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April 18, 2010

Roger Ebert: "Video games will never be... Get of my lawn!"

This post started out as a comment on a comment on Isaac Butler's post on Roger Ebert's post, Video games can never be art. It got long enough that I decided to be greedy and post it here instead.

If you took that article and replaced video games with films, you'd probably have an article that some theater critic wrote in the early 1930s. It's hard to take his opinion seriously when he seemingly has not even ever played a video game. It comes off as an old man grumbling on his porch, "Kids today..."

That said, video games, at least most of them, probably aren't art. Even Mass Effect (full disclosure, I haven't played it, or really any games like it) seems to be the same kind of testosterone filled silliness meant for teenagers that Transformers 2 is. Is Transformers 2 art? I don't even want to have that discussion. Heck, is art art? If you go to MoMA and see Marina Abramovic staring at some people, how long can you talk about it before wondering whether the emperor isn't wearing any clothes after all?

Anyway, the idea that video games can never be art is ridiculous. Let's say video games are about thirty years old. Films, of course, were churning out all the things that justify calling it art thirty years in. But films have the advantage of being able to borrow from centuries of books and theater. A lot of early movies were basically just theater that somebody put a camera in front of. But video games' interactivity makes it a whole new medium. You can't just put a motion capture device in front of a performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and call it a video game. It's going to be a long time before video games hit their stride.

Whether video games are art now is a subject that can be debated, although preferably by someone who could tell the difference between Mario and Luigi. Whether it ever will be art, well, I don't think even the most forward thinking people have any idea what video games are going to be like in five years. And I'm going to stop this now, because I'm starting to feel like a pretentious fop trying to discuss what art is.

Posted by Will at April 18, 2010 12:42 PM

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