By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard about Roger Ebert’s accusation that video games are not, and never will be, an art form. Naturally, this has sparked a pretty heated debate, with everyone throwing their opinions on the table. So I figure, what the hey, I’ll toss mine in too!
First off, let’s define art. Now if you go search in online dictionaries, you’ll come up with several definitions. Wiktionary itself has 10, which I won’t list, but video games definitely falls under most of them. Ebert himself plays around with the definition of art, trying ever so hard to use the ambiguity to his advantage. However, since Webster’s Dictionary has been the go-to guide for English definitions for I don’t even know how long, let’s look there shall we?
If we look at Webster’s Online, searching for the word “art” comes up with a few definitions. Though only one seems to really fit the bill:
4 a: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : fine arts (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art
Hmm, I don’t know about you, but that seems to describe the process of making a game. Which brings me to another of Ebert’s key points. He says games can never be art because, in a game, there are rules, goals, and a way of winning. Okay, to be fair, we really have to concede this point, but only partially.
The act of playing a game is definitely NOT art. When you’re playing a game, you are engaging in the world the developers have created for you. And yes, you do have a goal, which is to win the game. And winning is possible. Therefore, playing a game couldn’t be art. However, let’s apply this idea to, say, the Mona Lisa. In this case, the designer would be DaVinci, and the player would be the person viewing the Mona Lisa. Is simply looking at and enjoying the beauty of her considered art? No most definitely not, because you’re not actually engaging in creating her. You’re just simply enjoying her, much like a player enjoys a game. Sure there’s no real goal in viewing her and no way to win (unless maybe you steal her), but essentially, you are enjoying them both in the same way. So then if the act of DaVinci creating the Mona Lisa is art, and the Mona Lisa herself is art, then by definition you would have to say the same about video games and their creation. Being that the process, fundamentally and psychologically, is the same.
In his blog post, Ebert continually says “my notion” and “my opinion” and the like. Which is exactly what his post is: HIS OPINION. In his opinion, he forgets that art is relative to the artist and the audience to which the artist intends to reach. Perhaps Ebert has realized the flaws in his ridiculous claim, and that’s why his most recent post on the matter (that I read anyway) seems to have him floundering and back peddling by spewing utter nonsensical jargon in an attempt,perhaps, to prove his intelligence and keep his ego somewhat intact.
Ebert’s blog post is quite simply a foolish, uneducated remark from an individual of an older generation, who perhaps has suddenly found himself rapidly losing touch with the mainstream. And whom now struggles to redefine his place in society while reminding us of why he is important and why we should care. Which is exactly why we, as the gaming community, should simply ignore him and his opinions. Because we don’t really care.
We all know exactly what video games are and why we find them to be important and valid. They are a compilation of many artists using many mediums to create a collaborative work of art. What’s important is that we appreciate and love video games, not attempt to convince the naysayers. And the more we do, the more our art form will grow and evolve. And that’s the beauty of it. So this I say unto you, Mr. Ebert: “STFU and stick to the cinema“. We don’t care about your opinions, you old fuddy-duddy.
For the original article written by Roger Ebert, click here. It was originally posted on April 16 and not surprisingly, is STILL receiving comments to this day.