Mar. 20th, 2017

rynling: (Gator Strut)
It seems that there is a Wikipedia entry on video games as an art form. The major strain of criticism I've encountered (generally from inside the game dev community) that holds that games are not "art" tends toward the argument that the ontological category of "art" is transcended by the multimedia and nonlinear nature of games. The sense I get from the Wikipedia entry, however, is that there is still a debate focused on the participatory elements of the medium and the ostensible lack of creative direction of an auteur.

I've frequently run across references to Roget Ebert supposedly saying that video games are not art, a quote that (I think?) I was finally able to track down...

Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control. I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers.
 
Five years later, in April 2010, Ebert posted an essay literally titled Video Games Can Never Be Art, which was written in response to a TED Talk (that I will not link to because TED Talks are ridiculous and pretentious) in which someone quoted him being old and grumpy. Here he writes...

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film.
 
Elsewhere in the essay he references Werner Herzog, which is never a good indication of having an open mind about new technologies. In any case, the internet exploded, and two and a half months later Ebert made another post conceding that...

I thought about those works of Art that had moved me most deeply. I found most of them had one thing in common: Through them I was able to learn more about the experiences, thoughts and feelings of other people. My empathy was engaged. I could use such lessons to apply to myself and my relationships with others. They could instruct me about life, love, disease and death, principles and morality, humor and tragedy. They might make my life more deep, full and rewarding. [...] I had to be prepared to agree that gamers can have an experience that, for them, is Art.
 
He's not happy about it, though, and mostly he justifies why he's not interested in engaging with the argument, his reasoning basically boiling down to the fact that he's not interested in playing video games. So that's a dead end.

When "video games as art" are discussed in other contexts, it seems to be in terms of "game art," which is when games are presented in the context of gallery spaces, as in the case of installations like Super Mario Clouds. Like the Ebert "debate," those conversations feel dated (probably because they in fact occurred almost ten years ago), and I wonder if the sort of games profiled by 365 Tiny Games are what are now considered to be "art games."

I don't have much to add; I'm just amused that this was ever a thing. Of course games are art.

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