Videogames as Art

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Yahtzee is right on in his own right. It's good to hear he's not an overzealous bitch-monger (i prefer that term to evangelist) like so many :-D.

The bitch-monger in me would assert that Video Games have, in fact, achieved high forms of thought and emotion provoking art, and that I'm entitled to that opinion as I hold it self evident through years of playing some fine video games.

I love Ebert and I read his reviews before I see every movie, but there's a clear generation gap that moves him away from understanding the beauty of modern blistering sarcasm... So I take his opinion with a grain of salt and wish he could have the vitality and freedom to enjoy video games today as they evolve (with so very much error, but evolve nonetheless), into a new breed of art.

I digress, puppies are cute.

It would be petty if yahtzee insulted ebert over his opinion. But if video games are an art, then there is very few games that are art.

Lets be honest, the reason why we get upset when ebert said games weren't art, to us that meant it wasn't a high quality medium.

Did Yahtzee really use the term "butthurt?"
Was that to replace a word so offensive you can print it here or did he suddenly turn 5 years old.

The argument has merit though? "What does Ebert know about games anyway? Especially if he's never actually played them."
It's not news and nobody should care. Does anybody care?

So let me get this right Yahtzee:
Videogames will not be considered art until we wax up some really pretentious term for them? Like Americans who call movies "the cinema."

Allright, but as the current most witty game critic now, you're the one who's going to have to come up with the term. It should be something that we gamers can giggle at and people like Ebert can feel cultured saying.

Something like: "Blow Discs" "Joysticking" but pretentious types like French sounding words.
I don't know; it should be up to you.

Huh, well I was surprised by this.

I probably shouldn't mention I was ready to go off on a rant when I read the quote.

By the sounds of it it seems Mr. Ebert should actually play said games before forming such a public opinion It's kind of like me saying that nascar racing is easy just by watching a race without ever getting behind the wheel. The perspective changes depending on where you stand.

Very well said.

It just hurts my feelings to be honest. Someone I look up to as a pillar of wisdom who I feel I can always trust to give a sensible opinion, suddenly turns and gives a really misinformed opinion of something I live and love.

It hurts. Makes me feel like I don't even know that guy anymore.

Why, Yahtzee, do you never leave me with anything more to say afterward? It bothers me that I agree so strongly with you so often. It makes me think I'm doing something wrong.




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.


Heheh, nice about the Queen's English.

Well, though I was thinking elsewhere about Duchamp's signature, a pseudonym is as much of a non-signature or a signature's place holder as you can get. I'm not being protean to cover embarrassment, but just to say that the author is effaced either way.

Anyway, I just don't think that it's worth engaging Egbert on his own terms because it leads to the same sort of nullification that Yahtzee describes. Honestly, I don't see the subtle irony that you mention, unless you simply mean using Egbert's own work against him--but let's both not get full of ourselves and argue on that point.
In any case, I've already made it clear what I'm concerned about. I'll just suggest that instead of saying X is below Rembrandt or whatever, change that to X is irrelevant to Rembrandt except perhaps in these ways. Rembrandt may be able to move the viewer much more than X, but being moved by art doesn't run counter to another's movement. They're on different levels, but viewing that in terms of quality misleadingly puts them into exchange. So what you see as a disservice I just see as awkward or pointless.

It seems that we agree on these broader points, but it's just that these linguistic paths delimit where our thoughts can go.

Can't help but agree with the article and the points he made, that aside though when it comes to games as art from my point of view i always think of the legacy of kain and soul revear games, well written stories, fucking A charcters and top notch voice acting.

Still no "give Ebert some Planescape: Torment, then he'll STFU" post? Well, I guess I'll be the first, then.

Ebert probably never laid eyes on ICO and Shadow of the Colossus.

They are not my type of games, though I did try ICO upon release, but only because of the fancy box and the art of the box appealed to me somehow. Still, both titles are games I'd personally consider a work of art, or just "art" in the sense Ebert is talking about.

On the other hand, beyond ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, I can't think of a single title that are works of art. But saying that videogames will never become art, is in my opinion a narrow sighted and false statement.

Still no "give Ebert some Planescape: Torment, then he'll STFU" post? Well, I guess I'll be the first, then.

Wouldn't matter. He'd watch the opening cutscene, say "It didn't move me at all," close game, turn off computer, write smug blog post. He bases his opinions of games on watching them be played. Obviously there won't be any artistic appreciation because a bystander is not the artist's (if I can use that word for the game designer) audience. You can't judge artistic value of a movie on a trailer, you can't judge artistic value of a book on a synopsis, and you can't judge artistic value of a game on watching a bit of footage. He hasn't played them and moreover "refuses" to play them. *That* is why I consider his opinion unqualified. Well that and a large number of his movie recommendations from way back (mid 90's I think?) were basically garbage. I stopped caring what Ebert thought about individual movies (much less video games) early in my teenage years.

EDIT: If art is based upon the interaction between the audience and the work, Planescape is definitely more artistic than just about anything else I have encountered to date (barring perhaps two rather powerful experiences). It changed my perspectives on life, death, beyond death, and the meaning of any of it for me.

Personally, I couldn't care less what Ebert considered art, it's when he begins to make arrogant and downright insulting comments like:

"I'm not too old to "get" video games, but I may be too well-read."

that he loses any credibility his argument might have had. You'd think that a professional critic would have the sense of not actually calling his readership, no matter how much in disagreement they were, stupid or insinuating that he is in some way better than them.

Huh... I thought I was the only person on Earth who liked The Spirit.

But more on topic, I have to say that Yahtzee's opinions neatly match my own. I most agree with the "Art is subjective" bit. Someone can paint a can of soup, and that's art, but somehow Flower isn't art?

The medium is meaningless, if you were moved by something you observed or experienced, is that not art?

Ebert is certainly entitled to his own opinion, though as gaming progresses, I hope he changes his mind. I don't just say this because Ebert is such an intelligent person, I share the same opinion of anyone who dismisses gaming in such a way.

I do not care at all about Ebert's opinion, especially since it is so unfounded and does not come from personal experience and involvement with the medium. I do consider games a seperate form of art. I believe that games are a combination of other artforms viewed from a different perspective, that of interactivity, and just as films are considered a separate artform even though they are not pure (they also include music, writing and often painting via storyboards, on-site photography and post-production processing of lighting and colors), in the same way gaming is a separate form of art where others are combined. An even more complex artform than film, if you will, since they also include them. Perhaps even the culmination of most artforms. All one has to do to verify this is run a game like Bioshock and just count how many different kinds of artists ("pure" artists) worked together in order to produce the final work. Pretty much every kind, except from... sculptors? Now, Ebert is close-minded and clearly trolling a bit, probably trying to increase traffic to his blog, and it's not worth paying too much attention to his blabbering, but since we are discussing this I thought I'd just post my opinion.

A thoughtful piece, eh? I enjoyed reading it. It's not bad seeing the serious-ish, somewhat philosophical side of Yahtzee every once in a while. Though I imagine tomorrow's Zero Punctuation balancing it out.

Oh no. This article/forum combination is so filled with self righteousness that it makes people like the overzealous hate-mailers look sane. The fact is Mr. Ebert is someone who people largely regard as an intelligent and considerate man, meaning when he says things people listen. I'm glad everyone here is safe and secure knowing that everyone else other than the people validated here will take videogames as a legitimate waste of time and energy. Just because everyone is so resolute to ignore something does not mean by any stretch that it will go away.

While I too heartily disagree with that videogames are not art, after all art is just something people make that can be shared and can convey emotion. I do not know about the rest of you but I actually want to see the point where videogames become widely accepted as art, because I care about the medium. Yahtzee certainly wrote a well written article, but the fact is I doubt he really cared about this one, because frankly, and quite contrarily to popular belief, what people think ACTUALLY MATTERS. What I'm trying to say here is Yahtzee has made a fine play by simultaneously satisfying his fan base, not upsetting the general populous, and somewhat sounding deep and reasonable without actually saying anything.

In conclusion I'm deeply disappointed by all of you who have chosen to do nothing, and instead are sitting around pretending to be so profound and mature. The reality is you actually are being quite cowardly and lazy by letting the public stomp on your beloved 'art', and doing nothing about it.

Yes, but if I DO manage to impregnate a dishwasher, I'll never have to call the maytag man again!

Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value judgments. Man's profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important.
- Ayn Rand, "Art and Cognition" The Romantic Manifesto, p. 45.

I agree and disagree. Art is subjective, that I agree. By that Im saying that what I view as art is something that Mr. Ebert may view as rubbish. However I would NEVER go to Mr. Ebert and tell him that his favorite thing to do, watch movies, was a waste of time because they were not art. Now I know he didn't say that games were a waste of time, but it feels like its implied to me. Telling me that games aren't art, when I whole heartedly agree they are, is telling me that Im wasting my time. Because if Im not taking time to interact with a beautifully, and masterfully crafted piece of art, then what am I doing? Wasting my time?

I respect his opinion, and agree with Yahtzee that just trying to defend that games are art just makes you seem butthurt, however it still irks me and I bet had Mr. Ebert watched a cinematic clip from FFXIII, or watched how moved most people were when the bomb was dropped in Modern Warfare he would have a different opinion.

Also, its funny to see Yahtzee say butthurt.

Don't know if anyone has posted this yet, but here's another good (IMO) article on the subject:

There's a good line in it that I think pretty much sums up why people are pissed at Ebert:
"Anybody who's ever felt even an inkling of something like that (art) from a game is going to be understandably "concerned" when you insist that they're lying."

I agree with Yahtzee on this one too. Everyone's perception of art is different. I'd say that the sooner people realise that people see art in things that other people don't, the better.
What he says about religion's pretty true as well, and it kind of explains why he's never been particularly vocal about his religious beliefs, although I'd hazard a guess that he's spent a lot of time thinking about it.

i disagree with ebert, i mean games should be art unless he doesnt consider movies or books art. the only key difference between games and movies and books is interactivity. they both go through the creative process of writing, character building, emotional tensions, and other complexities. This comparison is especially true for movies. As we speak there r games based on movies and movies based on games.

ebert says u win a game and therefore its not art, but that isnt the point, when u watch a movie or read a book u learn about the protagonist, antagonist, etc. usually the reader/watcher would root for the protagonist cause thats how the story in both movies and books try to do, eventually protagonist wins (or dies if its a trajedy)and u end the story. Yes there r games that lack story and go straight into the action packed gun roaring good time(ie warhawk one of my fav games) but more and more games are atleast trying to build story in their games and have some sort of immersiveness, and isnt that the main goal of any movie or the only way ebert (in my opinion) can defend his position is by saying movies r not art and therefore hes not a movie critic but a movie reviewer.

Well honestly, i don't really give two shits about what some old idiot who never played a video game in his life thinks about video games. But i do have a certain respect for gaming as a big part of my life and when someone says bullshit like that its plain insulting. Imagine if you will that you have found the perfect woman (wife,gf or just a great friend) ,an angel on earth that makes every moment of your otherwise dull ,boring and trainwreck of life seem somehow cleaner ,brighter and better. At this point some random idiot on the street who doesn't know anything about womankind or your woman in particular ,says she is nothing but a dirty disease ridden slut whose only advantage is sexual pleasure which she gives to every man in town for cash. Now you have three ,so to speak standard RPG choices on how to react - 1) You come up to the guy and knock some sense into his teeth. 2) You ignore the fool ,knowing full well that he has no idea what he's talking about. 3) You make a certain civilised attempt to educate the fellow on the error of his ways and somewhat enlighten him. Now to me it seems that options #1 and #3 are not in any way worse than #2, its not about lacking confidence in your beliefs its about standing up to a jerk who just insulted someone who is very dear to you. If you are here than i assume atleast one game in your life has been a little more than just mindless entertainment, it had some significant effect on you ,an emotional connection ,something beyond just "press this button to get points", "get this many points to win" even if it was for a short while. To me that connection means art.
When someone says 2+2=-7 its fine because he's an idiot, but when that certain person starts to propagate this belief to dozens of thousands of people out there it just serves to hurt people's understanding of math ,hurting our society as a result. My only hope is that certain person rots in his grave soon along with his mindnumbingly close minded views.

It may be pointless and time consuming but I'll be damned if I quit trying to knock up my household appliances man.

That was a wonderfully mature and well done article. I applaud your brilliance, Sir Yahtzee.

Roger Ebert still annoys me, though.

Incredibly well said, Yahtzee.

When there's even a tiny inkling that your country's government is considering government censorship on videogames because videogames aren't considered "art" like movies or books, and someone as respected as Ebert feels the same way, it's not that stupid to get angry and butthurt about it.

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.

I've bought and have tried hard to like Halo 1-3.

They are shit......=P

Moral of the story is, don't expect an opinion to change even when someone has given it a good

When there's even a tiny inkling that your country's government is considering government censorship on videogames because videogames aren't considered "art" like movies or books, and someone as respected as Ebert feels the same way, it's not that stupid to get angry and butthurt about it.

I had literally not considered this angle of the issue until right now. Well said.

Wow. One of the reasons I always liked ZP is that, in addition to all the witticisms, the puns, the frantic pace, the great writing, the whole everything everyone loves, I actually found myself having similar tastes to Yahtzee, so rather than take his word as just a cautionary tale I could actually take his advice to heart, save for a few exceptions (Half-life 2, a jewel of game design? Ha!) But never has he written a column that hits so close to my own opinion. Well, OK, my own opinion is less "Roger Ebert is a good critic and is entitled to his opinion" and more "Who is the 'Roger Egbert' and why is everyone talking about him?" but the point stands.

Ebert doesn't know what games are. He hasn't bothered to learn. He hasn't bothered to research. He admits he hasn't played games and says he has no reason not to. His column's point is based on a speech and stills of games shown during that speech. Therefore, he has not said anything about games as art. He said something about a speech about games as art. Even if he said 'I do not believe games will be art', what he meant was 'Even though this speech I saw tried to convince me that games are art, I remain unconvinced'. He is no more qualified to talk about video games than I am to talk about the role of tribal conflicts in the generation of civil wars in Africa. Even if Ebert understands a lot about movies and writes great reviews about them much in the way I make brilliant posts that leave everyone in awe at my intelligence, that doesn't make either of us an expert in everything.

Anyone who can properly argue the point that games are art must do so from a vantage point in which games are understood at a deep level. Imagine a book critic wanting to argue against the idea someone wrote that Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is a postmodernist novel because of its self-referencing nature as a book about books. If upon talking to the presenter of this idea he found out that it was a kid whose only other reading material was Dr. Seuss books, he could not make his case because his opponent will not understand the source of the points he makes. In this case, our opponent has made a point about all books without having never read a book at all; therefore, we must not pay him a second thought.

It's too bad though, because if I wanted to complain about it I'd write an essay parodying his. I'd call it 'A Modest Rebuttal'. "Now, even though I am hopelessly handicapped by my love of videogames, I must say I never found a movie so interesting it inspired me to watch it..."

The entire Roger Ebert critique on video games not being art is of no valid point in the community. It's like a music critic stating his opinions about football. Actually, it states more about the community being so up in arms about what a film critic says on video games then it states if games are art or not art.

Either way, my two cents about the entire argument is this: what games do you think Roger Ebert saw? do you think shadow of the collossus? probably not. He looked upon the violent, mad-cap destruction simulators that the medium keeps churning out and keeps recycling endlessly. he saw people shooting other people in the head endless times, he saw space marines killing bug aliens from some god-awful planet. he saw street thugs, covert ops, biological war machines. what he saw is the equivalent of our biggest, best selling games as nothing more then a retread of big blockbuster action movies with the violence turned way the fuck up.

Dead Space is Event horizon. Halo is Starship Troopers. Grand theft Auto is every single gangster movie ever made in the last three decades. Video Games are nothing more then the red-headed stepchild of cinema. Of course it wasn't always like this but now it is. They use B-rated movies as a stepping stone for their games and by any onlooker, how can you defend this as art? how can you defend saints row as art!? That's as ludicrous as stating Bad Boys as art or Puff Daddy as an artist.

Not only is our mindless, brainless crud the center stage of the fricken medium, but our mindless, brainless crud isn't even original!!

The saddest thing is, I believe games were once art until the latches of 14-year-old boy mentality sank it's fangs onto the entire medium and turned everything into generic M-rated trash. During the PSX/N64 era, the genre was pretty much there, and during the next generation it seemed it was going to be accomplished, Until grand theft auto 3 came about and fucked everything up. now it's all mindless violence and aesthetic of coolness.

Cinema is able to take you anywhere, to make you feel anything, be afraid, sad, happy or depressed. Paintings are similar and so is music. Video games are an artform, there is no denying it no matter how much you have contempt for it. Yet are video games art? No!!! what emotions does Grand theft auto make you feel or Dead space or Gears of war? what emotions do those games invoke rather then "oh fuck yeah!" at shooting something in the face?

Bioshock, Shadow of the colossus, Psychonauts and the Nintendo games do not always rectify everything in the entire "video games are art" argument. If video games want to be as respected as a form of art, it needs to grow up and try to make you feel something then "oh fuck yeah" more then once every year or so.

Ebert probably never saw Shadow of Colossus or Ico, or Okami. You really can't look at this games and say they aren't art. Hell, Okami even won artistic awards that were never given to video games before.

Interesting. I thought perhaps you might elaborate on being able to see his point about games not being art: because let's face it, we really haven't produced the equivalent of Joyce or Proust in gaming form. Not to say that this disqualifies all games as being art, it just confines most of them to the shallow pop-art end of the spectrum. Also I would contend that art (well, good art) is something which provokes an emotional response. Sentimentalism is really not hard to achieve, all you have to do is make enough people die at the right moments. It takes far more artistic skill to, say, put you into an existential crisis (Dostoyevsky, anyone?)

haha, Yahtzee gave in : )
....again, lol

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