"The one thing to say about art is that it is one thing. Art is art-as-art and everything else is everything else. Art-as-art is nothing but art. Art is not what is not art."
- Ad Reinhardt
When Roger Ebert claimed that video games are not art
the internet flipped its shit. "Gamers", whatever we take that group to be, lashed out at Ebert for his lack of understanding, for his inability to grasp the simple fact that a video game is a work of art.
When the supreme court ruled that video games are art
, gamers took that to be a victory. The label of "art" applied to their pastime, and so they had won the day.
Yet now we find ourselves in an interesting position. Having claimed that video games are art, gamers are now demanding that a particular work of art, Mass Effect 3, be changed to accommodate their desires.
To support this claim, some gamers are citing a quote from Casey Hudson
This story arc is coming to an end with this game. That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we're taking into account so many decisions that you've made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It's not even in any way like the traditional game endings, where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.
Since this quote inaccurately represents the ending structure to ME3, some gamers are demanding that the game be change. They were promised a product that did X, and the actual product does ~X. Gamers contend that Bioware utilized false advertising and inaccurately presented their product.
But this situation is problematic. One cannot claim that X is both a work of art and a mere consumer product. One cannot argue that game developers deserve freedom of expression for their artistic creations but then demand that the artist modify its creation to appease the consumer's desires and expectation.
One could posit that video games are both art and consumer products, artistic expressions and free-market commodities. However, with respect to ME3's ending, we have a direct confrontation between artistic expression and consumer demand. The artists at Bioware created a work of art, and consumers who purchased it call it a faulty product.
How can X be both a piece of art, and a faulty consumer product?
How can gamers demand freedom of expression for game developers, and also demand that game developers modify their expression to their customer's expectations?
Is ME3 a work of art, or a consumer product?
If ME3 is a work of art, we must accept it as an artistic expression if its creator. We can critique it, but not demand for it to be changed.
if ME3 is a consumer product, we can demand that they change it, but we have to recognize that forcing a change hinders their artistic expression, and ultimately categorizes ME3 as a "consumer product" and not a "work of art".
Suddenly gamers seem to find themselves in the role of their political enemies: They are demanding consumer appeasement, rather than respecting artistic freedom.
What do you think? Is ME3 a work of art, or a consumer product? If it's both, how do we reconcile artist freedom with consumer demands?
Note: Please use spoiler tags where appropriate.