Why Roger Ebert Was Wrong

Max of Koku writes: "Some time ago, legendary film critic Roger Ebert made the controversial comment that “video games can never be art.” Since that point, the entirety of the gaming community has responded with reasons as to why video games are art, including a few editorials on this site. About a month or two ago, Ebert finally justified his opinion with a rather well written argument, which I heard about in a response to it by acclaimed game developer Ken Levine. As such, I decided to read Ebert’s argument and throw my hat into the ring of this great debate by picking Ebert’s argument apart. After all, Ebert’s argument mostly involves countering the points of a keynote speaker to justify his point of view, so I don’t see why I can’t do the same. So with that, let us examine Mr. Ebert’s argument, piece by piece."

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JoeyC2774d ago

Kinda feel like the whole "are video games art" debate should just be dropped. I both get it, and don't get it

HolyOrangeCows2774d ago

Art needs breasts or else it is not art.

V3N0M2774d ago

Art is viewed with different taste, people have different perspectives to their arts. this debate can go on forever and will still be controversial on whomever spins this. I say for me the MGS saga is an art for me,the way hideo kojima creates a virtual world that you can play and feel, it's realism and gameplay mechanics.

Ziriux2774d ago

The only art i care for is the one drawn.

Cinotix2774d ago

It’d be nice to here this argument from somebody who occupies both parties; Both Roger Ebert and the Video Gamers are misinformed and I see fallacies in everyones statements. I do think a very informing question was one that was posed by ebert: Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?

Regardless of the answer, there’s some good truth to find in just that question itself.

I’m someone who is more into movies than video games, but someone that has played video games all his life. I like drawings, paintings, sculptures, street art, graffiti, music, concerts, actors, copious amounts of yellow umbrellas, architecture, bicycles, cars, windmills, photography, gardens, the certain way the sunlight hits in the morning in springtime, donkey kong, fitzcaralldo, etc.

People have tried to define art for years – It’s fucking pointless. Art is a feeling. as soon as you describe it, it ceases to be that feeling – just a description of a feeling; which can never possibly live up to the feeling itself. Don’t describe what art is, that’s dumb; you just know it when you see it.

Along with anything, there’s good examples of shit and bad examples of shit. I would say as per terms of video games, I would say something like metal gear solid or splinter cell came the closest I’ve experienced to art in a video game; but I think maybe I was just experiencing the art of hiding.

There’s lots of art in video games, if you take a still frame from a game, you get a picture – I would call that art. They certainly employ artists to work on these games. There’s certainly an art to playing games -But the question is is the entirety of the experience of a video game art?

Take chess, is that art? No, probably not. There’s certainly an art to playing chess. There’s some very nice chessboards out there with handcrafted pieces which can be very artistic. My dad had a chessboard that was made out of carved marble from japan. There’s a lot of artistry going into that, but I still wouldn’t say the actually game is art; it’s a game. I don’t get the same feeling I get from listening to mozart as I do playing a chess game or a video game.

I’ve seen a lot of movies, heard a lot of music, and seen a lot of dumb photography, among other things. There’s good examples and bad examples. I wouldn’t consider Transformers or Twilight art; I would consider them trash; but even with trash you can still find small examples of art. The art of hype.

It’s a good question, are video games art?

Is war art? The whole picture itself, the whole thing – is that art? I don’t think it is; but I know that there is an art of war.

are video games art? something tells me it’s not; Mentally I have to struggle a lot to come up with reasons of how a video game can be art. That’s not art. Art is something very simple that you just know. It doesn’t take any thought. There’s is art in video games, but like war I wouldn’t say the whole thing is art. There’s art in all kinds of things. The art of living. Take that for what it is, then it suddenly makes everything artistic because you are artistic and you are everything.

I will say confidently though, that there is no statute of limitations to when a medium becomes art. It’s always art, regardless if people suck at it or don’t anymore. It’s always art. Don’t try to dumb the world down Max R, art is always art.

xabmol2774d ago

All one needs to do is look up "art" in the dictionary.

ThanatosDMC2774d ago

Yep, i still dont understand why people hold his opinions pretty high.

Kakihara2774d ago

Well written article. If it were me though I probably would have gone about it another way.

/Prepares for incredibly long winded rant ..... Okay, here we go.

Ignoring the fact that everything can be seen as 'art' if we define art broadly enough, I can completely see where Ebert is coming from in stating that games are not art. They're not. I'm not talking specifically about videogames here but games in general. Hopscotch, poker, tag, football, whatever. They're activities and little play competitions designed to stimulate completely different parts of the brain than any painting or movie.

Where Ebert goes wrong I think is in assuming that videogames are just more complex electronic versions of games like poker, horseshoes or tag. The game mechanics of most games these days often are just fancy electronic versions of these kinds of 'pure games' but these mechanics are just the skeleton around which an artistic experience is built. The same way a great movie such as Oldboy uses sex and violence as a skeleton around which to build a beautiful piece of art discussing vengeance and self destructive behaviour.

Take Portal for example. If you boil it down to it's core gameplay it's no more artistic than a crossword puzzle or a game of chess. It's just a series of puzzles. When you look at it in the context of it's characters, setting and story you see that the puzzle element is only one small aspect of the game. There's also some beautiful set design, fantastic music and enough emotional manipulation to make you feel guilty about destroying a metallic cube (ffs!!).

Kakihara2774d ago

I'm a huge movie buff (more so even than I am a gamer) and love to see a movie that takes me on an amazing journey and leaves me a completely changed person. There are thousands of movies that can change you forever with one viewing, they can help you grow as a person and gain a deeper appreciation and respect for the human experience. I have to admit I don't think there are many games that can do the same thing. I believe this is due entirely to too many game creators sharing Roger Ebert's viewpoint and not appreciating the potential videogames have as a true artistic medium.

The few creators that respect the artistic side of gaming and see the potential games have as forms of art can stand up there with the best movie directors. I've been just as moved by Half life 2, Portal, Ico and Shadow of the colossus as I have by any great deep film by Wong Kar Wai, Hayao Miyazaki, Wim Wenders or anyone.

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