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A Critical Retort to Roger Ebert on Games as Art
by Nick Halme on 04/17/10 03:53:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


When I was in school we were asked to tackle, in my favourite class of games criticism, the games as art debate.

Some people (artists) made the case that because games clearly contain art, they are art.

Some people were bewildered by the microscopic inspection of the term -- film is art, comic books are art, novels are art, short stories are art, good or bad, whatever the gradient, those mediums are artful.

I forget my argument entirely, but it was supported by an article written by Roger Ebert.  Late at night on the bus in those sleepless times I was re-reading and re-reading a column by Roger Ebert, trying to pick it apart.  But for whatever reason I came to the conclusion -- games are not art, but they could be.  Games by default are not art, because unlike these other mediums, some games are the equivalent of a football or a soccer or tag.

Yes, I was naive.

The Art Crisis

"I am still a victim of chess.  It has all the beauty of art - and much more.  It cannot be commercialized.  Chess is much purer than art in its social position." -- Marcel Duchamp

Is beauty objective?  As solid organisms compiled and processed by genes -- as humans -- are we compelled all of us to stand on a cold windy day in the twilight of the winter sun and look up in awe at the mountain peaks?  Whether Muslim or Christian or Atheist are we not all at peace in a swaying spring field with the birds calling around us, in the solitude of silence?

Reading Ebert's most recent column, a retort in fact, I am compelled to believe that he is bending the objective to his own subjective distaste.  His column opens after the tagline "Video games can never be art" with a picture of a chubby kid, glasses, controller in hand, almost-crying-face.

This morning he felt this statement on Twitter agreed with his thoughts and re-tweeted it "Thanks to video games people can now play sports while laying down and eating." 

It is clear already that Ebert has initiated a polemic discussion -- he actively dislikes videogames and the people that play them and think they are anything more than toys.  His tagline is not inflammatory, it is subjectively true for him -- he is not trying to reach a consensus of understanding, he is putting down the property stake and saying "Videogames, do not ever cross this line." 

Well, it is not his line to draw.

"For although the attribute of beauty does not attach to play as such, play nevertheless tends to assume marked elements of beauty.  Mirth and grace adhere at the outset to the more primitive forms of play." -- Johan Huizinga

The definition of art is extended with new periods of expression in the traditional world of art.  Truly in its rabid disrespect for the pretenses of art, even Dadaism is art.  In its rebelliousness, even anti-art becomes artful and beautiful.

This is why I argue that no, videogames do not complain to their artistic parents for the status of arthood so they may be validated.  Rather the artistic parents look down with disdain and contract their definition, to deny videogames the recognition of the adulthood they have already achieved.

The first definition of art found at is:

"the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance."

When Ebert argues games are not art -- that they should be happy being videogames and not art -- what he is really doing is saying that videogames are not the same kind of art as film, novels, paintings.

When humans first started cutting shapes into the sand and spreading dyes onto cave walls, that was all we had.  Another human saw the shapes and parsed them, attached meanings to the symbols and nodded his head: yes, I understand you.

Now we have a computer.  A collection of circuit boards, crystals and electricity.  Just as film tricks our eyes and our ears into taking its events seriously, we have had for some time now a category of devices which allows players to control what they see -- what we have is a sandbox, and we have been given a stick to draw our own picture in the sand.  We have agency, we have avatars.  Mister Ebert, this is a step that has required traditional art to add a new wing to its facilities.

Where Is The Art Then?

The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem... I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” -- Marcel Duchamp 

In a game of Defense of the Ancients the art is not a thing that exists before the players begin their play.  The art is not just the characters, the environment, the music, the appearance of the interface or the tactile feel of the controls.

The art, like a dance performance, is expressed through player agency.  To someone who knows the rules the play is beautiful, as it is to a trained ballerina admiring a dance performance.  Videogames are perhaps more niche in this sense -- the beauty requires the knowledge obtained from personal play.  Mister Ebert has not played DotA and so watching it, he can never know what is so beautiful about it.

There is something euphoric in the zenith of human ability.  Watching good DotA players weave in and out, deny every creep from his enemy, get every last hit he can, always knowingly staying out of his enemy's attack range but leveraging his own -- this is as beautiful as that moment in chess where you realize what plan previous moves have fallen into.  Aha.  It is as beautiful as seeing a flawless game of rugby play -- no fumbles, an expert kick between the field goals, running just fast enough.  It is the same feeling you feel when the protagonist in a film barely makes it out alive, when he just barely hides the incriminating evidence from his wife.

Human experience is finite, but perhaps the avenues to recreating those experiences through artful means is not.  Videogames are a new avenue for experiences, feelings, adrenaline rushes, feelings of conquest and superiority, feelings of failure and shame and hate and fear.  The haunting voiceovers of the crazed and depraved in Bioshock, the eye-widening adrenaline pumping electro of Geometry Wars.  The feelings created as you stab the life out of a stone giant in Shadow of the Colossus, as it falls to the ground and you wipe the real sweat from your forehead.

These are things games did not have before, these are the things that force us to make the distinction between games and videogames.  Ring around the Rosy is a game.  Halo is a videogame.  Games can be transfused into videogames, but movement the other way is simply impossible.

The Process of Investment 

Game developers, believe it or not, want to control how people feel.  Believe it or not, game developers invest just the same quantifiable meaning into their content as film makers. 

When a game level changes shape seven times in a year, when an art style is ripped off and a new one applied, when a narrative is rewritten or a new character invented -- these are all changing for what reason?  They are changing because a different player interpretation is wanted.

Mister Ebert, even Grand Theft Auto 3 thought about how the player was going to kill a hooker.  How does the baseball bat feel?  Is it brutal?  How do we animate that?  Does she scream?  How intensely should the voice actress scream?  How will that make the player feel?  What does it feel like when the player runs over a body in their car?

We are creating virtual interpretations of worlds and we are telling the computer "this is how we want them to seem 'real'".  Just as the painter puts brush to canvas, countless people must put pen to paper and finger to keyboard to willingly create things that other people will interpret in a desired way.

Yes Mister Ebert, you cannot win a film.  But why would it be logical to follow by saying that since a film cannot be won you can only experience it, implying that you can only win and not experience a videogame?  Mister Ebert, a videogame allows both, by virtue of its existence as a thing to be played.  You cannot win without first experiencing, or else you have not been playing, and if you have not been playing then, well, you have just been watching. 

The Ease Of Artistic Expression In Film

Film is the capturing of the real world -- apart from 3D films (Pixar, Avatar) -- it is very similar to photography.  It is photography in motion and with the added stimuli of, sometimes, sound.  

Now I will form here my own polemic argument: any film can claim it is artistic through interpretation.  A thirty second shot of a tree swaying in the wind is just a record of a tree swaying in the wind.  But a director can apply any sort of meaningful bombast to that scene either through use of cinematic technique or, quite frankly, in saying so publicly after the film is done.

Videogames have to build that tree.  They have to build the world that tree is in, build the sunlight that shines on it, and build a vessel for the person that sees it.  There is a lot of overhead here -- a lot of places where it is proven how difficult the simple beauty of reality is to recreate.

If Mister Ebert is convinced that the visuals in Flower are the equivalent of a greeting card, then he is making a strange argument.  Grab a camera and sweep it through a swaying field of grass -- is that art, because it appears more authentic?  Is this saying that the imperfect -- the impressionist -- virtual rendering of that field is at fault because it does not appear genuine?

It seems an argument directed towards visual perception and imagination rather than one against videogames.

In Conclusion

"Play is a uniquely adaptive act, not subordinate to some other adaptive act, but with a special function of its own in human experience." -- Johan Huizinga

It seems that this is the same case against videogames as any other.  As a film critic, Ebert is complaining about the taste of the food without tasting it.  He sees the steak on the plate and says it does not have enough marinade to be tasty.

Mister Ebert, I would ask that you pick a videogame and review it.  So that you can review the artistic efforts of a videogame as the experiencer, rather than as the observer.  Videogames cannot be observed as film, they cannot be listened to as music, they cannot be mused over as a painting.  Videogames must be played. 

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Luis Guimaraes
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Excelent read, Nick. Though it sadly need so much art in the arguments to show what art is.

I personally also like the word "design", for me "art" and "design" is way too related.

People design more than they imagine. From game development related things, like changing a function to run faster or give more usability later. Putting details in a texture. Testing a level lightmap over and over. Iterating the gameplay. To look on a road map and plan a car trip to another state or country, where to go, where to stop, where to pass the night.

If you did the most common thing in a new, better or interesting way. Then that's art.

Art is intelligence (not knowlegde), it's what you do with passion, when you're motivated by the making, by the view of the result, by how other people will experience it.

Greg McClanahan
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This whole debate is kind of silly because it's more about the definition of art than it is about the merits of video games. Every time I've heard Ebert mention his views on this, the context is not disparaging toward the gaming medium. The people who get outraged and suggest sending some artistic games over for Ebert to play are missing his point entirely.

You could actually argue that games transcend the strict definition of art if you want -- there's an automatic assumption that the "art" label confers with it the highest possible level of respect possible, but I think that's faulty.

Ian Fisch
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"This is why I argue that no, videogames do not complain to their artistic parents for the status of arthood so they may be validated. Rather the artistic parents look down with disdain and contract their definition, to deny videogames the recognition of the adulthood they have already achieved."

Please don't write like that anymore.

Nick Halme
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@Greg McClanahan

I wouldn't say that games transcend art, I'd say that art is already a very confused place. "Art" is a big blanket that some people would like to think needs a tighter definition. Because artists are not lofty; appreciators of art are lofty.

@Ian Fisch

Please don't troll me anymore.

david vink
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Maybe we are better off just getting rid of the word 'art'.

Just call it like you see it: A painter is someone who makes paintings. A sculpter sculpts. A composer writes music. A game designer designs games.

Josh Milewski
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I believe that all human creation is art, but I appreciate this article for having put into words a compelling argument for why video games are art, under 'art's' own structure (as many others define it).

Carl Chavez
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I think Ebert has a valid point, simply because it is not the game design that was artful, but the play of the player. Thus, the game itself was not art, but only a tool. The player was the artist. Your DotA example clearly shows that the player's performance is what is art. The game itself merely allows players to express themselves. If DotA is art, then a paintbrush is art, a camera is art, and a pen is art.

Daniel Balmert
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I love games, and I'm also a classically trained artist. In my opinion, you've overcomplicated a simple subject. Also, in putting in that much effort, it comes off as desperate or compensating.

Performing is the act of a craftsman. Interpretation is the act of an artist. DotA players are craftsmen - they make simple repetitive decisions and rely heavily on reflexes and execution. A craftsman strives for the same goal, but can use different ways to get there (new tools, varied technique). An artist either has no goal (exploratory art) or has a different goal every "project". The people who design DotA are artists. They interpreted a concept of play for others to experience. DotA itself can either be craft or art depending on your perception of it.

If you play for your own different goals (fun, experience, completion-ism) the game is art. If you play to blow up the enemy nexus every game, it's craft. To person looking in, DotA can seem like a craft because the goal is simple and obvious.

There's no transcendence or whatever. Some people just feel more engrossed because they can "feel" both the craft and the artistry of the game.

Nick Halme
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@david vink

Yeah, a lot of people have argued for the same thing -- it seems like the main problem is that art no longer means anything to a lot of people; it's become a very abstract concept for something to "be art".

@Daniel Balmert

Well, anything other than one line of text is over-complicating things, but I think it's too much of a subject to be so dismissive as to draw a conclusion. And I understand in writing something like this I can come off as "pretentious" which is a word most people use for "needlessly overthinking something I already have an opinion on".

I think Josh Milewski above said it best: all of human creation is art. It's a bit silly to say that videogames are not art, because it puts other forms of art on a pedestal. Art isn't just a gallery of paintings being gawked at by the culturally educated crowd -- it's pretty broadly pedestrian.

Some people might find it absurd or yes, tired, to argue about games as art -- but it's just as absurd to argue the other way. If anything, arguing games as art should get people thinking, if they're not already, that it's not just software we're developing, and videogames are no longer very analogous to sports.

@Tim Carter

Absolutely. I think any "defense" of videogames that is earnest comes across as whiny, but that was not the intention. A lot of what constitutes art in games is game specific -- constructive or inflammatory criticism alike misses the point that the things that make games art are already in place.

Zenas Prime
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@ Daniel

Your response seems to indicate that you think the article is written in regards to the players being the "artists". That seems a bit confused. Is that what you meant by "Performing is the act of a craftsman. Interpretation is the act of an artist. DotA players are craftsmen - they make simple repetitive decisions and rely heavily on reflexes and execution. A craftsman strives for the same goal, but can use different ways to get there (new tools, varied technique)."? From what I read, I don't think that the author is saying that at all.


Have lessons of postmodernism been forgotten?


Thanks for the reminder.

Mike Siciliano
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"Also, in putting in that much effort, it comes off as desperate or compensating."

I'm always shocked when others complain that someone has put in too much effort or is trying too hard in regards to a position. What kind of an argument or criticism is that? The man wants to say something, so let him speak! Right or wrong, it is his position. And a detailed, well-reasoned argument is certainly much better than a quick, conclusory hypothesis.

Better to have tried too hard than to have hardly tried at all.

Eric Carr
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Eeep. This again. The argument from me is the same : "Art requires agency on the behalf of the creator. Games, by their very nature give the player that agency and take it away from the creator. When the creator no longer has control of their work, then one cannot argue that there is Authorial Intent - a voice/viewpoint."

Also, still a Game Designer.

I still don't even get why it matters though. If suddenly tomorrow it was declared that games were art, would that really change anything? Would it change the way we work or the things that we are trying to do? Will the whole industry morph into something different? Do we crave outside recognition so much?

Cody Kostiuk
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Since when is Roger Ebert an expert on video games? ...or art, for that matter? Do people look at a painting and ponder, "I wonder what Roger Ebert thinks about this?"

I tried to read Ebert's article, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it.

If some video gaming industry veteran wants to argue that games are not art, then I might actually be interested in their opinion. That said, the argument is moot anyway.

Fernando De La Cruz
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@Mike: Amen. Let the guy speak.

@Everyone Else: There's a very simple solution... stop reading articles about games as art. Some of us are really interested in the topic and there are no problems with debating it here. In fact, that's why this space has been provided to us. So we can debate and grow our understanding of our medium.

@Nick: Thanks for taking the time to write this. It's the best rebuttal I've seen thus far. I think the most important line in this lies at the very end:

"Videogames cannot be observed as film, they cannot be listened to as music, they cannot be mused over as a painting. Videogames must be played."

Good read.

Larissa McCutcheon
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I generally like Ebert, but I don't agree with his conclusions here. "Thanks to video games people can now play sports while laying down and eating." Yes? And thanks to movies people watch other people play sports while laying down and eating. I fail to see how one is worth sneering at, and the other is art. There is an art to a game setting a mood. Perhaps it can move a player to tears, or make them sleep with the lights on for a week, or act as base titillation. I would argue there is an art to the sound, light and motion of a game that draws the viewer or player in. I don't see the process as so different from some games.

Is it that the game can be 'won'? Perhaps. But sometimes 'winning' is not the goal. Sometimes we say we 'completed' a game. The story of most video games is not so different from movies of a similar genre. A normal person awakens to new world of possibilities. Tragedy acts as a catalyst to push them into a new path. They meet allies, and make enemies. On the second last act, they will be betrayed by a companion. They regroup from seemingly impossible odds and defeat the enemy. You can modify that for everything from 'Gone With the Wind' on up to films released last week. Sometimes we play a game to see the story, and it transcends winning or losing. How many people have played a game with multiple endings just to see how it can turn out? Some games allow you to 'lose' in order to advance a story.

Is it that it is interactive? Is it so different because the audience participates in the story progression, even though we all know how this is going to end? How many art exhibitions are laid out so that the audience progresses through them in a predetermined narrative per the artist's desires? In some cases, going against the flow of the exhibition can render it confusing. Missing one piece can make the story of the art disjointed.

I'd say if anything, video games have some strong parallels to his beloved medium of film. We struggle making believable characters, backstories and histories. We want actions to be believable, consequences meaningful and stories engaging. Video games may not be art, but they have about as much artistic merit as film, in my opinion.

[User Banned]
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Mark Harris
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It's all about perspective.

"Thanks to video games people can now play sports while laying down and eating." could just as easily read "Thanks to video games paralyzed children in wheelchairs can compete in sports with their friends and virtually fulfill their fantasies of scoring a touchdown or hitting a home run."

Personally I feel like the "games as art" argument is a waste of time. You aren't going to convince the Eberts of the world and those of us who love games don't need convincing. The best solution is just making great games and enjoying the heck out of them.

However, y'all are welcome to discuss ad infinitum and I'll keep reading up because I just enjoy a good discussion.

max bowman
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Seeing how this is a favorite topic of mine; here's my two cents.

The problem with the debate is that no one can pick a satisfactory definition of art. Well classicaly there's been two accepted definitions. There's fine art, something along the lines of what we define artisan today. That would be any sort of art where the focus is the physical craft. Everything from paintings to interior design, to illustration, to music. Everything that was made to express something on a physical level is considered artisan. Is artisan craft art? I can't see anyone argue against it. As that would encompass everything from Leonardo Da Vinci to Michael Jackson. The other side of what we call art would be "High Art" The focus of high art is to enlighten the human condition or failing that a meditation of the human experience. Dostoevsky is an example, so is David Simon's The Wire, Huck Finn, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Raging Bull, etc.

Most people would agree on those definitions as encompassing art. Now the question is are video games art, if you go with the artisanal definition then obviously yes. But what about High Art? Have there been any games that attempted to be high art. Mass Effect 2 is a recent example(along with some nice fps action MS2 also offers interesting take on technological transcendence and human destiny) But take Mass Effect 2 and compare it to something like No Country For Old Men and it starts to suffer in the comparison. Video games aren't there yet in terms of level of detail to really sell something that requires suspension of disbelief, and they suffer because of it. But it's only a matter of time before they do.

As for a more open minded exploration on the nature of video games, watch Existenz by david cronenberg. The movie came out of the discusion David Cronenberg was having with Salman Rushdie about are video games art, Cronenberg was on the side of games as art while rushdie claimed that mahjong can't ever be art. My take is that games can be art. Chess is an interesting take, it's the perfect example of capturing the essence of cunning, much more than any other medium can do so.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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Given that the defintion of art appears to be subjective, it is possible that all this discussion around Ebert's article actually expand his definition of art by making it more visible and therefore moving the collective definition closer to his. However, it depends on which of the following two numbers are bigger:

A - the number of people who read this article because of Ebert's article

B - the number of people who read Ebert's article because of this article

If B was bigger, then perhaps a simple statement of evidence of games as art would have been more productive (though less fun, obviously).

Christopher Wragg
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The biggest flaw in Mr Ebert's article, is simply the concept that the entire difference between a game and a film is the concept of winning. This seems to remove the concept of any kind of exploratory or formative play. To boldly state that all games do/will require a win condition is to show his ignorance of the topic in the most extreme way.

Ultimately whether or not games are art is not what should be looked at here and should be left to more informed individuals than Ebert. Rather it is more appropriate to criticise Ebert for putting forward an opinion that invalidates itself by simply being a trite stereotype.

He is want to compare Braid and Voyage to the Moon based on their creators, rather than the works themselves. He states that Melies has "limited technical resources, but superior artistry and imagination.", this seems a foolish thing to base a comparison off. For one Braid is crafted by an indy developer, who, if anything, has greater limitations that Melies had. "Superior Artistry" cannot be argued simply because Melies hasn't made a game, and Blow hasn't made a movie. Lastly comparing the imagination of one individual to another seems foolish, especially when both individuals are obviously of great imagination and drive. So this argument boils down to one of simply, "it's a movie, so I value it more highly", rather than one of objective analysis.

To those who say we defenders of game-art are "whiny", I say you miss the point. People like Ebert are widely respected (as they should be), but their ignorance polarises non-gamers. It may well prevent several who might discover this wonderful world we share, to not. As for why we care about it on an individual basis, it's not about industry respect, it's about furthering our own art, about understanding our medium and the way it affects people. Not to mention it'd be nice to be able to start a blog or thread about an aspect of game art and not get several thousand replies about how "games aren't art, so everything you're on about is invalid".

Besides, I wonder how film makers would feel if game critics decided to write articles to inform them that what they do isn't art. Undoubtedly the response would be quite vitriolic.

Eric Carr
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@Christopher: It's not whiny to argue. It's good. Arguement breeds thought which leads to inspiration.

As for his argument, I think that he's making false comparisons like you said. Besides, a some point we have to consider that he's a movie critic first and foremost, so his opinion and his would-be role asGatekeeper to all things "art" should be judged as worthless.

But getting back to my original point, if we want to be considered art then we have to define what it is that makes a game unique, but we have to do that on its own terms. We can't say that a game is art because of the pretty pictures. The story does not make a game art either. 3D modeling, painting, writing - those *are already* defined as art. Saying that a game is also art because it includes those things makes the game itself less so.

Further, changing the definition of what art is or can be is missing the point. Arguing semantics will not help the Cause, and can seem petty. "Well it is art if you define art in a less specific way," is not a valid argument.

So, we have find an argument that takes what a game is, at it's most basic components, and argue *that* is the art. When we can do that, when we can say, "This is art without the sculpting or the writing or the painting" then we're going the right way.

However from what I can see the only thing that makes a game unique, that is true for all games, is the Mechanics of the game itself. The underlying system. If/When we can create an argument that says that the Mechanics can be beautiful, that they can create a message and also be free of pretty pictures and writing, we will not be able to truly justify the claim to art.

Nick Halme
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@Prash Nelson-Smythe

Film is unlucky enough to have a very small number of well-known, active critics -- and probably an even smaller legion of "film fans" who actually care what said critics have to say. I'm not trying to swing dicks with Ebert, and "prove him wrong" -- we're not in debate class (and he did that all by his lonesome). This is more about promoting discussion here, which it looks like it has. And yes, it was fun to write regardless :)


We're down here in the long, drawn out nitty-gritty here, but I enjoy it, so:

There's a big difference between changing the definition of art and picking a definition that is most relevant for games. There are multiple, myriad definitions for art -- how do you change something that is not one definite thing in the first place? Not to say it's entirely subjective, though -- we're dealing with a gradient as much as we're dealing with perspective.

A painter might tell you he thinks art is the act of making brush strokes on a canvas and creating something that touches people or makes them think. He would not be wrong in his definition, but it's so contracted that it's not useful to other forms of art. Like Kellee Santiago said in her TED talk, videogame development is the coming together of countless disciplines and vessels of human knowledge to make something interactive occur on a computer -- that requires a very broad definition. It doesn't mean that definition is invented, though (or, if you look at it as invented, it is not an unfounded invention).

Like I expressed earlier, I think in broadening the definition we deaden the illustrious nature of art -- something it has achieved through something akin to "mysticism of the expert". As in van Gogh claiming he paints his dreams. That would suggest that the human expression just flows from his fingertips, and he does it without giving it much thought. It's the same reason even some game developers don't like to talk about processes and best practices -- they think it takes the mysterious something special away. Frankly, most people respect all forms of art because they're not well versed in it, and don't know the creative process.

Videogames are ALWAYS exactly the opposite, and are very well thought through in their construction. While there are degrees of planning involved, all the systems, all the blueprints for every discipline must be thought out, ripped apart, put back in, tested, rinse repeat. van Gogh was painting in his own unemployed time -- videogames exist in that state (the indie scene), but in order to come together quickly most games are very thought out. Just because it's not instantaneous -- because there are more steps between the brain and the painting -- doesn't devalue it, it just puts it, laterally, in a different category.

I think this makes people think that it is too similar to software development.

But, why do you play games? This argument was different than any I've had before over this subject in that I think, regardless of the advancement of development craft, the thing that makes games artful is the play. And the play is already there. Perhaps we find ways to weave narrative and other facets of videogames into uninterrupted play -- yes, that would certainly advance videogames, and in an artful way. But the baseboard is already there; videogames are not games -- right now the video in videogames doe snot just connote baseball on a screen. The video represents the tactile nature of videogames; even a baseball game doesn't ever feel like baseball -- it feels like a baseball videogame. Whether that baseball game speaks to the human experience or not, whether it has anything to say at all, the way it is creating play is artful and a transference of human experience. Maybe it is not traditional -- this baseball game does not instill morals, but it is still a thing that can create emotional states.

Also, the Globe and Mail has a pretty good take on this:

Eric Carr
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Good points Nick. Although I could argue that architecture is art, and it requires just as much thought and foreplanning as a video game to pull off.

But I think that we arrive at an odd question, if the play is the art, then who really is the artist? Is it me because I created the space for the play, or the gamer to plays?

If it can be argued that, yes, I made that space and set up those rules and they can be beautiful then what I have done is art. However, if the act of play itself is art, then I have only made the tools. What I have made is no more art than a paintbrush.

Nick Halme
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@Eric Carr

I think a good analogue is performance art -- choreographer and performer.

Michael Rivera
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Eric Carr: I never really understood the "games are like a paintbrush" comparison. Even games that seem to have a lot of player freedom actually have strict rules about what the player can/can't do, so a more apt comparison would be that "games are like a paintbrush that only let you draw slightly different iterations of the same painting".

Jeffrey Wilson
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Well chess may not be art unto itself but the chess pieces are art. I bought a hand crafted chess board based on Alice in Wonderland. The pieces themselves are beautiful examples of art, even if the game is not.