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Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art
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General_Lee



Joined: 12 Jan 2005
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futuristxen wrote:
good grief what a pretentious AND ignorant article. His criticisms of Flower and Braid are moronic to anyone who has actually played the games.

In his defense, Santiago presented them poorly. But obviously for him to be able to comment from a respectable position, he would have to sit down and actually play them.

It's similar to painter-ignorant people walking into an art gallery, looking at a Jackson Pollack and saying "muh kid cud do that." You need to have a feel for the nuances of the medium, and a frame to place it among other works, something Ebert lacks entirely. He can only compare a video game to his library of movie knowledge.

Braid's the only video game I've played that approaches what I'd call art. As in 'high art.' The mechanics of the gameplay are directly tied to the themes and the narrative and mesh beautifully. Plus it's full of Mario Bros. allegory.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:32 am
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futuristxen



Joined: 01 Jul 2002
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a videogame can be a lot of things. Just like a film can be a million things. A commercial is a film. A home movie is a film. Videogames can be anything, it's up to the creators to decide. Ebert is basically dissing a medium, which is like saying "paint isn't art".

There's nothing intrinsic about videogames that disqualifies them from being a work of art.


Quote:


No it's not. I mean, I may have missed it in my point but I'm not oblivious to it. I know it exists and I know enough about them to know that it doesn't really change my point. A motivated, creative hobbyist does not an artist make. Or, I should say, if it does make an artist, then it's not the sort of artist that I have any interest in.


Hmm. What's the difference then between a hobbyist and an artist? If Sage was still serving ice cream on the side to pay his bills, would he be just a hobbyist?
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:33 am
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icarus502
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No.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:35 am
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Mikal kHill



Joined: 29 Jun 2002
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Actually, after someone cited Pollack as something the uninformed would see as "not art," I was instantly reminded of me saying I hated Pollack in some ancient thread and Icarus being like WTF, MAN? ha
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:45 am
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Dan Shay



Joined: 30 Aug 2003
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I doth recall the days in which sounds made by machines couldn't be considered 'music'.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:47 am
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Sarcastro



Joined: 27 Sep 2002
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sparrow wrote:
eberts arguement is like saying paint isn't art.


MS Paint?



Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 10:54 am
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seandaley
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Sarcastro wrote:
sparrow wrote:
eberts arguement is like saying paint isn't art.


MS Paint?







FOR THE WIN.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:27 am
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jakethesnake
guy who cried about wrestling being real


Joined: 03 Feb 2006
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Are books considered art? Like storytelling?

That sarcastro picture is fucking amazing btw.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:34 am
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Bandini
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Ebert doesnt know what the hell he's talking about because he doesnt know what the hell he's talking about. it sounds like he is has never played a video game in his life. how do you dismiss a whole artistic medium without really experiencing it? this is the old man in him talking, and it's sad really, because he's such a smart guy.

ebert's essay on video games as non art is really just a rebuttal of someone else's opinion of why video games are art. ebert doesnt know enough about video games to tell us why they aren't art. and it's such a silly argument, anyway. a dull and silly argument.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:36 am
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icarus502
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Mikal kHill wrote:
Actually, after someone cited Pollack as something the uninformed would see as "not art," I was instantly reminded of me saying I hated Pollack in some ancient thread and Icarus being like WTF, MAN? ha


Because Pollack isn't for liking or not liking. He's for agreeing with or not agreeing with. Obviously, whether you enjoy what he did is a part of it, but it should, by all means, be a very small part of it. Pollack was engaging this question that we've talked about — i.e. "what is art?" — by asking what we're not (but should be) asking: where does art come from? what does art DO?

To that end, Pollack and abstract expressionists were, whether you enjoy their work or whether you agree with them, engaging in art in the epistemic way that any art movement does. The "is it art if I do this" question is more or less resolved, and has been for many years (the answer is, of course, "sure, why not?"). The medium doesn't make the art, the artist makes the art, and — yeah — the connection that the work has to the historical situations that have created "art" in the past matters too.



Sarcastro's pic is dope. And absolutely correct.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:37 am
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jakethesnake
guy who cried about wrestling being real


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icarus502 wrote:
Mikal kHill wrote:
Actually, after someone cited Pollack as something the uninformed would see as "not art," I was instantly reminded of me saying I hated Pollack in some ancient thread and Icarus being like WTF, MAN? ha


Because Pollack isn't for liking or not liking. He's for agreeing with or not agreeing with. Obviously, whether you enjoy what he did is a part of it, but it should, by all means, be a very small part of it. Pollack was engaging this question that we've talked about — i.e. "what is art?" — by asking what we're not (but should be) asking: where does art come from? what does art DO?

To that end, Pollack and abstract expressionists were, whether you enjoy their work or whether you agree with them, engaging in art in the epistemic way that any art movement does. The "is it art if I do this" question is more or less resolved, and has been for many years (the answer is, of course, "sure, why not?"). The medium doesn't make the art, the artist makes the art, and — yeah — the connection that the work has to the historical situations that have created "art" in the past matters too.



Sarcastro's pic is dope. And absolutely correct.


So if an "artist" designs a video game then it's art, by your definition.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:41 am
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Disharmony



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lol
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:42 am
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icarus502
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jakethesnake wrote:
icarus502 wrote:
Mikal kHill wrote:
Actually, after someone cited Pollack as something the uninformed would see as "not art," I was instantly reminded of me saying I hated Pollack in some ancient thread and Icarus being like WTF, MAN? ha


Because Pollack isn't for liking or not liking. He's for agreeing with or not agreeing with. Obviously, whether you enjoy what he did is a part of it, but it should, by all means, be a very small part of it. Pollack was engaging this question that we've talked about — i.e. "what is art?" — by asking what we're not (but should be) asking: where does art come from? what does art DO?

To that end, Pollack and abstract expressionists were, whether you enjoy their work or whether you agree with them, engaging in art in the epistemic way that any art movement does. The "is it art if I do this" question is more or less resolved, and has been for many years (the answer is, of course, "sure, why not?"). The medium doesn't make the art, the artist makes the art, and — yeah — the connection that the work has to the historical situations that have created "art" in the past matters too.



Sarcastro's pic is dope. And absolutely correct.


So if an "artist" designs a video game then it's art, by your definition.


NO!

Because the videogameness of it hasn't come from an art-production history.

But I don't know what I'm talking about here. I don't really agree with myself. This "art" question is totally silly. Lets talk about what they DO and HOW they are, not WHAT they are. I'm on more solid footing there.
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:44 am
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jakethesnake
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What if a well-known author, and a well-known artist, and a well-known baseball player came together and designed a world, then they designed a video game around it.

http://www.38studios.com/about/index

I too, think the art question is stupid. I also agree with Bandini that Ebert has no clue what he's talking about and clearly hasn't played a video game in his life past pong (and maybe robot unicorn attack).
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:50 am
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
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The very first thing I thought about in response to Ebert's writing was some of the old Infocom-style text adventures. Interactive Fiction as a single-player game genre never really stopped, -- and its authors are certainly aiming to compete with novelists for excellence. I don't sit still for these, though, because I don't think that they tend to be very good games.

I also thought about the MUDs, MUCKs, and MUSHes that were spawned in imitation of those IF titles. There's absolutely room for art inside of those games. There's also room for schlock, of course -- but as Ebert pointed out the same can be held true of almost any medium. I also thought about how a lot of times the art is hidden in descriptive text that players may skip past because they're just there to get the points and other in-game rewards.

That same problem plagues the western RPGs like Fallout, Mass Effect, and The Elder Scrolls: the story is what happens during pauses in the game-play, and players will often be tempted to skip past the story in favor of the game.

My next thought was about Braid, and how the game uses the conventions of 8-bit platformers to say something specific and unique about the way that time and memory can both become distorted by individual perspective. Ebert's argument, I think, is that the gameplay mechanics in Braid are in some way contrived and unnecessary to the idea that the game designers were actually trying to convey.

Then I thought about Grand Theft Auto 4, and Niko Bellic's reaction to the crime and violence that the player must cause him to perpetrate -- reading Roger Ebert's 1995 review of Heat certainly tells me that he would be opening to interpreting this sort of a story as "art." But I also thought how Niko's reaction to his world is essentially only shown in cut-scenes, or played back in audio tracks that directly influenced by the game-play. You can play Niko in the open world as a complete psychopath or as a cautious and reluctant criminal, and his perspective during the recorded narratives don't really change.

I seized on Ebert's review of Heat because his praise of the film is rooted in what he sees as the essential truth of the characters: that they are able to speak articulately about their respective places in the film's world, and that they do it in a way that rings true in both writing and portrayal. What would GTA4 have been like if the actions you took as a player had informed both Niko's perspective in the cut-scenes, and the reactions of other characters to him? Would all possible iterations of the game's characters have shown the same kind of essential truth that I see as present in the static version of the game, and that Ebert praised in Heat? I'm not sure they could be quite so true -- Niko's descent from unease with his life of criminal violence into joyous and giggling lunacy seems guaranteed to ring false at some point, especially in the reactions others would have to him.

Likewise, what if GTA4 was a game that did not allow the player to engage in the cartoonish excesses that make the writing in the cut-scenes ring false? That would make the game a more internally consistent work of art, but at the same time it would probably make the game less fun to play -- which would be a disservice that the product as a whole.

So: It certainly seems possible to embed art into video games. It's less clear to me how one can do that such that the gameplay and the art don't get in each other's way. Of course, one might say the same thing about Heat, and action scenes versus dialogue.

Ebert writes: ""No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets." This is perhaps true -- but on the other hand, I think we absolutely can cite games worthy of comparison with the works of someone like Michael Mann, and acknowledge that in both video games and in other media, there's room for art inside a larger product that, when taken as a whole, seems to serve two masters.

Is it possible to create a video game that isn't embroiled in that sort of conflict, that rises to the realm of high art on the merits of the gameplay itself?

I'm less sure about that. I fear that the answer may depend on whether or not P=NP.


Last edited by Mark in Minnesota on Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:58 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Sat Apr 17, 2010 11:52 am
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