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

  • DarthHerter

    just because many participate in the creation of one thing doesn't mean that it isn't art. michaelangelo didn't paint the sistine chapel by himself, so can you say that isn't art.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:57 PM
  • Sphincterror

    I couldn't care less if someone I don't know claims that video games don't fit into a certain category of classification. That doesn't lessen the enjoyment I get from them, and like Adam said, it doesn't take any value away from the impact games can have on our lives. I don't know if games are art, and I really don't care. They affect people in both positive and negative ways, just as anything else in this life.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:55 PM
  • joecuffe

    I think, once again, Roger Ebert has shown that he has become nothing more than an irrelevant symbol of a bygone era. In his piece about games being art, as he also showed in his review of "Kick-Ass" and even "Brown Bunny", he has shown that he has become the thing he used to be so adamantly opposed to; the person on a soapbox, and no ability to see beyond his own personal issues. I believe he has become too enamored with his own legend, and less concerned with doing the job he used to do so well.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:52 PM
  • Darkpuppy

    Id just like to add, as I have just finished catching up in the comments, it appears as though a lot of comments are being make regarding other forms of art. This has brought forth the though. Perhaps anything that is created TO be a piece of art should be defined as art, no matter the medium.

    There are movies that are art and then there are movies that are for entertainment.

    Perhaps the motive behind the creation is the best determination.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:44 PM
  • RTR

    Videogames are the art of interaction. 'Nuff said.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:41 PM
  • adub424

    I spend more money and time on video games then I do on movies, paintings, or even music. Games are in many ways better than art. Art is a part of video games, but video games are greater than the sum of their parts. A great deal of admiration goes to the brave individuals who try to review an interactive experience. I sure as heck spend more time listening to Mr. Sessler and game reviewers in general. In a capitalist society video games get the vote of my time and resources. Let them have art I have something better.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:39 PM
  • Darkpuppy

    I have always felt that computer games are more closely related to sport than art. There is an adversarial/goal component to nearly all computer games, where it be against another person or against an AI.

    This being said, there can be artistic features to computer games as there can be art that has some form of game involved (interactive theater). As long as the "ART" concept dose not detract from game play then why not create some games with the motive of them being pieces of art. I have no idea if these games would at all be fun.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:35 PM
  • spaceworlder

    First of all, this is a terrific video. I am surprised to see you take such a nuanced stance, when it would be so easy to join everyone else in the "Marginalize Ebert" game. I more or less agree with everything said, although I'm not sure if there's necessarily virtue in success. (I think I get your point, though.)

    Maybe you're aware of this, but Ebert actually once played and wrote about a game. It was a PC game called the "Cosmology of Kyoto", and his essay on it is one of the best game-related writings I've ever read.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:27 PM
  • kinglou76

    Art, Not Art. Who Cares I Still Enjoy My Games.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:25 PM
  • channelcy

    the people who say games are not art need to be given a copy of mgs4

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:17 PM
  • Quantum_Realist

    To me, a movie can be defined as art. The only difference between a movie and a video game is the concept of interactivity. I don't think video games will ever be put in the 'fine arts' category, but neither will alot of modern art. So yes, video games (at least the good ones) are interactive art. They are emotionally engaging experiences that have the potential to create long lasting bonds with those that partake of them.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:17 PM
  • geryon42


    Are you familiar with "Happenings" from the 1960s? These were unique events put on by artists where the audience was expected to participate, thus making each rendition different for everyone involved and therefore not static or consistent for each individual. Yoko Ono did a number of these Happenings in the 60s, including a performance called Cut Piece. In Cut Piece, Yoko would wear several layers of clothing, and kneel on a stage before a crowd. She would then invite members of the audience to come up and use a pair of scissors to cut pieces of her clothing off until she was left naked on stage. Audience members could cut off as much or as little as they liked, and Yoko observed that while the first few timid audience members would only cut off small squares, as the event progressed the audience would become more and more rabid and bold, which revealed something frightening about group mentality and human aggression. Of course, it is debatable whether Cut Piece was art or not. I think that it was, and it is an example of how art does not need to be identical or reproducible for each individual.

    All of that said, I do not like the blanket statement that "videogames are art," for the same reason I don't like blanket statements like "film is art." A lot of films are absolute crap. Those films can be fun -- but they are still crap (Transformers is coming to mind). Then there are many films that are art. In my opinion, there are one or two games I have played that I would consider art. I also don't understand why so many gamers are upset over Ebert's comments. Come on people, who really cares if the guy who didn't even like Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" mildly insults our afternoons of fun?

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:06 PM
  • Unbalanced

    Also, with the MASSIVE, and i mean MASSIVE amount of concept ART that is used to make games, how are games not an art when art is used to make it?

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:05 PM
  • DiscoLincoln

    I made an account just to get my two cents in. When you said that art should be static, you forget about abstract art. Abstract art (which has been considered art in many museums for many years now) sets out purposefully to make different people see different things and interpret the way they want to, even going so far as to name their artwork "abstract 053" as to avoid somehow influencing people of what they see. I think of games doing the same, mostly, but more directed as to say, "what do you think of this specific subject and how would you respond?" as opposed to, "What do you see in this random grouping of shapes?" That might be too specific for most people, but i wanted to rant lol.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:03 PM
  • authentic24

    Games are art point blank period... Games are art in motion that can be experienced in different ways by different people. This makes it the ultimate art imo. The reason I say that, is because everyone can get something from a game whether they dislike it or not. It blends the ART of storytelling, the ART of design and the Science of Mathematics.

    Let's take a painting for instance; it takes a certain Science to know what type of surface to paint on, how to blend colors etc. It takes a certain type of design to make the painting good to look at and tell a story that the artist is trying to portray. How come this is art and Games aren't. Just like a painting it requires the audience to wrap their minds around what they are seeing in order to understand it.
    Same thing with games except it requires more than just a thought process. It requires a hands on approach to delve into (get ready for it) the artist creative design.

    Point being games only go one step further than movies (which is deemed as art), and that comes with interaction so how is it that games aren't art? Any person with a brain can analyze and see that.

    I do think that games will go further than what any other art form can take us because of the ever growing technology that will allow it to do so. One day we will have the ability to have these games that will go so far past art in terms of being autonomous and actually creating your own story that it will be ridiculous. Even then it will still be art because it will still have constraints ( here we go again) within the artist creative design.

    ART - THE EXPRESSION OR APPLICATION OF HUMAN CREATIVE SKILL AND IMAGINATION, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power

    you can look up art and get 10 definitions that coincide with one another which at the end of the day, would include video games. you will find some relation to the statement in caps in all definitions. Okay rant over Games are ART by definition.

    Last time I checked Ebert doesn't define ART.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:03 PM
  • Twyst

    The problem seems less and less about games and art, and more about how ignorant Ebert is, and the terrible things he says about developers and gamers. Developers are fat slops, and gamers are illiterate. Pure class.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:03 PM
  • Yasac

    I tend to agree with the idea that these games are not art. However they are the compilation of many many art forms, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, graphic design, maybe martial and film arts too but those are kinda pushing it. But anyway, we feel like games don't really get their due culturely even though all this work is put in them. In some other kind of media, elements of these games might very well be considered art. Though the end result isn't to make you think or feel something different but purely to entertain.

    Listen to a snobby film lecurter go on how modern films and tv are worthless. In one sense, yeah, flims these days are more often driven to entertain and make money. So we have our independent film directors for the ones who want to take a risk and make a statement. What do independent game developers want well they still want to entertain. Why? Cause these are games. You pay $10 to go see a movie or read a book that might make you think differently you certainly pay $60 to be entertained not the other way around.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 4:01 PM
  • Avaj

    Before I watched this I had read an article on IGN "Rebutting Roger Ebert" http://pc.ign.com/articles/108 /1084661p1.html.
    If you have not read it I suggest you take a look at it. I had a similar view of games as art as you did before reading that article.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 3:56 PM
  • seraphguard1

    Art is something that causes a visceral emotional reaction in the observer. Be it music or a painting or a film, for it to be art it must have that je ne sais qua that makes it more than sound or paint of canvas. It must cause you to feel something intentionally. As far as I m concerned there are many games that fit that description. How many people played mass effect and for some reason found themselves caring about certain life and death decisions they had to make. Yes they were in a game, and yes you could reset and change your mind but there was a serious emotional reaction same as any film, same as any art.
    In art there is an artist, a person or persons who intentionally set out to make the observer feel a certain way. They put their own emotions into their work to create it. With games there are two creators. There is the developer who puts the pieces together and creates the blueprint, and the player who interprets their creations and adds themselves into it. If the player can not also put their own emotion into the game then for that player it can not be art, they will feel nothing.
    Not every game can cause this emotional reaction (save rage, every game can cause rage) but neither can every film or song. Street Fighter is no more a piece of art than Transformers 2 (also known to cause rage) but other films are considered art and so should other games.
    To me the reason this has angered so many is because video games continue to receive a bad rep with the mainstream. It has seemingly been improving with time but coming from someone who is usually so open minded it feels like a step backward.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 3:53 PM
  • Dramble

    With respect to the last point about regarding games as art is mute due to its proven success i disagree. By the same logic a good pizza is noteworthy because pizza is successful. to consider something as art is to preserve it so later generations can be exposed to it and have their lives made better because of it. However I think this holds true only for great works within the medium they are made. A person can appreciate a work of art and a good book, but the art and the book can only be judged by the other art and books in the world.

    Interactivity is the only distinction between this medium and any other. Its up to game designers to make sure that no matter how the story is changed by the player that a great narrative is always given. A story with only one possible ending is becoming less and less what defines games from other medium and this is why I believe people are less inclined to play a linear game than a open world game. A game that brings the greatest amount of open world gameplay with a strong set of possible narrative outcomes are the ones that will be defining for the game medium, and I believe none have yet been made.

    Posted: April 20, 2010 3:51 PM