> "I do not have a need ‘all the time’ to take myself away from the oppressive facts of my life, however oppressive they may be, in order to go somewhere where I have control. I need to stay here and take control."
The idea is that great art should lead you back to life, not pull you into fantasies. Ebert clearly felt that authorial control is the only way to achieve that, but I think he might have agreed that video games are art, if he saw even a single example where player choice was used to lead the player back to life. That's a very tall order though.
He mentions Shadow of the Colossus it in a response:
It's funny, Ebert said that games aren't art because they give you choices... and in a way, Shadow of the Colossus gives you none.
I think his outsider perspective made it difficult for him to appreciate that these things, examples of what he wanted, already existed. Myst is another (sort of) example, where the number of choices are actually more limited than it immediately appeared. I'm not really certain that they'd actually be great art, but they're demonstrations that the medium is capable of it. Which he later admits, though I think his timeline for when it will happen (if it hasn't happened yet) was way off.
That has to be the dumbest requirement for 'art' I've ever heard. Especially coming from a professional critic, who earns his paycheck by interpreting art for others (ie: making choices about what it means).
Or, on a simpler level, there can be no such thing as interactive art with that definition.
In a movie context, you don't get to pick and choose what scenes you see in what order. The author of the movie has complete artistic control of every moment on the 2D screen. Ideally. A photograph/painting is static.
I think if we had true 3D (holographic?) movies he'd argue those aren't art as well because you could walk to any position in the scene to see the action from a viewpoint you pick, whereas his concept of art is that the director / editor picked very specific angles for you to view the scene to evoke a specific feeling.
He'd probably argue the Lytro photographs aren't art, either, since you the viewer get to pick the focal plane.
That, I think, is where he gets caught up in choice -- and that's where I mean that his concept of choice is very one dimensional. I think he felt you making choices in the game takes away from the author's control, and that lack of control made it not art.
In a sense, he expects the artist to be active and the consumer to be passive, except for experiencing the art.
...I could be wrong, but that's the impression I got from his writing. (...and I think he was wrong.)
Just kidding. But there really are no consequences. You get smashed by one colossus and respawn. Pure escapism.
It is a beautiful game, though. It's thought highly of maybe because the writers didn't do too much. Too many devs think you want to spend six hours watching their bad writing.
I mean the ultimate consequence, of destroying creatures that (seemingly) harbor no ill-will to anyone not attacking them for the sake of someone who's dead, in a desperate attempt to bring them back to life. The consequence of the main character not truly achieving their goal, and, even if they had, what of them would remain for the person they loved?
Dark Souls and its emphasis on patience/reward makes you a more conscientious person.
The Walking Dead series makes you contemplate the consequences of quick moral choices more than most games I've played.
Will Wright has commented on The Sims' relationship with materialism:
> People frequently comment on the materialistic bent of "The Sims," but if anybody has played it in that direction as far as they can, they realize that every object you buy is a potential time bomb. They all can break or have some failure state. And so if you start pulling up your house and buy all the stuff, pretty soon you find that you're spending all your time fixing this stuff and they become a giant time sink instead of time savers--which I think has something to say about materialism.
And another Will Wright quote that sums up the whole situation:
> "Games are not the right medium to tell stories," said Wright in a CNN interview, adding that they're "more about story possibilities."
> "Television is a very different thing from video games. It's kind of hard for me to compare."
The VC pitch would be "First half is Skins set at Hogwarts, Second half is Trainspotting, except the rave scene is Narnia"
I had both of those experiences and I devoured the Magicians books with glee.
Without going into the actual argument favoring reader response...
In the same way that a work of literature has potential for less authorial control over intent than a film, one could argue, since there is potentially less ability to convey authorial intent in video games, that video games are actually inherently a superior form of art.
This argument has been made before.
I think there is really no defense for arguing the superiority of an art form, and really no attempt should be made to defend Ebert.
Schopenhauer does have a reputation for being pessimistic. But he really wasn’t. Because he also believed that there’s a way to leap off the wheel of desire.
That way is the contemplation — the contemplation — of sublime art.
Sublime art is the door to a perspective on reality that transcends Will.
It frees us from the agony of contingency and causality, and give us a brief, precious glimpse of what we really are, one thing, already complete, and perfectly ambiguous.
In this lens, art isn't so much a craft that elicits feeling, but the opus of a master that expands our consciousness - perception, empathy, taste, intellect, and the recursive capacity to create - through our appreciation of it. It doesn't remove us from reality, it strengthens our connection to it.
My favorite painting is Matisse's The Red Studio. I could look at it all day. If you gave me a poo bucket and delivered me a burrito every couple of hours, I could probably sit there for months, just absorbing it, contemplating the nature of creativity and the satisfaction of craftsmanship and never have any desire to create or craft anything myself. Matisse has erased my need to do these things by providing me with contemplation that ends my need for willful activity.
Literature is just as powerful. John Gardener describes fiction as building a dream world inside the head of the reader. Fiction possesses the consciousness of the reader, and great literature never lets go. After you read a truly captivating piece of fiction, it'll flicker through your mind for the rest of your life, shaping your experiences forever. When I read Shakespeare or Bronte or Orwell, I'm not just enjoying a narrative, I'm calibrating the lens through which I experience life.
And video games are absolutely capable of shaping the human experience this way, but it's not in the quality of graphics or the power of the music or the story or voice acting. It's not even in the goal of the game. It's in the surrendering of your will to the game designer. Like the author or painter or director, it's about letting the artist take you by the hand and expand your consciousness so that your sense of movement, of peril, of success and of failure are redefined (or maybe "undefined?")
It might take me a lifetime to argue that any particular game has achieved this at the level required in this context to be defined at art. But one thing I am certain of: we've had the requisite technology to create these experiences in video games since Spacewar
1. The prevailing wisdom now (and at the time the article was written) was that Ebert was dead wrong about games being art. This was a settled issue and not controversial. This article takes a contrary stance, and I think does as good a job as you can to make sense of Ebert's statements. I wouldn't bother writing up a comment if you're under the impression you're in the minority in thinking Ebert is wrong: this is a deliberately contrarian article.
2. Unfortunately, by trying to see Ebert's point of view, it turns out the only chartable course is through "definitional waters". That is, it hinges on the definition on what Art is. The article summarizes some of the existing thought on this, but spoiler alert it's not very interesting. Art is a very fuzzy concept, and has been redefined over and over so many times that nailing down a correct definition and saying "this is" and "that ain't" is like trying to grab hold of a greased eel. It's one of those activities you can spend reams and reams of paper talking about, it's a high concept topic that makes the speaker sound intelligent, but in the end it inevitably devolves the same way discussions about whether gifs are videos devolve. There's no substance, there are better things to set your brain cells thinking about.
Ebert's implicit answer of "yes" to that question is what I found mystifying.
I was especially intrigued by its placement of games in the context of kitsch. I hadn't heard of Tomas Kulka or his three properties of kitsch before, but they map to video games (especially successful video games) really well. Even a relatively simple game like Super Mario Bros. is built around "objects or themes that are highly charged with stock emotions": the game revolves around a damsel in distress, threatened by a menacing Big Bad. There's no subtext: no indication that Bowser is anything other than 100% evil, Princess Peach anything other than 100% innocent, or Mario anything other than 100% good. And because the player manipulates Mario to overcome Bowser, the game validates the player as being on the side of good.
I was provoked enough by the comparison to try and think of a game that breaks out of Kulka's three properties, and I came up with exactly one: Spec Ops: The Line (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spec_Ops:_The_Line), which goes out of its way to reject the idea that its function is to validate the player as a holder of Good, Correct Opinions.
Which is not to say that Spec Ops is the "best game ever made," or anything like that -- just to say that it's the rare game that manages to be something other than kitsch. Are there others?
NieR and Ico games, for Japanese. I don't know, if you want to know war is bad you could also just play MGS.
Maybe where Ebert should have been engaged is not on quibbling over the definition of Art, but on his implicit claim that reading books or watching movies is a better use of time than video games.
I don't really play video games any more (nor do I watch many movies or read much fiction), but playing the original Zelda on NES as a little child was as formative an experience as reading Of Human Bondage.
Ebert did in fact say that in his essay:
> 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? They have my blessing, not that they care.
The response to Ebert's essay showed the vapidity of much of the "games are art" crowd. He was actually treating games seriously, and had thoughtful things to say about them (whether or not he agreed with them). He wasn't criticizing them, but giving his opinion about whether or not they should be considered art (not entirely different from art vs. design arguments).
But it turns out many weren't really interested in deep conversation; they wanted cheap platitudes. They wanted the validation of their hobby by having someone call it art, more than they wanted someone to take their hobby seriously and approach it critically.
As a (former) coder and published writer/poet, I have an appreciation for both. But code is definitely not poetry, not by the meaning that you could expect to use anywhere in the world outside the "code is poetry" crowd.
People want their craft to be lumped in with some "higher" aesthetic. I get that, they want to be afforded the respect (and the attraction from the opposite/same sex) of being "artists" and not just craftspeople.
But you know how you do that? Make art. Write poetry. Don't keep on doing the thing you're doing and ask the world to make it into something it isn't, just to scratch your own ego itch. Do the hard thing instead.
Critics are not game-literate, so they can't appreciate them. They know nothing about mechanics like strategic imbalance, the Skinner box, achievements, power creep and other concepts I myself am only becoming familiar with thanks to the thoughtful folks at ExtraCredits. They don't know anything about how video games tell stories, challenge players with moral choices, or the brilliant innovations artists have had to come up with to work around hardware limitations in both graphics and music over the decades. If you aren't literate in gaming, then of course you can't appreciate the many many layers of artistic expression from algorithms to writing to graphics to music and mechanics that go into making a game.
Video games are more profitable than films now. Critical theory surrounding video games simply needs to rise to the level of other mediums before more people will respect it. Remember, films were originally considered such a waste of time no one bothered to preserve 75% of silent films. As the new generation of game-literate kids grow up, I trust that games will get the respect they deserve.
This was one thing particularly frustrating to me about #gamergate. Much of it seemed like a backlash against serious game analysis (feminist or otherwise). It's one thing to personally ignore any deeper meaning baked into games (intentionally or not), but it's another to ask that no one even try to root it out.
"New Games Journalism" was the attempt in the early 2000s at producing the kind of critique that might legitimise games as Art. But I think what happened with #gamergate bears some similarity to punk/skinhead/ultras of the early 80s: if you can't get into legitimacy, throw a brick through its window. They (un?)intentionally sent the message that the sexism and violence is inseperable from what they consider "core" gaming.
(There's also the tragedy of people who don't know who Barthes is getting upset about the claim "gamers are dead")
I think the more productive way of thinking about it has to do with why one engages with art. Does it give you a way to socialize through discussing critiques? Is it a tool for inciting empathy? Do you simply want to bask in the emotions it inspires? And so forth.
When you look at it from a perspective of what you want it to do for you, then I think you can make a good case that for some purposes, games would work just as well if not better compared to books, movies, sculptures, dances, etc. Whether or not you call it art... isn't so important, really.
Perhaps also To The Moon, by Freebird Games.
A better way of seeing why games can be art is through a comparison to movies. Games can be made to essentially be movies but with the crucial difference of immersing the viewer entirely into the world through the choices it presents.
I do not see how adding more possibilities to an existing art form (movies) can ever demote something from art to non art (whatever you think these things mean).
I think a game like last of us is a great exploration of the potential of this form of game play.
He dismissed Waco Resurrection, Braid and Flower as “pathetic,” and sternly predicted that “no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.”
People still watch movies made over 40, 50, 60 years ago and still derive aesthetic appreciation from them for camera work, direction, acting, score, and don't just use the relative judgment of being "great for its day" (which isn't without merit) but as absolute recognition of artistic prowess. Will video games ever match movies' longevity, or will they be doomed to a more secular estimation, and eventually fade into obscurity?
No matter how good Ocarina of Time is, anyone playing it today can feel the lack of depth and poor graphics putting up a wall between themselves and enjoyment. Most games are still improving on a couple of simple models, and the only games that people really seem to revisit are ones so simple they can't be improved on (Tetris is a perfect game, if not a particularly deep piece of art) or truly different in a way that hasn't been met since (people are still getting into Portal a decade later.) The design of most video games means that more depth, points of interest, and complexity make the game more fun, which means more processing power will always improve the game. If nothing else, this is because most video games are simulations of reality, and reality is always more complex than the computer. I fully enjoyed the most recent Hitman, but still ran up against points where the game logic interfered with my intuition about how the world works, and the next iteration with better tech will inevitably improve on it. Not until gaming hardware and basic principles of game design reach a slower level of development will we see an enduring masterpiece.
It's about the experience. The medium is the message and all that. Art out of context barely makes sense.
We rarely get to see those films as they were meant to be seen. Buster Keaton on the silver screen with a live organist is a completely different experience than watching it on your TV.
It's the same, for me, with old video games. I recently got on a tactics kick, wanting to relive the glory days. Tried to play thru an emulator; hated it. Ended up buying an old GBA.
This is an interesting example because the N64 era is a very awkward one. Along with the Playstation the N64 is the dawn of mainstream 3D gaming, but these games still very limited graphically and designers are in the process figuring out how to make a 3D games work. If you look a generation back, games like Super Metroid are still immensely enjoyable today - the lack of graphical/gameplay depth you mentioned is a non-issue as 2D gaming was quite mature at this point.
I think the depth and specificity of games can make it hard for them to have the universal appeal that we associate with great art. But there are plenty of games that were clearly taken seriously by their creators, at the very least, and which are thoughtful about exploring/developing some aspect of the human experience. For example: Bastion; Papers, Please; Cave Story; Never Alone; Amnesia; Gone Home; Year Walk.
Are they "high art"? I suppose not. But do they have many of the same effects on their consumers? Absolutely.
I say this, and I'm not generally into retro for the sake of retro.
And I first played SMB as a child, so my claim that it's still great today could be tainted by nostalgia, but I first played Defender and Robotron as an adult, and those are every bit as fast paced and exciting as the best modern games.
Maybe games will eventually reach a point of broad cultural acceptance as complex art form that can produce timeless classics in the same way as film, but I'm not sure we're there yet. Will we ever be? Yet to be determined.
Yes, but then again we don't judge aesthetic merit but what 7 or 13 year olds find entertaining.
I agree that most games of the past don't translate well, and there's a barrier to entry for any vintage... anything. Most people don't watch old B&W movies, most people don't wear or collect vintage clothing, etc.
Edit: I've shown kids 'Babes in Toyland', and 'The Point', and 'Wizard of Oz'... they seem to enjoy those movies still.
Some gameplay just clicks at a deep level, and if the visuals and the sounds are there (i.e. not a distraction at the very least) I think it's possible.
I also would point to something like Day of The Tentacle as a true and lasting masterpiece.
Are video games art? Depends on what you mean by "art".
I realize that this is not a particularly insightful comment, and that anyone who thinks about this issue for more than 15 seconds must understand this. What I don't understand, and what I hope someone can explain to me, is why it is fruitful to continue this discussion after having this realization.
The study of meaning may or may not be important to you. If it is, that's the answer to your request for an explanation. If it's not, then it's not.
It seems a bit...misguided...to assume that none of those things are worth discussing for such a reason.
Maybe you and I have different definitions of "art", for instance. But by arguing the question we can both come to a deeper understanding, both of what we individually believe art to be and why we hold that belief. The act of interrogating the question forces us to inspect our position more closely than we would do otherwise, which can lead to insights we would otherwise never encounter.
The identity of a game emerges from its mechanics and affordances, not the presentation that exposes them.
Also, with one of the first quoted statement, namely:
As long as there is a great movie unseen or a great book unread, I will continue to be unable to find the time to play video games.
Also, one thing that struck me as strange so far is the idea that the addition of something should remove the art-ness from a medium. At one point, there was an agreement that painted pictures could be art, but photography couldn't. Then, those were included, but moving pictures weren't. Now, certain moving pictures aren't, because they interact with the audience? I fail to see the reasoning there.
The whole argument somehow reminds me of a text I once read, which explained that unwritten fashion rules about which dress colors should be worn during which seasons were used by nobility to "unmask" new-rich in their ranks. Sadly, I'm unable to find the source on that.
Edit: As for the mechanics-based comment: I could agree with that when applied to go or chess. But this statement fails to see the merit of many video games: They are no longer limited to being a simple battle of wits, but have the possibility to convey messages, insight, emotion, impressions etc. without the need for an actual "opponent".
Edit2: Thinking of it, a far more interesting point for me lies in the debate itself and where it stems from. I would be very much interested in the number of great artists that actually cared if their work was perceived as art. I would guess this number to be rather low, although I've got no evidence either way. That's why I find the more zealous participants in the discussion on the game-making side to be rather strange in an art context.
It's quite hard to come up with nominees for consideration as 'Sublime Art'.
It seems so hard to really find the difference between "Sublime Art" and "A Really Good Game"
The end bit of the article states: "But when I feel the need for reflection, for insight, wisdom or consolation, I turn my computers off.
These needs are the ambit of the sublime arts, which are inspired and informed by philosophy, and by faith."
But this immediately brings my mind to games like Proteus, No Man's Sky, or Breath of the Wild.
What I find amazing about that moment is that from any "conservative" perspective, it's really nothing special - but the mechanical bond the game has built up with the player until then amplifies its effect. It is a very good example showing that you can still use much of a medium's inherit aspects to great effect even without deviating much from the norm.
On a related note: I wonder if John Cage's 4'33" qualifies as art... ;-)
Is it? What makes a "really good game"? Most would agree that a game like SimCity or Half-Life (original) are really good games. Few would argue that either of them are sublime art.
The best example of sublime art in a game would be Myst. Outside of that minor examples might be The Stanley Parable, Half-Life 2, or Façade.
If there are a few examples of video games as sublime art, then I think that establishes the medium as art. The movie Doom is abysmal, and yet the late Roger Ebert would put that on a higher plane than these great examples? That seems irrational.
I think the greatest issue is with the video game work that Roger Ebert was exposed to. If you had never listened to music in your life and only read books and seen paintings, and then you were introduced to pop radio or a host of folk death metal albums, you might have the same reaction as he had had to video games: seeing that music is an inferior form, merely an amusement rather than art, instead of seeing that certain genres are more crude than the level of sophistication enjoyed in his books or paintings. Being surrounded by the most popular or violent collections of medium aren't encouraging in the way that seeing an instance of sublime art would be.
The examples that Kellee Santiago gave were really independent renaissance games, which are often minimalistic or contain subtle elements. Instead of an example of an epic like the Iliad or Lawrence of Arabia, they are a short story, of any quality.
And just as Roger Ebert did not live in a vacuum and had certainly seen video games played in movies, he has obviously seen them develop from the very beginning. The examples of early arcade games are like simple drum signals compared to a symphony. It might be that he just missed out on what might have been a great artistic experience.
I think he would describe the movie Doom as bad art: It's orthogonal to a good game -- not able to be compared as art.
He's working with a very specific limited definition of art.
(I don't agree with Ebert's premise. Although his auteur point is compelling, it is too one-dimensional. And doesn't take catharsis into account.)
What I intended to get across was that there are other examples that I do not find so clear cut. Such as the 4 examples I gave. I can't tell if I would propose these as examples of "Games As Sublime Art" because they possess qualities deserving of that title or if they are simply tricking me by being very good games.
LeChuck's Revenge is up there, too, IMO - both versions.
And I chose to mention it because Ebert rated Aliens highly, at 3.5/4. In retrospect, that may not qualify it as sublime art as opposed to a really good film. I'd have to refresh my memory of Ebert's scale.
I think my main take away from 2016 is that it is nearly flawless execution of an equally well-understood concept with an attention to detail that can rival anything to which it may be compared.
What I actually consider most impressive about the original is the marvelous ingenuity of its 'construction' which I think is more deserving of comparison to architecture than film.
'art' has a really low bar for entry. A doodle you make whilst on the phone is 'art'. All video games are art. Not all video games are artful.
The topic of discussion is the idea that NO video game can EVER BE 'artful'.
One essay on a similar subject that I always think back to is Orwell's essay, Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lear/english/e_ltf
Orwell's argument is somewhat hard for me to swallow (because I tend to be opinionated about what constitutes good writing), but I agree that "Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion." I think that same concept can be applied more broadly to question of the definition of art.
Sure the graphics were crude by today's standards, yet the memory of the experience stays strong - as it was cutting edge by the standards of that day.
Rewatching an old movie often feels disappointing for the same reason - the memory of the experience staying far stronger than what the movie judged by today's standards.
Which is exactly the same as for those classic computer games.
And now we have Elite Dangerous, which offers a jaw droppingly beautiful universe of grand scale, with VR, fantastic visual FX and sound stage design. And, essentially, the same experience as the original game.
Remakes happen all the time in movies as well.
So yes, to me, computer games are most definitely art.
I think that the argument is stronger that it's not a "video game" than that it isn't "sublime art".
And if having a goal is considered to be an essential element of gamehood, and being without a goal is an essential element of arthood, then fine, games can't be art. But I think there can be art-like games (maybe like Braid), as well as game-like art (maybe like Passage).
It's very hard to put a box around what is or isn't art, especially from the standpoint of what a given medium is capable of. You can't tell me that Final Fantasy III (Japanese VI) isn't a tremendous work of art. But I can't convince you otherwise either.
There are video games that are completely "on the rails", effective interactive movies that provide little choice. Some of these are basically like modern art exhibits that invite people to walk through and interact with sculptures or animatronics, only it's virtual, instead of physically real.
I have seen kids cry over the writing in Undertale. Games like Journey, The Last Of Us, Firewatch, the Bioshock series, either provoke emotion, or thought.
There are indie games that let you experience what it's like to have a child with cancer, or be a subsistence farmer in a developing country, transformative experiences that IMHO are more powerful than static art.
Art doesn't always have to be abstract, photojournalism can be deeply artistic, merely by capturing perspective on the world that are real, but ignored. Virtual reality experiences in games could extend that to actually allowing people to experience what it is like from the perspective of the photojournalist, or those affected. This could have greater impact on one's thoughts than just visiting a museum and looking at paintings or pictures removed from context.
I'm willing to bet that this whole argument is swept under the rug in one or two decades, when a new generation of artists who are extremely digitally savvy supplant the current establishment, and new forms of media will eventually come to be seen as art.
"So, what does the tasteful, expert connoisseur Roger Ebert have to say about the relationship between the cinema and art?
Just this: “Hardly any movies are art.”
Here’s what the late Pauline Kael wrote about the relationship between movies and art. Listen carefully.
“There is so much talk now about the art of the film that we may be in danger of forgetting that most of the movies we enjoy are not works of art ... Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.”
So, here we have two of the world’s most highly-regarded film critics, sadly assuring us that most movies are not great art."
This is a really unfortunate argument to make in my opinion, it's pretty misleading and essentially an unfalsifiable claim. Music, film, poetry, literature - also all give you 'choices' in various forms.
I personally look at it this way - one thing about 'art' that sticks out to me is the fact that the portion of it (across all mediums) that I find the most compelling is the section that makes no presuppositions about deeming itself 'art' or 'great art'. As the audience I only come to the realization that something is 'art' once I've experienced it for myself. Music, film, literature and video games (also not an exhaustive list of mediums) alike can all have this effect in my experience.
However, I'm not really sure why that would disqualify video games as an art-form. You can't just find a difference and then use that as a rationalization.
There's many components to what makes good art, but if I could sum it up in one word, it would be broadband: not a thin narrow channel of effect, but impacting the observer on multiple levels. Emotion, reason, the senses - being hit all at once, or in waves.
Games are still a bit lopsided, due to being marketed mostly to not particularly introspective young people and frequently focusing on visuals over everything else. I think things could change, but it may require different market expectations.
"Entrancement is not insight.
"Flow is an-aesthetic."
Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee - zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.
"Ah, this is marvelous!" said Lord Wen-hui. "Imagine skill reaching such heights!"
Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, "What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now - now I go at it by spirit and don't look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.
"A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I've cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there's plenty of room - more than enough for the blade to play about it. That's why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.
"However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I'm doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until - flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away."
"Excellent!" said Lord Wen-hui. "I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!"
Video games are slowly getting there, but historically it requires days and days and days just to get a single facet of a game on a screen. You can't create a fully realized scene in a day the way you can on a page.
This isn't going to be true forever. We refine our programming toolkits every year. We draw ever closer to the time where you could sit down and write a page of prose-like code with dozens of references, and have all of those references appear fully realized on a screen.
We're just not there yet. It's like we were trying to make a great film but we haven't even invented the video camera yet, so we need to build a mechanism that makes every change in the frame by moving around animated elements. Basically, our current video games are the software version of the Zoetrope: https://jellygraph.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/early-moving-ima...
And actually, the vast majority of programmers don't even believe that rapid, short-hand programming is even possible. Whenever the idea of regular people programming comes up there is a stampede of programmers claiming that programming is so complex and arcane that it will never be as accessible as writing or shooting video. I disagree, but that gives you a sense of how far we are from parity with film and print.
This is where I stopped reading. Mathematics can be true, beautiful, compelling, creative, unique, etc. He has failed to define art except by exclusion, which makes his argument pointless. I could not read on.
As for the claim that I am more interested in reasoning about art than appreciating it. Do you actually think priorities are exclusive like that? May I not both reason and appreciate? Is this not an essay which itself attempts to reason about art, should I not appeal to that in a response to the article?
The argument you make against my response to the article could be equally applied to the article itself, yet you take the author's side, which seems dishonest to me.
Yes, you need everything you read to be structured like a mathematical argument, so you can pick it apart. So you need a definition followed by proofs. You're annoyed that every article doesn't have this structure, especially argumentative articles like this one. You are acting as a natural language proof checker, not a person.
> Do you actually think priorities are exclusive like that? May I not both reason and appreciate?
I think if you bail out after a few minutes on an article for failing to supply you with the structure you demand, then yes, your priorities are basically exclusive. Now, I don't have a proof in hand for that, which I'm sure you'll fixate on.
> The argument you make against my response to the article could be equally applied to the article itself, yet you take the author's side, which seems dishonest to me.
I value articles over comments, especially obnoxious, entitled comments. I am not here to merely compile text and type check it. The accusation of "dishonesty" only reinforces that you are more interested in the structure of what is being said than what the words are saying. The accusation itself, what a preposterous idea, that there are some rigid rules about what I read and how I choose to respond to it which you can apply to me and constrain me with. Do you think you could berate me into agreeing with you?
Yes, but that does not mean it is art. Art literally means something created by humans, which is distinct from the natural sciences which is studying nature. Both are worthwhile, but it's not the same.
> the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
Can you find no space for mathematics there? No definitions or creations produced simply because they are beautiful? Maybe some later found uses, but that feels like discounting Michelangelo's David because it could be used to hold open a large door.
Perhaps "doing maths" is often not art, but then neither is writing. Both can serve specific uses that wouldn't easily fall under definitions of art, but that doesn't mean they can't be.
Software engineering isn't but then is it really a stretch to describe this spinning globe quine as art? https://github.com/knoxknox/qlobe or this 100 language quine https://github.com/mame/quine-relay/blob/master/README.md
This is an article which argues that something does not satisfy the criteria for art. So when he he invokes his ability to exclude mathematics from the definition without any justification, or at least without appealing to any reasoning whatsoever, and then using that conclusion to assert that games aren't art, all he is doing is demonstrating that his essay should have been much shorter. The same unqualified assertion that applies to mathematics would apply to videogames, and he needs go no further than the thesis.
Mathematics is also something created by humans.
Mathematics are created by humans. Math is the map, not the territory.
"Art" in its various forms, on the other hand, is widely appreciated by people who are not artists, or art critics, or art dealers, or art students. (I'd exclude an awful lot of modern art from this, but that's probably a flamewar for another day.)
Have you experienced joy, sorrow, loneliness, kinship, heartache, lust, tenderness, guilt, hope from reading a math paper?
Could you tell us which paper inspired various emotional reactions in you?
Honest questions all. If you've experienced a variety of emotions from a maths paper, and can talk about your inner world in relation to such a paper, it'd go a long way to convincing me that math can be great art.
I disagree. You're free to alter, ignore or add rules and then explore the consequences of your choices.
For an individual, sure, I agree with you. It doesn't really matter and is possibly a waste of time to contemplate. To use your analogy, if you like vanilla, eat it; if you don't, don't.
But for a society, it matters how we think about things, how we label things, how we frame ideas, what we choose to venerate and what we choose to denigrate. It's a large part of how we distinguish cultures from each other and track changing attitudes over time within a culture.
That's not to argue that you and I and every Joe and Jane on the street need to endlessly debate subjective terminology, but I think it can be worthwhile for critics, anthropologists, historians, etc.
But the question that Ebert was fundamentally asking is whether video games are capable of the same level and kind of intellectual or emotional stimulus as traditional works of art such as Beethoven's Fifth or Hamlet.
And on what possible basis could anyone ever answer that question?
BTW, that is emphatically not the question Ebert was addressing. Ebert wrote:
"... I [do] indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.”
So his reasoning has nothing to do with whether or not video games "are capable of the same level and kind of intellectual or emotional stimulus as traditional works of art." He is simply saying, with absolutely no foundation or justification whatsoever other than his authority as a Great Film Critic, that games can't be art because they are interactive.
(BTW, I'm not a big fan of video games. I hardly ever play them. But to my mind, Myst, Riven and Monument Valley have at least as much claim to being art as that stupid Northcote painting.)
If you're looking for something that can be proven or disproven: not at all. But we constantly ask questions for which there isn't an objectively correct answer all the same. Any attempt to answer the question of whether something is art cannot avoid a mass of subjective elements.
> BTW, that is emphatically not the question Ebert was addressing. Ebert wrote:
That's an argument he put forward. An argument is not the same as the question it attempts to address. Right after that he writes:
"But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers."
The point he is making is that there are elements in art that rise beyond craftsmanship; he refers to the "soul" or "vision" of an artist elsewhere.
I think it matters. I think that making room for new forms in the canon that we admit as "high art" has a significant impact on the present and future of our culture and society.
As an example of why it matters. Vanilla is a great flavor and this is independent of whether or not an individual enjoys eating vanilla flavored foods. How do we know? Look at the language. Vanilla, as a metaphor, has meaning. It means "baseline" or "unaugmented". It matters. It's how we construct our language.