The Ebert Response

For those of you are utterly sick of this issue, bear with me. I am with you. I am tired of people questioning whether video games are art or not. Yes they are, now move on. But when someone like Roger Ebert brings it up and declares that opinion loudly to the rest of the world, a world ready and eager to accept that proclamation, then we have to stand up and say you are wrong. You are mixing your facts up. You are missing the point. You are looking in all the wrong places at all the wrong things.

The ludodechadron and those who bother to read the writings of that large and expansive circle all understand and accept that games are art and have moved on to exploring what that means or now that they are, how to convey specific meaning through them. But every once in a while we have to take a break and revisit the 101 for the benefit of educating, not our detractors, but those who might listen to them without another voice.

Ben Abraham called me out on it on twitter and said that it is a waste of time and that people are smarter than that. I would love to believe him, but people keep proving that notion wrong. See truthers, birthers, and tea partiers for more recent examples. When a wrong and malicious idea gains momentum it stops being an idea and becomes a belief. It’s nearly impossible to undo beliefs and all we can hope to do is mitigate the spreading of such incorrect notions that games are not art.

Commenting on the blog post in question is a pointless endeavor as it has reached 3305 comments at the time of writing. I gave up at around 30 of these essay length responses. I can’t imagine he’s reading them anymore; he is just amazed at the response by this point as he posts on twitter. He has become a troll. He posts things on twitter I can only hope they are there to gain a response, because I can’t believe such an intelligent man would really stoop below his ability. The highlights include, rhetorically asking if there is a classics professor anywhere who would say games are on the level of Homer. Yes and I shook hands with him. Another was asking if there was an art historian anywhere who would support games. There was an entire conference devoted to it.

10 years ago you would have still been wrong, but you might have made a case. Now every argument you can think of already has evidence to the contrary. You ask, “Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?” My question to you is: why are you so intensely concerned that games shouldn’t be defined as art?

I don’t have really anything to say, because others have said pretty much everything I have to say. Some are closer to my position than others, but all the responses have the following in common: Roger Ebert is wrong. I waited the whole week to get everything in. After this week the discussion should end, because he said his piece and we said ours, you can’t ask for any more than that.

Incidentally I didn’t bother sending any to TWIVGB, because there were too many and Ben has said to the effect we should just ignore him. If he likes he can just link this instead. (Though I waited way too long to post this.)

Ebert’s post sprang up as a response to a talk by Kelle Santiago, so it seems right that we start off with her response to him.

Brain Ashcraft at Kotaku writes an open letter to Ebert.

Daniel Bullard-Bates at Press Pause to Reflect says it right in the title: Why Roger Ebert is Wrong About Video Games.

Fraser Allison of RedKingDreams thanks Ebert for opening the door to so many people about the ideas of games and art and hope they believe him to be wrong.

Mike Schiller at Unlimited Lives decides to go the opposite route by exploring what Ebert got right.

A. Serwer at The American Prospect responds with this short little piece.

Navi Fairy at GayGamer writes he finally understand Ebert. I’m glad someone does.

Ferguson at Interactive Illuminatus calls the idea Games can’t be art a case of mistaken identity.

Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame weighs in.

Both Gabe and Tych write their thoughts on it. As well as a comic about it.

Only the first third of this post by Steve Gaynor at the Fullbirght blog is about Ebert, but it pretty much sums up everyone’s exhaustion with the issue.

Even Mike Thomson from IGN has a well thought out, well written piece on the issue, closely mirroring my own opinion.

A little more irreverent on the issue is SnakeLinkSonic at Misanthropic Gamer.

And finally two more visual arguments on the matter. At Game Couch it is a matter of three lighthouses. While Kirk Hamilton creates a flowchart at Gamer Melodico.

[Additional] And now for the folks who I either missed or didn’t get the memo.

Gus Mastrapa at Joystick Division declares the whole argument Pretension +1.

Ben “Yahtzee” Chroshaw turns his attention in his weekly written column towards the issue.

Daniel Golding gets published at ABC Australia saying: Are video games art? It’s hardly worth debating.

At the Italian game blog Ars Ludica, Simone Tagliaferri writes this response.

Sean Sands over at Gamers with Jobs abdicates the entire discussion call any response to the ‘are games art’ discussion pointless and instead asks not for the Citizen Kane of video games, but the Chess of video games.

The crew at spend the first 15-20 minutes of their latest podcast giving their opinions on the subject.

[Additional +2] Two weeks out and they’re still coming.

Moviebob, aka The GameOverthinker, brings his latest episode to bear on the subject. I was with him until around the 17 minute mark, but it was a minor disagreement. That was also a warning that it is long.

[Additional +3] More stuff that came out and stuff I just got around to reading.

This is the longest one yet people. Tim, love him or hate him I’m not going to judge, Rogers talks about the subject in his latest column entitled ‘I <3 Stupid Games.’ Or at least I think he does. Warning: it may take you 10 – 20 minutes to get through.

LittleBoBeep ignores Ebert in his thoughtful dissertation and just gets down to the issue at hand. But with the Kelle Santiago reference it’s easy to see what inspired the post series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

[Additional +4] GOOD. FREAKING. LORD. Thanks to the trackback below I have just found a link network to a whole batch of new posts. Some are from April. No one said the internet was small. On the plus side I have a bunch of new blogs to follow.

From the site that trackbacked my post I found Jason O. of ButtonMashing to be one of those apathetic to the argument, because it wont matter in 10 years.

Nick Sutter, formerly of EGM/1-up post this response the day after Ebert’s post.

Scott Dixon of GameJudgement mainly tries to do a basic link post of responses with Ebert quotes taking the top half, but he voices his opinion, of the you’re missing the point of the medium variety, so I add it in with the others. ( Note: all of his links are somewhere above save the Destructoid one, because it was more about Heavy Rain than anything Ebert had to say.)

It was a pleasure to read Josh’s post at Cathode Tan, because it took a different approach. It gave a evolutionary history of where modern video game came from. And then proceeded to show that yes games are already in museums, so there goes that straw man bullet point.

In an interview with Charge Shot, Jason Rohrer weighs in on the games as art debate and agrees with Ebert on several points. Saying we’re not quite there yet.

Another oldie I missed the first three times around is by Sinnan Kubba writing for Games Abyss who is a little more…blatant than many of the other responders.

[Additional +5] I’m not even reading these anymore before I post them. Screw it I have better things to do.

Post #1 Ben sent me.

Post #2 Ben sent me.

[Additional +6] I’m just lucky 4th edition DnD introduces the +6 to weapons or this wouldn’t make sense at all.

Random comic with Ebert and art mentioned from the Escapist.

Kevin Ohannessian asked a bunch of industry people at E3 about Ebert and what game they would suggest he play.

[Additional Final] As of 2:08 PM of July 1st in the year of our lord Two Thousand and Ten victory was declared across the interweb and I can finally not give a shit about updating this post anymore.

Famed critic Roger Ebert has written a post about how Ebert was wrong.

[Additional: I’m proven to be a liar] This will be updated as need be, no further additionals, just this one. Furthermore, should Ebert or anyone else take up the similar flag against video games as art, they will not be added. This is only for the Ebert post noted above.

Brian Rubinow parodies the original Ebert argument post, quite eloquently, though I wish it was much more timely.

Ashelia over at Hellmode finally writes her piece on Ebert and his so called apology and the apologies in the gaming community.

On Kotaku, commenter Kiori Hayabusa writes a decent length defense of why Roger Ebert has the right to not give a shit if games are art.

Thomas at Flying Mongoose Labs ( I wish I could make a name like that up.) writes a piece questioning the whole point of the argument itself on the last day of the year.

Rus McLaughlin over at BitMob thanks Roger Ebert for the kick in the pants we needed that we got last year. (9 goddamn months, you had 9 goddamn months)

Invoking his name not once, not twice, but seven times Patrick Holleman asks the question “Can Videogames be Art?

Brain Moriarty gave a talk at GDC 20011 entitled “An Apology for Roger Ebert” asserting that Ebert was in fact right and that it may not be a bad thing. I wanted to write a rant against this, but the talk sucked all the fight out of me and just depresses me.

So thankfully Zach Gage commenting at GameSetWatch pulled apart nearly every argument in it point by point and revealed quite a few lies within the logic.

Blake William wrote an open letter to Mr. Ebert on his personal blog. And I fulfill my assertion of a critic’s obligation at the top of this post by writing a response that wouldn’t fit in his comment section.

[Additional: Final and I mean it this time] Ebert’s post that in turn inspired this one is almost a year old now and I don’t think there is anything left to say. This started with a declaration that games cannot be art and then was countered, but they already are. There have been a few defenses of Ebert but all have centered around faulty assumptions or his right not to care. I agree with the latter. But I am going to give the last link to Evan Jones and his blog on Gamasutra asking everyone to “Stop Debating Games as Art.”

The people who claim that games are not art have not played games that have spoken to them as art. Their opinions stem from a lack of experience with games. It is not our job to refute them!

It is retarding to the critical development of our medium to spend our time defending its legitimacy. The worth of an experience cannot be judged by one who has not undergone it. To claim that games are not art is to judge countless experiences not experienced. To defend games as art is to say that such claims are worthwhile.

As a game creator, yes it is not his job to waste time convincing others games are art or which games achieve to be high art. It’s the critic’s job to waste his time. I am a critic and I have amply wasted my time doing so. This is a personal debate that every person must go through. Sometimes the ground work is so well laid out with plenty of markers and presented early enough you have an easy time coming to this understanding. Paintings, sculpture, literature, movies, plays all have the luxury. Games are art, they just do not have the the well worn path. It is a half hidden path covered with brambles, quicksand, false forks and switchbacks. In this manner it is a critic’s job to clear out the brush, put well marked signs easily read, pave over the quicksand and straighten the path. Over the last year we have done that by focusing intently on the issue and will continue to do so as Evan Jones says:

Tell about the time a game made you think, or the time one made you feel a sense of true accomplishment, or the time you felt true pride in your lower-case-a-achievements. Speak about the ones that made you angry and the ones that inspired you. Lament the bad games and sing the praises of the good.

There will be others who try to stir up this debate, but we need spill no more ink on them. We have written our responses as wide and varied as possible. We must now only link and leave silently. We leave it up for them to read it or not. I have cataloged every argument I could find. Send them here if you know not where else. I may edit this post further down the line to clean up some writing or elaborate the descriptions of the above links. But as far as I’m concerned, this matter is closed. I think games are art -> games are art -> excuse me while I go play some art.

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