Miyamoto: Video Games AREN'T ART?

Game News: Miyamoto: Video Games AREN'T ART?

Are video games art? Depends on who you ask, but industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto he will tell you his games aren't. They're products.

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Comments (19)

  • TheRTV FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Round Peg in Square Hole

    4 months ago

    I'll be honest, you're clickbait title drew me in. (Clickbait as in super generalized title that isn't a lie necessarily, but still designed to get a rise out of someone to draw them in)

    I get what Miyamoto is saying. For reference, art for me is creation. Miyamoto doesn't consider HIS videogames art because they were constructed with a set rules from his company. OTHER videogames can be art if they are built purely from an idea and not because a company wants something to make them a profit. One could make the argument that if commissioned paintings are art, then videogames from big companies can be too.


    Also if it didn't matter if games were called art or not, then it wouldn't be a big deal, but everyone including me is still talking about this years later. Best opinion on videogames being art is still Sessler's Soapbox for me

  • Shmittles FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I don't really get why the idea that it's a product would have to exclude the notion of it being art. I think what Miyamoto was getting at is that he just wants to design the best thing he can for people to enjoy, and that "art" isn't the primary label he would attribute to it. Besides, pretty much every anti-art argument they brought up weren't exclusive to video games. >_>

  • Utukku232 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Utukku232

    4 months ago

    Absolutely the hang up on this debate of 'Is a video game art?' is the defining word itself; art.  In a strange but similar debate BBC's Top Gear asked if an automobile could be considered art based on the argument that driving a stylish, handcrafted car can evoke an emotional response.  At the end, if I am recalling right they said cars cannot be considered art as art should not have any function outside of expressionism.


    That definition actually really limits what is considered art, excluding things like books, movies or plays because these things serve to entertain.  Games fall into the category too.  They entertain an audience in a 2-way experience.  The audience (or player) interacts with the game and the game reacts to them.  That is not the same as art.  Looking at Munch's The Scream or da Vinci's Mona Lisa does not have that interaction.  The viewer is not entertained, it is simply an emotional experience (if you are someone that is moved by paintings).


    That being said, games like movies, books, plays or music can be artist and/or be an expression of artist quality.  But to me, like Miyamoto said, they are not art unto itself.

  • Quizzical_Quark FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    I graduated in Digital Arts & Entertainment and the traditional art schools were up in arms about the word art in it. The problem lays that the definition of art is so different depending on the person and even on the situation. There are few games that are made with no regard for their audience, and are all about the game design and the journey to get there. If you believe that all beautiful pictures, drawings, paintings are art then sure games can be art. If you're looking deeper than the face value of these for art, games will have a harder time to be classified as art. 


    It's like looking at "Tableau I" of Mondriaan and saying that's not art, I can do that. Then sure games can be art. 

    But if you look at "Tableau I" as the result of Mondriaan's journey of extracting the essence of a tree that started with "Evening; Red Tree" over "Gray Tree" to end up with his abstract representation of that tree. Then games get harder to be classified as art. 


    And in the end it doesn't matter one bit enjoy what you enjoy and who cares about what classification others give it. 

  • RiverRunning

    4 months ago

    This is also putting down the amazing time, dedication and skill that a lot of coders put into their work - the programmers of physics engines, graphics engines (it's in the name even in this case) and the like require at least as much skill as carpenters, painters or authors. Then you have the artists and the musicians that add to the work, possibly the best comparison for a game is an orchestral work. Many people are involved in doing their part and doing it well to even show the piece of art in a way most people understand it, you've the designers who write the template but without the players of each instrument (artists, musicians, coders etc.) and the conductor (player) you haven't got a work of art (except to those who can envision the music/game in their head).


    That it is a product might be more important to the creator than its being a piece of art but that is irrelevant... just look at the fact most "classical" artists/composers were poor as dirt, they created all their works of art to make money to keep themselves alive, some of them failed or did a bad job of it in their lifetimes but none of that makes them any the less artists... how many artists/coders get recognition in their lifetime (or even seek it?)... few, but I'll bet you'll find that in the future shining examples will be found - even though a lot of us gamers already know who they are Miyamoto! :D

  • MartyGras2

    4 months ago

    Games are all in what you make of of them.  So they can be art or they cannot.

  • DarkTempler7 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    I'm not sure why a random person like Roger Ebert's opinion has any bearing here. It's not his field, so why is his opinion being taken seriously?

  • DavidtheWavid FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    Welll, guess he's never played Journey. And yes, FFXV. If you play on easy, it can be very hard to lose because Carbuncle, the heavenly fennec baby pupper, revives you. 

  • SryEtinPizza FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

    4 months ago

    I like how studios have art departments, but video games aren't art. But Miyamoto's not wrong really, since it's his opinion. I think they are totally art.

    • RiverRunning

      4 months ago

      No... he is completely wrong and the argument that they are products made to sell is specious... so are 99% of books, fine art, sculptures, plays and most other forms of art - about the only exceptions are probably painting and poetry which are probably more like 20% painted/written to sell once you include all the crap people write in the name of romance and love, never mind all the stuff we do at school when we're kids.

    • SryEtinPizza FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold

      4 months ago

      well that's your opinion. an opinion can't be wrong. and while I actually agree with you, you can't really say that the guy who makes games is wrong on his own opinion.

  • JSTYX FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Punching life in the FAC

    4 months ago

    This is denying the possibility that products cannot function as art. It follows an older (modern, yet dated) view that for something to be true 'art', it needs to be virtuous, self-sacrificing (as in, spiritually gifted from god, and cannot make money), and, in some way, valueless. That's where a lot of the modern (Duchamps-style) ideas of 'art' come from, that the real essence of art is in the thoughts and revelations it creates, and the less useful it is, unsullied by desires like practicality, the more raw that feeling is. (Duchamp's ideas were... kind of championed out of context, in an attempt to make rich people feel smart by separating them both from the lower classes and their money, which I personally think is an art in itself)


    On top of that, Miyamoto, despite being the identity behind many pivotal video games, is far from a be-all-end-all authority on all of videogames. He doesn't speak for Triple-A studios, or indie coders, or small companies. But thoughts like his, those are the kinds of bad examples that make living as an actual artist difficult, to convince people to support you making a living off your work and trade. (Oh, and keep prices low for studio artists. After all, it's not like coding is a skill that makes "art", after all.)


    I still think this is my favorite definition of art.

    • JSTYX FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Punching life in the FAC

      4 months ago

      Also, "No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets."

      And apparently you weren't able to cite a second person to catch the double use of poets, Ebert.

    • RiverRunning

      4 months ago

      The original "Elite" - it is a work of art, both in its coding, what it was capable of on the hardware it was written for and visually. It has spawned thousands of attempts at reproducing it more or less closely but it is still held up as a candle to guide the faithful by some - enough to make "Elite: Dangerous" a success on the name alone (nevermind that it is indeed a worthy successor itself.


      Also it's worth noting here that the age old debate of what is and isn't literature has similar overtones and that there are zero works of Science Fiction considered literature except those one-offs written by authors who are considered to have only written literature (interestingly their science fiction works are considered to be some of the worst examples of non-trash novels in the field - trash novels being the cowboy and indian style rubbish that it written and printed in a week and sold by the crate, very little of it published these days except in the field of comics).

    • JSTYX FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Punching life in the FAC

      4 months ago

      @RiverRunning Much of what are thought of as penny deadfuls or pulp fiction are chewed out for being cheap thrills (the word novel coming more from the idea of novelty. They are generally termed romances in european countries, which also evokes harlequin novels, which despite being very light grandma-targeted smut, are some of the bestselling books, even in modern times) 


      My degree is in comics, actually *glances at degree on wall, my god I paid money for that thing*. but I love to study games to compare the two fields. Have you ever heard of the comics code authority and senate hearings of the 1950's? It's amazing-- an actual senate hearing was held to see whether or not the comic horror stories from EC comics were harmful to children. They were churned out week after week, but were especially popular with youths of all ages. Although the hearings did not result in any government action, an internal censoring board was created, the CCA, to regulate what was appropriate to publish and be sold in stores. (of course, many of the rules were meant to tank EC comics as a competitor, which switched over to magazine formats, which developed into MAD Magazine.)


      Ultimately, it was a state that propelled comics to evolve and mature from simple commercial endeavours. Perhaps the most accolade-given graphic novel is Art Spiegelman's Maus. It won a Pulitzer, which helped legitimize the form, until the rules were changed to exclude graphic novels. The need to avoid gory cliches and develop stronger moral stories ultimately led to the silver age of comics, where many of the key Marvel characters originated. And by now, popular culture is dominated by those mainstream figures.  It also led to a push for subversive, experimental and independent comics, which helped push its boundaries in to more artistic and adult stories. 

      (And then there was the bronze age, with its muscly Rob Liefeld men and pockets and Wolverine on every cover, which got in to super-trash collectibles. Now there's a boom in comics as pop-literature.) All in all, it goes in waves. But the key idea of the story-- that a medium is itself art, that's kind of silly. At the very least, Miyamoto should get credit for Mario level 1-1, from a design sense. Maybe he's upset that he had more freedom to play with new ideas decades ago, but now is expected to make more of the same over and over as the original Mario Maker. 

  • EricHVela FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold 7-4 M-F CDT

    4 months ago

    The title is a little misleading. It should be "Miyamoto: My Video Games AREN'T ART?" is much more accurate.


    His approach to developing games is sensible. If you don't have a product, you don't have anything worth buying. It's like movies that attach an IP before even having decent story on its own. They end up being terrible movies.


    If you have a beautiful game that isn't fun to play, you don't have a product. If you have a game with a clear and well developed story that's confusing to try to progress because the gameplay makes no sense, you don't have a product. In both cases, you don't have a game and your artwork or story won't make it to the audience.


    Having a product is part of the process of games, but it's not necessarily the only part. This isn't something restricted to games, either. You can have beautiful cars, but they have to actually work. Then again, I might be alone in thinking that some cars are pretty much works of art.


    As for the whole "you can lose" argument about games cannot be art, have you ever seen a movie that you believe is art but you felt that you lost? So many great movies that end with a negative experience. The only difference is that games give you the ability to experience something different when you do something different (not unlike a sculpture that looks radically different when you view it from a different angle).

    • JSTYX FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Punching life in the FAC

      4 months ago

      Ebert was probably thinking about very basic games, and was comparing them to simple quarger-guzzler games he may have been more familiar with at the time. But this win/lose statement doesn't make any sense for games that are more about linear storytelling, and use gameplay and interaction to advance the story. And though it got a lot of flack for being short and expensive, Firewatch would be a wonderful example of having a cinematic, linear story, but having it personalized by having it be 


      Then again, there's also this really annoying thing reviewers and critics do where they think that since they have competency in one medium to translate it for others, that they become an authority on ALL ART EVER. And that all the rules of movies and cinematography are the same as those for video games. (I know I do this a bit for my job, but at least I know my weakness. :P ) 


      Being a critic or an industry figurehead isn't about having the right answers to give people a verified opinion on if something is art or not, it's about teaching people about what they're experiencing so they can get more enjoyment out of it, or decide for themselves what's worth their time, and I think video games are the most perfectly suited to that. 



    • RiverRunning

      4 months ago

      Artists also have to work in many or all of or with more constraints that those working with a product... if someone like the Vatican requests a picture for the Sistine Chapel any artist taking on that job is naturally going to be working to a huge number of constraints - a lot of potential ideas that an artist might have would incur the death penalty as well so they are not exactly soft constraints... but we would still consider the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a work of art.

    • JSTYX FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Punching life in the FAC

      4 months ago

      @RiverRunning

      Speaking generally, artists and creators, like any other kinds of skilled labor, create work to share with others, or are commissioned by others who want to borrow their skills. The paintings of the sistine chapel are remarkable for many reasons-- the realistic style that became symbolic of the style of the renaissance, the funding needed to commission so many paintings, and in some ways, the spiritual associations with so many religious symbols. But it wasn't sacred-- the 


      Then again, the guy was still paid to paint naked people all over a church.


      As an artist (a comic artist), I understand that I am a skilled worker, and that I know exactly where to put my pencil marks. Sometimes my marks are for myself, but sometimes they come from other people. (and once in a blue moon, I get paid for it too). But even if it comes with constraints (and wow do they ever), that they have certain limits does not mean they cannot be art. Art without limits or context is Dada, and that got boring real quick.