Ebert says: Movies > Games

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Segaholic2
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Ebert says: Movies > Games

Post by Segaholic2 »

I know I shouldn't really be paying much attention to what this fat self-important blowhard has to say, but I was curious as to what some of you might think of this.

Ebert very recently stated that he considers video games to be inferior to movies and books, because of an inherent flaw in the way games approach narration. Simply put, he says that games suck because the "author" has less control over the story because he is forced to give the player choices.
Roger Ebert wrote:Yours is the most civil of countless messages I have received after writing that I did indeed consider video games inherently inferior to film and literature. There is a structural reason for that: Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.
Full thing at this link; scroll down:
<A HREF="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbc ... 0051127</A>

Thoughts?

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Post by Crazy Penguin »

I don't know who this guy is and don't care for his opinion. He seems to have missed the point of the medium.

By his logic he could also claim that sculptures are inherently inferior to paintings, because the viewer of a sculpture is presented with a different sight dependent upon what angle they choose to view the work from.

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Post by Esrever »

His logic is obviously unsound, but I think I'll put off being really outraged until someone actually does make a game with a narrative that compares favourably to a true film classic or great work of literature. I believe our favoured medium has a lot of potential, but so far the only capital-g Great Narratives that have been completely successful (in my opinion) have also been incredibly basic, like Ico. Most other attempts at real storytelling have been critically flawed in some manner, either within the narrative itself, or in the elements created to make it interactive.

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Post by Senbei »

Not being a very experienced gamer, I can't argue that there have been any games that could compare with the highlights of other mediums. Nevertheless, games as art definitely have the potential to be up there with Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Hamlet, etc... I specify more surreal examples because video games are generally so themselves.

What Ebert neglected to mention was that, while video games take the control away from the author, they transfer that control to the player, a technique no other medium can replicate. There have been many games that supposedly allow the player to choose his/her own destiny, and sometimes the consequences of the player's actions can be quite elaborate. This effectively means that the player can create his/her own story.

I think that Ebert is correct in saying that video games are CURRENTLY inferior to other mediums. However, games have a potential that simply has yet to be tapped. The reason, I suspect, is that most great novels, musical compositions, and even movies are created mostly by one person, so the end product is more focused; it is a direct transfer of information from author to medium to audience. A video game doesn't have that luxury because it has too many people working on it simultaneously, thus the end product is less focused. It's like the difference between a Hayao Miyazaki film and something obviously commercial, like the Fantastic Four movie. Miyazaki personally writes and directs his films, but FF was probably worked on by a committee looking for the best way to milk the fans.

A video game could be a noteworthy form of art if the staff working on it found a way to utilize its strengths, through gameplay and player choices. Alternately, the game could be very linear, like a book or movie, with a deep, focused storyline, but that would hardly make it special.

In any case, I disagree with Ebert's last sentence...
But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic.
...because video games have created their own culture, one that can be just as civilized and passionate as poets or moviegoers, and often integrate aspects of other mediums and media into their gameplay.

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Post by Light Speed »

Eh, I don't know if games currently tell better stories or not, but I don't think it is because the player has choice. Most games are very linear and have one ending. No matter what, you end up seeing the same cinematics, and playing through the same areas as everyone else. Even in a game like Shenmue, where you can do whatever you want, everyone still ends up going through all the important phases of the game and getting the same story. Maybe at a different pace, but they still go through the motions.

Also, Ebert's a fuck. I don't see how seeing movies make us anymore cultured than playing video games. Especially when he gives movies like The Devil's Rejects two thumbs up.

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Post by HyperFox »

If Ebert says movies pwn games, then I'd like to see if an Uzi pwns Ebert...

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Post by Frieza2000 »

It sounds like he was asked to make the comparison in terms of narration. Either that, or he's been analyzing literature so long that he can't think in any other terms. I'd agree that a game would be about the most difficult medium to choose if narration is your sole focus. It's entirely possible to complement story with gameplay, it's just more work.

Every medium gives us a different kind of experience. It's what makes them worth using. To say that games can't be art is to use a very limited definition of the word.

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Post by chriscaffee »

Generally movies have better stories then games. I'll give him that.

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Post by Neo Yi »

I don't know. As much as video games have gone more "movie-like" over the years, I still consider movies and games too different to be truly compared, really.

In short, his opinion means squat to me.
~Neo

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Post by Green Gibbon! »

Not that I've paid attention to anything Roger Ebert's had to say since, well, ever, but his argument is based on the claim that narrative is the most important factor in the development of any given piece of work, which, needless to say, is an extremely dubious statement and a very narrow definition of "art". Videogames entirely aside, he's essentially constructed a rift between "art" and "literature", and suggests that literature is the superior of the two, discounting visual art almost entirely, or at the very least relegating it to something lower. Which is a shaky bridge to be on.

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Post by Delphine »

I love movies. My Netflix queue is in the hundreds. I go to the theaters by myself in the middle of the day so that I can watch the goddamn film in peace because I want to be able to think about it, if it's worth thinking about. I see movies based on who directed it and who acted in it, not just because it's the newest piece of crap that came out. I am <i>hip</i> to the movie scene.

But I have never and will never spend 70+ hours on a movie.

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Post by plasticwingsband »

Delphine wrote:I love movies. My Netflix queue is in the hundreds. I go to the theaters by myself in the middle of the day so that I can watch the goddamn film in peace because I want to be able to think about it, if it's worth thinking about. I see movies based on who directed it and who acted in it, not just because it's the newest piece of crap that came out. I am <i>hip</i> to the movie scene.

But I have never and will never spend 70+ hours on a movie.
I am a film nerd. I was the Vice President of my high school's Film Club for 2 years and in the club for 2.5, and my Junior year I attended EVERY. SINGLE. LAST. MEETING. Even when I was like 1 of 3 peeps there. We met every wednesday. There were only like, 10 people in the club, and they were the same group of friends I'd hang out with normally so that meant we didn't have to allow anyone to come if we didn't want them.

Hooray for exclusion.

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Post by Green Gibbon! »

<img src="http://www.projectdrift.net/random/graduation_13.jpg">

Metropolis is the answer to all things. Terry Gilliam's Brazil comes close, but it owes much of what it has to Metropolis.

Hey, how is Fritz Lang's M?

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Post by Grant »

Way too much Ebert hate goin' on, if you ask me.

First, you need to take into account that Ebert is a writer paid to give his opinion. You should also consider that Ebert is a few generations removed from everyone here; odds are, his video gaming experiences don't venture out far past Super Mario Bros. So, to expect him and everyone in the world to be a video game aficiando, when the medium is still really in it's toddler stages, is pretty short sighted.

Second, it's not like what he's saying is this huge blasphemy. The truth is that right now not a whole lot of people accept video games as a "legit" art form. It's gaining credibility, sure, but it's not like Ebert is the only one coming out and saying this. He's basically agreeing with the status quo, which while that isn't noble, it isn't particularly villainous either. Furthermore, even being ignorant of the video game world, he does give the medium more credit than many writers.

And anyway, Ebert is a damn fine writer. There's a reason he's among the most respected critics in ths business and it isn't because of the "thumbs up" gimmick. Read some of his articles or movie reviews - he's an enjoyable writer and his reviews of bad movies are always a riot (check out his review of "Just Friends" for the most recent example).

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Post by plasticwingsband »

Image

and

Image

are some of my favorite movies

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Post by chriscaffee »

The Terminator is the best robot (cybernetic organism) movie ever made. There will never be a finer blend of sci-fi, senseless killing, cool weapons and plausible gunplay.

Image

The Terminator is heaps cooler then the Metropolis robot.

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Post by Kishi »

Crazy Penguin wrote:I don't know who this guy is
That's another point for England.

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Post by Green Gibbon! »

He does look like a fat Orville Redenbacher, though, which I always thought was funny.

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Post by Omni Hunter »

My head just exploded trying to create that mental image.

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Post by CM August »

chriscaffee wrote:The Terminator is the best robot (cybernetic organism) movie ever made. There will never be a finer blend of sci-fi, senseless killing, cool weapons and plausible gunplay.
Incidentally, I don't suppose you have the T3 theme on hand? That's the only one I'm missing.

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Post by Popcorn »

Green Gibbon! wrote:Not that I've paid attention to anything Roger Ebert's had to say since, well, ever, but his argument is based on the claim that narrative is the most important factor in the development of any given piece of work, which, needless to say, is an extremely dubious statement and a very narrow definition of "art".
I'm not sure he is saying that. I think he's instead suggesting that the interactive component of a video game by nature dilutes the experience that its author is trying to push, which I think is an interesting point. (I once read a very interesting essay by Philip Pullman on the necessity of the tryanny of the author, in that there's something very totalitarian in being creative at all.) I think if Ebert could justify this logic-- that the interactive element of video games intrinsically damages the creative integrity of the medium-- then he'd have a point. But I don't think it can be done.

I think everyone here can agree that we've had significant and moving experiences with games, whether we're talking emotionally or just on a purely visceral level or whatever, and I have absolutely no doubt as to the potential of the medium to form truly expressive and beautiful experiences on par with other forms of creativity. However, lots of this still is just potential. I'm gonna agree with Es and concede that video games still have an awful lot of growing up to do before we start convincing the masses.

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Post by chriscaffee »

I don't have any music, just the DVDs. If you have a spare buck, iTunes has it, I believe, though nothing from T1 and only stupid remixes of the T2 main theme.

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Post by Green Gibbon! »

I'm not sure he is saying that.
I see what he's trying to say, but the point he ends up making is exactly that which I accused - he gives a very weak argument and ultimately ends up downplaying all elements in the face of narrative specifically. And the reason he can't back up his position is for exactly the reason that you stated, it can't really be done. There is a structure in all forms of art or media, regardless of what form that structure takes, and it is the result of decisions made by the author or authors.

If you want to talk about games specifically as fine art, I would absolutely agree that the medium is far from maturation, and would go so far as to state that there are certain walls standing between it and such status that I, frankly, can see no feasible ways of overcoming. However, I am of the impression that these "walls" are not any pitfalls inherent in the medium itself, but are a result of the cost and manpower required to create them. As development costs increase, there's a greater pressure to create only games that will appeal to the widest possible audience, and as with all forms of kitsch, the best way to do that is to neutralize it. Dumb it down. Rip out its heart and soul and make it a cut and paste formula based on market trends and popular opinion. At this point, I really don't know how we're ever going to evolve beyond "games the industry" into "games the art". However, if there is any hope of it ever happening, people need to recognize what the problems are, and I don't think Ebert here is on the right track.

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Post by Light Speed »

Well that same problem is true in movies, but he seems to think they are more of an art.

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Post by Green Gibbon! »

It's true of Hollywood, but not of cinema in general. There are all manner of independent films, art films, experimental films, and groups, shows, and patrons for the propagation of each. Even within the realm of mainstream cinema, there's still a much larger spectrum of audience interest than what we're seeing right now in mainstream games.

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