The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
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J T
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by J T Tue Apr 20, 2010 1:34 am

MrPopo wrote:No, seriously. Why does it matter if it's art or not?


It matters because if its called art, the medium gets treated differently, both by the audience and the developers. The audience holds a different reverence for it and knowingly goes in with different expectations. They don't necessarily expect blockbuster action, though it could be that. It could also be subdued, or absurd, or introspective. You have to walk into art with something of an open mind to appreciate it. With a game, you very clearly expect to have fun. With art, that doesn't have to be the case.

Additionally, the developers can approach with different intentions. Rather than a drive for creating enjoyment or making a highly marketable product, they can approach with the intent of making a person feel something, or crafting a message. It only matters to me that videogames become art because I want more artistic videogames.

Despite being an exceptionally good film critic, Ebert's opinion of videogames is not of much consequence because he is woefully naive of the subject matter. He says he doesn't believe any games are even good enough to warrant playing them, so obviously he can't know much about the medium. He does know something about art though, insofar as cinema is art. And he brings up a good point, which is to ask if the game part of videogames is really art. A game presents some sort of playful challenge that results from a certain set of rules. There isn't really much room for art in that. Yes videogames contain other established forms of art such as music, acting, cinematography, drawing, writing,, etc. But do videogames bring something new to the world of art by adding the layer of 'game' to this mix?

Ultimately, I think Ebert is wrong. Videogames are capable of being art, though their potential for this is rarely fulfilled. It's surprising that Ebert would say videogames are not art though, because he certainly would say that cinema is. Cinema also borrows from the other more historically established arts: music, theater, photography, screenplay writing, etc. What makes cinema a unique art though is that it is greater than the sum of these parts. Artful cinema pulls these pieces together into greater moires that become something unique. The camera can be set in motion. The editing can bring the viewers eye to areas that would be impossible in traditional theater. The concept of 'framing a picture' that is taken from photography can change dramatically in cinematography when the picture is moving, and perhaps the camera is too.

Likewise, an artful videogame pulls its pieces together in unique ways because in addition to artwork, music, and cinematography, the videogame brings in the element of interaction. What videogames add to the world of art is not so much their rules, but their interactive control and allowance for decision making determined by the audience member. Art is always subjective, but this is especially true in videogames because different people can approach the same interactive story completely differently and not even witness the same sequence of events. The user is always part of the art of a videogame.

Unfortunately, we don't yet have a well defined language for discussing videogames as art because we don't know what to say about our controls. People rarely talk about how the controls combine with the music, graphics, and everything else to create a unique artistry that can only be achieved by videogames. People usually just say the controls are good or bad; smooth or fudged. We don't talk enough about how our experience of the controls informs the artistry of the games message, but the designers often haven't thought of this either. Perhaps if they thought of themselves as artists, they would and the industry would move in many new unexpected directions. Hell, we might even see a big budget title that isn't an FPS. :P
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by MrPopo Tue Apr 20, 2010 3:24 am

JT, I had a longer reply typed up, but I lost it when the forum maxed out on connections. One point that I still feel worth repeating: games are expensive to make. I doubt you'll see many games produced by the big studios that aren't intended to sell. You'll have to stick to the indie games.
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by dsheinem Tue Apr 20, 2010 6:50 am

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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by Mod_Man_Extreme Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:02 am

I'll make my post as brief as I can, but I'll still try to get my post across clear.

Games are art.

They are art in it's most simplistic and yet utterly complex form in way which I could never have imagined.

If the true purpose of art is to illicit an emotional response then why would we form such an attachment to lifeless polygons and pixels on a two dimensional screen? If this medium was not art would we no longer scream in frustration or jump for joy upon encountering and subsequently defeating some virtual and in all other means pointless foe?

Some people may hear the one song, see that one special painting, gawk at a sculpture endlessly, or just feel it on the wind, but when you feel that one special feeling in that one moment everything changes. It's the one time when your head clears up, you think straighter and clearer than ever before and you have that one realization that truly alters your life.

Fifteen years ago a three year old boy was called down from his bedroom to see the "Nintendo" thingy his mother had pulled out of storage and decided to allow him to use. Walking down to the basement TV she told me "Now take care of this and don't slam it around, it was your Father's" helped me hook it up and walked upstairs to the kitchen. Here was a woman still grieving over the loss of her husband less than a year prior and a child that had learned very early on how life worked and had just been charged with taking care of something that belonged to the man who meant more than anything to someone.

So, taking care (Or at least s much care as a three year old can have) he inserted the game, turned on the machine and played Super Mario Brothers for the very first time. "Such wonders existed?!" Was the first thought out of the child's mind. There were mushrooms running around eating and killing things! Grabbing the ones that popped out of boxes made you bigger and you could break bricks and walls! Pushing down accidentally when on a pipe made him go underground! Coins, warp zones and castles rushing by onscreen for hours all in an effort to save the princess from the evil "Bad turtle guy" as the boy had seen fit to call him for a lack of information.

Laughs and squeaks of joy, frustrated grunts after missed jumps and jumping up and down at the passing of castles became routine on that day. Screams on confused indignation at the Game Over screen before the all new concept of a life counter took effect and learning the importance of grabbing "1-UP's these things held no real meaning in life but at that one moment were worth everything to the child. In his small word then consisting of that house, the few people he knew and his family this was such a new and unique experience unlike anything that had come before it and the impact of it was literally staggering. But the smile on his mother's face when the child told her about all the fun he had experienced playing his new toy was what made it all more than worth it. I wouldn't be lying when I say that In that one moment he had the strongest emotional experience in his than (and still today) relatively short lifetime.

From that moment on in a nutshell was when I knew I wanted to devote my life to gaming. Never before have I been so affected by a simple medium that my entire life has been completely changed by it. The way I felt when I first played a game was so happy and elated that I couldn't help but want to help and make others feel that way as well.

This is simply why games are art.

Art that lets the end recipient affect it's course of events and interpret them as you'd like more so than any other which I have seen. If some old crock says being able to affect and interpret a medium on a personal and literally physical level through controllers and body movements isn't art then I say to hell with him. He doesn't know what he's missing. The sheer simplicity yet difficult challenge of platformers parallels the beauty and hidden depth of the most popular minimalist paintings, where the million dollar epics and multi-chapter experiences contain story lines and beauty comparable to that of an elegant landscape piece or self portrait which makes us slightly examine ourselves as we watch and interact on a primal level.

The human condition is the ability to feel both anger and joy, pleasure and pain, death and rebirth. If as some people say the human condition is art then video games which have been experimenting with these six simple reactions for decades elicit all of these emotions and sensations in anyone else to some degree, however small, like they did to me then they are truly a pure and incredible genre of art.

So I leave you with these two images and a simple request:

Ico.jpg
Ico.jpg (34.13 KiB) Viewed 806 times

Shadow Of The Collossus.jpg
Shadow Of The Collossus.jpg (135.64 KiB) Viewed 806 times


Think of how you would react had you never played these games before. Look at them as if they're simply paintings on a museum wall and interpret them as such. Deconstruct them, analyze their features and truly try to relate. Then, ask yourself what feelings those two images elicit in you as you look at them and ask yourself what the artist thought as he created this small little blip of a picture and how they must have felt. Afterwords go play the games and use the fresh perspective you've gained on them as your basis for what that game now means to you. Art or not, well that's your opinion, but at the very least they are well crafted masterpieces of their respective medium and served to evolve the profession into something much more than it already was.

Anyhow, I ended up writing too much and apologize if it seems as if I ranted and came off track for a bit. Take this post as it is, expand on it, or just ignore and bypass it altogether because I have nothing more to say on this subject.
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by Pulsar_t Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:06 am

Every other year Ebert says something like this and fury ensues. I guess he gets a kick out of ticking gaming enthusiasts :lol:
Let's face it it's the most immature medium ever. With Greenpeace, PETA, Ebert, and countless other figures and organisations it's so easy to rile so-called gamers into furious responses, for the lamest reasons ever. Obviously most of the responses here in particular are reasonable. :P
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by dsheinem Tue Apr 20, 2010 7:23 am

J T wrote:It's surprising that Ebert would say videogames are not art though, because he certainly would say that cinema is.


Actually, he claims very few films are art. Check out Santiago's reply above.


For those genuinely interested in the "what is art" debate (something I studied in graduate school and occasionally refer to in my own critical scholarship), there are a few "classic" pieces worth reading:

George Dickie - "What is Art? An Institutional Analysis" (sorry, I can't find a version on the web - it is requisite reading to this discussion, though - go hunt it down!).

Arthur Danto "The Artworld" - http://estetika.ff.cuni.cz/files/Danto.pdf

Stephen Davies - “First Art and Art's Definition,” (again, no pdf)

Robert Stecker's books on the subject are also good (http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Stecker/e/ ... r_dp_pel_1)

Morris Weitz - "The Role of Theory in Aesthetics" (still hunting a full text pdf)

For those who don't care for academic prose:

A more encyclopedic summary on Dickie and others: http://homepage.mac.com/ryanal/InstitutionalTheory.pdf

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry - http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/art-definition/

A point by point summary of Dickie, others: http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvi ... world.html

A well written web-based reply to Dickie: http://artandaesthetics.wordpress.com/2 ... is-of-art/
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by J T Tue Apr 20, 2010 10:52 am

MrPopo wrote:JT, I had a longer reply typed up, but I lost it when the forum maxed out on connections. One point that I still feel worth repeating: games are expensive to make. I doubt you'll see many games produced by the big studios that aren't intended to sell. You'll have to stick to the indie games.


The same could be said of film, yet art films are still made from time to time, even by the big studios. Winning an Oscar is a big deal, and though I don't always agree with their choices, it's clear that they are not just trying to reward the most financially successful movies of the year.

Also, the technology from games keeps developing rapidly and driving down production costs relative to the quality of the graphical output. Every new graphics engine that gets released makes it less expensive and less complicated to make complicated computer graphics. Finding the finances for a videogame may limit the ability to make art games, but it doesn't eliminate it and the technology is only getting easier to use.
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by Mr.White555 Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:42 pm

Pulsar_t wrote:Every other year Ebert says something like this and fury ensues. I guess he gets a kick out of ticking gaming enthusiasts :lol:
Let's face it it's the most immature medium ever. With Greenpeace, PETA, Ebert, and countless other figures and organizations it's so easy to rile so-called gamers into furious responses, for the lamest reasons ever. Obviously most of the responses here in particular are reasonable. :P

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You don't see art douches making online petitions because Shepard Fairey's newest painting is lacking some feature of his previous paintings.

Now this forum, for the majority is a big exception, but there are some really dumb and whiny people who play video games and are very vocal.
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by Dylan Tue Apr 20, 2010 9:45 pm

Mr.White555 wrote:Now this forum, for the majority is a big exception, but there are some really dumb and whiny people who play video games and are very vocal.

Annoying people are always far and away the loudest.
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Re: Roger Ebert is an irrelvant fogey.

by Merz Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:17 am

Art is a dirty word and it's critics are even dirtier. There are more interesting things to think about than "are video games art?"
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