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The Great Debate: Are Games Art?

[Note: This article originally ran in issue 207 of Game Informer]

Are games art? This question has been asked hundreds of times, and no one agrees on an answer. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert recently reignited the debate with a blog post he wrote in response to a speech on the subject given at USC by game developer Kellee Santiago. Entitled “Video games can never be art,” the blog post refutes several of Santiago’s points while stating his arguments for why games have failed to achieve the status of art.

“The three games she chooses as examples [Flower, Braid, and Waco Resurrection] do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it,” Ebert wrote. “They are, I regret to say, pathetic. I repeat: ‘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.’”

Predictably, the Internet went crazy, with Ebert’s post garnering scores of angry responses from gamers. While debate is certainly healthy, the incendiary talk hasn’t gotten us any closer to the answers.

Not everyone agrees on the definition of art – or even the definition of a game. Still, thinking about the ideas behind the games we play and what they mean is important. For this feature, Game Informer chose eight games that we feel represent games as an art form. Our writers picked these games personally, and their arguments are very personal as well. While we don’t presume to settle a debate about the meaning of art – that’s something that’s been discussed for centuries – we hope to do our part to move the debate forward.

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