Sunday, January 20, 2013

Anyone Up For Some Nonsense #1: Video Games As Art

I often make it known that Roger Ebert been a huge influence upon me and my writing. Before writing a review of film, or even if I want to get some semblance of a notion of a movie, I often try to seek out the words of wisdom of this Chicago-based critic. When my father decided he wanted to go see a movie he insisted, from my drooling childhood to my bearded semi-adulthood, that we never hear a word from critics or a gather a glimpse of a preview. Except when it came to the words of Roger Ebert.

So when Mr. Ebert posted his now infamous article "Video Game Can Never Be Art" back in 2010, I was more than a little confused, mixed-up, amd didn't know what to think of this intellectual idol of mine. Even after Roger was inundated with responses of my fellow gamers (as that the contigent I identified with) and posted follow up apology/exasperation  "Alright, Kids, Play On My Lawn," I wasn't quite satisfied by the results. 

Scrapping much of the argument posted by Ebert it aims at the most basic question of review and respect: is it art or entertainment? 

That also leads into the problem of qualifying when something that entertains participators "transcends" or "evolves" into being art.

Can a medium be both?  

The New York Times includes video-games in its prestigous "The Arts" section,  as shown by Seth Schiesel's review of Grand Theft Auto IV here in full, but the BBC divides its coverage into "Entertainment and Arts," leaving ponderers in a bit of a confuzzled state. 

Then again, there are writer's on the website Kotaku, dedicated to the video-game industry, who are criticized for being too academic or lofty for their reviews of the medium, like Patricia Hernandez's article on Call of Duty: Black Ops II, where commentors railed the article for "waxing lyrical on war in the modern age" and being "a bunch of brainy college nonsense garbage about war." Should we leave the medium alone in our methods of review? Should a game review be assessed first and foremost by it's technical components: graphics, controls, sound quality, etc.? Does that then reflect upon how other pieces of art are reviewed?

To avoid being wishy-washy, I generally claim the stance of "games as art" and I also am guilty of filling up my articles with "college nonsense," or at least when I try to write I believe that every piece of media goes beyond its technical components, leading to an effect on our culture.

I'd love the ability to mimic, or at least assess, writing on video-games the way that Ebert spoke about film throughout my life--but there is more pushback by the consumer and by the intellectual community than it seems helping the industry along for legitimization. 

And internet cats. 

1 comment:

  1. Video games are separate in my mind from other artistic media because they are defined by user participation. The content of most interpretive dance or opera performances would not be markedly different if performed in an empty auditorium, but video games are almost as much about the player's experience of being involved in the game than observations on the game's sound, graphics, etc. The video game industry is certainly influential enough to warrant examination about the effect games have on wider cultural/artistic trends. In its earliest days, film was seen as a low-brow mass artistic form, but now it has evolved into a legitimate medium. Maybe video games will follow film's cultural acceptability trajectory?