Back when I was about sixteen or seventeen I was playing Manhunt. My pseudo-stepfather at the time stepped in for a moment to watch me. About the time I was sticking a shard of glass in a man’s eyeball he exited. I later learned that he thought I was a might bit disturbed for enjoying such a game.
At the time it was something that really made me angry. Of course, back then I had something of an persecution complex going on, but I didn’t have much of a capacity for looking at it objectively back then. I just saw it as another case of redneck-jock society picking on the nerd.
Looking back now I can see that he just didn’t get it. Manhunt for me was like an interactive horror movie. Instead sitting around watching others be hunted down like animals, you were the one being beaten, shot and stabbed. Good fun!
For him, if you wanted a scare you could just go rent The Excorcist.
Not getting it is a common theme amongst the older generation. You can see it in all the parent’s rights groups who rally against violence despite it already being illegal to sell a Mature rated title to a youngster. You can see it in the politicans who still rant and rave about the depraved souls who play such games, despite the fact that most are productive adults.
Chances are unless you grew up with it you won’t get it. Even at just twenty-three the emerging generation strikes me as odd. Twilight? Hannah Montana? Don’t even get me started on the cartoons they watch. Pull up your pants. Wear a longer skirt. Why in my day…
Generally, I would brand it a rare day when somone in a position of authority -any authority- admits to just not understanding something. So I think we should give Roger Ebert a hand for having the self-aware intelligence to acknowledge that he doesn’t understand video games.
Mr. Ebert has earned the malice of many gamers through his repeated insistence that video games are not a medium for art. To his credit, many of his arguments were well thought out. He believed that for something to be art it must guide its viewer/reader/user to a particular conclusion or emotion. The nonlinear nature of many games makes them too subjective to the whims of the player for this to be the case, in his opinion.
Gamers of course were swift to respond with countless of examples (Shadow of the Collossus, Metal Gear Solid 3, Bioshock, The Darkness, etc.) that are both linear and use their linearity to make a point. And they’re right. By that definition games can certainly be art. Not all games are, of course, just as not every film or book is art.
So after tons of outside pressure and literally thousands of negative (sometimes overly so) responses to his statements Mr. Ebert has written a blog post basically stating that he does in fact not get it.
While that will undoubtedly not satisfy some of the more zealous in the gaming community, that sounds fair to me. I don’t get why Ebert hated Kick-Ass so much (1 out of 4 stars?). I wouldn’t expect him to be filled with unbridled rage because he doesn’t think the same way I do about a movie.
Every art form has people who don’t understand it. Be it books, comics, film, paintings (especially contemporary stuff), music, or video games; there are just too many people for everyone to enjoy everything the same way. Many gamers need to just accept that and be happy that games are becoming a normal and accepted part of society rather than being considered a social abberation.