Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is a noted and celebrated movie critic, who has had several shows, written numerous books on the subject and won awards. The reason I bring him up in this blog, however, is because in recent years Ebert has claimed that video games are not even close to being worthy of the title of art.

“I remain convinced that in principle, video games cannot be art…No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.”

Ebert says that games, by their definition, have rules and goals and involve player choice, and therefore the game’s creators have less of an impact on what they want to portray.

I don’t see what bearing this has on the subject at all.

The majority of video game story telling is not able to be bypassed, and so the main plot will be known to everyone who plays. Two people may have different interpretations or appreciations for the same video game, but the game developer is responsible for that because they designed the levels, complete with music, sound effects, visual details, etc., according to their vision and what they wanted to create. There are many movies that have many different ways of seeing it. One example that comes to mind would be Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.”

Movies have rules as well. If the movie is supposed to take place in real life, then the characters are bound by the laws of nature, such as gravity. If the movie is more sci-fi, then the writer and director have to establish early on in the movie what rules of nature can be broken, and then the characters have to live based around those circumstances.

As for video games having a goal or win condition, I would say that movies are the same. The main character in a film has an objective, and the movie chronicles that character’s journey in achieving that goal. Once that happens, the movie ends. Well, same with video games. In the game Resident Evil, for example, once you have escaped from the Spencer mansion and arrived at safety, there would be no point to continue playing.

What makes video games different from most of the other arts, such as film, theater, literature, etc., is their interactive nature. But, much as the early filmmakers utilized the unique qualities of film, such as close-ups and cross-cutting, so too have game developers tapped into the unique characteristics of games. In fact, player choice is an advantage games have over other mediums because it immerses people into the story even more, and gives the story more meaning. Do you, for example, join the established order and try and restore oppressive peace, or do you join the rebel cause and overthrow the existing government?

Here is a link to an article by Roger Ebert:


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cynthia
    Apr 16, 2012 @ 05:03:11

    Good essay.


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