Art

A piece of art, in an artistic world, full of evoked emotion.

If you don’t know what I’m about to talk about, you’ve been ignoring the gaming world. If you have been ignoring the gaming world, then know that six days ago, the monumentally and stunningly wrong Roger Ebert wrote an article (or in Tycho’s words “reeking ejaculate”) in response to Kellee Santiago talking at TED about video games being a medium for art. Somehow, someway, when you have artists working in groups, creating art, directing art, editing art, writing art, and combining all that art into one tasty ball of art-on-a-plate, it stops being art.

Because it can be won.

Overlooking the logical fallacy that the presence of an objective a participant can strive for instantly negates the ability for a medium to be art, I have to join the rank and file of gamers everywhere in echoing a resounding, “WTF?”. It seems at points that he jumbles around, flailing like a decrepit old man who lost his cane, striving for a definition to latch onto. A declaration to pin down something that, by its very nature, avoids definition.

Most interesting to me, was when Ebert delved into the world of video games, and tried to wrap his understanding around what video games are, and their intended goals. He displays a stunning lack of knowledge of the market and the medium in his evaluation of the game flower. He seems so hell-bent on the concepts and ideas of a “score” or goal, that he completely misses the reality that a game is sometimes meant to just be played, with no greater or less reason than the joy of participation.

The cap to this blistering diatribe of silliness is his devolving into some type of pop-culture, psycho analysis of the community that makes up “gamers”. Idly pondering on our need for “validation” as he dismisses the genre without ever having made any actually insightful and studied reasons. The articles leaves the reader with the understanding that he did no true research before making his opinion known, and merely responded at face value to what it was that Santiago said. Ebert definitely has a history in the movie industry as a critic, and is known nationwide for his work in the field. That said, his ability to judge and be a voice worth listening too outside of his realm of practice seems to be absolutely nil.

Santiago was too kind and generous in responding to this article that portrayed itself as nothing greater than a burning pile of dog shit outside the doorway. She puts the conversation to rest the best in this line:

“Similarly, it’s time to move on from any need to be validated by old media enthusiasts. It’s good for dinner-party discussion and entertaining as an intellectual exercise, but it’s just not a serious debate anymore.”

The debate is no longer whether video games CAN be art, or if some games ARE art. The debate is, what else can we express with them, and how else can we evoke emotion with them.

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

7 Responses to Art

  1. Kesarin says:

    I saw this the other day, and as much as I disagree with Ebert (Yes, video games can be art), Santiago’s talk was also flawed. The cave drawings in Lascaux? Are not just “scratchings”. They’re art as well. There’s no need to disparage one form of art to build up another. Modern art may not be my thing, but I don’t need to put it down in order to claim that Van Gogh is art.

    On topic though, this: “He seems so hell-bent on the concepts and ideas of a “score” or goal, that he completely misses the reality that a game is sometimes meant to just be played, with no greater or less reason than the joy of participation.” is a great point. Just because something has an end or goal, does that make it any less artistic? I don’t think so. Considering the number of books out there on art history and analysis, I’d say that “art”, by Ebert’s ideas, also has an goal – understanding – which seems to invalidate his point, at least IMO.

    Either we’re meant to understand art and know why it is and why the artist created it, or we’re simply meant to gaze at it and appreciate the work. Whichever one Ebert intends, video games can fall squarely into each category.

    Also, I agree with your point that he seemed to fail on the research end of his argument. I respect his opinions as a movie critic, but I don’t think I’ll ever look to his opinion on art as the be-all, end-all.

    • shadowwar says:

      Very good points. To Santiago’s credit, in her response she admits that she didn’t make the strongest case. I can easily think of other games she could have used that would be more credible as examples of video game art. Though, she never did acknowledge that primitive art, is still art, and that is frustrating.

      • Kesarin says:

        Yeah, the Waco game that she picked was a bad example – a lot of the appeal to video games is the removal of reality, or at least the distance from reality (WW2 based games, for example). A game based on something as recent and as focused as Waco? Kind of squicks me out, to be honest.

  2. Slurms says:

    I think two points have been made by people in the gaming world that summurize my view. First, (made by someone from Kotaku, sorry can’t look it up at work) that Ebert is a film critic, not a video game critic, and as he has no actual hands on time with games, his opinion on the matter is pretty moot.

    The second is by Adam Sessler from G4: why do we care?

    I personally feel that games are great, I love them for what they are, they can elicit emotions when made well just like art, but I think we ARE (and will be for a looong time) still in the “which games are art” stage. I can find countless games on the iTunes app store that I would never consider “art”.

    • shadowwar says:

      You are absolutely correct on Ebert’s expertice. He has no leg to stand on by laying down proclomations upon a media outside of his expertise.

      That said, I don’t know if ANY medium ever leaves the “which piece is art” phase. I see paintings that I would never call art. I see movies that are nothing more than bodies going into convulsions with strange audio noises in an attempt to mimic art.

      Video games, as a medium, CAN be art. Some ARE art. It’s no different than any other form that I can think of now. It’s breached the gates, and entered the courtyard, now we just need to keep the groupies and in-bred hanger’s-on out of the party.

  3. Pingback: Let me put on my cleats « Shadow-war

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