If you’re reading this blog then there’s a fairly decent chance that you’ve heard about Roger Ebert, his loud and controversial opinion about videogames, and its latest iteration which was posted last Friday. I told myself that I’m above falling into that cyclical argument, but the bait is too tempting for me to resist any longer. In case you actually had a life over the weekend, allow me to catch you up on the crux of his argument: videogames can never be art.
If you find that above statement infuriating and wish to express that rage via typing words in a box on a website, then the recommended course of action is for you to click your way over to Ebert’s blog and do exactly that. Ebert personally reads every single comment that gets posted and delights in watching the comment count tick upwards.
As for myself, I’ll just post my opinions here. I’m hardly offended by Ebert’s statement, mostly just baffled. Baffled that the discussion itself, and baffled by Ebert’s involvement in it. He doesn’t play games, nor does he really seem to have any appreciation for them. For him to suddenly reveal that he has a very strong opinion about them, and that his opinion is that they are not art seems random and out of character. Never mind the fact that whether or not they are considered art is completely irrelevant to why anyone plays games and why games are relevant to our society. Ebert sure seems to be putting a lot of effort into researching and debating an worthless aspect of a field in which he has virtually no experience. Why does he care? What is he trying to prove? Why is he perpetuating this awful topic? Oh, I forgot; his post has almost 2,000 comments now, plus even more thousands of responses across the rest of the internet. That statistic includes this one too. If there’s any reason to continue a discussion, it would be because people respond to it.
Ebert is a very intelligent person and a great writer, and he knows it. Once a upon a time he made an offhanded remark about games not being art which incited enough nerd rage to feed a family in a developing country for a year. If you happen to be a person who lives by producing opinions and the reactions to said opinions then this was obviously a goldmine. Ebert easily constructed a waterproof argument and let the internet do the rest of the work for him. It was the perfect crime. There are thousands and thousands of opinionated gamers on the internet who all perceive Ebert as an authority figure and few of them are capable enough writers to ever reasonably counter his argument. Ebert himself has no personal investment in the discussion at all. So what if other intellectual people disagree (a fact which he hasn’t ignored)? The risk involved in being somehow proven wrong is nil, and the thousands of idiotic responses will always by far outnumber the reasonable ones.
So is he right? Is he wrong? Who cares? The entire debate is inconsequential to anyone. It’s an argument that exists for the sake of being an argument. The entire spectacle is just frustrating for me. The last thing that the idiotic “games are [not] art” debate needed was a celebrity perpetuating it for personal pleasure. The better it dies out and we can all move on to debating things that actually matter, the better. That’s not a priority though for Ebert, nor his thousands and thousands of followers. Is Ebert really the villain here? Every comment we post only validates his authority.
- The New Debate on Games as Ert
- List of Things Which May or May Not Be Art (a shameless plug for my own blog)
- This is how you troll