Ok, so I'm not going to actually talk about the Ebert thing. Not that he is a nobody but that whole stunt got him enough publicity and I don't want to get him anymore. One thing I will say is over on the 10th Muse Podcast blog a poster by the name of "TheLoudestNinja" left a great comment on the whole subject. Just go to 10thmusepodcast.com to check it out.
What I am going to talk about is art in general because my point of view is different than the average person because I am an artist. My point of view is far from better but being on the creation end of it skews my stance a bit.
Since I spend a lot of my time on DeviantArt I am constantly confronted with the statement "It's so bad it's not even art" usually in reference to inflation art or the millionth naked chick that day and Daily Deviations don't really defend DA that well in regards to validating it (as far as the people making the accusations are concerned). A lot of people that aren't involved in DA think it's a mine field of furry porn, gay fanart, and all-around amateur art. I work in the game industry (and dabble in others) and when you mention an artist that's on DA the noses in the room go skyward quicker than you can draw a fox named "Ted" fucking a wolf named "Laser Fang". But, like a lot of sites where people can freely submit their creations, there is a lot of good with the sea of bad. No matter how bad the art is, though, it's still art.
I subscribe to the school of "If it was created with the intent to communicate an idea" then it is art. I also don't support defining a distinction between high-art and low-art. Art is art and the value of it varies from person to person. Now that I've said that, what does "Created with the intent to communicate an idea" mean?
Art-types want to hurry to validate whatever they are defending as art by reading so far into something that it becomes about flexing their own intellect and perception and not about letting art stand for itself. When I say "communicate an idea" I mean anything from "this woman in silhouette represents the struggle of the female spirit" to "this hand is draw anatomically correct". I try to put myself in the shoes of the artist and imagine what would be going through my head while I draw, paint, shoot, sing, sculpt the piece. Even an artist who is drawing a plant for a science journal is thinking about every line they lay down. They are looking at their lighting, color, accuracy and trying to convey "plant" in it's totality. That's an art. Now, think about an 11 year-old girl struggling to draw her favorite cartoon character. It's most likely going to look like shit to most of us. What about to her? It's the best work of art she has created at that point in her life. She is proud of it and proud that it conveys what she loves about that character. You cannot discredit the statement she has made and still allow Picasso to stand. The desire to get ones point across, whatever it is, is so strong the only word that can describe that passion is "Art".
Because of this fundamental definition, even the shittiest inflation art is art. Filling Cartman full of water to the point of him swelling to the size of cement truck is still art. I think it's fucking stupid, but no matter how much I dislike it, it is still valid. You want to draw Cloud making out with Sephiroth? Uhhh, go ahead I guess. Be prepared to have a lot of people tell you it's retarded and breaks the fundamental basis for those characters... just don't let them tell you it's not art.
So, Ebert thinks games aren't art. Well, he's wrong. He might not like it being included in the art club but it is. Ke$ha is everything I hate about pop music, but it remains art (Wha? I know!). Anytime someone says something isn't art, no matter what it is, my inclination is to disagree. Once you say something isn't art it becomes a slippery slope that can discredit a million other things, some once considered the highest of art. Saying "that's not art" is like an 18 year-old kid that's really into GBH this year saying "that's not punk enough". It's a trite statement that is filled to the brim with a lack of understanding and a desire to separate, categorize, and dismiss to bolster and validate oneself.
So, the next time you hear a Papa Roach song, see a lionized Harry Potter fanart, or watch a new RomCom starring JLo, remember: they are just as valid as a NOFX song, a matte painting from Avatar, and that new foreign film about that weird shit that you don't understand but are going to pretend to in an effort to impress your PBR-suckling, hipster, pseudo-friends.