April 20th, 2010

ffx2 - yuna

Video games as art: A round-up

Remember this discussion of video games as art that we had a couple of years ago? The topic is back, with a vengeance, and you can bet I have some things to say about it. Lots of links, as well.

This round was set off by film critic and writer extraordinare Roger Ebert revisiting his long-ago assertion that "Video games can never be art". He seems to have been inspired by this TED talk (unwatched by me, as of this writing) about the artistry of video games to write a thorough rebuttal. Now, I adore Roger Ebert -- I think he is one of our greatest living writers, and he is often an excellent critic of culture as well as of film, but he really missed the mark on this one, and the entire Internet seems to have risen up to prove him wrong. Some of the choice responses:

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So I think you all know where I come down on this one: video games are art. I think anyone who has ever played a game would know this, which is why Ebert keeps getting the "you're too old to understand" response from his critics. His age in and of itself is irrelevant -- there are plenty of older gamers -- but the ubiquity of video games is somewhat generational. I think if Ebert would sit down and play one of these games, or watch someone else do it, he might come to understand. I myself didn't start playing games until adulthood, but I have no problem seeing the artistry in games. I work in a school that offers game art as a major. If the work these students are producing isn't art, I don't know what is.

Now, the question of whether video games are good art makes for a more interesting discussion. The Final Fantasy games include beautiful graphic and artwork, but there are those that argue that the stories are simplistic and not much more than a vehicle for the gameplay. I would disagree, but I think the argument can be fairly made. And there certainly other games out there that are pretty but weak on story, or vice versa, or not particularly good at either. But does that then follow that those games are not art? Are bad movies still art? How about poorly-written books, or a simple painting? Is XKCD art? (Hint: "yes".) A lot of this comes down to how one defines art, and although I'm not at all qualified to come up with a definition, I am comfortable in saying that bad art, mediocre art, boring art is all still art. Art doesn't have to try for brilliance to qualify. Some games do try for brilliance, and a few of those succeed. But those are not the only games that I would call art.