Video Games = Art Question Mark

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:: :: Commentary :: Games vs. Art: Ebert vs. Barker (xhtml)

I don’t know if you heard about it but when crawling through my rss feeds I found an entry on the discussion of movie critic Roger Ebert who doesn’t consider video games to be art. Full stop. I actually found it in the blog of game designer and storyteller Ragnar Tornquist.

Obviously Ebert wrote an article on the “Games are not art” – topic then received lots of feedback from gamers who -of course- didn’t agree and even got quoted by author/writer-director Clive Barker (“Undying”) during a speech. The post above is his reaction to Clive Barkers reaction to his initial statement. You can read all those posts and articles to get yourself to full speed.

I’m a gamer and I studied on games a lot which is why I naturally disagree with Ebert. I just wondered why anyone even considers his opinion to be of interest to the games world. I mean, he is into movies and even though many gamers, geeks and even game designers consider computer games an evolved form of cinema to some degree: They’re not. It is a whole new medium and it’s not really a good goal to make games more like movies. Actually so called Interactive Movies were not very successful during the 1990’s when they came up.

On more than one occasion Ebert mentions Shakespeare who obviously defines ‘high art’ to him. Well I think comparing Shakespeare to video games is just unfair because Shakespeare is so much older than video games. In fact I do believe that the reason why Shakespeare is universally considered art (even high art) has very much to do with his works being so old. It was certainly not considered art during Shakespeare’s lifetime, was it? Certainly not high art since this wasn’t defined back then and it was played for the masses (like modern cinema). This seems to be true for many other forms of high art like novels (Is Harry Potter high art? Or the stuff by Dan Brown?), classical music (is John Williams soundtrack art? You know, Star Wars, E.T. and Indiana Jones…) to name just two. The discussion of high art vs. popular or low art is not very old (first halve 1900’s) in itself. So why is the criticism by someone who is not very competent in the field of computer or video games and who seems to be stuck in a relatively young and specific debate about art yet compares modern audio visual interactive media to something that’s been done hundreds of years ago considered of any serious importance?
Seems kind of weird to me.

Actually I consider it most useful if game developers simply continue to grow new and even strange ideas to use the medium in unforseen ways and – who knows – Monkey Island might be considered art in a few hundred years and there could be a Tate Games Gallery…

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