Roger Ebert "Video Games Can Never Be Art" Pt 2

Art suffers the problem of being subjective to the culture sphere it's based on. It's nothing more than a tag that a group decides to apply or not.

That's why we get things that were considered shallow before and are considered art now.

We are in a transitional period right now. Ebert belongs to a generation that matured without videogames playing a major role. Most of us are one or two generations ahead, and our minds and attitudes are/were shaped partially by what games we played. For us, in the culture sphere we belong, we see games as artful, so we decide to apply that label. It's nothing more than that, a label imposed by a culture because it considers the work in question influential somehow.

In a culture that abhors violence and conflict, can "martial arts" exist? I don't think so, because the culture as a whole won't consider Karate as art (which I do).

As for the:

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

Well, goddamn! I'm pretty sure 40 years after the Lumière brothers invention, there wasn't still a film considered worthy of comparison with the great poets, novelists and poets, by the critics back then. This sh*t takes time to grow in relevance and permeate through people's lives. Art is something that influences culture in a significant way.

I just think people approach this issue from the wrong side. Videogames are just videogames, like a painting is just a painting. It's the people who determine if they are art or not. As long as there is a group of people considering something influential and artful, that thing will be influential and artful. An art piece is like God. If no one believes in it, then it doesn't exist.

BTW, I don't think emotion is a prerequisite to art. You have pieces devoid of emotion, that are considered Art just because of the mastery involved in it, or the beauty in it's construction. As such, I think the Chess game is a work of art. Chew on that, Ebert.

As such, I think the Chess game is a work of art. Chew on that, Ebert.

Absolutely. I think Ebert's off base with regards to sports as well. You see it in the evolution of the rules of sports where a governing body will sometimes institute rule changes in an attempt to generate a more thrilling spectacle. That right there is an aesthetic decision. A game with rule x rather than rule y results in, say, more goals which is deemed desirable in much the same way that a composer might choose one sequence of notes over another or decide on a shift in tempo. As with the composer, they do not know for certain that their changes will have the desired effect (and they may well be entirely wrong), but the intent is there in the decision making process.

oMonarca wrote:

As such, I think the Chess game is a work of art. Chew on that, Ebert.

Yeah, I think it's difficult for people to think of chess as art because it's an institution and predates the modern notion of game design. But if we look at Project GIPF, a series of 6 interlocking abstract games, I think abstracts start to look more like art.

oMonarca wrote:

Art suffers the problem of being subjective to the culture sphere it's based on. It's nothing more than a tag that a group decides to apply or not.

That's why we get things that were considered shallow before and are considered art now.

This sh*t takes time to grow in relevance and permeate through people's lives.

This right here.

I have been reading other discussions on other sites, and emailing friends about this this week, and I think that the above is a major point that folks are glossing over.

One poster over at G4 put it very well, telling about his grandfather going to movies all the time when they first started coming out. People thought he was crazy, and that movies in general were not art and a bunch of horsefeathers. Now we have film critics polarizing the nation by deciding what is and is not art.

A good buddy of mine is a graphic designer, and he was telling us about all the art history he studied in college, and how some of the pieces we consider masterpieces now were dismissed in the same manner that my boy Roger is dismissing videogames today. He ended his email by saying that he's had more meaningful experiences from videogames than he has from alot of the art he has studied throughout his life.

Not up to Chiggie standards, but I really loved this column at Gamespy.

A Sincere Letter of Thanks to Roger Ebert - Because who doesn't love a pointless debate?

Dear Mr. Ebert,

I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to you for recently stating in your column that videogames can never be art. Noting the content drought on many game enthusiast websites, you selflessly decided to peel the crusted top off of the cesspool that is the games-as-art debate, to present us gamers with the opportunity to wallow in our own intellectual feces for a solid week-and-a-half. And with bony fists raised in impotent rage and eyes fixed unflinchingly on our navels, we took up the call.

That is really good.

Guilty as charged, but pointless debate is fun, is it not?

The reason videogames are not art is because you can't use them to get laid.

When that changes, they'll be on the list.

That's deep, Mex.

Mex wrote:

The reason videogames are not art is because you can't use them to get laid.

When that changes, they'll be on the list.

You never used Rock Band as an excuse to get close to a girl and say, 'Here baby, let me show you how this works' like golfers do?

I got a chill when I saw this thread resurrected. Interesting piece though.

One thing this thread has demonstrated is that there is no really mutually satisfying definition for art, it's interesting that Ebert essentially arrives at the same conclusion.

I can totally understand him saying, 'You know, I really just don't like video-games, don't have the inclination to try them, and that's it.' He's an old curmudgeon, but everyone has something they are totally closed to.

I think his last piece provoked an interesting debate so I'm glad for it, but I'm also glad that at the end of the day he's admitted to not knowing enough about the topic to really have an informed opinion.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I got a chill when I saw this thread resurrected.

I did think resurrecting the debate is like leaving a cluster bomb mine in Worms, just quietly lying there until someone steps on it and then there's a mess everywhere.

One thing I'm thinking of is, if not Ebert (who is a film critic), then who is a good judge of video gaming Art (with a capital A)? Where are the good reliable critics to hold the medium to account when games are crap, or praise when games are good. They are out there, and I'm sure most people on this board could name a few, but they seem lost in a sea of "9.8/10 GOTY2010 OMG explosions and graphics!" reviewers. Compare this with most other forms of art/media and I'm sure most people would know where to go for good reviews, or at least a good variety of viewpoints.

Mex wrote:

The reason videogames are not art is because you can't use them to get laid.

When that changes, they'll be on the list.

I never thought I'd be the one to tell you this, but you're wrong on that one.

Edit: To add something useful to the conversation, this blog makes a hell of a case, and definitely more eloquently than I can put it. http://thelastmetaphor.com/

Scratched wrote:

Where are the good reliable critics to hold the medium to account when games are crap, or praise when games are good. They are out there, and I'm sure most people on this board could name a few, but they seem lost in a sea of "9.8/10 GOTY2010 OMG explosions and graphics!" reviewers.

I pay very little attention to the gaming media outside of GWJ. But if I want honest, human opinions from professional writers I look to Tycho, the RPS crew and Leigh Alexander. While I don't always agree with their perspectives the always provide me with something to consider.

I value actual, even attempted, criticism over 'reviews' which are often untrustworthy.

I had to be prepared to agree that gamers can have an experience that, for them, is Art. I don't know what they can learn about another human being that way, no matter how much they learn about Human Nature. I don't know if they can be inspired to transcend themselves. Perhaps they can. How can I say? I may be wrong. but if 'm not willing to play a video game to find that out, I should say so.

Yup yup. I'm glad to see him revisit this topic and be honest about the whole thing. Respect gained.

I imagine he made a face sort of like this picture when he was confronted with the PS3 and Flower.

IMAGE(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4d/Walterdummy.PNG)

Gotta give him respect for admitting the faults of his statement in an eloquent reply and not denigrating game...aficionados in any way while doing so. The only real issue I have is his use of Clive Barker's Jericho game images. I can understand why, since Barker comes up in the response, but let's face it - Barker's games aren't exactly the pinnacle of the medium, despite Undying's strong first 1/3.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
Scratched wrote:

Where are the good reliable critics to hold the medium to account when games are crap, or praise when games are good. They are out there, and I'm sure most people on this board could name a few, but they seem lost in a sea of "9.8/10 GOTY2010 OMG explosions and graphics!" reviewers.

I pay very little attention to the gaming media outside of GWJ. But if I want honest, human opinions from professional writers I look to Tycho, the RPS crew and Leigh Alexander. While I don't always agree with their perspectives the always provide me with something to consider.

I value actual, even attempted, criticism over 'reviews' which are often untrustworthy.

You're on the right path.

I feel like those folks still have a fair amount of fluff, and often concern themselves with matters of business that don't really concern me, but they're tied to some of the really smart folks out there (and there are plenty). The problem is that most sites that pay their writers aren't interested in publishing that sort of thing (well, Kotaku is, but only if they don't have to pay).

I wrote up a post on my blog about it which is nice & fluffy
http://www.pxlgames.com/2010/07/eber...

My take away from his post is that the only regret he has is talking about this. His entire article is based on the fact that the current modern game is not art and he does this roundabout course around different topics (including trying to find a definition of "art" that excludes videos games) and then comes back around to the point that he wishes he never brought it up.

It's a BS post by him. And his survey where he calls gamers "fools" indirectly by channeling the debate discussion really made me dislike him further.

Ebert wrote:

I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place. I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn't seen. Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so. Some opinions are best kept to yourself.

Starts out on the same level of a non-apology such as, "I'm sorry you were offended by my comments." He says several times he still believes it, all while detailing what a stupid position it is. It ends with his search for a proper definition that includes the things he likes while excluding those he doesn't.

I don't want people to convince him to play video games. It's clear he doesn't want to. So why try to force him? Someone who's already made up their mind to such a strong degree is unlikely to be swayed.

wordsmythe wrote:

You're on the right path.

I feel like those folks still have a fair amount of fluff, and often concern themselves with matters of business that don't really concern me, but they're tied to some of the really smart folks out there (and there are plenty). The problem is that most sites that pay their writers aren't interested in publishing that sort of thing (well, Kotaku is, but only if they don't have to pay).

Okay, I should have used the word 'always' a bit more cautiously. A lot of their stuff is fluff, but that's how they put food on the table. RPS itself is more of an expression of Gillen, Walker and Rossignol's personal perspectives. Leigh Alexander's own blog links to her fluffier stuff, but also sometimes goes a little deeper than those.

And Tycho is, well, Tycho,

I'm sure there are 'better' writers out there if I had the time and energy to dig for them, but I don't even have time to read RPS regularly anymore.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

I don't want people to convince him to play video games. It's clear he doesn't want to. So why try to force him? Someone who's already made up their mind to such a strong degree is unlikely to be swayed.

And that's exactly my take away. He's still a cantankerous old guy who won't change his mind, but at least he came out and said that.

Mex wrote:

The reason videogames are not art is because you can't use them to get laid.

You're obviously just doing it wrong then.

AUs_TBirD wrote:

The only real issue I have is his use of Clive Barker's Jericho game images. I can understand why, since Barker comes up in the response, but let's face it - Barker's games aren't exactly the pinnacle of the medium, despite Undying's strong first 1/3.

Eh? All the images I saw were from Shadow of the Colossus.

muttonchop wrote:
AUs_TBirD wrote:

The only real issue I have is his use of Clive Barker's Jericho game images. I can understand why, since Barker comes up in the response, but let's face it - Barker's games aren't exactly the pinnacle of the medium, despite Undying's strong first 1/3.

Eh? All the images I saw were from Shadow of the Colossus.

They weren't originally. Those pics are much better than the standard horror and gib stuff they had.

Far, far too long. The short response should have been worded thus: "I was wrong."

LarryC wrote:

Far, far too long. The short response should have been worded thus: "I was wrong."

That wasn't really what he said. The short version is more along the lines of: " Just forget I brought it up. [size=8]Still think I'm right though.[/size]"

garion333 wrote:
muttonchop wrote:
AUs_TBirD wrote:

The only real issue I have is his use of Clive Barker's Jericho game images. I can understand why, since Barker comes up in the response, but let's face it - Barker's games aren't exactly the pinnacle of the medium, despite Undying's strong first 1/3.

Eh? All the images I saw were from Shadow of the Colossus.

They weren't originally. Those pics are much better than the standard horror and gib stuff they had.

Strange. Wonder why they changed them.

Cause someone probably tipped them off that those other pics were stupid for the point(s) he was trying to make.

Okelvin:

Not really. Asked to define what Art was, he started looking for a definition that specifically excludes videogames. At that point, you're just stating the opinion that you think that videogames cannot be X, and then retrofitting X not to include videogames. That's a circular argument if I ever saw one.

NSMike wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

Where does Peggle fall?

Into the realm of narcotics.

I'm actually serious. As I read through all of the arguments about why games are art, which I believe, as well, it seems that folks are more focused on the the narrative structure of games that try to imitate art. But Peggle works on primarily an aesthetic level. I say that even though i think the game is much more strategic than it is given credit for.

But there is clearly a design and elements that evoke emotional responses. Further, if the game was merely dropping balls down pegs, it would fail to be compelling. In many ways, this seems to be a better example of art than all of the poorly told stories that people seem to want to focus on.

Chess is not art. But I have a few chess boards that are certainly art.

But then, maybe games are not art, but instead are merely delivery devices for art.

To me it’s most interesting in that it’s an actual conversation with gamers. As far as a conversation from the old guard, I don’t know what else a game could want or expect.

He’s not going to convert. He has no interest in playing games, makes that clear, is honest about it to the point of knowingly portraying himself as stubborn.

LarryC wrote:

Okelvin:

Not really. Asked to define what Art was, he started looking for a definition that specifically excludes videogames. At that point, you're just stating the opinion that you think that videogames cannot be X, and then retrofitting X not to include videogames. That's a circular argument if I ever saw one.

And he writes that this is a useless action for him. Again, a conversation about his shortcomings is more than would be expect for the vast majority of people with his clout.

It seems that’s he’s surprised and impressed by the conversation and is actually engaging with something unique. It would be easy for him to simply ignore the frustration of gamers. You know hope I know this? It’s called every other interaction between un-informed traditional media and gamers.

The only thing I believe is BS is his assertion that most of the comments to him have been indigent and thoughtful. That doesn’t sound like video game forum posts to me.