“Who owns art?
Wait, back up. That’s too big of a question. But it’s a question that is being asked more and more as technology alters not only the way we produce and consume art, but the way we think of the divide between producer and consumer, between creator and receiver. When Roger Ebert gave public voice to his doubts that videogames could ever be art, he set off a huge debate that soon went far afield of the original question. Though he wasn’t the first to wonder whether videogames were art, he was the first to do it in front of such a large audience, and hardly any time had passed before the original issue had become the forgotten springboard for bigger questions about what we mean when we call something art, and what qualities art can and can’t possess. That’s also too big a question, for now, anyway. But one commonly registered objection from the anti- side was this: Videogames aren’t something you watch or experience; they’re something you play. Since the consumer is also an active participant, and since the outcome of the narrative depends on choices made by the “reader” as well as the “author,” it can no more be art than a game of Scrabble or a soccer match. Interactivity, in short, can be artful, but it cannot be art.”