It wasn't mentioned in many of the obituaries of Roger Ebert, but it still smarts among nerds everywhere: Ebert's declaration that video games aren't, and never can be, art. Games, unlike movies, have an objective, and they rely on the input of users trying to achieve that objective, so they're better described as activities, he argued.
"Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form," Ebert wrote on his blog in 2010. "Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?"
Well, here's a game Ebert might have considered art, simply because it requires almost no user input. "Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory" is sold in game stores, comes in a game box and is played on a game console, but it's awfully hard to find the game in it. It's more like a Saturday morning cartoon interrupted by music videos.
If you can make it through the opening music video without having a seizure, you're treated to an anime segment of big-eyed, busty schoolgirls sitting around playing video games and arguing over whether they're going to drink green tea or black tea. Then their friend reminds them that they're the goddesses of the world they live in, and goddesses should be doing something other than sitting around playing video games. This prompts you to walk into town, where someone comes up and says, "Remember when we made this music video?" Two music videos within 10 minutes of turning on your PlayStation 3.
|'Hyperdimension Nuptunia Victory'|
|» System: PS3|
|» Price: $49.99|
|» Rating: 1 out of 5 stars|
Eventually the game portion of the product begins, but it's a mercifully short time until the cartoons and music videos resume. "Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory" is one of those Japanese video games whose titles seem assembled by words picked out of a hat, and which were themselves selected for import by being picked out of a hat. But usually those games are interesting. Here is a "role-playing game" where the only role you play is to hit the attack button whenever it's your character's turn to attack, accompanied by insanely blurry, Nintendo 64-era graphics outdone in badness only by the most headache-inducing camera system of all time.
But the worst part about these game portions is they disqualify "Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory" from being that elusive thing: a piece of art that comes in a game box. It would be terrible art, but art all the same.