MAP Episode 62: Video Games Are Art

The Death of Aerith

Download Link: Produced 2010.04.25

Lusipurr has ruled that Video Games Are Art, and hence the summary judgement upon Roger Ebert is, “off with his head!” When the decapitation is complete, this week’s panel (Lusi and the Tits) manages to discuss some of the week’s more interesting news.


  1. -There are more video games that are NOT art than ARE art, but then there are more films which are NOT art than ARE art, so I guess neither medium is an ARTFORM. The DROSS ALWAYS wins out over the quality, because people prefer BAD things.

    -^The same applies for music, literature and drawing.

    -Perhaps ART just doesn’t exist …

  2. -I had emotional responses to FFXIII, just none of them good … … … and that was the one game that I thought justified Ebert in his idiocy … …

    -I wan’t Ebert’s jaw!

  3. AWWWWWW SEGA … :( *cries uncontrollably*


  4. Modern Warfare 2 story makes Chuck Norris movies look good,and thats the best selling game ever. so no Video Games are not art, not yet.

  5. -If I spend $20 extra on Halo will that make it not suck?!

    -SE execs are pants on heads retarded, I have no faith in their assessments …

    -My 360 is dead. M$ never solved the RRoD problem in the newer models, they just made smaller, cooler CPUs and GPUs which mitigate rapidity of the console’s demise.

    -FFXIII’s technical focus ruined the game, that and Toriyama …

    -Most devs don’t have the resources to make more advanced games …


  6. Modern Warfare 2 is one game amongst many, and sales figures do not make any single game wholly representative of all games, therefore its artistic quality (or lack thereof) is not divided amongst all games. Every game has its own merit, which is why some are art and some are not. The point is that they *can be*, contrary to what Half-Head Ebert claims.

  7. I think we should just acknowledge that the bulk of the output for any artistic medium is lowbrow plebeian drivel, video games are no better or worse than every any other medium. If even one product is released in any given year which is artistically sound, then I’m very happy indeed.

  8. @SN: Absolutely, but that is very different from saying that video games cannot be art, will never be art, and that there are none which are art — all untrue statements. I contest that there are games which are artistic, and indeed art, and hence the other two statements fall down with the third.

    Necessarily, most of any production in a medium will be failure more than success. Art is hard to accomplish. It takes creativity and talent and a fair bit of luck as well. As Ebert manages to correctly point out, despite his only having part of a head, countless nudes have been painted — most are rubbish. But, there are some which are art. The same is true of games. Is WiiFit art? Assuredly not — and neither are most of its ilk. I would say that there are ways in which TF2 might be considered artistic (in its art direction), but I would never argue for TF2 as art. The way it is played and the experiences it produces for people are not meant to be artistic in any sense. It is meant to be fun (and in that regard it succeeds). It is an excellent game, but it is not art.

    Flower, on the other hand, is a perfectly abysmal game in my opinion. Heather loves it, Ethan likes it, and I would certainly argue that it is art. So really, the success or failure of a game as a game is not the only factor to consider in a question whether or not it is art.

    I think the best chance of finding art in games has been, heretofore, to look to RPGs. And, probably, this is still the best chance of finding a game which is art — but strides have been made in other genres, and I would argue that Braid, Flower, Pixeljunk Eden, Everyday Shooter, and other such games are all very artistic, and might well be considered art regardless of whether or not you like the gameplay in the individual titles.

  9. I think that if two-face wants to have any internal consistency to his argument, then he’s going to have to come out and say that NOTHING can be ART.

    Art has been allegedly made from everything from garbage to faeces, I think gaming might be a mite better medium for conveying artistic expression than some of the alternatives.

  10. … yea, well, whatever. all I know is that I’m part of the gamer community and that I’m proud of and satisfied with that. I can’t really say that I care if the art community wants to take in my community. and that’s my two cents. gotta say, I don’t really like this topic very much. also, I fucking hate typing with a duelshock -_-

  11. I completely agree with your argument that video games are a collection of art forms. If music is an art form, and graphical representation is an art form, and literature is an art form, then how can their confluence NOT be an art form? As a society, we are willing to label Jackson Pollock’s shit splatters as “art” and Andy Warhol’s soup can as “art.” There’s far more worth, artistic merit, and emotion out of some video games than that. And you make a good semantic point with Ebert’s argument, Lusi. The fact that he’s so black and white with the fact that they will “never” be art invalidates his argument by itself.

    I admit I love little trinkets with my video games, but that Halo deal a load of bullshit. Not that I’d buy it anyway since I don’t really enjoy Halo, but even if it were something I loved, I wouldn’t pay that much.

    The addition of hardware to extend a console’s life cycle isn’t exactly a new concept, Sega CD or Eye Toy anyone? Plus Sony has already insisted that they intend a 10-year life cycle with their consoles now, which they’ve achieved with the PS2, and considering how much untapped potential the current gen still have, they should make 10 years no problem.

  12. @Breaka: Agreed. Personally, I’d say games can certainly be art, but if Ebert wants to have some bizzaro definition of “art” that can never include video games, I can honestly say it will never have any impact on my ability to enjoy games. Also, typing on the duelshock (or any controller, really) is like trying to…. do something difficult in a comical manner. I’ve got nothing, but it’s horribly clumsy.

    @Dan: I like Halo, and I still have no interest in spending upwards of $100 on it just to get little figurines that are just going to gather dust on my shelves afterwards. I’ve got enough useless crap without those, thanks.

  13. I hope new console don’t get released for at least another 5 years. PS3 can diffinantly wait that out. 360 needs a redesign to fix its problems and it could probably wait that long. The Wii is the only one I think will need one sooner.

  14. I think a lot of people are confusing “art” with “good art.” The word “art” does not imply that it is good. There is tons and tons of bad art in this world. I would make the case that every video game ever made is art. Yes, even E.T. for the Atari. We can argue whether it’s actually “good art” later (hint: answer in most cases- no).

    And Lusipurr, don’t you fucking dare rag on comics. The idea that books are somehow a higher form of art/literature than comics makes me want to reach through my headphones and strangle you, thus getting righteous justice. Don’t get me wrong, approximately 100% of everything is horrible, please quote me on that. But all artistic media have an equal potential to be great. Don’t start playing favorites.

    And illustration is older than written language. So eat me.

    Not done listening to this one yet, had to chime in with some thoughts.

  15. ‘Art’ has too many qualitative connotations for me to consider all products of every medium to be ‘art’, I don’t want to devalue the term or what it stands for. But I do consider every medium to hold equal measures of artistic potential.

  16. Well, it’s just terminology. But if you think labeling something “art” is in any way commenting on its quality you aren’t using the word correctly.

  17. Actually, never mind. I just decided this is a dumb discussion and would rather talk about video games.

    Enjoyed the podcast, though (and it’s weird I should say this) you need more dudes! Song at the end was great, gotta link us to the video!

  18. I think you’re missing the context of Ebert’s argument. we’re not just talking about some minor concept art, but rather ART (read High Art). The usage of highly generalisable terms confuses the issue some, but Ebert is trying to negate the possibility that games will ever possess the elegant and noble qualities necessary to be considered ART, rather than arguing that no low-level artistry has gone into their making. Either way, the man is clearly a bit simple (he must have kept his brain in his jaw!).

  19. I completely agree with Lusi about not needing a bump in console hardware for quite a while. It seems like companies are just starting to hit their stride with the current hardware, and knowing Sony, the PS4 will have a completely different, all new architecture just to make sure developers are sufficiently confused for the first several years of it’s life. Also, the art in games is expensive enough as it is! We certainly don’t need another 2-3x the time spent to bump it all from 720p-quality to 1080p, 60fps-quality textures etc. I’m perfectly fine with them just sticking with the current hardware for at least the next few years and getting some good, quality games out of it.

  20. Most Devs couldn’t afford a jump in hardware, we’d end up with an industry entirely composed of Activision, EA and SE (a bleak future).

  21. hehe, that’s a good point, too. Long live the current gen!

    A bit off topic, but I wonder how much a dev kit for a last gen console would cost. I know Sony dropped the price of the PSP dev kit fairly recently by a sizable amount. I wonder what kind of application you’d have to put in to get something like a PS2 dev kit…

  22. Hilariously, SN, EA would very likely be giving us the best software out of that list. Nobody would be saying that 5 years ago.
    But I agree with you guys that we totally don’t need another round of consoles for a while. I’m holding my breath that only the 3DS is shown at E3 in terms of new hardware. I mean, I’d accept a WiiHD, but it really doesn’t matter to me.

    Before it would be exciting to think about what new consoles would bring, and now I just dread the idea. It’ll have to be a major upgrade to be worth it at this point. Thankfully, the big three SEEM to realize that, but I shouldn’t make assumptions.

    Good conversation all around this thread, though!

  23. Ethos managed to post whilst I was typing! I thought it was ladies first? (My post was at DG.)

  24. @Ethos- They certainly know better, but once console sales soften a bit the inclination to release the next generation of consoles will be near irresistible, especially if they’re subjected to sustained shareholder pressure to do so …

    -And yeah, I imagine that SE will probably produce the shittiest games in that unpleasant future scenario.

  25. Yeah, I imagine that all possible console follow-ups are in perpetual R&D and ready to be announced at practically any time, but I’m hoping it’s until the last possible moment. The ONLY good thing about Natal and the Move controller is that they (Natal especially) are almost being marketed as new systems, delaying the demand for full-out new hardware.

    And Kenjuju, LFoPD is surprisingly not dead! And that’s all the info you’re getting.

  26. In a sense, the lack of news is disappointing, which in itself says the game still has the potential to live up to its name. I can’t tell if this is good or not.

  27. @KJJ: Oh, don’t worry, it will be nothing if not disappointing, but hopefully it will at least have a certain homemade charm. (Also, Ethos is an un-chivalrous bastard!) The PS2 dev kit comment was purely for my own interests, though. LFoPD isn’t changing platforms (again) as far as I know.

    @Ethos: I could stand to see a PSP successor soon, but only if they make it a real PS2P, not just a PSP2, if that makes any sense (Essentially, I want to play PS2 games everywhere!)

  28. Y’know, if the handhelds keep getting more and more advanced, they’ll just end up with a library full of console ports, and nothing else as it will be too expensive to produce original content for them …

  29. Such basic games aren’t even on my radar, I don’t see them or acknowledge their existence …

  30. I’ve yet to graduate to a This-Gen (no longer Next-Gen) console anyway. So it’ll be just as well if they continue developing for them for a while, I’d hate to be two generations behind.

  31. @Z. Bill – They haven’t been “Next-Gen” since they were available 4-5 years ago!
    However, I wouldn’t argue were you to call the Wii “Last-Gen”

  32. @ Ethos: A lot of games that are released for the PS2 are also released for the Wii, after all. I think that says something.

  33. I’ve been wondering, what exactly does everyone consider art? how do ya’ll define it? not thinking about games specifically but just in general.

    I consider art to be something that is aesthetically appealing and takes skill to make. evoking an emotional response, historical and cultural relevance, and moral acceptability I consider relevant. I also don’t consider art to be a complement in any but purely a qualitative trait. like blue or heavy.

    I ask cause there isn’t much meaning in talking about art if no one agrees on what art is. everyone ends up talking about different things.

  34. Art is quite simply anything that is made that serves no purpose other than to look at (painting, film) or engage in (books, games, music). Anything that is not design (design meaning it serves a function) is art. Being “aesthetically pleasing” (which is entirely opinion anyway) is not a requirement for something to be labeled art, and many fine artists work in direct opposition to that idea. Anything an artist makes IS ART. There seems to be disagreement there.

    So yeah, like SiliconNooB mentioned, technically everyone, Ebert et al., is arguing whether games can be HIGH ART, and using “art” in a more selective way than is correct. Semantics really.

    It’s really an annoying sticking point with me and has been since I was in high school (ie: a long time ago). People would say things like “Man that movie. That was just ART.” To which I say “No shit! So was the Super Mario Bros movie.” It’s sort of like how everyone misuses the word “ironic.”

  35. That’s just the English language, you have to pay as much attention to the context as you do to the language,it’s not a misuse of language but rather a failure of comprehension.

  36. @Breaka:


    -ART= A refined cultural product of subtle and elegant qualities, geared toward eliciting a response in the consumer, and broadly achieving that end to a large degree. Typically ART will arouse and resonate with an individual’s sensibilities to a high degree by invoking their curiosity, empathy or anger, deliver a culturally salient message or dazzle them with a sensory depiction of grandeur, spectacle and mastery of their chosen medium. ALSO, CRICKET.

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