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Video Games Can Never Be Art

posted by Rather Dashing on - last edited - Viewed by 5.2K users
A lot of websites in the gaming sphere have been discussing Roger Ebert's claim that Video Games Can Never Be Art, generally without reading the post or even really thinking about the point. A lot of gamers strive for games to be given the "Art" label to give the industry a sense of legitimacy, importance, and purpose, and react powerfully and negatively to the assertion that games can be anything else.

I agree with Roger Ebert, for the most part. Now, considering many people may just read the TITLE of his blog post and go into a rant, I'll at least try and get someone to read some of it by quoting a relevant section here:
Roger Ebert" said:
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 a 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.
Note games, especially those often considered "Art". Consider Ebert's role in the film industry. He is a critic. A film critic's job is to take in everything in a scene, understand the message shown, to gauge the value of something with an understanding of its basic mechanical workings. Think of the mechanical workings of a game, stripped down to the barest elements to keep its definition.

Okami is pretty. But at the very base level, Okami is a set of rules and objectives. It has nice graphics, and those might be considered "art". A game with an amazing story is still that: a game with an amazing story. The mechanical workings of the game are still a set of rules and objectives that should be met. If you then go ahead and claim that no it's not, that's covered above. Because those aren't "games" anymore, they're interactive art pieces.

Think of adventure games. Now, many people may argue that these are art pieces. After all, they're heavily story-focused, generally rely heavily on writing, and until recently a lot of them even used hand-painted backdrops. But then you go into what an adventure game IS? It is a series of puzzles that must be solved to win. These are puzzles that are heavily supplemented by writing, graphic design, and other artistic elements, but however thickly these things are draped over the core mechanics, the point remains that the mechanical workings of a game are sets of objectives and rules that should be completed and followed. A game is meant to be won, or possibly lost.

I am arguing that video games as we know them are not art, though various aspects of them can be considered art. You may say that the graphic design of a board game, the picture made by a jigsaw puzzle, or painted game pieces are "art", but would the actual puzzle be art? Would the actual board game be art? No, they're games, supplemented by artistic elements.

There is only one game I know of that even begin to consider "art", and that is Lose/Lose. Is it a GOOD game, is it GOOD art? I don't know. But its very mechanical workings are set to make you reconsider what you value, and whether or not that message happens to be conveyed well or not, the point is that it is a game by definition, and I think it's likely art by definition.

tl;dr version: I hate video games and the entire gaming industry. This isn't art, these "video games" are GARBAGE. Also, I slept with your mother. By the way, she should know that she should get herself checked.
235 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • I don't remember this one. What red dot went with it?
  • Rather Dashing;295735 said:
    image
    That's bullshit. Mona Lisa taken out of the display case is still considered art.
  • avistew;295739 said:
    I don't remember this one. What red dot went with it?
    1. HOW DID I NOT NOTICE A GIANT RED BUTTON ALL THIS TIME?!
    2. It didn't have a red dot.
    Secret Fawful;295740 said:
    That's bullshit. Mona Lisa taken out of the display case is still considered art.
    Haha. You missed the joke. Look up "Fountain" and "Readymades".
  • Rather Dashing;295742 said:
    1. HOW DID I NOT NOTICE A GIANT RED BUTTON ALL THIS TIME?!
    2. It didn't have a red dot.
    I sense someone going back to check the second punchline of many strips :p
    Say, did you also never notice XKCD had alt-text? ;)
  • Rather Dashing;295742 said:


    Haha. You missed the joke. Look up "Fountain" and "Readymades".
    Damn. For being a traditional artist I know too little about traditional art.
  • Discussions about what art is and what art is not are always rather pointless. When it all boils down to it we cannot judge what art is or is not. If the creator says that his work is art, then it is art. If other people find something to be art then it's also art. There is no objective definition of art and trying to create one is silly.

    One of the good examples of this is andy warhols art, nowadays I doubt there are many who would argue that he was infact an artist and did art. Enjoy the first six minutes of the movie "Empire State Building":
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7idi_5IaMrk it conintues for an other 8 or was it 11 hours with the most exciting thing being a bird.
  • Secret Fawful;295740 said:
    That's bullshit. Mona Lisa taken out of the display case is still considered art.

    that kind of art is called "found art" using things not normally considered art in art.... the Mona Lisa is a portrait... and is different.
  • I tend to disagree, but I can understand where he comes from. Whatever art is defined as is subject to the eye of the beholder. I think that an art is something that can be created, but not mastered. Admired, but never fully understood except by the creator, and not even then sometimes. Has a game with a truley great storyline come along? No. The industry is currently under a stronger pressure than that of other artforms: industry and monopoly. Once we can get over the coporate needs of gaming and the and the complete desire to appeal to the majority. Art can't be defined as certain sections of media and not others, it depends greatly on example. Some games I know of are completly deserving of the title of "Art," while others are not.

    By the way, since when does art need a story? Paintings, pieces of music, and foods never have stories and are still consittered art. Film isn't an art, it is the combination of the arts of storytelling, visuals, communication, rhetoric, and music to name a few. If films meets the qualifications for being an art, then gaming certainly does as well.

    If gaming trully isn't an art, then film isn't, and neither is the theater. Combining arts to make a truley magnificent product has been considered arts for a long time.

    The only difference gaming makes that may break he pattern is the introduction of the art of immersion, but isn't that what all other art continually tries to acomplish anyway? To see another's point of veiw is the act that directers and authors have been tring to make people do for years, now that it is done so simply, it creates the illusion that the art of immersion no longer matters. This is what people are picking up on from traditionalists who do not fully appreciate what gaming has done for the artisan community.
  • Strong Max;297581 said:

    By the way, since when does art need a story? Paintings, pieces of music, and foods never have stories and are still consittered art. Film isn't an art, it is the combination of the arts of storytelling, visuals, communication, rhetoric, and music to name a few. If films meets the qualifications for being an art, then gaming certainly does as well.

    If gaming trully isn't an art, then film isn't, and neither is the theater. Combining arts to make a truley magnificent product has been considered arts for a long time.

    I've tried a few times to make that very point and failed miserably at expressing it in a slightly coherent way.
    So thank you for bringin it up :p
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