Videogames as Art

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Awesome! Someone else thought The Spirit was fun! I liked it, I honestly did.

I say that there are some things about art that are purely objective, these traits only qualifying it as art of its medium. Opinion determines good or bad art, in my opinion.

I believe video games are art, and have no problem with objections to that. You know, as long as it's a civil point.

Awww Yahtzee does have a soft side, I was beginning to think he had striped it out and was using it as an in home billiards hall.

On topic: to be honest I was expecting at least a couple dickburgers to get served up in this one. Since you respect the guy I think you may have pulled some punches, but in the end you gave some potent insight on the situation and I respect you for that.

-Great job Yahtzee-

Isn't it kinda odd how true it is that simply winning as dropped off the gaming spectrum. Take World of Warcraft, you can never really win the game yet it is one of the most popular out there (theoretically you good get every achievment and every piece of gear and finish every quest etc.) or how a great deal of anticipation for sequels now a days tied into the story line, for example what is going to happen to Gordon Freeman in the Artic (HL2-E3) or what is going to happen when the Reapers invade (ME3). At the same time other games (less single player oriented games) are anticipated for the endless hours you can spend playing them with your friends, L4D2 or SC2 for example. Maybe games becoming easier won't be too bad and could actually be good for games who want to open up artistic or story-minded world without worrying that players will get stuck half way through and never fully be able to appreciate (or perhaps despise as the case may be) the developers work. Just as long as they have a healthy range of difficulty settings please :)

Z-Ri:
Awww Yahtzee does have a soft side, I was beginning to think he had striped it out and was using it as an in home billiards hall.

On topic: to be honest I was expecting at least a couple dickburgers to get served up in this one. Since you respect the guy I think you may have pulled some punches, but in the end you gave some potent insight on the situation and I respect you for that.

-Great job Yahtzee-

I think he also might have pulled some punches because, frankly, Ebert's dying. And Yahtzee's on record as saying that he tries to be nice to anyone with a terminal illness.

Shamanic Rhythm:
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?)

Well, games have made me feel the emotion of guilt in a way that no other artistic medium could ever accomplish. So there's an emotional response for you, I suppose.

I do agree with you that the majority of games are in what we could call the shallow end of the artistic pool, by the way. But quite frankly, most movies and books are in that same part of the pool, too.

Quorothorn:

Quiet Stranger:

Quorothorn:

Quiet Stranger:
He liked Gears of War 2? are you sure?

Well, his final word during that video was that some mainstream titles are popular for a reason: "because they're good, or because Will Smith is in it". It seems to me that he thought it was a bad sign for the future, but a good game in itself. *Shrugs.*

Since when has Will Smith ever been in a game? (did he actually say that or did you just put that in?) also that's still only 6 games compared to Ebert's love of many more movies

Yes, he mentioned Smith, unless I have truly gone senile at age 21 (not impossible), go watch the video. It was a joke, you see: Yahtzee makes those, every once in a blue moon.

That was only the six that came first to mind, I've got more if you want. Here:

Psychonauts, Prototype, Infamous, Resident Evil 4, Thief 2, Fallout 3, Saint's Row 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, The Orange Box (Portal especially), Half-Life 2, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (and to a lesser degree Warrior Within and Two Thrones), Silent Hill 2 (and 1, 3 and The Room to a much lesser degree), Left for Dead, LEGO Indiana Jones, Painkiller, No More Heroes, Killer 7, Condemned 1, Gears of War 2, Monkey Island 1&2, God of War, Bioshock 1, Assassin's Creed 2, Guitar Hero franchise (to a point), Spiderman 2, Grim Fandango.

That's over two dozen games that Yahtzee, from what I have gleaned from watching Zero Punctuation, seems to have an overall positive opinion of or at least thinks have very strong points in their favour: more could probably be found if one went through his videos trying to parse his exact opinions on the many games he mentions and/or reviews. It's just that he's never gushing over games, even the ones he loves like SH2, RE4, PoP:SoT and SR2, so the only game he has ever been 100% positive on is Portal. On the other hand, he's only been 100% negative on a couple of games as far as I can remember (specifically Too Human, Sonic Unleashed and Turok--all of which deserved it).

What was wrong with Turok again? (although I never played it myself) also so I guess he doesn't really hate everything

Quiet Stranger:
What was wrong with Turok again? (although I never played it myself) also so I guess he doesn't really hate everything

If I remember aright, Turok was basically everything he disliked about bad console FPSes in one neat package for him to dismember.

Quorothorn:

Quiet Stranger:
What was wrong with Turok again? (although I never played it myself) also so I guess he doesn't really hate everything

If I remember aright, Turok was basically everything he disliked about bad console FPSes in one neat package for him to dismember.

Also welcome to the escapist and remind me, what is it he doesn't like about FPS....es???

this is exactly what i thought when i read about this. this is why i love you yahtzee!!!

Uncompetative:

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.

You're harsh, much more passionate about Ebert's work than I am I guess, but I sort of agree with you. I've often thought while reading his reviews that he really doesn't deserve the fawning adoration he gets. He has a terminal illness and as at least one poster said, that might have something to do with his career.

I don't know the history of film critics. Maybe Ebert was a pioneer as Half Life pioneered FPS engineering? I can't understand why he would be feted as he is otherwise. His attempts to criticize movie logic often result in the championing of hopeless anachronisms and misunderstandings, especially with military technology. I don't really enjoy reading his reviews for their sake.

Very well written. I love Extra Punctuation so much; it's like Zero Punctuation only Yahtzee doesn't feel obligated to exaggerate his opinions for the sake of comedy.

Quiet Stranger:

Quorothorn:

Quiet Stranger:
What was wrong with Turok again? (although I never played it myself) also so I guess he doesn't really hate everything

If I remember aright, Turok was basically everything he disliked about bad console FPSes in one neat package for him to dismember.

Also welcome to the escapist and remind me, what is it he doesn't like about FPS....es???

Thanks for the welcome! As I recall, he gave a list that went roughly as follows: bad aiming controls (for consoles), health regeneration, grenades that don't work as area weapons, ripping off Aliens, and ripping off Halo.

I don't agree with Ebert that films are art; not anymore Halloywood has been wallering in the septic tank so long that when something manages to be at least mediocre, it's hailed as a brillient piece of work rather than the piece of clover sprouting out of a massive pile of shit.

I feel art is anything you create, in that sense video games, food, children, houses, they are all (and most are generally accepted as) art.

Nifarious:

...I just don't think that it's worth engaging Egbert (sic) 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...

That is exactly it.

It is ironic that the art normally classified as Fine Art (The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp) is utterly pathetic and a total waste of space. It is doubly ironic that Roger Ebert (who has asserted that Film contains examples that are comparable to Fine Art) should have been responsible for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls being inflicted on culture. It is triply ironic that Ebert not only knows of no game worthy of comparison to his cherished "Cinema", but asserts that "no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form". It is quadruply ironic that the film critic Roger Ebert should attempt to pass final judgement on an entire, emergent, cultural medium when he has apparently avoided engaging with one of its most famous, seminal and cinematic cult classics.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ico

Sure, I will be the first to admit that you could count the number of games as 'culturally significant masterpieces' on the fingers of one hand, but Roger Ebert needs someone to tell him that 5 > 0. Either that, or to get him to stop saying uneducated inflammatory remarks like:

"I was correct when I wrote, 'No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.' To which I could have added painters, composers, and so on, but my point is clear."

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

Just to add to the old man's embarrassment, here is a video game critique that is better than Ebert's film criticism:

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/za-critique-ico/

Why would videogames want to be Art?
Art is paint sploches on a canvas that almost got thrown out by the cleaning crew.
Art is a painting of the Madonna with elephant dung for a breast designed to generate controversy and free PR.
Art is a bent mass of metal pipes in from of town hall that your tax dollars paid for.
Hardcore porn is art. Uwe Boll movies are art.
F*** Art.

The general 90% of everything stinks rule - most of the human endeavors are just senseless cr*p - that applies on games too.

Of the remaining 10% something is art something isn't.
Test of time will decide.

Ebert clearly has not seen God of War 3. Do you know how many action-commands i missed because i was too busy staring at the background? The visuals in that game were beautiful and could easily combat movies in terms of "art".

I wouldn't care that much about people's opinion on video games as art if it didn't effect the industry so much. If we look at the legal side of things if video games aren't considered art, they are not protected under the constitution and therefore can be banned. All it would take is one extremist nut job to get write up a bill banning something in video games such as a nude scene or a very violent scene, and they could do it with no real legal battle because video games aren't considered art in society. And for those of you who call me a conspiracy theorist, look what happened to Manhunt 2 a couple years ago, it will happen again if video games aren't protected under the constitution.

(As you can see my opinion need not apply to a country other than America. But my personal feelings are video games are art.)

mechanixis:

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.

omfg, I dont think you understand my point, is the audience allowed to adjust facial features on Picasso's abstract portraits ?
Is the audience allowed to make Batman go apeshit and start killing civillians in The Dark Knight ?

I think the problem is that many of you dont even understand the purpose of art, and therefore cannot appreciate what it means to be an artist, which is why you have no problem in devaluing art by trying to frame videogames with it.

Now that was some good, old fashioned and surprisingly temperate common sense. There's no point fighting over what is and what isn't art. Just enjoy what you enjoy. In a recent, high profile nationwide art contest here, the winner was the guy who didn't even turn up, but just sent a message saying that his entry would be the wrappings from all the other entries piled up in a heap on the ground. My jaw hit the floor over that one, I admit (mostly because at least the other people had, you know, actually *made* something), but on some level, it's still 'art', and if nothing else he probably deserved the $15,000 just for sheer audacity.

Yahtzee:
the whole essence of games as an art form is the fact that they are an interactive medium.

Yahtzee:
What Ebert feels disqualifies games as art for me simply make them a whole new dimension of art.

Very, very well said.

Also, who can really judge what is art and what is not? Being a photographer and writer, I sometimes think... "Yeah, this work of mine could be passed of as art, I guess." What else except creativity is there to determinate art?

I mean, art critics are usually full of shit anyway. Ever heard of the famous artist Nat Tate? Look him up.

Also the funny part is, some games can easily pass as art even when not played. All one needs is to see some of the works of American McGee. Alice is not art? Plase!

I'll stick with the never say never counter-argument and leave it at that. The notion of something never happening -- especially a subject like this -- is mind boggling.

I don't care what Yahtzee says!!!

I'll impregnate that dishwasher if its the last thing I do!

You did this one very well Yahtzee!!!

ostro-whiskey:

mechanixis:

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.

omfg, I dont think you understand my point, is the audience allowed to adjust facial features on Picasso's abstract portraits ?
Is the audience allowed to make Batman go apeshit and start killing civillians in The Dark Knight ?

I think the problem is that many of you dont even understand the purpose of art, and therefore cannot appreciate what it means to be an artist, which is why you have no problem in devaluing art by trying to frame videogames with it.

Yeah, so, thanks for saying 'You don't understand art' and then not explaining why not or what art is. Real solid debating. What, so you're saying the examples I gave aren't actually art? Why not? It's still an artist conveying an emotional and intellectual statement, and a component of that statement is how the audience behaves when they experience it. Your definition of what constitutes a statement is simply narrower. You can't manipulate The Dark Knight or Picasso because they aren't pieces about the audience. Games are.

I would like to add I fully grasp the irony of arguing about this underneath an article that says arguing about this is pointless.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Videogames as Art

Yahtzee responds to Ebert's claim of "videogames are not art."

Read Full Article

Thank you very much for that article, Yahtzee. I actually wrote a long write-up very similar to what you wrote, a few days ago, but I deleted it because I'm just another poster and people don't really read my words very carefully if I break the three paragraph barrier. I'm glad we shared an almost identical view on this, so that people can hear it from you - a voice of authority to many of the Escapist posters - and realize that it's not worth getting worked up over, and that outside of this, Ebert is a very insightful columnist. As a film person myself, I must say that I learned more about film theory from reading his articles over the years than I learned in actual university courses.

Bottom line is that Ebert himself admits that he doesn't play video games. I've seen quite a few interviews with people who don't play video games try to criticize the medium (particularly during the Mass Effect controversy) and it's clear that they can only think of interactive media in terms of Pac-Man, Frogger and Mario.

This article has given me the strong hope that people will finally realize that arguing Ebert's column (and not even in a platform where he will ever see it, either) is like talking to aquatic life from the seat of an airplane in flight.

So basically what Yahtzee is saying here is what he very wisely said once
"Art is only as good as the culture that surrounds it"

I can't take Yahtzee seriously anymore. he liked The Spirit. That's bad taste that transcends mediums.

I would say Planescape Torment is art in terms of storytelling, a novelization of that game could readily be construed as art. I'll say that Bioshock had art in it, and Farcry 2 was kind of just a moving landscape portrait. But I can't actually think of a game in which the whole experience would be art, one that actually used the interactivity to its full potential. The problem is that's like a mad-libbed Moby Dick- some versions will say "From hell's heart I stab at thee" while another could say "now you...WILL DIE, evil manatee!" Hitman's a good example. Played by someone who knows what they're doing, it's an elegant and intelligent game. Played by a noob, it's quickly just another routine shoot-em-up. Interactive art has never really progressed beyond the drum circle, so expecting an interactive medium to just suddenly become art is setting the bar too high.

Anybody that played Heavy Rain and considered it art? It does seem to somewhat solve the interactive problem.

While I do agree to Yahtzee to an extent, in that he isn't really that qualified to talk about it, I'm still adamant that games can be art, surely something crafted to invoke emotional response or attachment and is a spectacle (I think that's the right word), qualified as art?

I distinctly remember being moved to tears when Aries died, of course I was only about 9/10 at the time...I think, I know I played it a few years after it came out, and one of my earliest moments of gaming is the bit where you fight the scorpion. It would be another year before I would explore the game further, due to killing the scorpion at a friends house, I would then borrow the game off of someone else, because he bought it thinking it was a football game due to the comet on the cover, and then the disc broke during the bit where you reconstruct clouds head. Another year passes before I actually finish that game.

Of course I've played through it many times after that, due to the impact it had on me, at the time it was a well crafted experience, and while the graphics do remove some of that NOW, I feel that if it's crafted well enough, it still has the same effects on you whoever you are, heck I cried when Gualf died in FF5, when ever Anthology came out.

MrLumber:
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.

Thank you MrLumber, I'm glad I'm not the only one a little bit frustrated with all the posts on here parroting Yahtzee's "I'm just too damn cool to feel strongly about things," opinion.

Guys, think back when some of us were kids and played our first Zelda game and marveled at the huge world that opens up before you and the experience of being a hero, or played your first Final Fantasy (7 for most people) and got emotionally involved with the people that guided you through this grand story, or the days of fun you had discussing and trading Pokemon with your friends, or the sense of accomplishment by winning against all odds when you finally destroy the Overmind in the last mission of Starcraft, or admiration as you listened to David Hayter's gruff rendition of Solid Snake for the first time.

Good job lying down and letting all of that be invalidated and tossed aside as meaningless. Really, you're not even going to try to argue that these things are relevant or impacting, way to go.

Here is some food for thought, related to the topic.

When cinema got through its infancy period and started becoming mainstream (that is 30's and 40's), some of the greatest theorists of the period (Horkheimer and Adorno, for those who know their marxism) claimed that cinema can never become art because: 1) too many people are involved in the process, 2) profit is part of its process.

Games are more or less in the same situation now. We've gone past the period where one person in a basement would make a game and we have major corporations building games that would appeal to the public. However, there are some other smaller/indie firms, still working under the logic of profit, but with more stylized creations.

We all know that cinema is now considered art and there are distinctions (not always clear) between mainstream and artistic films. We may reach a point when this is true for games also. Certainly Braid is a step towards that direction, but not quite there. Maybe it is more difficult for games, since narrative is involved in more processes than cinema (what you have in cinema to tell a story -art direction, script etc.- you have in a game plus gameplay). Maybe we need another generation, which has grown up in computers, to give games that push they need.

I am sure that in ten years, we'll know for sure.

Well i suppose games have the potential to be an art form to some degree and to be the greatest storytelling medium devised, but at the moment the game industry is still kicking off the primordial sludge.

The_root_of_all_evil:

-Snip-
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.

Very well said. I agree completely.

I am one of the defenders of games I guess, and I wholeheartedly believe that games can be art. Not all games, but some. In the same way that not all paintings are art.

One of the reasons I want to defend games is because I would like some people to aknowledge games as a "serious" medium. Not because I particulary care much, but because of the positive results that might follow. Gamers might be less frowned upon (which is slowly happening I know) and enjoying a good game might be as intellectually accepted as enjoing a fine literary work or an artful movie.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
my eight-year-old self blubbing equally hard at a funeral scene in Wing Commander.

Dude! Spoilers!

Please don't describe my deep and meaningful relationship with the dishwasher as pointless. We keep trying.

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