I sent the following email to Ebert. We'll see if I get a response:
I do not mean this email to be in any way derogatory. I appreciate your knowledge as a film critic and have read your reviews for years. However, my admiration of your perspicacity toward film has compelled me to write in defense of my favorite pastime: videogames.
In response to another reader you wrote:
Ã¢Â€ÂœThat 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.Ã¢Â€Â
Essentially, the final sentence of the above statement implies that playing videogames is a waste of time, while reading a novel or watching a film is not. While I do not presume to have complete awareness of your life experience, I daresay that your experience of videogames has been confined to occasional glimpses of games played by younger relatives and to reading the polemical statements that periodically crop up in hysteria-driven news media outlets. And I must admit, if all you know about videogames is what you see on TV advertisements or what you read about in the denunciations of the evils of Grand Theft Auto, your above statement would be correct.
But then you are missing so much.
Take a look at the history of new creative media. Novels, a few hundred years ago, were considered trashy and bland, prosaic works that were unable to compete with the artistic beauty of verse. Now some of the greatest works of art come from the pens of novelists. Shakespeare considered the plays he wrote to be base and a means to money, not as artÃ¢Â€Â”his real focus, the writing he considered artistic, were his Sonnets. Now ShakespeareÃ¢Â€Â™s plays are studied in the finest universities around the world. More recently, comic books and graphic novels suffered under exactly the same kind of inimical criticism as videogames do now. Read Alan MooreÃ¢Â€Â™s Ã¢Â€ÂœWatchmenÃ¢Â€Â or Neil GaimanÃ¢Â€Â™s Sandman series and try to tell me there is nothing artistic and compelling and worthy of our time on those pages.
Am I daring to compare videogames to Shakespeare? I am, especially in their potential. Play Ã¢Â€ÂœHalf Life 2Ã¢Â€Â and try not to feel as much visceral emotions and connection with an imaginary world as you do when you watch the finest films. Try out Ã¢Â€ÂœKnights of the Old RepublicÃ¢Â€Â and see if you are not immediately caught up in the characters and plotline the same way you would be with a great, page-turner of a novel. These are just a few examples of an art formÃ¢Â€Â”yes, an art formÃ¢Â€Â”that is still in its infancy. As with any new creative medium, its inchoate stages are sometimes rough, and it brings condemnation from older generations that do not quite understand, just as their parents did not quite understand rock Ã¢Â€Â˜n roll music back in the day. But the potential for videogames is enormous, and there are some people already out there in the industry who are crafting worlds and creating experiences that move and excite and usher thoughts as profound and moving as any other creative medium.
Videogames are no more a waste of time than watching a movie, reading a book or listening to music. I hope that this email, and the (no doubt) hundreds of others may help convince you, and anyone else you may read this, not to be so quick to judge what you may not fully understand.