Thursday, July 1, 2010

Roger Ebert Puts Away His Guns

A few months ago, I wrote of my conflicted feelings about Roger Ebert.  I couldn’t reconcile his derision for 3D (with which I agreed) with his closed-minded dismissal of video games as a medium capable of producing art (a stance I cannot abide).

Now thanks to a recent blog post in his Sun-Times journal, I won’t have to.

Ebert’s latest entry, titled “Okay, kids, play on my lawn” (great title, by the way),  opens with this:

I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place. I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn't seen. Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so. Some opinions are best kept to yourself.

This backpedaling-but-not-really continues throughout the post.  Ebert readily admits where his argument resembles Swiss cheese.  The last game he played was Myst.  A friend with links to Sony offered to get him a PS3 and a copy of Flower: Ebert had other things to do.  He didn’t have a functional definition of Art that supported his assertions – and he acknowledges that music and abstract art don’t fit neatly into his idea that works of Art enable him “to learn more about the experiences, thoughts and feelings of other people.” 

Ebert sounds worn out by the whole thing.  He clearly stumbled into a warzone that wasn’t marked on his map, and now he wishes he’d never taken the trip at all.  The post closes with Ebert saying, “I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place.”

I disagree.  Perhaps he was a fool to discredit games so easily,  but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he never should have mentioned them at all.  His comments have catalyzed a growing community of art game defenders (myself included, I suppose), providing a crucible in which to forge and refine our opinions.  Developers have rallied in opposition, spurred on to create works of ever great ambition.

In a weird way, Roger Ebert may have done more good than harm.