Roger, Roger, Roger

Apr 16, 2010 ten past ten pm

Roger Ebert is at it again, claiming that not only are games not art, but that they can never be art.

Roger, Roger, Roger.

Over the past year I have gained an immense amount of respect and admiration for Roger Ebert.  I read his blog everyday and it's damn good, some of the best and most insightful writing on the web (or anywhere).  He's gone through some very terrible and personal issues with cancer and hasn't let any of it stop him.  I remember watching Siskel and Ebert back when it was on PBS and credit it as one of the reasons I became so interested in movies and storytelling and almost sending me to film school rather than down the path of making games.

But I didn't go to film school, I decide to make games instead.  Why?  Because games gave me a creative and artistic outlet.  They allowed me to express myself and my ideas and my characters and my stories.

The games I was playing and wanted to make were adventure games and I didn't see much difference in how they told a story from how a movie told a story except they were interactive.  I saw them as an extension of the linar narrative of film.  I saw them as not only a way to tell a story with real characters, real emotions and real ideas, but one where the viewer got to participate in the story.  They got to touch it and twist it and become part of it and make it their own.

I can't imagine anything more artistic than connecting with your audience in that way.  It's unique to the way games tell stories and we've only begun to understand it's artistic potential and power.  Movies will never go away, but neither will games that tell important, interesting and deep stories and we're just getting started.

The problem is Roger has not played the right games, or any games.  Roger is a master at understanding movies and there is no person I respect more than him when it comes to understanding film and it's importance.

But games?  Not so much.

Here is my challenge to Roger:  Why is Monkey Island not art, yet, the Pirates of the Caribbean movie is art?

I will hold the story and characters of Monkey Island up to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie any day.  The story in Monkey Island 1 and 2 is as deep and complex and interesting as that of Pirates of the Caribbean.  The characters are as living and real and developed as you'll find in any film, I'd even argue more so since you can have conversations with them and explore the nooks and crannies of their stories in a way a movie or book cannot.

So, Roger, play Monkey Island.  Really play it.  Don't have someone that has played it tell you about it.  Don't get someone to play it for you.  Don't read about it on Wikipedia.  Play it and let it swallow you and then tell me it's not art.

Update:

Roger replied that he did not think Pirates of the Caribbean was art.

If that is indeed what he thinks, then his argument does make a little more sense to me.  He's not saying that film is art, but that some film is art.  Ok, I can believe, under his standards, that no game has reached the level of art, but to say they never will be art is naive and history will prove as such.

Although, he did say "no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form", so I guess that is his escape from the hammer of the future, but it can not excuse the fact that he's never played or tried to understand games at the same level that he does film.  If he wants to continually bring this issue up, then he should at least become a quais-expert in it first or at lease try to understand it.

And no, watching YouTube videos of games doesn't count because it's not experiencing the one thing that makes a game unique and that is how you interact with it.  This would be like critiquing film by only ever reading scripts and never watching the movie.  There is an entire layer that is missing.

Roger also mentions in his essay "Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?"  I would ask: why are you so concerned that they are not?  You're the one that keeps bring this up, not us.

Other people's comments:

Posted by Chris on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to one am

I totally agree with you. Especially adventure games are a great example for digital art. But also every other type of game needs people who create textures, sounds, music and a more or less good story with its characters. The characters and the story of many games are far better than most movies. For example Monkey Island, The Dig, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango...

Posted by Ed McGuire on Apr 17, 2010 ten past nine am

The problem with a lot of criticism toward video games is that few know how to perceive a video game. To many, they are just games with the primary goal of entertaining the player. While this is true, some games boast pretty well written stories. Like novels or poems, or anything literary, these stories are rife with metaphors, symbolism, allusions, allegories, etc.  

Just because a particular story resides within the shell of a game, does not mean it is without merit.

Posted by jeremy ashlyn on Apr 17, 2010 five past one am

there's just a discrepancy of terms.  i gather from the article when roger says 'art' he means 'high art'.  OF COURSE games are art in the traditional (low art?) sense.  when he says art he's also talking about a sensibility.  like, maybe he doesn't think Pirates of the Caribbean is high art.  it's not a lump sum, either or, sort of thing.  which i guess both sides fail to realize.

Posted by Gabe on Apr 17, 2010 nine am

It is far worst than a mere discrepancy. He is basically saying that what HE considers art is better art than what other people consider art.

Respect aside, his claim is as pointless as it is mistaken.

Posted by Andre Nekoi on Apr 17, 2010 five past one am

I just finished replaying the first Monkey Island, so this article really means a lot to me, i can't agree with Roger Ebert's opinion on this one.

I grew up playing Monkey Island and others extremely artistical games, like Grim Fandango, and other non-adventure games like Mafia. I'm still an avid PC gamer, and i keep finding new artistical games on the platform, like Machinarium and Winterbottom. Even the recent released Dark Void Zero, which has an 8 bits style on purpose, is an example of art in games.

I don't know if every game can be classified as art, since this same argument happens with the movies, but how can i specify some artistical games, if there's no art in games? Sorry Roger Ebert, but you can't answer this.

ps: sorry for my english, i'm non native english speaker.

Posted by on Apr 17, 2010 quarter past one am

Well said :-). That should just be the word in this debate. Of course some games are more artistic than others, but neglecting games as an art form altogether is just ignorant.

Posted by Joshi on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to two am

Like you, I have a great respect for Ebert, even if I don't always agree with him, but I honestly feel the guy hasn't played a great many games and that's the problem. Unlike paintings or movies or music, where even if you've only ever encountered bad examples of them, you can plainly see that, if done right, they could be considered great art, with games, if you've only experienced bad examples of them, it's harder to believe they could ever have artistic merit.

Clearly the entire Adventure game genre has passed him by and for good reason, it's not as popular as other genres and he's not a gamer, how could he know about them. And I'm not saying that only adventure games could be considered art, it's just that the vast majority of FPS's and RTS and the like... aren't.

But he won't, and I won't begrudge him that. From what I understand he's still battling cancer and frankly, he's probably got better things to do than defend his stance on this. It'd be great if he actually played Monkey Island, at least just to get his stance on it, but I won't hold on hope and won' be too disappointed if he doesn't.

Posted by Jason on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to two am

Eh, I don't think MI is going to do it for him. He's going to dismiss it as too silly or dismiss Pirates as not actually being art.

You do hit the nail on the head here though, Ebert is standing up and screaming from the rooftops about games while not having (from what i can tell) ever even finished one. He clearly doesn't understand the creation process either. It makes me sad that just because he's Rodger Ebert he's taken seriously.

Posted by Abel Oroz on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to two am

I've always seen Grim Fandango as a game worth being a masterpiece in the gaming medium way ahead of any demagogical, academy-awarded Clint Eastwood movie.

Posted by David Thomsen on Apr 17, 2010 twenty to two am

I've read one review by Roger Ebert, and it was of Labyrinth. At one point he says is this:

"One of the key characters in this film is Toby (played by Toby Froud). Froud is a midget who has been given a Muppet head to wear."

I can't respect the opinion of someone who reviews a film while getting one key fact so blatantly wrong, so much so that I question whether he saw the film at all, or has just something that someone else about it. I'm also not interested in hearing why someone who has never played a computer game in his life thinks that computer games can never be art.

Games are meant to be played. It's like saying that music is not art if you've only ever read the score.

I admit that some of the examples he uses in his article are kind of weak (I'd refer him to the Submachine and Daymare Town flash games rather than Waco), but it would be just as easy to argue that films aren't art by using G.I. Joe as an example.

Posted by Elaine Marley XD on Apr 18, 2010 midnight

He also has been given a Muppet head to wear.

Full of cotton. Like Winnie the pooh.

Posted by David Thomsen on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five past four pm

I should point out that the factual error in his review of Labyrinth wasn't the only thing that bothered me, I think he got some basic assumptions about the film wrong. He thinks that because anything could happen within the Labyrinth, nothing has any meaning.

The point of the Labyrinth is that it's supposed to be unsolvable, and the random nature of the film represents that. Sarah doesn't win by solving puzzles correctly, because this is obviously impossible - she wins by making friends within the Labyrinth, and realising that the Labyrinth has no real power over her anyway. The Labyrinth doesn't follow the rules set out by previous films, but that's the point.

It's like saying that one game where you can take back your moves is invalid because it doesn't follow the rules of chess, where you can't take back your moves. You can't criticise something for not following the precedent set by something completely and utterly different.

Anyway, the whole review put me off Ebert as a critic, and so does this article about computer games.

Posted by Retodon8 on Apr 17, 2010 quarter to two am

In short, I completely agree with this article.

I suppose if the word "games" brings you images of shoot 'em ups and platform games, it's hard to see how games could be art.
If you use your imagination, even if you haven't played any games considered to be art, I still think you should be able to see how they could evolve to become art, especially if you're familiar with films.
Then again "art" has different meanings to different people.
Some pieces of art I don't consider to fall in that category, or rather I don't find worth the money they cost because they apparently are art.
They still don't make me feel anything.

If you say Pirates of the Caribbean is art, Monkey Island definitely is too.

Posted by Xoinx on Apr 17, 2010 quarter to two am

Did you contact Ebert directly, Ron? I'd like to believe that, if he were presented with your post and with a free copy of MI, that he would give it a shot. If he does reply to you, please let us mutual fans of you & Ebert know.

Posted by pnk on Apr 17, 2010 five to four am

I find the comparison between Braid and chess totally unnecessary. BRAID IS F***G ART, DUDE.

Posted by Fealiks on Apr 17, 2010 twenty past four am

If you present someone with a beautiful short film, they would probably have no problem with calling it art. What if the film was shown through an Xbox and moving the thumbstick allows you to control the camera? Is it no longer art? What if pressing certain buttons at certain times allows you to view slightly different versions of the film? Does that stop it from being art?

Posted by alexander on Apr 17, 2010 five to five am

I have no problem claiming my experience while playing Braid is worthy of comparison to my experience of reading a great book or watching a great movie.

It is pretty obvious from his article that he is not a gamer, and has in all likelyhood never even played a game. I question why he thinks he is "worthy" of judging a subject he has so little knowledge of.

Posted by Nik on Apr 17, 2010 six am

It is very easy to prove that the question "Can video games be art?" can be reduced to "Can movies be art?".

Let F be the set of frames (picture and sound).
Let I be the set of all possible user inputs.

Movies are elements of M := F^ℕ, i.e. a tuple of frames.
Games are functions: I^ℕ -> F^ℕ

Let m ∊ M be a movie.
Let g be a game so that:
∀ i∊I^ℕ: g(i) := m

Clearly, g is art if and only if m is art. So if there is one movie that is art, there clearly must be a game that is art: The game that consists just of cut scenes from that movie no matter what input.

In fact, you could have a game where your actions determine what artful movie you get to watch. It could be called "menu"... ;)

Seriously, how much interaction do you have to add before a "movie" stops being art? Trying to understand such arbitrarily marked-off black and white opinions just breaks my mind.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 five past seven am

"The game that consists just of cut scenes from that movie no matter what input" But that's not a game.

Posted by Nik on Apr 17, 2010 quarter to one pm

You missed the point in that (intentionally absurd) example. There are many games that are largely movies. They don't make good games, but they show that the line between movies and games is blurry.

When does a game start? As soon as there's input? As soon as the story line fluctuates? What property of being a game kills the possibility of art?

It's one thing to say: "No video game we've seen is art." But to say "Video games can never be art" is a strong, strong statement and requires some actual reasoning. Ebert's fuzzy argumentation is merely proof by example. It's completely invalid.

Posted by Call me Squinky on Apr 17, 2010 ten past seven am

Mr. Ebert implies that the only focus of the video games industry is to make money. To this I say, doesn't the movie industry make an obscene amount of money as well? How does the amount of money generated diminish the artistic quality of a given product?

Posted by Ed McGuire on Apr 17, 2010 five past nine am

Also, what about all of the indie developers; people who strive to express their creativity and put forth a quality piece? Both the movie industry and the video game world share the same passionate people.

Posted by Gabriel on Apr 17, 2010 quarter past seven am

Excellent article Ron. By the way, I don't think Mr. Ebert's opinion should be given much weight nowadays. Just look at this:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090318/REVIEWS/903189991/1001

I think that movie critique speaks for itself.

Posted by anonymous on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five past seven am

http://forum.insomnia.ac/viewtopic.php?t=2270&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=75

"Art is representation.

Videogames are simulation.

But representation itself is also simulation -- just a very primitive kind of simulation. "

This guy is so smart, he could answer, "how much wood can a woodchuck chuck?" and "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, what color is the tree?"

Posted by Johnny W on Apr 25, 2010 ten to one pm

That guy is just full of himself. He claims that virtual reality is the ultimate goal of videogames, which is absurd and idiotic.

Posted by Ed on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to nine am

The "are games art" argument should have two clear sides. One being those who have no understanding of art whatsoever, and the other being those who can't believe the question is even being asked.

What is art? The product of creative choice. That's it. The Mona Lisa is art. Pac Man is art. Britney Spears albums are art. The doodle you did while you were on the phone is art. The freaking chair you're sitting on is art.

Now can someone explain to me how anyone who is not completely insane can actually believe that a medium, in which something (a game) is imagined and then created, which requires creative choice and work in the (already recognized as art) areas of visual art, music, sound design, storytelling, etc, and in equally creatively demanding areas such as programming, is somehow not art?

Art is not 'exclusive'. There is no criteria. Art belongs to everyone. If your imagination has ever made its way through your actions and into the world, you are an artist. Anyone who tells you differently is an elitist quack who is clinging desperately to the past.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 five past nine am

I just took a dump and chose not to flush. Is that art?

Posted by Ed on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five to ten am

Considering your dump was born in your gut and not in your imagination, and considering your choice not to flush was one of two possibilities and not one of the infinite number that a creative person faces, I have my doubts.

I wouldn't hold it against you if you wanted to claim it as such, though.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 ten am

And paint is made in people's imagination.

In fact there are so many choices involved: which toilet, eating curry before-hand etc. If the definition of art is so vague that anything could be art (how about the holocaust?) then it is a useless definition.

The definition of art is supposed to apply to things that are "good". It doesn't matter if some idiot considers taking a dump good and worth displaying. You need a definition that applies to things that the right kinds of people consider "good".

Posted by Bryan on Apr 17, 2010 ten past ten am

Asking a select few individuals if a piece of art is "good" to determine if it's good art takes away the entire egalitarian aspect of creation. Plenty of art critics have taken time to examine "Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp, which is just a urinal that he called art. There have been essays written about the meaning of Duchamp calling a urinal a piece of art. If the "right kinds of people" can determine a toilet to be good art, I'd suppose your shit can be good art if you want to have a go at it.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five past ten am

I'm not stopping people creating stuff, just saying not everything they create is 'art'. Who said people who write essays are the right kinds of people?

If you assume games can be art, then someone like Ron Gilbert would be a good judge of which games are art.

Posted by Jeff on Apr 18, 2010 five to one am

"Fountain" is an interesting piece and largely falls outside the discussion we're having.  It's supposed to be disruptive and make you question what a museum does when it puts something on display.  It's from 1917 and feels like something you'd do to ruffle the feathers of the establishment.

I'm not sure we have a game that's an equivalent, because the tools to make games and distribute them are readily available, due to gaming coming out of the hacker culture.

Posted by Ed McGuire on Apr 17, 2010 nine am

Fight the good fight, my friend! I can't say I've played Monkey Island, but I can say I agree with pretty much everything you argued here.

I, too, have a deep interest in the stories of video games. So much so, that I've recently made a blog dedicated to deconstructed them on a literary level.

It's good to see someone defend the stories of video games, and encourage their quality. Come check out my blog, if you are interested.

Get in the Box

Posted by lgrippo on Apr 24, 2010 twenty five to one pm

"I can't say I've played Monkey Island"

What are you doing in this blog????

What are you doing in this world????

you MUST play monkey island now

Posted by Ed on Apr 17, 2010 half past nine am

I posted this on Ebert's article comments after reading through some comments and being shocked by some of the not-art arguments people are making, but I have my doubts it will be approved since my enthusiasm got the better of me and I ended on a mildly naughty word.

Apologies for polluting your blog with so much text, Sir Ron.

" "

It baffles and saddens me to see that so many people have a completely perverted understanding of what art is.

Art is the product of creative choice. Any further criteria is firmly in the realm of subjectivity. The sheer arrogance of keeping emerging creative mediums from the term 'art' is astonishing.

Electronic games represent a deepening, expanding, of the dimensions of art. Not only can you make a 'Mona Lisa', but you can make it have a conversation with you. Not only can you make a 'Rite of Spring', but you can make the music dynamically restructure and evolve depending on your actions. These new possibilities are the tip of the iceberg.

New kinds of experiences can be expressed and shared that were never possible before. Not only can you represent a place as you might in a landscape on canvas, but you can express things like the freedom of movement one might feel while there, or the feeling of anticipation of imminent change, or the feeling of that change occuring and the choices that open up. You can give a person a chance to participate and explore deep facets of the artwork. I could go on for hours on this.

It doesn't matter that you think nothing the gaming world has put out has as much merit as classic works of art. That is an opinion. Merit, and the criteria for it, is entirely subjective. Some of the simplest works of art resonate the most deeply with people.

I'm sorry Mr Ebert, but I can't believe your ignorance. Games are art. They have always been art. Were you an aspiring artist in this day and age perhaps you would realize that this new medium we have before us is the most exciting and powerful artistic medium we have available to us. We still need a long time to mature it, but a creation need not be mature to be art. Such an arbitrary criteria is meaningless and, in fact, wank.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 ten to ten am

How can you claim that art is subjective but the definition of art is not?

Btw is calling someone ignorant, saying their opinion doesn't matter and implying they're wankers going to help change their opinion?

Posted by Someone on Apr 17, 2010 ten to ten pm

Perhaps because art is a word that has a definition, and art itself can be opinionated on. Much like air. Air is the culmination of different elements in gaseous form. And while I can breathe in the air and say "it stinks" you might say "i don't smell anything."

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 ten to midnight

You needed to say "art is a word that has a single definition that everyone agrees on" for the definition to not be subjective. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesthetics#What_is_.22art.3F.22

Posted by Alex on Apr 17, 2010 twenty to ten am

Well said, Ron.

New media is notorious for scaring the old guard (think television a few decades ago).  The fact that Ebert repeatedly uses the word "gamers" throughout his article shows how much he wants to consider us to be some fringe group unattached to mainstream culture.  Adam Sessler made a great point at PAX East, saying how absurd it would be to call someone who loves movies (like Roger Ebert) a "filmer."  The fact that he completely dismisses the gameplay mechanics of Braid and Flower without ever having played them shows just how unwilling he is to challenge his long-standing negative view of videogames.  Could any of us get away with writing a lengthy review of a film we never saw, but that our friend gave us a presentation on?

I have also admired Ebert's writing over the years, and particularly the insight and courage he has shown most recently writing about his illness.  But in this situation, unfortunately, he comes across as little more than an old man who is afraid of something he doesn't understand.

Posted by Ed McGuire on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five past ten am

Solid argument.

There is indeed a certain stigma surrounding video games and their supporters. Liking, enjoying, or supporting any of it risks telling the world that you are most likely a stagnant and unproductive waste, or at the very least, that your taste is juvenile and childish. By extension, all of your thoughts, musings, or opinions, have no substance or significance, and should be ignored.

Of course, this is absurd. People that might fear such a risk just reinforce those ever-present morals learned in shows for children about high school or a group of friends. Many people act the way they do because they feel they are expected to act in a specific manner. Failing to satisfy the cool kids' expectations means you might be one of those nose picking nerdy weirdo-freaks. Oh no!

Seriously though, this kind of message has been slammed over our heads for years. Conformity can be bad. In can limit us, restrict us from expressing our true thoughts.

In Mike's words, of the film Dazed and Confused:
"I wanna dance!"

Posted by nickmaynard on Apr 17, 2010 ten to eleven am

consider this.

a chess piece can be sculpted by a great artist and painted beautifully. a chess piece can be a great work of art.

but does that make the GAME itself a work of art?

a game exists separately from its pieces, i think.

Posted by Ed McGuire on Apr 17, 2010 twenty five past eleven am

So, a video game is to its story, music, and visual design as a museum is to its featured pieces of artwork?

I could agree with that.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 17, 2010 half past eleven am

Nice.

You could argue the story bookends to games could be art (like the opening and ending sequence of Prince of Persia). But the "game" (objectives, rules etc.) is not art.

However, the "game" influences the story. For example there are a number of endings in Prince of Persia (such as the princess dying because you took too long). Or playing the game creates a story too (for example solving the problem how to get past the mirror creates part of the story - the hero helps the villain).

I think Ron-Gilbert is right the interactivity doesn't prevent the game from being art but adds to it.

Posted by Ed on Apr 17, 2010 five past eleven pm

I won't go on forever, but can't you see how arbitrary it is to say that a story can be art, a painting can be art and so on, but gameplay design is not art? Based on what? What is your definition of art, anyway?

Like any other creative medium, game design is a realm with infinite possibility. A person creating in this realm may be inspired or uninspired, may dig through the deepest recesses of their imagination to author a novel experience, may take the easy road and copy what other people have done, may create something which is boring to you, or may create something that resonates with you on all sorts of different levels. How is that any different to every other artistic medium?

Would you really readily accept that a sculptor who made a chess piece is an artist, but a person who invents a game such as chess, which has spread across the world and, I would imagine, impacted on more lives than any piece in a museum has, is not? What sort of person invents a game like chess then? An engineer? A laboror? No - A highly imaginative person with a desire to create something, and an inspired vision of what that something might be like. Sounds like an artist to me.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 18, 2010 ten past midnight

Chess wasn't made by a single person.

Engineers will need to "imagine" solutions to problems and to be "creative" just like so-called "artists".

If you want to claim that "gameplay design" (which are the rules, objectives) can be art, again, what about the laws (rules) and objectives of Nazi Germany? Did they not spread across parts of the world, were they not necessarily engineered by imaginative people with a vision, did Hitler's communication of them not resonate with the German people? You never said if you consider the holocaust to be art? If you don't, you need to come up with a more restrictive definition of art.

Posted by Ed on Apr 18, 2010 quarter past one am

Neither was '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

We're talking about very different kinds of "rules and objectives" there. A game's rules and objectives are set in place by a creator to define the parameters of a player's experience. They are the structure of a creation which can be placed in front of a person for them to experience, as a painting or piece of music can be. These objectives are not the personal objectives of the creator.

If you want to push the point, I'll bite. Do I believe that we human beings can think of our world as a canvas, and the change that we manifest in it and the society (and things) that we create in it as art? I do.

I think most people would draw the line at destruction, however. If Hitler imagined a world without Jews and wrote a book about it, the book would certainly be art. Art is about creating something out of an idea so that it can be experienced by other people. Attempting to remove Jews from reality, however, is obviously a massive leap. The idea can be conveyed and experienced without killing people. Once you start down that path, you are destroying. Perfectly debatable, but I think most people defining art would draw the line well before murder.

Perhaps also consider that the holocaust didn't exactly go to plan. As an attempt to manifest an idea into reality, it failed utterly.

Now that we've had a nice chat about the holocaust, how about you answer a question of mine. How do you define art?

Posted by sharprm on Apr 18, 2010 half past three am

You basically said "imagine the creator of the game chess. Betcha he was an artist. Therefore all games are art."

I pointed out that chess wasn�t made by a single person. It is a game that evolved over a long time. You don�t know who created it, or how complicated it was when it first appeared, so you can�t say an artist created it. You therefore can�t say all game creators are artists. �Neither was '2001: A Space Odyssey'.� What is that supposed to mean?

�We're talking about very different kinds of "rules and objectives" there.� Yes, you have started to define a game as a set of rules relating to a player. But you needed to define ART remember, not a game. Even if you said art requires an intended audience, didn�t the sign at auschwitz �work shall set you free� have an intended audience too?

�Do I believe that we human beings can think of our world as a canvas, and the change that we manifest in it and the society (and things) that we create in it as art? I do. � If everything is art then it is a stupid definition.  I�m sure mediocre people who can�t draw, write etc. like it though. Seems very egalitarian and socialist right? Until you point out it includes the holocaust and lots of other nasty things.

�Once you start down that path, you are destroying. Perfectly debatable, but I think most people defining art would draw the line well before murder.�  Doesn�t creating a sculpture destroy the stones original form? So art is everything except murder? What about rape? How is this definition not �arbitrary�?

�As an attempt to manifest an idea into reality, it failed utterly.� So you�d be in favour of the holocaust if it had�ve worked?

I�ve already said what art is. Read my other posts.

Posted by Ed on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five past four am

Man, you sure love making crazy assumptions about what I'm trying to say..

sigh

My point about chess is not the ridiculous line you've come up with there. Lets say chess didn't exist, and you personally created it. Personally, I would say you could most definitely call yourself an artist. You would have undergone a creative process, using whatever inspiration and imagination you had available, and created something amazing that you could share with other people so that they may experience it. I would love to hear why such a creation would NOT qualify as a work of art.

"Neither was 2001: A Space Odyssey" was a direct response to your statement that chess was not created by one person. The number of people involved has no impact on whether or not something is art. Collaboration, etc.

"Mediocre people who can't draw, write, etc" are only mediocre to your subjective value system. Basing whether or not you define something as art on your opinion of its quality is an elitist angle that often means a person will write off a whole lot of art that may have moved them had they been more open to it. It seems far more useful to me to have a more inclusive definition of art - one that includes dodgy little sketches right through to oil on canvas masterpieces, and instead focus on the differences in response they create in you.

Ah forget it. Re-reading "So you�d be in favour of the holocaust if it had�ve worked?" has suggested to me that I'm wasting my time talking to you. My statement had nothing remotely to do with what I am "in favour" of, and that question insults the intelligence of anyone reading. Clearly you are not interested in understanding what I'm trying to say, which is fine but makes this discussion pretty pointless.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five past five am

Going for new tactics huh? Trying to portray yourself as the exasperated, sensitive person dealing with an ignorant and rude person. Goodstuff. Some people claim lying is an art. However, I�m not making crazy assumptions at all, if I am it's only because I�m trying to understand your vague and contradictory position:

1. You claim art is merely the product of creative choice and is not exclusive. Anyone who disagrees is �completely insane�.  You agree taking a dump is art.
2. You claim subjective ideas are bad. Any restrictions on the definition of art would be �arbitrary�.
3. You claim the holocaust could be art, though some people might exclude murder as art. You also criticise it for not being successful.

Here�s the contradiction. If you include everything as art, then you must include the holocaust. If you exclude murder, that is �subjective� and �arbitrary�, contradicting point 2. If you believe the holocaust is art, and if you accept that art is �good�, then you believe the holocaust is �good�. If you don�t believe art is �good�, then why are you in favour of games being art?

Your point about chess is ridiculous. If you don�t know how something was created, how can you infer anything from it? I could look at stalagmites in a cave, think they are pretty and imagine that an artist made them. Does that make nature art?

�are only mediocre to your subjective value system� they are only not mediocre due to your subjective value system.

�Discussion pretty pointless.� It is, as is the discussion �are games real?�.

Here's the answer to your question. Its an arbitrary definition of art, but at least it is logically consistent:

Art are things that the right kinds of people consider are �good�. For example, a successful illustrator would be in a better position to classify illustrations as art than some idiot who went to uni and was spoonfed some bull egalitarian definition of art (because he will have perverted tastes and lack a disciplined eye).

In general, art would be something that tells you something about the world and is aesthetically pleasing. Whether it is art depends on how good it is at doing both of those.

So forget the term �abstract art�, paint randomly placed on a canvas is just that.

You can�t call the world art. Art involves filtering information contained in the world. This explains why a painting of a scene might be art but a photo of the same scene may not be.

The rules and objectives of a game aren�t art because they tell you very little about the world. The Queen being the most powerful piece only suggests the Queen was a powerful position in the real world.

Abstract video games like pacman cannot be art.

As I said the story in games could be considered art because they could contain all the information a standalone story would. We can�t separate the rules from the story in all cases though � the rules influence the story. Does the interactivity add to the information imparted about the world? Or can it sometimes detract from it?

In �The immortal�, if you make a choice to withhold water from a goblin, you will be punished later. This message �cruelty is punished� fits with the overall message of the game. On the other hand, in a game like �Robin hood�, you can murder a girl bathing naked and still get the happy ending. This doesn�t fit the overall message of the game.

Games like final fantasy X are the great and impart knowledge about the world in an aesthetically pleasing way, just like books and movies. Are they art? I never pretended to be the �right kind� of people � I don�t read much or watch many films. Someone who knows alot about all mediums (Eg. Jordan mechner worked on games and film?) would be in a better position to say.

In other words, Roger Ebert could still be right. At least he doesn't claim the holocaust is art. You really shouldn�t have claimed he was ignorant, a wanker etc. you are directly insulting him and �the intelligence of anyone reading�.

I say we grab a movie Roger Ebert thinks is art and make an adventure story game out of it.

Posted by Ed on Apr 18, 2010 quarter past nine am

Oh god. I need to get to sleep so I'll keep this short(er). Once again, though, you're putting words in my mouth and misunderstanding (and\or misrepresenting) my intent.

"Art are things that the right kinds of people consider are �good� " is barely a definition at all. Who determines who the "right kinds of people are"? That's as subjective as "good".

I'm sure Hitler considered himself the right kind of person (not only for the fact that he was a painter) and I'm quite sure he considered the Holocaust "good", and the Holocaust certainly tells you a lot about the world, so by your very own definition I guess the Holocaust must be art. See how easy and meaningless it is to ram the two things together to make a point?

You say I claim that subjective ideas are bad.. What the hell are you talking about? You're getting the wrong end of the stick from almost all of my posts. It seems as though we're out of phase. That's ok, these things happen. Perhaps we should stop polluting Ron's blog trying to get through to each other, because I don't like the chances of it happening any time soon. Just know that nearly everything you've said I claim is not in line with what I believe. I'm sorry I've been unable to effectively convey my thoughts to you. Good day.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 18, 2010 quarter to eleven am

Please read the whole post. I define how �good� could be evaluated. The holocaust couldn�t be art by my definition because it is not a representation of the world. I gave two examples of the right people(=EXPERTS IN THAT AREA). An example of what real experts think art is:

http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/Philosophy/ArtScam/artscam.php

I never �meaninglessly� used the holocaust. It effectively drives home the point that your definition either makes no consideration about what is �good� for society or is illogical.

�so many people have a completely perverted understanding of what art is�
+
�Any further criteria is firmly in the realm of subjectivity.�

Suggests you think subjective definitions are perverted.

Posted by Wormsie on May 4, 2010 five past eight pm

Don't you know that when you use the Hitler card in an online discussion, you've lost? http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adnazium.html

Posted by Jack Shandy on Apr 21, 2010 half past two am

Game designers are my heroes , but let's not muddy the definition of Art any more than it has been already. Taking your stuff into account would give art the definition of "A well-made thing."

Game Design is sport. It's more engineering than anything, like making a fine piece of machinery. I personally marvel at the design of the common aeroplane, for example: a finely made thing indeed, requiring imagination etc etc etc - but it's not art. It's "Design". They are different. There is a reason we call it "Game Design".

You're saying football is art. You're saying monopoly is. I just... please stop saying these things. They are not true. They don't help anything.

Posted by Ed on May 2, 2010 five past three pm

You say you marvel at the design of an aeroplane.. As do I. Hypothetically speaking though, lets say the common aeroplane didn't exist. If a very creative fellow, a 'sculptor' perhaps, with a very sophisticated grasp of metal-working, created one (which presumably couldn't actually fly) for the purpose of display as a sculpture, we'd all agree it was art, right?

Now if that same man did exactly the same thing, but added some significant steps to make it a working vehicle rather than a sculpture, we can't call it art anymore? Even though the exact same creative process occurred, just with additional design and engineering on top? It seems unfair to credit one man's use of imaginative vision as art and not another's simply because one creation is functional and one is not.

Similarly, if a visual artist creates something in the style of a hypothetical architectural blueprint or technical diagram (and there are many works like this), we would have no hesitation calling it art, right? But now if that same person creates the exact same blueprint or diagram with the intention of it being used for actual construction, it's suddenly not art?

I'm sorry that a broad definition of art seems to rub some people up the wrong way, but it seems crazy to have a million different limited definitions of art, which nobody can agree on, with all these specific conditions to exclude different things and include others, when we could have a definition of art like "a human creation born in the human mind" or something like that, and then leave the subjective stuff for defining your opinion of a work.

Here's a question for you. Is "Quidditch" art? :p

Posted by Ed on May 3, 2010 quarter to six pm

One last point, I never said or meant to imply that a thing needs to be made "well" in order to be art. Many people here are saying such things, indicating that there is some quality level or "goodness" that must be reached before something is art, but I think that approach is entirely flawed. Since "good", merit itself, is entirely subjective, it can't possibly factor in to a definition that will be agreed upon by multiple people. Each person will value things differently and thus everyone will have their own list of things which do or don't qualify as art, and argue over them perpetually. That's just what's happening now, and it's neither beneficial to art appreciators or art itself.

Who gets to decide what's "good enough" to be art? I utterly reject the idea of "experts" in a field in which creativity, breaking down boundaries and inventing new approaches are the most valuable contributions. Many art "experts" rejected impressionism outright when it first appeared. Many jazz "experts" wrote off Miles Davis with 'Bitches Brew', yet today both of these things are recognised as pivotal expansions of art into new territory.

Clearly I'm not going to convince many people, but I enthusiastically maintain a definition of (and approach to) art that includes imaginative creations in any and every medium, because anything less would cut me off from the place the most innovative, most interesting and often most powerful art generally comes from: where you least expect it.

Posted by John on Apr 17, 2010 five to noon

Don't get me wrong -- Monkey Island was a great, entertaining game with an amazing narrative. It's like well-written fiction.

But a game like Braid, where the visuals are staggering, the concept bends your mind, and the story encourages you to think -- that's literature.

Ebert should play Braid and see what he thinks about video games as art.

Posted by Pod on Apr 21, 2010 ten to six am

I didn't think the visual were staggering, the concept definately didn't "bend my mind" and the story was trash.

Braid was a fun game. It was a terrible book, though.

Posted by TheBearPaw on Apr 17, 2010 five to one pm

Frankly, Roger Ebert is just and old fool. Forget that hack, everyone.

Posted by Pete on Apr 17, 2010 quarter past one pm

2 words: "Another World"
If this game is not 100% art (and a masterpiece at that), then I don't know what is. Inspired a whole generation, not unlike movies and other works of art have done before.

Ron, you are right. Roger Ebert simply doesn't seem to have played the right video games.

Posted by Steven Saczkowski on Apr 17, 2010 ten past six pm

Amen Ron... You have to understand Ebert is from a different generation, don't expect him to understand since he didn't grow up with it. It's just lack of knowledge. A more intelligent person would indulge, understand and experiment.

Posted by Elaine Marley XD on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five past midnight

Art, art... has there ever been a more vague term?
It caused rivers of useful ink, because typicals pedants with a little reading proclaim the right to define ART.

To hell with "art".
My face when playing good videogames is not like the kid that Ebert posted in his resentful article.
My face is a face (beautiful, of course :P) that shows the same happiness that when I'm listening the great rocker Beethoven, (another victim, in his own time, of this kind of frightened men).

Roger Ebert is just the exception that proves the rule of the evolution of art.

Posted by Rexilafa on Apr 19, 2010 twenty past seven am

Agree with that, beautiful face. If we can't get an unanimous definition of art, it is pointless to argue about this.

I could only affirm two things (which anyway keeps being my opinion):
1- If movies can be art, then games can be art.
2- You shouldn't criticize things that you didn't experienced.

This doesn't mean I believe that games are art. But is good that the game designers have this beliefs. This makes them create more interesting and entertaining games.

Ron, you shouldn't worry so much to prove this man is wrong. If he is so closed minded then you shouldn't take his opinnion so seriously... No one here has the absolute truth.

Posted by Rikard Peterson on Apr 18, 2010 three am

...and Ebert's reply? "Ah..."Pirates of the Caribbean" is not art."

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html#comment-911483

Posted by Stig on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five to five am

Oh, please. You people just love trying to justify your little idiocies with claims that they're equal to high art, but you wouldn't know real art if it slapped you in the face. Art is not, nor will it ever be, about the creator's ideas or experiences, but those which are interpreted by the audience. No-one gives a damn what Van Gogh was thinking about when he painted the sunflowers; they just like the painting for the impressions it gives them. There is no 'interaction', as described mistakenly in the original post as 'true art'. In a game, the user does not take away any impressions not put there by the creator; in fact, they are discouraged from using their imagination. You don't play Half-Life 2 to muse on the mortal nature of man, see the characters as a metaphor for war or tragedy; you just want to kill fictional people andrack up a high score. An adventure game doesn't encourage you to create your own adventures or stories, just to limit yourself to the world that the game is set in.  

There is no videogame equivalent to Spielberg's Schindler's List, nor Eliot's Middlemarch, nor Picasso's Guernica, nor Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, nor Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, nor Satrapi's Persepolis, nor Wagner's Ring Cycle. They are NOT, repeat NOT an artform but a form of cheap, brainless entertainment. No-one will ever build a statue to a gamer as they would a poet; no church will ever comissioner a game from a gamer as they would a mural from an artist; critics will never praise a game for its examination of race and gender as they would a well-written book. Anyone can pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a musical instrument a movie camera, a typewriter, and participate in a form of art; there is no equivalent for gaming, which takes thousands of dollars to set up even the most basic software and a knowledge of computing that borders on obsessive.

Even comic books, one of the most commercialised artforms ever conceieved, brought about Art Spiegelman, V for Vendetta, When The Wind Blows, Mad Magazine. Gaming, on the other hand, brings out Tim Buckley, mass school shootings, and a whole generation of kids who'd rather sit in a dark room without thinking than see a play at the theater.

And yet I have a feeling you're not going to listen to any of this. Like the drones in Plato's Cave, you're just going to keep telling me I'm wrong; that the shadows are real and the truth a lie. Well, go on, you fools. Polish that turd like there's no tomorrow. Tell yourselves that the entertainment equivalent of Sarah Palin is just as good as the artistic equivalent of Emmeline Pankhurst or Jane Austen. Keep stomping up and down in your little world of denial while the real artists give you what you deserve: utter non-recognition.

Video Games are not art, nor will they ever be; and in fifteen years, they will be a thing of the past. Deal. With. It.

Posted by Ed on Apr 18, 2010 five to five am

Wow. An amazing post for how well it coins a brand of ignorance. I'm pretty close to believing you're just trying to stir people up.

Posted by Stig on Apr 18, 2010 quarter past five am

And yet...not one intelligent response to any of my arguments. Just the blind, all-encompassing "I don't agree, therefore you must be ignorant!". Perhaps because you have no intelligent responses - or because you just can't phrase them?

Posted by Iskbob on Apr 18, 2010 ten past eight am

....your post gave me a migraine.

Are you really that much of an elitist? Art is subjective, usually the reason why people like a certain art form over one or another, is because they reveal something to the viewer, inspire them somehow, tickle the brain chemistry which makes us find meaning. What should be classified as Art is anything which can be seen as a medium for creativity and provides meaning to the viewer. Video games - in any type of form are Art, an interactive form, whether it is good or not, is beside the point.

Video games are still evolving and have a mere 30 years maturation, compared to a 100 years of film.
+I think it's wrong to make direct comparisons with film and traditional art forms as they inspire different things, (film and hanging art are much more passive experiences...)

In my opinion I think that Video games can offer so much more than film and static art forms, it allows you to be a participant instead of a passive viewer.... why wouldn't you want to call it and have it included as an art form??
Do you have some sort of deep seated prejudice against computers? or just have major troubles finding the power button on your Apple Mac?

Posted by Ed on Apr 18, 2010 half past eight am

I wasn't going to respond in full because I've already written so damn much in these blog comments... but OK.

RE: your previous post;

I don't know where your bitterness comes from (your very first sentence is a straight up insult), or who you think you're talking to when you say "you people". "Gamers" are not a unified group of any kind. They are people of all walks of life who happen to play electronic games.

"You don't play Half-Life 2 to muse on the mortal nature of man..."
Speak for yourself. You arrogantly state that people play games a certain way for a certain reason. Different people do different things for different reasons and get different things out of them. I have personally had my imagination sparked and thought provoked while playing games many times.

"There is no videogame equivalent to Spielberg's Schindler's List..."
Seeking equivalents is meaningless. Different artforms have different strengths and each work should be judged on its own merit - that being the merit that you personally find in it when you experience it. This is subjective. You may never have played a game that resonated with you as much as certain works of art you enjoy, but that does not prevent other people from having deep experiences with games that leave them similarly affected. Who are you to invalidate their experiences?

"Anyone can pick up a pen, a paintbrush..."
When I was 13 I was making PC games. Crude, simple ones, but games nonetheless. Computers have fast become ubiquitous and knowledge of how to use them commonplace. There are large online communities of people of all ages who make games as a hobby in the same way that some might pick up a paintbrush and take up painting. I'm sorry that game development seems like an alien process to you but it is not so for everyone. The human mind is a very capable organ. I have no doubt you could learn programming if you so desired.

"Gaming, on the other hand, brings out Tim Buckley, mass school shootings..."
Just as there are games that focus on violence, there are films, plays, paintings, even music (I'm sure you're aware of the initial reception to The Rite of Spring) which do the same. There are also many games which do not. The validity of an entire medium is not determined by the choice of subject matter of some (or any) works within the medium, nor by the opinions of various religious or political groups. Besides that, a causal connection between violent games and violent actions has never been adequately demonstrated. Plenty of people play violent games and never commit a violent act in their lives. If playing Quake makes you shoot your classmates I say you are an emotional wreck for much deeper reasons and are as likely to be set off by an argument.

Your next paragraph is mostly vehement bile. Not much of an "argument" to discuss. Thanks for the insults, anyway.

"Video Games are not art, nor will they ever be; and in fifteen years, they will be a thing of the past. Deal. With. It."
The possibilities of interactive art and entertainment facilitated by technology are only beginning to present themselves. Each successive generation is more and more open to and familiar with the medium. Each successive generation pushes the medium to new hights and in front of more and more people. I can only imagine your disappointment in fifteen years when your gameless world fails to materialize.

Posted by alexander on Apr 23, 2010 twenty to two am

Well said, and thank you.

Posted by Whitesuit on Apr 19, 2010 twenty five to three am

"I'm trying to troll and flame in here, why is no one answering to me!"

Posted by Rexilafa on Apr 19, 2010 five past eight am

Perhaps it is pointless to give any response. You are absolutely sure that you are completely right, and we all don't know a thing about nothing...

Posted by Dog on Apr 19, 2010 ten past five pm

Are you serious?

No, really, is this a joke?

You're saying video games are brainless, anti-cultural swill while Mad Magazine is high art.  Do you have any idea what parents were saying about Mad Magazine back when it was actually relevant?

"[T]here is no equivalent for gaming, which takes thousands of dollars to set up even the most basic software and a knowledge of computing that borders on obsessive. "

The setup costs as much as a moderately-capable personal computer (which most people already own).  The software and tutorials are available legally for free for anyone who knows how to use Google.  You are blatantly misinformed.

Your reasoning on this is pretty flawed.  Maybe the average dipshit doesn't creatively interpret video games, but that same dipshit doesn't creatively interpret literature, film or paintings either.  There's nothing intrinsic to the medium of video games that makes them incapable of the things traditional artforms are capable of.  There may not be "high art" video games yet, but keep in mind it took comic books a good forty or fifty years before guys like R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman came along.  Video games haven't been around that long.  Give them time.

Posted by Wormsie on May 4, 2010 quarter past eight pm

"Anyone can pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a musical instrument a movie camera, a typewriter, and participate in a form of art; there is no equivalent for gaming, which takes thousands of dollars to set up even the most basic software and a knowledge of computing that borders on obsessive."

You claim that musical instruments aren't expensive?! My drums cost 1000 dollars! My piano cost 3500 dollars! My guitar cost 500 dollars, plus the amp which was 300 dollars! For ten years, I paid hundreds of dollars a year to attend a music school! I practiced for years, several hours a day! ...And you think this isn't obsessive? Do you think artists just wave their hands idly for a few minutes after having had some tea? Don't you know that art requires  a lot of practice and that you have to be obsessed to succeed?

(Of course there are cheaper alternatives, but most musicians don't begin with the kazoo, or indeed become professional kazoo players.)

You can buy a PC for 200 dollars and download Adventure Game Studio for free.

"Gaming, on the other hand, brings out Tim Buckley, mass school shootings, and a whole generation of kids who'd rather sit in a dark room without thinking than see a play at the theater. "

Yeah, theater has always been so ala mode among lower and middle class youngsters. School shootings aren't caused by computer games, btw.

Posted by Daniel on Apr 18, 2010 ten to six am

Why even care?
Who wants to be recognised as an artist or movie maker when you can be recognised as a game designer?

Posted by Mojo on Apr 18, 2010 ten to six am

Question is: do you consider guys that Monopoly, card games, board games, are art ?

Posted by Ed on Apr 19, 2010 ten past one am

First make an artwork in a medium you're familiar with. Now make a board game. Tell me it was any less creative a process. :p

Board games are definitely works of art. They don't need to make you cry or any silly criteria like that.

Posted by Fuz on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five to nine am

Actually, the characters and the stories in MI1 and MI2 are way much better than in PotC.

Posted by MFauli on Apr 18, 2010 half past ten am

Fitting the current, 1000st art-discussion, I published this article on Team ICO today.

http://flyingfisch.wordpress.com/2010/04/18/lets-talk-about-team-ico/

Posted by Fuz on Apr 18, 2010 twenty to eleven am

Anyway, I think that mr. Ebert opinion is polluted by the fact that most videogames are (sadly) just the equivalent of a cheesy blockbuster movie.
So, the majority of videogames are not art. But it doesn't mean tha vgs can't be art. The two Monkey Islands, Psychonauts, Braid (just to name a few) prove that.

Posted by Giacomo on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five past noon

Ebert, like most "film people", is deeply scared by the fact that his favourite medium (from which he gets his professional role in the world) is losing relevance by the day.

The same happened for opera and theatre when movies arrived: they slowly lost their standing in the life of the masses, relegated to niches of specialized followers. Movies will inevitably have to bow to the superior power of interactive experience. People like Ebert know this, and they are trying to discredit the medium, but they will fail.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 18, 2010 twenty five to one pm

RE: update

Make a special special edition of leChucks revenge, just for Roger Ebert

http://sharprm.deviantart.com/art/MI-special-Roger-Ebert-edition-161179268

Posted by on Apr 18, 2010 five past two pm

hitler ?

just had to see if you actually did it :)

Posted by on Apr 18, 2010 five past two pm

guess not

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Apr 18, 2010 ten past three pm

Yeah, but now I have to.

Posted by Zeus on Apr 18, 2010 quarter past two pm

I'm starting to think Roger is simply trolling for ratings.

Think about it: you're pushing 70, haven't been on TV in years and these days more people get film recommendations from twitter than the Chicago Sun-Times.

What do you do?

Bait young readers with an insanely negative review of Kick-Ass, then follow it up with an out-of-the-blue reprisal of the good ol' games aren't art debate.

I bet his traffic went through the roof these past couple of days.

Posted by fedexior on Apr 18, 2010 ten to three pm

Computer and video games (specially adventure games) are art. A new way of art. Period. No mather what this Noodle-in-the-stomach guy said.

Posted by ghandi on Apr 18, 2010 five to four pm

Posted by Steven on Apr 18, 2010 five past nine pm

Oooooooooooh in your face Ebert

Posted by Rusty Broomhandle on Apr 19, 2010 one am

Sooo um, what is "art" according to Ebert? And Ron. And everyone else - ?

Posted by Rusty Broomhandle on Apr 19, 2010 ten past one am

Oh, and Ebert puts up "Le voyage dans la lune" as an example (although he suggests muting the music).

With that in mind, I think Machinarium might be a better one for him to actually play.

Actually, hell, anything... all I want is an informed opinion, regardless of what conclusion he draws from it.

Posted by Ralph on Apr 19, 2010 twenty to three am

Amen. Ebert, as much as I love and respect the guy (and agree with him and his views most of the time) he should drop the subject. He usually knows his stuff and knows what he's talking about, but not having played any games himself I'd say his opinion about them is invalid.

That being said, I believe that games can be art. Many games aren't, but some games I do consider to be art. Just like I think some movies, paintings and music are art. Definitely not all of them, though.

Posted by Samuel Murdoch on Apr 19, 2010 twenty five to four am

Well,
why I'm here now?
I'm over 5000 miles far from a man I never met,
trying to write an acceptable english,
reading the blog of one of the reason that inspired my need of
creativity in every aspects of my life,
looking for news of his current/future works.

I'm not a fan(atic), like can't be a fan who read a classical author's book.
It's not a social thing, nor a pastime,
I'm here because I growed up with Monkey Island and the other "Lucasfilm Games",
and I would like to keep learning about this new form of art that are games,
directly from the source.
Ron actually changed my life.
I'm laughing saying it, but it's true:
since when I was 8 (first time I played MI) my greatest desire
was to make an adventure game, one day or another. (I'm taking a lot
of notes eheh)
Now I'm 24 and I think that making games is the best way to express
creativity in every aspects, to produce a work full of our ideas,
our character, our fantasy, our mood. (It's creative and fun also for a programmer!)

In Italy, we say "to give birth" a work of art,
well, isn't "making art" to produce something look
like us (our talent, our past, our present, our dreams in a game)?

Holy mackerel! Adventure games, in the abstract, have all the same gameplay..
but I'm here finding that thing that just people like Ron can give to games,
which is art!!

Davide

Posted by Ninomojo on Apr 19, 2010 twenty five past four am

I wondered if anyone ever mentionned Ico to Ebert? And if he can honestly say it's not art? The game makes you actually care for another character. The first question in everyone's mind after they reach the ending was not "what did I unlock?" but rather "Oh no what happen to Yorda?!"

Saying that a movie/game is not art misses the point by a light year. I'ts the medium that's art or not, and pretty much any medium is art I would say. Judging what medium is art or not (and what one will ever be or not) only by the quality of the current works (that you have not experienced yourself) is something very much brainless and dare I say "fascist" for someone like Roger Ebert.

Posted by Ninomojo on Apr 19, 2010 twenty five to five am

I also wonder if Roger has ever heard of the indie scene, where "art games" are common.

Posted by CJL on Apr 19, 2010 five to five am

<my apologies for the seemingly semi-philosophical nature of the following>

Well...first of all, 'art' is a completely misunderstood concept. And one can even justly wonder whether art still exists or whether it was 'killed' by the whole l'art-pour-l'art movement during the 19th century.

When art is applied correctly it's a way to research (much like science, mathematics, philosophy, theology, etc.). Art - again when done correctly - has a purpose...a purpose to understand the world (or light, or anatomy, or story, etc); not necessarily for the viewer, but for the artist/researcher it does. And then the l'art-pour-l'art movement came, and art suddenly became the goal rather than the method. This also resulted in the fact that by ridding art of it's purpose you rid art of itself.

So that brings us to movies, books, etc. Many of the subjects in these classes (including most art-house movies) belong to the l'art-pour-l'art movement: their existence is also their only purpose. They are descriptive at best, but no research and insight is gained (at least not for its creator). So while these are often called art, they are actually not. They are l'art-pour-l'art...

And games? - Well, most games aren't any better than books or movies on this aspect. They too are l'art-pour-l'art at best (even most artsy-games). Few of them have a deeper purpose. And few of them are 'true art'.

So is Monkey Island art? - Was Ron a researcher who wanted to understand 'the universe we live in', or was he just a l'art-pour-l'artist? - Personally I think the latter in this case, but only he can answer that. Does that make Monkey Island a worse game? - No. Does it make Monkey Island less valid than Leonardo's sketches? - No. So if you ask me, I think that the people who fight about this - on both sides - completely lack an understanding of what art actually is. Something isn't art because of how it's made (paint, words, pixels) or what medium was used (books, music, interactive computer-thingies, movies); but neither is something non-art for the same reason. It's not about how, it's about to what end.

Maybe we just give the word 'art' more credits than it's due (because true art has died for a long time).

Posted by Ed on Apr 19, 2010 quarter past six pm

Nice post, though I think even "true art" in the sense that you have indicated is more broadly encompasing than may seem apparent. Research and insight is most certainly gained in the process of every artistic creation. The subject matter that is being 'researched' need not be something as practical as anatomy or light, but can surely include internalized phenomena such as the hopes, dreams, feelings, experiences and imaginings of human beings.

As a part of this world, we (and the capacity of our minds) are ourselves most certainly a subject worthy of research, and the expression and subsequent analysis of this realm is most certainly a purpose worthy of "true art". Even the latest Beyonce album (to randomly pick something) has much to offer as an expression of people in a time and place in the world, and this becomes all the more apparent the more distanced in time we are from a work.

"Art" may have begun as a study of things external to ourselves, but that the lense now tends to be pointed inwards does not hinder its capacity as a means to study. That's not to say that many 'artists' today think about their work in that way, but the process, the learning, happens regardless.

Posted by Rusty Broomhandle on Apr 19, 2010 half past six am

CJL, that's not a bad summary there.

Although, I have to disagree with your closing statement. By your "purpose to understand the world" comment, I'd have to say that someone who codes an algorithm that simulates natural physics is also a true artist.

Maybe by taking the above into account, games are like entire art galleries, combining art of all kinds.

Posted by CJL on Apr 19, 2010 ten to seven am

While I wouldn't consider someone who codes an algorithm that simulates natural physics (or perceived physics (which is quite different from the natural physics at times)) an artist pers�...I do believe that his findings/work can be part of art.

To clarify: I wouldn't consider the piano-builder an artist (by definition (although he can be)); he's a craftsman...he provides the tools. This is of course an extremely important job, and can influence art and the direction art takes, and I don't think you could overestimate the influence the craftsmen have had on art and artists. Of course there's a very thin line between artists and craftsmen (and here's my link back to games).

Posted by sharprm on Apr 19, 2010 five to eight am

You're definition says nothing about making things aesthetically pleasing.

Research is important for drawing, but it is not the purpose. Leonardo's dissection diagrams are very different to his paintings.

Posted by CJL on Apr 19, 2010 quarter to eleven am

I'm not talking about research being important for drawing or art.
I'm talking about (true) art being research (not science...research) itself, intrinsically.

There is no rule that art has to be aesthetically pleasing (just like a game doesn't HAVE to be fun (it is a plus, but it's not a necessity)). And it would show little understanding about art to think that all aesthetically pleasing creations are art (just like not fun computer programs are games)...I'm not saying you claimed the latter though.

As for Leonardo...they aren't that different. They're only differently interpreted because the interpretation of his pieces and their purpose is corrupted by a misunderstanding of art.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 19, 2010 ten past eleven am

Better example: is an anatomy textbook the same as a propaganda poster?

Your definition applies to anything that is considered art ... good artists must understand what they are doing, to understand they need to do research ... good artists are communicating ideas ... ideas need research.

It would come undone if someone painted really good stuff that is pretty much the same (same information = no research done). But good artists would get bored doing that.

But how much stuff that ISN'T art would involve research? How much research is needed for it to be classified? Is it only incremental research?

Also, can you give an example of something u consider art that is not aesthetically pleasing? I think all ugly drawings aren't art.

Posted by CJL on Apr 19, 2010 quarter past noon

It's of course not really a definition but rather a requirement. I don't deny other requirements to apply as well. I'm merely defending that this particular requirement is often disregarded.

You asked: "But how much stuff that ISN'T art would involve research?" - The answer is: a lot. But since one should consider research (as in: discovering/increasing your understanding/etc) as part of the purpose of art and not 'merely' part of the creation-process, the answer is different. This is also why it doesn't apply to everything that is considered art...and why an someone can both make art and 'nice drawings' (hence 'art by name of the artist' makes no sense).

Example: When creating something like this drawing of a werewolf from the Tolkien world...the creation-process would involve a lot of research: back-story from the Silmarillion, anatomy of both humans and wolves, colour theory, etc. It is however also an example of something that is merely a pretty picture (and craftsmanship) and not art. The drawing has no purpose expect for being a pretty picture...

It's of course difficult give an example of something that I consider art but not aesthetically pleasing (to me). But one example that I could think of is a statue in Rotterdam called 'city without a heart'. I really consider it quite ugly...and even more so in person (here is a drawn version). But still, this sculpture has purpose, it has meaning, it has intention. And - considering it's in memory of the bombardments during the second world-war - it's probably a better piece of art because it focusses on that purpose rather than the aesthetics...

...of course others will disagree with me and say that this is the most beautiful sculpture ever. That's why I didn't include aesthetically pleasing (or beautiful) as a requirement...it's just too personal.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 19, 2010 half past one pm

I don't get it. So if the kid who drew the werewolf drew it because he wanted to learn anatomy and stuff, then it'd be art?

That weird sculpture you linked, what research did its creator do?

Posted by CJL on Apr 19, 2010 twenty past three pm

You're still not looking at art as being research itself...you're still focussing on research as being part of the creation-process, whereas I go beyond that.

If the guy who drew the werewolf drew it to get a better understanding of the universe we live in then yes, it might/would have been art. In this case, where he just drew it to make a pretty picture, it isn't...it's just a pretty picture.

As for the sculpture...it's not about the research that was put into the work but about the 'insight' gained from the work.

"To truly understand art one should understand its purpose not its creation nor its appearance."

Posted by sharprm on Apr 19, 2010 twenty to four pm

Anatomy is in the universe so if he drew the werewolf to get a better understanding of anatomy then it is art, yes?

If Ron made Monkey Island to get a better understanding of imagination and pirates and kleptomania then it is art, yes?

Are we supposed to infer the purpose of things, or do we rely on the author's explanation, or can we never classify art?

Besides purpose, can you list any other requirements for art?

Posted by CJL on Apr 20, 2010 twenty five past midnight

"Anatomy is in the universe so if he drew the werewolf to get a better understanding of anatomy then it is art, yes?"

Then it would fulfil one of the requirements for art, yes. But in this case he didn't, nor tried to.

"Are we supposed to infer the purpose of things, or do we rely on the author's explanation, or can we never classify art?"

In general I think we can rely on the author's explanation (for those artists who say 'it doesn't matter what it means to you', or just hide behind the word 'art', it's quite clear that they're not making true art). Of course if the author is dead, then things get a bit more difficult ;) - And then it's a combination of the first and the last (a bit of inferation (which is not a word, but should be), and a bit of can't-fully-know).

"Besides purpose, can you list any other requirements for art?"
This isn't a simple question, because art is difficult to define. It should have a level of craftsmanship (within the choices made during the creation), originality (imitation is not art), emotion (from the point of the creator).

Things that are not requirements (but are allowed, and can make a piece better): it doesn't have to be made for an audience or to 'teach' society, it doesn't have to be independent of money (you can make art that's sell-able), it doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing, it doesn't have to be made using general tools or media (while it can be more difficult to sell to a museum because there's no 'original', digital media can make art), etc.

Posted by CJL on Apr 20, 2010 twenty five past one am

by the way...I do know the guy who drew the werewolf personally and quite well; and because I know he doesn't consider this piece art for very much the same reasons I've written down above, I chose to select it as an example.

Posted by sharprm on Apr 20, 2010 five to four am

ok thx for your explanation

Posted by arvenius on Apr 19, 2010 ten past eight am

What about the demoscene? That stuff is supposed to be art, the guys who do the demos consider themselfes artists.
A demo can run on any platform, so it could also run on ScummVM and be scripted in SCUMM.
Well i don't speak SCUMM and its hard to find any reference of that language on the net but I know someone who speaks SCUMM fluently, heck i know a person that probably dreams in SCUMM and its Ron.
Of course it wouldnt look all flashy 3d rotating camera action shader dripping but theres a lot of room for oldschool love in the hearts of the scene. Think Pixel-Love, think MI2 intro, think cool oldschool midi tunes, think art!.
Be cool, do a SCUMM Demo and make it run on ScummVM (massive multiplatform, baby!) and show that Roger Guy what art is all about. It could even have an interactive part to span the bridge to games.
The scene (and I) would love you for it =)

Posted by Jon on Apr 19, 2010 quarter past eight am

If you can read French, interesting article ont this point :

http://www.dixiemeart.com/2010/04/19/videogames-can-never-be-art/

Posted by MemeMachine on Apr 19, 2010 five past four pm

If you don't think video games can be art, then you haven't played Planescape Torment.

Posted by Lewis Smart on Apr 19, 2010 ten past four pm

Roger Ebert is old.

Posted by MannyG on Apr 19, 2010 twenty to six pm

I am not an video game player, but I remember watching my roommates playing Bioshock last year and just being amazed. Bioshock was just as much, if not more, of a cinematic and artistic experience than most films I have seen in the past couple of years. I really do not understand Ebert's logic, if anything, by saying that not all film is art, only some of it, he is giving room for the same rule to be applied to video games. Not all games are art, some games are art.

That's my opinion, and it doesn't matter, nor does Ebert's.

Posted by Roy Jones on Apr 19, 2010 twenty to six pm

Art is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by Famiry on Apr 19, 2010 five past eight pm

Roger Ebert has clearly never played Shadow of the Colossus. Also, why the fuck are people still having "what defines art" debates? Jesus Christ.

Posted by scramblyhairball on Apr 19, 2010 twenty past eleven pm

Back when I had more time and played more video games, I would occasionally receive criticism from avid readers because I was "sitting around playing a game all day," or even from people who sat around watching TV and movies all day.  I felt like my response always fell on deaf ears, but it was the same as yours, and I'm glad to know that someone else out there would say the same:

Video games are like a book or movie, rich in characters and plot, except they're interactive.  You actually have to think a little to reach the end; you won't complete the game by sitting there, passively soaking it all in.  In that sense I find playing video games to be less "lazy" than watching movies or even reading.  I think it's nice to have a passive story you can soak up now and then, so I'm not knocking movies or books.  But I never failed to notice the irony of someone acting as if I were lazy because I liked to play video games, when they would watch TV instead.

Something I always appreciated about video games was that I could interact with the world, actively pursue the stories of the characters, and even change the fate of the plot.  It's refreshing to know I'm not alone!

Posted by Lude on Apr 20, 2010 two am

A damn it! Roger Ebert is a jerk. Even as a filmcritic he had a pretty narrowminded view. A good game actually includes a much higher variety of differnet layers and in terms of storytelling than any movie technically can. Simply because a movie is linear by default. The only realy good thing Eber did was writing"Beyond the Valley of Dolls" with Russ Meyer. Watch it if you haven't: http://bit.ly/crm2YS  - its simply awesome!!!!

Posted by Martin Zwigl on Apr 20, 2010 quarter to six am

So, which movie(s) does Mr. Ebert consider art?
Maybe then, we can do a comparison.

Greetings from Austria,
Martin Zwigl

Posted by Chyron8472 on Apr 20, 2010 twenty past six am

Ron,

I love the points you made here. By Roger's standards, story-telling itself is not an art form and that sounds like too far of a stretch to be realistic.

Posted by DD Ra on Apr 20, 2010 twenty five to ten am

It's very funny, because anyone used to forums known that the famous question "Is  [insert one subject dear to the forum users] an art ?" will definitly end in a big flame war, opposing tenant of "real art" with the tenants of the forum subject.

Video games can not be art ? films could not be neither, for some people.

To see the art, you have to have the necessary culture. Roger Ebert's game culture is very limited (he even writes no chess master ever saw chess as a art...) but it seems he is recognized for his  cinematographic culture.

Why should we give is views of art and video game any interest ? Would he respond to an ignorant's point on view on a film ?

So go gaming and have fun !
^_^

Posted by Salvius on Apr 20, 2010 five to eleven pm

When I saw Mr. Ebert's latest proclamation on the topic, I considered trying to respond. But I ultimately decided I didn't much care: He's speaking outside his area of expertise; he's saying much the same things that have been said in the early days of other art forms, about everything from comic books to films to freaking novels, if you go back far enough, and been proven wrong every time. The only reason anyone cares what he thinks is because we respect his opinion about films, but that doesn't obligate me to care what he thinks about, say, opera.

I do believe that if I, or anyone who knows much of anything about the concept of "games as art", could sit down with Ebert, face to face, and have an actual conversation about it, there's a fair chance we could convince him he's wrong. But I also believe there is absolutely no chance of that happening on an internet discussion forum, especially after it's been slashdotted.

Incidentally, since someone above raised the question of whether a boardgame can be art: I once, quite seriously, had an intense, emotional, aesthetic reaction to the rules for Knights of the Air, because I found its solution to the simultaneity problem to be so elegant that it was truly a thing of beauty.

Posted by Daz on Apr 21, 2010 quarter to one am

Too many comments. Here is mine.

In my opinion art is about the "unknown", it is about trying to understand/express things that we don't yet understand, loosely speaking.

Whether you can win a game or not is another issue. IS there art in the game?

War and Peace explores the human condition. So does Mon(k)ey Island. Hey... I didn't say there was no hierarchy!

Posted by Jack Shandy on Apr 21, 2010 five to three am

Personally, the pyramid of Pirate Quality goes "Pirates of the Carribean" < Monkey Island" < "On Stranger Tides" for me. No offence, Ron, but it's a damn good book.

Posted by polo on Apr 21, 2010 twenty past eleven am

Who cares? It's just a label, and is totally about subjetivity. If to you a gameis art, then IT IS art, at least to you it is.

There are some games that to me ARE art, like grim fandango, it was art, not cause it has some amazing artistic designs, etc.. Its art cause it woke up in my something, an amazing feeling i never expected to feel towards a game or even a movie or anything.
To me some games are art, i don't really care if someone else says they ain't.

Sry bout my english btw. Cya.

Posted by Scriptbr on Apr 21, 2010 twenty to one pm

Art is a very subjective thing. He can't say that videogames are not art just because he played a few games and they didn't touch him like some movies did, even because he's not fond of games. Everybody has the right to express their opinion, but to say something as bold as "Video games can never be art" is a bit arrogant.

Posted by Ricardo Porto on Apr 22, 2010 quarter to three am

Ron, I'm Brazilian so pardon my English... I was hoping you could read my gobidy-goop down here and transmit it to Roger in a more elegant way, my English is not topnotch so I would really appreciate your help. I wouldn't like to waste this opportunity and have it wasted on the count of bad grammar or have coherence lost in translation.

I feel very offended when someone I consider to be bright says something so ignorant... and affirming it, as if it were absolute, the final word. I am very interested in art and it's problematics so I took a special interest in this discussion.

Here is my verbal vomit, I hope you get it:

Dear Roger,

I truly understand your point of view, but I'm very disappointed in it. I must start by saying that art is a bourgeois invention therefore art created with the intent of it being art is very recent. No one before the the 18th century created art, they simply worked their craft usually with a religious theme or purpose. So everything from cave drawings to the Sistine chapel was created with no intention of being artistic or authorial. Even when Plato talks about art he is not talking about art as we know it, it didn't exist back then, he talks about crafts, specific crafts that required the use of both intellect and technical expertise, heck... they didn't even have the word art back then.
What is art, then? Again, it is still very recent and in constant transformation, today's art doesn't fit the description of art used 30 years ago, and the art from back then doesn't fit it's previous description. I particularly like what Oscar Wilde wrote about art in the Preface for "The Picture of Dorian Gray". It's a beautiful and witty description of art. He ends it by concluding that "all art is quite useless". This, I think, is the most brilliant description of art I've ever heard.
Art is pointless, you could talk about feelings and transmitting then via a media such as film, text or beautifully painted pictures, but what's the point, the end goal... the emotional message is probably lost in the way anyways. You'll never experience what the artist experienced or expected you to experience.
Further proof of this is what we consider to be art in museums. A jade or gold comb encrusted with gems from Egypt or something was merely a comb in its time, now we pick it up and put it in a glass case in the center of a room where hundreds of Japanese gather around and take pictures. Why is that? That comb is considered beautiful AND it serves no purpose anymore, no one is going to comb their heads with that. Another brilliant example of this change of sight is in the works of Duchamp, I think you can remember a certain urinal right... the fountain, as soon as it lost it's use and was put in a museum it could be considered art, it had a "message", it could be seen as beautiful... even though it didn't exactly happened that way, well you get the idea...
Now for your description of games, that's also very dated, very narrow point of view... Gaming is not all about going through levels and getting the highest scores, winning... Of course there is a sense of accomplishment when you finish a game, but it's remarkably similar to the feeling one can get from understanding, or thinking he understood, a brilliant film.
I would also have to say that you are locking your self on the idea that a game has rules and a winner, but so does film and painting, you just call it something else, like calling rules structure or something of the sort... and as far as winning... winning is simply getting to the end, a game after all is quite narrative, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.

In conclusion art is useless and, as much as I love doing it, what is more useless then playing games.

PS. Food for though... I'm sure there was a Roger Ebert some years ago that claimed film would never be an art form.

Posted by Ricardo Porto on Apr 22, 2010 twenty five past four am

Here I am replying my own post... but I must...

I love deconstruction and logic so here is a second attempt to fight off Roger's absurdity. Using some of what Ron has said.

A film is the result of a collaborative effort, so are modern video-games.
A film starts as a script, so does a modern video-game.
A film needs a spectator, a game needs a player.
Some Films are narrative, most modern video-games are narrative.
Films are influenced by the market*, so are modern video-games

So... Roger thinks some film is art.
This statment is true to Roger.

If some film is art and modern video-games are film plus interactivity why can't some modern video-games be considered art to Roger.

Is interactivity the problem? If so does Roger not consider video art installations as a form of art? Where are the lines that separate film, art installations and video-games?

Why is it so difficult for some people to accept that some preconceptions of what art is must be rethinked? Are there no artists in the music industry nowadays? Must we only consider classic composers as artists?




*Anyone would have to be really naive to try and say that art can't be affected by the market and the end user/viewer/consumer's opinion. example: All of Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings were comissioned, with full descriptions of what should appear in each painting and even after done they were often changed due to the buyers opinion. Is he not an artist? Is his "Virgin of the Rocks" not art?

Posted by sharprm on Apr 22, 2010 twenty five past five am

>If some film is art and modern video-games are film plus interactivity >why can't some modern video-games be considered art to Roger.

I can't be bothered reading all those comments on his blog but I've asked him that question twice and he doesn't answer. I wonder if he doesn't have an answer.

Take the movie Match Point (2005) and imagine that Roger Ebert thought this was 'art'.

In that movie the main character, Chris, throws a ring into the river but instead it bounces on the railing and falls back onto the ground. This is what saves Chris from being arrested for murder. The audience can only guess what would have happened if the ring had fallen into the river.

Now imagine if the director filmed another alternative ending where the ring plops into the river. When you watched the film, it would show each ending with a 50 % chance. Would that not further the message of the film about the role of chance? If it did, would that 'simulation' be as much 'art' as the original version?

Chris: "The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It's scary to think so much is out of one's control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck, it goes forward, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose. "

Posted by Ricardo Porto on Apr 22, 2010 quarter to nine am

I'm almost sure he doesn't have an answer.

I really liked your example, and there has been films that had different endings actually running at the same time on different cinema rooms, of course my god awful memory won't help now... but it has been done and it is very interesting that you compared that to games.

It is very unfortunate, but it seems like Roger is assuming a very dated point of view when it comes to art. Of course it's up to him to decide what HE considers to be art, it's just very sad to hear him say stuff like that, because he is playing the role of that guy we will laugh about in years to come, like people that years ago said that computers would only get bigger and bigger and nobody would ever have a computer at home.

I'm afraid I'm going to repeat myself here, but not long ago someone said that films were not art, and before that someone said that photography was not art.

Maybe one day he will realize how ridiculous it is do make such a claim. Maybe not.

I'll close with a passage from the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde... I just love it.

"Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty."

Posted by sharprm on Apr 22, 2010 quarter to six pm

I posted the example but he didn't reply to it. I agree he doesn't have an answer. In the time it took to review 3000 comments he could have played through MI.

Posted by Gilbert on Apr 22, 2010 quarter past three pm

He doesn't know of games, but how many gamers know about art? And if they don't why all these passion about it? My humble advice is: keep em separated.

Posted by Ed on Apr 22, 2010 twenty past six pm

I'm not too keen on the question "How many gamers know about art?" "Gamers" (like "moviegoers" or "readers") come from many walks of life. Many dedicated artists are also gamers.

Personally I have dedicated my life to art in various forms. Gaming (or rather 'interactive digital art') is, to me, perhaps the most inspiring and powerful medium to work with, and I plan to explore it thoroughly in time.

Some gamers might be fine with keeping art and gaming separate, but I'm willing to bet the idea seems ridiculous to most artists. Anyone with some creative flair should, when considering programming and computer graphics, have no trouble seeing vast, juicy potential to make great art on such a platform.

Posted by Hilbert on Apr 22, 2010 twenty five to seven pm

My point is, art and games could be a dangerous mixture, making of two good things one bad. A game that resembles too much a movie or too much a book could be fascinating or totally boring and impossible to play. I think of many experiments done by amateurs that can be art, but definetely I would not waste any time playing them. I consider that not wanting to make a piece of art is a good way to possibly make one.

Posted by Hilbert on Apr 22, 2010 twenty five past three pm

I'm sorry. In my previous post I didn't realize I was using Ron's name. I change to Hilbert to avoid confussion.

Posted by Kinga on Apr 23, 2010 twenty to nine am

Perhaps a better way of thinking about this is as follows; in this modern day and age, the following is considered art:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Bed

So the question becomes: do you REALLY want games to be considered as art?

Posted by disgusted on Apr 23, 2010 quarter to noon

I'm happy my "Dial-a-Pirate" code wheel  didn't come with menstrual stains. If that is what Roger says art is, screw art.

Posted by Ori Klein on Apr 23, 2010 ten past nine pm

I consider the Assembly language itself as a form of art. Like one would a song. A song of logic and mathematics, if you will; an ode to human genius and ability to create complex functions of marvelous results when put in use.

I think there's much in a game, aside "a game" in itself to be considered art. As Jason Rubin has said, how is it that the folks he hires would be creating art whence they work for a Hollywood studio but not for whence they labor on his game project?
Beyond that, personally IMHO, the designing of a game, the creation of a WORLD and all the investment in all the details that go onto it and the ruling out of things which will not go in it, is art by its own merits.

At the bottom line, the real question not whether games are art rather what's the distinction between 'psychological art' (self-reflective thoughts of human race and emotions driving) and 'entertainment art' (stimulating certain neuro-clusters in the cortex and releasing aphoristic chemicals) . This, I believe, is what Roger is attempting to preserve.
While most films could be described as entertaining, not all of them are describable as 'high' art (save perhaps as 'the art of entertaining' ::wink::).

Posted by Someone on Apr 25, 2010 twenty past four am

Roger Ebert is friends with hitler. (does the auto-replace work now?)

Posted by Crockett on Apr 25, 2010 quarter to nine am

I was very happy, to hear Craig Derrick saying explicitly, what everybody thinks, anyway: Monkey Island inspired the Pirates-Movies.
The Screenwriters of the Movies mantain, not to know of the games at all? Do they want to avoid legal issues? Ron,you don't express yourself clearly either. On the one hand, you write articles like "the Monkey Idland Movie" just to deny your opinion afterwards by telling "I have no way of knowing for sure, but I'd lay money down that they never heard of the game.  You have to remember that Monkey Island was hugely influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, of which the move was directly based."
I would be very interested in an honest statement.

Posted by on Apr 27, 2010 quarter past three am

Obviously, the guy is entitled to an opinion. On the other hand, questioning the definition of art seems a bit out of his league and excluding such a medium of this definition is pure ignorance.

The examples used to prove his point just make him look like a troll.

Posted by Ogni on Apr 28, 2010 ten past two am

Art is subjective. I don't see why a blue painted canvas is supposed to be art yet some see it as such.

To me there are a few games already that I consider art, one of these is REZ. But I can see why some people will not consider it art since it's just a shoot em up, but to me it is...

Posted by fedexior on Apr 28, 2010 quarter to noon

I'm gonna make a voodoo doll of this guy. That's art, dude!!

Posted by Guybrush Troopsoup on Apr 29, 2010 half past two am

This blogger should try ICO,I think it's naked beauty and gameplay will make him understand experience in games, My little cousins still remember the day they finished it.
Maybe someone will not agree with me but is for me to say that Gta games are the equivalent in the present day of those XIX century great "torrent"  novels like the Rouge et le noir by Stendhal, it's immersion in nowadays life is high literature.

And Ron, Our library has included your Monkey island in all childs zone computers for it's value on lecture comprehension, didactic value and of course because it's a funny literature.

Man, you are teaching in Catalunya, congratulations!!!!
PD Sorry for my english

Posted by Classgamer on Apr 29, 2010 five to eleven am

I love this blog so much, just wanted to let you know that

Posted by Tuukka on Apr 30, 2010 ten past one am

According to lots of critics, some paintings, music, movies, sculptures and performances can be described as art. The explanation or meaning of the word 'art' is irrelevant since it is as hopeless as trying to describe a feeling accurately to another person. It changes depending on times & ages and people. One could say that we know art when we see it even though we can't explain it. Experience or a feeling contributes a lot to what we recognize as art.

That way lots of things that critics could never agree on could be called art.

I claim that sports itself can't be art, but a certain situation or a game can be. When a forward fools a defender evading him elegantly as if dancing, then considering the intensity of the game, players under pressure and high expectations, that play could be described as art. The kind of art Roger Ebert could never understand. Passion is the word.

The difference between these traditional forms of art and, for example, sports is that the traditional ones are already finished. Or are they? Performances vary, music can be played differently. Every form of art is different in its core. This is why there is no acceptable reason for not including sports to a list of art forms. Of course, not every game is art. But neither is every painting painted.

This is why I claim that there is nothing that prevents interactive games from being art.

Furthermore, games combine multiple forms of art: script, music and graphics. They must also be interactive, hard enough and please a gamer. Making a game must be a harder task than making any other art. Maybe one game in a century combines all of them in a way even Roger Ebert considers it art. But believe me, even though gaming industry is very young, that kind of game has already been made.


PS. Ebert's view on art without games is like a bathroom without toilet seat: works ok, but something in there stinks.

Posted by Karl on Apr 30, 2010 quarter to three pm

"24-17-34 was my high school locker combination. It just popped into my head and I felt like sharing. I don't keep anything in there anymore." (Ron Gilbert on Twitter)

Is there a release date of DeathSpank somewhere in there? Can anyone decipher this?

Posted by Hennessy on Apr 30, 2010 ten to three pm

I wonder if Ron was one of the popular kids in high school, or more like the nerds who are in the math and chess clubs.

Posted by Programmer on May 2, 2010 twenty past two pm

I think Ron was the party of the school, always two girls by his side who knew the ins and outs of BASIC and C.

Posted by Ron Gilbert on Apr 30, 2010 five to three pm

Not everything in life is an adventure game puzzle that needs solving.  Sometimes a locker combination is just a locker combination.

Posted by Hennessy on May 2, 2010 ten to eight am

There is a puzzle I'm still trying to solve, but I can't find any good walk-throughs or useable hints by other nprs. Can anyone here help me with the level 4 "understanding women" puzzle?

Posted by arvenius on May 2, 2010 quarter to seven am

USE [Locker-Combination] WITH [unknown DeathSpank Release-Date]

"That doesn't seem to work."

Posted by Flippy on May 3, 2010 half past one pm

I guess he means Art with a capital A.  Although honestly, I don't think any films hold up to that particular standard either.  How can you possibly compare any films to the work of Shakespeare, etc.  

Honestly, personally I enjoy video games and films more than I did having to slog through Shakespeare in High School.  I mean you can start down that particular road of intellectual snobbery and go forever.  

What you created and what many other have created are in fact art.  Maybe not 'high art' but still art.  Most people would say art is something that tries to convey a message or get the person experiencing the art to feel something.  Games have to do this, or people won't play them.

Posted by F.Konkas on May 6, 2010 five to eleven am

Just the pic he choose to introduce his article says a lot of the level of prejudice and contempt he has for games.

My guess is this has almost certainly been said before. But anyway, I say almost anything can be art. It depends what the creator has in mind. If there is a level of communication between the creator and the observer.

Games are very much the struggle to reach certain goals by playing within a set of rules. If it is only that, it is very much like sports or playing cards or similar. If the creator has more in mind - tell a story, inspire beauty or ugliness, or whatever, to communicate something to the player, I think it is just implausible to state it is not art. What does other art forms have which games have not? Non-interactivity? Whatever aspiring answer you find to that question I can't think of any way to make any sense of using those attributes in defining art.

Posted by F.Konkas on May 6, 2010 twenty to two pm

This is nothing but the recurring confusion of what is not art with what is "bad" art. The motivation to exclude "bad" art from art itself is as I see it just ignited from the motivation to feel superior to others. If bad art still is art it's difficult to escape the subjectivism of taste which somehow make it impossible to as matter of facts state which art is good or bad. So then it is easier to say it is not art altogether and thereby by definition establish that what you think is bad art isn't art at all. And so you can continue to keep your head high with the power of objectiveness to back you up.

Posted by Demetris Thoupis on May 7, 2010 twenty five to eleven am

Ron are you going to be the next president of Lucasarts???!!!!
:D

Posted by YKWIA on May 8, 2010 five past three am

Ron, the new Lucasarts sitution will change the PLANS?

Posted by F.Konkas on May 8, 2010 twenty past six am

Btw were you involved a lot with the artistic side of the environments in deathspank? I'm asking because after seeing some screens I felt a bit of the same kind of immersive power as the monkey island games had. A lot of it lies in the expressive way of coloring I think, beside the drawing style itself.

Posted by penny on May 8, 2010 twenty past nine am

Monkey Island IS art. I played it as a youth, it shaped my imagination, the way I experience the world. It inspired me in the way I tell stories. That's what art does. It's art. Anyone who says otherwise is an eejit.

Posted by Art on May 8, 2010 quarter to ten am

I like this thread because my nickname is Art, so I can read my own name over and over and it makes me feel grand.

Posted by Johnny on May 10, 2010 half past eight am

Ron, I'm planning to go swimming and get a tan at the beach this summer, not sit in front of my computer. Can you release DeathSpank before my summer holidays?

Posted by Dave on May 11, 2010 five to ten am

Without having read everything here I have to say that I think ole Ebert is pissed that games are getting budgets that surpass movies and film these days. Pound for pound Hollywood is churning out some awful junk. For every Chris Nolan and "Momento" there are 10 Jason Friedburgs and Aaron Seltzers making "Meet the Spartans."

I havent kept up with computer gaming, 13 years and counting for a follow up to Starcraft and no new adventure games will do that to you and Im rediscovering console games thanks to Gamefly. Ive gone through about 5 games in a month and a half and I havent found a truly bad game yet. Im sure they are out there, but Ive rented Assassin's Creed 2, Skate 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Left 4 Dead 2 and Resident Evil 5. All of the story lines of these games have been fantastic. I returned RE5 in 1 day because the control scheme and implementation was just plan awful. You get very limited ammo(ok fine I get that. It makes sense given the circumstances of the game.) but if you are going to go that route, you need to make your melee weapon fluid and easy to use. You are supposed to be an elite special agent, yet it takes you about 1 second to draw your knife? Ok fine, but you are going to tell me that an elite agent can not hold a knife and walk at the same time? Bull! It ruined the game for me. Story was very impressive, but I wasnt about to torture myself with a weak control scheme.

Anyway, back to my point. I think that alot of guys my age(29) who are creative writer types went to video games because it is what we did as kids and it was easier to break into. Yes we watched movies, but to get anywhere in Hollywood or as a film or movie writer you had to have connections and many times compromise your creativity to put food on the table. In the golden age of Hollywood and even the 60s and 70s you could make a movie on a shoe string budget and it would still play in a grindhouse or low budget theater. Those places are gone. Video games on the other hand were in their infancy. When I was in middle school I would ahem "borrow" the Monkey Island characters and make my own stories with them. Getting into video game design and story writing was much easier than Hollywood. Many times I find myself playing a game thinking why cant this guy write a movie script?

I think that Ebert is just jealous that while Hollywood and film continues to die a slow, expensive and painful death, the gaming industry continues to grow and take money and more importantly talent away from Hollywood. Also, if Ebert's only experience with video games is Pong and the crummy movies that Hollywood makes that are named after video games then I dont blame him for thinking video games cant be art. Talent is going to video games because it can be more creative than in a movie or film, it can be cheaper than working in Hollywood. And more importantly, right now, the people in charge of making games arent always about the $$$. They want to make good games. Most of the time.

Posted by Kasper on May 11, 2010 five past noon

Too long, will not read.

Posted by Jack Shandy on May 11, 2010 five to one pm

Games were Art, back in the days, when they needn't to be as realistic as they are tryin to be nowadays: everything has to look like it looks in reality, because the player has to recognize it. No chance of abstraction. Monkey Island abstracts things and stimulates your own imagination. That's why its inspiring and thats why it inspired certain filmmakers. AM I RIGHT RON?

Posted by Charles on May 11, 2010 five past five pm

Roger Ebert is proof that those who can make entertainment, do. And that those who can't make pissy remarks about the work of those who can and call themselves "Critics". But if real life has shown us one thing, it's that it's far easier to destroy than to create. What works of art has Roger made? What has he done to contribute to culture? I'll tell you. Two things. Jack and s#it. And Jack left town. He even says that if you like movies that he didn't, then you must be wrong.

If Ebert doesn't consider games "art" that's an interesting coincidence. Because I don't consider being a movie critic "Work." It's a nice scam for those who can get away with it. Yeah, I've watched movies and TV shows and thought they were bad too. But I don't entertain the conceit
that millions of people would care to hear what I think. And why should they? ANYBODY can sit on their ass for an hour and a half and say "This movie sucks" What makes Ebert the final word in anything?

Let's see Roger get his pompous mile wide ass of his high horse and make a few movies of his own. Since he apparently considers himself the end-all and be-all of movies, it ought to be a snap for him, right? He won't because he knows he is a fraud with zero actual creative talent. But he sure likes to make himself an authority when it comes to tearing down others work.

Shakespeare was right. First thing we need to do is kill all the lawyers. But right after that, we off all the critics. Starting with Roger Ebert. But then there is no justice. I lose three loved ones to Cancer while this pompous, self-important crapsack gets to survive. "Professional Critics" are the laziest, most worthless kind of people

Posted by Tom Verre on May 25, 2010 ten past two pm

I recall (from art school so it must be legit) one definition of art as being "the juxtaposition of established elements to create something new".  According to this albeit general definition, I can see two ways in which the term "art" applies.  With interactive narrative gaming, either the individual playing the game is directly involved in the process of creating the art, or the designers are creating art that is as grandiose as the combination of every possible path.  Granting of course that none of those paths are insipid or derivative, and that I didn't pay $60 for the damn game.

Posted by Ivy_pl on May 27, 2010 twenty five to eleven am

It would be so refreshing to see that such a famous critic, actually focused on a good game and did an insightful review. Then i would not mind if it is positive, as long as it is insightful and makes a point.
I think that it is possible that firs movies where criticized by the theater goers, as something that will never be art, so you should not ignore a new medium. Games are a medium, that can be used in a number of very different ways- just as the movies.
Games today can be great, but have a potential to become truly amazing. Just like movies, there are good ones, bad ones, hard and easy ones. There is need for comedies, horrors, dramas and some independent creations (and within that genres even more divisions take place.) The need is seen both in gaming and in films.

I think that, if someone wants to review something, he can't hate it as a whole.
Anorectic will, probably, never be a adequate restaurant reviewer, so maybe if he/she wood like to become one, they should change their attitude towards food first.

Posted by Dawid van Straaten on Jun 6, 2010 half past seven am

Who cares if Roger Ebert thinks video games can never be art? He probably made that blog to get millions of hits, because he knows most people disagrees with him. Gaming doesn't need Roger's approval to be seen as art.

Posted by tnzk on Jun 29, 2010 six am

Actually to be fair, he doesn't always bring it up. Remember, he's responding to what Kellee Santiago said about games as art. And to be quite honest, Kellee Santiago made a blundering assertion as to what the history of art is, so she could relate her point to video game as art. Roger Ebert may be a film critic, but he knows a lot about the fine arts if you follow his editorials and look into his film reviews.

The real issue of contention here is that gamers are forever trying to relate video games to film, theatre, and literature. There is no core connection. I would hope gamers don't fail to recognize that "video games" (there's a big fat hint in the descriptive noun) have much more in common with sports games and chess. Except, no one ever points that out. I wonder why. What's so important as to try make a connection between a video game and a film when video games inherently want to be better than The Beautiful Game (opinion, yes, but bear with me). What makes a video game and football fundamentally appealing is the mechanics of both games: passing a round ball to either end to score a goal or solving a puzzle in an adventure game. What would make either game memorable is the "dressing" around the games: a match between Brazil vs. Argentina would be hailed a classic compared to say, Fiji vs India. Likewise, The Secret of Monkey Island is hailed a classic compared to the countless number of games that play similarly which are littered all over abadonia.com.

Do you want to know what happens when video games think they are some sort of eighth art? You get Too Human. Assassin's Creed. Bioshock. Games that are so far up their own butthole they can't get themselves out (hence Bioshock 2), and other video games with lesser budgets can't see if there's light at the end of the tunnel, so hell, they copy it anyway (True Crimes remake). Thank heavens you get some breathing room such as Bayonetta. I'm sure Deathspank will be another antidote.

What I really want to know is why does it sting so bad? Did chess players complain that their game was never considered high art? What about FIFA? No, they trudged on and came out alright. So will video games. That is, when gamers and game makers stop trying to be as pretentious as we filmmakers and start making things worthy to be called video games, not art.

Posted by Nao on Jul 5, 2010 ten to five am

Roger Ebert has finally posted a new blog post on the subject. He pretty much says that he's sorry for saying games can't be art since he isn't willing to play them and is afraid he won't "get it" anyway, and thus is not in the best position to make such comments.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/07/okay_kids_play_on_my_lawn.html

Don't worry Roger, we don't blame you for having opinions without anything to back them up. We all do from time to time, so all is fine :)

Posted by Lukas on Jul 12, 2010 twenty five to one am

The problem is that VERY few people has a knowledge of the contemporary discussion regarding the definition of art. In art-fields people are talking about the institutional theory introduced by George Dickie.

First of all anything can be art. Absolutely anything. It just needs to be clarified as art by someone who is saying that he or she is an artist. As an artist i can transform a stone into art. As an artist I can transform a game into art. Poets and Painters generally say that they are artists and therefor their work is art. It can be argued that anything that was created before Immanuel Kant introduced the concept of Fine Art is actually not art since the concept did not exist. But since things like cave paintings have been incorporated into art history, they are also viewed as art and not as decoration. This is something everybody who is into art pretty much agree on. But it is pretty uninteresting.

Since the only thing that matters is what is good art? What makes quality art?

According to George Dickie quality art is what the representatives of the art world claim as quality art. Monkey Island would instantley be quality art if it were exhibited at MOMA in a serious exhibit. It would be much better art than if it were exhibited by some local art junkie in texas.

All in all the discussion is pretty pointless and only interesting when discussing the future of fine arts. You could very easily say that actually no film is art but instead design. The ones people usually claim has artful qualities might just have been designed to give people that feeling. The act of creating a piece where you are targeting a specific feeling or state of mind sure seems like design to me. The idea that feelings were the central component of art were something that fine artists moved away from in the 1920's.

Posted by adam nelsooon on Jul 16, 2010 ten to one pm

Sorry didn't you JUST release a game called DEATHSPANK?  all due respect and everything.

Posted by Carlos on Jul 23, 2010 five to one pm

Someone needs to make a voodoo doll of Roger Ebert and stick a red hot pin up his backside every hour. If anything HE won't live long enough to see games as an art medium- and he's trying to beat around the bush? What a douche bag.

If you ask me, there are a number games that can indeed qualify as art, but to be honest, that's in the eye of the beholder- every gamer has a different idea on what's beautiful and/or qualifies as art.

I say this out of a concern: Roger Ebert only dabbles in movies- does he actually make them? I don't think so (to my knowledge at the moment).  It's so much easier to just say 'something stinks' when you have no idea what goes into its creation. To that end, Ebert's a hypocrite. If there's one thing I hate, it's when hypocrites try to superimpose thier decisions on stuff they have little to no knowledge on.  

Ebert's getting on in years, so I would think that if he has any dignity, he should write an apology, acknowledging his faults in his claim, and not try to write off his ignorance over something he's just too proud to admit.

The only worse-case scenario I can see from this fiasco is that someone gets to Ebert first and instead of letting him die peacefully, dips him into a vat of acid, and uses his bones to make a screaming chair.

Either way, do us all a favor, Roger Ebert: do your research before you give your 'thumbs down'. Otherwise, sit down, shut up, and don't meddle in affairs that need not concern you.

Hmm, this makes me wonder if this post would qualify as something minorly worthy of this 'grumpy gamer' blog. I suppose I'll let you decide. Eh, Mr. Gilbert?


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