“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.”
I see this guy’s face a lot when it comes to the early stages of writing. When I finish watching a movie, and it’s of a certain age, his archive is one of the first places I want to visit. I have a deep respect for his criticism, and I really admire the guy. But, there is that one quote...
Video games can never be art is a message that Ebert remained adamant about, even in his final years. In a 2010 article on rogerebert.com, he cites Kelee Santiago’s TED talk, wherein the latter uses Braid, WACO: THE VIDEO GAME, and Flower to make the case for games as an art form. Santiago goes on to explain that we can’t compare the chicken scratches of early cave-painting to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It simply isn’t fair to compare a medium in its relative infancy to the works of a great poet or filmmaker.
Even the best attempts at video game artistry hew closer to the end of the ‘chicken scratches’ spectrum of art, and there is no potential to move further. Ebert argues that most games are played to be ‘won’, the same way you would win a game of chess or mahjong. You can’t win while reading a story, watching a film. Instead, you simply experience. The limitations of rules, points, objectives are all barriers to artistic merit. Is it ridiculous to imagine that we can be moved, or have experiences through gaming? Would they be any less valid? All this from a guy that loved Cosmology of Kyoto.
Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, “I’m studying a great form of art?” Then let them say it, if it makes them happy.
It’s this Roger Ebert quote that actually strikes me the most deeply. I frankly think this is a tired argument to begin with, but it’s still something that I am constantly thinking about when wanting to write about video games. Who am I seeking validation from? Am I on trial for having an emotional response to a piece of digital content? No, of course not. This isn’t the reason I want to write about video games at all. I only have my own experiences, and whether or not games are art isn’t that big of a deal to me.
So, with that out of that the way... Hi. Welcome to adventure.exe, a place where I can stick some thoughts and experiences having to do with video games throughout my life. A place where I can post reflections on narrative in games from both past and present. No validation required.
Hope you stick around.