(1) Jerry Holkins (Tycho) of Penny Arcade put it rather well, but I will do my best to paraphrase him:
"If a hundred artists spend three years making art, how can the resulting product be anything but art?"(2) I would never attempt to go toe-to-toe with Roger Ebert on the subject of film. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium - he has a mastery of understanding, when it comes to movies. I do not. I neither possess a wide-spanning knowledge of film's genres or tropes, nor an ability to recognize true innovation, creativity, homage or subtext within the media. For me, a good movie is a good movie and there's rarely more to it than that.
Likewise, Roger Ebert is no more capable of judging the value of video games than I am of (intelligently) judging a film. His opinion on the medium we love so well is, I'm afraid, valueless - because he knows nothing about games. To him, Pac-Man is a video game in the same way that Portal is a video game, and there is no separation between the two.
This is illustrated very well in the reason for this post - he's put up a short survey on his blog, which you can find here. Here's the survey. The entire survey:
He doesn't name "a great video game." I don't feel it's harsh of me to posit this is likely because he can't name one - again, he doesn't understand the medium he denounces, or possess any real knowledge of it.
He compares video games in general to a singular, celebrated piece of work by one of literature's greatest authors - which is, simply, a douchey thing to do. Watch, Ebert, I can do it too!
Which has greater value?
- A great film.
- The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci.
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Let me get back to an earlier point - that Ebert's opinion on games is valueless.
If that's true (and I believe it is), why does it matter when he assaults our chosen pastime?
Because he's famous, and when he talks people listen. That's all. He's doing damage to the wider public perception of video games, and that's why it matters. That's why Roger Ebert, when it comes to video games, really should stfu.