4,000+ comments later, and with a score of approximately 4,000:1, Ebert issued an apology for his comments about video games. Sort of.
I’ll forgive his patronizing tone (the post is saturated with references to things that he likes, better, as if whether he had read Anna Karenina were in any way pertinent, and he expresses surprise that video game fans could express themselves intelligently) in light of the preponderance of comments highlighting his age and dated, out-of-touch views, but it remains that he isn’t really apologizing at all. He admits that he should not have brought up video games, a medium into which he still refuses to invest the time to gain even a cursory understanding of its nature, in the first place, but he still refuses to concede that video games can be artistic; his admission that sometime in the vast future of mankind it’s theoretically possible that someone might make an artistic game is wiped out by his smug confidence that he’s right about every video game that exists today; he just shouldn’t have said so.
Since Ebert did not apologize or retract his original post in any meaningful way, and indeed built upon it, I’ll seize the opportunity to continue to berate him.
A sign that Ebert indeed just doesn’t get it–where “it” is not only video games, but art as a whole–is his failure to include the possibility of bad art. By his definition, or rather description, something is either (implicitly good) art or it isn’t art at all. This is an even more finicky criterion than his puzzling idea that art is the work of one person, not even allowing for categories like painting to be considered art, but requiring individual evaluation of whether a particular painting works or not to determine whether that painting counts. But art can be bad. For example, I and many others believe that the world would have been a better place if Thomas Kinkade had been born with no arms, yet his paintings are indeed art. Terrible art. Ebert would have been on much more solid ground if he had suggested that video games are not good art, but he didn’t.
You would think that someone’s head would implode if he stated that art was an individual, subjective experience at one moment and swept a broad piece of culture into the non-art category the next, but apparently it doesn’t, and there’s little hope for that single-minded of an individual to ever be set straight on anything he was initially wrong about. But remember: during every new medium’s germination, there are people who stand off to the side and insist, “That’s not art!” And every single solitary time, they’ve been wrong.
Image from Thomas Kinkade’s website.