static. Video games are interactive, and the player controls it. Thus, it is no longer controlled by the creator, and thus is not art.

Ok, that makes sense. It has a problem, though. This assumes that the amount of interaction is infinite-- that the player can make anything they want happen. As we all know, this is far from the case. The creator personally creates everything in the game, controls how they interact, and finally determines how everything will come together to the endings that he decides. It is very, very finite, and it shall remain finite until at least true virtual reality is brought to the medium (At which point the playthroughs themselves will become art, but that's another story.), and if and when that happens I shall accept that those games are not art.

Also, somewhere in there, he gives a textbook definition of art.

This belongs more with my previous post more than with this one. In that one I argued for the capability of video games to elicit emotions, and that video games will be considered art by the masses when their main purpose is considered to tell a story, or make you feel a certain way. Almost directly supported by that definition over there.

Lastly, I want to comment a little bit on the poll he made and tweeted out to his followers, many of whom retweeted it in turn. I don't remember if I retweeted it, but I did participate. The poll asked "Which would you value more?" in between Huckleberry Finn and a great video game. (Obviously I voted for the game)
I just want to say this is flawed. To be fair, it should be simpler: in between a great book and a great video game. I would still vote for the game, but this one is a lot closer. If the vote was in between Harry Potter (one of my favorites, just so you know) and say, Modern Warfare, I would say Harry Potter. You may have noticed before, but I'm not the biggest FPS guy. They're fun, but they're just time-wasters, for me.

What do you guys think? I don't really have a specific question this time, but there is plenty to discuss, and I always like to discuss, so find your own question, opinion, or comment, and I shall respond.


  1. Games are art. Art is when the results of someone's efforts can be
    admired by others. For example, karate is an art. Cartoon making is an
    art. Thus, video game-making is an art. You can't but help admire
    works of art like God of War, Halo, Super Mario Galaxy and GTA IV in
    action. The impressive detail, models, and visuals simply make it fun
    simply to-watch the games in action. Plus, all that work put into
    games makes them a product of the developers, and people love their
    games so much they play them. You can't play with the mona lisa, can
    you? Oh, and if you want a game that uses popular art for the
    environment you play in, check out Marumasa: The Demon Blade. That
    game is practically a painting in motion. I actually thought the
    screens for the game were artwork; thats how good it looks.

  2. Sorry for the weird enter spaces, I don't know why that happened.

  3. *shrug* people have different definitions of art. Yours is pretty inclusive, and some peoples is pretty exclusive. So for some people, games are art, and some people they aren't.

    BTW, more examples of painting in motion: Braid (they painted everything in that and digitized it) and Okami (painting is the gameplay hook)