Ebert Re-Emphasizes That Games Will Never Be Art

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Ebert Re-Emphasizes That Games Will Never Be Art

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Are videogames art or not? Roger Ebert still says no.

Roger Ebert not only has strong opinions on movies, but he also has a well-known mindset that the videogame can never be a piece of art. He recently rejustified his view in a blog post where he emphatically states that it's just not going to happen, gamers.

The post is a response to this TED talk by Kelly Santiago on videogames as art. Ebert seems to have softened his position a hair, as he no longer believes that videogames will never be art, but now thinks that "no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form." That's a little better right?

Ebert's opinion on this matter involves his strict definition of what videogames are. "One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game," he writes. "It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

Santiago gives three examples of videogames that begin to cross the boundary into becoming art: Braid, Flower, and Waco Resurrection. Though Ebert admits that everything is a matter of taste, and that he is obviously "hopelessly handicapped because of [his] love of cinema," he still feels: "The three games she chooses as examples do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it. They are, I regret to say, pathetic. I repeat: '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.'"

He also asks: "Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care."

I can't help but feel like Ebert's view is incredibly closed-minded, primarily due to his own personal definition of a videogame. In reality, most of the videogames that might be considered art are not released on the PlayStation Network or in retail outlets, they're released for free, so many people like Ebert probably don't even see that they exist. There are typical videogames, with rules and winning conditions, but then there is also a more likely art form of interactive entertainment that currently sits itself within the videogame industry. If interactive entertainment should not be considered a game, Ebert's right. Either way, I don't care, I just want to play videogames:

Source: Roger Ebert's Blog

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So, let's see...the shittiest movie in the world is still art?

You can beat a game, but movies actually end.

And what does that make stuff like Okami, Psychonauts, Cave Story, Braid, Flower, Flow, Heavy Rain, and even Bayonetta?

Haha who cares again?

Naww....

I thought they had resurrected Weimar politician Friedrich Ebert!

Well, I posted a comment on his blog, and it was published. I posted it on the non-news thread, but fuck it, I'll post it here again.

I really don't think he's in the least bit qualified to make such a blanket statement. It would like me saying "All science is speculation" (I know jack-shit about science), I don't know enough about it and I obviously haven't done the research. It's the same with Ebert.

Anyway, without further ado, what I wrote.

Anyway guys, don't worry about it too much.

BioShock says hi.

That is all.

Hmm, this story is a few days old now. Nonetheless, I will say what I said in the last thread: If movies are art, so are video games.

Anything I say will be said again by everyone. One man's opinion is not the world, and To Be Honest, Braid is art, and I find Portal to be Art as well. Thats just how good they are.

Calumon: Who is this silly man and why should care?

I'll summarize my thoughts that I had posted in the other thread on this: art is entirely subjective. The shit some people call art is ridiculous. There was a giant sculpture of a vagina that recently won first place in some national art contest. I kid you not. So everyone has their own definition of what constitutes art. Even the dictionary has multiple definitions to choose from. Which makes what Ebert is saying here, that there is no possible instance in which a video game can be defined as art, complete bullshit. You can't make a very generalized, ignorant, and uninformed statement like that and not expect some backlash.

What this really brings to light is the issue of how we allow such close-minded people rise to positions of power or popularity. Glad that I've never once decided to see or not see a movie based on Ebert's recommendations. Just another out of touch old man to add to the growing list.

I would argue almost any creation could be called art, as art is pretty much bringing one's imagination to the real world.

That said, if you want to play the snooty game, I could argue that there are a crap tonne of movies that don't fall into the "artistic" category, either.

Honestly, I've stopped listening to Ebert, just as I don't listen to most movie critics. They all have their set opinions, and Ebert seems to me that he's more set in his ways than most, at least to me. I like forming my own opinion, therefore having one grumpy old man tell me what I should think about a movie or what have you doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.

That said, it's his opinion, and he has every right to express it. No amount of evidence to the contrary will change his opinion. I'd say just write him off as someone who doesn't like games, and be done with it.

meh im content to play my games as they are, GAMES. Y would i care about an old and aging movie critic have to say about it?

Everyone has their own definition of "art".

And so does Roger Ebert.

Oh noes an eliteist says games arnt art!

Also isnt he a film critic or something? Its like me commenting on films, wrong area of expertise.

Why did you have to include that song as well? it hurts my ears...

I agree with him that few or in fact no games qualify as art currently. Those few that actively try to market themselves as art do so by being obscure and pretentious. Buuuuut his argument is bullshit. He states that since you can 'win' a game it will never be art, his detractors then post a slew of games you cannot "win" (missing a whole shitload of early games that had no 'win' conditions such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pacman etc. Actually I take my earlier statement back, if any game qualifies as art it's space invaders) at which point he pulls out some pedantic ass argument that a game without win conditions isn't a game. Right.

Look at Portal. It has a supreme story that beats most movie plots and there are no points. It is a perfect example of games as an art.

Why do people give two piss about games being called art? It's pointless.
I wrote a editorial about games being called art on a video game website I write for and I think this whole art thing is stupid.
I just want fun games, I don't care if they are art or not.

"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?"
Why should I care about a guy who isn't involved in the videogame industry and doesn't play videogames. I mean common he mentions that videogames are about getting points? Really?! High scores have been dead for quite some time, I'm sorry but if your definition of a videogame comes back from you seeing a pinball machine or frogger you need to stop right there and realize that you are no expert on the subject. It would be like me saying that I don't like movies because the black and white bothers me and I wish we could hear the actors voices instead of reading the text on the screen.

So by his definition, is Dwarf Fortress not a game?

Tom's right, there are plenty of indie games that are scattered around the Internet that could be considered art like Don't Look Back. But it's all subjective I guess.

I stopped listening to Ebert long ago, as I swiftly realized he and I disagree on many many things when it comes to movie quality, so to see him effectively take a swing at them with the artistic ban-hammer comes as no surprise. Personally I think the choice to use that Waco game as an example was a poor decision.

I find the artistic quality in video games based upon how well they are directed in the story, art, and cinematography departments. The mechanics of a game are a very hard stretch to call artistic. I put games on par artistically with movies, it is a time based media that relies on dynamic pictures, good storytelling, and a director that knows what he's doing. I believe if Ebert could focus his movie biased to view video games in the same way he views movies then he would begin to understand where we gamers come from on our opinions.

I do agree with him on the idea that none of us today will live to see video games as an accepted medium of art, but that's where our agreement ends.

THat's his opinion. A very wrong opinion, but still an opinion.

Who is this Ebert guy anyways, And why should i care what he thinks? Isnt he the guy that gives movies 2 thumbs up with his friend roeper? I dont even like movies, i cant stand to sit around and just watch unless I'm laughing.

If Wikipedia is right, "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions". I'm going to go with the website that has helped me for years, not some "famous" man i never heard of outside of movie commercials for his thumbs.

Rednog:
"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?"
Why should I care about a guy who isn't involved in the videogame industry and doesn't play videogames. I mean common he mentions that videogames are about getting points? Really?! High scores have been dead for quite some time, I'm sorry but if your definition of a videogame comes back from you seeing a pinball machine or frogger you need to stop right there and realize that you are no expert on the subject. It would be like me saying that I don't like movies because the black and white bothers me and I wish we could hear the actors voices instead of reading the text on the screen.

What are talking about? High scores are still being used, they're not dead at all.
Besides, Erbert has become jaded towards mainstream movies, I don't care much for games being called art I think it's stupid.

Wow. I seriously can't believe you were evil enough to embed that video. That crosses the line from 'rickroll funny' and goes straight into 'AIDS jokes' funny. Shame on you, Mr. Goldman. Shame.

Also, Ebert is provably wrong and a bigot, as I expressed earlier.

While Ebert comes across as a pretentious twat, he has a point, I really dont care if games are art or not, they are still fun.

Oh Fuck, here we go again...
"Games can never be art" By Roger Ebert.
Quick Pop question: What is art?!
Give me the definition of the word art.
If you look at the dictionary it'll say:"a medium that arranges elements in a way that effects the senses or emotions." So by that definition almost everything, if not everything, is art to somebody.
Films started out as just mindless playthings but have evolved and matured into something great and meaningful. And if you look closely you'll see that games are slowly evolving into something meaningful too.
I don't know why everyone is trying to prove him wrong. What exactly makes him qualified to state that games aren't art?
Does he have 13 years of gaming under his belt like myself?
Or all of you for that matter?

Does anyone have this guys email address? I've always hated this guy but now he's really ticked me off.

Isn't a movie just a visual representation of a story found in novels, usually?

How does adding interactivity diminish that idea? Looking at something like Super Mario Galaxy, and the work-of-art that is its crafting shows the expresses the ideas of many incredibly creative people, and that's completely discounting the gorgeous beauty in its visuals.

Then there's the obvious Shadow of the Colossus, and I'd even mention God of War for its ability to create an epic hero. There's so many aspects of games that trying to generalize them is idiotic. Madden might not be Shakespeare, but I'll defend (almost) anything by Shigeru Miyamoto or Tim Schafer or Hideo Kojima. To say they aren't creating art is just closed-minded and does not represent the bigger picture.

"One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game ... It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

Redefining the parameters of an argument to suite your own bias, eh?

Decoy Doctorpus:
He states that since you can 'win' a game it will never be art, his detractors then post a slew of games you cannot "win" (missing a whole shitload of early games that had no 'win' conditions such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pacman etc. Actually I take my earlier statement back, if any game qualifies as art it's space invaders) at which point he pulls out some pedantic ass argument that a game without win conditions isn't a game.

I think he mistakes 'win' for 'action -> reward'. In essence, he is claiming that games can't be art unless the player's choices have no consequences - that the Player Character has no motivation to accomplish anything; that nothing is "achieved" by the events in the game. So his idea of a game that could legitimately be called "art" would be a gormless, non-interactive world populated by glassy-eyed, empty shells who have no conflict in their lives and whose actions are never responded to (and definitely not rewarded). Because a plot that reaches a conclusion, interactivity, and conflict-rich setting would ruin a game's artistic merits in his opinion. And we can't have that, can we?

SMOKEMNHALO2001:

Rednog:
"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?"
Why should I care about a guy who isn't involved in the videogame industry and doesn't play videogames. I mean common he mentions that videogames are about getting points? Really?! High scores have been dead for quite some time, I'm sorry but if your definition of a videogame comes back from you seeing a pinball machine or frogger you need to stop right there and realize that you are no expert on the subject. It would be like me saying that I don't like movies because the black and white bothers me and I wish we could hear the actors voices instead of reading the text on the screen.

What are talking about? High scores are still being used, they're not dead at all.
Besides, Erbert has become jaded towards mainstream movies, I don't care much for games being called art I think it's stupid.

In your average single player game (which is really what could be considered "art") there rarely are high scores. Sure they exist in multiplayer and such but when you're arguing things like Heavy Rain they don't have a scoring system. Score systems really are an old system for games where you run around and get bs points for collecting items and such.

I sappose anything can become art, its just a matter of people excepting it as art or at least something fancy. There are people who a willing to except games as art. I'd rather believe game are art than that laymens prize art gallery thing.

Although I have great respect toward Roger Ebert as a movie critic, he has absolutely no support on which to stand on on that subject. That's only his view, nothing else.

Let the games's audience pass judgment on games, not movie critics. Those self-appointed defenders of the "arts" have no knowledge whatsoever of games, its audience and the story-telling of that media. They can argument until the end of time, it doesn't make them expert in games and its multiple incarnations.

Personally, some paintings, a couple of Picasso come to mind, don't qualify as art, but I'm no expert on painting. So, in the end, it all comes down to the eye of the beholder, or the consumer of said media.

Mr Ebert, stick to movies. We, gamers, will decide which game qualifies as art.

Personally in my opinion I've thought that since movies aren't interactive they are a more primitive and inferior form of art when compared to videogames. Since you can never become immersed in a film the same way you can be immersed in a game, videogames are clearly the superior art form.

Well, I think all his credibility when out the window when he suggested that a videogame without "points" is not a videogame, but a representation of another medium. I honestly don't think he's touched a game since the 1990s.

I think he just likes the attention.

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