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.

Comments are Closed

  • quicksand

    I suppose art is simply a relative concept. I don't think screamo music is art, but that doesn't mean it isn't.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:54 PM
  • Memu

    The thing to ask is why does this issue matter so much to Ebert? If it didn't matter to him, why bother to bring it up in the first place? Could it be that Ebert may be feeling threatened that his precious movies (which he devoted his entire life to) may be losing in cultural popularity to video games as he approaches his death bed? Does he need to emphasize for future generations that games are in some way less legitimate than movies before his voice is forever silenced? He may not have a deliberate agenda, only his subconscious mind may be at work in pushing this issue. But there has to be some reason for it.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:48 PM
  • lordfoulsbane2

    Everyone seems to take it for granted that art is the zenith of human endeavor. Maybe video games are BETTER than art. It seems to me they do so much more than simple art alone. For anyone who has read The Art Instinct you know that this author's definition of art was quite simple: art is whatever you say is art. That being the case, I say video games are art--and much, much more.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:47 PM
  • Ribbo

    This guys talks so much but says so little.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:41 PM
  • iMonk

    Curious that we often need to try to define art.

    The fact the a form of medium is excluded from what is predetermined as art qualifies that as an art form. Should it matter that one person has an opinion about what they feels is art and what they feel is not? I think that as been said in the past we are entering into a "UA era" of IPs which is happening with companies such as Respawn Media moving forward to owning there own property. Added to that the push of independent of recent days: ie Winterbottom.

    Perhaps we should soon see these types of expressions of "artistry" becoming the art form that will be soon be easily recognized and the oppositions of those people such as Roger Ebert will be seen as reactionary.

    What is art? I think It takes more than the word of one or even 100 people to define, these things are more often judged via history, and not via opinion, or prediction.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:41 PM
  • godless15

    Hey Sess,
    I'm loving all the commentary, while I have my own views of Video Games as Art (some can be, some aren't, like with movies) I hope you get a chance to read this article from the London Review of Books. It takes a fairly neutral stance, but you get to see things in an interesting way. He also brings up a better selection of games as examples than the girl that Ebert was countering.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01 /john-lanchester/is-it-art

    Keep up the good work

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:39 PM
  • codename76

    I would rather rely on my movie reviews from, "the filthy critic" vs Ebert.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:39 PM
  • trailblazer

    Games should be considered art because they represent the human expression. I disagree with Adam in the fact that games do not need to be deemed as art because people still see games as a toy meant for a child. Games need this validation in if they ever want to transcend the medium they were created in.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:34 PM
  • Aldowyn

    Much of what I'm saying has probably been said already, can't be bothered. read the dozens of posts and growing faster than I can read anyway, but here's my opinion.

    Video games CAN be art, but most are not. They form a bridge between games, strictly for entertainment and physicality, and art, which is deeper and more intellectual. Honestly, I think that the examples that were given in the USC presentation, (find the article, Ebert talks about it) weren't the best. The best of the hardcore games, especially RPGs, are art. One of the definitions I have seen is that art is something that attempts to invoke emotions. Games do this, and I don't mean the thrill of success or the anger at a difficult part, I mean more.. well, emotional emotions. More meaningful kinds of joy, anger, sadness, etc.
    Going to go write about this in my blog now...

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:32 PM
  • JimMD102

    I tried to be open minded because I wanted to be fair to him and I found it easy to understand where Ebert was getting at and agreed with some of it, but I found it hard to agree with the overall message. And even though I tried to be open-minded, I also found it easy to discount his argument because I found the examples presented before him to be bad examples. She should've showed games like Heavy Rain and Bioshock which rather than only tying a story around a game (no matter how artful that story might be) tell a story with techniques that can only be told through games that make the game itself art. Like the expression of the idea that decisions in life make a big difference or how your lack of perception of a grand world like rapture through a narrow FPS view can be combined with Descartesian philosphy to make you question where you are as a person inside and outside the game.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:26 PM
  • spacemonkey086

    I don't think there is a definitive answer to this question. In my opinion games are just as much art as movies are. That being said, I've never really considered movies art. Movies are a reflection of life in most cases and they tell a story. Telling a story is not exactly artistic, creative yes, but no artistic imo. I guess movies in their cinematography or music or pacing are really artistic. But games have just as much art in them. Graphics actually come into play on pretty much every title, and everything is designed by developers. Games also have a much more variable spectrum of genres so it would depend on the game.

    But that being said, I think Roger Ebert is not an expert on video games, so he should not speak unless he is a gamer. Movie critics are a unique breed cut from the holier than thou attitude. Most movie critics just criticize movies instead of doing their job and telling people why they SHOULD go see a movie (that is if they do want them to do so). I wish more movie critics would take a positive approach and in that regard i think that game reviews bring much more to the table from a marketing and consumer perspective. To be honest, I hate movie critics. Mostly because im a fan of action movies and sci fi/fantasy and it seems with a few exceptions that they have generally negative reviews. And the movies that get good reviews are boring as hell unless you spend all day studying the nuance of acting and screenplay which most people don't have the time to do. Movies are entertainment. I don't consider entertainment art. Yet games are actually interactive. In a way it makes the player the artist, but Roger Ebert woudn't understand that hes probably a noob. so shut up while I continue to download movies and I will actually pay money for video games. None of this really matters, its not like a massive fanbase of gamers pay attention to him and now will be suddenly swayed to give up video games because *gasp* they are not art. First, doen't matter if they are art. Second, they are both not really art in the way that architecture, painting or music are.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:25 PM
  • expl0siv0

    Ok so what if I twisted that last part around and said "The way I see it, movies are not art" Do you think Ebert would be pissed and start ranting at me? Short answer: yup. Long answer: He would not be able to simply continue watching his movies and enjoying it, he would write a fiery rebuttal in the Chicago Sun. So I don't think gamers should continue sitting in front of their tvs and ignore this insult on what they enjoy, as this soap box suggests.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:22 PM
  • DennisScimeca

    There is no definition of art. Let's get that out of the way. This question alone has vexed philosophers for as long as humanity has HAD philosophers...consider that for a moment, and then consider whether it is, or is not, a fool's errand to try and decide whether video games are art or not.

    The question here is really about engaging the mainstream in discourse around video games, not for the sake of legitimizing games - are any of you going to stop playing them now that Roger Ebert seems to have heaped scorn upon them once again? - but for the sake of moving our culture even further out from the geek basement and into the light of day. I can only see good things arising from the day when every major news entity covers video games because they've been deemed "important enough to be covered."

    It will mean more people getting interested in games from an early age. It will mean more education programs for coding and design, and some of those people will drop out of those disciplines but continue in related fields of science and engineering that we are in such desperate supply of.

    It will mean more people being willing to invest in start-up game companies, which brings more competition and innovation into the field. That should wind up providing better games for us in the long run. Lots more crap, too, but just by the numbers if X percentage of total games produced in a year are hits and the total number of games increases, than X increases, right?

    I think it's mostly the younger crowd getting upset with Ebert, but we Gen-X'ers (like Adam up there) have long since dealt with the relegation of games to the nerd closet, so all of this is just gravy to us.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:17 PM
  • jhjester

    It's not even an argument. Games are art. There isn't some secret gate keeper that's going to open the doors and let video games frolic in some verdant "art" pasture. There is no committee that's going to convene and grant some magical decree that will "validate" games as an art form. The sooner people realize that, the sooner they'll simply accept that their beloved past time is art.
    The authorial control argument is completely wrong headed. Is there a way to complete Super Mario Brothers without saving the princess? Are there any endings to video games that are not fully conceived by their creators? Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing you can do in a video that hasn't been allowed by the author (unless you count games with emergent game place, but that is also something created by the author).
    Can games be broken or exploited to change the authorial narrative? Yes, but the equivalent would be cutting pages from a book and replacing them with your own, or editing a film.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:17 PM
  • A-Bittersweet-Life

    I honestly don't care, even if the whole universe said video games are anything but art. In fact I welcome that, because being different really ain't that bad.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:14 PM
  • doodle_billy

    for those reasons i believe video games to be art. because video games abide by the same rules. its just a different medium.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:12 PM
  • Atavax

    i really disagree with Adam on this one...

    i think in virtually all forms of art, the artist is trying to invoke something in the audience, and that the audience is a very active part of the art.

    i think the question of whether videogames is an art revolves around whether the triple A titles are coordinated enough to have a very coherent and intentional message, of if its just a hodgepodge of ideas of what would be fun. and if they are very coherent and intentional messages, are the messages adult and sophisticated enough to be a respectable form of art.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:12 PM
  • doodle_billy

    as an artist and a successful one, for only being 19( yes that is my ego speaking). i feel as an artist i do not have any real control over how people view my paintings. i had the chance to listen to what people felt, and how they annalized the symbolism's in one of my paintings. not one person new what it really means. as maddening as it is, that's the reality behind art is no person will judge it the same way. that same judgment in my eyes is how the people that view my art, become part of the process in which art is created. to be an artist, and to say that my art can only be viewed in this way, is to say no one, not even me can see my art after completion. art changes the second it is seen by someone other then the artist. i release all control over my art the second it gets sold, put in a gallery or posted in my portfolio, its not mine anymore.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:11 PM
  • Ptolomaea

    I think that not all games are art and could never be art, like Modern Warfare, in my mind isn't art. Where as a game like Mass Effect (both one and two) is in itself not art but it provides you with a space in which you can create your own narrative story in which characters grow and interact based upon your contribution, which makes you, in some way the artist because the story you create in that game is uniquely your own

    Posted: April 20, 2010 5:03 PM
  • Tobow

    Does anyone know what series of books Adam was talking about that didnt want his books to be made into videogames?

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:59 PM