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Mike Bithell - "games are art but don't critique them" - Let's Rant

GreyHorace

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Videgames are not art? What a silly notion. Of course they're art. Any creative work can be considered art and videogames are no exception. As long as a human being has had a hand in the creative process, from a Mario to a Call of Duty game, they can be called as art.

It's when those pretentious voices, from the David Cage's to the Neil Druckmann's, come out and say their work will elevate the medium and is more deserving of the 'art' moniker, that's when I call bullshit. Bollocks like that is common in forms of media. Yeah, The Room is a terrible movie and deserves the mockery, but Tommy Wiseau made it put his creative stamp and deserves respect for that. Likewise a guy like Hidetaka Miyazaki, whose games are celebrated, all bear his creative thumbprint.
 
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Solaris

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Jan 26, 2018
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Well art is 100% personal opinion. You cant qualify what is art and what isn't across the board. The concept of art is subjective, not objective.

To me the mona lisa isn't art, it's just a painting and some guy pisses in a jar of nails might call it art but I call it a jar of nails and piss. But there are many who would disagree with me. Anything a person creates can be called art. But just because a sculpture can be considered art doesn't mean every sculpture ever created is art, just like not every song ever made is art, nor every picture taken is art.

And games are not art as a rule and its incredibly narrow minded of all those people who just chant "games are art!!!!!!!" Because not all games are art. If someone said madden 20 was art I cant argue against their opinion.

But to me games are only art in a clinical sense that it takes an artist to design and create the images and such, much like the logo for GE took an artist to do it but I don't consider it art in the abstract sense of the word.
Games are not art

They are, but not the kind of art people are used to
Games are not art
 

klosos

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Apr 5, 2018
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Are games art? Don't know and don't care.

My problem with this discussion is it seems to me people within the industry are so desperate to be recognised and given credit from people outside the industry. What's the point the game industry is bigger and more profitable then any other.

It's why 15-20 years ago a US film critic (forgot his name) said games can't be art (something like that) and people were annoyed. Well why was people annoyed there is no other entertainment like gaming. Why can't we embrace the great things gaming gives us that music, film can not.
 
May 22, 2018
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The biggest problem is many critics not being able to take criticism of their own work, or the methods in which they present their work. We see it a lot from writers on Kotaku, VG247 etc, they are all very good at taking shots at other people and their work, but can never seem to take the shots themselves without taking it incredibly personally or feeling attacked. It's quite a sad state of affairs, really.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Games are sports that use art assets, if we want to pigeonhole a medium by comparing it to others.

A movie is just a high-tech theatre performance.
Music is just skilled, coordinated playing of a tool that produces sound.
 

GreyHorace

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The biggest problem is many critics not being able to take criticism of their own work, or the methods in which they present their work. We see it a lot from writers on Kotaku, VG247 etc, they are all very good at taking shots at other people and their work, but can never seem to take the shots themselves without taking it incredibly personally or feeling attacked. It's quite a sad state of affairs, really.
It's absolutely pathetic that so-called 'journalists' already cry foul when they get called out on social media. They're pussies compared to someone like say Veronica Guerin, who was threatened and attacked by the Irish mob over her reporting on the Dublin underworld. She was eventually killed in 1996 but her work led to the arrests of many criminal figures.

What's the epitath going to say Jason Schreier's obituary? "Died because he got too many dislikes on Twitter?" :messenger_tears_of_joy:
 
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May 22, 2018
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It's absolutely pathetic that so-called 'journalists' already cry foul when they get called out on social media. They're pussies compared to someone like say Veronica Guerin, who was threatened and attacked by the Irish mob over her reporting on the Dublin underworld. She was eventually killed in 1996 but her work led to the arrests of many criminal figures.

What's the epitath going to say Jason Schreier's obituary? "Died because he got too many dislikes on Twitter?" :messenger_tears_of_joy:
Well that's it, the likes of Jason Schreier and Kirk McKeand just block anyone that disagrees with them or anyone that makes a fair point, possibly showing that they may not actually be correct on certain topics. Rather than engage and possibly admit any wrong doing, or need of correction, they just stick their fingers in their ears. That's not journalism and it's also nothing remotely close to critical thought.
 
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GreyHorace

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Well that's it, the likes of Jason Schreier and Kirk McKeand just block anyone that disagrees with them or anyone that makes a fair point, possibly showing that they may not actually be correct on certain topics. Rather than engage and possibly admit any wrong doing, or need of correction, they just stick their fingers in their ears. That's not journalism and it's also nothing remotely close to critical thought.
That's the problem right there. There's no sense of professionalism among these so called game journalists. Instead of admitting their mistakes or accepting an opposing viewpoint, they whine and bitch like spoiled brats. It makes you wonder if these people ever grew up.
 
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May 22, 2018
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That's the problem right there. There's no sense of professionalism among these so called game journalists. Instead of admitting their mistakes or accepting an opposing viewpoint, they whine and bitch like spoiled brats. It makes you wonder if these people ever grew up.
it just comes across as disingenuous, at the end of the day. "Let's talk about this issue, but not like that, just the way i want to address it. Your arguments are in bad faith, mine are not."
Then they wonder why people have problems trusting or believing their integrity...and inevitably why they are then criticised themselves.
 

GreyHorace

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it just comes across as disingenuous, at the end of the day. "Let's talk about this issue, but not like that, just the way i want to address it. Your arguments are in bad faith, mine are not."
Then they wonder why people have problems trusting or believing their integrity...and inevitably why they are then criticised themselves.
It's not just limited to game journalism sadly. Many in the media have this tunnel vision mentality with regards to the issues today, especially those dealing with Donald Trump.

I blame all this on university education. One need only see how they've been banning conservatives from speaking on campus so as to condition their students minds to accept one viewpoint. The end result of which is this:

 
May 22, 2018
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It's not just limited to game journalism sadly. Many in the media have this tunnel vision mentality with regards to the issues today, especially those dealing with Donald Trump.

I blame all this on university education. One need only see how they've been banning conservatives from speaking on campus so as to condition their students minds to accept one viewpoint. The end result of which is this:
Sorry, I can't watch that video again...i just can't! :messenger_tears_of_joy:
 
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In my experience people don't have a problem with critique. They have a problem with someone trolling through a game, nitpicking for "problematic" content to bitch about, and calling it a salient social critique. All the while trading in censorious posturing that falls far outside the bounds of criticism.

By the way "problematic" content could be something as trifling as spider-man fighting alongside cops. So let's bare in mind the level of criticism we're dealing with here.

Also, yet another person who doesn't understand what's being expressed when people say "keep your politics out of my game." They're not saying remove any themes that can be related to politics or don't include social issues. They're saying they don't want, preachy, didactic political messaging. Or game-play and aesthetic choices that run contrary to a games stated goal for the sake of ideology. Especially in established franchises.

Because then we jump into a downward spiral of questions like this:

"If gameplay can be considered art, does that make sports 'art'?".
"What about works of engineering? Should they be considered art when we focus solely on functionality?".
"How do we judge the artistic merit of an action?".
"Is Bayonetta more artistic than The Last of Us based purely on game mechanics?".
"Is a game that has more mechanics more artistic than one that has less?".
"Is football more artistic than baseball?".

I honestly don't care since I'm basing all of this on the fun factor.
Is your game fun? Great. That makes all the "artistic" crap a bonus.
Is your game boring? No amount of sublime art will save it from being boring.
None of the questions are particularly difficult to answer. A creative work is art when it's made for the purpose of aesthetic or emotional enjoyment. It's not art when it's made for a practical function. You can make a sculpture of a chair that's made to be viewed and enjoyed, that's art. A chair that's made to be sat upon isn't.

The distinction is entirely in intent. Insofar as games are creative works meant to be enjoyed on an emotional or aesthetic level, they are art. Yes, mechanics and gameplay systems are art too.
 

Ian Henry

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Mar 7, 2019
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As a person really trying to come into the gaming industry, I get divided on what people want in the comments here. Idk how my vision will cause people but I do believe in balance.

I think it'll be cool to have both good ass gameplay and story. I'm down to do that but I want to do it my own way. Really want to give players the performance and connectivity with it so they can feel engaged.
 

MiyazakiHatesKojima

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I understand what you mean, OP. However, I would like to say that seeing shit like this really rips my knitting.

Mike Bithell - "Games are art but don't critique them. They are for thoughtful , cool grownups but obviously contain no political or philosophical content. All the kudos, none of the responsibility. We are creating culturally important work but please treat it as utterly disposable."

Sarcastic tweets like this really get under my skin for some reason.

I feel like I see this attitude so often in the gaming sphere. Someone makes a critique of games or a game or a specific aspect of a game and then acts as though their critique itself is somehow above criticism.

NO. If your critique is a pile of fucking shite then people are well within their rights to point this out.
It doesn't mean that people don't think games should never be criticized. It means that they think your criticism is rubbish.

Just because someone can come up some professional or polished or plausible sounding critique of games doesn't mean that disagreement with that critique means that we think games are disposable. Maybe we just think that this specific critique is garbage?

I'm just not sure how this is supposed to work? If someone takes a game like Sonic the Hedgehog, let's say, and comes up with a somewhat intellectual essay about how the game is about environmentalism and has a lot to say about the state of the planet then that's fine. The essay itself is not above criticism though. Even if the criticism is "I think you are looking too much into this, the game is just a fun game".

The thing here is that so many people seem to just want criticism or critique to stop exactly when they say so. So and so said Mario is a sexist game and if you say "don't talk shite" then it's "bwahahaha the toxic gamers think games shouldn't be criticized".

You can critique a game and I can critique your views and you can come back at me and I can go back at you and that can go on and on forever. It's bullshit to say that because someone disagrees with your criticism that they are just an idiot who is treating the entire medium as disposable. Your criticism is not above criticism.

The main thing that stands out to me here is that when this conversation about games gets started people are actually mostly talking about story and narrative.
Even when gameplay mechanics come into the mix it's about how those mechanics play into narrative.

I would guess that developers like Mike Bithell maybe see games as more of an interactive storytelling whereas your average player who is into Fortnite or Call of Duty is looking for more of a visceral competitive gaming experience.

It always amazes me to see someone in the industry, who makes pretty good games actually, act like games are some kind of monolith and then also act like people who say "I think your critique might be totally wrong here" are just either really dumb or really out of touch.

When people say "keep your politics out of videogames" they generally tend to mean "don't insert annoyingly preachy political talking points where they don't fit".
At least this is my experience.

That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. A military shooter with a single player campaign that has a deep, character driven story, will of course need to deal with politics to some extent. The multiplayer mode however? That's a completely different aspect to gaming.

I don't need to read "Mike Bithell's Fart Huffing Thoughts On The Deeper Meaning Of Game X" to just enjoy sitting down with Game X and doing some online multiplayer for an hour. I can easily say "yeah this political BS doesn't appeal to me I'd just like to play the game for a while".

I think this is where people like Mike, when making these points, miss that mark. Games are not JUST storytelling, they are not JUST a vehicle for interesting political views or character driven insights into the human condition. They can ALSO just be a fun and mindless way to pass the time. For some people they can be only one or only the other. That's fine. It's allowed.

The hobby as a lot of room for one or the other both without people needing to act like they know better than the plebs who just want to have fun. They are just so much better than you.

You know, you might just be enjoying your game of Splatoon but here come the Videogame Intellectuals to tell you how the game is really a warning about climate change and that's exactly what we need in Trumps America. What's that? You just want to enjoy the colors and the fun gameplay and not be bothered with all that? What are you? Some kind of troglodyte who thinks games are just disposable nonsense?

Fuck those people.

It pisses me off that when people think of "games are art" they are more often than not ONLY talking about story. What about mechanics, what about visual choices, what about soundtracks and sound effects?

I think you even have to ask the question of where the "art" even is when it comes to gaming?
Is there "art" in a game when you strip away the story and the graphics and just leave the controls and gameplay behind?

I think these folks would argue that Tetris is "art" but at the same time a critique that tries to politicize the gameplay of Tetris (ie not the fucking political story about how the game was made, the actual content of the game) is going to sound like total pretentious nonsense.

Some people really need to get over themselves and stop thinking that the only "correct" way to think in this community is their way.

There is room for both. You can have games that spin wonderful and deep narratives and that's the art of those games. Then you can have mindless fun games where the "art" lies in crafting compelling and exciting gameplay. Shit, you can even have games that give you a bit of both.

There isn't just one way to do things and there is no need for any given game to do or not do ANYTHING.

If you've got some grand "critique" of a game then, brilliant, share it with the world.
Just try to refrain from acting like a disingenuous, pompous, asshole when someone doesn't agree that your "critique" isn't the most profound and insightful thing they've read this week.

Sometimes critique can be misguided, ignorant, bullshit and it should not be defended with "hurr durr gamers can't handle criticism of their beloved electronic toys".

:)
 

ROMhack

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It's funny as Kamiya is responsible for one the best instances of arty games: Okami.

He is correct though. Creators are naturally artistic, they don't try to be artistic.
 
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tassletine

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That is not my definition. It is the definition of the word we use. There is something like higher art. And which is worthwile etc is very subjective but still it is art.


Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.

So everything produced by a human is art. It maybe not high class art but it is still art.
Then what is craft? Or taking a dump for that matter? Or building a model kit (something that requires no imagination at all).

If you have no imagination then by your own definition (creative skill AND imagination) you cannot create art. Some people have no imagination therefore they cannot create art.

Art is defined by society and is given to people who are not only willing to take the risks and receive the criticism, but also able to earn a living at it.
Calling yourself or anyone else an artist just because they did 'something' ANYTHING is utterly reductive and pointless --Unless you're a talentless hack. They use this sort of excuse the whole time.
 

Dunki

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Then what is craft? Or taking a dump for that matter? Or building a model kit (something that requires no imagination at all).

If you have no imagination then by your own definition (creative skill AND imagination) you cannot create art. Some people have no imagination therefore they cannot create art.

Art is defined by society and is given to people who are not only willing to take the risks and receive the criticism, but also able to earn a living at it.
Calling yourself or anyone else an artist just because they did 'something' ANYTHING is utterly reductive and pointless --Unless you're a talentless hack. They use this sort of excuse the whole time.
If you create something by your own hands you are an artist. Tehre are knife artist for example. I can draw a picture and would be an artist. The thing we need to realize that there are people who are considered the bests arists i the world. and that there is a quality level of art. Just because you are an artist does not mean you can live from it.

There is a hgher form of art fpr sure. But not many reach this level
 

tassletine

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If you create something by your own hands you are an artist. Tehre are knife artist for example. I can draw a picture and would be an artist. The thing we need to realize that there are people who are considered the bests arists i the world. and that there is a quality level of art. Just because you are an artist does not mean you can live from it.

There is a hgher form of art fpr sure. But not many reach this level
Nope. Typing a sentence (which uses your own hand) doesn't make you an artist any more than it makes you an author. Neither does building sandcastles. Neither does pretending that to be true, either.
Art has to have intent, be understood as having intent and communicate emotion.

On top of that, If I am working for an artist then I am a technician. You may well have wondered why, when you see an exhibition of a great artist it doesn't include the names of all their many students that helped make the piece. Sometimes the artist isn't even involved. The reasons are listed above -- The artist is the one in control of the intent and style of the work -- And because they take the risks, they get the prize.

So the people involved, even when they are doing exactly what you say (making things with their hands) aren't artists, and will never be recognised as artists because society doesn't judge people that way.
You may want the world to work like that, but it doesn't, despite what Instagram will have you believe.