Why Roger Ebert Gets a Thumbs Down on Video Games

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Here’s the deal with Roger Ebert. He’s a critic I respect who’s paid his dues and earned the right to hold forth on cinema, writing and any number of artistic disciplines.

But, he’s talking trash about video games again. It’s painfully clear that he hasn’t played video games in a long time (the clip is from 1993) and won’t play them now. And that’s a shame for two reasons. One, he’s missing out on a type of entertainment experience that’s only going to become more vibrant and unpredictable in the future. For a guy who’s taken to Twitter, for example, and will pull out his OG (original geek) Compuserve and MCI mail credentials, the arms-crossed “don’t wanna” stance seems rather short-sighted. The second reason that Ebert’s steadfast refusal to come to grips with games as a medium is a shame is that it’s just bad critical form. That’s far more problematic than just missing out on something you’ve already decided that you’re not going to like. (And, isn’t art determined by how a piece of work makes you feel, both on the part of the creator and the viewer?)

A critic’s job is to apply the lens of his or her knowledge and experience to a creative endeavor. You have to engage with the thing you’re criticizing. You don’t get to do arm’s length unless you’ve already been up to it in your elbows.