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Roger Ebert, an excellent writer who has seen a lot of movies, recently wrote an article in the Chicago Sun-Times titled “Video Games can never be art” (http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html). It contains both his opinion on the subject, and his critique on a presentation by a Kellee Santiago at the TED conference, in which she defends video games as art.
I’m not going to summarize what he said, so go read it yourself. All I can say is this: His critique of her talk was accurate, and the most important quotation from the article, in my opinion, is this:
” Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.”
He’s right, so in a sense, he invalidates the argument he participates in, in which he believes they will never be art.
The truth is that nobody really cares about if video games are art or not. Ebert is reacting to a cultural ghetto reaching for validation of their past time: Art has nothing to do with it. For example, I could sit here and write out an essay as to why I think games are indeed art, but I’m not foolish enough to equate my agreement with a unanimous societal consensus on it being a valid way to spend your time. Most art is bad art, and as such, being called art is nothing special……but I get it.
I get that there is a stigma to being called a ‘video game designer’, and I understand that being a video game ‘journalist’ incites pretentious chuckles of condescension, but the remedy isn’t a new label. The reality is, if anyone should be worried about the legitimacy of video games, it’s the people who put their work in video games on a resume. Therefore, rather than pandering to the Eberts of the world, they need to find ways they can break out by being more vocal about their medium. Thankfully, this is already happening. Lorne Lanning is a great example of a champion of the medium. He has spent his video game career re-inventing the medium, and providing a community for developers themselves (DICE summit). The more people in the industry educate each other and inform the rest, the more people might think, “Hey, this guy created a video game, from the ground up, and made a community behind his creation. That’s impressive!” The unfortunate metric by which their legitimacy is to be measured is still, unfortunately, profits (which Ebert scoffs at in his article).
The problem that Ebert points out is that he feels he has to react to gamers, and the truth of the matter is that he sees no reason to call video games ‘art’.
Deal with it. It’s an opinion.
The most useful rebuttal I see in his comment field is “You just don’t get it”, which is a fair point. Maybe he doesn’t get it; maybe the commenter is right, and maybe any argument to Roger Ebert’s opinion should end there.
And maybe gamers are too petty.
The artistic label has nothing to do with validation. Validation has to come from contributing something useful to the rest of the world, outside of the niche the gamers tirelessly defend.
Again, validation shouldn’t matter anyway. It’s a past time. If games are that important to you, then use it to help other people within and outside the industry. If a game makes you think about something other than the game itself, then sure…whatever, call it art.
I think games are art, but I also think feces smeared on a wall is art. Why?
Poop murals make me think of bad games.