Roger Ebert was outspoken about video games. As quoted, he did not believe they could be art. His statement was known, and the gaming industry blew up. We don’t take to criticism well, and I’m not sure why. So, Ebert would occasionally issue a small jab on Facebook, posting an article about the “Best video game breasts.” It wasn’t out of spite or revenge for the things he was called, nor did it contain hate speech or serve as antagonistic. It was a clever, subtle piece of opinion delivered with harmless smirk. That’s what Ebert was capable of.
As video game critics and readers, we could all learn something. Post a review to a popular video game site, and vitriol is unleashed, bickering over a score that in the end, means nothing. Video game reviews have to be defensive, standing behind a barrier that creates instant walls between the writer and reader. Ebert never did that.
People will view Ebert as “wrong” because his reviews did not align with their own. The rest will appreciate his prose, along with his uncanny ability to let readers see a movie without so much as watching a trailer. I’m unsure what background the first set of people come from, discrediting someone with absolute passion, remarkable work ethic, and stunning appreciation for a medium they fleetingly comprehend in comparison. Ebert did not merely love movies, he studied them, their process, and their art.
Is that where the spewing vile of video game criticism comes in? Do we all as individuals think we simply know the medium better? That seems too selfish, a meaningless front meant to defend our individual beliefs. Video games have not aged like film. In many respects, it is an industry still reeling from the advent of the polygon as a form of expression. We don’t understand a damn thing about what a video game could become, despite a desperate need to. There are still problems of business and art left to be sorted, public figures that need to transcend the medium, and yes, the critical aspects need to flourish.
Video game writers, in general, do amazing work. As a whole, we try, but no one in this entertainment subset has achieved what Roger Ebert did. In fact, no one has come close, partly because the medium remains fresh and because simply put, we seem to hate each other. People disagreed with Ebert. Those who hated did so out of their political beliefs, Ebert a staunch liberal, not because of his critical voice. His words were too sound, crafted into perfection with sharply laid out points and descriptive composition. You felt differently, but could never deny that his words seemed definitive to his audience.
In a lot of ways, video game criticism is scared of its audience. The backlash to any written piece is often immediate and fiery, preventing writers from spreading skill sets to try different things. Without trying new things, the cycle will be perpetuated, and the industry at large will be held back.
Let’s all tone it down. Let’s all strive to be more like Ebert in our responses, with a wink instead of a threat, so that by and large the writers can try and be like Ebert. Not only does the industry grow, so do we as people.
Image: Star Crush