Why We Might Need Roger Ebert

While many have celebrated the fact that film critic Roger Ebert backpedaled (thanks to E. Zachary Knight via the Shoutbox) ever so slightly this week, saying that videogames could be considered art given some sort of miracle, somehow, someday (but not in our lifetime), game critic Gus Mastrapa laments Ebert’s return to the shadows of videogame criticism. Why would he do that? Because, Ebert was a worthy adversary, unlike politicians, a certain lawyer, children’s advocacy groups and talking heads on TV; he inspired thoughtful, well-crafted arguments by columnists and gamers that we don’t usually hear, and in turn, made us look better.

At least that’s Mastrapa’s theory. And like those well created arguments from gamers that games are already art, Mastrapa’s opinions on the matter are important. In our struggle with so many uninformed outside forces, we often revert to childish arguments, pretty name calling, and character assassination instead of explaining in emphatic and clear terms that games are, at the very least, important to our culture.

I’ll leave you with a good portion of Mastrapa’s lament (I encourage you to read the whole thing here):

We need Roger Ebert, because our usual enemies — politicians, censors and one lawyer who need not be named — tend to bring out the worst in us. They raise our ire. We babble incoherently at their threats, embarrassing ourselves more than redeeming ourselves.

But then along came Ebert, who graciously took on the role of the professional wrestling heel. Leaving us, for the first time, to be the face — the good guys fighting the good fight.

And boy did we live up to the challenge. We wrote our little hearts out. We got introspective. We looked long and hard at the combined works of all game designers living and dead and we re-assessed their merits. We argued and debated so long that we bored ourselves and others. But oh, the rigor and passion Ebert evoked.

And just like that we’re probably going to revert back to the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, Neanderthals that Ebert secretly suspects we are.

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