If you're a fan of video games you have no doubt run across some media site, blog or irritated tweet referencing a recent blog entry by noted film critic Roger Ebert who wrote that "Video games can never be art."
Even Ebert admits that "never" is a bit of a weighted word, but I am absolutely shocked that a film critic would feel this way about an emerging medium and be completely wrong in the process.
He spends most of his time refuting a presentation made at USC by Kelle Santiago, a video game producer and designer, who catalogues various (perhaps not the best) examples of video games as art.
She lists downloadable games Braid, Flower and another I'm not familiar with - Waco Resurrection. I'm not sure how she goes about her argument suggesting each as art, but Ebert is quick to to consider Santiago's three examples as "pathetic."
Ebert is also quick to forget the struggles the film industry faced during it's infancy. The 15-second long reels in Edison's Kinetoscope were viewed as nothing more than minor amusements and were certainly not considered art-worthy by any means. It wasn't until the first Academy Awards in 1929 until motion pictures were considered an art form - nearly 40 years after Edison introduced his little gimmick.
Ebert also spends considerable time toying with the definition of art, but forgets the division between unfairly classified "high" and "low" art - film is still considered the latter.
I would bet that a commonly held interpretation of art could be explained as a piece of creative word that stimulates not only thought, but challenges either the limitations within its medium or society to some degree.
Video games are the only interactive medium allowing the player a choice in his or her actions. Yes, it's a game with a motivation and goal, but video games are becoming much closer to film than Mr. Ebert would ever dare to consider.
Take the Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy franchises for example. They both feature less gameplay than cinematics a majority of the time. The interactive nature of a video game in this case create a closer emotional connection to the story that transcends film. After all, to reject video games as art is to reject film as art.
As for the inability to compare any video game or game creator with great art or artists, you have to examine what each had done for the industry. When you look at how video games and video game artists have stimulated the medium, names such as Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima and Will Wright come to mind as do Super Mario Bros., Metal Gear Solid and The Sims.
I'm Sorry Roger Ebert, but you're wrong and I'm sick of the image of video games as a mindless medium for teenage boys.
Video games are art.