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January 9, 2008

Are Games Art?

I appreciate what Mr. Ebert has to say about a lot of things, however, I cannot say I always agree with him.

Although we are all consumers of media, the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure certainly applies to games.

As we have come to discuss at some length here, the definition of "art" is as malleable and ever-changing as our definition of "fun." Can it not be said that art is an entirely subjective word? Art, as a concept, is abstract. To abstract it further, we (the editorial we) begin to evaluate something outside of the perceptive level as being "good" or "bad," which are also highly subjective and abstract terms.

If Ebert wants to make a claim that games are not art, I want to know what evaluative measuring stick he is using to define "art" and what makes "art" an art.

Ebert describes games as inferior because they require choice on the behalf of the player. Is that to say, then, that the art installations that can be found in Pittsburgh at the Mattress Factory, which necessitate user interaction, as inferior forms of art?

If we are simply going to qualify art as being dictatorial of the creator, well, then there is very little true art in this world. Most paintings, novels, stories, sculptures, etc have been influenced by many hands.

Ultimately, though, can't it be said it is up to the viewer, the consumer of art, to determine for themselves if art is, in fact, art? By creating a dictum that the "authorial control" is what defines fine art, couldn't it then be argued that the consumer has every right and option to accept or reject the artist's intention?

Is it not, in a way, more valuable for someone to critically evaluate a situation, determine the available options, make significant choices, and determine their own fate within the game...but that really isn't too different than looking at a painting, which was created by someone else with a locus of control over the work, and evaluating it to come to some conclusion, some significant choice, about the work?

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 9, 2008 12:17 AM


Did you see this article about a WoW player who's trying to see whether he can max out a character he plans to play entirely as a pacifist?


His character won't accept any quests that involve killing NPCs, and his melee weapon is a fishing pole (so that he doesn't accidentally hurt anyone).

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 9, 2008 7:03 PM

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