October, 2019 | Doomlaser

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Video Games as High Art? Roger Ebert & The Cultural Ghetto

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

I ran across this brief talk today, which I gave at the Game Developers Conference years ago, about video games, Roger Ebert, high art & the cultural ghetto. I think it’s held up pretty well over time.

The quick synopsis of my thesis is, simply, that art is something that people do, and the medium is irrelevant.

With video games, “the artist” is designing a possibility space for the audience—what can happen, and what the consequences of the player’s decisions are.

A video game doesn’t need to have any goal or explicit win-state. We’ve seen that with the rise of walking simulators, which are no different than experiencing a piece of architecture, a garden, or an art exhibit itself.

Fun fact: I’m the person who prodded Roger Ebert into writing his infamous essay condemning the artistic merit of video games, which he later retracted after a rousing bit of internet outrage from all corners. But when I ran into him and Chaz at Ebertfest in 2010, and reminded him about our exchanges, he shook my hand and was all smiles.

The Museum of Modern Art has had an interactive wing for decades, but now it holds actual video games in its permanent collection so I’d say the question now is pretty much moot.

MoMA‘s inaugural selections, from Katamari to Dwarf Fortress, express a good range of what the what the video game medium has been capable of producing over the course of its first few formative decades.

Check out our video games on itch.io — they’re free