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Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

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  • Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

    Saw this over on Ars Technica...and went to the man himself.

    There it is, right on today's front page:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/...&date=20051127

    ......I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

    I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.
    I vehemently disagree with my esteemed critical collegue. How many hours have I wasted on films that were trite, meaningless, and completely devoid of any cultural significance that recieved a "thumbs up" from Mr. Ebert?

    To be sure, most games are utter crap, but then, so are most movies, books, music, and television.

    All mediums necessarily slant towards the least common denominator in a quest for revenue and/or ratings.

    But to say that games are inferior because by their very nature are interactive is ridiculous: the act of watching a movie requires my interaction with the ideas and images that the director puts in front of me-it's not a passive medium as Mr. Ebert seems to suggest.

    If the auteur can't get my buy-in, then the movie, regardless of it's importance, has failed.

    I fail to see how sitting through a movie, a novel, or a television show, makes me more cultured or empathetic. I have been entertained, but there really isn't a takeaway from them.

    I suppose I get plugged into a shared experience, and therefore become culturally aware, but in this day and age, that is irrelevant: I have only become culturally acclimated to the subset of readers or viewers that have also sat through the same experience.

    Here's what I mean: I watch British Comedys. Love them. Watching Blackadder gives me insight into one particular set of biases, customs, and comedy, vastly different from, for example, Seinfeld. If I go to a Seinfeld fan, and talk about Blackadder, there is a disconnect: we don't share the same culture.

    So too with any other medium extant.

    To say that games are inferior, in this context, is to overlook the irrelevance of the other mediums to my culture: Gamer culture, specifically, the Tactical Gamer culture. In that context, we share a common experience, a cultural enrichment, if you will, by our experiences ingame.

    As I said before, most games are crap. I am willing to conceed that. The few games that rise to the top, can teach us as much about honor, duty, commitment, and about ourselves and our own experience as any movie.

    I hardly believe that that makes my chosen entertainment less relevant or inferior.
    Last edited by Mateo; 12-01-2005, 02:01 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

    Originally posted by TG_Mateo
    I fail to see how sitting through a movie, a novel, or a television show, makes me more cultured or empathetic. I have been entertained, but there really isn't a takeaway from either of them.
    That's because you're watching crap like Seinfeld and Blackadder... Try watching decent movies. Try watching the films that are nominated for the big Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Quit wasting your money on Deuce Dynamite: Dumb Gigilo. Stop letting your brain rot on any of that crap that's on TV.

    Watch trash that has no culture, and it's no wonder that you don't take anything away from it...

    (This may seem to be directed at Mateo, but it's not. Mateo hasn't said that he doesn't watch fine films. This is aimed at all of you garbage minded folks that don't stimulate your brain with anything other than TV and video games...)

    Oh, and Mateo, you're right, to say that one particular medium is unable to be artistic is a statement of a snob. That said, I'm still waiting for a PC game to make that jump.
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    • #3
      Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

      Originally posted by CingularDuality
      That's because you're watching crap like Seinfeld and Blackadder... Try watching decent movies. Try watching the films that are nominated for the big Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress. Quit wasting your money on Deuce Dynamite: Dumb Gigilo. Stop letting your brain rot on any of that crap that's on TV.

      Watch trash that has no culture, and it's no wonder that you don't take anything away from it...

      (This may seem to be directed at Mateo, but it's not. Mateo hasn't said that he doesn't watch fine films. This is aimed at all of you garbage minded folks that don't stimulate your brain with anything other than TV and video games...)
      I was just using that as an example, Mr. Duality, to illustrate the concept of two different cultures. I suppose I could have used Ran and The Godfather as an example, and that would have been just as effective. I'm not sure everyone would have gotten the meaning, though. :icon_bigg

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      • #4
        Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

        Saying videogames are artistically inferior to movies is like saying motorcycles are inferior at transporting cargo compared to cars. There's not much of a point.

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        • #5
          Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

          Originally posted by TG_Mateo
          I was just using that as an example, Mr. Duality....
          That's fine. And I was just using your quote as an example. I don't know what your movie viewing and book reading habits are. I do know what is selling at the box office and what is selling according to the NYTimes... And there's a big difference between the two. How does Roger Ebert explain that? Hmmm? How does he seriously compare a box office hit like Napoleon Dynamite to a best selling novel like The Da Vinci Code? And then he has the nerve to attack another new medium for not being artistic?

          Pfftt....
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          • #6
            Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

            You know, when I think of paragons of cultural superiority, Roger Ebert isn't exactly the first person who springs to mind.
            |TG-1stMIP|Mannerism​​​​​​​

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            • #7
              Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

              Originally posted by CingularDuality
              Try watching decent movies. Try watching the films that are nominated for the big Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, and Supporting Actor and Actress.
              Most of those do not compare to great works of art, fiction, or literature either. Gladiator and Titantic, for example, aspire[ed] to artistic importance as a visual experience, but otherwise fell flat, IMO, in terms of emotional weight. I just skimmed across Titanic on cable the other day and was surprised to find that, wow, some of that movie was just awful on the second viewing.

              90% of everything is crap.

              Ebert has two problems here. First, he is a notoriously self-righteous gasbag critic with very high, specific personal standards, most of which he will ignore on a whim if they don't serve his current review. So pardon, but as much as I enjoy his skewering of bad films, I don't give a darn what he considers fine art.

              Second, film and games are two vastly different mediums. While they share the same visual and audible language, you cannot effectively compare them on the same good/bad sliding scale of aesthetics. They are presented in different ways, produced according to different genre constrictions, and even experienced in vastly different time frames (single blocks of 2 hours vs. repeated or extended play over many days). Films engage the viewer on visual and audible levels only, while games also engage him on a tactile, interactive level. You are literally using different parts of your brain.

              If I had to name a game that could stand toe to toe with some of Hollywood's best stuff, I'd pick Metal Gear Solid. But if Ebert's sole experience with games is as time-wasters, then that's his loss.
              In game handle: Steel Scion
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              • #8
                Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                Originally posted by RandomGuy
                Saying videogames are artistically inferior to movies is like saying motorcycles are inferior at transporting cargo compared to cars. There's not much of a point.
                That's not what he said. He said that games are inferior because they cannot be art. They cannot be art because they are interactive rather than authorial.

                It would take a pretty long and convincing essay to substantiate those two sentences alone. In fact, I'd say it's impossible.

                All it takes to refute Mr. Ebert is a slightly broadened definition of art, or a relatively easy proof that things which aren't art are not necessarily inferior.

                Failing that, you could likely make a pretty good case for 4-5 games being art.

                The argument is a waste of time anyway. I probably shouldn't have bothered posting. :) I could be reading some Shakespeare instead - which is REALLY relevant. :icon_roll
                "You live and learn. Or you don't live long."
                - Lazarus Long

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                • #9
                  Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                  he says no one has compared a video game to a movie....different genres...and games are inferior to movies cause you have to make choices....so he would rather sit infront of a meaningless movie like say....charlie and the chocolate factory instead of play may be FF X...or a good WOW...not sure what hes trying to prove..he has no knowledge of video games so he is not qualified in talking about it.

                  But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art
                  ive seen some great games out there that are ART themselves...ive seen some crappy movies that get great reviews and are nothing near art...

                  I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.
                  playing games not only increases your reflexes and increases your ablilty to think creatively. I know alot of gamers and they are some the most well cultured and best thinkers i know...and who is he to tell us bout waisted time....stop waisting time eating you load


                  i say we spam his mail box....
                  that sounds like a good idea trooper.
                  -Vulcan

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                  • #10
                    Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                    If video games are not artistic then why is Hollywood creating movies based on video games ie: Doom, Tomb Raider ect....
                    Granted they aren't good movies but still they are being imulated into movies.....

                    And if games are such time wasters in Mr Eberts opinion then why do video games generate more profits than Hollywood right now. The video game industry is currently smoking Hollywood..

                    :icon13: :icon13: Mr Ebert
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                    • #11
                      Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                      I don't know about which medium is most noble, but I do believe that video games represent the same type of sea change that motion pictures introduced to theater-goers last century.

                      With regard to these games' artistic merit, I see Mr. Ebert's point about authorial control being part of the artistic experience, but suggest that creating a virtual environment in which people create their own experiences is a new and exciting art form in itself, one formerly reserved to God.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                        Mr. Ebert needs to sit down and play Final Fantasy 7. I believe that may help change his mind. Almost a decade after its release, the game is still lauded as one of the best, if not the best, stories put to a game. Not much different from a movie, when it comes down to it.
                        [squadl]
                        "I am the prettiest african-american, vietnamese..cong..person." -SugarNCamo

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                        • #13
                          Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                          Originally posted by SmokingTarpan
                          Mr. Ebert needs to sit down and play Final Fantasy 7. I believe that may help change his mind. Almost a decade after its release, the game is still lauded as one of the best, if not the best, stories put to a game. Not much different from a movie, when it comes down to it.
                          Hijack: Actually, the fact that Final Fantasy 7 is lauded as one of the best games would only help his arguement as the game was one cliche after another, thrown in with some agonizing plot points and holes. The only character I was able to form any kind of emotional bond with would have to have been Aeris. But even then, I didn't get all misty-eyed when she got harpooned. In fact, I found the cutscene rather humorous.

                          Even the mediocre FFX (which I enjoyed) was leaps and bounds above it. The only character I wished sweet death upon was Kimari (sp) because his character was just cat version of Auron with some weird father complex to Yuna. Anyways, FF3 (6) spanked them both in terms of storytelling.

                          And just so you know how little popularity has to do with intelligence: Counter-Strike is the most popular game ever (at least as far as I can tell by it's player base).... what does that tell you about gamers in general.

                          Ebert's problem is that he defines art his own way: which makes him an idiot. But that's his job and how he stays in business. I just don't respect a man who makes a career out of telling other people what to waste their free time watching or playing.

                          And wasn't LotR nominated for like 5,000 Emmy's (or whatever celebrities give each other to make themselves feel even better about themselves)? I mean, they were great movies, but there are other ways to display deep emotional conflict other than 5 minute long slow-motion close ups of characters that let you stare at every facial flaw the actor has.

                          I've said this before: Art is what a person makes of it.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                            I think Civilization 4 could make a good stand for one of the jumps to great peices of work that involves real life global aspects, atleast partially.


                            - -

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                            • #15
                              Re: Roger Ebert Says Games Inferior Culturally.....

                              Two games I'd nominate for "art": Half-Life 2 (single-player) and the Myst series.

                              How many who've played HL2 spent hours just playing with the environment, not fragging? Or just looking at the gorgeous renderings?

                              Perhaps Ebert intends to exclude all interactive experience, such as one encounters in many science museums (like my local San Francisco Exploratorium), from the realm of "legitimate art".

                              But this is typical of an authority of the "old medium". We saw the same thing a century ago when moving pictures came on the scene (and there was controversy about "talkies"). Before that, photography was discounted by painters. I'll bet that Gutenberg's mass-produced books were considered inferior by the craftsmen who were used to turning out volumes one by one.

                              New technology is always going to get the shaft from the old guard.
                              Dude, seriously, WHAT handkerchief?

                              snooggums' density principal: "The more dense a population, the more dense a population."

                              Iliana: "You're a great friend but if we're ever chased by zombies I'm tripping you."

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