12/01/2005

Bring me the head of Roger Ebert!

Seriously, how this lazy fatass became America's premiere critic is beyond me, but he should at least be smart enough to not blast a medium he knows little to nothing about. Yet this does not stop him, as seen by this recent exchange:

Q. I was saddened to read that you consider video games an inherently inferior medium to film and literature, despite your admitted lack of familiarity with the great works of the medium. This strikes me as especially perplexing, given how receptive you have been in the past to other oft-maligned media such as comic books and animation. Was not film itself once a new field of art? Did it not also take decades for its academic respectability to be recognized?

There are already countless serious studies on game theory and criticism available, including Mark S. Meadows' Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative, Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan's First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, and Mark J.P. Wolf's The Medium of the Video Game, to name a few.

I hold out hope that you will take the time to broaden your experience with games beyond the trashy, artless "adaptations" that pollute our movie theaters, and let you discover the true wonder of this emerging medium, just as you have so passionately helped me to appreciate the greatness of many wonderful films.

Andrew Davis, St. Cloud, Minn.

A. Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that 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.

Unlike the lost hours on such brilliant films you gave thumbs up to like "The Honeymooners"? I love when some out of touch old guy rants about something he knows nothing about. As far as being a waste of time? You sit on your ever enlarging ass at the theatre for hours on end evaluating exactly what would be a good waste of our time. Award-winning composers like Danny Elfman have done videogame music, genius. As far as making us as a society more cultured, civilized and empathetic, video games actually have a better chance of doing that in terms of potential than a movie or book. As you yourself said, movies & books take authorial control, meaning that they take a specific viewpoint and train of thought. Games are getting to be less and less like this, where you have much more direct control over your character's actions and how that affects the world around your character (just look at all the games where you have the choice of being good or evil). Unlike movies or books, they do not tell you what to think, they increasingly let you decide for yourself. There are fluff videogames and there are serious videogames, just like with books and movies. You have strictly based your opinions on the admittedly numerous bad films that have come out of Hollywood based on the medium, but if someone would actually take a game with a solid story and adapt with a crew that was seriously committed to the project (which is hard for ANY film to accomplish these days), you would see a different result.

Moving on, the only film opening in wide release this weekend is Aeon Flux. What are my early thoughts? I have a free pass to this movie and I'm still not sure I want to waste the time to see it. The TV series was an incoherent mess with rather gross sexual undertones, the fact that it wasn't screened for crtics doesn't bode well either.

My Xbox 360 is officially sold, but I do plan on getting another eventually, and a big determiner of exactly when might be when these awesome skins become available:


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Ok, that's all for today, I'll probably post again before the week's end however.

1 comment:

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