The Spielberg / Lucas Drama: Are gamers too sensitive about games as art?

So the last 24 hours has caused a bit of a flap as sites were quick to pounce on news of some suggestions movie veterans George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg made at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The actual comments shouldn’t be seen as all that scary or controversial: Lucas and Spielberg wanted to see more empathy in games, Lucas suggesting that the very act of using a controller “gets in the way” of the experience.  Lucas also felt an empathetic game aimed at a female audience would ultimately be the next “Titanic” when it got empathy correct.  Spielberg ventured into a pretty common futurist proposition that the best games would be someday Matrix-like and connected directly to the brain where the experience is immersive.  (You can read a greater detail of their comments in the article on Variety that most sites are citing as their source)

Pretty tame stuff.

But a parody site known as Pixeled Courier – which is a satire site like the onion but small by comparison – ran the same picture with far more outrageous claims, suggesting such bizarre statements were made such as:

“Other mediums are inferior to film”, Spielberg told the crowd, whilst Lucas nodded in approval. ”Many people are not aware that there are other mediums where the pictures don’t even move. Hell, some mediums don’t have pictures at all”, Lucas added, urging any potential art collectors in the audience to be wary of ‘incomplete films’, such as paintings and music.

The parody caught some other gaming sites off guard, and they re-posted the story without recognizing the sarcasm.  The most interesting thing has been to see the reactions of gamers once again taking up the fight that was common to Roger Ebert – is there a hubris amongst those in the “established arts” that games are not art?  And, of course, that eternal question, are games art?

While this may seem like standard gamer flame drama, there are consequences to the decision.  Court cases of protections of freedom of speech for games may hinge on their artistic worthiness – so while we all may see another silly flame war, there may be an underlying seriousness to the debate.

 

One thing’s for certain: Never assume a story is real if it ends with this fake zinger, supposedly said by Spielberg:

“No, I haven’t tried those games, but if they use a controller then they simply cannot be as artistic and daring as Indiana Jones IV.”

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About Bill Jahnel

Bill Jahnel is a Professor of History and a lifelong and avid gamer. He has served as a reviewer and main feature writer for Inside Mac Games back in 1993 when the magazine started and was a Senior Editor for the site MacReactor. He has lectured on the role of gays in video games and comic books as part of the Political Economy Days lecture series.