Ignore Ignorance

This world is a funny place…

Haters Gonna Hate

Posted by Brandon McKoy on April 22, 2010


I’m pretty late to the party in this regard, but Roger Ebert’s article discussing why he thinks “video games can never be art” really perturbed me. Ebert is someone whose work I admire a great deal. His influence upon the movie industry is indescribable and (as far as I can tell by his tweets and posts) he is a respectably intelligent and open individual. Considering all of this, it was with great surprise that I read his comments about video games not only not being art, but that they will never reach that distinction. How does one even make such a statement that is so inherently dissonant? As Gabe from Penny-Arcade puts it, “Of course video games are art. They are nothing but art. They are art piled on top of more art.” His partner in crime Tycho remarks, “…there’s nothing here to discuss. You can if you want to, and people certainly do, but there’s no profit in it. …do we win something if we defeat him?” (the daily comic is pure gold, as usual) No, there is nothing to win here, it is a waste of time to argue against such a frivolous stance. There is more to this though than just a discussion of what does and does not constitute art.

Ebert makes his point without having any significant interaction with video games. No, there is no where in his rant where he proclaims wholly virginity in the realm of video game experience, but I do believe it’s safe to assume he’s never stabbed a Covenant soldier with a Spartan Sword or directed Link to fire an arrow while riding horseback through an endless field of grain. Sure, I may be wrong, but his opinions lead me to believe otherwise. Would Mr. Ebert appreciate it if I were to cast a negative opinion on all of cinema after viewing Glitter, but never venturing to experience Casablanca, North by Northwest, or The Big Lebowski? It would be grossly irresponsible to do so, yet that is exactly what Ebert has done in offering up such an incendiary proclamation in service of delegitimizing video game artistry. It is disturbing when a widely respected critic (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) sees no error in lecturing on a public soapbox with a foundation composed of quicksand.

It is impossible to define the subjective. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. No matter what Mr. Ebert says, he cannot take away the dearth of enjoyable experiences that video games have provided me. Through and through there are games which have inspired me simply through their artistic representation, narrative, execution, and realism. Video games transmit and reflect ideas, emotions and values, to me that is the ultimate form and purpose of art. I read an article once on Manny Ramirez, the famous slugger now of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The journalist of the article was interviewing one of Ramirez’s teammates as he watched Manny take batting practice. “He never hit a ball above the outfield fence. Not one. Every ball he hit was on a line. Honestly, it was like watching Picasso paint. It was like a work of art.” Who is anyone to tell him otherwise?
Now playing: 近藤浩治 – The Legend of Zelda
via FoxyTunes



One Response to “Haters Gonna Hate”

  1. Surovi said

    it is unfortunate that he would judge the entire oeuvre of the gaming industry based on trailers and videos. gaming is a much more involved process. and i think what struck me most is his nonchalant benevolence in the end. “let the gamers say that they are studying a great art form” while we know better, -stroke beard-

    i do get annoyed by a significant portion of gamers who try to elevate the medium to something that it has not achieved (yet or otherwise). but there are some elements that are comparable to art and just as time enduring (which i think was one of Ebert’s criticisms). modern is slowly shifting away from the simplistic score-win-lose-achieve-or-whatever pattern but that doesn’t mean the medium itself is changing, like he said. novels, paintings, films don’t give you the capacity to drive the plot towards an end. but visual novels (as Japan calls them) do. do they stop being games, no! because the player is still involved in driving the narrative. so.. that was frustrating to read.

    some of what he says about art, i agree with. but as a whole, i think he’s looking at video games from a very distant and limited perspective…

    well i don’t know.

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