Roger Ebert, “Video games can never be art.”


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Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.

Plato, via Aristotle, believed art should be defined as the imitation of nature. Seneca and Cicero essentially agreed. Wikipedia believes “Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more concerned with the expression of ideas…Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction.”

But we could play all day with definitions, and find exceptions to every one. For example, I tend to think of art as usually the creation of one artist. Yet a cathedral is the work of many, and is it not art? One could think of it as countless individual works of art unified by a common purpose. Is not a tribal dance an artwork, yet the collaboration of a community? Yes, but it reflects the work of individual choreographers. Everybody didn’t start dancing all at once.

One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Some might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.

Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?

Read more on Ebert’s Journal, home to surprisingly robust conversation in its comments section.