Sessler's Soapbox: Adam vs. Ebert - Games as Art

Posted: April 20, 2010
Sessler's Soapbox: Adam vs. Ebert - Games as Art
Adam discusses Roger Ebert's article about how video games can never be art, and why he thinks the argument is somewhat pointless.

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  • johnny_k

    Maybe we are all putting the concept of "art" on some supreme higher-thinking pedestal though! I've played video games that have given me chills, made me laugh, and even inspired me to truly rethink my preconceived notions of what life can be about. While this certainly doesn't apply to most of the video games I've played and still enjoyed, the ones that convey a narrative that really speaks to all of us can evoke powerful emotions from those experiencing them. Is that not art?

    As in all other mediums, there will always be a boundary between songs and stories that entertain us, and those that touch us deeply.

    Posted: April 24, 2010 11:15 AM
  • bigjaywara

    Everything in existence can be interpreted as art. o.O

    Posted: April 23, 2010 11:09 PM
  • HummingBee

    Blah blah blah aside, art doesn't have to be static and there is no true "static" element to art. Are the original Disney movies not works of art? All video games are are interactive animations, and each frame of each game has been drawn/painted by *someone*.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 10:02 PM
  • Gargamel360

    To say something is "not art" is a near-oxymoron. I'm sure, though, that an old vet like Ebert knows how to make a statement that pleases his fans and inflames his enemies. How many followed a link from this site to Eberts article, I wonder?

    Posted: April 23, 2010 9:10 PM
  • roddy72

    *hugged myself*

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:34 PM
  • masterw3

    another question would be: "Are MOVIES art?".
    Art, is something created to instill an expression to the world.
    Not everyone percieves the same piece of art the same way, making each person's view of a piece of art differently.
    In effect, each person's own experiences, preferences, decisions and circumstance, influences how you percieve the world and art (or anything for that matter). Art is not "Static", for "static" paintings, different lighting, or times of day/season can change the look and feel of a painting. the same for sculpture, which is art. Then you get to animated statues, sculptures that move. Artists have created sculptures to move an arm, turn a head, etc. Art usually tries to inflict emotion, or reaction from the veiwer. Take the classical periods, the depictions of pain, fire, brimstone and horror used to scare people against sinning. Other's show beauty, sirenity and pleasures to instil peace and awe. is Architecture art? how about the new tower that changes shape by rotating floors, it's architecture, but is it not still art then? Automobiles are moving mechanical scupltures. A movie is a series of still images, run one after the other to instill movement and change in the surface image, is it not art? Interactive movies, where it stops and you choose what to do next, and the movie takes a different chain of events, is that still not art, if a movie were? Books are considered literature, but is that not a form of art with words as a medium, like pencil, paint, clay, thread, ice, steel or stone? Is a stereo image, like you see with the 3D holographic look DVD Covers and CD Cases, still considered art, after introducing the second eye's view, still art?
    So is a video game, a series of images and audio, nowadays BOTH in stereo or full surround, an interactive worl of art? Built to instill reactions and emotions in us, allowing us to interact with it, changing it, manipulating it, but still generally follows a storyline like a movie, set to inflict upon us choices and emotion, be it joy or sorrow, hate or love.
    I argue that all of these things, and many more, are ALL art, born of the imagination, inspiration, to outbuild and out paint those around you (be better than the Jones next door). An Artist drew it, and many artists teamed together to build it. "But not everyone is an artist, he just bags groceries, or pulls a lever on that machine all day", you say?... You've never watched ME bag groceries when i was in highschool, that was "art". By this, you can make an artform from most anything. Just by putting your own "flair" on the various things you do, you have your own personal artform of actions and reactions, also like many martial art masters, is that too, not art?
    At last i have convinced myself, that ALL of these things are a form of ART.
    They were created by an artist,
    Born from one's imagination,
    Into this physical world in the form of the medium from which it was devined,
    And are therefore, ART.
    Everyone has their own opinion, and to it everyone is granted the right to interperate the word around them in their own way, and express themselves in their own way. The things you do, the things you make happens, the thing you create of your own hand and imagination, are Artwork. Some are just better at it, some just express themselves more, houses vs skyscrapers. You are an artist in your own way, and create art of your own kind. Just go do it, do what you do best, and create your own "art".
    Thank you for your time, hope i instilled thought, MasterW3.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 6:27 PM
  • faction96

    I understand what you are saying about art being static. However, isnt art more defined by aura than it is by wether or not it is static. Art carries arua, thats what gives a peice of art its weight or no wheght at all. that whieght that aura is what makes art a peice of art for that person and not a peice of art to another. To some the Mona Lisa is a peice of art to others its a ugly picture of an ugly woman. To some pictures of the flag being raised at ground zero by fire fighters is a peice of art while other see it only as a picture of an event. The reason people have these difference of opions is the arua that those images carry in there own minds. For Ebert movies carry an arua, so for him it is easy to consider movies an art form. While I get that same sense of arua from playnig mass effect 2, all the elements of the game work like a symphony creating what feels to me like a piece of art. While i feel like my defintion of art is some what broad it seems to make more sense to me personally then yours does Adam.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 5:32 PM
  • jamtrup

    i think its in the eye of the beholder, video games may not fit the traditional mold of what is considered art but aren't most forms of entertainment some form of art as well? just look at all the crap big studios from hollywierd keep shoveling out and then theres rap music and how about abstract painting just throughing paint on a canvis? pottery, is that art or just something you need to put your coffee and cigerettes in. the creaters of these video games are some of the most imaganitive creative and inteligient peaple around(in my opinion) and isn't that some of the qualities used to describe your tradition artist?

    Posted: April 23, 2010 3:13 PM
  • Paragon V

    My two cents. First, love Roger Ebert, but he's wrong. Can videogames be art. Yes. I think the trouble with this debate begins with the notion of "something as an art form". For example: cinema (or painting, or sculpture) is an art form. Of course we know what this means. But the truth is that this is an abstract concept, because maybe only a minority of the films produced in the world are worthy to be called objects of art. So really we should understand that what these are (movies, paintings, etc) are vehicles for human expression, that have the potential to transcend their medium and become very powerful transforming experiences... Michelangelo's paintings in the sistine chappel are are not because they are paintings on the ceiling of a church, but because they transcend into the world of ideas, they express the frailties of human nature and our relation with the divine. And in becoming this experience, it becomes art. So really something isn't are just because it's a painting or a sculpture. Again, the Mona Lisa isn't art because it's a painting, but because it expresses the complexities of human expression and female beauty... We don't really know how to explain it but we recognize it, because once we see it we will never forget it. It transforms who we are, our personal references, that upon which we build the future of our experience as human beings.
    So having said that, can video games be art. Again, yes. The problem is, what do we define under the umbrella of "video games". Tetris is a game. Heavy Rain is a game. But are they even the same thing? Truth is the diversity of what falls under the category of gaming is much wider than that which we define as films - Rambo 3 and Tarkovski's Stalker are both films, they are constructions built on structure and sequence. And yet, concerning the idea of art, we could easily disregard the first and consider the second.
    Now, although we live in a wonderful age for gaming, it's true that the "Godfather" of videogames has not been made yet. We still can't pick one game and say that it's a perfect construction, a moving experience that transcends into an object of art. But still, in many current games, you find these moments that show a glimpse of what games may one day bring. I could stay here forever quoting examples, but I'll leave you with just one. Somewhere along Assassin's Creed 2 you find yourself walking around the streets of Venice during the Carnival, the night sets in, and you wonder through performing artists, vendors, people walking and talking... And there you are, not even rushing for the next "mission", just strolling the streets of late 1400's Venice, and you wonder about that time and how it might have been something similar to this, and really for a moment that game transcends into a fabulous experience...
    So yes, maybe games are still a bit sketchy, too digitally clean, to mechanical in structure, but already there is incredible amazement to be found, either it be walking in the streets of Liberty City at sunset, desperatly chasing a lost son inside a mall, or crawling outside a fallen helicopter caught in a nuclear blast...
    One day a videogame will come that will transcend it's inner nature of commercial entertainment (very much like cinema) and will provide a powerful moving experience, and we will gladly call it an object of art. Until that game comes, I'll be enjoying the journey already provided by games as objects that are entertaining, educational and emotional at the same time.
    If you read this to the end, thank you and sorry for any mistakes, as english is not my first language.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 2:17 PM
  • theangrygimp

    What is considered as art is subjective to the individual judging. I know when I went to art school, they told me that comic book images and fantasy style images were not actually art, cause it wouldn't be hung in a museum, and I thought at the time, they just had a stick up there butts. Now I realize that people from different cultures consider different things to be artistry. Personally, I think anything created of passion and emotion that speaks to another person on a emotional level to be artistic, and some videogames to fit that description exactly. Perhaps not all games are art, but some are certainly very much so. I think that people often get too upset when other people have a difference of opinion, and what is truly art, is always going to be subject to opinion. Some things don't move one person as much as the next, and they don't have to, so long as it moves you. If food can be art, or movies can be art, or music can be art, then certainly any creation of passion can be art in some sense. I'm sure there are movies that Ebert considers as a work of art that many other critics wouldn't. Its just too bad he acts like only his opinion is the right one.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 1:45 PM
  • StayPuft

    Art = the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. Saying that games don't fall into that category is just as crazy as saying films or theatre don't.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 11:36 AM
  • Andrighi

    Can video games be art... Sure! Does developers want that? Yeah! Does publishers want that? No! Video games are products meant to be sold. Just like Tv shows, movies and music.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:55 AM
  • Jihad_Joe

    I totally didn't pay attention to this soapbox whatsoever, because I was so frustrated watching the person play Braid. Man, learn how to play a game!

    Ok, now to rewatch.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:46 AM
  • lowkevmic

    Well before people get all worked up over Ebert's opinion on video games, and wether or not it's art, first lets ask what is art?? Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. So are video games considered to be a product?? Yes. Do video game designers, artists, writers, and developers deliberately arrange elements?? Yes. Do video games have the ability to affect the senses and emotions?? Yes!!

    So there you have it, video games are art. If you just find the definition and ask do video games relate to the definition of art?? Without question the answer is yes. But in order to come to that conclusion you have to be a gamer, Roger Ebert is not a gamer, so he wouldn't know.

    But on the flipside, I do understand why people like Ebert would feel that way. They have not yet to realize that art, a lot like technology, is forever evolving. It's no longer just pictures and sculptures you'll find in museums, or old classical music. But it can be found in modern music, movies, comic books, and of course video games. We call it media according to today's standards. But in essence it is art!! All of these forms of "media" provoke thoughts and opinions like art. It affects our senses and emotions like art. It's also is a direct look into the times and what's going on in our present day, just like art!!

    So to say video games are not art, is making it know that you are not the big of a fan of art to even realize it!!

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:41 AM
  • Phoenicks

    I'm going to put this out there. I won't respond to anyone, so you're just going to have to live with my statement:

    Until video games can be designed completely devoid of "rule", they will continue to exist as "game" and never as "art". The important thing about "art" is that it defies rules. There are no rules in how "art" is constructed, be it in the media or the tools with which it is created. Computers, the very things used to construct games, are confined to programming within rules. Give me a game that has no rules, and you'll have something that can approach "art". You can create "art" within a game, but that will never make the video game, as a package, "art".

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:21 AM
  • liarsthieves

    I though he stroked out his brain not work so well me thinks> And who watch tv anymore games are art art is games TV dead expect g4 but we all watch on the net no tv 4 me.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:15 AM
  • HereticBD

    Here's a thought. Why does anyone care what "film critic" Roger Ebert thinks about videogames? The man is in his 70's, and has probably played all of two videogames in his life, if that. Why does it bother people so much that he doesn't get it? It'd be one thing, if Ebert was known to be a gamer, but he's not. He has no education on the topic at hand, and people treat his word on the matter like the be all, end all, of opinions. It makes no sense why anyone would even read his thoughts on videogames. Ebert has no clue whatsoever on the subject.

    Gordon Ramsey may as well have been the guy to say videogames aren't art, or Dana White, or Vince McMahon. It doesn't matter, because it's not exactly an industry they have great knowledge of. If we all just stopped paying attention, the videogame troll known as Roger Ebert, will go away.

    Posted: April 23, 2010 8:02 AM
  • Dr_Obey

    I don't think gamers need to calm down, Cracked.com has a great ed about this. The closing of it is a response to Ebert and others claim that gamer's always freak out when people say what they experience isn't art and I quote:

    "Ebert himself wonders: 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 .Why aren t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? And he s already answered his own question: do we as their consumers become more or less complex, thoughtful, insightful, witty, empathetic, intelligent, philosophical (and so on) by experiencing them? Anybody who s ever felt even an inkling of something like that from a game is going to be understandably concerned when you insist that they re lying."

    Posted: April 23, 2010 6:50 AM
  • Knyght

    Robert Ebert says what he says just to be controversial and to get attention. According to the dictionary the definition of art is "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. "

    To me that sounds like video games falls perfectly in that category. Anyone saying otherwise is just being ignorant. Painting, sculptures, movies, video games, etc. are all forms of art.

    All in all though, I think this is a stupid argument, because who really cares? Art or not, we play games for fun and entertainment. Does this controversy really matter? Come on now...

    Posted: April 23, 2010 2:39 AM
  • kujel

    Adam you make a really great point about video games being validated by their success but part of the
    reason we gamers want games to be accepted as art is not only would it guarantee their protection under freedom of speech but it would also get the "old guard" to quit blaming/bashing the medium we and you love so much.

    Posted: April 22, 2010 11:39 PM