Veteran movie critic Roger Ebert says that he was a “fool” for talking about videogames in the first place.
Movie critic Roger Ebert earned scorn from the gaming community with a blog post in April that made the claim that games weren’t art, and described the examples of “art games,” titles like Braid and Flower, as “pathetic.” But a few months, and a few thousand comments, down the line, Ebert has written a new post saying that while his opinions on videogames haven’t changed, he didn’t know enough about them to be able to comment.
“I was a fool for mentioning videogames in the first place. I would never express an opinion on a movie I hadn’t seen. Yet I declared as an axiom that video games can never be Art. I still believe this, but I should never have said so. Some opinions are best kept to yourself … My error in the first place was to think I could make a convincing argument on purely theoretical grounds. What I was saying is that video games could not in principle be Art. That was a foolish position to take, particularly as it seemed to apply to the entire unseen future of games. This was pointed out to me maybe hundreds of times. How could I disagree? It is quite possible a game could someday be great Art.”
Ebert admits that he has no desire to play videogames, but that he was unable to come up with any definition of art that excluded games, while simultaneously including everything that he loved: “I concluded without a definition that satisfied me. I had to be prepared to agree that gamers can have an experience that, for them, is Art. I don’t know what they can learn about another human being that way, no matter how much they learn about Human Nature. I don’t know if they can be inspired to transcend themselves. Perhaps they can. How can I say? I may be wrong, but if I’m not willing to play a video game to find that out, I should say so.”
It’s never easy to say that you were wrong, and it’s doubly hard to do it in public as Ebert did. There’s a lot of humility on display here, and that deserves a lot of respect.