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Video games: Ebert just doesn't get it

From Garrett Cosgrove, Battle Creek, MI:

While I agree with Mr. Ebert to "the letter in the case of his review of "Terminator Salvation, and unlike him hope what was once a great franchise can finally die in peace, I take offense to this sentence in particular:
"It gives you all the pleasure of a video game without the bother of having to play it."

I know of Mr. Ebert's view on video games, being a fan of his to some extent, and I must protest, I know that you're too old to learn about the world of video games, Roger, but that doesn't mean slights against them are appropriate. There is a greater world to video games than Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, shallow, superficial excuses for games churned out to the same dumb, mindless male audience as the very film you review.

I encourage you to not blanket all of the industry and the works therein with the idea that video games cannot be moving experiences and fall only under the moniker of cheap male masturbatory action experiences such as the aforementioned games.

While it is true many games are merely tests of tantalizing skill, not unlike the board games you no doubt came into as a young person, there are incredibly powerful, moving experiences in the gaming industry, I'm taking this time to try and challenge your view so that you may grow a little knowing more than you do now about what is a seemingly alien form of entertainment to you.

Half-Life, while not being the most advanced game, being visually akin to poorly done CGI of the 90s by comparison to games of this day and age, is a moving experience. The characters are interesting, the ideas presented challenging and engaging, and it draws from many works of fiction I have indeed seen you yourself quote as excellent.

The sequel to this game challenges that sequels are inferior by being an even more moving game, forming more characters that you care far more about, and not simply using them as plot devices or half-wit companions, actually challenging their survival, making them mean something to you, that make you care about them.

StarCraft is another example of a masterfully woven story with engaging characters, it may not have the panache and sleek presentation of later games, but it certainly manages to pull through with passionate voice acting and an epic tale to tell.

Games even have equivalents to B-Movies and integrate real life actors, examples such as the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series spring to mind, and games, much like film, have with them the idea that dark comedy and silliness can be woven into expertly presented scenes such as with the game Dungeon Keeper.

Games have epic tales that bring about images of high fantasy literature wound tightly with startling doses of dark fantasy such as Warcraft, the universe of Warcraft is one you would likely enjoy given your love of many elements present within both the literature and film "Lord Of The Rings."

Games even have adventurous tales that challenge your wits such as The Secret of Monkey Island, they have games that truly challenge both your stamina and longevity via moments filled with thrills and chills such as Resident Evil, and works that attack you cerebrally and weaken your heart, strangling you with dread akin to "The Thing" and "Altered States," such as System Shock 2.

So in closing your slights against gaming, both present and past, along with your statements against the medium, I find them ignorant, and I encourage you to challenge your own ignorance and stop thinking of games as a medium of momentary mental orgasm to be left forgotten in a television's cupboard, they are more than that, I assure you.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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