Great Expectations

“Video games can never be art.”

Roger Ebert’s famous proclamation drew a lot of rebuttals, some contentious, some thoughtful. Whatever you think of it, Ebert’s statement exemplifies a common attitude–video games are low culture. Yet anytime you turn to the arts section of a major periodical, you’re likely find someone writing about video games. For an example, click on the link below leading to an article in the New York Times.

Articles like the one above tend to implicitly or explicitly espouse the belief that video games are beginning to mature as a medium, that someday–possibly–video games will hold the same status as traditional art forms such as literature and film.

What’s at stake when we argue over the potential of video games to be art? If we decide to call video games art, does it have any personal meaning to the gamer? What does it show about a society that regards video games as art? What does it show if a society doesn’t do so?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I’m hoping for some responses.

0 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Your questions made me think of two things.

    One is how games in Brazil are classified as “games of chance” or gambling. That makes their prices become more than the double of the price of video games in other countries. Not only it is bad for consumers but also for the game industry, that will have less people being able to buy their products (and there will be an increase in piracy). By classifying games like that the Brazilian government clearly doesn’t see video games as art.

    Another thing is how I, however, consider video games art. One point to support that is how artists are needed for games to be made, such as concept artists, designers, animators, etc. So how something that is made by artists wouldn’t be art? I think, just like you said, it is a matter of time for video games to have the same status as film and literature.

  2. A lot of writers and artists would disagree with you on your last point. Workers who design greeting cards for Hallmark get to mark “artist” as their occupation when they fill out their taxes, but few people give as much thought and attention to greeting cards as they do to the poems of Dickinson or the paintings of Dalí.

  3. I have never understood the intensity that gamer culture obsesses over whether the medium counts as art. The classification of art is entirely subjective; whether someone with no actual experience with games believes in their artistic merit or not has no bearing on their actual worth. That said, I never understood why many critics seem to believe that interactivity precludes artistic intent. My view is that, with the exception of games based on procedurally-generated concept, the artistic intent shines through in what actions the player is and is not allowed to take.

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