Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by UniversalWolf, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. UniversalWolf

    UniversalWolf eaten by a grue.

    Aug 28, 2005
    Doesn't artist's shit in a can come perilously close? :)

    I don't know who's looking for artist's shit in a can except people looking for "art". Which may or may not be the point. Still, objects like this are why I've set my personal definition of art the way I have.

    In any case, the pitfall for video games still seems to be the player's interaction with the story. How can an author produce meaningful character development when he can't control the character's actions? If the author controls the character's actions, it's no longer really a game, but an interactive story.

    Since Shakespeare's being discussed, how would it be possible to translate, say, Hamlet, into a game without destroying the meaning? If the player decides he doesn't want Hamlet to kill Polonius, or he wants Hamlet to survive while killing everyone in the final scene - and more damaging, that outcome is a matter of gaming skill rather than thought - it throws a bit of a wrench in the works. It would, however, be quite funny.

    How do you control the meaning when you can't control the primary actor?
  2. Ausir

    Ausir Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Apr 20, 2003
    It wouldn't. But neither would it be possible to translate a game full of choices and consequences into a non-interactive medium well.
  3. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    Why would art even want to imitate/translate/interpret games? The language of art is more developed than the language of games is or will ever be. Art would gain only the gaming element from such an influence, and that is not art.

    And what exactly is "a non-interactive medium" to you? Media are always interactive to some degree. Even a sculpture demands to be watched, touched, scanned before it is. A book needs to be read. There is a constant interaction with the reader. And the audience is constantly interpreting media, trying to make sense of them, trying to decypher the signs. And even the media interact with each other. It's a madhouse of activity.

    It's quite typical for gamers to assume only their games are interactive because they have to move their thumbs and often other fingers as well to get something done. Well, when one enjoys art one has to move his braincells to get something done. Voila: interactive.

    There are books that are full of choices and consequences, by the way. Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges wrote some books that work that way, books where the reader can start on whichever page he wants to and read the pages/chapters in the order he likes. Oulipo experimented with that as well. They had an easy-reading offspring for teens in the Choose Your Own Adventure books which - oh noes! - were at the very cradle of computer gaming. That's right: a watered down version of experimental literature became the backbone for generations of games (from text adventures to the rpgs we all love and hate).

    It's also very revealing that games move towards (hyper-)reality (it's all about graphics, making everything look as lifelike and "real" as possible nowadays), whereas art usually takes the opposite path and transforms reality rather than simply copy it (there are exceptions, of course).
  4. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    why dont we just say everything is art. And nothing is art. That way everyone is happy.
  5. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    Why don't we let the little green men abduct you and take you back from where you came?
  6. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    Because Serbia is behind the moon. Not mars !
  7. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    Cortázar, not Borges.

    ... Ausir made me do it!
  8. Ausir

    Ausir Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Apr 20, 2003
    Actually, I didn't. I wanted to say it, goddammit!
  9. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    Oh... how cute... they think they've outsmarted me.

    Check Borges' The Garden of Forking Paths. He also explores the idea in other books and stories like The Book of Sand.

    Tee-hee. :P
  10. .Pixote.

    .Pixote. Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 14, 2009
    Can we move the argument away from the intellectual wankery and discuss actual games that could be considered something resembling art (I’m not referring to high art here).

    The 2 games I found far more artistic than any other were built by a Japanese designer - Haruhiko Shono. They were made in the early 1990’s, just when CD’s were beginning to break into the games market. The first is Alice: Interactive Museum and the second is Gadget: Invention, Travel, & Adventure . I don’t think these were ever intended to be games, but more like interactive stories.

    This is an interesting write up on the designer - Haruhiko Shono
    CoreGamer’s Interview & Profile of Haruhiko Shono has arrived

    Fuck I’ve got both copies of these games, and this site mentions that “exceedingly rare Alice are sold for over two thousand dollars, quite possibly the highest price for a non-limited game edition of all time”. :shock: :shock: :shock:
  11. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    Can we move the argument away from the intellectual wankery and discuss actual everyday events that could be considered something resembling the hand of God?

    What you propose is pointless if we haven't come to some sort of consensus of the 'games are art' topic that got addressed in this thread. If there isn't a workable framework for our discussion, it will just turn into a 'I think Pong is art' versus 'I think Doom is art' versus 'I don't think Pong is art, but Pac-Man is' versus a myriad of other people who find this or that game art. But on what basis? On the basis that you lack a sufficient knowledge of real art? On the basis that you love games? On the basis that you want to feel less guilty gaming the rest of your life away?

    It's not that I hate games, people. I think Fallout and Fallout 2 and Arcanum and Age of Empires 2 and Commandos 2 are some of the best things that happened to me. I regard them as low brow cultural expressions, in the same vain as hiphop or grime or cult movies like "Soylent Green" and "Mars Attacks!". I've enjoyed them thoroughly and will enjoy them in the future, no doubt. But if Gent would flood and I could choose one piece of art to be saved from the water, I would not be going through my cupboards looking for a mint version of Fallout, I'd be rowing to a nearby museum and save a Rothko or a Broodthaers or a Magritte. Their value is completely different, not for an individual perhaps, and certainly not for a teenage individual, but for a society and a race the choice should be obvious.

    It's common sense, really, and most people can make these distinctions almost intuitively. It's the difference between The Beatles and 2Fabiola, between Charlie Chaplin and Tom Six, between James Joyce and my pathetic excuse for literature.
    It's the difference between a treasure cove and a $1 bill you find in the gutter, soaked in dogshit juice.

    Also: why on Earth do you want your precious games to be considered art if everything you have to say about art is either negative, misinformed or 'doesn't really matter'?

    All I hear are people calling out 'dolphins are fish' and what I'm trying to do is point out to you that even though they roam the waters and even though they look like fish, intellectual wankery has figured out that they are mammals.

    Just saying.
  12. Stanislao Moulinsky

    Stanislao Moulinsky Vault Fossil

    Jul 16, 2009
    Aaaaw, come on. Don't play dumb, you know what they mean.
  13. .Pixote.

    .Pixote. Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Sep 14, 2009
    Alec there will never be a consensus among people with a subject as difficult as art, even amongst art historians and critics the arguments rage on. So let’s not argue about the definition of art, most people who haven’t studied the subject are incapable of an insightful response, but that would be no different for anybody who hasn’t studied other fields such as - Physics or Engineering.

    I don’t really consider games as art, but saying that some games have strived for artistic merit, but the vast majorities are simply entertainment. By the way I also love the work of Mark Rothko, but Giorgio Morandi is the 20th century painter I admire the most, even though some consider him a second rate artist.

    But regarding games (that have been made over the past thirty years), which ones have given the impression that “art” was a possible serious consideration in its development; I stated Gadget and Alice are possibly two, are there any more. :wink:

    Giorgio Morandi

  14. Ausir

    Ausir Venerable Relic of the Wastes

    Apr 20, 2003
    Actually, all I hear is a guy who says that only fish living in the ocean are real fish, and the other ones are not serious or oceanic enough to be considered actual fish.
  15. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    I hear someone being unoriginal.
  16. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    And then there was the seagull that got hit by lightning in mid-flight and shouted, "GUYS GUYS I TOTALLY MEANT FOR THAT TO HAPPEN"

    TGoFP is an ordinary story about a hypothetical branching novel whose practical details remain undescribed. "The Book of Sand" isn't hypertext and I don't recall it being about hypertext either.
  17. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    Then you should read it (again) and (re-)discover how it influenced Cortazar. How C. even winks at you by naming one of the characters in Hopscotch (in anagram) as Borges.
    TGoFP was made into a real hypertext by another writer, but was never published.
    That Borges remains on a theoretical level has to do with the magnitude of the project he envisions. Later writers went practical, but the scope of the projects is much, much smaller. The Library of Babel also explores the idea, IIRC.

    This is also nitpicking on your part. People who thought of something first are generally acknowledged to have done so, even if they did not make it into a practical thing, even if they failed to think it through. This is true in science as well. The Kuiper Belt was hypothesized by Kuiper, but was never observed or proofed at the time. Just to give an example.

    Borges is at the very beginning of the concept of the hypertext. Saying something else is plain stupid. I fail to see how a well-formulated essay about an idea is worth less than the actual idea put to work, mister seagull.
  18. RedConversation

    RedConversation First time out of the vault

    May 21, 2009
    I'd say videos both are, and are not art.

    Firstly, comparing video games to "chicken scratches" in caves is not right. Those were art, limited by their medium. A video game is not a limited medium. It's less like comparing early films to modern ones to comparing a low-budget horror film to a winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Obviously one is art, the other is cheap entertainment. The difference is not medium, or budget, or technology. It's intent. BioShock was artful, perhaps even art, while many other games are not.

    Secondly, the connection to art and creativity is a bit complex. Is a scientist an artist? No. Few would say (s)he is, but what scientists do requires vast amounts of creative thinking. What Valve does on a purely programming end of video games certainly isn't construed as art, however artful it may be. Yet what Valve does on a narrative end is often construed as an example of "Video Game Art." This is a subject of some bafflement. Creating a tornado of objects with tens of thousands of moving parts requires great feats of creative engineering, but it is not art.

    And lastly, this will conclude my thoughts on the subject. I once heard it said something is art is as soon as it is claimed to be. If it is good or bad art is up for critics later. I think video games are, or at least have an almost infinite potential to be art. They can explore issues in a meaningful and involved way that simply relaying a story cannot.

    For this purpose, I will cite the game "Six Days in Fallujah"
    Video Here.
  19. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    so thats what an intelectual art fight looks like between (half) academic people where you only understand half of the stuf you read. Quite a nice read. by all of you ;)
  20. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004


    Oh, absolutely. I just want you to properly appreciate having been corrected by Team Correction.