Roger Ebert’s recent opinions on videogames may have been shaped by a poor experience with reptiles and the power of pizza.
Film critic Roger Ebert recently took a trip into his past by digging up footage of when he and Gene Siskel used to do holiday gift guides. One particular clip may reveal why Ebert has had negative opinions on the capabilities of videogames as a form of artistic expression.
In Siskel and Ebert’s 1989 holiday gift guide, the pair talked up the Nintendo Entertainment System and its attempt to reach into the adult market. After fumbling around in Tecmo Bowl (I’d hate to see their troubles with a controller that has more than two buttons), Ebert divulged that he bought his own NES along with the system’s first version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the day.
You might expect the sometimes fuddy-duddy to have despised the NES from the outset, but according to his comments, he became addicted. Around the 4 minute mark in the accompanying video, Ebert says: “After about a week of this I would find that every time I had a spare moment, or every time I came home, I was in front of the set playing with these mutant turtles, and it got to the point where it was making me quite unhappy because I was so obsessed with it. I finally unplugged the machine and I said ‘that’s it for Nintendo’ because it seems to me that it’s so hypnotic, and so repetitive, that it’s just not good for my mental health.”
Everything has become clear. Ebert doesn’t hate games, he just has terrible memories of one of the most challenging titles on the NES. I was never able to beat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were you? Dealing with those horrifying swimming levels and having to survive in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon was enough to drive any man, or kid, insane. If Ebert had played Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda instead, he may have grown up to have very different opinions on the value of videogames. I wonder if he has flashbacks every time he eats pizza, too?