Ebert Re-Emphasizes That Games Will Never Be Art

Tom Goldman

Crying on the inside.
Aug 17, 2009
Ebert Re-Emphasizes That Games Will Never Be Art

Are videogames art or not? Roger Ebert still says no.

Roger Ebert not only has strong blog post [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/100041-Ebert-Calls-Kick-Ass-Movie-Morally-Reprehensible] where he emphatically states that it's just not going to happen, gamers.

The post is a response to this TED talk [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9y6MYDSAww] by Kelly Santiago on videogames as art. Ebert seems to have softened his position a hair, as he no longer believes that videogames will never be art, but now thinks that "no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form." That's a little better right?

Ebert's opinion on this matter involves his strict definition of what videogames are. "One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game," he writes. "It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite an immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

Santiago gives three examples of videogames that begin to cross the boundary into becoming art: Braid, Flower, and Waco Resurrection. Though Ebert admits that everything is a matter of taste, and that he is obviously "hopelessly handicapped because of [his] love of cinema," he still feels: "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.'"

He also asks: "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."

I can't help but feel like Ebert's view is incredibly closed-minded, primarily due to his own personal definition of a videogame. In reality, most of the videogames that might be considered art are not released on the PlayStation Network or in retail outlets, they're released for free, so many people like Ebert probably don't even see that they exist. There are typical videogames, with rules and winning conditions, but then there is also a more likely art form of interactive entertainment that currently sits itself within the videogame industry. If interactive entertainment should not be considered a game, Ebert's right. Either way, I don't care, I just want to play videogames:

Source: Roger Ebert's Blog [http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html]


Onyx Oblivion

Borderlands Addict. Again.
Sep 9, 2008
So, let's see...the shittiest movie in the world is still art?

You can beat a game, but movies actually end.

And what does that make stuff like Okami, Psychonauts, Cave Story, Braid, Flower, Flow, Heavy Rain, and even Bayonetta?


New member
Feb 22, 2009
Hmm, this story is a few days old now. Nonetheless, I will say what I said in the last thread: If movies are art, so are video games.

Jack and Calumon

Digimon are cool.
Dec 29, 2008
Anything I say will be said again by everyone. One man's opinion is not the world, and To Be Honest, Braid is art, and I find Portal to be Art as well. Thats just how good they are.

Calumon: Who is this silly man and why should care?

Booze Zombie

New member
Dec 8, 2007
I would argue almost any creation could be called art, as art is pretty much bringing one's imagination to the real world.

That said, if you want to play the snooty game, I could argue that there are a crap tonne of movies that don't fall into the "artistic" category, either.


New member
Jul 24, 2009
Honestly, I've stopped listening to Ebert, just as I don't listen to most movie critics. They all have their set opinions, and Ebert seems to me that he's more set in his ways than most, at least to me. I like forming my own opinion, therefore having one grumpy old man tell me what I should think about a movie or what have you doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.

That said, it's his opinion, and he has every right to express it. No amount of evidence to the contrary will change his opinion. I'd say just write him off as someone who doesn't like games, and be done with it.


Better than Vash!
Oct 20, 2009
meh im content to play my games as they are, GAMES. Y would i care about an old and aging movie critic have to say about it?

Casual Shinji

Should've gone before we left.
Jul 18, 2009
Everyone has their own definition of "art".

And so does Roger Ebert.


New member
Apr 18, 2009
Oh noes an eliteist says games arnt art!

Also isnt he a film critic or something? Its like me commenting on films, wrong area of expertise.

Why did you have to include that song as well? it hurts my ears...

The Wooster

King Snap
Jul 15, 2008
I agree with him that few or in fact no games qualify as art currently. Those few that actively try to market themselves as art do so by being obscure and pretentious. Buuuuut his argument is bullshit. He states that since you can 'win' a game it will never be art, his detractors then post a slew of games you cannot "win" (missing a whole shitload of early games that had no 'win' conditions such as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pacman etc. Actually I take my earlier statement back, if any game qualifies as art it's space invaders) at which point he pulls out some pedantic ass argument that a game without win conditions isn't a game. Right.


New member
Mar 12, 2010
Look at Portal. It has a supreme story that beats most movie plots and there are no points. It is a perfect example of games as an art.


New member
Sep 10, 2008
Why do people give two piss about games being called art? It's pointless.
I wrote a editorial about games being called art on a video game website I write for and I think this whole art thing is stupid.
I just want fun games, I don't care if they are art or not.


New member
Nov 3, 2008
"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?"
Why should I care about a guy who isn't involved in the videogame industry and doesn't play videogames. I mean common he mentions that videogames are about getting points? Really?! High scores have been dead for quite some time, I'm sorry but if your definition of a videogame comes back from you seeing a pinball machine or frogger you need to stop right there and realize that you are no expert on the subject. It would be like me saying that I don't like movies because the black and white bothers me and I wish we could hear the actors voices instead of reading the text on the screen.


New member
Oct 1, 2008
So by his definition, is Dwarf Fortress not a game?

Tom's right, there are plenty of indie games that are scattered around the Internet that could be considered art like Don't Look Back. But it's all subjective I guess.


Gone Gonzo
Jun 16, 2008
I stopped listening to Ebert long ago, as I swiftly realized he and I disagree on many many things when it comes to movie quality, so to see him effectively take a swing at them with the artistic ban-hammer comes as no surprise. Personally I think the choice to use that Waco game as an example was a poor decision.

I find the artistic quality in video games based upon how well they are directed in the story, art, and cinematography departments. The mechanics of a game are a very hard stretch to call artistic. I put games on par artistically with movies, it is a time based media that relies on dynamic pictures, good storytelling, and a director that knows what he's doing. I believe if Ebert could focus his movie biased to view video games in the same way he views movies then he would begin to understand where we gamers come from on our opinions.

I do agree with him on the idea that none of us today will live to see video games as an accepted medium of art, but that's where our agreement ends.