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Games can be art, says Barker

Horror author challenges Ebert.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Addressing the second annual Hollywood and Games Summit, novelist and director Clive Barker has joined the debate over whether or not videogames can be considered an art form, reports.

Responding to film critic Roger Ebert's infamous comment that games cannot move beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art, Barker noted: "It's evident that Ebert had a prejudiced vision of what the medium is, or more importantly what it can be."

"We can debate what art is, we can debate it forever. If the experience moves you in some way or another... Even if it moves your bowels... I think it is worthy of some serious study."

Barker said he faced similar prejudice against his genre of choice, horror. "It used to worry me that the New York Times never reviewed my books... But the point is that people like the books. Books aren't about reviewers," he said.

"Games aren't about reviewers. They are about players."

Addressing Ebert's criticism further, Barker explained: "I think that Roger Ebert's problem is that he thinks you can't have art if there is that amount of malleability in the narrative. In other words, Shakespeare could not have written Romeo and Juliet as a game because it could have had a happy ending, you know? If only she hadn't taken the damn poison. If only he'd have gotten there quicker.

"If something is so malleable, full of possibilities not under the artist's control, then it cannot be art," he continued. "That's where he is wrong.

"We should be stretching the imaginations of our players and ourselves. Let's invent a world where the player gets to go through every emotional journey available. That is art. Offering that to people is art."

"I'm not doing an evangelical job here. I'm just saying that gaming is a great way to do what we as human beings need to do all the time - to take ourselves away from the oppressive facts of our lives and go somewhere where we have our own control," Barker concluded.

For more on whether art is games or whatever he was saying, have a poke round They know more words than us.

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