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Best Examples of Art in the video game medium?

Old 11-15-05, 11:38 AM
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Best Examples of Art in the video game medium?

So I was looking at roger ebert's website and in one of his answer mans he says:

"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. "


What bugs me about it is that he is comparing kurosawa and scorsese to doom. It would be like me writing off film because someone is comparing ICO to deuce bigalow 2.

It reminds me of when people look at animation and thinks that it's just for kids.

So what are the good examples of art in video games?
I know the most two obvious are ICO and Shadow and the Colossus, but what are the others?

Last edited by lukewarmwater; 11-15-05 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 11-15-05, 11:51 AM
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Wind Waker.
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Old 11-15-05, 12:04 PM
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Psychonauts and Voodoo Vince. They have that Tim Burton-look.
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Old 11-15-05, 12:05 PM
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Old 11-15-05, 12:12 PM
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I saw that too and found it rather annoying. I wrote him back saying it was a bit hypocritical to invalidate video games by saying they're not as worthwhile as pinnacles in films or novels, when he has no problem recommending movies that clearly wouldn't live up to those same standards.
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Old 11-15-05, 12:19 PM
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The games listed have excellent production values, but I'm yet to play a game that I'd consider a work of art. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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Old 11-15-05, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
The games listed have excellent production values, but I'm yet to play a game that I'd consider a work of art. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
My first reaction was to argue your point, but I don't think I can as I basically have the same view. It's hard to have a 1-to-1 comparison of a game to books, movies, or paintings because games are more about the experience. That being the case, I have no qualms seeing games for their excellence (and even brilliance at times) in design and balance.

I do think a game can have excellent art design and direction though. Like the art direction and design of a Final Fantasy game is comparible to the Lord of the Rings movies. Their respective sets, costuming, and the like.

This is all based on what I think "art" is, and not on some agreed upon definition. Ebert's argument is total shit though, because hollywood doesn't really create art all that often. Every movie isn't "art" and Ebert was talking about the cream of the crop there. Ebert will rec a movie because it's fun, that is the whole point of games foremost. They aren't really setting out to move people, more to entertain and be engrossing (when done right).
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Old 11-15-05, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by boredsilly
This is all based on what I think "art" is, and not on some agreed upon definition. Ebert's argument is total shit though, because hollywood doesn't really create art all that often. Every movie isn't "art" and Ebert was talking about the cream of the crop there. Ebert will rec a movie because it's fun, that is the whole point of games foremost. They aren't really setting out to move people, more to entertain and be engrossing (when done right).
I think this is an excellent argument. Ebert reviews (and often gives his recommendation for) at least a couple "popcorn" films a week.

Just because there are no "art" video games, doesn't diminish it's role as an entertainment medium. In terms of "bang for your buck," gaming delivers a lot more entertainment per dollar than any movie.

Ebert's comments are as silly as a video game reviewer dismissing film because movies aren't "interactive."
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Old 11-15-05, 03:02 PM
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On the other end of the spectrum, a game that didn't have cutting edge graphics (even when new) but works as great interactive storytelling: Planescape Torment. The creativity, plot turns, memorable characters, thoughtfulness, emotional impact -- for me, all these things made Planescape seem much more than just disposable entertainment for stupid people lacking attention spans (which is the stereotype some put on gamers), elevating to a form of art than stands with recent books, movies, and television (especially in the fantasy/horror/sci-fi genre). Other games like Grim Fandango and The Longest Journey struck me as how the best video games can attain undeniable artistry.

Video games are a young medium (compared to movies, music, and literature). Kind of like movies in the 1890's and 1900's. At that point, people were fascinated by the technology, and storytelling and artistry was crude compared to music and literature. It took true artists to take to the new medium and use it to express themselves. Video games are an exciting medium. It uses visuals, sound and music, reading, and a level of interactiveness (be it hand-eye, logic, communication, etc) that makes it stand out from more "respected" mediums. Yes, it's silly to try and stack up the greatest art of other mediums to what videogames have done so far. But it won't be like that long. The great artists of tomorrow are playing video games today. While its hard to imagine where music, movies, and art can go that would be totally new, the future of video games seems wide open and largely unexplored. And critics like Ebert will be left muttering to themselves as the world passes them by.
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Old 11-15-05, 03:35 PM
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I'll start by reminding everyone that Roger Ebert is a "Critic" not a reviewer, he's completely close minded and I honestly the he's metally deficient. So why should we care what he thinks about video games when he's all about movies and not even the love of movies because I'm sure he gave that up years ago, He seems to choose at random, movies he likes and dislikes like he pulled a ball out of a bingo machine.......fuck him. Every single reviewer on this website including the porn reviewers would be better suited for his job, at least they try to show some objectivity. For Roger Ebert to say that is one of the most asinine things I've heard in a while.

Brainee you're right and your point is very clear and concise, obviously well thought out. Games are a young medium and they will take time to develop as a "True" art form. I believe that there have been many games that aren't just fun but very worthwhile to play through and have enhanced me in some way. I've read shitty books and watched shitty movies and the same goes the other way. I'm sure there has never been a time when Roger Ebert and myself have been listening to the same type of music within the same decade either. If what he said bothers you then tell all your friends and have everyone you know spam him with e-mails stating why they are worthwhile. Maybe he'll have to consider that he's not an authority on personal taste.

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Old 11-15-05, 04:25 PM
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For a game to be a game, there has to be at least some level of freedom for the person playing. For that reason, I don't think it can be compared to the works of literature or film, where the writer or director is able to influence every single aspect of how the reader or viewer experiences the work. When games try to take control like that (say the forced perspectives of Resident Evil or the overreliance on cinematics like Xenosaga) they get hammered.

The best correlation can probably be made in excellent game design. But even for these games, it takes a certain amount of proficiency for someone to experience the work... and this is why people who have never played games will probably never fully appreciate great game design. I mean, I think Prince of Persia: Sand of Time was an excellent game, but there's no way my wife will become proficient enough with the buttons to even make it past the beginning.
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Old 11-15-05, 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by kakihara1
I honestly the he's metally deficient.
Heh heh.
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Old 11-15-05, 04:46 PM
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Old 11-15-05, 05:06 PM
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Old 11-15-05, 05:35 PM
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The definition of art is a wide one. I would imagine something as simple as Pac-Man to be most certainly considered art. Your a being who's sole purpose is to consume. Hell of allot of things you can read into it. Plus the look of it is so amazingly iconic.

The museum of the moving image has a small exibit with video games involved. I haven't been so I can't comment on the content of it. But it might be worth taking a look at it.

http://www.movingimage.us/site/exhibitions/index.html

Besides Pac-Man, two games that spring to mind as art would be Grand theft auto 3 and Metal Gear 3.
GTA 3 (and correct me if I'm wrong) was one of the first games where the environment you're in is the game. You don't have to do anything really you could just drive around all day and explore. The game doesn't end if you decide not to chose a mission. You choose to take a mission, you choose to run someone over, or you choose not to. I really don't like GTA (i bought GTA3 and the controls when your out of the car frustrated me to no end) but I have to admire what they did. The art lies in the experience of you playing and not really the storyline.

On the other end of the spectrum while GTA3 had amazing scope in what you could explore once you turned on the game, its attention to detail was a bit low. In Metal Gear 3 the arena you explore is small compared to GTA3 (at least from section to section) but the attention to detail is so amazing. From leaves falling down, to having to eat from time to time, the game is so infused with details that its hard not to just walk around and explore the environment. One amazing touch that bridges the player life with the game was the food gathering. The fact that the food expired in real time vs game time added an strange link to your actual life while playing the game.

I don't think a game's story makes it "Art". It's a component of course, but just as the story of a movie, while very important, is less important than the story of a book. (some movies are admired for their visual style alone) What you do in the game, your interaction with the game, and the emotion you get from the game make it art. IMO of course.

Last edited by killershark; 11-15-05 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 11-15-05, 05:50 PM
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I'd say the Splinter Cell series and MGS3 for the stories alone.

Not to mention the fantastic visuals.

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Old 11-15-05, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by fujishig
For a game to be a game, there has to be at least some level of freedom for the person playing. For that reason, I don't think it can be compared to the works of literature or film, where the writer or director is able to influence every single aspect of how the reader or viewer experiences the work.
Actually, I'd argue art isn't art unless there is some freedom. No artist can ever truly control how art is viewed. Art is not just about the presentation, but about the interpretation. An artist can spend all the time they want on presentation, but my interpretation will rely on a great many factors. While an artist may have a theme they want to get across, what I take away may or may not be different. That's what great about art, it is different for everybody. If the experience was forced on me in some way, it would not be art.

So, in that sense, some games could be art. I'd say most games are entertainment though, and a great medium for storytelling as a whole, but the potential exists. So, if film is an artform, even if crappy films exist, then video games can also be an artform, even if we haven't reached that level, since the potential exists. I'm sure if I thought about it though, I'd come up with some examples of games that do get into the realm of art.
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Old 11-15-05, 08:28 PM
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Old 11-15-05, 11:12 PM
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Old 11-29-05, 01:25 PM
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Looks like Ebert's slightly shifting his criticism from video games as a medium to those who play them...

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/...gory=ANSWERMAN

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.
Ignoring his actual view on games, his views of those playing them continue to sound rather stupid. His last sentence could just as easily read 'But for most movie goers, movies represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.'
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Old 11-29-05, 02:09 PM
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Old 11-29-05, 02:34 PM
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^^ what he said!
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Old 11-29-05, 02:39 PM
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Old 11-29-05, 02:42 PM
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Old 11-29-05, 02:57 PM
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