Posted on 2011-10-18
Last Modified: 2012-05-12
According to Roger Ebert, video games are not art, and never will be.

I'm curious what your thoughts are on this and the more general question, what is and what isn't art.
Question by:PaulHews
    LVL 69

    Assisted Solution

    I disagree - there are plenty of examples of what some people consider art (splashes of paint on a canvas), but which I would not put in that category.  There are also things which are considered art today which were not years ago (grafitti).  Art is in the eyes of the beholder and is constantly changing - if someone decides that they they want to pay a lot of money for what they consider art, I would say "let them".  Just don't make me consider it art if I don't agree.
    LVL 17

    Expert Comment

    by:Anthony Russo
    That article has the lamest examples of games and none of them to me are art.

    A game would be art in the same mannerism of a movie being art. If one is, then so is the other.

    Games like Ico, Mass Effect, Half Life. These approach art.
    LVL 38

    Author Comment


    > there are plenty of examples of what some people consider art (splashes of paint on a canvas), but which I would not put in that category

    >Games like Ico, Mass Effect, Half Life. These approach art.

    Okay good, but I'm curious as to what your criteria are.
    LVL 17

    Assisted Solution

    by:Anthony Russo
    I like the initial definition of art given in the article mentioned.

    She says the most articulate definition of art she's found is the one in Wikipedia: "Art is the process of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions."

    Each of the titles I mention are created with the intent of something more than just masking money (though making money is primary). The other samples in the article are pretty lame with alternative motives of money or environmental issue or something different.

    They can be art, but not the best examples, like the mentioned cross in the jar of urine.
    LVL 26

    Assisted Solution

    I believe art to be an attempt by the artist to communicate through a non-verbal medium, or even a verbal medium when the message is encoded through inflection or other aspects rather than just the words.

    To me, an artist wants to express an idea or a feeling, perhaps multiple ones or combinations. The success is known only to the beholder.

    There are methods that attempt to teach ways of putting ideas/feelings into artifacts through color choices, shadings of darkness/light, arrangement of elements, etc. Studies in art appreciation attempt to teach how to "read" what an artist has "written".

    The great artists tend to be innovators who have created some new technique that reaches from the artist into a beholder and transfers the message more effectively or into more beholders.

    So, to me, a video game could easily be art if it actually conveyed some message -- a message other than whatever was explicitly shown. For example, a war game might include some means of causing the player to understand better collateral effects on non-combatants (though I'm not aware of any such  instances) or effects on conscripted combatants who are unwilling participants. Perhaps even to illuminate motivations behind those who caused whatever the war game was about.

    The message would be conveyed in some way other than what exists in plain history texts. Since I'm no artist, I can't say anything about what that way might be.

    Art is language.

    LVL 11

    Accepted Solution

    According to Roger Ebert, video games are not art, and never will be.

    I'm curious what your thoughts are on this and the more general question, what is and what isn't art.

    It's like saying that an illustration in a story book is not art, or a comic strip is not art, or a TV series is not art, or even a TV commercial. Each in itself is not art because each have specific purpose other than that which art aspires to achieve. But each of these things contain art in one form or another and would not be possible without artistic input. For example, an illustration in a book will have some structure and expression; a comic strip uses a technique that is an art form in that it requires drawing skill, a cinematic narrative technique and sensibility to layout; while a TV series and TV commercial utilise set design, graphic design and require art direction. Likewise a video game's primary purpose is to entertain, but it requires an art department to develop the concept drawings of characters and scenery; it requires music which is also an art form, and everything must be integrated and work together as whole under an art director.

    Some games have a higher level of artistic input than others. For example, anyone who has played Bioshock or Bioshock 2 will understand immediately what I mean if I say
    it is masterpiece of art direction. A lot of research must have gone into 1930s Art Deco, which is the visual style of this game. It's everywhere, from the buildings and signs to small details like the content of posters, taps in the toilets and small object you find like crisp packets and cigarette packets. Everything has been lovingly and authentically recreated from the era and comes together as an design experience, which is perfectly complimented by a tasteful selection of soundtracks from the 40s and 50s epitomised Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea" (aka. La Mer). The old music constrasts starkly with the dystopian state of the society and half-ruined locations - they remind me of how similar music was used in the movie "The Shining", to generate a haunting feeling.

    Other games that spring to mind which have a high artistic input are Mafia, Mafia 2, the Japanese Final Fantasy series and  Portal to name but a few. Oh, and I forgot Quake 2.

    Art is not entertainment; art exists to illustrate something the artist wants us to see and that is characterized by the intention of the artist. I would go futher and say that art also challenges our conceptions of the world around us and how we percieve it. I think a video game could be art, just like a film could be; it all depends on the purpose for which it was created.

    LVL 38

    Author Closing Comment

    Good answers folks, thank you.

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