Saturday, May 8, 2010

Video Games as Art

I wouldn't have wrote this article if I wasn't disturbed by Roger Ebert saying video games can never be art. Admittedly a gamer myself, I didn't pay attention to appreciate video games in the realm of art.

After I read the article, I thought what other gamers would think. I created a thread in a forum and patiently waited for replies. You can expect some prejudice among people who favor video games but they are arguably the ones who know video games better, not some old coot that Ebert has likely become (you can even conclude that he is when you read his article).

Here are some of the replies:

He is a movie critic commenting on video games as art. Nuff said.

While to a certain extent I agreed to such statement, with the phrase 'nuff said' I was afraid he might have just prematurely ended the discussion. I therefore replied,
Specializing in one field doesn't eliminate one's credibility and perhaps ability on another field. In other words, his profession does not necessarily make him ineligible to say something about video games.
Fortunately, more replies came such as:
Does it really matter if one man says games aren't art?
I say let's just enjoy playing these games and leave the critics to say whatever THEY want. What only matters is that WE gamers love and cherish the experience we have with games.
That statement reminded me of the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Critics have universally panned the movie for its terrible screenplay and direction. Yet despise those the movie still garnered $836 million, showing how mainstream viewers do not necessarily agree with the views of critics.

I can continue citing the replies but that just makes this post long and redundant. What I noticed though is that hardly anyone specifically mentioned why video games should be considered art. They're simply evading the issue by attacking the identity of Roger Ebert instead of refuting the latter's arguments.

If I understood Ebert correctly, he's arguing the fact that video games are not art because it does not fit the definition of art, is created by a team of developers and has an objective. Art on the other hand is an imitation of nature (as defined by Plato), a creation of one artist, and something you can only experience (not win). Copied word for word, he says "My notion is that [art] grows better the more it improves or alters nature through a passage through what we might call the artist's soul, or vision." Add to the fact that the person trying to convince Ebert has hardly given any good examples of video games that would qualify as art.

The problem with definitions is they vary over time and in every person. But even the definitions of art as
the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions,
and
as the imitation of nature
already qualify video games as such. Aren't many video games these days please the eyes through incredible graphics and the ears through pleasant music? And haven't many video games these days already imitated nature that they seem very realistic?

With the right graphic settings, the game already is a perfect real life imitation.
 
If art is the creation of a single person, video games can still be art. If you sift
through the collaboration of developers of a video game, each person (e.g. the game designer, graphic artist, etc.) has created their own art which was combined to produce the game. Everybody didn't start all at once in creating a game, but was guided by a man who had the idea of that game. This idea is also what is known as the game designer's soul or vision.

Finally video games are already studied as artistic medium, despite being recent in development in the humanities. I think Ebert crucially missed this part.

My final say is that video games may even have simply gone beyond and surpassed art, just as much new generation of people have transcended from the previous, to which Ebert belongs.