The Art Debate - blackheartwolf Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Art Debate

By now I'm sure a lot of people have read (or if not read, at least heard about) this article by Roger Ebert on why games can never be considered art.  I'm not going to bore you with the exact specifics of what he said, or my personal opinions on whether or not his refrences/opinions hold any real merit, but I'd like to take one excerpt from his article to comment on. 

"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren’t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care?

Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, "I'm studying a great form of art?" Then let them say it, if it makes them happy."

Personally  this one section really made me think about it.  Why exactly is it that we as gamers constantly feel the need to justify our passion to everyone else around us?  Why exactly do we feel the need to say that games are art?  Can't we just accept the fact that some games are just games?

In order to answer that I have to present one more quote from him. 

"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."

In that one sentence he completely described exactly what the difference is between game and art.  Game and art are very different concepts, each for their own part of entertainment, and as an industry video games fall perfectly between the two.  Video games fall between both art and game, creating a balance between the two that only developers are able to move one way or another.  A perfect example of this is to compare Battlefield Bad Company 2 to a game like Flower.  Both are games, but where as Bad Company plays up the game side of it's creation Flower leans twords art.  It goes above and beyond game, as it is not something you win or lose at, but an experience that you have. 

That isn't to say though that one is better than the other, nor is it to say that this means that there is an overlapping blanket statement that video games are/are not art.  Personally I believe both Ebert and Santiago (the woman who prompted Ebert's blog post) are wrong.  Video games are both art and game blended into one culture that we as gamers have created.  To say in a blanket statement that they are or are not art is to take away from either the game side or the art side, two very opposite, but very crucial parts to the industry as a whole.  After all video games are nothing without gameplay and also at the same time enchanced with the art. 

It may just be the nature of opinions, and the variences in age that create the divide, but his opinion is shared by a lot of people, and for good reason.  Look at the games that sell.  They are games, full and through.  Art in games is a hard thing to pull off, and while there are some games that lurk in the grey areas (God of War actually comes to mind, as the game is a game through and through, but has a great story with a very good charater at it's core.  Does that make it enough to be art?  Possibly, but really I don't think David Jaffe cares (go to Feb. 13. you'll see what I mean))  Is there anything wrong with that though?  No.  Totally and unequivocally no.  After all the reason the business exists is to seperate us from reality and give us an escape for a little while.  Both artsy games as well as game games do this, so why is it that we must claim them to be something they are not.

Please remember by the way, that this is just my personal opinion on the matter.  Feel free to share yours in the comments as I am always interested to hear other thoughts on this.

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