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Video Games Can Never be Art
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subego
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Apr 17, 2010, 03:58 PM
 
Roger Ebert posted this on his blog: Video games can never be art.

Ebert demonstrates in the article he lacks even a basic technical understanding of the medium, so the idea that he can make such sweeping generalizations with any authority is pretty laughable. On the other hand, the questions posed by the article are interesting, and I'd much rather hear opinions and discussion from people who actually have an informed opinion...

Like y'all.
     
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Apr 18, 2010, 03:57 PM
 
Well I definitely disagree with his blanket statement, but those are some crap examples of video games. Waco Resurrection? Seriously? If I was as old as Roger Ebert and being given that game as an example of how video games could develop into art, I would probably say the same thing.
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 10:45 AM
 
It's simply a question of definitions. Ebert seems very focused on the "game" aspect of video games, without considering their storytelling or design elements. Now, it's true that a lot of video games are not art. Ebert acknowledges in a response to one of the comments that he thinks that very few films qualify as art, but that film can be an "art form." I don't see any reason why the same cannot be said of video games.

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sek929
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Apr 19, 2010, 11:58 AM
 
I think a majority of recent games show more inspiration and story telling than anything that comes out of Hollywood. Not to mention the concept art and writing that goes into a large budget game. The idea that video games are bland mindless drivel is perpetuated by those who are in the bland mindless drivel business, like TV execs or movie producers.

Ebert has given some god-awful movies two thumbs up, so he can take his 'artistic' criticisms and stick them up his ass. Portal has more original dialogue that 95% of movies.
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 12:07 PM
 
My coworkers and family members have told me a computer is just a computer. I explain to them they are wrong because this computer I own has a unique hardware design and graphical user interface. It has become a piece of art in my eyes because it satisfies that need for consistency in my life.
Art should motivate us and inspire us. It is not just a picture of a landscape or an abstract sculpture. Those are traditional art and are useful but we have come so far with digital art and character design in video games and movies. I think that people who say "never" are shocked when we prove them wrong and expect to know the how or why when they had no interest in what we were doing or watching in the first place.
     
subego  (op)
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Apr 19, 2010, 01:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by SpaceMonkey View Post
It's simply a question of definitions. Ebert seems very focused on the "game" aspect of video games, without considering their storytelling or design elements. Now, it's true that a lot of video games are not art. Ebert acknowledges in a response to one of the comments that he thinks that very few films qualify as art, but that film can be an "art form." I don't see any reason why the same cannot be said of video games.
What surprises me is shouldn't Ebert know better?

We have to assume he has a passing familiarity with art history. Isn't he aware of how these sorts of claims are made about every new medium, and the people who say such things end up being looked upon as quaint relics?

He basically just went "GET OFF MY LAWN!"
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 01:15 PM
 
Yeah, this isn't even worth my time, and my time is worthless.
     
CharlesS
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:07 PM
 
Great art passes the test of time.

A sculpture by Michelangelo has been in existence for around for hundreds of years, and is still appreciated by many. So has a painting by Da Vinci, or a mass by Bach.

Video games, on the other hand, get tossed into the dustbin almost immediately after they are released. People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.

So no, in my opinion, video games can not be art.

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The Final Dakar
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:10 PM
 
Tell me, do you play videogames?
     
CharlesS
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:21 PM
 
Not very often, but on occasion. I don't think that that has any bearing on the truth of my statement above.

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The Final Dakar
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:24 PM
 
I think it colors your opinion.
     
SpaceMonkey
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Great art passes the test of time.

A sculpture by Michelangelo has been in existence for around for hundreds of years, and is still appreciated by many. So has a painting by Da Vinci, or a mass by Bach.

Video games, on the other hand, get tossed into the dustbin almost immediately after they are released. People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.

So no, in my opinion, video games can not be art.
Can not be, or simply are not (yet)? Ebert seemed to be giving a definitive judgment. I hold out the possibility that there may someday be an original video game that artistically passes the test of time in the manner of, say, Apocalypse Now.

But most video games are crap, most films are crap, most music is crap. Most art is crap.

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CharlesS
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:26 PM
 
My opinion is that ad hominems betray the lack of an argument.

edit: that was directed at Dakar. To SpaceMonkey my reply is: it's possible that someone could make a game meant to pass the test of time, but I find it unlikely, given the fact that said game will be unplayable in a mere five years because the hardware will no longer support it. To make something for the benefit of posterity seems silly when it will not be able to be experienced by anyone except in the here and now.

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Leonard
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Video games, on the other hand, get tossed into the dustbin almost immediately after they are released. People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.

So no, in my opinion, video games can not be art.
Tell me your trolling, right?!?

Because that's the stupidest thing I've heard. That's like saying because one copy of Huck Finn or Moby Dick gets burned in a book burning that those stories aren't art!

A lot of video games are remembered for various aspects of gaming design and graphical artwork and go down in history just like movies and pieces of art.
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The Final Dakar
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
My opinion is that ad hominems betray the lack of an argument.
Perhaps you'd like my responses better if you didn't portray your opinion as "truth."


Anyway, this looks like its going to devolve into an argument over what exactly is art (in the non-vg sense).
     
subego  (op)
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.
Huh?

What about Steam, the Playstation Store, and xBox Live?

Plenty of games way older than 5 years there, and people buy them. Older games also get rereleased for new hardware.
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 02:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post
Because that's the stupidest thing I've heard. That's like saying because one copy of Huck Finn or Moby Dick gets burned in a book burning that those stories aren't art!
No it's not. It's like saying that if every copy of Huck Finn were destroyed deliberately a handful of years after its first printing, because it was now considered "old" and not to be of any value, and if the author knew this was going to happen at the time he wrote it and thus did not take any care to create something that would be appreciated more than 5 years into the future, that the story wouldn't be art. And it wouldn't be, were this the case.

As for Steam, get back to me when our generation has passed through its current nostalgic phase (or passed away entirely). If any of those games are still played a century from now by a generation yet unborn, then you may have a point. Those games that can still be released are the ones made by companies and/or individuals who are still around. The ones from dead or defunct companies, or the ones whose creators think they would not make them sufficient money, will never be released again, and as a consequence they cannot be played at all unless you have vintage hardware, which will eventually cease working. The small percentage of games that are now being re-released aren't going to keep on being re-released forever - and the moment they stop, BOOM, they're gone. It is not a long-term viable medium.
( Last edited by CharlesS; Apr 19, 2010 at 02:49 PM. )

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subego  (op)
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Apr 19, 2010, 03:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
It is not a long-term viable medium
Why isn't this a result of continuing sea changes in technology, rather than some inherent limitation in the medium?

While I doubt technology will stop progressing, I'm sure we'll hit a point where that progression starts to provide diminishing returns to this specific medium.

To put it another way, I doubt that every 15 years we're going to have as marked an expansion in the capabilities of the medium as we've had from the days of the PS1 to what we have with the PS3 (as an example).
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 03:14 PM
 
On the other hand, there is a lot of "art" that is designed without any intention of lasting, sometimes explicitly so (often this is performance-based art, but not always).

Art created specifically for posterity strikes me as very odd. I would consider CharlesS's Huck Finn example two posts up, for instance, as still art.

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CharlesS
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Apr 19, 2010, 03:29 PM
 
We need to have some distinction between art and entertainment, though, don't we?

I mean, I can go into a museum and see a work from the Renaissance that might be almost 500 years old. Or perhaps even a Roman statue that's thousands of years old. This work has been in existence for all the time, and it is still relevant. It still has value. I find it difficult to consider a video game that will be forgotten well within my own lifetime on that same level.

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subego  (op)
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Apr 19, 2010, 03:33 PM
 
I suppose for when they're being explicitly distinct from one another.
     
SpaceMonkey
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Apr 19, 2010, 03:40 PM
 
I think part of the problem with a conversation like this is the idea that "art" implies a level in the first place. The "art" of a Roman statue has a historical significance (independent of its aesthetic value) that a contemporary film does not, but both can be "art" in the sense of aesthetic beauty or in imitating/supplanting the work of nature. Along the same lines, would one dismiss a contemporary painting as "not art" simply because it has no historical value? Probably not. But one might dismiss it on the basis of aesthetics. Similarly, the Roman statue is elevated to "art" on the basis of historical significance even if one might personally be unmoved by it.
( Last edited by SpaceMonkey; Apr 19, 2010 at 03:49 PM. )

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sek929
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Apr 19, 2010, 06:39 PM
 
Charles, I have, in my possession, an original NES and The Legend of Zelda.

Zelda still has its save game too, that's a classic game over 26 years old that I can still play and enjoy.

I think your stance is incredibly short-sighted and biased. The amount of actual art that goes into a modern video game trounces most any other medium. I'd bet my bottom dollar than in 1000 years there will be a museum with the cold cartridge Zelda on display. Just because video games haven't been around as long as marble statues simply means the art form of video games is in its infancy. There are people who hate Michelangelo's David because of the nudity and say it isn't art, that doesn't make them right. There are plenty of people with little experience in video games that just think they are violent time wasters, but they aren't right either.

Play BRAID and tell me with a strait face that game isn't art.
     
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Apr 19, 2010, 07:38 PM
 
Ebert is that man who would just cuss at a kid smiling at him and offering him a popsicle.
     
subego  (op)
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Apr 19, 2010, 09:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by sek929 View Post
Charles, I have, in my possession, an original NES and The Legend of Zelda.

Zelda still has its save game too, that's a classic game over 26 years old that I can still play and enjoy.
But are you playing it now? Does anyone play it for reasons other than academia or nostalgia?

You're gonna hate me for this, but I'm gonna throw Pokémon out there as a better example WRT CharlsS's thesisss. There are a bunch of different versions for different hardware, but these aren't really different games.
     
sek929
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Apr 20, 2010, 10:44 AM
 
Not right now but I have played it within the last few years. Nostalgia plays a part in my love of Zelda, but it also is an awesome game with a timeless story and classic music.

Zelda is a cultural icon at this point, it's 8-bit artwork made its way into tattoos, t-shirts, posters, etc... Is the creation of the Link character less important than ZIggy Stardust and Indiana Jones?

I made some crude artwork in PS4 back in the day, is it lesser art because I wouldn't be able to open the file on modern systems?

I, in no way, think all games are art...but a select few have showed us magical places and amazing stories over the years and should not be discounted because they are closely tied to technology.
     
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Apr 20, 2010, 07:21 PM
 
Almost ten years ago, in my freshman year at undergrad, one of my roommates and I tried to introduce another roommate to the Zelda games. He had never played them as a child. You know the thing though? He wasn't enthralled by it at all. He complained about how repetitive it was, and how the world seemed randomly generated. The music, while catchy at first, got really grating on the ears after the thousandth time, especially with that "beep beep beep" when you were low on health. And as for the "amazing story", what was that exactly? Some guy kidnaps a princess, you set out to save her, and you save her. Oh, and Dodongo dislikes smoke. Anyway, he didn't enjoy it, and didn't get very far before he quit.

The difference between him and us? He didn't play that game as a child, so the nostalgia factor didn't apply. And without that filter over our eyes, the one that looks at artifacts from our long-lost youth and sees in them reflections of the carefree innocence, optimism, and hopefulness of our childhood days, what is it? It's a children's game.

I don't think successive generations after ours will be playing The Legend of Zelda much, if at all. Someone may well put the cartridge in a museum someday for historical significance or some such thing, but the cartridge itself is just a gold spray-painted piece of plastic with some circuitry inside. The game itself will have faded into obscurity long before the last machine capable of running it has broken down, with our generation's children not caring about it any more than we care about whatever our parents played with when they were young.

My opinion.
( Last edited by CharlesS; Apr 20, 2010 at 07:37 PM. )

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Apr 21, 2010, 03:01 AM
 
"Art" is a meaningless category. A made thing can be "beautiful" or "historic" or have "high craftsmanship" or be "entertaining." But saying something is "art" is pointless when useful terms are available.
     
Leonard
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Apr 21, 2010, 10:15 AM
 
CharlesS, just because one person or group of people doesn't like something doesn't mean it's not art. I can remember when the local art gallery bought a painting for millions of dollars, the painting was large, 20 feet by 20 feet or something like that and all red. Just red. There was much discussion on whether that was art.

And as for longevity, I'm sure the internet will keep all our video games long after we've played them. How many times have we seen someone here ask about 680x0 games? Many times.

If anything, I'd probably agree with lpkmckenna, art is a meaningless category that we give out flipantly.
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sek929
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Apr 21, 2010, 12:39 PM
 


/thread

Edit: An excerpt from 'Gabe' of Penny Arcade...

"Of course video games are art. They are nothing but art. They are art piled on top of more art.

As Tycho mentioned, Ebert is simply filling a role played out by art critics throughout history. There was the newspaper headline back in 1959 with regards to Jackson Pollock's work that said "This is not art — it's a joke in bad taste." It's a funny line but time has proven it was also completely wrong. Ebert has thrown his hat in with the rest of the short sighted critics who would rather debate what is or isn't art, rather than simply enjoy the work of artists."

/threadx2
( Last edited by sek929; Apr 21, 2010 at 02:39 PM. )
     
CharlesS
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Apr 21, 2010, 08:20 PM
 
Originally Posted by Leonard View Post
And as for longevity, I'm sure the internet will keep all our video games long after we've played them. How many times have we seen someone here ask about 680x0 games? Many times.
Yeah, but the people who played 680x0 games (us) are still around. And even then, it's a tiny minority — most people here were practically cheerleading for those games to be rendered inoperable by ditching the Classic environment. How many people will ask about 680x0 anything when we are all dead? Will anyone even remember the 680x0 machines except as a footnote in a textbook about the history of computers?

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Apr 29, 2010, 12:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Great art passes the test of time.

A sculpture by Michelangelo has been in existence for around for hundreds of years, and is still appreciated by many. So has a painting by Da Vinci, or a mass by Bach.

Video games, on the other hand, get tossed into the dustbin almost immediately after they are released. People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.

So no, in my opinion, video games can not be art.
Let me respond and try and make a case why you should reconsider your view that they cannot be art, they might not be art in your opinion and I don't mind if you don't change your view but I hope to get you to agree they can be art.

Damian Hurst created a shark in formaldehyde which has now degraded and is no longer the amazing thing it was 5 to 10 years ago. Does that mean it is any less worthy that it was when it was first made?

The Saatchi gallery has the oil room which no longer exists in it's original form. Does this mean my feelings of wonder at the artistry when I saw it are made invalid?

Michelangelo's David was amazing 500 years ago as it was so accurate and nobody had seen anything like it, when it is seen in the modern day the nostalgia of "this was made 500 years ago" overwhelms the actual art. If someone made a big marble statue these days (or maybe a huge gandam) it is not seen as amazing art, however if that same item was made 500 years ago it would have been seen as revolutionary.

If you wish to judge something on how it is seen in 500 years as the basis of an argument on art you might have to wait a while in stasis! It even took a few years as people have said for the likes of Damian Hurst and Tracy Emin to be seen as art not a "bad joke".

Mario (the original scroller) has still loads of new fans 20 years after it was made. Heavy Rain has parts of the game which you actually start to think what would I do how should I act just like a great book. These I think are a form of art just like a well wrought play or a good book is seen as an art.

I think saying games cannot be some kind of art is very blinkered, saying that games are at a very early stage or evolution is closer to the truth. When calling a game art you are not comparing it to the statue of David or The Seven Samurai every artform will find it's own definition over time, lets games grow into their category. Not very many games are great art right now but there are a few, just like great paintings, then books, then films that overcome the preset thoughts of a (usually older) generation and stand on their own over time.

If I could return in 50 years as an old man I am sure my kids would be as confused about some games not being considered art as the current generation would be with films.

The quotes made by Roger Ebert and others are almost all made by someone who does not spend time in the field of games, and who are ambivalent about it. As such worrying about what they think is pretty pointless as they are mostly closed to any change in their views. I have spent a third of my life (and all of my working life) making games, I think that games are an art form but just like any art form not every attempt becomes what most people will call art.

If someone wants to say I don't think this game or that game is art fine, but saying it cannot be art I think is going from making comment on a potential piece of art to denying that anything of this type could be art and I think that is a bit to far. For example when I saw Michelangelo's David it was impressive that one man did it and I could see how it was art but give me a Mondrian any day! The basis or art is choice of what you like just because you dislike or don't understand something does not remove it's artistic integrity.

All I wish of people is that they agree that a game can be art even if they personally do not have a game they think qualifies. After all art like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Edwin

p.s. CharlesS I please don't think I am picking you out just your post contained the best thought out point against games and allowed me to write this response.
     
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Apr 29, 2010, 12:40 PM
 
Originally Posted by CharlesS View Post
Video games, on the other hand, get tossed into the dustbin almost immediately after they are released. People think it's completely unreasonable to expect to even be able to run a game that's just 5 years old.
The same could be easily said of 90% of the movies, music and paintings made today.

Art is subjective. "Great art" is even *more* subjective.
     
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May 19, 2010, 06:06 AM
 
why it is not art.
     
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May 19, 2010, 06:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by johndept1 View Post
why it is not art.
Read the posts above they make all the arguments both for and against games being art.

Edwin
     
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May 19, 2010, 11:06 AM
 
I'm getting in on this late (as usual), but I'm definitely in the "games can be art" camp.

Art develops in waves of mediums.

Scratching on cave walls
Engravings/sculptures
Music (almost always present)
Ink and paper
Paint and canvas
Photography
Movies
Games

The difference is that more forms of art are being created and elaborated on at such a rapid pace that it's become difficult to quantify something as art when it reaches outside its intended audience.

One of the best arguments that I hear about games being art is that every aspect of game creation involves art.

Storyline: art
Soundtrack: art
Level design: art
Animation: art
Presentation: art

When a medium requires that several different "accepted" art forms be implemented in order to exist in the first place, how can it NOT be art? It can definitely be bad art, but have you seen some of the crap people try to sell and pass off as art? And have you seen how many idiots are willing to pay astronomical prices for "pieces of art" only because the medium is accepted as such?

The aforementioned Braid, Okami, original MGS, and even GTA games all make great cases for gaming as an art form.
     
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May 19, 2010, 11:16 AM
 
Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
Storyline: art
Soundtrack: art
Level design: art
Animation: art
Presentation: art

When a medium requires that several different "accepted" art forms be implemented in order to exist in the first place, how can it NOT be art?
Yup pretty much nailed it, does not stop some people sticking their fingers in their ears and ignoring logic.

Originally Posted by Jawbone54 View Post
even GTA games all make great cases for gaming as an art form.
You mean I am an artist? Awesome take that High School art teacher!



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May 24, 2010, 03:35 PM
 
Do video games describe a personal plight or the downfalls, tribulations of society? yes they do. Are they intended to be viewed at as anything other than interactive entertainment? No. I think that they have the ability to be art but not yet.
     
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Jun 20, 2010, 05:55 PM
 
Can we count the hardware platform and the OS as art in their own right too? Both are often highly envisioned, created, and impressive? Does art in stone or on canvas have more value "just because" it can last longer?

Whotisname with the urinal had the whole concept nailed: when an artist points at anything and deemed it art, it was art. Maybe not art that lasts forever, maybe not good art (see Banksy), maybe not art you like, but still art. Art has a big, big tent. And while games are often developed for commercial / corporate reasons, that doesn't demean their value. That big ceiling in Rome was a commission. Hell, most of what we now consider to be "High Art" was created on commission. For $$$. Even starving artists have to eat occasionally.

Yes, changing and developing canvasses mess some up this up: but so what? Everything, everywhere corrodes in time -- we just have a faster speed with technology. That's a problem with the medium, not the execution. And as we get better and faster systems we can also start to emulate older systems with more and more precision. So long as we have access to the media (as we should, were it not for insane changes to copyright law) there is no need for the art to be ephemeral.
     
The Final Dakar
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Jul 1, 2010, 11:00 AM
 
Roger Ebert Admits His Mistake
"I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place," writes the famed movie critic. "I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn't seen."
     
subego  (op)
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Jul 1, 2010, 12:11 PM
 
Code:
END OF LINE
Not all caps
     
Laminar
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Jul 1, 2010, 12:46 PM
 
4551 comments on the article.
     
The Final Dakar
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Aug 25, 2010, 09:53 AM
 
I submit this for consideration:
Remembering A Red Dead Horse
     
The Final Dakar
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Aug 26, 2010, 10:17 AM
 
No one?
     
Stogieman
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Aug 26, 2010, 01:38 PM
 
I kinda of felt the same way when I came upon Bill's corpse in the latest Left 4 Dead 2 DLC.

Slick shoes?! Are you crazy?!
     
The Final Dakar
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Aug 26, 2010, 01:42 PM
 
I suppose I should elaborate since most people are too lazy to click links.

Arguably, evoking emotion is one of art's abilities. My argument that Red Dead Redemption was able to achieve this in regular people (rather than, say, pale friendless virgins).
     
subego  (op)
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Aug 26, 2010, 04:24 PM
 
I haven't played RDR. Is the horse that good?

Another game I didn't play, FFVII, supposedly tore people up. You could be a regular person in Japan and have played it back when it was current.

Going way back, Planetfall supposedly did this too. Yup, didn't play that one either. Very much limited to the pale, friendless set, but that was more because at the time, only those types had computers. I don't think there's anything about the content itself which wouldn't appeal.

That might not count though, as it's a little closer to a traditional novel. Come to think of it, the two games which spring to mind which evoked strong emotions in me are both interactive fiction type things.

For the curious, those two are Suspended, and a game I think was called "The Portal", but it's not coming up in a search.

I'm wondering what games have provoked emotional experiences in others, and why.
     
The Final Dakar
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Aug 26, 2010, 04:31 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
I haven't played RDR. Is the horse that good?
I'm not sure what you mean by "good". Its an integral, constant companion. Interestingly it seems Rockstar unwittingly achieved with the RRD horse what Peter Moore aimed to accomplish with the dog in Fable II.

Another game I didn't play, FFVII, supposedly tore people up. You could be a regular person in Japan and have played it back when it was current.
That strikes me as the epitome of a pale friendless virgin game.
     
subego  (op)
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Aug 26, 2010, 05:04 PM
 
Here, no doubt. Was that the way it was in Japan?
     
 
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