If Chess and Go, arguably the two greatest games in history, have never been regarded as works of art, why should Missile Command?
Chess never considered an art form? That would be shocking news to the writers of every serious chess book I've ever read. I also need to call up my old friend J and inform him that he was incorrect in calling my two-knight combination artistic. And my poor brother, who used to go on to no end about the beautiful games of the old masters--he'll be heartbroken to hear the news. Someone should probably tell Google, as well.
I get that most people aren't terribly familiar with chess literature. But five seconds on Google will disprove the statement that "chess ... [has] never been regarded as ... art":
"Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry; the chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts, and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. Actually, I believe that every chess player experiences a mixture of two aesthetic pleasures: first, the abstract image akin to the poetic idea of writing; secondly, the sensuous pleasure of the ideographic execution of that image on the chessboard. From my close contact with artists and chess players, I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists." -- Marcel Duchamp, August 30, 1952 address to the New York State Chess AssociationThe main point that the article seems to make--and indeed, one of the main points that Ebert made--was that video games have choice, whereas art shouldn't. Ebert is coming from the perspective of a movie critic after all. But in denying that art can contain choice he effectively declares that whole swaths of poetry, all participatory art and most performance art ... aren't. If art cannot contain choices--choices which ultimately greatly influence how the work is perceived--then what happens to opera, ballet, theater? A movie might end the same way every time, but Swan Lake doesn't. Even a choice as basic as the look of the person cast in a role influences perception of their character. As a semi-professional singer, the idea that art can contain no choices actually made me laugh out loud. Go look up a few different stagings and interpretations of some operas, and then we'll have a chat about choice in art. Even in the written word there is choice: we were having a discussion in my poetry group the other day about how poetry is meant to be read aloud--the act of reading aloud and constructing the texts forces us to collapse ambiguities in the wording on paper and choose one way or the other to read the piece. It depresses me that now I'll have to tell them the sorry news that such poems can never be art.
And there's the rub--if he's arguing that most games aren't art, then I would be hard-pressed to disagree with that, but why write an article? If he's arguing that no game can ever be art ... well, there is no argument broad enough to cover all games everywhere that does not also apply to a whole slew of other art forms as well. Certainly he hasn't found one.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about the article (aside from the insinuation that Schopenhauer--if only we could ask him!--would probably act patronizing towards us for disagreeing with its author) is that in an article about the possibility of video games being art, it mentions by name only Missile Command, Plants vs. Zombies, and Defense Grid. To which we ask: if an article claiming that no movies could be art mentioned by name only 'Return of the Living Dead', 'Hellraiser', and 'Dumb and Dumber', would you take seriously anything else that it had to say?