Thursday, April 22, 2010

PZ Myers... I am disappoint.

I suppose this could be taken as an objective lesson in the fact that sometimes, you should only spout off about what you know.

[pause for hypocrisy to fade out]

PZ Meyers, noted humanist, skeptic, atheist, and researcher of evolutionary developmental biology, has tossed his hat into the ring hosting an old/new battle of opinions. On one side, gamers, lead by Penny Arcade (who say that games can be art). On the other, wizened warlocks, lead by Roger Ebert (who says they cannot).

To summarize, Ebert, and now Meyers, seem to feel that it is appropriate to compare video games to chess, mahjong, or basketball, in terms of a means of expression. Tycho does not.

I don't want to speak to the debate at large. It's a ridiculous terminological dispute, with meaning apparently generated only as a side effect of more ponderous, pointless statements.
Define art one way, video games are included. Define it another way, they are not.
I've spoken here before about what a destructive influence different connotations of words have on reasonable discourse.
If someone, say Roger Ebert, starts with the definition that 'Art' includes only, "things that I'm interested in, and cannot have a winner or loser," then obviously video games will not be included. But this trods quite firmly upon the emotional toes of anyone that defines it as an emotionally engaging and significant piece of media.
The effect is doubly strong when you consider that despite it's nebulous definition, 'art' is something spoken of with reverence by most of humanity. I'll admit it, when beauty is captured in ways that inspire creativity and invoke my emotions, I call it art, and mean something great and numinous by that. It seems to be a word that encapsulates the meaning within a subset of our experiences, and these sorts of arguments seem an attack, an attempt to invalidate your experiences.

I seem to have ended up talking about it anyways. Not everyone gets what they want I suppose. But I just couldn't keep quiet after seeing statements as perplexing as: "imagine recording that game, and wanting to go back and watch the replay again sometime. That's where games fail as art."
I wonder speaking up like this is some kind of instinct. If I were an evolutionary psychologist, perhaps I'd say that it must have been advantageous to confront people spouting nonsense, to make sure they haven't eaten poisonous mushrooms.
Does this make sense to anyone else? Because to me the situation he is describing is a bit like saying that literature cannot be art because no one would want to listen to an audio recording of a person reading a book.


theamberkey said...

That particular line struck me as fairly nonsensical, as well.

remigious said...

What the hell? Video games are (at least in my opinion) unquestionably an art form. Just because it is highly commercialized and collaborative doesn't mean it isn't art.