If Video Games Aren't Art, At Least They're Progressing
The gaming community has once again responded to another of Roger Ebert's seemingly disparaging comments about video games. First, he restates a previous sentiment - that video games simply cannot be labeled as "art" - and secondly, he said he might not appreciate this entertainment medium because he's too "well-read." Now, I have two responses to this, but I'm not about to embark on the art debate because in my eyes, there's simply far too much subjectivity involved on either side of the fence. All I'll say is this- if games indeed implement elements from other entertainment venues that are considered "art" - i.e., artistry/design, choreography, writing, cinematography, acting, etc. - I'm a little confused as to how the entire package fails to register as "art." So the individual components are "art," but you when put them all together, the final product...isn't?
Okay, whatever. I'm not going to pursue that. But I would like to point out that if we are to compare video games against the other major forms of entertainment, it seems to me as if gaming is the only form that is headed in the right direction. Mr. Ebert, I respect you and all, but most of the films made in the past decade or so have only insulted the hell out my intelligence. I am aware that various independent and less-than-popular movies are excellent, but there was a time when the popular movies were also the biggest hits in the box office. These days, the stupidest pieces of tripe are the most popular and while I do - sadly - see gaming headed in that same direction, the industry is currently in the position film was in perhaps 25 or 35 years ago: they were getting better in terms of the intelligent aspects, and the population responded to that quality. In this industry, most of the best titles are also bestsellers...that is not the case in movies, music, or books. Not when Danielle Steele can manage to sell a gajillion copies of the same book for a hundred years.
Now, as for that "well-read" bit. I will not claim to be as well-read as Ebert but I'm willing to bet I could converse with him for quite some time; my list of completed literary classics runs for about six pages, and I have long since vowed to read as many of the best pieces of literature as humanly possible before I die. My favorite authors are George Eliot (who was actually Marianne Evans), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Thomas Mann, Edith Wharton, Leo Tolstoy, and Henry David Thoreau. I suppose my favorite playwright would have to be Henrik Ibsen for now, but I haven't yet read Shaw or Chekov (the latter is next on my list, in fact). And here's a fact about me that few people realize: I'd give up my games before I gave up my books. It'd be hard, but I would. Nothing gives me such a feeling of complete satisfaction as these unbelievably ingenious novels. Unfortunately, I see nothing in the way of such genius in this generation of writers, which I believe is a result of the rapid-fire, ultimately inferior communication that continues to plague artistry and creativity.
Yes, literature has declined terribly. And so has music - or whatever the hell passes for music these days - and the same goes for movies. Gaming, on the other hand, while it is admittedly behind in terms of writing and character development, continues to make strides forward. There are fans of every entertainment medium and I'm sure some will disagree, but I wonder if those same people have watched the transformation and growth of this industry we love since its infancy period. Therefore, as a message to Mr. Ebert, regardless of the claims against or for the "art" description, I believe I am quite well-read, and I believe that making a statement insinuating that those who can't boast of my reading resume are simply too smart for video games...well, obviously, I find it disagreeable and inaccurate. If you can find someone who names "Middlemarch" and "Anna Karenina" as their two favorite novels, I will have to meet that person, as I will be convinced said individual is nothing more than a ghostly fabrication until I shake his or her hand.
You see, we all have our passions. But what's important is that we take a step back and do some comparisons, and apply the proper respect where respect is warranted. I suppose I'm asking this-
Rather than focusing on what gaming isn't, why can't we focus on what gaming is, and could eventually become?
4/22/2010 9:31:00 PM Ben Dutka