Rant: Can We All Please Ignore Roger Ebert From Now On? Thanks.

Let's stop giving a shit what Roger Ebert says about video games, and art, OK? We've tried like hell to make him into a punching bag and neither he nor the rest of the world gives a crap for the fact we choose to feel so insulted every time he says something about video games.

This past week, Ebert, still the most recognisable film critic in the US, caught wind of a mainstream appraisal of Dark Souls and found it fit his view of video games as an intellectually bankrupt entertainment medium. "This critic took 100 hours to play the 'video game of the year,' and found it a soul-deadening exercise," Ebert tweeted, with a rhetorical cough for effect.

Frankly, I agree. I think Dark/Demon's Souls has been genuflected to enough. In qualifying high scores for it reviewers admit that it's not a game for everyone, which adds to its exclusionary cachet and makes completing it an argumentative trump card. Ebert should know that, for a lot of gamers, his snark wasn't anything new. It was just a second layer of snobbery, atop one of this medium's snobbiest games.

For starters, implying Dark Souls is the consensus "Video Game of the Year" is bullshit. It may be someone's video game of the year, but it is far from a universal choice. We lack a mechanism such as the Oscars that gives a work the mainstream best-of-the-year certification Ebert has applied. Portal 2 was Kotaku's game of the year. Others gave it to Arkham Asylum or Skyrim. I think Ebert could find fault with any of the stories those games present.

That's the story, not the game, and I think Ebert is reacting to this criticism as if it was a 100-hour film, the medium he knows best. Any film that delivers a "soul-deadening" experience is primarily the failure of its messengers. Waterworld? Heaven's Gate? Ebert pins the same responsibility on games. No. An interactive medium is a two-way street. This is probably why studies show there are so many games laying unfinished in gamers' collections (if not sold or traded off later). How many friends do you have with unwatched DVDs in their collections?

This is precisely the kind of apples-to-oranges thought exercise a guy like Ebert wants others to get into. Let's not. We're firmly convinced video games are an art form. Fine. I feel no more compelled to defend Dark Souls or give a shit what Roger Ebert says about it than I do when an actual video gamer calls Dark Souls the game of the year, and I wholeheartedly disagree.

There is no disputing about tastes. I'm sure Ebert understands that, but he doesn't extend the same courtesy to video games, maybe because he doesn't consider them an art form. But a dispute is, like the soul-dead 100 hours in Dark Souls a two-way street. We can unilaterally treat video games as art -- something in which tastes can not be disputed -- if we don't dispute Ebert's tastes in them. Which means ignoring whatever he has to say about them.


Comments

    The opening of this article suggests we should ignore Roger Ebert's comments on video-games, later suggesting that by ignoring them we can 'unilaterally treat video games as art, yet the author then goes on to waste 500 words or so complaining about Ebert and his opinions. By commenting on Ebert's tweet in an inflammatory manner - 'calling Dark Souls game of the year is bullshit' - and using assumptive logical fallacies - Ebert is a film critic, therefore he must look at games like films - it seems the author of this article is going against exactly what he wishes us to do.

      Pretty much this. Game blogs engage in a level of quote-mining that would make even creationists proud. It's juvenile, petty and displays a pathological inferiority complex.

      I love Ebert, I love film, and I love games. I don't need his validation to enjoy one of my hobbies, and by the very writing of this article, the author has displayed that he cares very deeply about what Roger Ebert thinks. Gaming as a medium is relatively young, but we shouldn't need the approval of the establishment to enjoy it. Ebert doesn't think it's art? So what? Live and let live.

      Yet like clockwork, every time Ebert tweets something about games, the blogs get flustered, write insulted, passionate articles like this and more pissed off juvenile gamers bomb Ebert's Amazon books with 1-star ratings. You know what? Carry on you magnificent bastard.

    We're no longer at the point where Ebert's opinion reflects the broader critical consensus on whether games are worth the attention. There is no critical consensus - Time and the New York Times think games are worth covering, Reuters and The Guardian don't.

    The whole reason we cared was the belief that if elite critics thought games were important then gamers wouldn't get so much flak for playing games, which was never true. Gamers don't get flak for playing games, they get flak for being *gamers*, for the stereotypes of gamers using games as an escape from social obligations. We'll keep getting flak until that's an unthinkable assertion for anyone who doesn't play games to make.

      Actually the Guardian does have games coverage, Charlie Brooker writes some interesting stuff about them from time to time in his column:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/13/charlie-brooker-modern-warfare-3

      But now that I think about it Charlie Brooker should be the prime-minister of Britain, it would make me proud to be part of the Empire! :)

    I think you missed the point that the tweet was saying the game that one reviewer thought was the best took them 100 hours and left them drained. Attempting to highlight that some aspects of the community are devoid of life and happiness. A fair point...that can be made about any group. I found Dark Souls to be a thrilling tale of exploration and mystery. So as it should be, each to their own (so I agree on that point).

    When moving pictures were first shown, they were largely thought of as a mere novelty; a beguiling but ultimately shallow diversion. This view was mainly held by older people who were too set in their ways to accept anything new, and they clung onto their more traditional art forms. Then the old people died off, the medium grew up, and people grew up along with it, and now film is indisputable.

    The same thing will happen for video games, you just need to give it a generation or two. And then when we're old, there'll be some new form of media that we don't understand and thus will consider to be insipid and artless compared to our precious video games, and the cycle will go on and on until the sun explodes and sends us to blissful oblivion.

    I think a simple 'u mad' in response to this guy's tweet would have sufficed.

    I give more of a shit that Roger Ebert's opinions than Owen Good's rants.

      Sorry, horribly mangled sentence there.

      "I give more of a shit about Roger Ebert’s opinions than Owen Good’s rants."

    I think Ebert is a good film critic, but he's a fool when it comes to video games.

    "atop one of this medium’s snobbiest games."

    .... Speaking of critics I need to ignore.

    Was, uh... the paragraph about how Dark Souls isn't game of the year, then saying Game of the Year is a stupid moniker because there's no way it's universal - then mentioning how kotaku thought it as portal 2 - necessary?
    In the slightest?
    Was any of this?
    Maybe we should just be ignoring the reactions to Ebert.

    I stopped listening to Ebert way before he snubbed games. I stopped listening to Ebert because he says things like, and I'm not kidding: "Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace, is an astonishing achievement in imaginative filmmaking ... Lucas tells a good story"

    I'm not joking.

    He gave that 3.5 stars, even praising its special effects.

    At this point, anything the guy says should be dismissed as utter bullshit.

    Articles like this seem to be feeding the troll. Most people are smart enough to ignore uneducated opinions, and in a medium like reviewing films, there's already a lot of grey.

    Soul deadening is high praise really. Dark Souls is meant to be a a crushing and desolate experience. The whole atmosphere of the game aims for that feeling.

    Who's elbert? Honestly never heard of him until this rant made me aware, so you could say the author is counter-productive.

      Just the most famous film critic in the world. No biggie.

    Look like he tweeted this article...

    Does he read Kotaku or something...

    Not only that, but he clearly liked it if he spent 100 hours on it.

    Ebert's film reviews these days are pretty lackluster affairs; he doesn't objectively dismantle films and disect why they succeed or fail on different levels. Instead he often just recounts the narrative then makes some pretty general comments which may or may not give us some sort of insight into what makes the film watchable or otherwise. Real lazy stuff.

    It's bizarre given he's supposed to be one of the best in the industry.

    Great (and recent) example: his review of "Act of Valor". Hlf way through his review (after supririse surprise, recounting the narrative) he starts reviewing another completely seperate film! Then he finishes the review by positing on the state of mind of a human being he has never even met.

    Really weird.

    I find this article a little ironic,, considering that the only times I ever hear about Roger Ebert complaining about videogames are when Kotaku posts another one paragraph not-article along the lines of "OLD MAN HATES VIDEOGAMES, SHOCK, HORROR, OUTRAGE!"

    I find it difficult to believe that someone with such disdain for video games would spend 100 hours playing one just to sledge it. Come clean Mr Ebert, you haven't played this game, it is just a convenient target for your ongoing war against games and gamers. People like this exist in all walks of life. Bitter, insecure hate mongers that try to hurt what they don't understand in a desperate attempt to retain power and influence.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of you guys come here for "news" and other kinds of (semi-entertaining) information you may not already be aware of. So, those of you complaining that this author is bringing something to your attention, why exactly are you reading the site in the first place?

    Maybe this is just some clever trolling on Ebert's part to get his name in front of a bunch of gamers who have never heard of him.

      The author isn't delivering a news story though; he's asking us to do something unneeded whilst effectively invalidating that request via the manner in which he delivers it. It just seems like a silly way to go about things.

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you say "clever trolling".

    For the uneducated. Ebert is the second child of BERT and Ernie of sesame street fame. He grew up in the shadow of his more famous brother Q-BERT - where he aquired a hatred of videogames. During the mid-80s Ebert renounced his family after the infamous ATARI/NAMCO scandal where Q_BERT, PACMAN, Pitfall Harry and a comatose LUIGI were found with a dead hooker in a spa.

      Can I "nom" you for this comment? Is that how it works?

    I stopped listening to Roger Ebert when he lost his jaw.

    Who the fuck is Roger Ebert?

      ikr? who cares about what some random scrub says about games oO

      Typical mature comment from the not-at-all wilfully ignorant and hostile gaming community. Not at all.

        He has a point though. Outside of America, Ebert is a name that won't be well known. Some people will know who he is but go around your local city and ask 100 random people from random backgrounds who he is. You'll probably find that most have no idea or only the most vague of ideas at best.

        Hell, if it wasn't for the South Park episode titled "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off The Fatty Foods" I'd have no idea who he was.

        Either way, he's a fat guy whose made a career out of spouting opinion as fact. Why should anyone care what he says? He's no more or less correct than you or I about movies or games.

    I haven't cared about anything Ebert said, ever. Why would I start now?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now