20 comments on “Games Aren’t Art, But These Aren’t Games

  1. I might be one of the few people that gets offended when games are called art, but only because I love games. Reducing games down to art is insulting. There’s art in games, but games are more than the sum of their pieces. Although you don’t seem to think so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the term splinters eventually and games that we consider to be under the umbrella now fall into a new category. Great article Justin.

  2. I’d say that Shadow of the Colossus is a game. And Passage, although life-changing and depressing as it is, is probably a game as well. The thing is, Roger Ebert and ‘games as art’ naysayers don’t care what we call it, it’s going to remain the same in their eyes.

    But my vote for a new name is “Electronic Arts”.

    Woah, woah, woah, guys, just kidding.

  3. Thank you for writing this, Justin. I actually never considered the argument that games are way more than just games now, though subconsciously it was clear to me all along.

  4. We need a term for videos games similar to what graphic novel is to comic books. A terminology that differentiates between actual games and something that gives a unique experience. I’m no English major, so I have no idea.

    Really enjoyed the post. Keep up the good work!

  5. Your first paragraph confuses me. I am trying to understand how art vs games is as important as abortion. In my life at least, video games comes a distant second to arguments of reproductive autonomy.

    Abortion is not about the definition of what is a baby, even when people throw around that argument. That argument is a smoke-screen designed to take control of the bodies of women. They are using the logic that if the fetus is a baby, it gives outsiders the right to dictate the mothers behavior. It denies the humanity of the mother and her right to make her own choices in life. It is part of a greater effort to keep women as second class citizens, by reinforcing the purity myth, punishing sexual activity with pregnancy, and forcing them to do “what’s best for them.”

    I know this post is not about all these things. But if you didn’t want someone to talk about it, you shouldn’t have been so flippant about abortion. I know that you, as a white male, might not think its important. No one is threatening your rights to autonomy. But the abortion debate IS important. It is one of the cornerstones of women’s rights and should be treated with respect.

  6. One of the best responses I’ve read on this subject. Ebert had some valid points to make, but I found myself wrinkling my nose at the arrogance and condescension he displayed in his article, not taking any of the above points you so succinctly make into account. It also became pretty apparent that he didn’t spend any time with the games he mentioned. His woeful description of Flower pretty much convinced me that he took one look at it and decided it was stupid.

    Agreed, he has been a respected voice in film for a long time. But as you say, games are not film. Games are not games. They are too diverse an experience for that nomenclature. The “interactive electronic entertainment” moniker you give them is perhaps the most accurate description there is until someone coins a less cumbersome term.

  7. Your last paragraph is an important reminder. Roger Ebert’s has interesting things to say about movies because, in addition to his natural talent, he’s seen a lot of movies and spent a lot of time thinking about film and talking to other people who know and have thought about film.

    This doesn’t apply to his opinions about video games. By all accounts, he doesn’t play them and he doesn’t spend time seriously thinking about them. They are a medium he doesn’t understand or care about, so it shouldn’t be surprising that his opinions are largely nonsensical. That’s true for everyone about most things, it’s just a shame that he doesn’t seem to realize it, particularly with film having a similar history with advocates of live theater.

    There’s probably a lesson in that for everyone, having more opinions than one’s level of knowledge and reflection would advise, and the cycle it can create: you reject something as worthless, so you don’t invest time in it, so you never have the opportunity to see if you’re wrong. And, hopefully, we can still enjoy Mr. Ebert’s opinions about film – ignoring his largely silly thoughts about video games – the same way we hope that people will forgive us for the poorly-informed opinions we all have about things we haven’t invested time in.

  8. Pretty much.

    I mean, games are not art by their definition. Otherwise soccer and chess would be. ALTHOUGH I would make the argument that there IS an art to PLAYING them. After all, watching a pro basketball player who really knows his stuff could be considered artistic, in a way, don’t you think? But the sport of basketball itself is not art.

    Anyway, I guess I digress there. Point is, I agree — I think part of the issue here is that we still call them video games because that’s what they started off as, but they’ve become something so varied that there’s no encompassing name for them that could actually stick.

    The other part of this specific discussion is that Ebert writes these games off without even playing them. The whole POINT of the artistry of games like Flower and Shadow of the Colossus and REZ (and the medium as a whole) is that it’s interactive. It is only properly experienced by the person owning the experience, not the one spectating.

  9. Justin, I love reading your stuff. I wish there were more not-that-important issues for you to roll on editorial style. Good stuff!

  10. Pingback: Games | Art (@ebertchicago) « Ada Play

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  12. Pingback: #oneaday, Day 90: Ebert in the Lions’ Den « I’m Not Doctor Who

  13. Because I know how great it feels to get a WordPress comment:

    As usual, Justin McElroy expresses my own feelings more eloquently than I could.

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