Which Do You Value More?

It’s a question that Roger Ebert is asking readers online: which of these would you value more, ‘a great video game’ or “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain? You can see the results of his survey here, where you will notice that the results are actually pretty damn close–at least, closer than I think Roger expected them to be. To be sure, Huck Finn is winning by 13% of the vote–then again, he’s pitting an American classic versus an unnamed amorphous game that just as easily could be Poniez. In that sense, I wish Roger had actually named a game–but that would require knowledge about video games, which Roger unfortunately does not have. Roger is being an ass about this entire ‘are games art’ debate, but since he’s an important geezer when it comes to the movie genre, his opinion counts way more than your common internet troll.

Still, it’s interesting food for thought. Have I ever valued a game more than a book? Sure I have. I would, for example, go so far as to say that the Fallout franchise is better than The Fountainhead, a favorite book of mine. At the same time, I’m not sure a game is currently capable of being better, than, say, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ to me. The thing is, I don’t really separate all four of these things into entertainment/art categories, because they’re all equally huge influences on me.

And so the debate rages onward.


  1. Fernando Cordeiro

    You know what? I hated Huck Finn. South Park hit the nail on its head when it called it the gayest book ever written. Tom Sawyer also left me unimpressed. Maybe it was because I saw these characters to be simply unpleasant, maybe I couldn’t take anything from the story – but who cares. You are right in saying Dorian Gray was better. I enjoyed some Mark Twain’s occasional little tales, but Oscar Wilde was better in every single way imaginable.

  2. Tom

    I feel bad for Roger Ebert. I understand where he’s coming from, but I feel bad for him. He’s very much the curious onlooker referenced in this writeup from Brainy Gamer, and he doesn’t see good things, for understandable reasons.

    I mean, I’ve seen (and made) a lot of “Roger Ebert should play the damn games”, but honestly, he’s too old for that. Like, it’s a physical difficulty issue. He writes a lot, but writing is different from gaming. He can’t play the games. He never will. I feel bad for him for that, because I feel like, if he could, he’d appreciate the infant medium.

    But he can’t, so what does he have? He has footage on youtube, gussied up in the same way as a film trailer, aping *every* one of film’s techniques. He sees stories of kids stabbing each other over video games. He sees the Columbine kids saying, “Doom made me do it”. He hears people talking these big artistic concepts, but all he sees are the commercial action movies.

    And you might say, “Well, if he doesn’t know shit, he shouldn’t comment!” but that’s not what I think he wants. What he sees, I think, is a medium that maybe, just maybe, could do something, one day. But it’s not now (it is, but…he can’t see that). And he’s trolling a bit to try to raise the ire of gamers, to get them to stand up for the principles he’s defended in film for generations. Combine that with a bit of indignation over games aping film so heavily, and I understand his response entirely. It makes sense. It’s not the most elegant argument, but he’s trying the best he’s able.

  3. Fernando Cordeiro

    I think Roger is pretty capable for playing game. I don’t think he should, though. He says he is scared he will become addicted to it if he likes it, which I believe it is true. Roger was the first one to dismiss Twitter and now is probably the guy I follow that tweets the most. Seeing how Roger is so passionate about whatever he puts his head into, in the case he starts playing a game he likes, chances are that he will never stop.

    And he was trolling a little, but apparently learned something from it:

    “I’ve taken a lot of grief over saying video games could never be Art, and then admitting I’d hardly played one. I considered my statement self-evident, but man, was it not. I made a vow to myself that I would never return to the subject unless I had played a game. One of my fellow Chicago film critics, Capone of Ain’t It Cool News, even volunteered to set me up with a game machine. But now, I dunno. The danger is, what if I like it? We all know I have an addictive personality. What if I became a gamer? I’m so busy right now that my work would be shot to hell.”

    • But we all went through that stage, no? And everyone grows out of it quickly enough. Either way, the way he’s approaching it is borderline silly if this is what he actually thinks.