Sunday, May 2, 2010

Episode 35: "A Response to Roger Ebert"

UPDATE: As of 9/13/11, this video is at THIS LINK


Scott said...

Great vid, love your stuff, and I love the validation you give your arguments on this one. This is a subject that's been heavy on my mind ever since I began to care about artistic quality (better part of the last 10 years).
One argument I have for you (and legitimately Mr. Ebert as well) is that you mention that quantity of games without artistic merit hugely outweigh the ones that do.
I think we should take this to ratio, because as much as there's a lot of good movies out there. How many of those would you say have artistic merit.
I agree with you that gaming has a long way to go, and that plea of "We're Trying" from some of the independent studios is a little too far and bleak for us to hear.
But film has had it's fair share of dumb "let's sell this" shlock for many a decade. Oh, I'd wager about 70 : 30. 70% shlock and 30% good, and that's being generous I think.

And while games will have a higher ratio than even that, it's still a ratio, one that will inevitably shrink, but never go past that 70:30.

Any response on this for clarification would be awesome Bob, cause like you, I'm here to think.

Shawn said...

Nice video, would have prefered something else cause I don't care less about the situation but might as well toss two cents in.

If the existence of crappy games means all games are not art, well then movies these days are not art either.

Frankly this is an argument that should not take place in our generation and is something for our children's children to decide when Halo 3 vs Final Fantasy 6 can be looked at with a historical perspective as opposed to our nostalgia/fanboyism. Look at bonny and clyde, was hated when it came out and is now considered a high point in film.

Twinmill said...

Bob, I respect your opinions but... as someone whose tried graphic design and will probably major in it depending on how the next couple years go, I will have to disagree completely.

I... can't really define art. Part of it to me's effort, part of it is originality, part of it's the imagination behind it, part of it is how aesthetically pleasing it is. In the world of the games I play, I've seen masterful masterpeices... and, sure, I can understand some graphic designer pumping out a model just to get it done, and I know plenty of times where I see no attention to detail, but for the most part, the folks that went to college for 4 years getting their 'I Can Make Computer Art!' degree do just that.

It's just a matter of how well you look at it and how well it's presented. If I put something I drew in a mass of scribbles, it'd be much less noticible. If I put my best poem in the middle of a really bad rant... same thing. Even Halo's good art. The creativity behind it... it's absurd. Yes. It's a game about shooting aliens, but the fact that it takes place on, not mars, but a ring in the middle of space, and you're not fighting green baloonheads, but interestingly colorful grunting aliens in a snowy wonderland that every little detail of had to be conceived by a designer while some monitor tells you that the ring that you're fighting on's a weapon. That's art. I'm referring to Halo, of course, not the third installment, but honestly, I see just as much, if not more art there... that goes by unnoticed for the most part. Optimization to allow the 360 to render those scenes was... well, art in itself.

I do agree that more and more games are starting to look alike, but please, please don't fail to notice the things the people that actually design the grayness do to make art of their boss' orders. As for my, in my opinion, most artistic game: RF Online-- the attention to detail in it's absurd and even though it came in over 5 years ago, it still looks better than most modern games. Hell, WoW's good art. In Borderlands, well the characters come off as twatbags, but the world's unique considering all I've seen. In Battlefield, the player characters... their faces look... well, sad, not like they're pumped up on roids going "Wooo, I'm gonna curbstomp some noobs!" They look, human, and even that, in its own right, is good art. Then again, maybe the overboobed Seraphim and High Elves that look like hookers in Sacred II are good art to the right eye too. Some designer had a vision to create that.

Craig said...

I can not respect Ebert's position.

I'm sorry, but any position that dismisses the artistic value of the likes of FF6, Braid, Chrono Trigger, Super Metroid, and, of course, SMB3 as "Zero" because it's a video game is, to be blunt, ridiculous.

This is coming from someone who, as a Brit, has no cultural attachment to the guy so make of that what you will.

The black marking of all games as "Not art" is at best short sighted and at worst, an attempt to not engage with the subject matter for all it's worth.

KenTheJoker said...

Dear Bob,
Great Video. it was nice to see a new one on my birth day. this not so much a comment on the video because it was pretty much my thoughts just for your mouth and brain. Also I believe Mr.Kojima Himself said he did not see video games as art. and In my view with he and maybe suda 51 are the men who come close to making games art in the it's some good shit Idea.
I have idea for you. you have touched a little on the Idea of IP's getting dark or mature a bit.
also I have heard you voice your dislike of the Mario Brother's movie. It may have been bad but at least it had real actor in it. and in my view the three leads where very good. What I am getting at is had this been made post The dark Knight. I think maybe people would have been more open to a darker Mario spin.Of course batman was always dark but as kid we never thought it over like we do now now. so Maybe for a video you can talk a little about the movie and make a imagined T or M rated Mario Title. and if i could work and on what levels.
T would be better I would never want to see/play a M rated Mario.
Maybe like the war between the Mushroom people and the Koopas has gotten really ugly.and Bowser's done some horrible war crime thing you smart take the ball and run.

beyrob said...

I agree with your point a lot here Bob. For every Breath of Fire 2 & 3, Chrono Trigger, and Mario 3. There are fifty Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarters, Halos, and Mario Hotels. And that’s the sad part of it all. But I honestly believe games have the potential be good art but we have to buy the right kinds of games like you said.

BTW about Dragon Quarter sorry I always bring it up…but it’s just AWEFUL it ruins everything I love about the series and is in fact everything wrong about video games.

Amund said...


I disagree both with you and Ebert in this. No, the games are not art, neither movies are.
I think (both of) your judgement about art is wrong. Games and movies are "products" not because of the time and thinking, because it's true value.
For exampla a kid's painting in school is not an art, but you can handle it that way. I wont be an art, an universal expression. Products are the same.
I think this way actually. Soon will come something (really) bad, something like an interactive movie, a cinematic game experience, a new medium and will erease the game and movie as we know it.
What became of the cinema? Sideshow in the plazas next to fast food restaurants. Tv series and Tv actually beaten it decades ago. We are xperiencing new world at home with movement registering plastics. Nobody gives a damn art these days.
You can't compare DOOM to The Raven. Doom is a good game, but its not an art. Product that you and I can enjoy for money and time.
I think...

Doug said...

Ok, several points here.

Firstly, "Most games are not good/high art"....and? Why does that matter with regards to whether the medium itself is an artist medium or not? I could just as easily point to the billions of Michael Bay-wannabe movies and state that 'film is not art'. Same with the ocean of 'bleh' books, 'writing it not art'. The current artists merits of the games is irrelavent to the merits of the medium itself as an art form - how many god awful black and white films existed before Citizen Kane rocked the boat and made film makers shift their thinking? And even that had problems (i.e. at least one point where the actor stares directly into the camera and almost winkingly says 'remember this bit, it'll come up later').

Second point; "Why do we care what Robert Ebgert thinks?" Well, if he is such a big shot in America (and let me remind you Bob, there are people in other countries, and outside of America, the guy is an unknown), then his voice matters alot in the public's view of gaming - and if he's saying 'Games can never be art', then he's directly making the public less supportive of the rights of the medium to self-expression, or at least, in America it might be encouraging groups who are already trying to ban or block games as they feel either resistance slackness or support growing.

Thirdly, for hells sake, we get that you love Mario 3 with a burning passion and hate Halo with the same degree of burning passion, but would you please just let it not interfer with your videos as its really beginning to put me off watching, both here and in your Escapist reviews.

Samuel said...

"And speaking of Oscar Wilde.."

*cuts to scene of highly "ripped" fighters engaging in a homoerotic battle.*

Tasteful? Probably not.

Then again it's all in the eye of the beholder.

Anonymous said...

I love my games, but even I have to agree with Ebert that the writing of Braid "exhibits prose on the level of a wordy fortune cookie." There's no such thing as absolutes, so I can't speak for all games, but I can safely say that I have not played a game that tells a story that I'd consider high art.

I could go on about my personal definition of high/good art (the existence of "high art" being questionable), but instead, I'd like to ask you something. Can you defend your conception of Super Mario Bros. 3 as good art? I'd like to see you analyze its level structure and provide me some good, compelling reasons to think of SMB3 as a work of great art.

In 1-1, you have a goomba here, some platforms there, and a fireball spitting plant somewhere imbetween. Okay... what makes that art? This really bugs me. I think this video really begs for an analysis of SMB3 in order to defend your stance that it's great art.

I partially say this because I'm confident that no video game that currently exists could be considered good art. However, I also say this in the hopes that this will egg you on to defend SMB3... you have interesting and thoughtful opinions, and I'd like to see you explain that one.

Anonymous said...

Argh, sorry to flood your comments section here, but I mistyped something. I should have said:
"In 1-1, you have a goomba here, some platforms there, and a fireball spitting plant somewhere imbetween. Okay... what makes that good art?"
The important difference being that I want to know why you consider it GOOD art, not just art. Like Ebert, I often confuse art and good art. :b

Bob said...

"Can you defend your conception of Super Mario Bros. 3 as good art? I'd like to see you analyze its level structure and provide me some good, compelling reasons to think of SMB3 as a work of great art."

Aw, man... Now when I go and DO THAT, you're gonna think it was your idea ;)

T'Generalissimo said...

Great video, Bob; it's a useful time-saver in that I don't need to bother writing my own response to Ebert, because I now know that's all been said before and with more beautiful forests.

I think my only point of contention is the idea that video games are unique in having an abundance of "bad art" within the medium.

If you look at film, the vast majority of it is not stuff that get's released at a cinema; there's huge amounts of T.V. shows, Youtube videos, adverts, pornography and the like that you would be be hard-pressed to define as "high" art.

Equally, there are thousands and thousands of art galleries around the world and enough amateur artists producing "bad art" to fill a substantail portion of them. And there's a hell of a lot of trashy novels, horribly written sci-fi, god awful amateur poetry and theatre etc.

My point is that you'd have to work for quite a number of lifetimes amassing, analysing and comparing all the art in the world to actually definetively say whether one medium is worse than the others. Even then, it would be entirely subjective and probably not worth the time.

Rawle said...

The way I see it, video games shouldn't be judged on the same criteria as film.

The purpose of a video game is to play pretend, the way you used to as a child but with nice graphics and stirring music. A game does not need a good story to give you a good play experience -- which is what matters most (just look at Super Mario Bros. 3! I like the game too, but still...)

Therefore, complaining about poor writing in video games misses the point of why people play these games in the first place. According to KenTheJoker, Kojima gets it.

Panopticon said...

"Thirdly, for hells sake, we get that you love Mario 3 with a burning passion and hate Halo with the same degree of burning passion, but would you please just let it not interfer with your videos as its really beginning to put me off watching, both here and in your Escapist reviews."

I second this, though not as harshly. I hastily add that I agree wit you, I see Halo as vanilla and dull in the extreme, but it seems like you resent it for being a sucessful iteration of a model you simply don't like.It's getting in the way of your points, not helping them, especially seeing as Halo reach seems to be about the most anticipated demo (let alone game) we've seen in a loooong time.

That gripe aside, love it! Love it all, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing: speaking for myself, I don't care about what Ebert (and others) say because I'm insecure about the value of video games as an art form. I care for the same reason anyone would care if they heard someone...I dunno...dismissing Michelangelo's David because "its just hunks of rocks carved with a chisel." Its intensely frustrating to see someone so intelligent dismiss an entire medium because of lack of understanding--and even more frustrating that he seems to be hell-bent on holding fast to his opinions despite his lack of experience or understanding. *That* is why I care, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I think this video made a good point on the definition of the word "art". The word has essentially been hijacked by an elitist establishment that incestuously celebrates its own work while denigrating anything outside the club.

If something like Piss Christ is "high art" or "true art", then I'd prefer to play videogames that are "lowbrow trash".

andrew said...

Why does everyone care if video games are art? Isn't the more important question are games art? While I agree with just about everything you say what is art I believe that the fundamental flaw that most people are making in this debate is assuming that only video games could or could not be art. When games are just a subsection of the broader art form of games.
I believe that arguing game are art is much easier than trying to argue video games are art and if the opposition finds games to be art than video games must be as well. Who can argue that there is nothing artistic about a game of Go or Othello? While they may not have a creator they are classics. Even modern games require a lot of skill to make a good(enjoyable) game such as Dominion and Settlers of Catan. DnD and most other paper and dice games are the only thing I can think of that require it's audience to be at least slightly artistic(story making). Trying to argue that video games are art without considering game as well would be like trying to argue Tarantino, Spielberg(game mountain?),David lynch movies are art without talking about the french new wave.

Also I have to agree with most of the people here that the argument of video games not being good art because of the quantity of bad games compared to good ones is not a good one and seems a bit odd coming from you. You did talk about Sturgeon's Law in an earlier episode and I think it might have been in a sort of defense of the same argument you are giving now for why video games are not a "good art".

Twinmill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Twinmill said...

oshi-yeah, I'm out of it today, so here's the part of my comment that wasn't a large misinterpretation of... what else? A misinterpretation... therefore making me into the one thing I hate: that fool who just doesn't get it.

"I don't believe I said this last time because I was so caught up in... well, what I explained in a sense, but. Firstly, great video, Bob. Also, maybe it's my anti social-screwup aspects at work, but before this video, I really didn't know who Roger Ebert was. He seems respectable though, I'll give him that."

Anonymous said...

I think the real question at this point might be, whether we are actually content with games only being pseudo art and focusing on actually enjoying them as playthings.

Doug said...

"Azudio7 said...

I think the real question at this point might be, whether we are actually content with games only being pseudo art and focusing on actually enjoying them as playthings."

I would prefer games to be recognized as an art form, both for the social acceptance it would bring, and the protection from social hate groups who wish to 'protect the children', etc.

If games aren't art really, ok, but really, the thousands of artists involved with the production of the typical game today deserve recognision as having worked on a piece of art rather than on pseudo art.

Nathan said...

Awesome show, as always. However, I'm not really diggin' the nature stuff. Next time you can't find the appropriate image can we just have some random 8bit gameplay instead.

k c said...

Critique time!
No problem with anything you said, in fact it was pretty much echoing the thoughts in my own head, but there's been one thing that's been bugging me for you past couple vids... editing quality.
Those shots are just ending far too quick, man. We can't even see the image that's popped on screen half the time, pretty much ruining the effect for a lot of your punchlines.
If you could work on the timing on those image pop-ins and transitions, it would do WONDERS.

Anyway, keep up the excellent work, Bob. Looking forward to your E3 round up next month.

k c said...

Critique time!
No problem with anything you said, in fact it was pretty much echoing the thoughts in my own head, but there's been one thing that's been bugging me for you past couple vids... editing quality.
Those shots are just ending far too quick, man. We can't even see the image that's popped on screen half the time, pretty much ruining the effect for a lot of your punchlines.
If you could work on the timing on those image pop-ins and transitions, it would do WONDERS.

Anyway, keep up the excellent work, Bob. Looking forward to your E3 round up next month.

john said...

Sadly, you're right on when it comes to the general quality of games in terms of artistic merit. The even sadder thing is that it's no longer because of technical limitations or simply people not knowing any better.

It was difficult for, say, Atari 2600 games to be good art just because the console itself was slightly less capable than a pocket calculator (seriously, if you know anything about programming, take a look at the technical documentation for it sometime. And prepare to be slack-jawed when you realize that even getting what they did out of it required ridiculous finesse.)

But even then you had a few glimmers of hope like Adventure, even when practically nobody was aware that games could be art. Now, though, everybody in gaming culture knows it's possible; it's just that a lot of people in the industry don't care. Sad.

P.S. as far as your list of examples goes, have you ever played Another World? It's one of the earliest games I know of that actually tried for artistic merit, and I think it did quite well for the time. There's a sweet Windows XP port/slight remake you can buy for like $10. Totally worth it.

iNs1d3tRiP said...

Got to say, I am usually impressed with your summary of complex ideas. However, I found you to be very very ignorant in terms of explaining the history of Art.

I know you had to sum everything up in a 20 minute video, but for God's sake you didn't even mention the Greeks? Famous artists pre renaissance? How about Horace, or Virgil? I mean, the Greeks had many poets and artists as far as sculptures go to completely prove you wrong in that statement. True, the Roman Empire virtually snuffed out most of the Greek culture of Athens, but this stuff WAS discussed as serious. Both Plato and Aristotle devoted time and thought to Aesthetical theories. Which brings me to my next point.

You don't seem to explain why at all there is a difference between "good" Art and "bad" art. The difference is fairly simple, good Art produces the "aesthetic" experience. I can go very deeply into Kant's Critique on Judgment here, but it is very important to note that art isn't good just because it is "fun".

Sorry Bob, there isn't anything aesthetically pleasing about SMB3. Video games haven't come close to producing the aesthetical experience until ATLEAST the 16 bit era and even then that's being generous. However I would agree with the overall premise, that video games do have the capacity to become Art, by producing their own aesthetical experience. The game that I believe comes closest so far is NMH for obvious reasons.

However, the problem with the whole assumption is that if we can still produce this "high Art" any more that Ebert talks about. In my opinion we have missed the boat in the high art business by about 30-40 ish years, but who knows maybe the seeds will sprout! All we can do is keep trying.

As Wallace Stevens rightly puts, "All poetry is experimental poetry". All we can do is keep experimenting. That goes for film as well.

Vince said...

Im going to have to agree and disagree with you. I agree in the simple term that yes the market right now is way overused by a ton of shitty games with no good content character development or story. But the ones that do deliver heavely (sp?) Anyway, recently i got gamefly and i decided to rent a game called Heavy Rain. I absolutly loved it. The controls were awkward and the whole basic gameplay was hold this amount of buttons or move the controler in this direction, but none the less it was a great game. The story was amazing, the characters got developed enough to the point where everybody was likeable even the bad guy/ or girl (dont wanna ruin it for you if you decide to check it out) anyway, every character was beleivable and almost true to how real people interact. The storys about a man and his family of his wife and 2 sons where his one son gets ran over by and car and his other gets kidnapped and you play as 4 different protagonist throughout the game. One deals with a drug problem, the dad will do anything to find his son, the private eye is trying to find the kidnapper, and the fathers friend is dealing with insomia. Also if you mess up some of the main characters can die completley altering the ending. So i just think what ebert ment was that games cant be art because theres player choice involved. Multiple endings, different player choices. You know. So Bob if i can call you bob check it out if you have a ps3.

P.S. Hopefully Ebert remembers how long it took for Film and painings to be considered art. Were just not there yet is all. I feel in about 10-20 years we will have more games like heavy rain and less games like halo and COD.He also needs to remember that there is a ton of really bad movies out there that no one would consider art but to defend his point he would have to, and so would I.

If you wanna reach me send me a message at

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FMGX said...

well Twinmill it sounds like to me that your complaining about that bob has different opinions than you and what do you mean "I will have to disagree completely." bob said games are art and you said games are art too, you just think more game have higher art than bob declared. that's not disagreeing completely, that's only disagreeing partly.

Walsfeo said...

Great episode, keep up the excellent work.

I've checked out Ebert's blog. I respected his opinion about video games and art a great deal more before he tried to explain himself than I do now.

I'm fine with the idea that playing games is not an artistic activity but is is an artistic experience. Games contain art, and like film are given the reach to have greater impact than any one element of art standing by itself. The problem comes that the weak links draw down the whole. Poor writing, animation, pacing, camera controls, and so on - everything suffers.

A beautiful chess set is art, there are 32 sculptures in a chess set, plus a platform do display them. Playing the game of chess, no mater how talented or artful is not art.

I'm going to have to expand on this in my blog.

Twinmill said...


You're right. I do agree with Bob that games are art, but that's not what my post was about. I was disagreeing with his stand, completely, that games can't be good art for the time being. I guess if you want to see it that way, I was complaining, but then isn't your post a complaint about me complaining/disagreeing?

Having to retype this FTL. I shouldn't have bothered hiding my stress there, should I?

Anonymous said...

Ebert says games cannot be art, but he says films, sculpture, paintings are.

Is the picture of the girl scratching her ass art?
Is a garden gnome sculpture art?
Are the mid 90s "Ninja" films art?

Probably not, and if you asked a film critic, like Ebert, he'd probably agree that a high majority of films, paintings, sculpture aren't art, or at least aren't good art?

So, why do we get so defensive? Because we're being told that games aren't art because of some idealised film that Ebert holds aloft.

Could he truly say that Transformers:ROFL is more artistic than Braid?

If not, then his position is only one of judgement, which he cannot really make without having experienced it. Otherwise, he is prejudiced, buy it's defintion, and for a critic, that has to be an anathema.

Mr. A said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rena said...

The forest is wonderful, I was happy for the shots and would love you using the forest in the future.

Great video, I was unaware of Roger Ebert's comments actually, I guess because most of my contact with him came from his reviews.

The whole thing is kinda mind boggling to me, I see any form of art involving some form of communication, because you will always have what the people who create are trying to share, but you also have what the viewer gets out of it. Despite what the creators mean, art is a very subjective thing and it's all opinions. I'd be just as willing to call that sticker art, and I wouldn't call it bad art. I enjoy it in a different way, but I still enjoy it.

I did have to laugh when I hit your Halo comment. I disagree with the jokes, and add my name to the pile that thinks it's getting old with this hatred for Halo. I'm personally not much for most first person shooters or sports games, but I'm willing to recognize the good of games in those genres, most of all when trying to approach things logically. You don't seem to look at things as they really are with Halo, which isn't a good thing considering what this blog is about.

Samael said...

I've sold high art. I've done some work as a critic.

Why am I mentioning any of this? Dunno. Why do you care what I think? Can't pretend you do.

But you're reading this now, so buckle up. Open a window, if you get too hot. Good intentions often make for a bumpy ride.

I don't think you understand art.

Not as Ebert intends it.

If you had, you wouldn't have brought Chrono Trigger into this.

You know, it's 3am. I'm listening to Frog's song in my mind right now, that most unlikely of power anthems, and it's all I can do to stay by my computer and not rush out into the world and slay a demon or two. We need more offbeat power anthems. One for every good person.

What is yours like?

But I digress.

My point is, I love Chrono Trigger.

So please understand how bad it hurts, to point out that it palette swaps enemies you kill to a tedious degree while only the loosest connection to the narrative is provided. More than that, at the heart of that charming narrative, is the dreaded silent protagonist, who serves as a player insert character so obviously that Twilight's Bella would blush.

Naturally, he's almost immediately partnered up with a runaway princess. Love soon follows, because he's the main character and she's a runaway princess, and to the game's credit, both of the other girls in your party have other interests.

Soap operas offer more complex characterization.

No, seriously. Think about it.

At least in a soap opera, women think about the relationship. There's always the risk they'll want out, there's always the risk they can get hurt. When they finally dare to expose their true feelings, it's a victory the equal of any boss fight.

But a soap opera isn't art. In fact, it's often considered trash.

Until our favorite game narratives can be at least compare favorably with trash, they'll never be taken seriously as art.

No matter how beautiful they are.

It's late.

There's so much more I would say if I had time to do it.

I'd defend your opinion of Mario 3 as art, give you proper props for being a fellow fan of Roger Ebert, and educating your audience about him...

But in the real world, there's just never enough time to do all that we want.


A quick question for you to consider.

Most games aren't Art with a capital A.

Do we want them to be?

I've heard it said that critics are often seeking in Art, the very things others are trying to escape through mindless entertainment.

Sometimes even the Halos of the world are completely justified.

BoardGuest said...

Good evening. Sorry, looking back at the previous comment's datestamps I seem a bit late. I'm kind of an irregular visitor.

First off, let me say that I have alot of respect for you and your work. You show that video gamers are not a bunch of drooling trigger-happy robots (or at least that some of us arn't) and, while I do find some of your opinions to be annoyingly optimistic, which clashes with my own personal outlook on life, you always provide sound arguments based on understandable reason and logic.

I must say that I disagree with your take on this subject, primarily due to your definition of 'art'. You said that... well I must admit I don't entirely understand what you said, but from what I can tell you claim that art is something that is visually pleasing. You also cited the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci as a piece of 'good' and 'high' art. I fundamentally disagree with both of these points, because in my opinion 'art' means something created to express a meaning or an opinion. For example, I would consider William Golding's novel 'Lord of the Flies' as a piece of art because it expresses his thoughts and opinions on the human race using allegory and symbolism. I wouldn't consider the Mona Lisa a piece of art - to me it's just a picture, a painting, because I don't see any meaning in it. (True, it could be that there is meaning in it and I just lack the perception to interpret it) Based on this logic, then, we can say that a video game that contains a meaning. Are there any examples of this? Well, let's take Bioshock as an example. Now, I have to admit that I have not actually played Bioshock, but from what i've heard about it from various sources - including you, I might add - it is a kind of commentary on the philosophy of Objectivism. I could be totally wrong on this, but based on this logic and my definition of art we can say that Bioshock is a video game that is also a work of art.

So, that's my two cents. Again I must apologise for being so late to the party.

az-amon-ra said...

I hadn't actually heard about Mr Ebert's comments on the "games as art" subject untile I saw this but I disagree with him and in a way with you. Well with your interpretation of good and bad art.

I personally think that for something to be art it needs to meet two requirements; one of which is that the subject must be crafted in some way, be it a painting, sculpture or a chair. In other words it must be designed even if that design is completely practical in conception.
The second, and most important requirement, is that at least one person at one point in time sees it as art. Put simply, something as mundane as a toaster is art if someone thinks it's design is artistic.

Bringing that back to games, you used a still of Army of Two as an example of bad art. While I don't disagree with you, the characters' skull helmets appeal to my own aestetic prefrances (though they are a little over done at this point). So as a game I dislike it, as art its passable in part but on the whole no. Where as Portal is one of my top ten games (the order of which changes like the seasons) and is marvaliously designed if a little bland though that is the idea after all so...

The point is all of that is just a long winded way of saying that I don't believe anyone can say something is/isn't art or that something is good or bad art beyond their own vision of art.
And just to drive the point home, and this is completely true, there is an entire gallery of paintings made completely with cow dung so if that's are what isn't?

Mark Morgan said...

For anyone who's interested, I ran across a very good article on video games as art. Thought some of the people here might be interested.

Anon said...

Why DO we care that games are art anyways? Searching for validation from someone in an unaffiliated medium is not productive whatsoever, like you said. Video games are by nature incredibly different from films and books, especially concerning time and amount of content. Video games cannot be art in the sense that movies are, but video games only approach movies in terms of structure if you're playing MGS or FFXIII, which isn't an ideal state for games anyway. What's worse is that in trying to validate our claim we have created many video games that have little value as actual games. Pretentious and empty. Like The Path, for example. We've forgotten about actually making games that are engaging and immersive and fun.

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imsmart said...

First: the french word cahier is pronounced KAA-yay. Je peut parler un petit peu de francais.
Second: the definition of art never changed one bit. If you care who made it, it's art. If you REALLY care who made it, it's high art. When mass production became the norm, the question "who made it" became ambiguous and irrelevant, and art became an exception rather than a rule. Oddly enough you said so yourself in the video with the "auteur theory" stuff, before inexplicably forgetting it. So obviously, by this definition there's been plenty of high art videogames.

ICHI said...

Am I the only person who finds a slight level of irony in the fact that a video game cant be art because of user interaction: You have to press PLAY to watch a DVD. In all seriousness though when Film arrived it was treated as a novelty, a sideshow attraction next to the circus. Games started out the same way, maybe not in our life time but certainly in the future they will become excepted as a valid form of expression. Why are most games based on films bad? Sides they're rushed and unimaginative the story it's based on isn't suited to that medium. I predict you'll eventually get stories that only work in game medium on the level of comic books like watchmen, yet another medium that was previously shunned and is only very recently being revalued.

Well that was far more longer than I intended, if anyone bothered to read it thanks!

Aqua said...

I know, I know, this video's old as hell now, but I couldn't leave it unsaid. I read that entire thing, and what he asked was why do we care if games are ART, not why we care what he says. In fact, he even had the GALL to say that we could say it and I quote; 'You have my blessing.'

I suppose it might seem shallow to say it, much less make him sound more right; yes I want games to be declared art so they can be validated. Yes, I'm tired of being treated as though playing video games somehow lowers my intellectual ability to that of a child in some people's eyes. And yes, I think we're all insecure about this, but we have alot of good reasons to be.

We've earned our rights to some degree, but we're being given a much harder gauntlet to run than the others were and we're tired of it.

One would think that egotistical no-jawed old duff would remember the struggles his own media of favor endured before he made such implications so quickly about our's. But to act as though he is some god or judge ruling over what is and isn't, that's over the line.

Honestly, if nothing else, it seems like Ebert's just trolling us gamers for pageviews. I get your love of film, I really do. (Though thanks to Disney's 90's run, I can't enjoy most movies that aren't animated) But honestly, reading how he phrases these things, how he talks about us, and our 'appointed' defender, how can you honestly expect us to respect him? Especially when it's MORE than clear that he doesn't respect us?