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August 10, 2007


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Dude, how are you going to make games that "move people" if you are constantly kowtowing to some executive who, at whatever whim, can just overrule whatever work you've done because you don't have any clout (read: do not have your name ON THE BOX)? Your 100-people-make-it comment kowtows to group-think. I could also mention that any film is the same: 100+ people are involved, but there are still core individual creators.

Let me ask you this: Can you get an agent? Do you have the power to say "Clint Hocking" has attached his name to Project X (a game that will "move people") and so an agent can package it, attach other names, and it will get funded? If the answer is no, then you aren't standing up for what is yours. Have some balls. Strike out for the wilderness and create.

GG, so, how's that going to work exactly? Setting aside for the moment that Clint is making the games that he wants to make now (though that's quite a salient point in its own right), how is it going to be that Clint's name on the box gets him funding that allows him to make games that he can't already make? Let's also set aside for the moment the somewhat ridiculous prospect of Clint Hocking's Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.

Do you think it's really kowtowing to allow all the folks involved in making a game to have creative input? If so, it's clear I wouldn't be interested in working with you -- though I imagine I'd be interested in working with Clint, either at Ubi or should he strike out for this mythological wilderness you espouse.

A lot of folks work on a game, and our passion comes from being able to apply our creative impulses to our work. We work in a partnership with a creative director, just as the creative director works in a partnership with the producer or executive producer or what have you. We build a level of trust that we'll work to achieve his creative vision, but that the path we take to get to that will rely on our own experience and yes, creative decisions. And, in the case of the executives, that we'll meet the market that justifies the expense of what we're building. I can say that in products I've worked on -- and they are products, even when they are artful, as I'd say Clint's have been -- these games have been immeasurably improved by little ideas that came from all over. From the graphics programmer. From a game programmer. From a tech artist. From an animator. From little teams mashing up multiple disciplines. And yes, even from those "executives" you seem to so despise; we got "overridden" quite late in the process on my last game and we were all annoyed by it, and in the end, the game was far superior because of it.

Standing up for what's yours doesn't mean making the sorts of demands you're talking about. What it means is constantly negotiating the tensions that are a natural part of game development: the schedule, the budget, the talent that you have working on the game, even the demands and needs and expectations of the market. I've worked with creative directors who willingly let go of even the things they're most passionate about because they see that the impact on the project will be more than the project can bear. It takes a certain amount of maturity to be able to say, "I feel in my bones that this would be great -- but let's get it in the next game, we don't have the time/budget/people to do anything but half-ass it."

You mention that there are core individual creators on films. In my opinion, the films that are closest to game development are 3D animated features these days -- they utilize roughly the same types of people, they marry engineering (in terms of new technology) and art, they have directors and writers who are responsible for the narrative/plot/etc. I look most of at Pixar's movies and I see works of art that are also products. And I know folks who work there, and I know they feel they have creative input in their jobs. In fact, it is exactly because of this creative buy-in that these folks are able to produce such great work. It's what separates Pixar movies from most of the other uninspired 3D animated dreck that comes out in a given year. I'd say it also distinguishes some of the better Ubisoft titles that I've played over the last few years, too -- the first Prince of Persia they did (I haven't played the sequels), Clint's work on the Splinter Cell series, Beyond Good and Evil, Rayman 2.

Finally, Clint probably wouldn't call you on this, but frankly, I find it laughable that someone who hides behind the anonymity of a "cover" name would tell Clint to have some balls. Have some balls, GG! Strike out for the wilderness and tell us what you've done that should make us sit up and listen! Your message is hindered by the fact that you don't have your name "on the box", so to speak.

Many months after the comments have died...

Say radiohead wrote a song and never explained to anyone what it meant, not the lyrics, not the music, not the motiffs... The song is good. In fact, the song is incredible! Now, the lyrics are pretty ambiguous, though they have applicability to many diferent subjects and are good lyrics too (memorable quotes, etc.). After many years, the World's concensus of what the song meant was "A". Radiohead then decides to share with the World what the song was really about and actually, it wasnt "A" at all, it was "B". Would this sittuation be what Ebert refers to the player having a range of perspectives in games instead of the ONE intended by the artist in "art"? Would this prohibit the song from being considered art? Would it simply qualify Radiohead as poor artists or the song as bad art? What if the artist stops making the art (and calls it "finished") when he/she thinks the msg (if one was intended) was conveyed and no one ever gets it or "sees" it as done and complete?

I hope that artists are allowed to let go of the conclusions reached by witnesses of the art in question. If not, they would have to make art that adapts itself to all different kinds of personal perspectives in order to guarantee the conclusion they intend others (AND including the artist) to "get" once it is externalized and considered done.

I wonder if this would constitute a part of the rebutal.


In think these issue are well covered in academic art theory. I think we generally accept that what the artists 'says it means' is irrelevant unless he says it 'in' the work itself. In other words, after the work is finished, the author is no longer the 'authority' on what the work means, he or she or radiohead are just another voice with an opinion about the meaning of the work. Anyone who can justify their interpretation of the work - and can tie their justifications back to the text - has an equally valid opinion. So, is Dumbledor gay? The question is technically speaking unanswered. Simply because the author says he is does not make it so - she didn't it explicitly in the text.

Wow, I was actually thinking about that (Dumbledore Gay? etc.) when I wrote in. Funny, you've "read" my text/mind. I really appreciate that :)

Isaac Asimov has a similar suggestion against Tolkiens "aplicability" of the ring, concluding into that very idea when an audience member of one of his (Isaac's) lectures confronted him about that very same Author's authorship/ownership of the art. It's in Asimov "Gold" Perhaps I should have suggested that since games can have more exploration or different takes or chances on what the artist intended, therefore guaranteeing the artists intent IS within the art, where as other media might have fewer oportunities.

Oh well, I'm gald you commented. Thank you very much! I thought this topic was dead...

Certainly you could make a rebuttal to Mr. Ebert's points through means of deconstructionist theory. If Ebert says games can't be art because their meanings are unstable, then if we assume even a very mild interpretation of deconstructionism, then there can be no art at all under Ebert's understanding - all texts are unstable to some degree. That leaves Ebert in the position of having to totally discount deconstructionism outright (if he wants to avoid being contradictory,) which is also fallacious because it renders 99% of all art meaningless (due to the artist no longer being alive and thus unable to tell us the true meaning of the work.)

Aesthetically speaking, I don't think Mr. Ebert has much of a leg to stand on, beyond a vague intuition that they 'just aren't art.'

Ebert's view is a conservative view on art, while your view is the progressive view. The times have changed, the common folk now has the TOOLS (which are an artform by themselves, just look at Spore's critter creator) to create your own art (in the case of gaming you get gameplay to create storyline).
It's not just with games. Just look at YouTube (a tool but not much of an art by itself). It has millions of user-generated culture, and while 90% of it is rubbish, the rest could be considered art by a non-conservative individual. There too is the case of collective authorship (e.g. when you use a known song to create your own video). Lawrence Lessig, proffessor of Law, wrote some great books on what he labeled as read and write culture (as opposed to read-only culture) or REMIX CULTURE. Some of them are free-to-download. Check them out if you haven't already.

Let's face it, art is intent. When we make games, even the simplest, we are trying to tug some emotion from the player. That "intent" alone makes the game a form of art. Ebert tries mightily to distinguish between "high" and "low" art, which is his own personal way of separating games from what people would thusly consider to be "real" art (low art is not art, apparently). which gets back to the first point of this little post: we cannot, and should not, put arbitrary rules, limitations and additions to an already elusive definition of art.

I have no idea why anyone gives Ebert any sympathy at all. Barker responded to him like an adult, he responded to Barker like a youtube comment. That loses him any sense of respect from me. Nevermind his bloated sense of his own worth and intelligence.

Seriously. The man called Evil Dead 2 a satire and said only "level two viewers like [himself]" would realize it was not a horror movie.

What is Art? Have we laid down a universally accepted definition of what Art can be? Then what is this whole debate about anyway.

Roger Ebert says Video games are not Art, which in turn means he knows what Art is and according to his own internalized rules about what Art can be, he say it ain't. So is his own definition of 'Art' correct? Is there any definition of it? or any definition of other Abstract concepts like Beauty?

It's like saying, a Baboon's face can never be Beautiful. Yeah whatever.

Opinions are opinions. It just drives me crazy to think that this whole thing warrants a discussion, rebuttals and what not and the kind of publicity this has garnered.

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