Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Videogames can never be art" - Roger Ebert

Well, it's been a bit of a while, hasn't it? Guess there hasn't been anything to really get me going yet. That, or I've been playing an unreasonable amount of Dragon Age, and by "an unreasonable amount of Dragon Age", I mean "replaying the opening 20 hours with increased eficiency". First it was an elf mage, then I remembered I like to stab things, so I made a Dual-Wielding Berserker psychopath, then I discovered the Constitution stat was more or less useless for Dual-Wielding Berserker psychopaths, so I restarted and am now pumping stat points into his dexterity like they're monkeybar steroid candy.

Anyway, onto today's little bit of fun: this article.

Let me forward this whole thing by stating that I am, in fact, an avid follower of Mr. Ebert's writing: I faithfully read his reviews and sometimes use them to judge whether or not I'll enjoy a movie I have mixed feelings about (though if I really like a movie he hated, odds are I'm seeing it anyway). I like his articles. I fondly recall a quote that I think was by Gene Siskel (don't count on this one, I'm going on memory) that reads something like "I can speak a great review, but Roger can write the best." And it's true, Ebert's a great writer. You should read his stuff, by and large it's worth consideration.

But here I'm taking issue with his very right to speak in the first place. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but follow along with me. Bring yourself back to your days as a highschool student (or if you're still in them, look around). Remember that one really lazy guy (or team of guys/girls) who claimed that Shakespeare sucks because it's "Boring". People who've any interest and actual reading in literature scoff and laugh at such remarks, because they realize just how hilariously uninformed the kid is. In some ways, this is precisely what Mr. Ebert is doing. He is commenting on a subject without, frankly, having done one tenth of a hundredth of the required reading. Whether or not videogames are art is one matter, but it is not for film critics who have never played a videogame save perhaps Tetris to discuss. They simply do not have the experience. It would be as if I launched on a criticism of Christopher Marlowe's career after having read Fautus. Worse, actually, considering that by and large the people commenting as such haven't even done the industry the credit of playing one game.

One good game, mind. If Bioshock is cerebral gaming with a soul, like a three-course meal, then Gears of War is the popcorn and soda pop of the industry.

However, now that you mention it, what is the point of being called "art"? Art is a term that whoever's-important bestowed upon something revolutionary, then is imitated for decades before the next big revolution. The meaning of "art" in the present is directly translated as "pretention". The label of "art" can only be properly applied to things which exist in the past, otherwise in my humble opinion you're just trying to look cool. The result is by and large sounding like a douchebag.

Are our videogames art? Heck if I know. But that's for gamers to decide. No, not the morons on Xbox live calling each other (and I'm only using this word to demonstrate the bottom of the spectrum) "faggots", but the ones who're a little wiser and a little more informed about the industry. People like Jerry Holkins, not Roger Ebert. We all, in fairness, have a right to be judged by a jury of our peers.

1 comment:

  1. I've always liked to think of art as a sort of nature. Like gravity. But that's just the metaphysics talking. Great article, man.