Thursday, May 6, 2010

An Internet Belletrist Creates and Settles an Argument about an Unimportant Topic

Roger Ebert has been carrying on about video games and their status as art it seems since time immemorial. I have tried my best to let it go without comment, but his original post on the subject is dated April 16, 2010. He has since retweeted about it over a dozen times. He won't let it die, and why should he? He has almost 4,000 comments on that entry alone so you can chalk this up to pure envy if you like. You should definitely read his piece since it will help inform the discussion I will attempt to have here and it is well-written, as most of his pieces are. So why would I put everyone's favorite Twitterer and recent winner of the Webby Person of the Year Award on blast? Let me get a few disclaimers out of the way before I go any further:
  • I'm not an internet or real life bully by nature, and that is not what this post is about. I take issue at the premise of the argument and why 'video games as art' even needs discussion.
  • I have read Ebert's reviews before and enjoyed them. I have also followed him on twitter for several months. I even use to watch At the Movies and liked it.
  • No matter what you read after the current bullet list this post is not about hating on Ebert so much as the origins of argument of the video games as art debate. That is to say this is not another 'Ebert is old and doesn't get it argument.' I'm not internet attacking Ebert, but I am also not going to coddle his e-balls like everyone else does. It's like people are afraid to cross him online.
  • I am not a hard-core gamer. I don't own a video game console. I have 4 PC games, one of which I play with any regularity, Left 4 Dead 2. Oooohh, I put the title in italics, does that mean it's art now?
The origins of the video games as art debate are suspicious at best. Not that it matters at this point, but a few people spouting off a faulty premise does not an issue that needs addressing make. No one is bringing their video games to Cannes to screen them. The people at EA are not wearing thick black frame glasses, berets, and going to coffee shops to cut themselves. Who said a video game is art anyway? From the second paragraph in Ebert's entry it appears two people on record made that assertion and prompted Mr. Ebert to write a post. I wonder if Ebert knew the all along his entry would be viewed as an attack on video games and cause gamers to put down their energy drinks, come to his blog, and comment so that they may stumble upon something that actually is art and quit wasting their lives playing video games.
Most people play video games simply to shoot shit or gather crystals and orbs to pass the time and have fun.. When I tell a friend about a video game I don't cut off my ear lobe and send them a letter advising him if we play this video game we may be moved to tears and be bosom buddies forever. I send an email and say, "Check out all this shit blowing up and all of these zombies we can shoot. Kick ass, bitch." It's not serious. My friends and I get drunk and play until 3am in the morning about once every two months at this point. We are old enough that it is not a focal point but more of an excuse to hang out and talk shit online- pure mindless entertainment. Even at the point where I was playing video games with the most frequency if someone would have asked me if I thought video games were art I probably would have retorted something like, "Is an anus a vagina? Why are we even talking about this?"
So now that Roger has generated this argument out of nothing, he proceeds to play you all for fools. I'm sure he had to expect people would just call him old and accuse him of "not getting it." Many commenters on his post played right into his hands. He continually pwned gamers short on defenses thought Twitter, the noobs.
The whole argument is pointless, though. Let me see if I can use a correlative metaphorical argument to demonstrate how I see this whole back and forth.
Person 1 (Ebert): "Hey, I don't think Gatorade is soup."
Person 2 (Many commenters on Ebert's video game post): "Really? Well, I never in all my... Certainly it shares so many characteristics with soup. It is made in a similar way. Well, have you tried the new G2? Try that and tell me it's not soup.
Person 3 (me): "It's not soup. It's Gatorade. It's different than soup. They have being mostly liquid in common, but that is about all."
Video games use images and sounds like some forms of art, but it has never even entered anyone's mind that a screen capture of Halo should be hanging in The Louvre. Hey, internet, forks are not combs. Do you want to fight about it? "... but that bird in The Little Mermaid said they were." Yes, I have watched The Little Mermaid, and it was obvious the bird was pulling that statement out of his butt. I have a little sister and growing up I was made to watch the whole Disney animated catalog with her multiple times. The Fox and the Hound will probably still make me cry if I watch it right now. I had almost every line from Aladin and Beauty and the Beast memorized for a while also. Go ahead. Make fun of me. I am so gobsmacked with the internet right now.

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