Ebert's Admission On Games is Bad for Gamers

By Gus Mastrapa in Pretension +1
Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:00 am
​You may have heard that Roger Ebert whipped out the white flag yesterday. "I was a fool for mentioning video games in the first place," he said hat in hand, asking politely for our forgiveness.

And so ends the battle of our lifetime. Our greatest adversary, an enemy just a genre over in the musty movie theater, has surrendered. It's like the Berlin wall just fell. And I think we, as gamers, are poorer for it. 

When Ebert wrote his flippant broadside against video games last April we discovered our better angels. Thousands wrote earnest, thoughtful comments refuting his argument. Columnists wrote essay after essay explaining why Ebert was wrong. 

For a brief moment we discovered our best side. We put on our nicest suits, combed our hair and acted like we deserved to sit at the grown up table.

But now that's all over.

Roger Ebert was our giant space squid. He unified us against a common enemy, just like Ozymandia's phony alien invader in the graphic novel Watchmen

I'll explain in case you never read the brilliant comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. 

The book's villain (if you could even call him that) concocts the world's most ornate, expensive and costly hoax. He kills millions then pins the murder on fake alien invaders (or Dr. Manhattan if you saw cinema's cheapening of the masterwork). 

And, just as Ozymandias planned, the world's superpowers edge away from nuclear annihilation and join, in peace to combat a common enemy -- the giant space squid, a.k.a. Roger Ebert.  

I'm afraid the peace isn't going to stick now that Ebert has conceded. His concession that video games could, maybe, someday, perhaps if a miracle happened (but probably not in our lifetime) be art could be all it takes to break the spell. 

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. 

We'll nip at the buttocks of those who would suggest that game makers ought to think a little harder about the consequences of violence. We'll hurl insults at game reviewers who dare to issue an improper score. And, of course, we'll go back to vomiting racist, homophobic epithets to the Xbox Live jerk who keeps getting Killstreaks.

At least we had these three months. Let April through July 2010 be known as the first true Golden Age of Video Game discourse, when the stooped gamer straightened his back, looked to the heavens and saw the beatific gaze of Roger Ebert beaming down upon his monkeyness. 

And rather than throw feces the gamer stopped, cleared his throat and spoke. 

Thanks for helping us grow up a little, Mr. Ebert. And please don't let this be the end of your expert trolling. If there was ever a species that needed uplift, its us -- the gamer.

Pretension +1 is a weekly column by Gus Mastrapa that hopes to raise the level of video game discussion beyond eeks, ooks and the occasionally thrown poop.
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