However, video games are not the sum of their parts, they're greater still. Video games are supposed to combine these elements with an interactive experience (Which some people protest because you can't -- apparently -- have interactive art.) I think that when it's done right the interactivity though enhances the scope of my appreciation for the artist.
Mm...not quite :> Time for a little art history!
The modern art movement of the 20th century brought the audience into the art for arguably the first time ever. Art in previous centuries left a space between the viewer and the picture; most art was merely decoration (though the inclusion of Art Deco and Art Nouveau changed that by trying to make it functional, as well), or served a purpose as portraiture in the absence of cameras. There was left a cold, distant space between the audience and the work where the audience could make a conjecture about the piece, but there was no true interactivity between the two, no crossing over. There was a strict, defined border between artist and viewer and art.
Let's fast-forward a bit.
In the mid-20th century, Postmodernism began to come about as a response to Modernism, which blew the doors open on what was even defined as art in the first place. Postmodernists began to challenge the acceptable genres of art by intentionally blurring mediums; multimedia creations, collage, and yes, performance art
. The intent was to bring art to the masses -- to inject art into life
instead of the other way around -- by eliminating the space between the audience and the work and blurring the line between artist and audience -- and then the audience and the work. Confused yet?
The whole goal of things like performance art were to get audiences to do more than stand and gawk -- it was to provoke reaction, and in some cases, force the audience to become a part of the piece -- and in other cases, become the artist themselves. Carolee Schneeman pulled scrolls out of her vagina in front of an audience and read them aloud, Joseph Beuys sought to educate his audience through what he called "social sculpture", thus ideally spurring them to carry on his message (his art) through action in their community and throughout their life, which would then also "become his art" in a way.
Actually, I think a lot of people here would be interested in the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres
who would set out piles of candy -- HUGE piles of wrapped sweets -- that the audience could then interact with...by taking a piece. As the piles got smaller or larger (he would replenish them occasionally), the art was in the interaction of the audience and the candy. His purpose? To honor his life partner, a homosexual man who died from AIDS. Given that he was doing this during the AIDS scare in the US, his point was to force people to think about something as innocent as candy and pushing the issue literally into their hands...would they still take the candy if they knew it was coming from someone with AIDS? If they knew it was coming from a homosexual? It also seemed to mirror his experience with AIDS -- how sometimes his partner's health would worsen, the candy would diminish, and how eventually, they would be gone completely -- a metaphor for death. It forced his audience to confront the issue with something as nonthreatening as candy.
Anyway, to bring it back around (if you're still with me, I'm truly impressed), what makes Ebert's opinion so moot is that art has evolved and tried to expand itself so far that in the process, you almost can't say no to anything that's trying to be art at all. Interactivity isn't the issue; on the contrary, interactivity has been around in art for quite some time now. Actually, one could make the argument that video games are an expansion of precisely what postmodern art did -- or may still be doing (some argue that postmodernity is dead, dying, or never existed at all...snoooooze), but what does it really matter? A person could argue that my art is postmodern because digital art has evolved to where the lines and colors and forms you see are just representations since what is digital is not truly tangible or real. Conversely, that could also be an argument for why it's not actually art at all, but just a pastiche of art. Confusing, right? Art has basically pushed itself to a point where it doesn't actually matter what anyone
thinks. Art snobs like Ebert still believe in a concept of high art, which I suppose to some degree really exists, but doesn't actually have any outstanding benefit or merit outside of the minds of...well, other art snobs. BFD, right?