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The Sea Wasp (Ryk E. Spoor)
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Sunday, July 29th, 2007

Time Event
Videogames and Art
A number of people on Usenet and LJ have mentioned this article in which Mr. Ebert counterpoints with Clive Barker about Video Games As Art (or NOT!)

While a number of points have been discussed (not to say, beaten to death) previously in this discussion, I would like to talk about the problems I have with Mr. Ebert's assertion that Video Games Can Never Be ART.

The problem, if one reads that carefully, is that Ebert doesn't define "art". He instead discusses the subject as though (A) the word was so well understood and defined that there could be no possible argument, and (B) as though there was "art" (little A), which is all well and good but isn't really GOOD, and Art (big A) which is obviously of great Worth.

This allows Ebert to allow that videogames can be art, but can't be Art.

As in most of the discussions of similar stripe I've gotten into WRT writing, it all boils down to personal preference -- but the ones who like to use the art-Art (or art VS "great art" or "high art") discrimination want to pretend that there really, honestly IS a difference, even though they cannot define it, demonstrate it, or illustrate it other than by basically saying that it's obvious, here's the obvious examples, and your examples don't count because... they're wrong.

I'm not saying there isn't such a thing, but that I've never seen it proven, and I think "High Art" will vary for the viewer, just like anything else.

Kathleen has actually expressed the opinion that computer art has provided an opportunity for new high Art as it has provided a new medium to explore, while the prior media and approaches had pretty much been mined out.

Ebert's position that a computer game's interactivity and changeability is by itself sufficient disqualification for being Art is not, unfortunately for him, a very good position at all, and in fact if one carries it to the obvious conclusion it means that many forms of "art" are by their nature excluded. All theater, for instance, changes with the actors, with the performances, with the settings. We may find ourselves reinterpreting an old favorite in a new light based on a change in interpretation by the actor. Does such a change -- possibly even changing our perception of a character on a basic level -- remove the work from consideration as Art?

Is "performance art" not possible to consider as Art?

Is an ongoing serial -- which explores directions for characters and the world in which they live -- ineligible for Art?

What, indeed, *IS* "Art"?

Can we define Art in such a way that we can include all things which are generally agreed upon to be worthy (sometimes) of Art -- plays, paintings, books, sculpture, etc. -- and yet exclude video games, RPGs, or anything else which has a changing component?

How do you define Art? And would that definition exclude any possibility of a video game being Art, and why?

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