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The Epic Ebert Videogame Debate 169

Posted by Zonk
from the break-out-the-angry-words dept.
Via Kotaku, a column at Ebert.com going into some depth on the are-games-actually-art debate. Ebert engaged in a public debate on the subject at last week's Conference on World Affairs. From the article: "Going in to the videogame panel, I'd been hoping the audience (mostly students) would be fired up about the subject and challenge the panelists, but they were unfortunately pretty passive. Maybe they were intimidated by the rather formal (for Boulder) theater setting, I don't know. Ebert began by explaining why he felt a game (particularly the shoot-shoot, point-scoring kind) was not an experience equivalent to that of reading a great novel like, say, 'The Great Gatsby,' because games don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human."
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The Epic Ebert Videogame Debate

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  • Epic Ebert (Score:3, Funny)

    by ampathee (682788) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:29PM (#15162568)
    For a second there, I thought the article was about a controversial game coming out on a future release of Ubuntu [slashdot.org].
  • What the fuck? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:30PM (#15162569)
    Why is this even a debate? One of the definitions from dictionary.com for art is listed as "The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium."

    Going by that definition, videogames are MORE APTLY called art than a photograph, painting, sculpture, or anything else considered art by the mainstream. If you consider that a videogame combines the elements of sounds, colors, forms, movements, AND other elements for the production of the beautiful in a graphic medium, it seems logically sound to count at least some as art.

    Of course all videogames aren't art. It's the same concept behind not considering a headshot art, or some jackass banging his hands on a piano as art.

    This debate is asinine.
    • Of course all videogames aren't art. It's the same concept behind not considering a headshot art, or some jackass banging his hands on a piano as art.

      If you'd seen some of the headshots I've seen, you'd take that back.

      • by nugneant (553683)
        ...our story begins in the 1950s, a time when the world was terrified of communism, but "terrorist" was still a pretty obscure word. A time when society argued on whatever passed for slashdot at the time whether television would ever truly supplant radio in the minds of America's masses. Rollerskates were still a novelty.

        Along came a man - a musician, some would say - named Elvis. His music was generally modified from the tunes of slaves. And oh was there ever an uproar. Roger Ebert, Sr.: "That certainly
        • If only I had mod points today...

          Art is what grabs people, and illicits a (usually emotional) reaction, or at least burns itself into memory - or at least tries it's very best to do so. Most "art" is merely an imitation of greater works, inferior but attempting to achieve at least a small part of the older work accomplished. Usually you end up with something easily forgotten, and sometimes you end up with something either nearly equal, or vastly superior in a different aspect.

          Most games are exactly
    • Re:What the fuck? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot@@@castlesteelstone...us> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:50PM (#15162642) Homepage Journal
      Going by that definition, videogames are MORE APTLY called art than a photograph, painting, sculpture, or anything else considered art by the mainstream.

      There really should be a latin term for "arguing by looking through the dictionary for a definition that supports your side."

      Generally speaking, we can divide any piece of entertainment into one of three groups: Art, Game, and Spectacle. Most of what we do is Game, and most of what we "don't do" (because we watch or listen or read or whatever) is Spectacle. Historically, only a relatively small area of Spectacle could be considered Art--something that goes beyond merely entertaining us, to actually touching on something fundamental in the common nature of the artist and the audience.

      Video Games are interesting because, from time to time, they jump from being Game to being Art. Since at least the NES days Video Games have included Spectacle (cut-scenes and ending sequences), and occasionally this Spectacle jumps to the level of Art. Now, anyone could reason that out with a high school understanding of statistics, but the reason why video games are interesting isn't that their adjacent Spectacle becomes Art--it's because the game itself borders on and occasionally crosses over into Art.

      This is what Ebert apparantly doesn't get. Sometimes, Video Games are art even without Spectacle. Myst is a good example of this--it's certainly game with only minor spectacle, but the game itself is executed in a way gripping enough to make us think.

      If you're inclined to argue with Ebert's ilk about this, I would advice putting down the dictionary and going [back] to a College English Department. The argument for Video Games as art is easy enough to make, especailly if you can address the "game pieces as art" complaint and make a solid case for some other forms of "interactive art."

      • Re:What the fuck? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PakProtector (115173)
        Going by that definition, videogames are MORE APTLY called art than a photograph, painting, sculpture, or anything else considered art by the mainstream.
        There really should be a latin term for "arguing by looking through the dictionary for a definition that supports your side."

        Will Argvmentvm Ab Definitie work for you?

      • Most of what we do is Game

        We're talkning about the noun "game" here, as in a specific package designed to elicit response. This can mean a video game, a board game, or just a standalone ruleset. "Tag" and "Hide and Seek" are games. All sports are games. Chess is a game.
      • I think what Ebert was trying to say is that art must have the capacity to stimulate the emotions to some extent beyond "cool" or the elation or sadness of competion.

        Though I don't get into the Final Fantasy titles myself, I've heard other say a particular one had made them cry. That has the potential to be art. If a video game were to elicit the electricity of your first kiss, then that would be art. If a video game were to remind you of the shame of rejection or the despair of losing a loved one, that
    • Re:What the fuck? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mozumder (178398)
      I'd actually go further and state that all forms of design by human is art.

      Just right now I see the art in the things on my desk, not the least of which is the desk itself. The clothes people wear, the font used on a car's speedometer, the color of the vinyl wrapping on a cable, the Galois-field math of CDMA, the shape of the can of soda, the selection of grain on a wooden counter, the sounds of a keyboard click... some guy spent a long time figuring out the beauty of each one of those things.

      Really, ever
      • The definition is not uncommon, but it's basically useless. If anything and everything is considered art, then what purpose does the term "art" serve? By the same token, if we can not even agree on a definition of the term art, then all discussion whether something fits the definition is pointless, too. I suspect this is the reason why the panel attracted so little interest.
    • Re:What the fuck? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bieeanda (961632)

      Going by that definition, videogames are MORE APTLY called art than a photograph, painting, sculpture, or anything else considered art by the mainstream. If you consider that a videogame combines the elements of sounds, colors, forms, movements, AND other elements for the production of the beautiful in a graphic medium, it seems logically sound to count at least some as art.

      So does a cartoon. So does a movie. I can guarantee you that most of the first and a woeful number of the second don't qualify as a

    • Of course all videogames aren't art.

      Not to be a grammar Nazi, but you hit one that's a pet peeve for me.

      Not all video games are art, would be better.
    • I'm a longtime reader of his site, and by art, I think he really means to compare games to movies/books. I'm pretty sure he's not claiming that sculptures necessarily delve into what it means to be human. But his campaign is nevertheless fruitless, after all why can't I consider a movie to just be a special case of a game (one which consists entirely of a 2-hour long cutscene)?
    • Why is this even a debate?

      Because we're being imprecise with our terminology.

      Of course anything made is the product of some kind of art. What he is talking about is Fine Art:

      1.
      1. Art produced or intended primarily for beauty rather than utility.
      2. Any of the art forms, such as sculpture, painting, or music, used to

    • I don't think its a moot debate. Would you call the game 'Sorry!' art?

      It has colors, movents, forms, and arguably sounds (as I have yet to play an overlapping round of 'the silent game' with my niece while playing). I would certainly call it entertaining (especially if the power is out) but I would never assume it is art. Video games are hard to charachterize because they imbue both the qualities of a game and that of television.

      The core of this debate revolves around what is indeed art. For me, most modern

  • by Monkeys!!! (831558) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:32PM (#15162581) Homepage
    "...games don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human."

    So Max Payne didn't delve into how people manage (or fail to manage) grief? And Deus Ex didn't force you to face the moral out come of your actions?

    There are plenty of games out there that deal directly and indirectly with human emotions, ethics and morals. IMO, that is dealing with what it means to be human.
    • And what about roleplaying games, where you must make moral choices, instead of watching someone else do so? In Oblivion (spoilers follow), you work for the Dark Brotherhood and interact with several of their members while performing missions of dubious morality, until you are told that there's a traitor in the Brotherhood, and now you must kill all your friends just to be safe. To be sure, they're a bunch of murderers and psychos, and so are you, but they're your friends, and now you're going to kill them
      • In Oblivion (spoilers follow), you work for the Dark Brotherhood and interact with several of their members while performing missions of dubious morality, until you are told that there's a traitor in the Brotherhood, and now you must kill all your friends just to be safe.

        See, everybody? THIS is why all the smart kids out of assassin school sign up with the Morag Tong. You can be sure of steady advancement in a safe and secure environment, in which the only people who need to get killed are those who have

    • So Max Payne didn't delve into how people manage (or fail to manage) grief?

      Max Payne delved deep into cliche. Deep, deep, deep, deep, deep into cliche. So deep, I actually started to seriously admire it after i became too numb to cringe any longer.

      (Deux Ex, an exceptional game in so many ways, was an anomaly which I am told the publishers largely "corrected" in the sequel... I never bothered with the sequel myself, for fear of becoming totally disillusioned with it. I have to cling to the rare video

    • Look, Ebert's like, what, 85 years old? The reason he is down on video games is simple: He doesn't understand them. He's admitted in his columns before that he hasn't played many (if any) video games, and my guess is that most of what he knows about video gaming comes from the mainstream media. And you know how well they cover video game-related news.

      This is a complete non-story. I like Ebert and I respect his opinion of movies, but he's not qualified to judge video games and thus anything he says abou
  • Okay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:34PM (#15162584)
    "Ebert began by explaining why he felt a game (particularly the shoot-shoot, point-scoring kind) was not an experience equivalent to that of reading a great novel like, say, 'The Great Gatsby,' because games don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human."

    That's nice and all, but there are plenty of books that fail to delve very deeply into what it means to be human. Maybe not every game is art, but you cannot say all games AREN'T art.
  • This is silly... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by node 3 (115640) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:39PM (#15162600)
    I just don't get it. Because your average game doesn't tackle the human condition the way a great novel does, games aren't art? By his standards, most movies aren't art, either.

    Games are art. Odds are, if there's a serious discussion about whether something is art or not, it's art. It might not be some sort of highbrow art, or pure art, or even particularly good art, but it's art nonetheless.

    Most games aren't very good artwork. Even your average "good" game isn't all that great art-wise--perhaps on par with advertising art.

    This reminds me of the heated debates over whether rap was music or not. Now it's fully accepted as a form of music. I think the problem is that rap was a new form of music and there were people who couldn't grasp the idea that the current state of music is not to be taken as the totality of what can be music. The same here with art. Video games have expanded the categories of art. Now art is what art was before games, plus games. Just like music is now what music was before rap, plus rap.

    Now, if he were to argue that, in the context of art, video games aren't particularly great (although a few are quite good), he'd have a better point. Just like rap isn't really, compared to other forms of music, all that great artfully speaking, even if it is highly entertaining.
    • Some videogames obviously have very few elements of art. But immediately when I read the summary i disagreed with the statement that videogames aren't art. And even with your statement that videogames don't produce good art. Why? Planescape: Torment

      I must admit that when I think of this game, I turn into a sniveling fanboy. It had everything that I require from a good book: characterization, engaging dialogue, great plot and subtle themes that really do concern the human condition.
      It also had the element
  • N/A (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ucaledek (887701) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:40PM (#15162604)
    I have to agree with the writer. The titular question is poor on its face. Video games form a medium. And just like paintings, movies, music, books, that medium is governed in part (if not overwhelmingly) by commercial forces. It isn't very useful to look at just video games as if similar things were not going in the aforementioned media as well. They have become highly derivative as well, and let's not forget the alienating properties that most post-modern artistic forms go for. Shooters (which is the standard apparently for these discussions) provide, for me, the same effect that most contemporary forms of "high art" do. So to ask if videogames are art, well, seems not futile but the wrong direction to take if you want to seriously consider the aesthetics of the videogames themselves.
  • Movies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Unsus (901072) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:48PM (#15162632)
    game (particularly the shoot-shoot, point-scoring kind) was not an experience equivalent to that of reading a great novel like, say, 'The Great Gatsby,' because games don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human.
    Movies (particularly the shoot-shoot, killing kind) are not an experience equivalent to that of reading a great novel like, say, 'The Great Gatsby,' because movies don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human.
  • by kclittle (625128) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:48PM (#15162636)
    ... Ebert has a point. If FPSs are 'art', then so is paintball, or playing army when you're 10, or playing army when you're 40 (ever see a "Civil War re-enactment"?) . FPSs are closer to sport, IMHO, especially multiplayer. Single player, welllll.... RtCW did have a bit of a plot and a wicked sense of humor, but "Dune" or LotR it was not.

    And, let's face it, from the first Pong console, we all called it "playing a game", not "watching a (interactive) movie". We all used the word "playing" 'cause that's exactly what we knew were doing.

    Where's the controversy here??

    • ... Ebert has a point. If FPSs are 'art', then so is paintball, or playing army when you're 10, or playing army when you're 40 (ever see a "Civil War re-enactment"?) .

      Kendo is often called an "art". And that's just a bunch of grown men screaming and hitting each other in the head with sticks. But let's not confuse medium with art here. There's nothing artistic about looking at a painting. Likewise, there need not be anything artistic about playing a game. What's in question here is whether or not t
      • Exactly. Maybe gaming is an art and maybe it's not, but that's not actually what we're talking about. We're talking about the games, themselves. Personally, I fail to see how a medium that combines so many art forms (architecture, music, modeling, digital painting, and so on) can fail to be art. Some people may have a greater desire than I do to make "art" an exclusive category.
    • by TomHandy (578620)
      It depends on the FPS though. Take Bungie's Marathon trilogy of FPS's; they were undoubtedly FPS's and games, but they also told a very deep and complex story, almost entirely via text in computer terminals. Now, were these games art? They certainly fit the "explore the human condition" that has been laid out, and I would venture to say that if you stripped out the text from the game and printed it as a book, it would unquestionably be considered a work of literature like anything else.

      But does the med

      • by stony3k (709718)
        Exactly, Ebert seems to think that just because the creator does not control how his/her creation is consumed, it is no longer art. And I think that's a pretty narrow view - one could argue that we view Shakespeare's work very differently today than he intended them to be - that does not make them any less 'art'.

        Also consider that some artists definitely look for more 'interactive' media - some sculptures come to mind, and I seem to recall that there have been stage plays where the audience is asked to
    • ... Ebert has a point. If FPSs are 'art', then so is paintball, or playing army when you're 10, or playing army when you're 40 (ever see a "Civil War re-enactment"?) .

      I think this hypothesis is wrong simply because the act of interacting with the object is not art. The object's artistic nature itself is what is in question. I'd go so far as to say that in the examples you listed, that the objects the games are played with, they could be debated as to whether they were pieces of art. But thats not the arg
    • If FPSs are 'art', then so is paintball, or playing army when you're 10, or playing army when you're 40 (ever see a "Civil War re-enactment"?)
      The game is art, not the act of playing it.
      • The game is art, not the act of playing it.

        Just so. Map, meet territory. The art is the Mona Lisa, not sitting smiling with hands folded.

        • But isn't playing the game sort of integral to the whole concept of it, just as viewing the Mona Lisa is indivisible from the things that make the Mona Lisa art?

          When you talk about the Mona Lisa you can talk about the materials that make up the physical object or the processes that went into building that physical object, but that's not really an artistic discussion. You can only meaningfully discuss the Mona Lisa as art if you talk about what it looks like, which necessarily involves the act of viewing it.
    • Half Life 2, at a lull in the driving portion, stop your car and head over to the cliff and look out over the coast and water.
    • Ebert has a point. If FPSs are 'art', then so is paintball,

      The argument is about whether games are art, not whether playing games is art.

  • by hchaput (544841) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:59PM (#15162684)
    I would like to weigh in on "The Epic Ebert Videogame Debate" and say, categorically, NO! There should be NO EPIC EBERT VIDEOGAME!

    Let's face it, Ebert is epic enough as it is.

  • by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:59PM (#15162686) Journal
    This kind of debate is what I call a "definition debate". If you define your term, it is almost certain that your questions will be answered.

    Are videogames "art"? To answer that, define "art". Once you do, you are almost certainly done.

    We're getting this second hand, but Ebert offers up a definition to the effect of "art is something that deeply explores what it means to be human". By that definiton, I completely agree that truly artistic video games are rare. Even the examples I can think of that meet that definition are pretty thin on that front.

    The reason I think it's important to remember we're in a definition debate is because there is an overwhelming temptation that most people experience to detach from the definition and start fighting as if the definition is obvious to everyone and the real question is whether the definition applies. Resist that, because it's backwards. If you clearly state a definition, it will be (relatively speaking) quite clear whether video games are art, are not art, or whether perhaps some are art.

    At this point, you tend to realize that while it's interesting to compare and contrast the value of various definitions, you're not going to find The Definition Of Art. Therefore, you're not going to find The Answer. You should know going into the debate that you're not going to settle anything. You can't.

    I enjoy this sort of thing in moderation if done with people who understand what's going on, but the people furiously arguing backwards tend to drown out the conversation pretty quickly, in my experience.
    • Exactly!

      That idiot called (Mr. Eber) should play like Ico.

      If a game moves me to emotion, then it is art!
      • You've summed it up well, Ebert chose a definition that suited his preferred medium much more than games. There are a myriad of definitions for art out there, and the most important (IMHO) would be the definitions given by the artists themselves. I guess the real question would be whether the makers of various video games consider themselves artists in any capacity.

        Just my 2 as a musician and visual artist of 10+ years.
    • I agree with you completely, but I'll chip in a little more. People seem to very easily confuse the question "Is it art?" with "Is it good art?" If you look around this discussion you can find several (up modded no less) examples in which the quality of the work is taken as a proxy for whether it "is art" or not.

      The whole conversation is quite pointless.

      A much more useful conversation -- can we enjoy games as deeply as we enjoy other kinds of art?

      I wrote a paper in college [deadhobosociety.com] arguing yes. Long story short: vid
  • by Seraphim_72 (622457) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:03AM (#15162702)
    Yup, he is. Doom3 will never be on any level as Citizen Kane. And the knee-jerk reaction is to twst it back, Citizen Kane is no Doom3. But I guess I would go the other way. Doom3 is no Citizen Kane, but no film version or Romeo and Juliet is worth even a spirited High School performance of that play. To take it even further, No modern performance of Romeo and Juliet can even hold a candle to reading it, if you have had the proper education to understand it, or lived the originals. So here we are, back to reading. Mr Ebert, you are right, the new media isn't as good as the old media, but your films suffers from the same.

    Sera

    • Yup, he is. Doom3 will never be on any level as Citizen Kane. And the knee-jerk reaction is to twst it back, Citizen Kane is no Doom3.

      Has CK's copyright expired ? Could one make an action-oriented refilming of it ? "BFG..." Or simply have Kane rise from his grave as a brain-eating zombie and have an investigating reporter go after him with a chainsaw.

      Yes, let's make Citizen Kane 2 as a splatter horror movie !

      For that matter, you could simply add a sledlauncher to Doom3, that would make it CK.

      But

    • Yup, he is. Doom3 will never be on any level as Citizen Kane.

      I'd say they're about on par in terms of incorporating shadow into the mood and cinematography.
  • I am not artistic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @12:50AM (#15162852) Journal
    Yet a couple of years ago I did volunteer work at a local tv station as a cameraman. It was very intresting as offcourse a lot of the stuff was about art. Filming local artist during exhibitions and such.

    Some stuff I could get. Regular mainstream art like paintings or sculptures even if made out of trash. I am not a complete idiot and did not need to be told wich was the sculpture and wich the trashheap.

    But performance art was too confusing. The only difference between performance art and a mental case on the street seemed to be location. Some "artist" would "perform" for an amazing amount of time and apparently it was all very meaningfull. When you are holding a heavy camera usually you don't think much about what you are actually filming since you are busy with your own work. But when the performer freezes or just twists a single limb for minutes on end you can't help but wonder what the fuck it is all about.

    The most amazing thing is that these people all think it is extremely important what they are doing. Considering their efforts as worthy as hospitals. After all they want the same tax money to support them that could also be used to research cancer.

    Not that I really mind. It keeps them off the street. Sure a less liberal goverment would force them to get a real day job but would you really want one them to be your co-worker? Jails for the criminals, mental hospitals for the insane and art centers for the totally useless.

    I say it harsh but nonetheless that is how most people view "art". Useless crap that cost a lot of taxpayers money but does nothing.

    Do we really want games to be like that?

    It reminds me off a Yes Minister episode in wich the questions arises why opera (wich the masses do not want) receives subsidy but soccer (wich the masses do want) does not.

    Games are not art. In the same way movies and indeed books are not. If it is popular and people freely spend their own money on it then it can't be art. Art does NOT sell.

    Most REAL artists would agree. If you look at nearly all the great works of arts you would learn that all of them were commercial projects paid in advance. "De nachtwacht" by rembrandt. The "Mona Lisa" by Da Vinci. Great works of art yet made for no other reason then the money.

    Perhaps there are two kinds of art. The artsy arts that survive only thanks to goverment subsidies that nobody gives a shit about and the kind that actually sells and can sustain it self. Offcourse that is not "real" art in the eyes of the first group but frankly I don't think that is bad at all.

    Think of it like this. Do you know what local delicacy means? It means nobody else in the world wants to eat it. If a game truly became art would anyone really want to play it?

    • Yours is a kind of pessimistic take on art. IANAArtist but I knows what I likes. You describe the hoity toity side of "fine" art; the kind that only seasoned critics and professors will understand - the legalese of art. It reminds me of a recent King of the Hill episode where Bobby takes a class in clowning, only to find he was a better clown before he learned how.

      And indeed, Ebert is a master of deconstructing film. He makes a zillion observations every minute of every film. When it comes to interp
  • by Shinkage (965635)
    I'm getting really sick of a bunch of pretentious asses trying to definitively tell me what IS and ISN'T art as if there were some kind of objectively absolute standard for determining such a thing. Listen you idiots--if I make something and say it's art, and other people buy or view it (or whatever) and they say it's art, then guess what? IT'S ART, and it doesn't matter what anybody else says. That. Is. The. Whole. Damn. Point. Really, you can argue that modern art (for example) isn't art at all,
    • Listen you idiots--if I make something and say it's art, and other people buy or view it (or whatever) and they say it's art, then guess what? IT'S ART, and it doesn't matter what anybody else says. That. Is. The. Whole. Damn. Point.

      Okay. Let's take you at your word.

      You say if you "make something and say it's art" that counts. Does the game industry actually send out this message? Does it, in any significant way, make claims about its work being art? That's not the message I'm getting as a member of the

  • The art of games comes from their intricately crafted logic systems and environment (the game's ruleset, if you will.) A well designed game will compel the user in a different way than a book or movie or music. Should we seperate "art" from "non-art" based on the area of the brain that it stimulates?

    Games excel at engaging three aspects of the human mind:

    * Creativity -- Given a toolset and a receptive environment, a game player is encouraged to express themselves in new ways. (See: The Sims, A Tale in t
    • Are sports art then? They require creativity to outwit the opponent, a logical approach to scoring, and certainly more reflexes than a videogame. Oh, but the slashdot community doesnt hold sports int he bottom of their hearts, so I suppose they must not be art.

      I am not saying videogames cannot be art, but your definition is lacking.

      • Who is excluding sports? I didn't list any as examples because we seem to be talking mostly about videogames here.

        Table Tennis is a good example of a reflex-oriented game. Figure Skating takes a good amount of creativity (and reflex, and some logic). It's hard to find examples that don't have a combination of all three.

        I suppose most sports require a certain amount of athletics. But then again, Dance Dance Revolution does, and Golf doesn't.
  • Usually 1 extra feat, plus +4 skill points / lvl.

    Oh, and Common.
  • Godawful Gatsby (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Baby Duck (176251)
    The Great Gatsby was not a great novel. Gatbsy? Not so great either. No one acts or thinks like any of the characters. Well, maybe the narrator. And for the love of God, why is this book discussed in universities?! What has any 18-22 year old college student ever done where he can relate to Gatsby?

    I found the book shallow, devoid of interesting narration, and too pigeon-holed towards a narrow economic class in one particular decade. Timeless it is not.
  • by vga_init (589198)
    Games are essentially programs (they are also more than just programs), and as a programmer I find artistic value in programming--I always have since I amused myself by writing clever, creative code. Game programmers can often be unimaginative, but games are also one programming application in which creativity plays a stronger role.

    Having played many games with artistic value through my life time, arguing that games are not art seems absolutely ridiculous to me. I know I'm prejudiced, but I can't take an

  • Ebert began by explaining why he felt a movie (particularly the girls gone wild kind) was not an experience equivalent to that of reading a great novel like, say, 'The Great Gatsby,' because movies don't delve very deeply into what it means to be human.
  • Ebert's personal definition of art probably includes some bias about understanding the medium and so he's never going to accept gaming as art.

    And to be honest shouldn't we make up our minds? Is it art or a sport? Can't really have it both ways. So by the Cyber-Athletes' leagues definitions it wouldn't be art either would it?

    • Why can't you have it both ways?

      What about rhythmic gymnastics? Is it art or is it sport? Is it both?

      Ditto for figure skating, ballet, etc.
  • I am 3d engine coder ( http://telejano.berlios.de./ [telejano.berlios.de] And making a 3d engine feels almost like painting (I also paint) and doing photography. This mean 3denginemaking =~ painting + photograpy + maths, so... 66.66% pure acepted art.

    More on that... I use my 3d engine to explore artisting ideas. How to make snow that feel snow?,.. What look to get that feel?, and others.

    As I work on other business, and my mind is free, I let my sould explore the in and outs of some 3d engine design ideas. And this feel exactly li
  • There's no question that there is art in games, a sort of art in designing/making games- but is a game as a whole really art?

    I think there is a group of people that want games to be art so that it affords them protection from censorship. There is another group of people that want games to be a professional sporting thing so that it affords legitimization from another angle, but there are some conceptual difficulties reconciling those two things.

    My opinion is that art is too limited a concept to be applied
  • How can you not consider a game like Tetris art?

    I'm not talking about any particular implementation of the game; it's the very concept that is just completely impossible in the real world. The type of thinking it invokes could not have been possible in any other wya than through a video game.

    Surely something that manages that must be considered art?

    p.s. Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Da Vinci weren't considered "art" when they lived; it was just a profession for which they were paid hourly wages. Surely it was
    • it's the very concept that is just completely impossible in the real world. The type of thinking it invokes could not have been possible in any other wya than through a video game.

      More or less, I have strong tetris feelings when I'm reorganising shelf space in the mixed cups and glasses cupboard: I'm at the top, providing the mismatched pieces, and I push them down, turn them, and try to make them fit as snugly as possible.
    • Oddly enough, I'm sure if you dressed people as Tetris pieces and had them act out Tetris moves, it would be considered performance art.
  • I agree partially (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LarsWestergren (9033) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:04AM (#15163396) Homepage Journal
    I had written a LONG post, but Firefox crashed... Second and much shorter attempt:

    I agree with him for most games (99% or so), but there are some notable exceptions. Planescape:Torment for instance, that whole game is centered around questions such as "Can anything change the nature of a man? Would you REALLY want to be immortal? What is a valid philosophy of life (Dustmen, Godsmen, Sensates)?"

    When I was asked the question "What can change the nature of a man?", with along list of possible answers such as "love, death, faith, regret, nothing", I froze. I had to go for a long walk before I could answer that question.

    That if anything goes deeply into what it means to be a human, and it did it in ways few other media or artform could.

    Some other games that, while maybe not asking such big questions about life, have touched me emotionally:
    Final Fantasy 7
    Grim Fandango
    Longest Journey
    Fallout
    Knights of the Old Republic 2 (would have been even better without the butchered ending(s)) [team-gizka.org].
    • I agree with him for most games (99% or so), but there are some notable exceptions. Planescape:Torment for instance, that whole game is centered around questions such as "Can anything change the nature of a man? Would you REALLY want to be immortal?

      By this rationale almost any video game can be called art. Would Pac Man really want to be immortal? What can he do besides eat and run? What would he do in the maze after he'd eaten all the ghosts and dots?
      • By this rationale almost any video game can be called art. Would Pac Man really want to be immortal? What can he do besides eat and run?

        I think the difference is that in Planescape you actually live through the consequences of immortality as a human being and discuss the moral choices with other sentinent beings. Although this is all in a fantasy setting, so there is some suspension of disbelieve required.

        You would have some difficulties forming emotional attatchments to Pacman and grieve for his death, but
        • So conversation is the border between artistic and non-artistic games? I say Pac Man is just as apt at portraying the human condition. He eats because he must to advance. He escapes his predators and he hunts his prey. Just because he doesn't talk about it, doesn't mean he's any less vulnerable or pitiable.
          • Oh what fun, a debate about "what is art". It is not like people have argued about this for over a hundred years without coming to a conclusion that all can agree on....

            Ebert's defenition, at least for meaningful art, seemed to be that it brought up issues of the human condition. I believe Planescape:Torment is a good example of this. Pac Man is not. Call me literary minded, but for me conversations is an important part of this. I haven't played it, but appearently some people find ICO a very touching game
            • Ico's a great example because it involves simple tactile gestures like hand-holding, but the concept of wordless devotion is pretty powerful as well.

              Does this devotion, spoken or otherwise, have to be between 2 people? Can't it be between a man and his purpose? Rez, a kaleidoscopic rail shooter, is about as artsy as they come, but there's no dialog except for in a hidden level. Geometry Wars is visually stunning and exciting but it portrays no purpose other than to survive. Even The Sims can feature
  • by lorelorn (869271) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @04:59AM (#15163506)
    So a primitive simplistic game is not art? Well so what? If I write "lorelorn woz ere" on a random wall that's not art either. But neither the pen nor the wall lose their potential as a basis for artistic expression by my doing that.

    Computer games are very much a potential basis for artistic expression, and are often used that way. Whether this be through music, sound, visuals, or their combinations, artistic expression unarguably exists there.

    Mods and movies made using games, such as Red vs Blue also fall into the 'art' category. People have been expressing themselves artistically through this medium for so long now we barely consciously register it.

    It takes moronic comments like Ebert's to remind us that games today are as foreign a country today as film was to theatre goers in 1908.

    His comments are rather like saying film has no basis in art, using "Dumb and Dumber" as your sole basis for that argument.

  • I have a feeling if the debate were over something the slashdot community did not hold so dear as their controllers, that the debate would be more towards the middle. Pick a random profession that not many of us are involved in: interior decorating. Certainly it has alot of the nature of art, and takes an artistic vision. But i wouldn't call knowing where to put the couch art.

    However, if anyone decided that our blessed videogames are not art, gad- get the torches and pitchforks. I think the distinction need

  • But is it art? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @07:36AM (#15163886) Homepage Journal
    Ah, the good old "I played a 3-d shooter and it wasn't art, therefore all games ever cannot be art." bilge.

    Eh, I read a paperback novel and it wasn't art, therefore books aren't art.
    I saw "Home Alone 2" and it wasn't art, therefore films aren't art.
    I watched "Extreme makeover home edition" and it wasn't art, therefore TV programs can't be art.

    Slashdotters reply with variations on "what about the $EMOTION in $FAVOURITE_GAME". Correct but predictable.

  • Game development is not a mindless activity; it takes care, time, enthusiasm, and insight. To see that and still insist that the products of this are not art is just plain insulting.
  • When Gutenburg's printing press first went into production, the first book printed was the famous Gutenburg Bible. The second book printed was not a play, a novel, or any other work of fiction. It was a strategy guide for a game known as "Chess".

    Unlike movies or books, games are interactive and the player's experience is caused by their actions. Many modern games try to combine this with a cinema-like experience, but don't be fooled: if the story was more important than the interactivity, the medium wou
  • by 7Prime (871679) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @05:41PM (#15169148) Homepage Journal

    I think that most of us can at least point to at least a few games and draw parallels to other works traditionally recognized as being "art". I've heard examples such as FF7s "death of Aris" evoking similar emotional responses to parts of other traditionally dramatic narratives, Oblivion exploring the human condition, Max Payne exploring what it means to be human, Myst retains a similar high level of visual artistry to most traditional paintings... the list goes on.

    The question I pose is that 95% of the examples given by Slashdot posters are examples of games that CONTAIN art, not games that ARE art. This is because a lot of the rudimentary definitions of art contain specific criteria to be met by individual mediums. I have heard the arguement that a game has art, but if you took away all the cut scenes from that RPG, it would scene to contain art. I have two problems with that... for one, you've just defined art out of games, as cut scenes are movies, not games. In a cut scene, all gameplay stops, more often than not, the player puts down the controller, and watches events unfold on the screen for a couple of minutes, this is not a game, this is a movie. Now, I love cut scenes, and I love movies, but if you require cut scenes in a game in order to qualify as "art", you've just defined art out of the GAME altogether.

    Even before we need to define "what is art", we must, then, ask "what is a game?" Many games are an extension of traditional narrative forms. RPGs are mostly a combination of cinema and literature, with an interactive element thrown into the mix. Myst could be considered a series of paintings, all of which may exude the same criteria as those in an art gallery. Is Myst, then, in its artistic definition, no more than a simple art gallery? What about if we were to remove all of these elements? If Myst was played as a text based adventure, could we begin to look at its puzzle elements as having artistic qualities? The real meat of the definition of gaming is in the process of which the player progresses through the game world. IE: Myst could be a game without the imagery, but it would simply be a gallery without its interactive puzzle elements.

    The problem is, from a medium standpoint, no game explores any medium that isn't already included in the definition of another art form: still visuals, moving picturess, music, literature, even skulpture are all represented in games, yet you can break almost any game into a collection of these pre-defined elements. The only constant that breaks the mould is interactivity. Is interactivity, in of itself, then, a separate medium? (let is keep in mind that games are not the only interactive form out there) Can it in itself contain artistic qualities?

    These are the REAL questions we should be restling with... not whether FF7s cutscenes are good enough to qualify as "high art" or "good art". Most of the statements I've heard are entirely subjective in nature, and betray the writer's opinion of the work at hand. Art should be more than that, is possible to dislike a work of art while still realizing that it is, in fact, artistic. One must come to terms with the fact that a harliquin dime novel fits the definition of art as much as a Shakesperian tragedy, although its quality and value may be up for speculation. Let's not get sidetracked by these personal value judgements if we are to truly define the artistic elements of a medium.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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