The Art of Video Games
I am extremely excited to be telling you all this: The Smithsonian’s American Art Museum is planning a Video Game exhibition in March of 2012!
I first heard the news yesterday when I checked ForeverGeek.com (you can read their article here), and immediately had to find out more. According to the exhibition’s website, they are going to showcase a wide variety of games spanning the medium’s 40-year evolution. They will be the first to study games as an artistic medium.
The exhibit features multimedia presentations of in-game footage, interviews with the development teams, historic consoles, studies on how the games have impacted society, and you’ll even be able to play some of them.
If you’d pardon me interjecting… FINALLY! This is going to be amazing. It’s exactly what our industry needs, especially as an art form. It functions as both a history lesson and artistic recognition for our hard work.
And the best part? The museum is asking for public opinion on which games they should feature. If you go to www.artofvideogames.org, you can vote on which games you think they should include in the exhibition. They have it divided into 5 different eras, sub-divided by console, and then categorized into 5 different genres of gameplay. Total, there are 80 categories to be represented and there are over 240 games to choose from.
Having just started my journey into this industry, I’m absolutely psyched for this exhibit. It really reminds me of the little three-post series I did on Roger Ebert’s stance on video games (if you remember them. If not, you should be able to search #Roger Ebert to find them). He strongly believes that video games will never be considered an art in our lifetime.
“Regardless of what Roger Ebert thinks, video games are art. And now there’s proof.” - ForeverGeek.com
If the Smithsonian Institute is featuring this in the American Art Museum, I’d say it’s being considered an art. Take that, Ebert!
Thank you, Smithsonian, for bringing recognition to my chosen medium.
And gamers— a big thank-you for playing all of these wonderful games. Also, don’t forget to go vote on which games you believe should be in the exhibit! Link here.
Hi. I’m an artist, and I make video games.
So last time I left off wondering why video games are so different than other mediums, and I arrived at the conclusion that they are not. We took a look at a wonderful game made by an indie developer, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and compared that to the film industry, which has been the most modern medium to be considered an art form by Ebert. Seems like there are cases where the two mediums are quite similar.
Despite that, Ebert continues in his article.
The three games she chooses as examples do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it. They are, I regret to say, pathetic. I repeat: “No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.”
- Roger Ebert
Like I said before, I am inclined to agree that Kellee Santiago’s example of artist games are kind of weak. However, I think he is being very narrow-minded if he believes that no video game “deserves his attention long enough to play it”. And, if you go read my last post (and agree with me), then I’d say Amnesia is one game that is worthy of being compared to other great works. Which is, coincidentally, exactly what I already did.
As time goes on, games are just going to get better and better. And, like the other revered mediums of art, will reach a golden age where people start appreciating them. The Extra Credits video I posted is evidence that we’re reaching that turning point, regardless of what people like Ebert might say.
The one thing I really do hate about his article is that he questions and altogether dismisses the idea that people want the medium to be recognized as an art. He asks:
“Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?”
“Why aren’t gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?”
“Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, ‘I’m studying a great form of art?’”
No, Roger. Gamers aren’t trying to justify their actions as if they’re ashamed of playing.
It’s the artists. It’s artists wanting to push the limits of their medium. To create something never seen before in the field. To make something that moves people and impacts them. We want to do what the great poets, novelists, and filmmakers have done before us. And the reason gamers have their knickers in a bunch is because they appreciate the artists. They like what we do, and they want more.
I’m going to art school so I can better myself as an artist, and utilize the skills I learn in my chosen medium. Well, my chosen medium is video games. And honestly, I’m kind of insulted by the fact that what I create isn’t going to be appreciated or looked at as a work of art. Honestly, it kind of sucks. But you know what? Screw you, Roger Ebert. Watch me do it anyway.
To all of the game designers out there, thank you. You guys are artists. Your audience appreciates you and loves what you do (and you’re certainly an inspiration for me). You have to power to do so many great things, so don’t give up.
Gamers, thanks for supporting your artists. And thanks for playing.
Comparing Media: Films vs. Games
If you’re back again to find out what I think about this, awesome. I’m glad there are people out there who are interested! If you haven’t read Ebert’s article, here’s the link.
Anyway, I will admit to thinking that in her talk, Kellee used some pretty weak examples of games as artistic expression. But while reading, I was less interested in the points she made than the arguments Ebert made against her.
At one point, Kellee makes a comparison to Melies and the days of early cinema. Roger dismisses her by believing that Melies is “vastly more advanced” than her three examples and has “superior artistry and imagination”. While that may have been true for the examples she gave, it’s definitely not true about all games.
Let’s first examine a movie on Ebert’s list of great films: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), a psychological horror based on the novel by Stephen King. Roger Ebert originally gave this film a poor review, but over time had to reexamine it, which is why it stands in his series on great films (and is also widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time).
This is not a horror film for its make-you-scream value. It is a great horror film for its psychological terror— Ebert states that Kubrick’s film is “not about ghosts but about madness and energies”. It examines the father’s descent into madness, the breakdown of his character and evolution into something horrible. The supernatural is only a slight undertone, giving atmosphere to the creepy hotel and some explanations to the father’s and son’s visions. It’s a brilliant and excellent film that challenges the audience to decide for themselves what is really going on, and a great example of Kubrick’s artistry.
Now, let me introduce to you a game: Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
I’ve been talking about this game a hell of a lot in the real world recently (and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it…I’ll get to that eventually) because it’s pretty much a combo breaker. This game not only makes you scream like a little girl, but also completely screws with your head in a way that makes you believe that the team at Frictional Games must be a little psychotic themselves.
The story examines the breakdown of the main character’s pre-amnesia, former self. It shows his desperation, manipulation, and descent into madness. He is then consumed by grief, disgust, and regret, and decides to purge himself of his former life. He is reborn into his player-controlled incarnation, and left to discover himself again, and what lies beneath the castle you explore. As the plot unfolds, it leaves the audience feeling as dirty, horrified and disgusted as the character did before his self-inflicted amnesia.
If you’re the type to think about what you experience afterward, it makes you realize what man is capable of under stress. It makes you think about what boundaries you have that are defined by your morals, and where they are. It makes you think about how far you can really go, before you snap. What would it take to make you, say, kill a man? Would you kill someone to save yourself? To save a stranger? To save your family?
The game also makes you want more, because it’s a stunning and incredible experience, truly a work of art by an amazing team at Frictional Games.
I could talk about the wonders of Amnesia all day. And I will. Eventually. But right now, the important question is: What makes Amnesia any different from The Shining?They both make you think. They both use artistic techniques to tell a story. They are both the collaboration of many different artists working together, yet with the vision of only a few. They both are even based on famous novels, in part. Is Amnesia inferior because it requires audience interaction? If that’s what’s got him insisting games aren’t art, then perhaps Ebert is just too old to accept the next generation of storytelling.
Before I continue (because I do have more to say on this subject), I’d love to know what people think so far. Are they different? Are they the same? Is Amnesia even a good example of a work of art? What game do you feel is a good example of the medium as an art? Why do you think video games are held back as a medium?
Roger Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art
That Extra Credits episode I posted yesterday got me thinking about an article I read not too long ago. It’s an article by Roger Ebert, about the subject in the title.
If you have any love for the gaming industry and haven’t read Ebert’s article, I highly suggest taking the time to do so. The article is a rebuttal to a talk Kellee Santiago, a game designer & producer, gave at USC. Here’s the link.
For those of you too lazy, the gist of it is basically:
I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art. Perhaps it is foolish of me to say “never,” because never, as Rick Wakeman informs us, is a long, long time. Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form.
- Roger Ebert
Well, I happen to think that is complete and utter bullshit.
If you happen to agree, by all means— reblog this. Rant about it. Discuss. If you’re interested in hearing more on this subject, please, stick around. I’m going to continue with this subject for a while.