Double Fine thinks games are art, but it’s okay if you don’t

Thursday, 21st June 2012 19:31 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert believe games are art, but if other people don’t feel the medium can be considered such, that’s fine. No need to argue over it.

Speaking with GameFront and Wil Wheaton at E3, Schafer said: “I feel like, we think it’s art when we make it … I think it’s art. I think most people who play them mostly think it’s art, if they think about it at all, so I think that’s kind of the end of the argument.

“I’m sure there was a time when movies first started that they weren’t considered art, and it’s not like movies went to the world of literature and said, ‘Please, could you say that we’re art?’” he said. “They didn’t ask permission from fine painting, they just did what they did and they took it seriously, and that’s where people started considering it art.”

Gilbert said the studio’s opinion on the matter has nothing to do with other whose opinions differs, the argument is still potentially debatable, but no longer practically applicable.

“If you don’t think that video games are art, that’s fine, don’t think that they’re art,” Gilbert said. “I do and a lot of other people do.”

There you go. Opinions aren’t wrong because they aren’t facts.

Watch the entire video interview below, where Schafer also discusses the benefits of Steam and the “joke,” that DRM, which Gilbert thinks is a “dumb thing.”



  1. ManuOtaku

    Come on guys, your symbol has two heads…two heads for Gods sake, arguements and discusions should be a given.

    On a serioues note, i agree and iam with the part that believes they are art, by the way.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. DSB

    Fact: 50% of all games journalists have been part of the cast of a Star Trek series. The rest just lie about it. Because Comic Con pussy.

    Art is subjective. I respect their point of view, but is something art simply because you enjoy it and it provokes feelings? I guess that’s rightly left to the individual.

    I enjoyed Grim Fandango more than most movies, paintings and sculptures, but then I also enjoyed Die Hard 1 and 2, and I’m not sure I’d call those art.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. ManuOtaku

    #2 the thing is that art is so vague in nature,and has so many definitions due to the subject matter, the arguments can go forever, and maybe the two parts, the ones that think it is and the other that doesnt, problably are right in their own perspective, therefore arguing about it is rather pointless, because at the end we will agree we disagree, therefore i think they are right, fine if you do and fine is you dont also, peace.
    P.S i hope one day they bring grim fandango to consoles, i just want to play that game man.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. OrbitMonkey

    If I point at something and say “that’s art” then it’s art… To me anyway. Disagree? Well that’s your opinion philistine.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. DSB

    @3 I don’t think it’s pointless, I think we should argue about everything, and keep challenging eachother. That’s how we figure out how we truly feel about things.

    To me, art kinda goes further than most videogames. You can’t sit everyone down in front of a videogame and guarantee that they’ll have an uninhibited, pure experience.

    You might not be able to do the same thing with a painting strictly speaking, but usually most people will be able to recognize the talent, emotion and inspiration that went into it. That’s something you don’t find in a lot of videogames, for obvious reasons.

    It’s a very different thing when you’re talking about points and highscores and savegames and respawning. Is that art? Did someone put their heart and soul into placing those checkpoints and making them worth experiencing? No? But it’s part of the work, so what is it doing there if it isn’t part of the experience?

    That’s really my problem with it. I’d love to see more art games. I think something like Dear Esther comes close. I can imagine placing that in a museum, having people walk up to it, and experience it for what it is, because it doesn’t have much of the crap that you find in an average videogame.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Ireland Michael

    Art isnt vague. It’s broad.

    The question should never be whether it is art or not (because anything can be art), but whether it’s *good* art. Just remember while doing so that not everything has to be art to be good either.

    @5 Every form of media has had this problem with public mentality at some point in their lifetime though; usually during their formative years. There was a time not so long ago that people laughed at the idea that a movie could be intellectually stimulating.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. DSB

    @6 The problem is that a movie has an entirely different format.

    A game is a game. While it does have stories and images just like a book or a movie, it’s governed by the same principles as a boardgame, or a sport.

    Giving that kind of interaction and inherent unpredictability, a profound meaning of art is difficult in my opinion.

    I’m not saying it isn’t art because it’s still stigmatized, but the mechanics that you find in an average videogame sets it far apart from the other story mediums.

    I think it has plenty of potential. Dear Esther made me pay attention in a very different way because I was just along for the ride, instead of worrying about constantly performing certain tasks to a certain standard, and taking care of my needy little character.

    I like the idea of the Berlin Wall game that was meant to bring the reality of that sort of brutal oppression home to people.

    I think it would be very interesting to make a properly produced art game that was all about being a prisoner being lead to a concentration camp. You can get out of line, but if you do, you’re savagely beaten or worse. You can stay in line, but if you do, you may suffer the exact same fate, only worse. Do you want to die now, or risk dying after a lot more suffering?

    In a videogame, that simply isn’t done. The logic that we’re privvy to would tell us to almost always make a run for it. Because the designer has our backs. The designer always has our backs. It’s a product that’s created for our enjoyment, according to our preferences, and according to our logic.

    Doesn’t that go for something like 95% of all videogames? I think it’s a shame, and for me it’s that kind of predictable, constant approach that means I can’t really view it as an art medium just yet.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Ireland Michael

    @7 That was mostly my point. Gaming is still in its formative years, much like film was in the early 40s and 50s.

    It’ll take us time to perfect the formula, but eventually it’ll come to be what people expect.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. DSB

    @8 Oh, right!

    To me it just seems like more of a choice though. People already know what they can do with a videogame, there’s just no one who really wants to do it beyond the indie scene.

    The 40′s and 50′s still has some classic movies. The 40′s had The Great Dictator which has to be called art in my opinion. Casablanca too, really. Ingmar Bergman, even though he bores me to death. The 20′s had Metropolis.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Ireland Michael

    @9 I completely agree. It’s totally a choice.

    Cassablanca was really one of those formative movies though, wasn’t it? Much like Citizen Kain. Before that point, movie developers and producers didn’t really care about creating anything deeper. It just wasn’t on their radar, the idea that they *needed* to be more than hackneyed forays through the same derivatives settings and themes.

    It’s going to take a long time and a lot of Tim Schaefers before this happens to gaming as well.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. DSB

    @10 I really don’t know enough about movies to say, but I think some of the early guys were pretty serious.

    Chaplin desperately pushed to see cinema move forward, and stuff like hobos kicking cops on screen was seen as very controversial at the time.

    I mean, the FBI ran him out of the country because they felt he was too dangerous.

    I think it was a question of technology more than anything else. Without speech, you’re essentially miming everything, and it can’t be easy to form a narrative like that, and certainly nothing subtle.

    Metropolis is from the 1920′s though, and that was pretty advanced.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Ireland Michael

    @11 I’m not saying that everything before the 1940s in cinema was unimportant. Nobody would deny the importance and influence of Charlie Chaplin and Metropolis. They were the early geniuses.

    Gaming has its own equivelants of those – It’s Fumito Ueda’s and its Akira Yamaoka’s, but its yet to have its watershed moment – the obvious dividing line where things changed. And this is largely because of the amateurish standards of many of the creators out there. It’s pretty sad how difficult it dyill is to simply get a good story and a good game in one package.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. TheWulf

    I think that part of DSB’s opinion is falling prey to the fallacy of Everything Ever, and thus spiralling down the plughole of binary thinking. It’s a layered and subjective thing. I mean, what they said makes sense.

    Go to deviantART, pick a random artist, and then tell them that by rights they shouldn’t consider what they do to be art. They will ask you to A.) quantify this, and B.) who the hell made you the objective authority on what is or is not art.

    The reason for this? Art is a subjective thing.

    Oh, sure, you’ll have high-brow hipsters who have this binary thinking thing going on where something is absolutely art or is absolutely not, but when you ask them to quantify this, it all falls apart. They can tell you why they like it, but they cannot tell you in objective terms why item A deserves the classification of art, and item B does not.

    This is a fact that many people who do this flounder around. Ebert did the same thing. “Oh, well it’s not art because it’s not Hamlet.” But from a logical standpoint this doesn’t make sense unless you can quantify the exact quality that made Hamlet art. You can’t.

    All you can say is that something was profound to you, and thus it is art to you because it had a noteworthy impact upon your life. You took something away from it on an emotional or intellectual level. So just about anything could be art. The fact of the matter is is that some things don’t try to engage you emotionally or intellectually, and as such they might not have a widely held categorisation as art.

    This is why Die Hard is a silly example, because it’s playing up to the populist viewpoint, it’s that old fallacy of saying what the audience expects to hear. Well, yeah, you’re not engaged by it in any way intellectually or emotionally. But what about the special effects guy who really appreciates how well those explosions were handled?

    To him, aspects of the movie might be art, because he appreciates what other people in his profession are doing.

    Art is whatever the fuck we think it is, and the opinions of other people won’t matter because the fact is is that whilst I may have taken something away from a piece of entertainment on an emotional or intellectual level, you may not have. Therefore, what I view as art, you might not. I might be passionate about what I see as art, you would not be.

    I thought that To the Moon was art, I thought that Gemini Rue was art, I thought that Mask of the Betrayer was art, I thought that Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was art. But this is because they all engaged me on some profound level that other things did not.

    So what am I saying, here?

    Art is what pushes those joy buttons in our heads, something that connects with us on a deep level, so we really, really like it. As such, art can be absolutely anything. What can be art is changing all the time, the myriad forms that people are attempting to create something profound via are changing all the time.

    The only person who can say what is or is not artistic is you. And you have to accept that someone else might not see the art because they don’t have your brain, so their reality is very different. They’re seeing an entirely different world than you are because of their perceptions, so things that might touch you on some deep level might not do anything for someone else.

    I mean, let me give you an obvious inverse example of Die Hard.

    Brokeback Mountain was a film I viewed as art because of the subtle way in which it handled bisexuality and the exploration of such. Now, there are many reasons for which you may not see the profoundness in such a film, or in certain cases of bigotry, you may even find that you were offended by it. But that’s the inverse of Die Hard, because in Brokeback Mountain you could easily see what they were trying to do. (And I think they pulled it off with aplomb.)

    But there are things that blur the lines.

    Like I said though, it’s just down to you. Did it matter to you? Was it memorable? Did it engage you? Did you think about that bit of entertainment after it was done? Did you talk about it? Did you have anything that you passionately wanted to say about it? Did it make you feel? Did it make you think differently? Did it open you open to new ways of thinking? Did it brighten your day? Did it introduce you to elements of life that you were previously unaware of? Was it wondrous?

    A few of these things being yes could likely mean that it’s art for you. And that’s the only real way you can quantify it.

    #13 3 years ago

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