Video Games as Art: Yes? No? Maybe?

All things controller driven will be talked about here.

Video Games as Art: Yes? No? Maybe?

Postby MasterWhedon on Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:39 pm

Not sure if anyone besides me has been following this exchange, but Roger Ebert has stumbled backward into a fight against the video game community since he published his review for Doom (find it HERE). There was nothing too drastic in it, but it lead to this exchange in his bi-weekly Answer Man column:

Q. I've been a gamer since I was very young, and I haven't been satisfied with most of the movies based on video games, with the exception of the first "Mortal Kombat" and "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within." These were successful as films because they did not try to be a tribute to the game, but films in their own right.

I have not seen "Doom," but don't plan to, nor do I think that it's fair to say that it pleases all gamers. Some of us appreciate film, too. That said, I was surprised at your denial of video games as a worthwhile use of your time. Are you implying that books and film are better mediums, or just better uses of your time?

Films and books have their scabs, as do games, but there are beautiful examples of video games out there -- see "Shadow of the Colossus," "Rez" or the forthcoming "PeaceMaker."

Josh Fishburn, Denver

A. I believe books and films are better mediums, and better uses of my time. But how can I say that when I admit I am unfamiliar with video games? Because I have recently seen classic films by Fassbinder, Ozu, Herzog, Scorsese and Kurosawa, and have recently read novels by Dickens, Cormac McCarthy, Bellow, Nabokov and Hugo, and if there were video games in the same league, someone somewhere who was familiar with the best work in all three mediums would have made a convincing argument in their defense.

Which, in turn, lead to this one:

Q. I was saddened to read that you consider video games an inherently inferior medium to film and literature, despite your admitted lack of familiarity with the great works of the medium. This strikes me as especially perplexing, given how receptive you have been in the past to other oft-maligned media such as comic books and animation. Was not film itself once a new field of art? Did it not also take decades for its academic respectability to be recognized?

There are already countless serious studies on game theory and criticism available, including Mark S. Meadows' Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan's First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, and Mark J.P. Wolf's The Medium of the Video Game, to name a few.

I hold out hope that you will take the time to broaden your experience with games beyond the trashy, artless "adaptations" that pollute our movie theaters, and let you discover the true wonder of this emerging medium, just as you have so passionately helped me to appreciate the greatness of many wonderful films.

Andrew Davis, St. Cloud, Minn.

A. Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that I did 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.

I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. 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. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.

And they just published a few more reactions HERE.

It all begs the question: is he right? Are video games and interactive entertainment inherently "inferior" to more traditional forms of storytelling?

For some reason, I thought some folks here might have an opinion...
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Postby thomasgaffney on Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:42 pm

I have no opinion, but for what the Zone tells me.....

Except in a Jedi/X-Men battle. Then it's X-Men all the way.
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Postby Brocktune on Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:48 pm

i actually kind of agree with him. but i also agree with that other dude, about how it takes time for a medium to be recognized as valid forms of artistic expression. eberts arguments are well stated however.
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 6:57 pm

i agree with ebert.

i've never liked the idea of "interactive" art. remember when they were saying that movie theatres would be equipped with little handsets that would allow viewers to vote on the outcome of storylines? shitty idea, if you ask me.

it's about one person's vision.

i'm not knocking video games, i love 'em. but films and video games are totally different.

there's a major difference between the origins of a story created for a video game and a comic book.

movies based on video games are kind of shooting themselves in the foot... The whole point of creating a video game is to make it as much fun as possible for the person playing the game, i'd think it's next to impossible to translate that experience to the theatre...

That being said, i think Ebert's being a bit stubborn, because there's no telling where we'll be in ten or twenty years time.
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Postby burlivesleftnut on Wed Dec 07, 2005 7:26 pm

Blue, you make a compelling argument, and I don't disagree with you, but there have been many instances of video games that are ALL about the creator's artistic vision. Fable, which was released last year, was a beautiful game and the interactivity was built into the story with purpose. That work was guided by one story telling master who directed a team to bring his vision to fruition. Beyond Good and Evil is another example of creator guided interactivity that is not only a brilliant video game but a work of art with integrity.

I would say that 99% of the time you are probably right and there is some economical reason for the creation of a game, but there are games out there where economics is considered after the artistic value of a game.

We have all had games that seemed to transcend the medium. Behind every last one there was someone with a vision for what he wanted to create. And I think you are kind of sidelining their work and their creativity. Knights of the Old Republic was a more entertaining than anything Spielberg has produced in the last 15 years!
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 7:46 pm

Some games have great stories, but not very much game play... You're watching a lot of cut-scenes. Other games have a lot of game play, but no story.

i think it's tough for developers to find that balance.

Everyone says that the Metal Gear games are great for both, but i find myself skipping the loooong cut scenes to get to the game, and after finishing, I have no idea what the hell the story was.

I haven't played Fable or BG&E, but i've heard nothing but good things about them.
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Postby The Ginger Man on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:22 pm

I totally agree with Ebert on this. But with an addendum.

Working in the game industry, a lot of crap comes across my desk. And I mean some real stinkers, waste of money and time on everyone's part. But Ebert needs to realize that video games are exactly like films and books in this sense: there is way more shit than there is gold.

But at this point in the game industry, a lot of what is considered the "best" still appeals to the lowest common denominator. There are some true works of art in the game industry. Shadow of the Colossus is a great example. But no, we have yet to produce a work that justifies the entire industry the way Kurosawa and Dickens have for theirs.

I think it will happen someday, but I don't think it will come from America. If anyone elevates the medium, it will be Japan, and more than likely it will be an internally developed game from Sony or Nintendo.

I thought Fable was an over-hyped game that was pretty fun, but ultimately anti-climactic and cliched in the story department. Haven't played BG&E, but I hear good things. Final Fantasy 6 (3 in USA) has always been damn fine in my mind.

And on an ending note. I had an intern once swear to me that, "you can learn more from playing a video game than you could ever learn from watching a movie or reading a book. Seriously, I read that."

In case you were wondering, that intern was a moron.
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Postby Adam Balm on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:25 pm

I don't play video games. And when I did, it was just strategy or flight simulators. I think there is artistic potential in the medium, but right now I just don't need any help wasting my time.
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:30 pm

i actually play video games a lot when i'm writing. i need something that fully occupies my mind in order to take a break. if i go for a walk, i'm still thinking about work. if i watch tv, i still think about work... reading is the same.

video games, crossword puzzles, anything that engages you and makes you think about ONLY the task at hand are really useful, IMO.
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Postby Adam Balm on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:31 pm

Very good point....
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Postby The Ginger Man on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:32 pm

I hate playing video games on days that I write for that exact reason Bluebottle. It so shuts my brain down that I can't write a damn thing. I actually have to spend an extra hour or so reading a book after playing a game if I want to write anymore.
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:51 pm

i've got this ridiculous system for making a deadline... i'm a HUGE procrastinator and usually wait until the last minute to get anything finished...

the day before something's due, i usually sit in my comfy chair with the laptop on my lap, close to the tv with the ps2 controller just to my side on the coffee table. When I start burning out from writing, i pick up the controller, play a level, clear my head, then back to the laptop.

I have to shut the internet off too, that's the ultimate method for procrastinating... Between the news, blogs and the Zone, i could never work again.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Wed Dec 07, 2005 8:55 pm

Very good topic – one close to my heart. I think this is one of the big issues of art in the 21st century – are video games art?

I think the point made in one of those questions to Ebert is a good one: that when both film and the conventional novel began life, they weren’t immediately accepted as art. It was many years after the first moving pictures were created that people began to make serious movies, to be consumed as art and entertainment. And the vast majority of us on the Zone have witnessed pretty much the entire evolution of video gaming. I remember making green blobs with a dial-based joypad on an Atari when I was 4 years old – now I can go online and play catch the flag in Iraq with a bunch of gamers around the world. I can physically remove thrombii from a patient’s blood vessels on the touch screen of a DS. I can be a shopkeeper on Everquest and sell items for real cash on eBay – gaming has exploded from nothingness in our very lifetimes.

This is partly connected with Moore’s Law, the law that says the number of components on a processor (i.e. its complexity) will double every 2 years and the cost will fall proportionately. This is essentially why computer technology seems to get better constantly – because it does.

I think that we’re at a point where most gamers have several games that they’ve fallen in love with over the course of their lives, and those people don’t have too much problem seeing games as an artform. But I think that the companies that make video games aren’t wise enough to the kind of strategies that they need to employ to get brand new gamers, people who’ve never tried it before, and crucially: women.

There are plenty of female gamers in the world but they are still massively, disproportionately, outnumbered by males. But if you go to Japan, you’ll see female gamers everywhere you look – you’ll also see people in their forties suddenly deciding to get a console and play horse racing sims. I know you get all of this in the West, but on nothing like the scale you see it in Japan, and I think companies could do more to redress that balance.

Another part of the problem is that many of the people who make games are simply not very good writers, and are unwilling to employ writing talent when they invariably work on ultra-tight budgets and can’t afford to, as they see it, “wasteâ€
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Postby MasterWhedon on Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:16 pm

:shock:


My brain just exploded...
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:17 pm

Fuck YEAH!

Nice post TITG!

Now... What are your views on porn entering the mainstream?!

:)
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Postby Ribbons on Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:34 pm

Also keep in mind that he's talking about the nature of video games. I personally think stuff like Final Fantasy VII is the shiznit, but most of what makes it good has nothing to do with the act of playing the game.

Stuff like Fable is a good example of the possibilities of gaming; Silent Hill, too, but there are only so many variations on the idea of making choices, IMO. The "choose an adventure" style of gaming offers less possibilities and less (non-superficial) variation than an authorial storytelling medium does.

I don't think he's trying to say that more video games are crap than movies. Obviously video games and movies both can and do suck far too often.

But I'm probably looking at it the wrong way. Maybe 10-15 years down the line, someone comes along with an idea that totally knocks the industry on its ass. That would be cool.
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Wed Dec 07, 2005 9:46 pm

I gotta to say I gonna to disagree with a the Ebert... I understand a what he is a trying to say, but I think that his opinion, she clouded by a his unfamiliarity with a the video games, no?

How is a the player control any different from a the live performance art that a requires a the audience participation or a the modern art that enforces a the immersion onna the patrons? I donna see a the difference... Inna those pieces, the participation of a the patron is a the 'nother essential part of a the overall work, just like a the gamer's control is a the necessary part of a the gaming experience, no?

Ultimately, I think a the video games, they still inna the immature, early stages... with a the technology, she moving so fast, it's a difficult for a the artform to a stabilize anna mature... it's almost always a playing catch-uppa to a the technology, which is a the hindrance to a the recognition of a the artform, eh?
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Postby The Ginger Man on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:03 pm

[quote="ThisIsTheGirl"]Another part of the problem is that many of the people who make games are simply not very good writers and are unwilling to employ writing talent when they invariably work on ultra-tight budgets and can’t afford to, as they see it, “wasteâ€
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Postby magicmonkey on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:14 pm

Good call with Silent Hill Ribbons, I've played part 1,2 and 3. Two was great, which I'll get to later. Ebert mentions the fact that games are dictated by choices, desicions made by the gamer and guess he is saying that no authorial voice or game designer can therefore construct anything artistic out of something beyond his control, something he can't predict. This to me is an interesting criticism, it seems to me like Ebert wants his narrative structure and cast to be rigid, everything with a purpose. Art as a whole is not like this, it can be chaotic, abstract, with true reflections of random life etc. I'd even put the likes of Tetris up there as art, for its concept and game design. I consider Grand Theft Auto a work of art in its design too, the whole game is played like one big menu screen, its just a heck of lot more interactive and mirrors choices in a way we are familiar with, rather than an instant click and you are there.

I spoke of Silent Hill 2 earlier, I see this game as presenting illusions of choice to the gamer, but the narrative is pretty darn linear, not to the games detriment either as its like following a doomed path you feel yourself being drawn down. The story itself is inspired by great psychological horror films and puts across a Japanese interpretation of American culture as portrayed in these movies, a good example of which would be Jacobs Ladder. There is alot of information, inspirations and art that the designers and researchers all pour into games, its their foundation and this comes out through the medium beyond the simple cheap thrills of hacking victims. Silent Hill 2 also mimics the use of camera, with it reflecting at times the state of mind of your protagonist as it bobs and weaves in disorientating environments.

Computer games have always needed to make compromises though in order to appeal to a wider group, there is alot of competition and so much at stake. Looking closer at games there are rich experiences to be had. Looking back at what Gingerman wrote about his intern learning from games, I would agree to a degree that they can be good learning experiences, especially in terms of great trivia. Graphic adventures teach you to think like a game designer in order to conquer their method of thinking and puzzle construction and at the same time being a medium where you can take your time (like a comic, urrgh book) to pick up on subtleties or factual bits of information along the way. I learnt alot of tough words to spell playing text adventures alone!

Going back to art, if someone told me Metal Gear Solid three was quite literally a work of art and not a game. I think I would have enjoyed it more. Games get too lumped together, there should be alot more individuality. Each game needing its own style of approach from a gamer, for this is as much to do with the art as the art itself.

Works of Art(?)

-Silent Hill 2
-Tetris
-Deus Ex
-Loom
-Grand Theft Auto
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Postby The Ginger Man on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:17 pm

One more thing. Blame the buyer, not the company. An absolutely brilliant, hilarious, and very well written game was put out last year by Majesco. It was called Psychonauts. It sold 13,000 copies in it's first month.

On the complete opposite of the spectrum: Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball sold 73,000 out of it's initial shipment of 122,000. On it's first day.
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Postby bluebottle on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:18 pm

what's funny is that Silent Hill was inspired by Jacob's Ladder.

So the Silent Hill movie is based on a video game that's inspired by a movie.
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Postby magicmonkey on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:20 pm

The Ginger Man wrote:[Game companies consistantly hire "real writers" to write their games. These writers are always represented (by the likes of CAA and others) and have credits in film, literature, and comics. And if the story sucks, 85% of the time it's because that "real writer" phoned it in.


Couldn't agree more. There is no excuse for slacking off on this part, hell if the fighting, driving, shootings good enough then ok, but a great story can really make all the difference in terms of immersion or making the whole experience anything closer to worthwhile.

Love also what Dino wrote about performance art and the like, I think Eberts a bit out of touch, a bit reactionary, but maybe it'll spur gamers and designers on to prove him and his kind wrong. I must say though, he does have good points in the swamp of derivative games we're currently in.
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Postby The Ginger Man on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:21 pm

magicmonkey wrote:it seems to me like Ebert wants his narrative structure and cast to be rigid, everything with a purpose. Art as a whole is not like this, it can be chaotic, abstract, with true reflections of random life etc.


I would argue that narrative art in the form of film and video games can never be chaotic. It is always rigid, with everything having a purpose. It merely has the illusion of being random and chaotic.
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Postby athenabodicea on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:23 pm

[quote="ThisIsTheGirl"]Very good topic – one close to my heart. I think this is one of the big issues of art in the 21st century – are video games art?

I think the point made in one of those questions to Ebert is a good one: that when both film and the conventional novel began life, they weren’t immediately accepted as art. It was many years after the first moving pictures were created that people began to make serious movies, to be consumed as art and entertainment. And the vast majority of us on the Zone have witnessed pretty much the entire evolution of video gaming. I remember making green blobs with a dial-based joypad on an Atari when I was 4 years old – now I can go online and play catch the flag in Iraq with a bunch of gamers around the world. I can physically remove thrombii from a patient’s blood vessels on the touch screen of a DS. I can be a shopkeeper on Everquest and sell items for real cash on eBay – gaming has exploded from nothingness in our very lifetimes.

This is partly connected with Moore’s Law, the law that says the number of components on a processor (i.e. its complexity) will double every 2 years and the cost will fall proportionately. This is essentially why computer technology seems to get better constantly – because it does.

I think that we’re at a point where most gamers have several games that they’ve fallen in love with over the course of their lives, and those people don’t have too much problem seeing games as an artform. But I think that the companies that make video games aren’t wise enough to the kind of strategies that they need to employ to get brand new gamers, people who’ve never tried it before, and crucially: women.

There are plenty of female gamers in the world but they are still massively, disproportionately, outnumbered by males. But if you go to Japan, you’ll see female gamers everywhere you look – you’ll also see people in their forties suddenly deciding to get a console and play horse racing sims. I know you get all of this in the West, but on nothing like the scale you see it in Japan, and I think companies could do more to redress that balance.

Another part of the problem is that many of the people who make games are simply not very good writers, and are unwilling to employ writing talent when they invariably work on ultra-tight budgets and can’t afford to, as they see it, “wasteâ€
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Postby magicmonkey on Wed Dec 07, 2005 10:23 pm

Bluebottle wrote:what's funny is that Silent Hill was inspired by Jacob's Ladder.

So the Silent Hill movie is based on a video game that's inspired by a movie.


Ha, yeah. Should make for an interesting mix. American culture, filtered through Japanese eyes and perceptions into a game which in turn is re back interpreted in an American film. There must be some foul plot at work here!! Its like backwards engineering alien technology or something. Anyway, am excited, as Silent Hill (the game) has great production and sound design, the filmmakers can't cock it up, can they?
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Postby RapedByKong on Fri Dec 09, 2005 3:54 am

Video gamers really shouldnt take notice of old eberts rants. He doesnt have clue about the medium itself and probably never tried it. He's like the old coot who raves on about the evils of Booze and Marijuana without ever having the experience of being drunk and stoned himself. Which makes his opinion pretty much worthless. Just like eberts.
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Postby Mimekiller on Fri Dec 09, 2005 3:56 am

As a huge gamer who loves videogames I can honestly say that thye will never be up there with movies/novels as far as artistic value goes.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Dec 09, 2005 3:56 am

Eberts stood up and defended some good movies though in his time that others cast off. Such as The Breakfast Club and Dawn of the Dead. I can see where he is coming from though on gaming, and how easy a trap it was he fell into, but hopefully he'll see the light.
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Postby Bob of the Shire on Fri Dec 09, 2005 4:06 am

Being a hardcore gamer for over a decade and part of the gaming journalism industry, I can tell you that gaming will one day be considered an art, probably within the next 20 years.

The problem right now is that most games piggyback on other mediums. MGS is a good example, it's a great game but most of it is told via cut scenes (film). Gaming will reach the artistic level when it can tell stories and evoke emotion with a tool only games possess.
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Ebert has overlooked the art in games

Postby HeadlessCrane on Fri Dec 09, 2005 5:06 am

Is the story the only form of art in a movie? What about everything that makes a film not a book? Such as, for instance, cinematography, music, sets, actors, costumes, props, directors, etc.

There is as much art going into making games as movies. And with movies, many more disciplines of art than almost all books.

But a game requires something of the player. And books don't require a reader to use their imagination, their reason, their hearts? Are all books dramas just waiting to unfold? What about detective stories which are in fact logic puzzles? Uh oh, that's a game. And what about dramas? Is investing your mind and heart in the story of a stranger not playing pretend?

Games are stories where the protagonist is the player. That's it. Some are made more complex and stimulating to the heart and mind than others. Just like movies and books. For every dumb game I will give you 1000 dumb movies and 10,000 dumb books.

Games have been an art form from the day they were born. Too bad that Ebert hasn't seen this.

One last thing. Even the sport games have drama and music and characters. No one is interested in playing just a sport. They can do that in real life. You play Madden 2006 so you can play your dream. There are a few old school card games, but these games aren't being created, just translated to computers or consoles. Even Tetris has a story now.

One more last thing. As someone who makes games... I am very offended that what I am creating is considered merely craftmanship. Fuck you. How like an art reviewer to think that they are the authority on what is art and what is merely craftmanship. Fuck, Fuck You.

And if you want to have a better story, better characters, better acting and more important themes than most movies and books that were made this last year... play the Thief or Deus Ex series.
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Postby magicmonkey on Fri Dec 09, 2005 5:10 am

Here, Here! I like the cut of your glib! Welcome to the Zone.

I feel sorry for Ebert, he grew up in the wrong generation. I can understand his point, that a game has yet to rank up with the masters of art. But, as a different medium, I think he would be very surprised if he had a few things like you mention explained to him.
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Postby Ribbons on Fri Dec 09, 2005 5:11 am

The difference between asking people to invest in a detective story and a game is that the detective story has already been written. It's just a gamble as to whether or not the audience goes with it. Which isn't saying that you're wrong, I just wanted to make that distinction. Welcome to the Zone mate.
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Postby HoodedAvenger on Fri Dec 09, 2005 11:57 am

I must admit although I love games I have yet to find one that I feel breach's the art level by his somewhat odd description.

But from my own viewpoint I think there are some pretty beautifully created games out there that certainly seem like art to me.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Fri Dec 09, 2005 12:29 pm

Ooops! Totally forgot about this thread - thanks for all the responses to my post. A couple of points:

[quote="The Ginger Man"][quote="ThisIsTheGirl"]Another part of the problem is that many of the people who make games are simply not very good writers and are unwilling to employ writing talent when they invariably work on ultra-tight budgets and can’t afford to, as they see it, “wasteâ€
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Postby esbern on Fri Dec 09, 2005 12:38 pm

why are you all listening to anything ebert says?
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Postby JamieCOTC on Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:04 pm

Movies made from video games are there simply to cash in on the popularity of video games, much like the toys. I’m certain the people who make the movies put their best into them, but to my eyes it seems the powers that be simply want the money, not the prestige of a great movie.

I never saw Doom, but from the trailers I got the impression it was trying to mimic Doom’s video game experience. I don’t know about any one else, but for me that seems rather pointless. So, yeah, I have to agree w/ Ebert to an extent. I think a video game could be the basis for a great movie, but it would have to venture far away from the player experience. It would have to build upon the core story of the video game, not mimic it. Just my 2 cents.

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Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:11 pm

esbern wrote:why are you all listening to anything ebert says?

esbern, you're glib. No, seriously. GLIB.

No one here is blindly following Ebert. If they happen to agree, they're stating why. I brought the topic up for discussion and it's eliciting just that: discussion.

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Postby esbern on Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:13 pm

sorry thats not what i meant. I meant that there is no point in paying attention to him because he is kinda an idiot. I'm sorry of i disrupted your little discussion.
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Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:23 pm

esbern wrote:sorry thats not what i meant. I meant that there is no point in paying attention to him because he is kinda an idiot. I'm sorry of i disrupted your little discussion.

I apologize as well. Didn't mean to come off like an ass.

I greatly respect what Ebert has to say, find him to be one of the most reliable critics out there. I think his points on this topic are strong and well-supported, I just think they might be a little premature.

Anyway, seriously, welcome to the Zone.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Fri Dec 09, 2005 1:26 pm

JamieCOTC wrote:Movies made from video games are there simply to cash in on the popularity of video games


Funny that. Because games made from movies are also there simply to cash in on the popularity of movies. I think it goes without saying that we are talking about original content.


Oh, and I forgot to add something; I thought that Ginger Man's best point was the one about "blame the player" - this is very true. If a company knows that it can either make a video game with a radical new approach, which may potentially bomb, or a new John Madden game with a guaranteed million-plus level of sales, it's not that surprising that they're gonna make the Madden game, yes?

This is certainly a point worth considering, BUT, I think what GM has forgotten is that ALL entertainment media follow this rule, that's why we see so many remakes/CGI extravaganzas being made in Hollywood right now - the dollar rules everything. HOWEVER is it true to say that all film companies follow these rules? No, of course it isn't - there are plenty of companies out there which want to make good quality movies, which will go down in history because of the quality of story and storytelling. These are companies which know full well that they aren't gonna produce the highest-grossing movie of all time, but they adjust their operations around this fact, and handle their movies in such a way as to ensure that they have the best possible chance of generating SOME profit. This can often mean starting small and working upwards. These companies are often very shrewd about how they advertise their movies, for example. But there is not a single game company in existence which takes this approach......yet. The bottom line is still too important to EVERY SINGLE GAME COMPANY OUT THERE.

Like I say - look at any form of entertainment and you will see that this is the case. I live in London, where you can find some of the best theatre in the whole world - but does this mean every street corner has a little theatre where they are doing some radical new interpretation of Hamlet? No, of course not, the biggest shows here are stuff like Mama Mia and We Will Rock You - shows designed to guarantee a large number of asses on seats. It's the same with books - I heard the other day that The Da Vinci code has become the fastest selling book of all time - does this mean it's the best? Nope, but the difference is, if you don't wanna read that, there's a vast amount of books out there which have an incredible quality of writing and brilliantly realised themes etc. These books often don't make much money, but they exist because literature is a medium where there are plenty of publishers willing to take a chance on something, knowing full well that it isn't going to buy them a holiday home in the Bahamas - they simply appreciate good craft.

This is simply not yet the case in the gaming world, which is why we find ourselves in the current situation. But things WILL change, eventually. But, like I say, it will take a particularly special game to make certain people wake up and look at videogames in a different light.....
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Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:20 pm

They just put up another column of responses over at Ebert's site. Find it HERE.
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:27 pm

Maybe we should put some of our responses up there?
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Postby MasterWhedon on Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:31 pm

I don't see why not, now that we've gone public. I'll send a link to this thread over.
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Postby The Ginger Man on Fri Dec 09, 2005 2:50 pm

ThisIsTheGirl wrote:OK, while I think that it's true that scertain writers phone in their game storylines - I think the phrase "Game companies consistently hire "real writers" to write their games" is possibly pushing the truth somewhat. A few of my friends write for PS2 and X-Box magazines, and they are constantly bemoaning the fact that companies are not willing enough to hire decent writing talent - so I doubt very much that they are so completely wrong that their arguments are irrelevant. I suspect writers get brought in for some games, while some games get produced with very little creative input from writers.An simply having credits in film does not make a person a good writer - companies should spend more time finding good writers who actually understand the medium of video games.

Secondly, if you re-read what I wrote, I wasn't simply calling for writers to be involved per se, I was actually demanding more interaction between devs and writers (this is there for all to see in the above quote). These writers that you think are "consistently" brought in to work on games may well have some great ideas to start off with, but by the time the devs have talked them through what they can and can't do, and explained the constraints of budget, chances are those writers are keen to move onto projects where they feel somewhat less fettered.


Ok, let me get this out of the way first. I'm a creative developer/associate producer in game publishing. My opinions on the topic come from how my company works and how I've seen others work. I'm not saying your friends at the magazines are completely wrong. I just think they're comments fall in the same category as someone bemoaning the hollywood studio system. "God! Why does Hollywood always get these crappy writers/directors/whatnot to make what could have been a good film!"

My point to you was that bringing in and interacting with the storytellers is not the key to what you want. You said so yourself when you described how the video game production system can so easily turn them off. I've found that amazing games come from people who specifically have a story that they want told in the medium, they build the gameplay around it, and guide their vision through the process until completion. These people are almost always internal. These are the industry visionaries, and this is exactly the reason why. It's just like the film industry. Think about the difference between Scorcese and Brett Ratner. Compare how those two make films, apply it to what we're talking about, and you'll understand.

Since this is an interactive medium, gameplay is often put before the story. And this isn't a wrong approach. It all comes down the man with the plan, not the interaction with storytellers.

I do have more to say about your second post, but it will have to wait as I must go to a meeting. Also, if I'm coming across as rude or forceful or whatever, I apologize. I'm very passionate about this subject b/c I also think games and their stories can be so much better. There are many of us in the industry trying to do exactly the things you and I are talking about. You and I just see it from different angels. I gladly welcome this discussion on the topic.
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Postby JamieCOTC on Fri Dec 09, 2005 3:43 pm

ThisIsTheGirl wrote:
JamieCOTC wrote:Movies made from video games are there simply to cash in on the popularity of video games


Funny that. Because games made from movies are also there simply to cash in on the popularity of movies.


Agreed.

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Postby HeadlessCrane on Sat Dec 10, 2005 1:34 am

I think that my definition of art and Ebert's are different. I think that art is anything that is created by a person that can be appreciated for it's beauty. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and I think that Ebert thinks that anything that he doesn't find beautiful is not art. Too bad for him. Hope he doesn't disregard too many forms of art because he is missing out on enjoying a lot.

I'm kinda suprised that someone who loves movies so much can't see games for what they are. I'm suprised on so many levels. Shocked really. I think most of the responders to his thread are shocked. That's why they are harsh. I think hearing Ebert say games aren't art is like meeting a person who couldn't get the LOTR movies. It's hard to imagine where these people are coming from. It's suprising that someone who seems to have such a brave and broad appreciation for film thinks the way he does about games. I would expect it from someone who is afraid to think and speak their own opinion, but not from Ebert.

I am less pissed off, as a game artist, that someone like Ebert has publicly announced and therefore influenced a public opinion that games are not art. I chose games as a form of art specifically because it allows me to create the broadest range of art that I think can be done professionally next to making films. I am personally interested in stories that go beyond the art of living thru a character to actually living the charcter thru the art.

I don't just consider games to be a valid form of art, I consider them to be the most exciting form of art since... the creation of the universe? If the world was created, would any dare say that it is not a work of art? A world created and people to live in the world who can experience not only life but who can appreciate the beauty of that life. This is what game artists hope to achieve when creating a game. I hope to achieve this. If that is not art... the definitition of art needs to be changed.
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The Definition of Art according to the American Heritage Dic

Postby HeadlessCrane on Sat Dec 10, 2005 1:41 am

The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty...
- The American Heritage Dictionary

I just looked up the definition of art on yahoo. I guess I was right.
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:33 am

RapedByKong wrote:He's like the old coot who raves on about the evils of Booze and Marijuana without ever having the experience of being drunk and stoned himself. Which makes his opinion pretty much worthless.


To a the certain degree, I gonna to agree with a you paisan (except for a the "old coot" part, eh? C'mon, where's a the love?)

But I just a gonna to say... I donna have a to taste a the dog a poopy to know that it's a gonna prolly to taste like a the shit, no?
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Postby ThisIsTheGirl on Mon Dec 12, 2005 9:56 am

The Ginger Man wrote:if I'm coming across as rude or forceful or whatever, I apologize. I'm very passionate about this subject b/c I also think games and their stories can be so much better. There are many of us in the industry trying to do exactly the things you and I are talking about. You and I just see it from different angels. I gladly welcome this discussion on the topic.


You're absolutely not coming off as rude, so don't let that concern you. I just worry sometimes that my true meaning can be lost via the wonders of the internet, so sometimes I feel the need to clarify things excessively. Honestly though, it's nice to meet somebody who is as passionate about it as you are - I think we're essentially singing from the same hymn sheet, but possibly in different churches! And for the record, I do completely agree that many of the best games are the result of an internal individual at a company being given the freedom to completely realise their vision.

I'm quite interested to know which development studios you really admire - I'm a big fan of Treasure and Sega-Am2
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Postby DinoDeLaurentiis on Mon Dec 12, 2005 11:25 am

HeadlessCrane wrote:I am less pissed off, as a game artist, that someone like Ebert has publicly announced and therefore influenced a public opinion that games are not art.


I dunno paisan, I think a you over-estrimating a the influence that a the Ebert, he has onna the peopes these a days, no?

I canna believe that a the guys like a him, they are even a culturally relevant inna these a times of a the interweb.

But iffa the Dino, he hadda listen to a the critics, then a you putzes would have a never had a the Maximum Overdrive, the Silver Bullet, anna the Mandingo, eh? Anna I know that a the TITG, he gonna to be sad iffa the Mandingo, she not a be made.

I gonna to tell you the little secret... everybody, they know a the Ebert, he wrote a the Doll Valley movie, no? Well, he also pen a the Kong Lives.

It's a true... I swear onna my childrens' eyes, eh?
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