Videogames as Art

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Nifarious:

Uncompetative:

image

Presenting the object free of any signature leaves it devoid of anything that would verify it as art except for the fact that you've found it in an art gallery for which you have paid to enter to see art. No signature allows for a fresh, clean, shocking approach to the fountain. You can't use the art as a medium to get at 'what the artist was trying to say'.

See above picture for obvious signature...

Eclectic Dreck:
In this same regard, I would generally agree with Ebert - few games have actually resulted in a tangible emotional impact beyond the simplest emotions (Exhiliration at victory, tension in a scary game and so forth). Few games would qualify as art for me, and most are simply excellent entertainement experiences with no emotional depth.

Although, by your definition of art, "evokes an emotional response", they're still art, whether it's a tangible emotion, or a simplistic one. Some art makes us feel very strong emotions, some art merely stirs a little something, and nothing more.

2 points:
1. Who decides what is art and what isn't? A bunch of old pretentious people who haven't lost the "videogames are toys for kids" mentality. Who cares what they think.
2. Do you really want games to be considered art? this:
image
was the first image result when I googled "art". I DON'T WANT MY GAMES TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

kaedis:

A man can urinate on a cross in a jar and call it art,

I actually love Piss Christ.

As a hint, think of the relation between objects of adoration and the physical body which these objects stand in for. The line between is viscerally penetrated here.
Anyway, my only point is that such art isn't shock value alone. People rather prefer to be shocked than to pause and think about such art.

And I'm not going to criticize your preference for Rockwell, but the real issue is that his work creates icons of Americana, which are what you really engage when you look at his paintings. They're no less a medium to something else than a crucifix is. Art that serves an external end is by no means 'not art', it's simply that when you engage art that way, you're turning a blind eye to the art right in front of your eyes. Rockwell can be engaged for its own sake, I suppose, though I can't really see how.

If you're interested, I've written more on this subject recently, but I just wanted to keep Piss Christ from seeming so polemic. Hell, even religious people can like that work too :).

Sentient6:
2 points:
1. Who decides what is art and what isn't? A bunch of old pretentious people who haven't lost the "videogames are toys for kids" mentality. Who cares what they think.
2. Do you really want games to be considered art? this:
image
was the first image result when I googled "art". I DON'T WANT MY GAMES TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

That doesn't remind you of Silent Hill at all?

Once again, I made this exact same point in another thread like, a week ago. I think Crowshaw's aping my style.

Nifarious:

Sentient6:
2 points:
1. Who decides what is art and what isn't? A bunch of old pretentious people who haven't lost the "videogames are toys for kids" mentality. Who cares what they think.
2. Do you really want games to be considered art? this:
image
was the first image result when I googled "art". I DON'T WANT MY GAMES TO BE LIKE THIS!!!

That doesn't remind you of Silent Hill at all?

Or Psychonauts, even?

I concur.

excellent argument and the whole point about art being subjective is exactly how I've always viewed arguments over what is art or not. Ebert can be dead on with movies (most of the time) and as a movie buff I can respect him on matters relating to film but when it comes to video games I don't give him the time of day; he isn't the authority on games or art.

Great job Yahtzee.

note: though I would have liked to hear the comparisons you could have come up with between Ebert and a couple dictators. would have been good for a laugh.

"My personal definition of art is something that provokes emotional attachment. And there are games that have given me far stronger emotional feelings than any other story told in any medium. Fear, despair, joy, sympathy, the whole gamut. But these were all extremely personal experiences"

I'm probably a very incentive person and I don't have a clue what makes art art but I do know I don't give a flying ****. My opinion tho, that quote above, Gay much? Yes, yes it is.

I once impregnated a dishwasher, but to be fair, she was dressed provocatively.

That's so funny. I've been thinking about the issue of 'games as art' since yesterday and when I log on here, Yahtzee is talking about it too.

Perhaps "game" is the wrong word for what videogames have become. I've always felt the same thing about the term "moving picture;" it seems rather quaint now that we're not all diving under our seats in fear because we think a train is about to bust through the wall.

That's so true. Games really aren't just about playing a game anymore, and the name feels misleading.

As I see it, there are three essential components of games that make them what they are.

Skill-based Challenges (Gameplay) This is the "game" component of videogames. I came up with the term 'videosports' to describe it, because I think it's accurate: when actually playing Modern Warfare 2 or fighting a battle in Final Fantasy, what you're playing is a challenge with a set of digital rules laid out by the developers. It's not intellectually or emotionally engaging - it's a test of your ability to master the arbitrary set of rules. Button combinations, precision, number-crunching, whatever. It's about as evocative as playing soccer or chess. Retro games like Tetris and Pac-man are 100% Skill-based Challenges. A good example of a predominantly-SBC game is almost anything with competitive multiplayer. When you hear someone say, "I only play games for the actual gameplay," in that smug, art-hating tone of voice, you know they're only playing for the Skill-based Challenge component. No matter how good a game's SBCs are, they will never make a game 'art' in themselves, because again, it's just a digital sport.

Context (Story) This is the world that the SBC's take place in, to give it some meaning. Usually, it's in the form of cutscenes between the challenges. It's also characters, dialogue, set-pieces, scenery, et cetera. Context is something games share with film, literature, and other media - telling the viewer what's going on in a fictional world. If you see someone defending a superlinear JRPG with the logic "It's just about the story," you know they love their Context. In my opinion, having a good story, no matter how good it is, doesn't make games into "art-games." The stories can be emotional and evocative and touching, just like film, but they make the games into just that - film. A CG film interspersed with Skill-based Challenges, but a film nonetheless. The film can be art, in a way, but typically it's not a very good film, judging by the way most games of this type are written and executed. What really makes games into 'art-games' iiiissss...

Consequence (Reflection on the Player) This is the most important characteristic, because it's the only one games can call their own. Any medium can invoke emotions, but only games can then turn things around and be influenced by them. Consequence is the player's ability to change the Context of the game with their own reactions, emotions, and beliefs. The best example I can think of right now is the Mass Effect series. The first time I played Zaeed's mission in Mass Effect 2, and came to the big choice moment: I could either save a group of colonists trapped in a burning factory, or chase down Zaeed's escaping nemesis so he could take revenge. Zaeed was even directly responsible for putting the colonists in danger, but I knew I would get tangible benefits later in the game from moving on and letting them die. It was such a grating moral choice (in such a convincing Context) that I sat there for a full minute looking at the dialogue wheel, and ultimately chose to help the colonists. This placement of responsibility on the player makes games a truly unique art form - players react to the game, and then the game reacts to them.

That's my little manifesto on Games as Art. Nowadays, games are more about the 'videosports' aspect than anything else, with little half-polished gems like Heavy Rain and Mass Effect cropping up now and then, still consisting predominantly of SBCs with juicy bits of Consequence squeezed in sporadically. But because that's what makes games games, hopefully we'll see more of it as time goes on.

Uncompetative:

ostro-whiskey:
This is the first time Yahtzee has made himself look like a moron, I think hes ego has gotten the better of him.

Videogames are not art for one simple reason, videogames are directly participatory, as such they are entertainment. If an artist relinquishes his art to free tampering by the audeince he is no longer an artist.

When an artist creates a piece of work everything has an implication and the audience simply observe, this immutability allows us to enter the mind and world of the artist.

Videogames remove this immutability, allowing the audience to interact with the world and story, cheapening them by revealing that they are an illusion we can manipulate. As such videogames kill the connection between character and story.

The reason confusion exists is because artists create games, you have concept artists, graphic designers, writers, composers, etc. As such games have artistic elements but the nature of the videogame - the audience being able to edit, change or omit elements of the creation remove the connection with what art is meant to be.

Think of graphics painted on a car, the graphics are art, is the car art ?
The car was created to serve the purpose of transporting people, and does this as always intended.

To claim games are art is to claim that pong or asteroids are also art, as todays games are made to serve the same desires that were being served when they were created.

If one looks at the history of film, since its origins it was artistic in vision and design, films like Nosferatu and Metropolis are evidence of this.

Yahtzees definition of art is so far beyond stupidity I would have fired him if I were the baws. "My personal definition of art is something that provokes emotional attachment."
By this logic beating a woman is art, so is watching your team win the world cup, and going to a gig of a kick ass band.

Improvisation Theatre is considered art and that is interactive.

But not through the audience, please put more thought into what you say.

Very good article. I don't usually read Extra Punctuation, but this was very interesting.

Yahtzee! Your forgetting about that master piece; FSG:TG!!!!

huh, i guess that's why you respond to other opinions with "fuck you" in your reviews.

Let Mr Ebert have his say.
His job has been, and always will be firmly cemented in the realm of subjective logic. He might be credible as a movie critic, but to take his word on any other subject is laughable at best.

This whole deal will blow over in a couple of weeks. Bet on it.

ostro-whiskey:

Uncompetative:

ostro-whiskey:
This is the first time Yahtzee has made himself look like a moron, I think hes ego has gotten the better of him.

Videogames are not art for one simple reason, videogames are directly participatory, as such they are entertainment. If an artist relinquishes his art to free tampering by the audeince he is no longer an artist.

When an artist creates a piece of work everything has an implication and the audience simply observe, this immutability allows us to enter the mind and world of the artist.

Videogames remove this immutability, allowing the audience to interact with the world and story, cheapening them by revealing that they are an illusion we can manipulate. As such videogames kill the connection between character and story.

The reason confusion exists is because artists create games, you have concept artists, graphic designers, writers, composers, etc. As such games have artistic elements but the nature of the videogame - the audience being able to edit, change or omit elements of the creation remove the connection with what art is meant to be.

Think of graphics painted on a car, the graphics are art, is the car art ?
The car was created to serve the purpose of transporting people, and does this as always intended.

To claim games are art is to claim that pong or asteroids are also art, as todays games are made to serve the same desires that were being served when they were created.

If one looks at the history of film, since its origins it was artistic in vision and design, films like Nosferatu and Metropolis are evidence of this.

Yahtzees definition of art is so far beyond stupidity I would have fired him if I were the baws. "My personal definition of art is something that provokes emotional attachment."
By this logic beating a woman is art, so is watching your team win the world cup, and going to a gig of a kick ass band.

Improvisation Theatre is considered art and that is interactive.

But not through the audience, please put more thought into what you say.

Someone's snippy.

There's plenty of art that involves viewer interaction. Galleries full of video cameras that record the viewers and project them onto a wall. Blank spaces that invite the viewer to draw or write on them. The whole point of that kind of art is that it makes a statement about the audience and their reactions to the piece, as part of the piece itself. Games do it too on a very individual level.

Nifarious:

Uncompetative:

We now have three cultural artefacts (British English) and as they are all art we can rank them in order of how good they are...

...we don't engage art objects to arbitrarily rank them... What matters in art is the moment of engagement between the viewer and the object.

My intent was perhaps too subtle. Given that Roger Ebert had said that:

"no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form"

see: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html

A direct response to Ebert's case, in the same terms as his argument, presupposes that games may not be art yet, but will improve until one day they are. This is much the same as the difference between the early Kinetoscope and the best examples of classic Cinema. "What the Butler saw" may be titillating 'end of the pier' entertainment, but it has no pretensions to compare itself to Shakespearian theatre or Fine Art.

It is Ebert, not I that has introduced some implicit ranking between media. As a post-modern consumer I am not snooty about anything, nor do I reject things as not being "for me" because they are labelled as high-brow. I merely wanted to show, ironically, that his low non-artform of the videogame could be better in quality than a film he written himself, which (even though it was desperately bad) was in fact still superior to what should have been top of the pile: Fine Art.

If it were Brian Sewell stating that videogames were a trivial diversion compared to the artistry inherent in a Rembrant self-portrait, then I wouldn't mind. Old Masters are in a league of their own and it is something of a disservice to mention them in the same room as a game. Yet, this is Ebert. A hack creator of trash (whose only perceptible merit is some dubious kitsch value) turned critic who has the gall to pick on gaming when 99% of film doesn't hold up to aesthetic scrutiny.

image

Yahtzee said it best, I must say. There is no real reason to be, as he put it, "butthurt" about all this because it is just the opinion of one person. If you, personally, don't agree with Ebert's opinion, simply turn the other cheek.

And how many games do you think Ebert has played? My guess is not very many. It seems to me that Ebert should stick to his area of expertise, for the sake of keeping the waters calm. I'm not saying he doesn't have a right to his opinion; I'm simply stating that maybe he should have done some "field research" -- actually sitting down to play a game -- before tossing around a "controversial" opinion.

Very nice. I wonder what Yahtzee thinks about guys like Bob Chipman (Moviebob) who makes the Game Overthinker blog, where he gives his two cents regarding many things gaming. Given how he's no exactly influential beyond his followers here on the Escapist, Screwattack and his blogs yet I feel he has some very intelligent things to say. Wonder what he thinks about him...

Thank you! I hate it when people say "Well that's not art, THIS is art." Ultimately its all opinionated, we can try all we want but there will never be an objective definition: critics in the 1800s thought the post-impressionists were idiot, now all art-critics seem to be able to do is gush over their brilliance and pinnacle role in art history. But I do have a question for you, though I doubt you'll ever get around to answering (or already have answered it and I just haven't read it yet). People can write, books, make movies, or do paintings that sympathize, however do no endorse, a serial killer's emotions. What about someone making a game about that? I mean, with the player sitting as the central killer committing all these atrocities it would certainly add a new level of psychological exploration, but would you consider this almost oxymoronic because games are supposed to be entertaining, and watching a person turn into a monster is supposed to be tragic?

I'm not brought to tears of fitful rage by Ebert's comments, but his objections all boil down to him simply not understanding the medium he's critiquing. The real problem is he's attempting to rationalize his dislike, and that turns it from "I just don't like 'em" to "Games will never be anything more than a distraction and here's why." Or, to put it more plainly, he's framing opinion as empirical truth, and that's what upsets a lot of people.

Had he simply emphasized that to HIM games would never be art, that would've been fine. Crotchety old man cannot immerse himself in a concept that was in it's infancy or even nonexistant most of his life. But he attempts to justify his position, and thus opens himself up for debate. On the field of debate, he brings three small games, one of which I'd never even heard of, and offers them up as the ambassadors of their medium. I could just as easily say that cinema has not become an art form because of Glitter, All About Steve, and Boat Trip.

There are concepts that simply can't properly exist outside of video games, as video game-based movies are so quick to remind us. Games like Silent Hill 2 and Ico need the medium they exist in if they are to become fully realized as art, just as a movie could not convey the Mona Lisa and a comic could not adequately convey The Nutcracker(though I'm sure a comic by that name probably exists).

Now, do games like Silent Hill 2 and Ico represent the pinnacle of gaming artistry? Doubtful. They are some of the best things we have now, and I would consider them equivalent to many great literary and cinematic works, as they do what many of those fail to: elicit emotions from their audience. Silent Hill 2 is genuinely frightening and atmospheric, and Ico manages to juxtapose the grandiosity of a large, complex castle full of shadowy opponents and a struggle for survival with the sweetness of a young love story of sorts. But they stand at the beginning of a very long journey, and much will change between now and fifty years down the road. Maybe they'll be considered the equivalent of The Epic of Gilgamesh one day, but recognition of truly great artists is normally rewarded retroactively. King Kong was the cat's ass back when it was made, sure, but it wasn't until much later that it was recognized for how monumental it was. Same with Citizen Kane, or Ulysses, or Starry Night. No matter the art form, it is generally appreciated in it's time, but it is only with time that we can decide whether or not something truly stands out as great.

Ultimately, Ebert doesn't appreciate video games for the same reason I don't appreciate Broadway musicals: they don't speak to either of us, and we find ourselves unimmersed in them. But then, I also don't go around telling ballet enthusiasts what they enjoy is definitively "not art."

Still, as an opinion, and not a declaration, what Ebert says is not without merit. It should just be seen as what it is: a movie critic who doesn't see games as art. Or, alternat title: "Grumpy old man is old and grumpy"

Well, I have seen some games that would be more closely realated to art rather than games, but I think those go under interactive media. Art is a funny thing because no two people will see it the same way, because by Yahtzee's explaination, yes I have seen a game that is very close to, if not straight up art. I would see The Path as being close to art, though its creators would not.

Oh, great. Now when I tell my friends how I feel about this whole Ebert thing, they're gonna say I'm just parroting Yahtzee.

Thanks a ton. :P

I would say that the time of people such as Mr Ebert, has almost come to an end. With the rise of the internet, has come the increase in people needing to voice their opinions about... well, everything pretty much.

Gone are the days when the only opinion you had to judge a purchase on was a short summing up on tv or an article in a magazine, now everyone will tell you how crap/great something is and then proceed to argue for days with others who disagree; in the end people will get so fed up with the contrasting opinions that it will become white noise that they ignore.

Mr Ebert has a reputation and that is the only reason anybody gives a damn about this; sooner or later people like him will disappear and all that will be left will be a world full of amateur 'critics' and discussion will die to be replaced with conjecture.

I was prepared for the worse - an article attacking Ebert's opinion. While I think he is wrong, Yatzee actually did an excellent job disputing his stance without seeming aggressive or narrow-minded. Thanks for the great article.

Though I have to say:

image

This isn't even the best example, but how is this not art?

Yahtzee's right. For one of the rare moments in which he is completely serious, he's also completely right.

If I say Picasso was nothing more than a retard with a paint brush, that'd be insulting art. Will anyone care about what I just said? No, because we all know that whether you like it or not, Picasso's work is art.

That Ebert didn't get the cream of the crop with Braid, well, that's his own fault, but to call him out on sounds stupid, doesn't it?

I stated the same thing in the topic here as Yahtzee did: games are an interactive medium, where you make or break the story, and in good games like Bioshock, influence it. That makes it an interactive movie that causes you to get sucked in, because it's YOU who's doing all those things on screen, in stead of Jean Claude van Damme or, brr, Shia LeBoeuf.

On a more serious not, if you were going to impregnate a dishwasher, where would you, aah, nevermind...

this was a great response, Yahtzee knows how to put head words onto computer text very good....

Quite a valid article, indeed. Really, why do we care what a movie reviewer thinks of video game culture? It's like listening to a devout Sci-Fi Movie lover calling Romance films a waste of time. Why the fuck bother?

fantastic article

I think the Myst series is one of the games that comes extremely close to being an extremely good instance of art.

It does seem strange to me that a man as respected as Ebert would merely watch clips of video games and declare them not art. It's like if I watched people play a board game and declare it not fun without ever trying to play it. If he had played a game like bioshock and gotten to the end, he would have realized that video games, unlike movies, are capable of making the player feel guilt. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion... but it would be best if they actually did their research before publishing it on the internet.

flamezlord:
It does seem strange to me that a man as respected as Ebert would merely watch clips of video games and declare them not art. It's like if I watched people play a board game and declare it not fun without ever trying to play it. If he had played a game like bioshock and gotten to the end, he would have realized that video games, unlike movies, are capable of making the player feel guilt. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion... but it would be best if they actually did their research before publishing it on the internet.

Good point, Bioshock and a number of other games (mainly RPGs) give you feeling that you normally can't experience (like guilt, as you said) in a media form. Sure, most action movies and FPS's are trilling, but do they make you feel guilty like when you have to make the choice on Virmire from Mass Effect? No.

Of course, if you don't like the person you are leaving, it's a whole different thing.

I'm okay with someone having their own opinions, and I understand that I most likely can't (and won't try to) change their minds by my own strength. I won't try to push my views on them, and that's fine with me. It's just when they then push their smugness on me...well then that's a different story (then I'm likely to press their face into the pavement).

The_root_of_all_evil:
Personally, I feel sorry for Ebert on this.

Not because of his viewpoint or anything else, just that he hasn't seen the depth of emotion that people here have seen; and never will.

But as Cracked said, the reason people are getting upset about it proves that it's art to some.

When something is defended this vigorously, you know it's raised a lot of powerful opinions in people - and that's the core of art.

haha reminds me of when people try to convince me that cheerleading or marching band is a sport

then I'm like fine fine I'll stop voicing my opposing views if they'll just stop trying to convince me otherwise lol

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