Roger Ebert, a film critic I happen to respect (he's also a huge inspiration when it comes to my own film journalism pieces), posted a piece on his blog a while back about video games not being art. You can read it here.
I obviously love video games, and if you read my other blogs, you know I am a big supporter of art over entertainment. Ebert's piece, which has raised all kinds of hackles in the video game world, was well-written and it proved his point. He even went so far as to question why video games should even concern themselves with the art issue.
So, how do I feel about it?
I agree with him.
Video games can be artistic, but none of them have risen to the level of fine art yet. Not a single one I can think of. The problem is they can be artistic, and can even be played artistically, but at the end of the day -- they are games through and through. Games have scoring systems, rules, certain criteria that must be met to win or complete them. That's not art.
Ebert asked why games had to be considered art, and I have to agree with that, too. Why can't they be satisfied being great games? Why is there no pride in that? Look at what happens to artistic mediums when they aspire to be something else. For example, comic books.
Comic books have been doing things like "director's commentary" and printing in widescreen format, both of which seem ridiculous in a comic book format. They aren't satisfied with being comic books (and they are artistic). They want to be movies because that is where the respect is at. Even when there is a movie being made of a comic book, the comic book will do a movie adaptation!
Video games aspire to lofty plateaus. They want to be art. In doing so, they have forgotten what appeals to gamers -- a good game. I love video games, but I don't care that they aren't art. They can still be things of wonder and beauty, but no video game has ever inspired me to create (my art of choice is writing, if you don't know). And if they have inspired people, I believe it is probably only inspiration to create more games. Sort of like a chocolate chip cookie may inspire you to bake.
Ebert is right. As of now, video games aren't art. They may never be, either, unless we change our definitions of games.
Let me know I'm wrong. In fact, I'd like to be proven wrong. Game Informer did a fairly large piece on this issue, and I am far from convinced.
Ebert is right. He not only knows film, but he knows art. And while he may not play video games -- I do, and I agree with him.