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Video Games Can Never Be Art

posted by Rather Dashing on - last edited - Viewed by 1.7K users

A lot of websites in the gaming sphere have been discussing Roger Ebert's claim that Video Games Can Never Be Art, generally without reading the post or even really thinking about the point. A lot of gamers strive for games to be given the "Art" label to give the industry a sense of legitimacy, importance, and purpose, and react powerfully and negatively to the assertion that games can be anything else.

I agree with Roger Ebert, for the most part. Now, considering many people may just read the TITLE of his blog post and go into a rant, I'll at least try and get someone to read some of it by quoting a relevant section here:

[quote="Roger Ebert"]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 a 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.[/quote]

Note games, especially those often considered "Art". Consider Ebert's role in the film industry. He is a critic. A film critic's job is to take in everything in a scene, understand the message shown, to gauge the value of something with an understanding of its basic mechanical workings. Think of the mechanical workings of a game, stripped down to the barest elements to keep its definition.

Okami is pretty. But at the very base level, Okami is a set of rules and objectives. It has nice graphics, and those might be considered "art". A game with an amazing story is still that: a game with an amazing story. The mechanical workings of the game are still a set of rules and objectives that should be met. If you then go ahead and claim that no it's not, that's covered above. Because those aren't "games" anymore, they're interactive art pieces.

Think of adventure games. Now, many people may argue that these are art pieces. After all, they're heavily story-focused, generally rely heavily on writing, and until recently a lot of them even used hand-painted backdrops. But then you go into what an adventure game IS? It is a series of puzzles that must be solved to win. These are puzzles that are heavily supplemented by writing, graphic design, and other artistic elements, but however thickly these things are draped over the core mechanics, the point remains that the mechanical workings of a game are sets of objectives and rules that should be completed and followed. A game is meant to be won, or possibly lost.

I am arguing that video games as we know them are not art, though various aspects of them can be considered art. You may say that the graphic design of a board game, the picture made by a jigsaw puzzle, or painted game pieces are "art", but would the actual puzzle be art? Would the actual board game be art? No, they're games, supplemented by artistic elements.

There is only one game I know of that even begin to consider "art", and that is Lose/Lose. Is it a GOOD game, is it GOOD art? I don't know. But its very mechanical workings are set to make you reconsider what you value, and whether or not that message happens to be conveyed well or not, the point is that it is a game by definition, and I think it's likely art by definition.

tl;dr version: I hate video games and the entire gaming industry. This isn't art, these "video games" are GARBAGE. Also, I slept with your mother. By the way, she should know that she should get herself checked.

235 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • Short and true: Video games are art as much as a painting, music or any built object can be. There exist certain rules for what is considered as beeing art and according to these rules there do exist good and bad ones. Last but not least the art is in the eye of the beholder.

  • My accounting teacher once said that accounting is an art.

  • @taumel said: Short and true: Video games are art as much as a painting, music or any built object can be.


    Why?

    There exist certain rules for what is considered as beeing good and according to these rules there do exist good and bad ones.


    Art has never been defined as "something that can be called 'good'." A person's performance in bed with their sexual partner could be considered "good" and rated by a variety of criteria(stamina, technique, etc), but it would not be considered "art".

    Last but not least the art is in the eye of the beholder.


    I'm an art piece, by the way. Also, I sometimes have to scoop up my dog's art when he doesn't drop his art pieces in the yard like he's supposed to.

    @taumel said: My accounting teacher once said that accounting is an art.


    Your accounting teacher probably knew a lot more about accounting than art.

  • @Rather Dashing
    I suggest you lookup what the term art means.

  • [quote]A game is meant to be won, or possibly lost.[/quote]

    You can't win The Sims. Or Sim City. Or Spore.

  • @Rather Dashing said: Your accounting teacher probably knew a lot more about accounting than art.

    Hence his title as 'accounting teacher', I guess.

  • @taumel said: @Rather Dashing
    I suggest you lookup what the term art means.


    I suggest you look up what the term "game" means.

    @taumel said: You can't win The Sims. Or Sim City. Or Spore.


    Win or lose is a somewhat broad rule of thumb, I suppose. In all of those games, though, the structure is one of objectives and rules. You move on to the next stage or the next piece of content or simply pass the objective by doing something to satisfy the rules.

    @taumel said: Hence his title as 'accounting teacher', I guess.


    I would assume the art teacher might make a rather poor accounting teacher.

  • @Afr0 said: You can't win The Sims. Or Sim City. Or Spore.


    I suspect that he has not really an idea of how games are crafted, what makes them tick or he's just mad at them. Film critics a.o. are having a bad time these days.

    It's also rather stupid excluding games where you have to win from beeing art. Tetris for instance in my opinion is a piece of art regarding gameplay and gaming rules.

  • @taumel said: @Rather Dashing
    What's your point?


    My point is that the game itself is not art, but a mechanical thing that operates on rules and objectives. Unless you call every exertion of human effort to create a thing "art", you simply cannot call a game "art". If I build a gun, is it art? Why is it, or why is it not? Is a jigsaw puzzle art? Is Chess art? Why is it, or why is it not? What of mass-produced consumer gadgets? Is my cellphone art? Why or why not?

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