Hello, I’m Tesh, and I’m an artist.
I make art, and I’ve managed to find a way to get people to pay me for it. I work in the game industry. Some would argue that I’m actually not an artist unless I’m a starving hedonist, working purely to sate my muse’s lust for counterculture contrivances, but these are more enlightened times. These days, we simply let the self-appointed czars of taste and fashion tell us poor little proletariat sheep what to think and buy because we want to be connoisseurs of “art”, but don’t want to be embarrassed by getting it wrong.
Jason’s Games as Art article has a nice roundup of some of the most recent “but, but, Ebert needs page hits!” kerfluffle, and I spouted off there as well. I also like The Ancient Gaming Noob’s take on it and Toldain’s similar sentiment. Mr. Grumpy has a good article up too. I’ve been through my fair share of pretentious blowhard art “debate” in my years as an artist and art student. (My BFA is in Computer Animation, and I’m trained to make Pixar-level films. I’m intimately familiar with both the film industry and the game industry.)
It’s all nonsense, something that serves best as fodder for Calvin’s snowmen sculptures and deliciously cutting commentary on the sheer audacity of “art critics”. (And how, like politicians, once someone actually calls them on their BS, their whole argument falls apart… though most people are content to just nod their heads and pretend that the emperor has clothes.)
The question of “what is art” isn’t something that we should leave up to critics. Art is something that affects people in different ways, and that is the important part. It’s personal, it’s subjective, and it only matters inasmuch as it changes the way we live as individuals. Instead of arguing endlessly in intellectual circles about the what the definition of the word “is” is, we should be asking if the things we’re debating actually matter.
Ebert’s opinion on what “art” is serves him well to drum up attention, but it doesn’t actually do anything useful for making games better for people who play them or who might play them. Labeling and judging things based on preconceived notions, ignorance and self-serving intentional blindness is never constructive. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that, asking us to judge based on content of character more than superficial labels affixed by the priests of popular opinion.
Anton Ego’s review of Remy’s cooking is relevant here, and I can’t recommend it enough:
Actually, I’m not all that riled up about this. It’s all pretty silly. It’s just easy to complain about things… that’s sort of the point. What good is Ebert’s argument serving? None, methinketh. The question we should be asking isn’t “what does Ebert think”, but rather, “what do I think about this game and my experience with it?”
If beauty (or lack thereof) is a significant component of an aesthetic experience (and I argue that it is), it’s not a far leap to suggest that “art is in the eye of the beholder”. If playing a game has helped or moved you in some way, don’t worry about someone else arguing that you were doing it wrong. It’s their loss, and it’s not worth letting it be yours as well.