Roger Ebert on why games “can never be art”

Famous film critic Roger Ebert has spoken out about the medium of videogames once again and his opinion has not changed. Ebert focuses his argument on why “videogames can never be art” in response to a presentation given by thatgamecompany President Kellee Santiago (creator of PSN games flOw and Flower) who, as expected, thinks the contrary.

Ebert starts by comparing videogames to various other outlets including cave drawings, chess and classic movies, continuously noting Santiago’s views and then following with his own counterpoints.

“One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome,” Ebert said. “Santiago might cite a [sic] 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.”

Three games that Santiago brings to the table in her defense of videogames as art are Waco Resurrection, Braid, and her own title, Flower. Ebert diminishes each title by comparing Braid’s written story to that of “a wordy fortune cookie” and Flower’s visuals to having “decorative interest on the level of a greeting card.”

The discussion wraps up with Ebert asking a question that is possibly more thought provoking then the main subject at hand.

“Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren’t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?”

At the end of the article you will likely either be clenching a fist or nodding along to Ebert’s opinions. Either way, videogames being escalated to this degree of examination shows a level of importance that is hard to deny.