Videogames as Art

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I'd agree with Yahtzee on this one, not because I'm a rather big fan and would love to converse with the guy, though he'd probably hate me as much as Kratos would hate him. I agree that Video Games are the workings of a generation below Ebert. That isn't to say that for some of the games it's just meant to win, win, win, but truly only recently within a ten year time span was when game-designers took a step further in just making a game to win and making it a spectacle.

Hence why I never had 'that' much of a problem from ripping off things, it uses an idea that was created before and used elsewhere (though when it becomes obvious that the ripping was just that and not some way to advance it, then there are problems).

But really, much like Yahtzee here (fixes his hat), you can respect his words, or you can ignore them. Critics are people who expresses their opinions to those who are willing to hear it. If you don't like it, you just ignore them.

But how about these artisti games? :/

I've not heard of Roger Ebert before or his views on gaming, so I'm going to have to leave my torch and pitchfork in the back garden and postpone the witchhunt until I read up on this...

I'm in agreement here - frankly who cares what a FILM CRITIC thinks and secondly it's one of those 'if we want your opinion, we'll ask for it' scenarios. Each to their own.

I think video games can be beautiful and entertaining to look at - that could say it's art, yes. But I don't care if some Twatty McGuff says it isn't, he won't ruin my afternoon by saying that.



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.

Improvisation Theatre is considered art and that is interactive.

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

The artist/collaborators do not need to have a total stranglehold on the text of a performance to ensure that the 'play' conveys/explores the pre-determined theme. In many ways the work can become more persuasive by moving away from dogmatic monologue to quasi-dialogue. There is some evidence that Shakespeare's plays were 'aware' of the audience when they were originally performed, although to a lesser extent.

Good article, but fails for the same reason Ebert failed: made the mistake of trying to define what art is. Okay, so he (Yahtzee) qualified it by saying it was his "personal" definition of art, but it's still a definition.

In agreement with what was stated in this article I point you all towards Allen Kaprow's "Happenings"
if you read about them you say WTF?
but participating in them is an entirely different experience

There were probably people arguing at one point that movies were not art because they are severely limited and can be nothing more than eye candy. These people give to much power to the word "art"

People get confused about this. Games are not art if they have a good story, most art has no story, just an essence or a feeling its trying to convey.
Art is entertainment, that's all it is. People can argue one way or the other but a good painting is just eye candy and it's still art. Michal Bay movies may suck but they are still art because its entertainment.
You can say a McDonald's cheeseburger "isn't really food" because it's a greasy mess but your just misunderstanding what the word means.

Good article, but fails for the same reason Ebert failed: made the mistake of trying to define what art is. Okay, so he (Yahtzee) qualified it by saying it was his "personal" definition of art, but it's still a definition.

What's wrong with explaining what it is? Do you really think "art" is some magical elusive thing that can never be defined?
If it can't be defined, how is it even a word?
Art is just the expression of emotions, ideas, or even a certain atmosphere, through visual or audio stimulation (or you know....words)
I mean music is art, but its not special or important in any way. It's just sound that we find pleasurable and sometimes thought provoking.

1. It is possible to impregnate a dishwasher.... as long as she is a person.

2. Not only is it hard to define "art". It is actually really hard to define simpler things. When I was in high school we had to try and define "ice cream". Surprisingly, it is harder than most people would think. If we can't define something like "ice cream", then "art" is basically out of the question.

It's a semi frozen dairy product, you can get it in different flavors.
I get that it's hard when your put on the spot or something, but it is possible.

Adding to the back of the thread so not sure if anyone will actually read this, but here goes (And if it seems to long to read, just skip to the final paragraph):

First off, saying videogames will never be art is a stupid statement. Games are an interactive audiovisual medium. When the camera was first invented, every critic said that photographs could never be art, and then movies came and pretty much the same happened. Look where we are now. Just because games have for the past 30 years been made solely as an entertainment product does not mean the medium does not have the possibillities to be art in the right hands, made with the right intent (an artist using the medium to express himself/herself artistically)And 300 years ago, Marcel Duchamps urinoir would never ever have qualified as art, so maybe its just that we are looking at this wrongly and with prejudices on what art is?

Further more, when Ebert, or anyone, wants to catagorize a game as art, how does he qualify it as such? Should you be looking at the graphical aspect? Maybe the sound and musical aspect? With the advancements in computer technologies we sure are able to produce more detailed graphics and more lifelike sounds, but is that what games as an artform should be about? Oh wait, visuals are an artform in and of itself, so is music. To me, games as art would qualify on a combination of those coupled with the interaction with and by the player, or the concept of the game itself. The thought of games as art also does not seem to be very old either and during my time in art school, pretty much none of my fellow students really played games for anything else then entertainment or even thought of using them in an artsy way or would have had the skills to do so. Sure, they used games as an inspiration, but never as a direct medium on it's own. So maybe it just has to grow still with artists finally getting out of only painting and photgraphy and seeing the potentials in this medium.

And my final word: There IS already an example for a game as art!: "You have to burn the rope" would be an art studies textbook example of a video game as art! I'm to tired to write out an analysis on why exactly, but check it out and compare it to what Marcell Duchamp's "Fountain" did in the art world. You have to burn the rope is avant garde, in videogameform.

Long write, long read, hope it was worth it. My 2 cents


Good article, but fails for the same reason Ebert failed: made the mistake of trying to define what art is. Okay, so he (Yahtzee) qualified it by saying it was his "personal" definition of art, but it's still a definition.

What's wrong with explaining what it is? Do you really think "art" is some magical elusive thing that can never be defined?

Magical, no. Elusive, yes. Impossible to properly define, yes.

If it can't be defined, how is it even a word?

Words do not need to be well-defined in order to be words. A dictionary is just a list of words in common usage, with flawed attempts to define their meanings.

I guess what I have a problem with is when people attempt to codify their own understanding of what art is and what it is not, and try to pass this off as universal truth or impose it on others.

Perhaps it would be more productive of me to say, instead of "art is undefinable", rather "art is undecidable". That is, it is impossible to decide whether X is or is not art, for any value of X.

I point to my previous post in the comments thread from the News Room.


If we can't define something like "ice cream", then "art" is basically out of the question.

It's a semi frozen dairy product, you can get it in different flavors.

Which also covers frozen yoghurt.

hes he played flower would be my question



If we can't define something like "ice cream", then "art" is basically out of the question.

It's a semi frozen dairy product, you can get it in different flavors.

Which also covers frozen yoghurt.

Thanks for the backup there. Also, there is such a thing as non-dairy ice cream :) I don't get flustered by being put on the spot, it's just not as easy as you think.

The point that I was trying to make is that you will never be able to objectively define art when things such as ice cream, which is a physical thing, is rather difficult to define.

Despite a lot of people saying that we can't define "Art", we can to a very big degree. The problem is that it needs more indepth knowledge of art(an art study is really a study in and of itself, you can't read up on it and inform yourself in a weekend's time and have a really meaningfull opinion) and that the definition changes somewhat over time so you have to keep up. What was Art 30 years ago is still art now, but if you make the exact same thing nowadays, you aren't really being contemporary unless you do it really really wel and ad a new twist. My teachers at art school knew the heart and soul of what art is, yet at the same time they were stuck to much on what art was in their time, 20-30 years ago.

Nice article, but he shouldn't have given a definition (HIS definition) for art. If art was so easy to define there wouldn't have been a branch in philosophy called aesthetics.

There ain't no way that games can ever compare themselves to Bernini's "Rape of Proserpine" or "Apollo and Daphne". It's not the same experience.

The Deadpool:

or on what bugs are good to eat smart?

A human is better equipped to find out what bugs are good to eat than a frog. Frogs live limtted lifespans, in limited areas, with a limited choice of bugs to eat, and they pick which ones they want on instinct.

Humans have access to the entire world, meaning several thousand more bugs to examine than any one frog would have, and we're far more capable of determining nutrional value than a frog's instincts.

So to bring your red herring back to the original point via illustration: Your opinion is wrong.

Edit: And for the record, I didn't mention comparing frogs to HUMANS, I said comparing it to every other animal on the planet and judging them the smartest. slightly different.

No, nothing was proven by that. What I wrote was a small example not based off of any scientifical fact. It was an example to show you that perspective is everything.

If you are having a debate with somebody you need to determine that you are on the same footing with the other person. For example, with the 'I am a god' example one would have to determine that the man in question meant when he used the word 'god'. If he is saying that he is a god in the sense that Jesus or Osiris is a god he would be wrong. He doesn't fit the qualifications of what a god in that sense is. Omnipresent, all-knowing, etc. But that doesn't rule out the possibility that he was using different qualifications on what a god is. He could possibly be right.

Let's look at the example of the world being flat. Do we know what flat is to everyone? Could someone else's flat be different than how you or I concieve flat? In the sense of flat that you talk about you are right; the world isn't flat. (nor is it really completely round, for that matter.) To someone else though the world could be flat as a pancake and they would be absolutely right.

This isn't just some crazy new-age thinking going on. It isn't just thrown out there so people can say 'hey, everyone is right!' It logically makes sense.

Arguing semantics for the win!

I must say this is one of the most thought provoking and best articles I have read in a good spell. See everyone, Yahtzee is a squishy feeling person like all of us and not just a huge gallbladder dispensing bile.

The only thing (and i mean literally THE ONLY THING) that irked me about the article was that ebert said that no one has been able to compare a video game with the works of the great novelists, painters, sculptors, etc. Hasn't "Bioshock" been compared to Ayn Rand's works multiple times?

a good read yahtzee :)

Yeah, I agree to disagree but not bitch over it like you do Yahtzee. It really is getting annoying reading about how Roger Ebert doesn't know anything about art because he does. He understands what art is perfectly. What he doesn't know is that basically everything can be considered art. Therefore, Games are art.

Roger Ebert has been involved in the movie business forever, and I find it a little ironic that his most memorable and enduring comments may be the ones regarding video games as art (I personally can't quote him on anything else). I'm sure it's not the legacy he was hoping for.

I also disagree with some of the things Yatzee wrote about. I think it's important and healthy to reflect on the nature of games and to be able to respond coherently to those who know very little about our passion. Let's not just shrug them off as Yatzee suggests and say "who cares about people who don't know gaming". What's the point of only preaching to the choir? It's great that Ebert generated such passion and dialogue in gamers. I don't know anyone who was actually upset by his comment, but I know lots of people who talked and debated about it, who reflected on their gaming memories and tried to define the nature of art. I say it's fantastic! Such intelligent reflection and debate in our forums can only be a good thing.

I don't agree with Ebert because his main point is that a video game is something "you win" Well in a movie doesn't the protagonist conquer the antagonist and "win."

If movies are only about that for you, then you havent looked deep into movies. Which is kinda what Ebert did, not look to deep into games.

Movies are about a charachter, doesnt matter which, but a charachter that feels emotions. Often in the movie we can identify deep messages through the experiences of the character within the movie, he has conflicts, often emotional and philosophical, and he has to deal with them. After a movie, one might think wether the charachter acted responsibly, or wether he done the right thing. I could go on more, but Movies are about emotions experienced through conflicts (a conflict is anything that is causing charachters feeling emotions) and there should be often, a message from the movie subtely hidden amongst the charachters, often philosophical.

Thats why 300 wasnt art, even with its flashyness, it was only arty visually, which most games are, but it wasnt arty in its message, because all it was was random brutal slaughter, which games are kinda about.

But its pretty hard to base games on emotions and philosophy, we can only read it or watch it mostly, few games really present a moral/philosophical challenge. They are however, visually artistic.

You sir are both a scholar and a crazy mofo. I'd have said gentleman but I think you may have taken offense to that. Brilliant article. I share your feelings. The thing about critics, of all media, is that you need to find one that you feel represents your own feelings most of the time. That's when a critic is most helpful. When you find one who's opinions mirror your own. That will never be a 100% surety but it is helpful in making decisions on what to watch, play, read, etc.

I'm surprised Yahtzee thinks so highly of Ebert, considering how low he thinks of the rest of the world.

Admit it; you just liked "The Spirit" because he has a cool hat.

Before you could even begin to argue whether video games are art or not, you had to come to an agreement on exactly what art is, and as you can see here: it's not an easy task.

Hee Hee, my dishwasher is my girlfriend.

OMG guys and whatnot, STOP FEEDING THAT TROLL. He never even played a game ffs. All his "argument" is not only pitiful, but a simple contradiction to that one particular presentation (it is/isn't style, too! With a bit of added flavour of "never read "Doctor Zhivago", but i disapprove in any case"...). Its just sad, people. Borne, Yahtzee... Who else will fall, i wonder?.. Well, not me. Successful troll is successful, and that should have been Ebert's only response.

Finally someone with some sense! Ebert's opinion is just that, an opinion. Everyone I was talking to was thinking "Oh, Yahtzee is probably going to word rape that stupid Ebert's entire article." I think gaming gets a black mark in the art community because of our more extreme fanboys who would rather burn the Mona Lisa than admit that Ebert can have an outsiders view of video gaming. That said, I disagree in the extreme but not to the point where I'll go burn his house down for being the wrong kind of critic.

What he said.... minus the last part, I dont actually consider games art, so much as entertainment. I think its because I heavily criticize anything claiming to be art (Go to a liberal arts college, and you will see what I mean.) For instance, some girl at our school took a thirty yard long, five feet wide piece of cloth, and painted it various colors of the spectrum around the reds oranges and yellows, and hung it up in the student center so it wound in and out and around the light fixtures on the ceiling and called it "art" because it represented the "Flowing presence of humanity through time". I saw nothing but a waste of good material and a ton of red-ish colors. of course they tried to chew me out by saying that I wasnt "Cultured" enough to understand....

i agree with the whole, everyone to their own opinion thing, i just found this one sentence odd

"Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form" - an extract from the quote Yahtzee took from this Ebert

couldn't i just re-word that to say
" Let me just say that no movie watcher now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form"
"Let me just say that no painting-viewer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form"

i find that sentence somewhat stupid... but maybe i'm just the stupid one and have misinterpreted it...
I am sure, afterall, that people have spent much more time playing one singular game, then any person has ever spent looking at a painting... i may be mistaken however (i am sure the artist looked at it longer)... i cannot say, with confidence, that people spend more time on a single game than another person would spend watching a single movie... i swear my little sister has capped 30 hours+ watching a particular chick-flik

And indeed the novel was seen as a pointless past-time by most when they first emerged - novel-reading was for silly women, who stayed in the library instead of learning to crochet and finding a good man. Silly women like Jane Austen, as it turned out, one of the sharpest minds of her time (little competition in the days of fluffy-headed romanticism, the picturesque fad and hot-blooded revolution (not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that!) but you take my point).

Roger Ebert is not an academic, or more pertinently a philosopher, and people are angered by his dismissal of games - and his elevation of chess ABOVE video games, which just cements his clear role as defender of the status quo.

I personally feel there's nothing wrong with the old use of art to mean skill, as in "by his/her art it is made". This allows for technical death metal and conceptual art, concrete poems and novels to live under the same roof: whether a skill is practical or intellectual, the application of that skill is art, and something we can all admire.

I loved this article, one of the many extra punctuations that make me genuinely admire Yahtzee as a journalist. May he sell out and become an old media print whore like Charlie Brooker, and end his days making scathing remarks on gameshows with David Mitchell.

Somewhere between enraged gamers, who feel Ebert should be put in his place, and YC, who feels there's no point in arguing with him, lies middle ground that is being sadly neglected. No, it isn't necessary to beat Ebert in the debate team sense, or condescendingly suggest that, one day, he'll understand. But there is every reason to continue the debate Ebert's opened up for discussion and to formulate and articulate the reasons he's ultimately wrong.

For one thing, Ebert isn't fragile or stupid. If you made your point well, and it stuck and he had time to consider it, he'd probably acknowledge it. For another, the argument that games *are* art can only be served by further refinement whether Ebert happens to notice or not. You "win" not by beating the opponent but by clarifying the thought behind your own beliefs. You win in the sense that your own understanding is enhanced.

The problem with the examples given by Kellee Santiago is that they are all predicated on "ideas," or premises, that she expects us to praise as intelligent and, therefore, artistic. But unless you're talking about conceptual art, most art is about the complexity of the experience and the execution. Art is not a topic sentence and neither are the games that come closest to achieving artistic excellence. Ebert wins his argument in a sense because Santiago chose the wrong argument and the wrong examples.

I would argue that certain games should be considered narrative art on the level of commercial film-making (and not just in the States). They should not be considered perfect art, as the form needs to evolve (and to be embraced by artists and developers who can afford to have no interest in making money) before it can aspire to ultimate levels of stylistic finesse.

Certain games are art in the *specific sense that B movies can be art*: embarrassing and inconsistent in certain ways, but moving, effective, ironic and aesthetically brilliant in others.

The fact Ebert can't conceive of a game that is based on narrative pull rather than winning means he's effectively media-illiterate: He hasn't studied post-web innovations in fiction and art enough to see the connection between the hypertext novel as taught by Michael Joyce at Brown and the structure of a multiple-choice novel transposed to games (Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain, Hotel Dusk, etc.). He hasn't seen the games that do the same thing for visual media (Ico, Colossus, etc.). He doesn't seem to know that survival horror games, the equivalent of horror films, evolved into two basic forms, and one of those *doesn't have anything to do with winning*, killing bonus zombies or much else that crowns the player and immortalizes their high score. In games like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame, winning is simply getting to the ending. If the ending turns out to be that the protagonist drives off a pier with his dead beloved and drowns, then how can player be said to have won in the obvious sense?

Ebert is an engaging writer and a fun person to argue with, but I have yet to see him grasp that games are the future of film. There is not one ultimate future for gaming but rather several. Here are a few:

Simm warfare group experiences in MMORPGs; ultimate vacations from social and spatial restrictions in sandbox games; and the refinement of novels and films into one active, immersive, participatory work: a film in which you can move through landscapes and speak with other characters, a film experience that will only become more inclusive as tech improves and our senses can be fooled in an ever-widening sense. We admire it when a novelist or filmmaker creates a world; in narrative games, artists and writers are able to create the effect of being born into that world. Your controls are your christening.

Whether you're a gamer or not, vidgames are the most exciting thing to happen to art since movie-making. The limitations of the medium are entirely imposed by the artist and commercial expectations. That will expand over time: indie devs will be able to do massive things without seed money, and academics will make a place for narrative game work at the highest levels of artistic expression. It's a simple fact, in my opinion, that the Fatal Frame series is more artistic, strange and surprising than the majority of horror films made in any decade since the forties.

Someone needs to ask Ebert whether graphic novels can be art -- my suspicion is that he'll say they can. If he does, then anyone can point to and explain the inconsistency of his denying the same status to Silent Hill or Heavy Rain that he does to a book by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman (since I'm guessing those are the two examples Ebert would know best).

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Videogames as Art

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

Read Full Article

great article, also, im going to have me some sweet sweet dishwasher loving, and no im not questioning your opinion, your awesome

and no im not questioning your opinion, your awesome

Why would questioning his opinion have to mean you didn't think he was awesome? I like his writing and respect him as a critic but differ with a lot of his opinions.

He's almost always fun to read and listen to, but skepticism is also fun.

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