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More on the Ebert vs. games battle royale

Check out this interview with Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives, a new book about video games and their significance as art and culture. Some interesting thoughts particularly on games as a story-telling medium.

Also, I direct you to a really brilliant essay (in two parts; the second part is here) about games as art by B. Kite. Kite brings up the common comparison of games and film and questions whether that's the right metaphor, in particular the quest for the often-mentioned "Citizen Kane of video games"; looks at the politics of SimCity and "Spore"; discusses the potential of
games to illuminate the world around us, a key function of art; and plays with the question of interactivity in all kinds of media:

I’d go so far as to say that all artwork is interactive and involves a kind of play for both the maker and the receptive audience.


Yes. I love this.

And then we come to the Roger Ebert debate. Kite deftly dismantles many of Ebert's arguments and examples; I recommend reading the entire essay, but this is my favorite part:

The fundamental problem with Ebert’s argument lies in his apparent assumption that games either are or want to be a fundamentally narrative medium. In fact, games can do interesting things with narrative, some of which involve player choice and some of which don’t. [...] But I think it’s a mistake to consider games as essentially story-driven in nature. Part of the reason games are so often thought of in this light is undoubtedly due to a hype contingent among both developers and the press that takes any opportunity to tout some coming together of film and games—“interactive movies”—as the inevitable future of both media.

Video games have points of contact with narrative film and literature, just as they do with experimental film, dance, and architecture. Like movies, they’re a bastard medium, and they may be better off embracing this inner bastard rather than tying their future to any single precursor.


It's a thought-provoking idea, that games shouldn't try so hard to be like movies. Games have their own strengths, and designers should be playing to those strengths. Not that I think games should abandon storytelling -- my favorite games have always been those with strong stories. But tacking a story onto a game that can't really carry one, just for the sake of having one, will often weaken the game as a game.

Anyway, it's an excellent article, full of ideas and very readable, and I highly recommend it.

Finally, was Ebert's dismissal of games the best thing that could have happened to the gaming industry? Discuss.

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/477647.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
imadra_blue
Jun. 28th, 2010 02:46 am (UTC)
I have nothing intelligent to add to this discussion at the moment, but I would like to thank you for your links. Not only are they thoughtful, but will be a huge help for my Master's thesis. ♥
owlmoose
Jun. 28th, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
You're welcome!! Glad to be of help. And thanks for letting me know -- there is no better way to warm a librarian's soul. ;)

The Kite essay, particularly, is the kind of article that people are going to be citing in papers for decades to come.
giandujabird
Jul. 2nd, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Have you read about this already?

http://www.neatorama.com/neatogeek/2010/07/01/roger-ebert-admits-that-he-was-partially-wrong-about-video-games/

Interesting that Ebert backed off. A little.
owlmoose
Jul. 2nd, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC)
I've read his post, and was pleased to see it, although in many respects it's too little, too late, especially since he started by digging in his heels.

One of the things he said that disappointed me, though, is that he seems to regret speaking up. Because wrong-headed as I think his statement was, it provoked a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion that I think we are better for having participated in.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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