Fox News Debate Of Federal Funding For Games Goes About Like You'd Expect

This video is uncomfortable to watch on two levels. The first is that I feel terrible for Brian Ambrozy, the editor-in-chief of Icrontic, who is appearing on Fox News to try to explain why video games - more importantly, what kind of video games - are now eligible for federal arts funding. The second is the nonstop assault Fox and its counterpoint ringer make on one's intelligence.

Only an idiot would say that Call of Duty is eligible for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Only an idiot would believe it. Only an idiot would believe the government is in fact giving tens of billions of dollars to video game development, as Fox insinuates. But all this makes for good video and outrage in the nursing homes where Fox News' weekend programming has its highest penetration. So off we go there, even when Ambrozy points out that giving taxpayer money (notice how many times they say that) to a major commercial release is about as likely as Michael Bay getting a grant for the next Transformers movie.

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Then comes Neal Asbury with a counterpoint that, in structure, resembles the Chewbacca defence. Which is to say he wasn't even paying attention while Ambrozy spoke. I'm not sure who Asbury is or why he's even qualified to talk about federal arts funding or video games. At least the latter is the subject Ambrozy deals with as part of his job. Asbury seems to be nothing more than a weekend pinch-hitter from Fox's rolodex of drive-time radio demagogues. Neither he nor the host are even paying attention to what's being said.

Ambrozy does get in a good dig-"I'm talking to entertainers here"-but he never had a chance. He deserves respect (if not sympathy) for taking the very thankless role of presenting the gaming-as-art point of view for a program that had no intention of treating it seriously. That said, I have to wonder why anyone would agree to appear on Fox News as an advocate for any subject to which the network is so recognisably hostile.

[via Reddit]


Comments

    I find watching FOX news is litterally painful in its sheer stupidity and constant iterating on foolish, uninformed points. Do they still have that catchphrase "You decide!" because I'm pretty sure it would be more accurate to say "Sit back while we shove drivel down your throat brainwash style!"

      Yes, yes they do. We Report, You Decide.

      And it's getting worse. Even while Glenn Beck got axed, they'll fill his spot with 2 more insane conservatives.

      Not sure why ANYONE would agree to go on Fox News to defend their work now. It's an ambush. They never have any intention of actually giving fair coverage, it's a smear campaign.

      They bring them on, then bombard them with baseless accusations with political buzzwords (like 'taxpayer money') then edit the footage to make it look like the guest's shock and horror is really stupidity.

    I would say put "artistic" games into the pool of things that are eligible to get an arts grant, but do not raise taxes.

    They obviously have no idea about video games... Why is Fox even considered news?!? More like opinions of moronic conservatives!

    Why can't they talk about something intelligent like, how do we determine if a game is artistic enough to deserve funding, there must be some boundary. Then again we are talking about Fox News.

    Right at the end Ambrozy made a "wtf are you on about" look at Ashbury.

    There was no talk at all about the actual subject of indie educational games.

    Whilst Fox clearly don't handle the subject in an intelligent way, they do make an important point.

    Why SHOULD video games get arts subsidies?

    For one, why should taxpayers (many of whom don't play or don't even like video games) have their money forcibly appropriated to fund this?

    For two, how can we get arts subsidies to be spread to 'deserving' works? Aesthetics is a very contested field and the fact is that what one person finds artistic, another person will consider trash.

    For three, the current US fiscal situation can't afford to subsidize even artistic video games. Hell, I don't think they can afford to subsidize artistic ANYTHING in their current state.

    So whilst Fox handled the subject in its typical fashion (idiotically), there ARE legitimate reasons to attack NEA funding for games.

      You make the point that they can't really afford to subsidise any art form, and while I agree with this, I wouldn't say that games are any less deserving than any other art form if they are going to subsidise things. All art is subjective, and whether you consider it a waste of taxpayers money or not is entirely your opinion (look at what happened in the ACT with Jon Stanhope and the public art stuff). They can choose to grant money to whichever games they want, choosing solely on the basis of their own opinion, like what is done with any art.

      The government funds all different art forms, even art you dislike. If the government started to pander to peoples like of art in their decision of what to fund, then eventually they will fund no art form. Because everyone dislikes some form of art.

      I realize that funding in the some countries like the UK and USA is very tight at the moment. However cutting art funding won't in anyway supply the money needed.

      They really don't make an important point at all. The NEA is around the 150 million dollar mark annually - this sounds like a lot but it isn't when compared to the US government's total annual spend of around 3.5 TRILLION dollars. The NEA represents less than 0.0005% of the US government's budget. If FOX were at all interested in actually fighting the US national deficit, they'd be chasing down rorts in the half a trillion dollars spent every year on US military's black budgets, or maybe even *gasp* questioning the US' ability to keep projecting force all around the world and fighting wars on credit. But they're not. They're confecting outrage where none would form, to distract from the fact that Republicans spend just as much as Democrats - only on different stuff.

      You have in fact answered your own question. Why should taxpayers be forced to contribute to grants for videogames if they don't play them? For the same reason that we subsidise grants to plays we don't watch, or paintings we don't like - it's because, as you say, aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder. Art can reach a range of audiences differently, and NEA grants are about helping artists to find their particular audience. If this one artform isn't for you, then perhaps the next one will be. If we want to live in a society where art is not strictly commercialised, where there is art for art's own sake, then we have to support a range of forms and artists because you can't predict where the next great art will come from...

      Pretty much everyone above me has answered your questions, but really, since when do people have the right to determine where the taxpayer money goes? How can one even entertain the possibility that you could agree with the way a government allocates every single cent in its budget?

      Can you tell our government to stop funding all the useless art related stuff I don't use

      Everyone is subsidizing something else someone else uses and that they dont

        This reply is directed at Alinos and all of the above posters.

        You're right, my case does in fact logically lead to abandoning ALL arts funding.

        And indeed, that's what I advocate.

        Blaghman,

        I agree that video games are no less worthy an art form. I simply argue that no form of art should get subsidized. I don't think that just because something is "good" that automatically means it deserves a public subsidy.

        Richard James,

        The government ALREADY panders to people in choosing what art gets funded. Specifically, the people that run the program generally get a chance to decide whether the art is 'sufficiently artistic' or not, and this is an inherently subjective judgment. They are the ones that in many ways are "pandered" to; they get the opportunity to finance their tastes with public money.

        And true, cutting arts funding won't fill the deficit. But every little bit helps.

        Flux,

        I agree about ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so I don't disagree with you there. However, the fact that there ARE bigger programs that can be axed to save larger amounts of money isn't an argument in favor of keeping arts funding.

        You bring up the argument that public art is necessary to avoid all art being "strictly commercialized" but 1) commercial art markets have PLENTY of room for niche markets in the first place, so the fear that "commercialized" art is automatically going to be mainstream trash like that put out by most of the larger record labels is false. And 2) I reject the proposition that "commercial" art is somehow (inherently) less artistic and/or that commerce "cheapens" art.

        Indeed, plenty of what we today consider "great art" was originally commercial in origin. Shakespeare wrote plays for the general public's entertainment, and Charles Dickens wrote widely-published serial fiction for the mass market.

        Alinos,

        Just because everyone currently subsidizes things they don't use doesn't mean its right for such a situation to continue. There may be exceptions for things like public goods (in the economic sense) which can be proven to be necessary, but art clearly isn't this.

          Then why not start out openly advocating the renunciation of all arts funding? Why start the attack by constructing an artificial wedge around the choice of media being supported? The same reason FOX did - because an attack on the utility of supporting the arts at all makes conservatives sound like uncultured philistines, unfortunately. It's easier and seems more reasonable to say "I oppose this art subsidy" every time you're asked than to say "I oppose all art subsidies" the first time you're asked.

          It is absolutely counterproductive to devote any time at all to squabbling over such a trifling share of the budget with the situation as dire as it currently is - there are only so many hours in a day, and any time spent by legislators haggling over this marginal amount (that serves an important civic need in many eyes) is time taken away from actually confronting the issues that can save the nation. Claiming that this is worth the time and effort to reform is roughly akin to claiming that Bank of America would have been better off if top managment brass had spent time slashing the artifical sweetener budget allocated to branches. Clearly, there are bigger fish to fry.

          Also, a quick history lesson - Shakespeare and other Renaissance artists were not commercially supported, they tended to derive their living from wealthy patrons or the church and then their art passed to the general public almost as a side effect. In fact, you could say that the etire reason there WAS a renaissance in the art world was that the folks holding the wealth in society saw value in supporting art for its own sake, without expecting any return (other than entertainment and beauty). How many more great masters did the world miss out on because they couldn't find a patron to help them express themselves? How many artists had the talent, but didn't want to work on religious themes and so never sought church commisions? We'll never know. Surely we can spare 5 cents from ten thousand dollars to prevent minimise such losses today - what a bargain. 5 CENTS OUT OF 10 THOUSAND DOLLARS.

          To answer your final conjecture about the impact of commerce on art, at risk of 'appealing to authority' I invite you to simply ask an actual artist whether corporatising, commercialising and commoditising their work is a good thing for art as a whole. There are whole branches of modern art devoted to rejecting the corporate monoculture - why should the market structure that they oppose be responsible for their success or failure? It's a recipe for stifling creativity, as the successful art will be the socially acceptable art, and one of the aims of many artists is critical analysis of social acceptability. This is widely accepted as non-controversial in the art world. Removing all publicly funded art would have a similar net effect as removing all privately funded art (as was done in the Soviet era, when artistic expression became simply a mouthpiece for the state). Limiting the scope of support limits the creativity of artists, which damages the end product's integrity.

            Whilst it would have been faster to simply say "I'm against all art subsidies," I started by looking specifically at video games in order to keep context.

            I agree that there are bigger fish to fry, but I don't think that is an argument in favor of keeping arts subsidies.

            Regarding Shakespeare and other Rennaisance artist's funding sources, I think it drops context to compare the patronage of institutions like the Church and certain members of the Aristocracy with the current regime of art subsidies; the underlying political and institutional structures are extraordinarily different.

            Plenty of wealthy people in today's world voluntarily support the arts with their own philanthropy. I think that is a more accurate analogy to the past's "patronage by the Aristocracy" although it isn't a perfect analogy. Private philanthropy CAN fund art (you are right that there would be concerns about "appeasing one's patron" but these concerns existed back in the past and they exist under government-backed systems too).

            Now, onto commerce in art. I'm a musician so I do think I have some experience here. I'm also an economist so I know neo-Marxist buzzwords like "corporatising" and "commoditising" when I see them.

            For one, commercial art doesn't require performing business through a corporation.

            For two, commercial art does NOT necessitate some form of "corporate monoculture." You seem to believe that commercial art automatically implies mass-market, major-label kind of commercial art. This is false. There is such a thing as the niche market and it is the "market structure" (more correctly, the genuinely free-market elements of that structure) which enables catering to niche markets.

            I make and listen to Industrial music (real Industrial, not Nine Inch Nails). This genre had impeccably Marxist credentials when it was first founded (although there's kind of an hypocrisy in protesting private ownership of capital via purchasing synthesizers (which at the time of their invention cost more than a car!)). And yet it has not received a single dollar in public subsidy (to my knowledge). That didn't "damage" the integrity of the end product. Modern industrial has generally ditched the Marxism, but the point is that even the most anti-establishment forms of art CAN survive in the "market structure" (indeed, they probably have a better chance of surviving in a market structure than under the auspices of State funding).

            The "market" is NOT the mass market. Indeed, the internet and similar technological innovations have made it even easier for non-mainstream artists to survive via niche markets. A market in art will not result in a "corporate monoculture" because not all people will find art that they like through major corporations.

            You argue that artists who oppose the "market structure" shouldn't have to rely on something they oppose in order to judge their success or failure. This argument is false. For one, there is a legitimate distinction between a market and "corporations." The latter is one kind of business entity which can act in a market (and yes, I also accept that many corporations have acted inethically and also acted to abrogate the free market by lobbying for state intervention/priveliges). For two, you are assuming that success in a market is "success" full stop (I assume here you're talking about "artistic success"), which is obviously wrong to anyone familiar with what is churned out by mainstream record labels. For three, plenty of art has happily done just this ("the man is sticking it to the man") and relied on markets to make money off anti-capitalist art (two examples; punk rock music and industrial music, the latter for its private ownership of extensive capital and the former for being primarily a creation of genius marketing. Lets add another example; James Cameron's "Avatar"). I could probably find a numbe of other flaws in this argument but I'll keep this brief.

            In summary, if you really think that the only thing stopping all art from becoming a 'corporate monoculture' is public subsidies, I can't help but think this indicates you know very little about economics.

              Ask an economist and the answer is always the free market, ask a carpenter and you should always use wood... If you would like a more general justification of why I believe that the arts should be subsidised, then here - but after this I'm done, I suspect we're going to have to agree to disagree.

              If the free market works so well in all cases, why subsidise anything at all ever? This is supposedly the ideological ground that 'small government' conservatives are coming from, but I look to the effectiveness of state welfare and 'socialised medicine' areound the world at improving general living standards and I can't help but feel that such an approach is foolish. We need limits on power, but there are absolute benefits in taking some elements of society partially out of the market structure. And why is it the tiny arts subsidies that come under scrutiny rather than the HUGE subsidies for US corn farmers, big pharma, big oil etc.? Conservatives don't actually believe in small government, they are happy to fund the hell out of the 'right' people - them.

              The market system (even the niche system) disproportionately favours existing audiences - that's where the safe money is. Is it fair that the tastes of the wealthy should dictate culture to the rest of society? A recording artist is a high risk venture, and there needs to be some capital to get such enterprises off the ground before profits can be made, as you've pointed out with Industrial music.

              Industrial music may well have managed to survive without any government funding, but that's because it was embraced by a segment of society that was affluent enough to afford those synthesisers and the time to play with them - Marxism was (is) very in with students, children of professionals with an above average family income and access to better paid work. Other musical styles were surely not so lucky, and have been banished to obscurity as a result. Hell, the only reason we have rap and hip hop in our mass culture today is because the LA riots allowed a lot of poor black folks access to high end stereo equipment. Without stealing the hardware, the black underclass of LA could not construct their voice, and make it heard by the rest of us. Hence the emergence of gangsta rap, as criminals were the ones who had the disposable income to get over the start up hump.

              Now let's extend this idea to art more generally, and observe that large numbers of artists were not appreciated in their lifetime, let alone before they had to pay their rent. I really don't think that the pittance the government gives to the arts is much to pay for the chance to provide that startup capital until they connect with their audiences and find their niche markets. I would be interested to see what proportion of artists move from grant supported to self-supporting, as I would suspect that the NEA is not in the habit of supporting artists for life. Are we funding everyone who puts their hand up? Are we even funding everyone worthy of funding? No. I'd like to support more, you'd like to support less, and the current selective funding model is the compromise that democratic governance usually brings.

                Besides, by now I suspect the only people reading this are you, me and the poor Kotaku staffer who has to wade through our posts. Sorry Serrels or Elly...

                  Flux,

                  First, the idea that ALL economists support free market economics is false. Karl Marx was an economist too, after all. But even if we restrict ourselves to modern economics exclusively, the vast majority of economists support a mixed-market economy (i.e. a generally market based economy with some regulation and provision of public goods) with neo-Keynesian inflation targeting for monetary policy.

                  I would also appreciate if you don't attempt to associate me with the so-called "conservatives." Like you (correctly) pointed out in your post, many of these "conservatives" will attack NEA funding and not look at the massive amounts of subsidies and corporate welfare and liability caps and other forms of priveliges that the State has extended to large corporations. I agree with you entirely; I'd abolish all of those as well! I'm a Classical Liberal and as such I am not a "conservative" and regardless of what you think about my ideology, I'd be grateful if you didn't file me in the same category as the Jesus-Fascist Hypocritical Corporatists that compose the non-libertarian American "right."

                  You are correct that mainstream commercial art will naturally gravitate towards currently-existing commercial tastes (i.e. large corporations that produce art are likely to be risk-averse and stick with what has worked before rather than risky novelty). I don't see why this is "bad" in and of itself. You seem to be arguing from a position that novelty and/or artistic worth "deserve" to be rewarded with economic success. I disagree; I believe you are confusing economic value (exchange value) with moral value.

                  A recording artist isn't necessarily a high risk venture; it depends. Again, you are assuming we are talking about attempting to make mainstream hit 'chart smashers' and get world tours. This indeed IS a high risk venture but it clearly is not the only worthwhile goal for music.

                  You ask whether or not it is 'fair' for the tastes of the rich to determine what art gets popular. Well, I would dispute that today's music world is goverened by the tastes of 'the rich.' Again, as you said, pre-existent audiences are what large music groups will cater towards, so its not like someone that is 'rich' will suddenly start liking Style X and then EMI will begin making records of Style X. Also, 'the rich' are not some hive-minded monolith with one single artistic taste (unless, of course, you happen to believe people's minds (and hence tastes and preferences) are merely reflections of their relationships to the means of production).

                  But those are secondary points. I'd ask you a variant of your own question; is it 'fair' for a government-based collection of "experts" to decide what kind of art is considered worthy enough for public subsidization? Academics are very faddish people (speaking from experience) so it isn't like their tastes are any less subjective than those of non-tertiary-educated people.

                  Now, your point on Rap music... ummm, hip hop in general originated back in the late 70's, so it isn't exactly the child of the early 90's LA riots. Even Gangsta Rap originated in the mid to late 80's rather than in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. And I would also like to suggest that LA is scarcely the only city in the world relevant to hip hop... indeed, I think most people that have done significant studies of hip hop music would argue that NYC was far more significant.

                  The early 90's is certainly the time when Rap and its related styles began to enter the mainstream but as I said before mainstream popularity is NOT the barometer of success (indeed, this is something I'd have thought you'd agree with).

                  As for the "start up hump" you are correct but this "hump" has been getting smaller and smaller. For about 1000 USD or even less you can get a PERFECTLY respectable setup for most styles of music. Indeed, free soft-synths can get you very far. True, it won't be the most amazingly well-produced work, but you don't need good production to be legendary (look at the Sex Pistols).

                  You are also right that plenty of artists that we see as amazing never were appreciated in their lifetimes. However, it always takes at least decades before an artist is even recognized as 'great' in the first place. Artistic greatness, as we've both acknowledged, is a subjective matter in many respects and it also causes monumental levels of disagreement. At the very least we can both agree that the aesthetic value or disvalue of any specific work isn't obvious on its face.

                  Because of this, I think it is inevitable that artistic genius will rarely get its full credit whilst the artist is alive. Simply working out the significance of any artist is difficult without having an historical record to analyze an artist's impact (which is clearly an important factor). I don't think that dead artists a better; I simply think that the kind of assessments art scholars do over the greatness of any specific artist practically requires a long time since that artist's period of activity in order to assess their impact fully.

                  That said, I think that the 'necessary timeframe' is getting smaller, at least in music.

                  All of that said, I think you are correct we are going to have to agree to disagree. Still, I thank you for the stimulating conversation.

    ....

    Fox News is the very epitome of what is wrong with the human race.

    I would rather see a few million go to the developer of a military FPS than a few hundred billion go to yet more weapons and military spending.

      I wouldn't mainly because military fps already print money if you gave money out for each one made we'd have a new cod every 6 months

        Like I said, if it's a choice between a few MILLION going to a game developer and a few BILLION going to fund more wars, I think I know what I would choose. Don't you?

    Even from Fox news' "perspective," obviously baldy & co doesnt have a clue of how much money the videogame industry actually generates... cheap and nasty Fox News at it again - you get more sense out of the Onion News Network hahaha

    I think "ping pong" or table tennis would receive government funding given its an olympic sport. Even if not, Fox (Murdochs) media is a big pile of pooh written for retards!

    Watching this genuinely made me sick to the stomach. Fox News, step down now because you're not informing anyone you hypocritical lunatics.

    Poor icronic man; didnt stand a chance. He chose logic and calm reason when what he really needed was a handlebar mostache and an overbearing voice pushing an uninformed opinion.

    ... and FOX still call themselves a 'news' channel? Maybe they just need to stick to The Simpson's and Family Guy.

    Call me as an 'expert' next time FOX. I'll put you on the spot with such responses as "These are not games as such but are training aids for the armed forces. Are FOX saying they don't want our troops trained? Are FOX anti-American now... comrade?"

    ^_^

    CNNNN - We report, you believe.

    I don't think that they realize that the N.E.A has a set allocation of funds and they are not adding any to fund Videogames... They are just going to split up what they are given in the budget and give some in funds for games... No extra spending...

    We all know terrorists use video games to train suicide bombers to attack Mom, Apple Pie and Uncle Sam.

    Fox News told me so.

    The talk show host did make a pretty valid point. Why is the US Government spending money on arts programs when they're cutting funding everywhere else?

    Something tells me that both of those blokes where not listening to what Brian was saying and neither of them have a proper understanding of the subject.

    I feel terrible for Brian Ambrozy too, it was clearly an unfair fight, BUT, I have to say, he did a poor job defending the industry.

    Geoff Keighley would have done better.

    Owen Good, that was a well written article. I feel that us Aussies have more in common with Americans than is healthy, especially regarding our media. A lot of it is unintelligent sensationalist crap by people who awkwardly discuss subjects they don't comprehend & you feel like you're watching a bunch of suits having a conversation even they don't understand, but the public should feel alarmed about none-the-less...

    Here in the UK, in Yorkshire where I live there's a body set up called Games Republic. Basically a fair few local game developers (from well-known ones such as Rockstar Leeds, Sumo Digital and Team 17 to lesser-known ones such as Code Monkeys, GameSauce and Four Door Lemon) have banded together with some guys as well who do local films, music etc in Yorkshire. Together they do not form Captain Planet, but they qualify for government help in a few ways and, as they're so close together, you get different studios helping each other out.

    Ohhh yes so what about the tens of billions of dollars going to black budgets, driving war?
    This Hypocracy stinks to high heaven.

    Fox is anything but fair and ballanced.

    Games? what are games? no tax! no tax! no tax! and............ we are out of time thanks for joining us folks.

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