Videogames as Art

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yahtzee: seriously? a TL/DR? can we not read a single page article now? dont include a tldr for those lazy sods who cant be asked to read a full page article. it weakens your peice, by telling us that what you wrote isnt worth reading, beacause all the main points can be summed up in a single sentence. good article as always. just was irked by the TLDR thing.

I do not even know what that means, I have to google it...



A very well written article by Yahtzee that really displays his intellegence in a way that isn't over done and often comical insults. I completely agree, art is and should be a very personal thing.

I have never been impressed by things like paintings or sculptures but books, movies, and videogames can move me to tears. Is that wrong? No. Its just how I percieve things and what has an impact on me.

Ebert has a different definition of what art is than what Yahtzee does which is different from what I do, its all subjective and ultimately any controversy painted by this is pointless.

between this and the penny arcade response i have seen two of the more intelligent arguments but both have the same line or theme and that is just because it has not been art yet it will never be. I mean I pridey sure you had good movies in the first twenty five years but i doubt you had any of the time honed classics you hear about today such as citizen Kane. that movie came out in 1941 when one of the first moves came out in 1896. the point is that it is still a little premature to say and the fact we argue it so emotionally shows how insecure we are which is another ting both articles say.

The medium "game" is still very young compared to others. I guess there were a bunch of people saying films will never be art when this medium was new. Same is true for that discussion of games driving people mad by the way, it was the same with movies or Rock'n'Roll or whatever new thing/unused medium.
In my opinion it's because all written art is somehow familiar because since the dawn of humanity there were spoken stories, so the difference to the written form wasnt that big. Nowadays films and games are only abstractly connected to spoken/written story (depends on film/game tho). But we got used to films and there are very few left, who were born when there were NO films. So almost all got used to films from day one of their life. In some more years this will be true for games. This will drastically change the view on games as a medium.

The only question is and will ever be: What really new media will come and how would YOU think about it when you are 50 and its just came out and all the young ons are into it and you dont get it ;)

Fantastically written piece, but I lost Yahtzee right around here at the end:

Religion should be something you keep within the confines of your own head, and we should all recognize how pointless it is to try and make other people see the fairies that live in your brain. That's how I feel about art.

The wording suggests we should keep our artistic inspirations in our head. (Which would mean that no one ever should make books, movies, paintings, sculptures, or video games, etc.)

Or just not force what we see as art onto other people?

I mean, with the religion analogy--okay, I know I believe in a powerful force of Light and compassion that works and moves through all human beings (even Yahtzee ;) ). (And I can understand, in the world we live in, why people might think I'm insane for believing that.) I think it's okay for me to tell people what I believe.

What's NOT okay is me forcing other people to have the same belief, or disrespecting other people who do not share the same belief (that would in fact be hypocritical of me to do so).

Hopefully that's what he's getting at.

I believe Mr. Ebert's entitled to his opinion, but the "you're wrong" mentality that seems to underlie his message does grate.

I do appreciate the effort to support the "to each his own" attitude--and I have to admit I'm surprised to see it coming from Yahtzee, but shame on me for not expecting better of him. ;)

Maybe half the problem here is that we're worried he's right?

We spend a lot of our lives say in front of a machine pressing buttons, how much grander it is to say that we're experiencing art than to say we're pissing our time away at a tv. Mr. Ebert was replying to a previous statement he made and backing up his points, there's no need to get angry at him. So what if he says that? I contend that tv shows aren't art! Why do we simultaneously rubbish his views and display an inability to ignore them?

I think a lot of people have a need to see games as art because they have a need to be validated. it seems to me that, for a lot of the people on this website, the notion that they are intelligent is all they have going for them. So many people on here seem socially inept and without other hobbies beyond gaming and tv, to be told that gaming is a meaningless pastime hits them hard because they've prided themselves on being intelligent and like to view the one thing they're good at in their life as being worthy of universal praise. kind of like how the really sporty kids took the mick out of the fat ones and the fat ones decided that sports were for idiots. They're 'highly intelligent people' and don't like to be called out on the fact that gaming doesn't have any use beyond entertainment. When all you've got is your percieved intelligence having it attacked can be tough i guess.

Honestly, what is art? Are games art int he same way as a painting? And don't cite 'pretty' games, a flower is 'pretty' but it's not art. Art communicates a feeling from the artist to a viewer, art is a mouthpiece for the soul. Art is as subjective as love or yellow, it's not like anyone is going to give gaming an 'art badge' and anything in the world will change! We'll all still be sat in front of our screens pressing buttons, but maybe, just maybe the few of us that do it to the exclusion of everything else will be able to continue deluding ourselves that we're better than others.

After all, we're connoisseurs eh?

My problem with Ebert's argument merely comes from a smugness that's not usually present in his film reviews. I'm a fan of his work as well, and the way he approaches a movie is much more interesting than the way he dismisses games. I think a good argument could be made on what does or does not constitute art and I don't think his is a very good one. In his latest blog entry, he pretty much transcribed someone else's lame presentation. For the most part, his belief is that art requires a fixed narrative. He completely ignores the fact that most games have fixed and controlled narratives and also ignores that many great works found in music, sculpture, and painting do not have this attribute. It pretty much boils down to anything that's not a book or movie can't be taken under serious consideration. It's utterly ridiculous.

Just like I said, his opinion is his own and he's entitled to it, however he doesn't come off very credible when you talk about something that's not your expertise, Yahtzee just nailed it flawlessly. Everyone differs and like he said, the definition of Art has alot of subjective weight attached to it.

Great and interesting read, keep going Yahtzee.

Good, good. Honestly I wasn't too bothered by Ebert's statement (and I personally love the man), because I know that he just doesn't understand video games the way others do. This is neither and indictment of him or a claim to greater artistic understanding, it is merely the truth. Few will likely ever understand movies the same way he does (sad for me though, since I like to think I am an informal film critic), and the fact that he can't be moved by games means he'll never be able to experience them in the same way as gamers.

I really felt the reaction was overblown, because even though he made a point of saying that games aren't art, he was one of the few members of old-guard art critics that can say it without also demonizing the entire gaming demographic.

Just because art is subjective, doesn't mean Ebert can't be wrong. It depends on his definition of art. If his definition is that "art is a text, sculpture, painting, or movie", then yeah, games will never be "art". However, it's possible to discuss whether that's a useful definition of art. Wikipedia has the nice and vague definition that "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions.".
This of course still begs the question of whose senses or emotions need to be affected. We could say that it is personal for everyone, but then saying "X isn't art", just means "X didn't affect *my* emotions" which says basically nothing since you're just one out of 6 billion people. So I'm thinking that something should probably be classified as art if a significant percentage of the people who observed it had their senses/emotions affected.
And even if you do subscribe to the "art is completely personal" idea, it might be possible to attack Ebert on consistency. Because what is it about movies (or paintings) that moves your emotions so much that could not possibly be included in a game (within this lifetime)?

Anyway, I don't care, because I don't actually think that saying something is art is a compliment. I think I completely hate 99% of all art, especially "modern art", so part of me is glad that games don't get associated with that huge pile of shit. I'm just saying Ebert can still be wrong (although I don't know if he is).

tl;dr: Ebert can still be wrong.

Yeah, the first order of business in this discussion is to define art.

In a creation vs. evolution school lawsuit, a judge once ruled that "science is what scientists do." We can say that oversimplifies things and go on about the scientific method or empirical data or whatever, but bottom line, I bet there are worse definitions. If someone wants to apply the same definition to art, I can roll with that.

But I would take Ebert's side (and maybe this article's too) that art and gameplay have two different goals and, personally, I would rather have the game designer spend their time and effort on the gameplay rather than art.

Ebert has one self-contradiction. In saying that video games are bad art--he is stating they are art.

I would also argue that making good gameplay is harder than making good art.

In b4 someone calling out the Dice for claiming he wasn't moved by Aeris' death!

I don't think many people would honestly deny that cooking isn't a fine art (they are called the 'culinary arts' by colleges around the world, after all), and yet they have even less in common with pretty much every other art form than video games do with the older media.

good read and i see your point but you cant say its his opinion because opinion have no right anwser and ebert is wrong. video games are art

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Religion should be something you keep within the confines of your own head, and we should all recognize how pointless it is to try and make other people see the fairies that live in your brain.

I may have to quote you on that the next time some missionary shows up at my door, because that is brilliant.

Good article, and I fully agree with the sentiment that Ebert's opinion should have no effect on what others consider games to be. I think stepping out of the train station for the fist time in Half-Life 2 is a wonderfully artistic moment, and people may call me a Valve fanboy, but in the end everyone has their own opinion on what art is.

Ebert has his opinion formed while seeing the forest atop a hill and looking down into it. On the whole, we see it from the tree house set amongst the forest. For every Shadow of Colossus, there's a handful of garbage like Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust and Def Jam: Icon.

We love the medium, we hate certain titles released, but we dismiss them just as Ebert and his film critic crowd do within their medium. His opinion shouldn't hurt your feelings.

The best part of his musings is that people are talking about video games and having meaningful conversation about the best this industry has to offer. This could lead to a whole new demo of people playing the best the consoles have to offer and, in turn, becomes the best anti-video game article written.

Oh of course Ebert's opinion isn't as important, however, something people tend to forget is, that he commands a decent amount of respect outside of the gaming community, what this basically means is that Ebert can say whatever he feels like it and people will listen, and a lot of them will agree.

Games do not need this kind of publicity, that's the issue here. He's a public figure and making bold statements like that, should be properly backed up, he should stick to movies, not making statements on an area he clearly has no idea understanding of.

*slow claps*

Probably your best column yet. Speaks the truth and makes excellent points. Many ignorant folks could learn a thing or two from this one.

Brilliant, Yahtzee, Brilliant. See, guys? Yahtzee is an intelligent human being; he doesn't just "caper" for your amusement. Stop assuming everything he said is meant to be funny. The TL/DR was supposed to bait you, so don't post unless you read the article.

Anyway, I think that the cause for most all human conflict is difference in opinion. Look at terrorism: extremists in religion murder because they disagree. Internet trolls have isolated themselves in the real world due to their constant, arrogant pontification, so they go online to shout their opinions some more, but with a twist: This time..... they are anonymous. Oh dear. But, it would appear that as long as just a few people disagree to the extreme, we will never have world peace. Live and let die, folks. But what does that matter? It's just my opinion.

Nail on the head with this article. I brought up the very same point in the forums before, that art by it's definition is completely subjective, and someone who understands nothing of the medium should hold no sway on people hugely invested in it. The only thing I would want is for people in the games industry itself to consider games' potential as art, and not mere entertainment. Whatever you define art to be, the important thing is that more and more people set the bar high in terms of rewarding stories and emotional experiences. Ebert has not influence in games or game development so his opinion is just that: His opinion.

I believe Yahtzee has a really interesting view on the whole topic. When you say 'art' you generally think of old paintings and pieces of music that are critically acclaimed (possibly over analysed) across the world. Although your immediate thought would be 'no, gaming can't be art' because it's expressed in an electronic manner - something rather recent compared to Shakespeare, once you listen to his view it makes sense. Although gaming isn't surrounded by 'bearded tossers' over-analyzing things, it is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds, thus making it an almost more valuable form of 'art' in its own way.

To me it's like a PS3 fanboy saying 'lol halo is shit'. You can't respect an opinion based on having no experience of that which they have the opinion on.

Unless he's played a reasonable amount of videogames, he can't really form a valid opinion on them surely?

However, forming an opinion on video games without actually playing, is surely like reviewing movies with the sound off, or with a blidnfold on and only listening to the dialogue.

However , he's well known and probably got asked a tricky question and said ..something, rather than 'err', which never comes across as a good answer to anything.

I'd have had more respect for him if he'd just said 'I'm a movie reviewer, I can't really pass judgement on video games as I don't play them.'

Of course, I might not be so ready to criticise if he hadn't slammed Kick Ass just for not being on his moral wavelength, instead of you know, reviewing the movie.

I'd say a vast amount of art is balls, and only art because a famous artist made it then gave it a name. If Tracey Emin wrote a crappy flash game where you shoot used tampons at the Pope's face, art critics would be in rapture at this exciting new wave of artistic expression, yet Ico and the like get bugger all.

In short, Games are not Art, because an artist hasn't said they are.

I heartily endorse this event or product.

I suppose we can never change his mind...but still, I dont see how he cannot accept it as art...its an art form, and it does everything that art does (if not more)

I just think hes sour on something

It's funny. Music is art, literature is art, visual art is, well, art, cinematography is art, so how can games, the combination of all the former types of art, be anything but art? It's a fallacious opinion and it holds no ground.

After my ludicrously long rant on Eberts page, I concur to Yahtzees sentiments. Though I've always had a thing with letting people roll around in Ignorance. Just like me to want to drop kick some sense into them.

In about three weeks some scientist is going to come out saying that he has found a way to give machines the ability to breed and you are going to have so much crow for dinner.

I always wanted to know how that dirty bed was considered art. It rather reminds me of a piece of art in the Seattle Art Museum--imagine nine glass bottles, arranged in a 3x3 square, sitting on their bases. On top of them, originally balanced, now cemented, are nine others, stuck neck to neck. On top of those, base to base, are nine more, with nine above that. It strikes me of something you'd wake up to after a night you don't really remember, hungover as hell, sitting on your table, still sticky from the occasional spilled bit of booze. Sure, it's flounted as "art", but it's more a drunken act that someone framed. It's not anything profound, or inspiring, but its still called art. Any one of us could do it, and no one did because it never seems like art. To us, it's not, but to him (and the Seattle Art Museum) it most definitely was.

Well said, Yahtzee. And I will openly admit that I was teary-eyed when I saw Aeris die in Final Fantasy VII, because it was a character that I felt invested in to care enough about (ignoring the Phoenix Down joke). Hell, she was the second character in fiction that I've ever cared about to the point it made me sad when they were killed. The first being Dinobot from Beast Wars. (Yes, I know he was later revived, but his second sacrifice was nearly as good as the first.)

Why are people getting so worked up about what some really old film critic thinks? It's not even his area of profession.


Good god, why can't people get that simple little fact? AN OPINION IS AN OPINION

This whole Ebert thing has just demonstrated that people like to shout at others to make themselves feel bigger and smarter

As much as I'd hate sound like a mindless drone who just agrees with Yahtzee on every single article, this is essentially what I thought after reading Ebert's article (I, too, enjoy the man's reviews, even if he talks up a bad movie or downplays something great). The only thing that upsets me about the whole thing is that it is doubtful that most of those who raged over it probably didn't read anything after the headline of his blog post, much like no one ever reads the words of a review and instead just looks at a ranking or number of stars to tell them what is and is not without realizing there is more to entertainment than a simple arbitrary ranking system and the person reviewing such a piece is at least human. Well, only some game critics are real human beings, but you get my point.

I read "Dishwasher" as "That cute girl that washes Dishes at the Red Lobster downtown"..

and honestly, I got a bit horny.

but that's probably because I haven't had any sort of sex in 3 days.

As for the topic at hand, Yahtzee's 100% right.

I think my problem with Ebert's statement is not so much his opinion - it's how everyone else considers his opinion. He's never played a video game, but most of the video game-hating masses will take his word as gospel anyway, using it as fodder for their arguments that we are all overgrown psycho children all waiting for the right moment to start the massacre.

He can have his opinion if he likes, I just wish he had the common sense to keep it to himself. Like you said - I would not go to you for a professional review of a movie, and even if I did, you presumably have the presence of mind to see the thing before you review it. He didn't, and that's why he outraged me so much with his statements. He's completely unqualified but because more than two people know his name, he's going to be credited with all the qualification in the world.

Films are people doing what a director tells them to do, and the director is being guided by the writer.
A game is an entity within itself, being guided by the production team, but essentially being controlled by you. Games are films equals in every way, perhaps better, as I am yet to see a game with Sarah Jessica Parker's horsy face in it.

This was a very professional and well-reasoned response to Roger's claims. I think it's some of Yahtzee's finest commentary on the subject.

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