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Roger Ebert On Why Video Games Can Never Be Art 733

Roger Ebert has long held the opinion that video games are not and can never be considered an art form. After having this opinion challenged in a TED talk last year, Ebert has now taken the opportunity to thoughtfully respond and explain why he maintains this belief. Quoting: "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 an 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. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them. She quotes Robert McKee's definition of good writing as 'being motivated by a desire to touch the audience.' This is not a useful definition, because a great deal of bad writing is also motivated by the same desire. I might argue that the novels of Cormac McCarthy are so motivated, and Nicholas Sparks would argue that his novels are so motivated. But when I say McCarthy is 'better' than Sparks and that his novels are artworks, that is a subjective judgment, made on the basis of my taste (which I would argue is better than the taste of anyone who prefers Sparks)."
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Roger Ebert On Why Video Games Can Never Be Art

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  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:44PM (#31902654)

    At this point it's almost like he's desperately trying to find some way of defining "art" in a way that excludes video games purely because he, for some reason, NEEDS them to not be art.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he's officially passed into hinging his entire worldview in relation to videogames as art on a "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

    • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily&gmail,com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:57PM (#31902884)

      At this point it's almost like he's desperately trying to find some way of defining "art" in a way that excludes video games purely because he, for some reason, NEEDS them to not be art.

      No kidding. I don't care what anyone says, Portal was art by any sane definition.

    • Schopenhauer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1@gmaiHORSEl.com minus herbivore> on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:03PM (#31902966) Journal

      There are much older definitions of art, like Schopenhauer's. He argues that artistic judgment is the disinterested contemplation of beauty or the sublime. That is a technical definition, but it basically means that art is free from your will, or desire.

      If Schopenhauer is right and art is free from the will, then Ebert's idea is not so stupid, and has some intellectual pedigree. For, a game is the embodiment of the will, in that you want to triumph.

      • Re:Schopenhauer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Necreia ( 954727 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:10PM (#31903076)

        Would that suggest, then, that if an observer and not player of such game - with no interest in victory for the player - appreciates it, that it is then art?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Narpak ( 961733 )

          Would that suggest, then, that if an observer and not player of such game - with no interest in victory for the player - appreciates it, that it is then art?

          Art is whatever I say it is! *smack* Obey my authority!

      • Re:Schopenhauer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:22PM (#31903264) Homepage Journal

        He argues that artistic judgment is the disinterested contemplation of beauty or the sublime

        That might have value as a definition of artistic judgement, but seems lacking as a definition for art itself. Otherwise any artist that creates with passion would have his works disqualified as art, and that doesn't seem to accord with the way we understand art.

        I suppose if you consider the game creator as the artist and the player as the appreciator, then I can see your point. But suppose you see the player as artist, and the game as his canvas? A good run through a Far Cry level can surely be considered art, at least as much as an improvisational dancer can.

        Or maybe we need to look at game playing as an artistic collaboration between the game creator, and the player, producing performance art that arises uniquely from that combination.


      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by powerlord ( 28156 )

        Then I would argue that while a Video Game itself is probably not a piece of Art, the story and expression of it very well might be.

        Case in point, Final Fantasy XIII.

        Separate and apart from wining the game, the world of the game, and the story that takes place over the course of the game, (in the form of written descriptions and backstory in the Datapad, and in the cut-scenes, both pre-compiled and in-game) most certainly IS a work of art.

        The ability to "finish or win" a game disqualifying it as a work of

      • Re:Schopenhauer (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:59PM (#31903722) Journal

        Art is anything you can get away with.
        -- Marshall McLuhan

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        That definition also excludes a great deal of the artwork of history: anything dealing with religion, lust, beautiful women, political statement - and so on.

    • by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:08PM (#31903046)

      Art doesn't seem to have a good objective definition. It's always defined in terms of the things people consider to BE art. Any definition that doesn't use specific works seems to be an attempt at finding a common thread among the works that person considers to be art. Those themes can vary from person to person.

      For some, emotional impact is key. A "sterile", though accurate drawing can never be art to them.
      For some, technical skill is important. I know I've refused to call a lot of abstract works "art".
      For others, social commentary or message is important. A pop singer is mere entertainment (the horror), but replace her lyrics about her boyfriend with ones about the hardships of poverty and she becomes an artist.

      I've played video games that could pass muster in any of these categories, and some arguably in all three.

      Wth Mr. Ebert, though, a work of art needs to be static. Interactivity, open-endedness, and an ability to win means it's not art. If you make a video game that is missing these pieces, he neatly claims it's no longer a video game. A very nice circular definition if you ask me.

      • No. He's managed to trick you.

        Art has a perfectly good objective definition.

        Humans use symbols and representations of things. Normal, straight usage, such as saying 'I'm going to the store', or a map, or a whatever, is not art.

        Art is when, in addition to the actual standard representation, the creator is attempting to convey another meaning. For example, 'beauty'. Or 'excitement'. Or whatever.

        Art is simply what we call symbols and representations that are 'two deep'...the normal literal one, and one on top of that.

        Anything else, any quibbling beyond that, is not trying to define 'art'...it's trying to define good art.

        Now, there's an argument to be made that art has to be able to convey some primary meaning or some secondary meaning to least some of the viewers, and hence some non-representational art (What you called abstract, although that just means 'deliberately incorrect'...Picasso paintings are abstract.) actually fails the 'art test', as it's often not possible for people to grasp the second meaning without being told it, and there isn't any 'first meaning' beyond 'blobs of stuff'.

        But that's a very very very small subset of things that are 'art', and have an amount of attention paid to them that is way out of proportion with their actual experience.

        Likewise, a technically good drawing that doesn't (try to) convey anything beyond the drawing, is not in fact art, in much the same way a security camera recording is not art.

    • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:18PM (#31903208) Journal

      Google for "Lance Armstrong is not an athlete". Seems about 8 years ago, some wanker of a sports reporter wrote this long idiotic oped piece that Lance Armstrong is not an athlete, because cycling is not a true sport. A true sport, like baseball, involves several motions, like running *and* throwing. Cycling does not; ergo cycling is not a sport and Lance is not an athlete. (At least according to this idiot, cycling only requires pedaling.)

      So boxing (which this idiot covered) *is* a sport because it involves punching *and* falling down.

      This is in the same vein; start out with a personal dislike of something or other, then write convoluted logic justifying your personal prejudice.

      And this crap gets published because you are a member of the press, not because it makes any sense.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm also a little bothered by the emphasis on winning. Particularly in single-player RPGs, you are usually trying to complete the main plot of the story. You don't win or lose, you simply end. For instance, in Planescape: Torment, it was extremely hard to "lose" (that is, die permanently before reaching the end of the game). Even if you died, with very rare exceptions you would simply wake up in a morgue or an alleyway as your immortal body knitted itself back together. When you eventually reach the end of

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        But that's the trick to his "No True Scottsman" fallacy. If you present Ebert with a videogame that fits his definition of art then he simply claims it's not a videogame and that you've proven his point for him.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:35PM (#31903440) Journal

      At this point it's almost like he's desperately trying


      Roger Ebert is a very talented and erudite film critic and scholar. His first-hand experience in the movie business gives him an insight beyond that of many other great film critics.

      However, he's succumbed to something that is common to people who have succeeded in one area: they start to believe their expertise in one thing makes then expert in all things. There are talented engineers who believe their success at engineering makes their opinions about climate change valuable. There are chemists who decide late in life to write a "Theory of Everything" that includes quantum mechanics and astrophysics. Bono made hit records and believed that qualifies him to solve great world problems. It comes with success in an age of celebrity.

      Roger Ebert has been through a lot in the past years. He's battled an extremely aggressive disease that has left him deformed and disabled. The pain alone was probably enough to have made him borderline insane. I'm going to give him a pass on this idiotic statement for two reasons. Number One is because he's written brilliantly about film. There are only a handful of film critics who have worked at such a high level for so long. Number Two is because he's had some medical issues that would have warped anyone's better judgment. I give him credit for trying so hard to continue his career and I wish him the best.

      But video games, though not yet there, are certainly capable of being great art.

    • by aafiske ( 243836 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:50PM (#31903616)

      Actually, it sounds a lot like gamers (note: I game, a lot) are desperate to associate games as art. He has a point, at the end of his article: why exactly are people insisting games are art? Does it make them better? Does it make you feel like less of a nerd, if it's artistic? Why is an aimless, goal-less pretty-picture-and-motion collection more art than something engaging and fun like Deus Ex (picked from a hat, replace with your game of choice.)

      It seems like gamers & developers are creating a kind of cargo cult art. We don't know what art is, but if we make something kind of weird and meandering and clumsily insert some emotive cues, that's art, right? Lots of movies are odd, abstract explorations of who-knows-what, so if we do that, we're doing art.

      I don't think it works like that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Art is any creative work which is designed to offer a unique perspective on the world. Stories, novels, paintings, scultpures etc all hopefully offer something to the listener, viewer or player new ideas or ways of feeling about the world in which we live.

        Art is important because it can deeply affect those who are enriched by it. I find films in particular important to my own life because they've expanded my perspective on the world and my place in it.

        To deny that video games are Art is to say that all th

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @07:08PM (#31903822) Journal
      That wasn't my interpretation (from actually reading the article, I know that's a bad idea). It seemed to me he was making a kind of exploration, he wasn't trying to bash everyone's head in and convince them that his way is right, rather he was giving an explanation of how he sees things, hoping to advance the quality of the dialog a bit.

      In the actual essay he somewhat backed away from the firmness of his argument "video games can never be art" and restated it as, "no video game now is art, and I don't see how video games can be art." He is addressing the arguments of one person, and he found them lacking, but he is open to hearing new arguments if they come along.

      And frankly I don't think she presented her case very well. She used the case of a video game portraying Waco Texas, and he presents a movie that does a much better job. She shows a game that has pretty visuals, and he rightly points out that the visuals aren't that much better than what you would find on a postcard.

      I think the biggest problem is he doesn't understand how emotionally captivating it is to play a video game, how it makes you 'become' the character. He would probably say that movies do this too, and that movies have better graphics, better scripts, and better camera work (and he is definitely right), but he misses the fact that games succeed even without all that. The fact that you personally have to save your partner is incredibly engaging, even without a decent script, realistic graphics, or decent camera work. Imagine what someone could do with all those elements. It could be something truly great.

      Incidentally I also disagree with him that chess cannot be art. The rules themselves are not art, but some of the games that have been played are extremely beautiful dances between two minds.
  • Games aren't art because you can -win-? That's a rather bleak and pessimistic view on art. If you aren't allowed to win... I guess you aren't allowed to lose either. The only winning move is not to play... curious.

  • They can be art (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:47PM (#31902704)
    Art is anything that has the ability to inspire emotions in people. Some videogames certainly fit that definition. Few videogames currently have really artistic artwork, but good 3D immersion increases, not decreases, the emotional impact of artwork. Some areas of World of Warcraft are enjoyable just to wander through, e.g. the silence of the snow covered woods or flying on a Griffin. But then, I guess I believe that "art" and "play" are not mutually exclusive.
  • Didn't the end... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hangin10 ( 704729 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:47PM (#31902714)

    Didn't the end of that quote just become "I know it when I see it"?

  • "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 an 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. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

    Tic Tac Toe? Generic FPS? Perhaps. But there are plenty of games that have either a unique artistic approach or interesting story that you can

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:47PM (#31902720)

    Nuff said.

    ICO is art.

    Shadow of the Colossus, was also incredible but it did not have the emotional impact of ICO. However Shadow of the Colossus remains one of the most visually epic games to date, with a very insightful story... it misses the mark a bit but its there if you break it all down. Its an incredible game.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:43PM (#31903548) Homepage

      In a more general way of saying what I think you're saying, we might guess that he thinks games aren't art because he hasn't played enough games.

      I think this betrays a lack of understanding:

      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.

      He seems to be saying (though I may be misinterpreting) that people at the top of their game (e.g. Bobby Fischer) didn't think their game-playing abilities made them artists, but I don't think game-players want to claim to be artists. Your ability to appreciate the art isn't determined by your skill at the game.

      If sculpting is an art, then making 3D models should be an art. If writing music or a story for a movie is art, then why should it be different for a video game? Essentially, video games can contain all the audio/visual artistic expression that a movie contains. Creating an animation in a game doesn't take less skill than creating the same animation for a movie. The only difference is that, in addition to what a movie has, games have interactivity. Deciding how/when to blend that interactivity into audio/visual expressions is itself a creative process. The effect might not be obvious to non-gamers, but placing you into the role of a character or placing you in the action can have a significant dramatic effect.

      I'm sure there are better examples, but "Portal" comes to mind (warning: possible spoilers if you haven't played the game). The fact that it was set up to appear as a simple puzzle game with discrete levels set you up to have a certain set of expectations. You believe you're in a well defined world with rules, and that the world is "working the way it's supposed to." As the game progresses, you begin to see signs that the in-game world is not what it appears, and therefor the game itself is not what it appears. This is an artistic progression that the audience experiences somewhat passively, but it wouldn't be possible in a non-interactive medium.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook ( 132727 )

      There are a few games that are really good, and would certainly be art if video games can be. But I can see what he's saying.

      While ICO was great, it was, you followed along the path the game designer gave you, stopping off and on to fight the shadow things. While you do have to fight them (for there to be any conflict in the game), you don't need to fight them as much as you do. The fights are basically padding, and the shear number of times you do it isn't necessary for the story. Shadow of the Colossus f

  • If art is something at which you cannot "win," than that nixes almost every reality show out of the pond right there.

    I am OK with this.
  • Art is art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by audunr ( 906697 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:49PM (#31902744)

    Anyone who knows art will tell you that something is art if people who know art say it is.

    Seriously, there's nothing more to it.

  • One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Obviously he has never played The Sims or Second Life...
  • Oh, Grandpa! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:50PM (#31902778)

    Are the rules of games art? Perhaps not.

    Are games themselves generally composed of art? Yes.

    Does applying rules of games to the art in games negate the artistry? No.

    Is Ebert being a curmudgeon again? Yeah.

    The average first-rate game contain a good book worth of creative written material, galleries of fascinating and provocative artistic images, and a couple albums worth of creative sound. These things are art - they give the game rules context that creates a story the player enacts... they are a play with a branching script, performed with audience participation.

    If that's not art, your definition is flawed.

    Ryan Fenton

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

      Are building codes art? Definitely not.

      Are buildings generally composed of art (called "architecture")? Frequently, yes.

      Does applying building codes to the buildings designed by architects negate the artistry? No.

    • Re:Oh, Grandpa! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:58PM (#31903706)

      I'd argue that the rules of a game can be art themselves. Especially when the rules themselves are simple, but the gameplay is complex and dynamic. Games like the SimCity series, Civilization series, and Starcraft. They all involve a fairly simple set of rules: gather resources to build infrastructure that then allows you to gather more resources. But through repeated gameplay and exploring the different methods of balancing the various methods available you can ferret out some subtleties of cause and effect, decisions and consequences. You can also start asking questions about how well a game mimics reality. How does the balance of funding on research vs. military affect the outcome? Is it universal or context dependent? I.e., is research more valuable if your opponent is Protoss instead of Zerg? And how is that not a commentary on how the game creator perceives the world?

      One of the most fascinating aspects of Civilization I've found is the effects of isolation on your empire. Try playing two games with the same overall style and choices, but one where you're very removed from the rest of the empires and one where you're surrounded by others. In isolation, your growth will lag and you very quickly lose any hope at winning, but when surrounded your growth is very rapid. Trade and competition with your neighbors is very important for a strong and wealthy empire.

      How many of these interactions where intended by the game creators? I'm not sure, but that leads to other questions. How many of those effects are secondary consequences of the system the designers tried to create?

  • Art For Whom? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rary ( 566291 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:56PM (#31902874)

    Okay, so it's not art because you can "win". That's fine if you're the player. What if you're watching someone else play a videogame? It's kind of like watching a movie, and you can't "win" at it. So, then is it art? And if not, then why is a movie art?

    • Re:Art For Whom? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:29PM (#31903344) Homepage Journal

      Okay, so it's not art because you can "win".

      I'll be damned if the people who walk off the podium after accepting an academy don't "act" like winners. Would appear to be that those stupid awards appear to gauge winners and losers, as well as the constant report of ticket sales every week with regard to new box office draws. I do respect Ebert, I've been a long time fan of his show going way back before Gene Siskel passed on and Richard Roeper came on board (the new show by the way with Scott and Philips is schytte, the producers have ruined it with their game show-like nonsense), but he's sounding a bit like Grandpa. Art is a changing canvas, technology advances everything, even the definition of art. If you live in the Age of Technology and are stuck in static definitions for every day life experiences, your pretty much screwed. Movies will probably evolve to include more and more viewer interaction anyway, its inevitable. Then where will ya be, old man Ebert??

    • Re:Art For Whom? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mqduck ( 232646 ) <mqduck@m q d u c k . net> on Monday April 19, 2010 @07:15PM (#31903902)

      What's so fundamentally different about finishing a game or finishing a book?

  • Ballroom Dancing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noexit ( 107629 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:57PM (#31902876) Homepage

    It's dance, and an art. And yet, you can win at it.

  • by marquinhocb ( 949713 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:57PM (#31902878) Homepage Journal

    Is Roger Ebert really that dense?

    It's like making the argument that a movie isn't art because you're sitting on your ass while watching it, whereas a painting you have to stand up for.

    Art is not about the person VIEWING or EXPERIENCING - it is about the creator.

    Clearly WATCHING a movie or PLAYING a video game is not art.

    MAKING one, on the other hand, can be.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:01PM (#31902936) Homepage Journal

    I would say art is any beautiful act of creation.
    So is a piece of music a work of art or is a performance of the work a piece of art?
    Or are both examples of art.
    What about the Golden Gate Bridge, the Handcock building, or the Parthenon?
    To me the Saturn V, Supermarine Spitfire, and the Lockheed SR-71 are all works of art but I know an artist that disagrees because as she said, "their form is dictated by their function". I tend to see that as just working within the limitations of your medium.

    Now I will say that I do not classify most video games as great art. In fact I would put 99.999% of them in the classification of commercial art but yes they are still art.

    Now the big question is can any video game reach the level of what we call high art? So far the closest I feel we have come would would be maybe Myst for visuals, the works of Infocom in for writing quality, and honestly Tetris. As far and an abstract construct that really seems to resonate with everybody on the planet Tetris has got to be a stand out. If nothing else it has become a classic that I wouldn't shocked to see people playing 100 years from now.

  • Heavy Rain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ink ( 4325 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:03PM (#31902980) Homepage

    You don't "win" or "lose" Heavy Rain. You experience it. It's even less of a game than Flower. I suppose Ebert could say that it has passed through being a video game, and gone on to being an interactive movie (hello Fahrenheit 451) -- but your skill, lack thereof, or intentional supression of it determines how the narrative unfolds. It's unlike most any other "game" you have played, and very moving.

    That said, I fundamentally disagree with him. Art evokes an emotional response -- and video games do that in spades. From becoming an avatar in Ultima, to avoiding zombies in Resident Evil, losing Arith in FF VII, exploring your coldwar inner child in post-apocalyptic DC in Fallout 3 and discovering who GladOS is in Portal, video games do that. Denying such is just being snobbish.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:10PM (#31903078)

    Come on. Who does not share the sense of elation at the end of something like Rocky, or when the Ring falls into Mt. Doom? How is that not winning, it's giving you the same feeling of relief and finality that closing out a good game does.

    Movies are all about immersion. Books are all about immersion. Games are just giving you another way to get immersed in the story. Even games that theoretically have no story, have one created just by the act of you playing it - a million small triumphs (and thus stories) accumulated on the path to victory. You swap stories about games just as you would really profound or exciting scenes in movies, the only difference is that you had an even more personal experience with the game.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:16PM (#31903160) Journal

    Ebert is a movie critic. As such he has a vested interest in keeping people interested in spending their eyeball time on movies rather than "diverting" it to other passtimes, such as video games. This constitutes a conflict of interest whenever he attempts to analyze those passtimes.

    Again, Ebert is a movie critic. This means he thinks movies are something more worthy of his attention than other passtimes. This can be expected to produce a subjective bias whenever he attempts to analyze other passtimes.

    While this may be his actual honest and informed opinion, rather than a conscious attempt to promote his own subject matter (and thus his career as a critic) or an unconscious bias manifesting as a denigration of other art(or not)forms, I am inclined to take what he says about video-games-as-art with a large salt lick. (The same one I used in the '50s through now when blithely ignoring the mainstream literature establishment's constant criticism of both science fiction - which has an opposing ideology - and graphic novels / "comic books" - which bear the same relationship to written literature as theater does to storytelling.)

    I am reminded of the TV show episodes during the rise of various things perceived as competition to network TV - cable, internet-based conferencing (netnews, blogs, ...), and again video games - which attempted to tie video games to crime, drugs, death, etc. (For example I recall one particularly pathetic (and low budget) cop show (involving "The San Diego Chicken" as a major character and witness) where the murder was committed by an executive of one of two cable companies involved in a bidding war.)

    I hope Ebert is not sinking to this level.

  • by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:23PM (#31903274)

    He's arguing with someone who is actually correct that games are art. Here's how he handles this debate:

    "Santiago now supplies samples of a video game named "Waco Resurrection" (above), in which the player, as David Koresh, defends his Branch Davidian compound against FBI agents. The graphics show the protagonist exchanging gunfire with agents according to the rules of the game. Although the player must don a Koresh mask and inspire his followers to play, the game looks from her samples like one more brainless shooting-gallery."

    Ok, note the important thing: because games require you to actually play them to appreciate them, he's essentially describing a painting that *he has never even seen*. He's making the conclusion that the game is not art *based on screenshots*.

    Really. Super really. He's as qualified to judge whether or not this game is art as my damned dog is to preside over the works of Michelangelo- meaning, he'll ignore that which is on the ceiling, and he'll pee on whatever he can reach.

    "Her next example is a game named "Braid" (above). This is a game "that explores our own relationship with our past...you encounter enemies and collect puzzle pieces, but there's one key difference...you can't die." You can go back in time and correct your mistakes. In chess, this is known as taking back a move, and negates the whole discipline of the game."

    For the unfamiliar, we have " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braid_(video_game) [wikipedia.org] ".

    Firstly, in chess, if you are practicing or playing by yourself, taking back a move is one of the things you do to explore the gamespace more thoroughly. Only in a competitive multiplayer environment does time manipulation become something different entirely. He's suddenly gone from exploring a world into cheating. Not related. Plus, the game isn't just a regular game that has time manipulation, as he would again discovered *if only he could type it into google*. Seriously, here's from wikipedia:

    "Time and Mystery introduces objects surrounded by a green glow that are unaffected by time manipulation; for example, switches will remain flipped even if time is rewound to before the action occurred. Rewinding can thus be used to change the synchronization between objects that can and cannot be rewound, the basis of many puzzles in this section.[15] This theme is also used in later worlds to denote objects unaffected by the player's time manipulation."

    Ok, so, he doesn't know what he's talking about. This isn't "taking back a move" at all. This is something he has never heard of and doesn't understand.

    And his third:

    "We come to Example 3, "Flower" (above). A run-down city apartment has a single flower on the sill, which leads the player into a natural landscape. The game is "about trying to find a balance between elements of urban and the natural." Nothing she shows from this game seemed of more than decorative interest on the level of a greeting card. Is the game scored? She doesn't say. Do you win if you're the first to find the balance between the urban and the natural? Can you control the flower? Does the game know what the ideal balance is? "

    I don't know man DO YOU? You haven't even TRIED this game out.

    What a tool. Seriously, this is like refusing to acknowledge sculpture as art because all you have seen are pictures, or dismissing photography because you heard someone describe how a camera worked and then you were like, wait, does the exposure speed matter? WHY DO YOU NOT SAY NOT ART LOL. Or as I mentioned before, dismissing paintings having never viewed them.

    Old man is old.

  • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:31PM (#31903376)
    He's not a game critic. He's a MOVIE critic. He's watched trailers of games and commented on them with the perspective of a movie critic. Did he play portal? Did he play Braid? Did he play bioshock? Did he play WACO? No.

    Now i'm going to play the part of the snob. Even if he did, he's unqualified to judge them. Roger Ebert does not understand the vocabulary of gaming. He hasn't played enough FPS to judge the waco game as an experience beyond you run and shoot people.

    Not that i'm defending the waco game as art. i've never played it myself. I don't go into it thinking the point of the experience is to shoot people however. shooting people is common place to gamers. to someone who has played a number of FPS games, they are likely not paying much attention to the fact that they are shooting people. Someone who doesn't instinctively control an fps is likely to spend more time trying to figure out how to move, how to shoot, than to absorb any kind of message or mood the game is trying to convey.

    Having gone to art school, i know that art snobs think the knowledge you bring to viewing the art is important in critiquing it. Having a thorough knowledge of principles of design and color theory is essential to being an art snob. Games have their own vocabulary and history, and if you don't posess it, you are just a schmoe saying, "i could have put a red square on a black canvas."
  • by aricusmaximus ( 300760 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @01:11AM (#31906618)

    Mr. Ebert is incorrect for the very reason that the medium does not determine art.

    Writing is often used with an objective - to communicate inventory, describe an actual scene, give orders.

    Rhythm and rhyming may be used to aid in memorization, to aid in oral recollection.

    Pictures, video are used for documentation, recorded evidence.

    Wood, marble, steel is shaped to create buildings, stairs, chairs, eating utensils or religious relics.

    Bodies move with precision in order to build, cook, or fight.

    Interactive computer programs and simulations exist to educate, train, provide guided assistance on tasks, or obtain information.

    At some point we get art out of all these mediums. We decorate the urn, make our religious icons more elaborate, tweak our oral histories to make them more fun to listen to, arrange our photo shots, play with the beats, create a more elaborate melody. The medium changes from straight functionality more and more to creation for aesthetics, to elicit an emotional response rather than a strict material/practical goal.

    For me this point in video games (interactive computer programs and simulations), was definitely reached when playing "Planescape: Torment" back in the early 2000's. Yes, ostensibly you have a clear goal, and you can win the game. But the dialog and overall plot elements are such that I was immersed in thought, absorbed by the characterization and concepts. For others in my rough age group (cutting our teeth in the mid 80's to 90's) it may be games like "Myst" or "Psychonauts", Infocom's "Trinity", "Grim Fandango", or even a silly satire like Mystery Science Theater 3000 Presents "Detective" (http://www.wurb.com/if/game/146); more modern might be Katamari Damacy. Yes, please get off my lawn all you newfangled Xbox360 and Nintendo DS gamers.

    If someone's never had an aesthetic moment with a video game it simply means that they haven't found that game yet.

  • Ebert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amoeba1911 ( 978485 ) on Tuesday April 20, 2010 @09:40AM (#31909146) Homepage
    Ebert commenting on games is like deaf person commenting on music or a blind person commenting on paintings. Just like you need to hear to understand music and you need to see to understand painting, you need to be able to play it to understand a game.

System checkpoint complete.