Skip to content

An Open Letter To Roger Ebert, Art vs. Video Games

Mr. Ebert,

I’m sure you’ve heard every possible reply to your recent article and your belief that “video games can never be art”, however, I’d like to take a moment and offer a couple of thoughts.

I grew up watching you and, as I’ve respected you. Because, as time has gone on and as technology has grown and changed, you’ve grown and changed with it. Your twitter account, if nothing else, is a prime example. Loads of journalists have been left behind by the “new media”, but you’ve found a voice here in the ether in a very real way.

One of my biggest fears is that, as I age, I’ll stop finding new music interesting, or I’ll freeze in some outdated fashion style, or that I won’t understand new gadgets. That I’ll end up like many older people, locked onto my oldies radio station and wearing the same style I did when I was 40.

I fear, in short, that I’ll become someone who is unable to appreciate and experience new things because I just don’t “get” them and get “old”.

You state that video games can’t be art, but you don’t play them. So, if you have no experience, how can you make that statement?

Art is subjective. It always has been. It is created by one and then experienced by others. You mention your “taste”  and that you think it’s better than others. However, that’s subjective as well.

Why was Warhol considered art? Or Lichtenstein? They were cutting edge. Lots of people thought they were crap.

What makes them art? How are they different than a comic book? Or a video game in this day and age? Videogames are drawn (albeit digitally). They are created. They are immersive. They transport players to other worlds, sensation, experiences. Just like music, paintings and sculptures can.

Am I saying all video games are “art”? No. However, there is a lot of “art” out in the world that I don’t get either.

Explain to me how this:

is more artistic than this:

or this: 
They both took time, skill, creativity, talent and imagination. They are both considered art by others. 
I don’t care if you ever play a video game. That’s not the point.
But I am asking you to take a look at the possibility that you’re in danger of getting “old” and “set in your ways”
I think that would be a shame.
Best and thanks,
Geek Girl Diva.


  1. Six words:
    “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”
    ‘Nuff Said.

  2. Beautiful argument. My brother is a visual artist – painter and sculptor – who switched majors to video games design. Why? Because he loved that it could be art that was interactive.

    No, not all games are art and not all people are going to agree 100% on which games are and which aren’t. But as a VIEWER of some of these games, well, how should I put this?
    My heart pounds more for Link fighting Ganon than it does for lots of movie protagonists.

  3. best line i’ve heard all day: But I am asking you to take a look at the possibility that you’re in danger of getting “old” and “set in your ways.”

  4. Really, who cares? Are we gamers so insecure that we need validation from some aging critic who obviously doesn’t play or understand video games?

    I have had this argument countless times about comics. I don’t feel the need to justify my love of the funny books by citing Watchmen or Sandman as ‘proof’ that comics are art. If folks don’t get it, then they don’t get it. The aging punk in me almost wants people to think my choice of reading material is lowbrow.

    Same applies to Ebert and video games; he don’t get it? f- him!

  5. Absolutely! I too fear that someday I won’t “get” something (sometimes I wonder if I already do), but I always try to keep an open mind and try things, which he is not. There are great, wonderful, artistic games and there are crap games. There are great and wonderful movies, and there are movies I would walk out of. Thanks for putting this out there!

    Girls Are Geeks

  6. Wonderfully said. I have to say, though, that I’m somewhat amazed that the gaming community cares so much about the opinion of a movie critic. A well-respected one, of course (I’m a member of the ‘Ebert Club’ myself) but a film critic nonetheless. And in all the hubub surrounding his statements, the gaming community has gone to prove an assertion that he made, that gamers are seeking approval. I would understand all this if he were addressing a particular form of film making – and he’s pissd off more than his share of directors/screenwriters/actors etc. – but to see how personally gamers take the criticism smacks of the kid who wants his dad to say ‘good job, kid.’ But that’s just the way I see it.

  7. There are two major problems i have with this whole situation:
    1) a man who a lot of people respect is making gross generalizations with no experience in the field. It’s laughable to see his citing examples of 3 games saying they’re not art after only watching the trailer. what if he critiqued all his movies that way? If i could do anything to him, i would force him for the next 50 movies he sees to write a full critique on the artistic merits of each movie first based SOLELY on the trailer.
    2) He seems to be just jumping behind this weird “everyone’s calling me old, isn’t that funny” thing instead of really reading and actually responding to ANY of the intelligent arguments brought to the table. A lot of people have brought interesting questions to the table that he’s just turned a blind ear to. Probably because he HAS no good response.
    These things and NOT the fact that he thinks video games can never be art are the two things that are making me lose respect for someone i long admired.
    Though, fyi, more video games have made me cry than movies, so i resent his comment about their inability to give emotional response on the same level :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.