Spector: Roger Ebert “doesn’t get” videogames

Sunday, 25th July 2010 12:43 GMT By Joe Anderson


Warren Spector has said Roger Ebert’s view that videogames will never be art is “irrelevant.”

Chicago-based journalist Ebert wrote the comment on his blog last April, before swiftly U-turning after receiving 4500 disagreeing comments.

Speaking with Eurogamer, Junction Point boss Spector, who is currently making Epic Mickey, gave his opinion on the matter, saying however Ebert feels, his opinion doesn’t really count.

“Videogames are just coming out of the period where I describe them as the medium adults don’t get. Roger Ebert is like the adult. He doesn’t get it.

“Whatever medium adults don’t understand can’t be art. Eventually those adults go away and new adults take their place, and some other medium takes the place of the thing that everybody hates. We’re coming out of that period now. What Roger Ebert thinks is completely irrelevant.”

Games over, Ebert.

There’s a full interview through here.



  1. CenoBit

    and Spector is right.
    Just because we might not get something, it doesn’t make it worthless or less important than it really is.
    After all, hasn’t art always been a vague idea that its main characteristic is that not everyone “gets it”??

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Shalashaska

    Damn right Spector.
    Anyway, art is whatever the hell anyone wants it to be, its different for everyone.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. onlineatron

    Art is not art because I don’t get it.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. DeSpiritusBellum

    Why would anyone want to view games as art though?

    I’m not saying it can’t be, I’m just saying it sounds ridiculously boring. I think the whole gaming community has become pretty pretentious, whether it’s needing to be recognized by Roger Ebert, or inventing makebelief ranks like “hardcore gamer”.

    Personally I’m happy as long as a game is entertaining. Why would I want it to be art?

    #4 4 years ago
  5. Aimless

    @4 So that you don’t have to feel so bad about wasting your life playing games. Wasting your life consuming art — and not actually contributing to it — is far more worthwhile, apparently.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. DeSpiritusBellum

    @5 Hahaha! The horrible thing is that that’s probably spot on.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. NiceFellow

    To be fair, I still think when Ebert asked why do gamers even want games to be considered Art he made the best comment so far.

    Almost all games are intended purely for fun, almost no-one (a few hardy souls aside) in the industry is even trying to make games that are also Art (capitals intended).

    Playing Heavy Rain (amongst a few other titles clearly trying to blue the lines) then watching a classic film or reading a classic piece of literature it stuck me how very, very embryonic the whole push even is – and how small it is next to pure games like Mario or virtual Cowboys and Indians a’la CoD, Halo, etc.

    Games are miles away from being a good medium for Art yet, why should we even argue about it. Let the envelope pushers do their thing and time will tell.

    Of course, videogames could be used to create Art, but as Ebert said would they still be a pure videogame in that case?

    Art can be created from anything, but it takes material (virtual or otherwise) and uses it to create something, often moving beyond what the original ‘something’ was.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. CenoBit

    @7: You’ve obviously never played Grim Fandango or Syberia or The Longest Journey.

    By the same standards, movies shouldn’t be called “art” either.
    I mean, yes, every once in a while a true gem pops up (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) but then again, the whole industry is filled with pointless sequels and awfully written and acted movies, so maybe we should exclude cinema altogether, right?

    It’s not that videogames are not art.
    It’s just that they are a form of entertainment “younger” than movies, or painting, or writing and people are maybe note ready to accept the fact that art can be found in more than the stereotypical places.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. CenoBit

    Oh and when someone feels the need to defend movies as an art form, I have just ONE word for you:

    (bet you are not feeling so artsy now, are you?? :p)

    #9 4 years ago
  10. NiceFellow

    @8 actually I have played Grim Fandango and it’s one of the few titles that I’ve felt has come closest to being Art. It would still be even better as Art as a pure animated movie though.

    As you’re interested, here are the games I’ve played that felt like they knocked on the door of Art:

    Grim Fandango
    Silent Hill 2
    ICO & Shadow of the Colossus (I have very high hopes for the Last Guardian)
    System Shock 2

    But the point is that as a medium, videogames are inferior currently in terms of how it’s used. The writing is worse, the acting is worse (for narrative) and in general the need to have gameplay mechanics keeps getting in the way (Flower I felt came closest to solving this real tough chestnut).

    As for Twilight, I’m from Europe so don’t blame me for Hollywood. Interesting you talk about forms of entertainment, though. That’s the thing, you’re talking about Hollywood films as entertainment, music as entertainment vs the medium also as Art. Of course they can do both, but not always, and when the medium is focused on entertainment and therefore, almost certainly, revenue generation, I can tell you you’re going to see a lot less Grim Fandango than Modern Warfare 12 (which is a shame as I’d rather have more of the former and less of the latter).

    And I still feel very well educated and versed in Art as well as having a very firm understanding (unlike Ebert as Specter points out) of videogames, too.


    #10 4 years ago
  11. Boris Fett

    I fail to see how Grim Fandago is art. It’s a great game, with a wonderful art-style, and it oozes charm, but how in blazes is it art?

    What’s it message? What is the creator trying to convey to us? What are we supposed to learn from it? There is no deeper meaning to Grin Fandago’s story. We do not come away from it learning anything about ourselves or thinking about anything meaningful.

    There are a handful of games that come even close to be suitable of being considered art, to any degree whatsoever. Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Silent Hill 2 and 3, Rez, Braid.

    That’s about it.

    #11 4 years ago

    I totally fail to understand the games as art fuss :/

    #12 4 years ago
  13. Aimless

    Art is an amorphous concept, not some well defined standard.

    Say I was cleaning the floor at an art convention and I left the mop and bucket propped against a wall in the corner whilst I went to get my lunch. That certainly makes me a fairly lazy worker, but it does it also make me an artist if people touring the exhibit inject meaning into my lethargy? Sure there was no intent behind the placement of my tools, no deeper message, but if other people have perceived it as art — such is their disposition given that they’re in an exhibit — then surely art is what it is?

    On the flipside, say that the lead designer on Crackdown had set out to imbue deep social commentary into every aspect of the game but no one ‘got it’. There was a deeper meaning there, but is it then not art simply because no one other than the creator appreciates it?

    In other words, whether games are art or not is a massive moot point as it’s a question of perception and predisposition rather than content. Whether Roger Ebert views Shadow of the Colossus as art or not doesn’t change what the game is, so what’s the point of wringing your hands about it?

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Boris Fett

    @13 There still has to be *some* deeper meaning to it though, something to say or a deeper emotion to evoke, for it to go above the area of entertainment into the form of art.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Aimless

    If people perceive it as art then what’s the difference?

    Say I had purposefully placed said mop and bucket, but the meaning and intent behind the composition was completely different to what the attendees took away from it. I knew that I was trying to make a statement about the banality of modern art, but as it turns out those viewing the piece interpreted it as a highlighting of blue collar workers’ vital, yet rarely celebrated or acknowledged, contributions to society. Is my display art or not?

    There are far more important questions surrounding the advancement of videogames as a medium and yet everyone gets hung up on whether they’re art or not because they desperately want to validate their backing of videogames. To me it’s no more worthwhile discussion than whether a game is “casual” or “hardcore”.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. DaMan

    @5 precisely so. funny and sad at the same time.

    but, art is one thing, and entertainment is another. while you practically can’t say if ie Fargo was any ‘better’ than No Country For Old Men.

    this is similar to people seeing mentally ill guys generally as nothing but ‘different’. you can still draw the line between a psychopath and an er, eccentric, (and I don’t mean in the narrow sense, nothing to do with society’s standards).. what matters is the creator’s original intent, not how every single guy perceives their work. just because there are different folks, doesn’t mean their perceptions are all equally true. more so when we’re talking about something that wasn’t even created by them.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. DeSpiritusBellum

    I think Aimless pretty much said anything I would want to, but there’s a pretty important difference between games and works of art – Games rely completely on what you do, however random.

    Unlike a painting or a movie, a game by nature can’t be a perfectly linear narrative, or a rigidly defined composition, because it has to accomodate an unpredictable controller to be complete.

    No designer can decide every step you’re going to take with Max Payne through a level, or how long it’s gonna take you to find the bottle of scotch with gold flakes in it, in Grim Fandango. A guy writing a movie, can. A guy making a painting, can.

    I think that makes it impossible to make a game as pure as a conventional work of art.

    If you look at a lot of the “artsy” flash games around, they’re all very clever and very beautiful, but they aren’t really art, they’re more like puzzles or platformers with clever writing. Clever writing does not an artwork make.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Freek

    Ebert said allot of dumb things about a subject he knows almost nothing about.
    He should be ignored for that, not given lots of attention and free press for it.

    #18 4 years ago

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