joystick.jpgIn an article in yesterday's New York Times, John Leland pondered the state of the art of video games – that is, he wonders if its time to admit that they've even matured into any kind of art. "Can games be something more than games?" Leland asks. "In other words, can they move people emotionally or intellectually in the manner of great art?" By way of providing an answer to those questions, he offers a quote from Steven Spielberg from about a year ago. Spielberg, speaking to a group of wannabe game developers at USC, attempted to talk about the development of what the students do in the context of what he does: games will become art, Speilberg said, "when somebody confesses that they cried at Level 17."

Roger Ebert's been having a very related debate with his readers, and it stems from the critic's contention that games are far from reaching the tear-inducing point. Not only that, but he seems to take some offense at the idea that the two mediums could be compared. "I [do] indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature," he writes in the latest installment of Answer Man. "There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control."

To me this is less about the interactive nature of game playing, than in the differences in the way we talk about the (both collaborative) processes of filmmaking and game development. I don't know nearly enough about gaming to be able to answer this, so I'll ask you: do gamers consider game developers to be authors, defined by their unique vision, or artists, defined by the way that vision is executed? Do you put games, as a medium, on the same level as film in literature, or do you think of gaming as strictly a leisure activity, a distraction – as Ebert puts it, a representation of the "loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic"?