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Maybe Ebert Should Play Journey, Too

Back in June 2010, film critic Roger Ebert earned the ire of a millions when he said "games aren't art."

Now, to his credit - and we shouldn't forget this - he responded and elaborated on his stance, and given the intelligent and respectful concession, we just had to forgive him. Therefore, this article isn't necessarily another jab at Ebert, but more of a jab at any and all anti-game activists and the flat-out ignorant who continually dismiss interactive entertainment due to archaic or inaccurate beliefs.

Thatgamecompany has done it again, releasing a beautiful, inspired title that is a purer, more accomplished form of artistry than 99% of the schlock that appeared in movie theaters last year. And after being on a conference call with creative director Jenova Chen, I'm even more convinced that this industry has the benefit of numerous fantastic, driven, ultra-talented innovators. Chen, obviously, is one of them. With a film school background and a burning desire to deliver a profound message accessible and relevant to all, this guy has made his mark.

He isn't the only one, of course, but the point is this: it isn't just about Flower and Journey. It isn't just about the inclusion of professional-level talent in almost every aspect of a game's production. It's about the increasing viability of gaming as an art form, whether the haters can deal with it or not. See, it really doesn't matter what the ignorant masses may think; in the end, the truth of the matter will emerge because at some point, that truth will be unavoidable. In fact, it'll be plain as day. We aren't in danger of losing talent like Chen; no, just the opposite: we're bound to see more like him.

And that's because anyone can make the argument that in terms of originality and innovation, the major entertainment venues - movies, TV, music, books - are growing stagnant. New ideas? Few and far between. New ways to impact a viewer or participator? Tough to find. But gaming continues to expand and grow in all sorts of directions, and the active participation - as opposed to the passive participation of watching a movie or TV show or listening to music - offers designers a chance to do something very special...specifically, something we've never before seen or experienced. And people like Chen will continue to find the "special."

The old guard can't last forever. The emergence of gaming as a legitimate and viable art form is unstoppable. It's just a matter of time.

Related Game(s): Journey

Tags: me3, mass effect 3, bioware, mass effect fans

3/6/2012 8:59:29 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (31 posts)

maxpontiac
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 9:46:17 PM
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The end of your article puts things in perspective perfectly..

"The old guard can't last forever."

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burnlife308
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:20:24 PM
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very well written I enjoy reading your articles Ben. I think Mr Ebert and others just feel threatened by the gaming industry taking over #1 spot for entertainment

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:23:39 PM

I think people like that are just ignorant about what gaming is and what goes into it these days.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 2:55:02 AM

The gaming industry has already taken over the #1 spot. That happened a few years ago.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:22:56 PM
Reply

You can't fight the future, you'll be on the losing end in every scenario.

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Geobaldi
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:36:22 PM

Like games going all digital in the future. But people don't want to accept that either ;)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 12:57:36 AM

no but eventually it will happen.

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79transam
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 10:52:24 PM
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Serious question. Does it matter and if so why? We know games are fun and that there are a wide variety of them that can just about fill any desire you wish to have. Does getting mainstream recognition change anything other then perhaps prices?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 11:55:03 PM

Of course it matters. It's how the world works, unfortunately.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 2:07:28 AM

I think it is a perfectly valid question. *Why* does it matter? For what? To whom?

Look at cartoons. They fought for *decades* to be considered an artform. Eventually they were accepted as such. What happened next? Not much... There has been some displays in a few galleries and such, but quite frankly I think that would have happened regardless of cartoons status as artform in the "finer circles". But other than that? Everything that has happened to cartoons would have happened anyway, regardless of it's status as an artform.

I really don't see what the big deal is here. All this talk about games being art is one big "so what???" to me. But please, if anyone can answer that question, feel free to enlighten me. :)

(for the record, I never understood why the cartoon fans fought for the art status either)

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/7/2012 2:13:07 AM

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friction
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 10:10:20 AM

Just saying, if I was a developer and put hundreds of hours into "creating" a new world, and have someone in Ebert's position discredit my work as art, that would seriously piss me off.
I'm just a gammer, so i could careless what Ebert or critics claim what video games are or aren't, but there are a lot of games out there that deserve to be seen as more then just a medium of entertainment.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 10:12:37 AM

It's a big deal because with mainstream recognition comes one thing: MONEY. It comes in a variety of avenues, from ads to financial support in the way of investors backing studios and projects. It also cements a position in history; having the Oscars has allowed films to reach another level of respect and recognition among society, whether we like it or not.

Wandering around going, "oh, we don't care, we like it" is just putting your head in the sand.

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Sir Shak
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 10:58:45 AM

I would rather put my head in the sand than be desperate for attention from people who are clearly not interested in the medium. Recognition and respect come naturally, and clamouring for people to recognize video games as an art form every time a unique game such as Journey comes along is just silly. Beamboom is correct. Who cares?

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Underdog15
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 11:02:09 AM

Why wouldnt it matter.

There is far more evidence out there to support it as an artform than there is to not recognize it as such. I can guarantee that at this point in my writing.

As for me, I will never be happy putting my head in the sand for anything. Im above all that.

The connotations for recognition and less ignorance are immense. It isnt just related to how people view video games. It has to do with how people quantify addiction... social stigma... social issues... etc. etc. etc. How many people out there blame violence or addiction on video games.... and how many people blame it on movies... They used to blame it on media in general to the max... now its all focused on video games.

And thats just one of many issues that are affected by the debate. Saying you dont care is resorting to being unable to acknowledge the much more holistic affect games and their labeling have on our society as a whole. That puts us all at a disadvantage as a society (on so many labels even outside of gaming), let alone as gamers who regularly suffer from stigma.


(Side note: My question mark key isnt working and neither is my apostrophe button. Thats why the inquisitive looks like a statement. lol)

Last edited by Underdog15 on 3/7/2012 11:09:34 AM

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Beamboom
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 12:56:47 PM

I dunno... I don't see any obvious connection between being profitable or recognized and being considered a form of art.
I don't think the Oscars became such an important event because it was a prize for something considered to be "art" - I think it became important because it was about something that means a lot to a lot of people. It's not the art label *in itself* that is the cause of the effect here.

There's plenty of other stuff out there that's respected without being intellectualized or explained as being "art". Sport being a good example. Many people argue for for gaming being considered a "sport" too. But what does that matter if it is or not? If the competitions gain enough public attention it is because an audience find it entertaining - not because it all of a sudden is considered to be a sport.

There's plenty of sport events that attract no audience at all. They don't get any sponsors either - ergo no money. Even though they are sports.

Last edited by Beamboom on 3/7/2012 1:03:36 PM

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Underdog15
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 1:54:08 PM

I think when you consider the impact "art" has had on civilization, along with the fact that games have a lot more they can accomplish artistically, it becomes relevant. The other side effect of "art" is that people try to appreciate it even if it isn't something they are normally drawn to.

When something is seen as "art", people attempt to understand it because of it's direct and necessary tie-in to human condition or the world around us. Art doesn't just come as a label, it helps define everything about us from society, to perceived "spirituality", to relationships, to political commentary, to a mere appreciation of beauty and creativity.

The label is more than a prestigious "title". It gives relevance to those seeking to express themselves, gives more people a voice, provides an additional medium to reach one another and speak to one another, and it provides another window into different worlds which can do nothing but help gain a more diverse perspective.

And once the world begins to acknowledge art and listen, even when they aren't initially drawn to it personally, things start to change, stigmas begin to vanish, and society typically benefits. Some of the greatest moments in history were inspired by art, afterall. Even acting used to be seen as a sin and only as art by those who loved it because it was lying or denying who you were. Heck, pre-Elizabethan age, actors weren't even allowed to be buried in normal cemeteries because of that!

My point is that if something is art, as video games have the potential to be, it needs that recognition to even batter down the stigma that surrounds us.... to eliminate misdirected studies that seek to blame video games for social problems... to use the very medium as a way to -reach- our youth, and not to alienate them.

Even if you cannot see a direct correlation between economic growth with video games being seen as art, the benefits -are- there, and the residual impact is more than likely more far-reaching than we've been able to academically measure to date.

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Underdog15
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 2:53:36 PM

@Beamboom
As a further point to your sport comment, while many sports receive little to no sponsorships (although almost zero come to mind), there are still positive socio-economic effects even to the third degree in terms of saved health-care costs, decreased depression rates, and diminished criminal activity that is directly associated with recreational programming (as proven with much research). While art wouldn't necessarily have the -same- positive effects, it is that type of residual effect I am referring to.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 3:29:26 PM

Pretty sure some of you don't live in the real world.

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Beamboom
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 3:44:31 PM

Interesting posts Underdog, thank you for patience and I do understand what you try to point out.

I just don't think there is anything to fight about or for. The change of mind will come with the shift of a generation, and with that generation comes the approval, no matter if gaming is considered "art", "sport", or simply... "Gaming".

And if I had to fight for something I'd rather fight for making the term "gaming" respected. Cause really, for current adult non-gaming outsiders the insist to call games "art" really looks quite pathetic. They will just never - NEVER - accept that. Just forget it. For every Journey that may sway some there will be TWENTY other titles that pulls in the other direction. Better then to just show how great it is to be "a gamer and proud of it" instead.

But again... I really think this will happen more or less by itself, with the shift of a generation.


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/7/2012 3:58:51 PM

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79transam
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 7:31:57 PM

Ben I hope that was not directed towards me? I really was curious why it is important for the main stream recognition and your 2nd response along with Underdog's response gives me an idea as to why some view it is important. Thanks for your responses :)

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Beamboom
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 5:07:47 AM

Don't worry about it, 79transam. He's like that sometimes. Just ignore it. ;)

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Oyashiro
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 11:26:13 PM
Reply

I just finished Journey... All I can say is... Wow. Its hard to describe the brilliance of this game...

Just wow...

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Oyashiro
Tuesday, March 06, 2012 @ 11:40:05 PM

This game deserves every great score its getting, Its so far my front-runner for Game of the Year.

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___________
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 3:06:23 AM
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im more inclined to say bioshock 2, or even rayman origins.
origins is like a painting come to life!
raptures more beautiful though, especially the early level where your in that massive room where the glass breaks.
seeing all the beautiful plants and life swimming around the glass had me awestruck!

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friction
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 9:49:58 AM
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Dude needs a jab > [(*cough*) This critic took 100 hours to play the "video game of the year," and found it a soul-deadening exercise. slate.me/xpYtdJ]

His (Roger Ebert) tweet from monday... It's just crazy him, and the rest of hollywood don't see video games as a form of art. Just the time and colors that go into a tree in skyrim, the architecture in bf3, the music in dark souls.

In my opinion every video game is a form of art.
Is this not the definition? > [The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.]
Even cod, though i think of it more as graffiti, is still a form of art.

I remember a while back there was an article about how the video games don't have an awards show like the emmy's or grammy's. The vga is humorous and fun, but with all the time and work that goes into a game, the developers really deserve a more sophisticated awards show, on a prime network...

Great article Ben.

Last edited by friction on 3/7/2012 9:55:24 AM

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BikerSaint
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 10:55:03 AM
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Ebert also needs to try out the PS Move's new interactive game, "Datura(from the "Linger in Shadows" crew when it comes out later this year, just to see what artistry some games can achieve too.

Oh wait, his bias will never allow that to happen.

Anyway here's a older video of Datura .....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDAwWkEauu8

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Oyashiro
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 11:18:13 AM
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The Video Game industry is overtaking the Movie Industry in popularity and sales.

So some people (who have a stake in the film industry) just don't want video games to gain legitimacy as a art-form.

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LegendaryWolfeh
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 1:42:47 PM
Reply

You say you were on a conference call with Chen, so does that mean we might have an interview section with him soon? :P haha would be interesting.

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Kiwi of DOOM
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 7:18:13 PM
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Pursing a BFA at a very traditionally-minded art school, I run into this issue all the time; especially the moment I so much as whisper about my intentions of working in the game industry. Most of the professors have a tenancy to either dismiss or outright reject the idea that video games are art, though as more and more games like Journey come out, barriers are starting to break down. Still, I have to admit that the resistance coming directly from creative professionals is nothing short of frustrating.

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Underdog15
Thursday, March 08, 2012 @ 12:33:30 PM

CHIM!

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Superman915
Wednesday, March 07, 2012 @ 8:41:58 PM
Reply

ebert is not thinking about video games at this moment.

none of us should be thinking about ebert either.

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