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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  • spiralking04

    Alot of god points were made in this Soapbox. Well said Adam.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 5:49 PM
  • greattom12

    Heres my interperetation, who gives a flying ballsack if a game is art. If its good then people play it, no questions asked. Noone cares if it is art or not

    Posted: April 21, 2010 5:46 PM
  • ToMuchNeverEnuf

    Ok well, I know Adam is VERY true with his statement about gamers being insecure about being thought of as immature and their entertainment of choice being thought of as stupid and pointless. However I do need to put in my two cents and reiterate what most people have already said in a slightly different way.

    First, I have to agree that his ability to completely denounce the impact and ability of an entire form of entertainment that he has never experienced is staggering, disturbing, and completely judgmental. Some of the phrases that he uses just shows his insecurity. For example:
    "She also admires a story told between the games(Braids) levels, which exhibits prose on the level of a wordy fortune cookie"
    He is basing his entire opinion on one screen shot of a game. IMHO braid is one of the few points where the line that makes games art is drawn by the heightened level of investment and emotional ties that are made by the players work and effort put forth to experience the story.


    The end of Braid was one that was incredibly impacting for me. The struggle that I spent the entire time, rushing, hurrying, and fight to escape the ever closing wall of fire to try and save the girl that I love from certain doom. When I finished that race I felt so relived and excited because *I* did it. Her words pushing me forward were truly moving. Then, when i was forced to rewind through that entire event I had an emotional catharsis that would rival if not surpass any movie, music, prose, or sculpture. It was so hard to watch as the same words that were pushing me forward now make me seem like a demon, a villain, and the enemy. This would have been interesting in a movie but the fact that I had to hold the rewind button on my controller, I had to be the one making my character appear evil was more than any movie could have done.


    This is similar to my reaction when I read "Nothing she shows from this game seemed of more than decorative interest on the level of a greeting card." Again, this is a point where the interaction, and the players control effects the experience. Looking at that scene, yes it looks like a very nice windows desktop. It is the act of controlling the wind, and controlling the petal to experience this vast and beautiful world that makes the game more than just a greeting card, and turns it into an art form.

    Secondly, his comparison of video games and sports as similar mediums which nullifies both of their positions as arts is completely unfounded. The same way that going into a movie knowing the ending or watching a chess game between an expert and novice, knowing what will happen makes the artistic impact so much less even to the point of removing the idea of art. Now i understand that when you watch two professional football teams play, you do not know the outcome, but then again the difference between that game, and say Fallout 3 is that I am not controlling the quarterback. In fallout I am controlling my character. This is one of two distinctions between sports and video games. Now, if I am playing the game that is different. However, it is my second point which separates them further. As previously mentioned it is not simply the act of winning that is important. In football, in chess, and in Maj Jong you have a goal and the only point in playing is to win. In Mass effect, or even going back to something like Mario the point is not to win the game, the point is to find out about and finish the story. If its as simplistic as saving the princess or as complex as supporting(or destroying) the balance of international law and legislation, the important part of a game is the story. It is the balance of these two pieces of the video game that make them (the good ones at least) cross over into the realm of art and away from the realm of sports.

    I know that their is now way to change his opinion or the opinion of anyone else who refuse to see video games as anything more than childish play things (I'm still working on my g/f). All that I ask is for people to make EDUCATED opinions. Sit down and play a video game, and a good one. If I had never seen a movie in my life and someone wanted to prove to me that movies are art, I could not watch Gili and use that as my basis that movies are not art. I also need to realize that some people just will not like the medium which is perfectly acceptable. If a person would sit down and play (or even at least watch) a game to experience it and seem some of the hard work, creativity, effort, and beauty that come from it, I would not care if they hold the opinion that it is not art, they have at least given the medium enough respect to afford it the time to experience it and not judge it based on mass media and preconceived notions.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 5:05 PM
  • mronoc89

    I think today's Penny Arcade really got to the heart of the issue: He's old and just doesn't get it.
    What's more, he doesn't seem to understand that most arguments against him aren't so much clamoring for his acceptance as they are bemoaning his ignorance.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 3:34 PM
  • gaddydaddy

    The fact is that for every Braid there is a Sexy Beach 12. Saying all games are art is like saying every toilet that has a signature is art. It is subjective to the viewer but at the same time if it isn't inspiring then it probably isn't art. I tend to view games more as an medium of entertainment. Art isn't very entertaining, but it can be beautiful (just like video games).

    Posted: April 21, 2010 3:14 PM
  • brotherfade

    Karma is a bitch, Ebert. Remember what you and Siskel said about the first Turtles movie? You think there is any correlation between you mouth breathers and what horrible things happened to you two?

    Honestly, critics are the worst things to happen to any genre. Movies, art, or gaming. Leave it be.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 3:14 PM
  • UGoBooMBooM

    This makes me very sad. The fact that anyone thinks they can define what I should and should not consider to be art is disturbing.

    No, I do not need to validate video games by calling them "art", but in the same vein, you do not need to validate "art" by denying video games that title.

    If a video game touches me emotionally, on a deeper level than any other classic art form, then in my mind, it is undeniably art. And yes, this has happened.

    What video games really have going for them to make them art, is the immersion you get, along with the amount of time given to tell a truly deep and well developed story. I'd like to see Roger Ebert tell David Cage that video games can't be art. I think we'd see a Frenchman kick some ass.

    You cannot and will not tell me what I should consider to be art. Doing so is obnoxiously elitist. You're not nearly as intelligent as you think you are if these are the narrow minded ideas and philosophies you have running through your head.

    This wasn't really directed at Adam. It was more so to Roger Ebert. But the fact that Adam even remotely considers Ebert's ideas as valid, makes me shudder. He should know better.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 1:58 PM
  • learnedfist

    I think most people would agree that a painting of a moonlit harbor, light glistening on the sea, is art. It may be "good" art or "bad" art based on perceptions of the viewer, but most would not try to disqualify it as a legitimate means of artistic expression. The next time you are in Liberty City, take a look at the boats floating in the harbor and the waves so carefully rendered. If a static image is art, why not a dynamic one?

    Posted: April 21, 2010 1:38 PM
  • kade_zero

    Two points:
    1. The idea that art must be static is ridiculous
    2: Maybe you should ask the people who make the games if they think it's art or not.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 1:12 PM
  • Tsuiyo

    How many forms of art can combine beautiful and epic music like in Flower or Final Fantasy XIII, excellent design like in Brutal Legend or Uncharted 2, tell a story like Heavy Rain or Ratchet and Clank 3 and then go the extra mile and let the viewer interact in the world? How many? Tell me because I want to know!

    Posted: April 21, 2010 1:03 PM
  • rGrayMiller

    Re: the actual soapbox (does anybody even watch it before commenting?): great commentary, as close to a final word as there ever could be. Art is subjective, and if games don't fit that definition then oh well, there's still a greatness about them that can't be denied. Ebert hasn't played enough of them, and certainly not enough to defend his stance that it would detract from time he could be spending reading/watching a "classic" piece of traditional artwork.

    He wants somebody to show him an example of a game that can stand up to his classics? How can anyone "show" him a game? Interactivity would cease (or never begin) on his part, and the game would not exist. He will only ever understand if he himself plays through a comparable gaming masterpiece, and until then he's at a disadvantage.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 12:58 PM
  • Tsuiyo

    I actually did a paper in school about video games as an art. I touched on the programming, design, music, storytelling and every other aspect that goes into creating a video game.

    I spent a good six months writing the thing. I got an A, by the way.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 12:51 PM
  • Snippyjk13

    I think video games are here for us so we can have fun. I don`t care if people don`t like them or want to fight over if its an art form. I`m here to have fun an enjoy them. when your online you see so many people having fun and enjoying that experience that we all love.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 12:09 PM
  • InHumanMarine

    As Southpark says, Ebert should lay off the fatty foods. Ebert sucks.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 11:40 AM
  • Randeh

    I just don't know how Roger-freaking-Ebert was nominated as our surly bridge troll. Who tasked him with validating our medium or barring video games' passage into a category that the majority of the industry never really cared about to begin with?

    I don't really want to hear CliffyB's musings on the film industry's artistic value; I want him to make Gears of War 3. Likewise, I don't want to hear a movie critic talk about "games" when I've been playing them for about two decades and I STILL can't concretely define what a game is or is not - look at Facebook and augmented reality.

    He just comes off like those old fogies who used to bemoan how low and unworthy the "talkies" were - as a pompous old toolbag.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 11:25 AM
  • Bullet747

    Art is in the self expression of the Artist. There is no limit to what art can be. New ways of expressing artistry are still being discovered to this day.

    Why doesn't someone ask Team Ico if they think their games are art?

    Posted: April 21, 2010 10:53 AM
  • Bullet747

    I think people are trying too hard to define what art is. It's not hard at all and it's very very simple.

    Art is in the self expression of the artist.

    There are no real limits to what art can be. All the time new platforms or "canvas" for art are discovered.

    And why doesn't somebody just ask Team Ico or another developer if they see there own games as art?

    Posted: April 21, 2010 10:50 AM
  • jeliam

    Video games are just interactive art. I would say games like Uncharted 1 and 2 are interactive art but i would say WOW isn't a interactive art.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 10:22 AM
  • cheesypoofs

    good soapbox, well done Adam!

    Posted: April 21, 2010 10:15 AM
  • saulpimpson

    More than anything else I am bothered that someone who appraises the value of certain Art works is so closed minded to think that there exists a medium (within which it takes some level of artistry to create) that can NEVER be art (at least not in our lifetime).

    I suspect that he either knows he is wrong or knows his reasoning is flawed.

    Posted: April 21, 2010 10:09 AM