Some time go Roger Ebert, the acclaimed movie reviewer, wrote a piece stating his opinion that video games were not, and could not be, art. As one might expect, video game enthusiasts came out in droves to dispute this assertion.
More recently, Ebert wrote a follow up in which he had the incredible grace to concede two very important points, and essentially the entire debate. Having not played any video game his opinion, by his own admission, was effectively irrelevant. Moreover, because he had not and was not interested or willing to play video games, he could not make an informed argument against them being, or eventually becoming, art. In our modern age of stubbornly holding to opinions as though they were immutable and informed absolutes, this public declaration of ignorance stands as a beacon of refreshing honesty.
The honesty of this article comes in many forms and facets. It's not a matter of the article being forthright or factually correct, but the manner in which Ebert engages the discussion and, by extension, himself. He takes an honest look at the counter arguments, he takes an honest look at his own mistakes, and with honesty and humility admits the irrelevancy of his own opinion yet also acknowledges that it is still his honest opinion. This response is faultless, and a shining example of how to gracefully engage a debate.
Sadly, in today's world this careful, thoughtful and introspective approach is misunderstood. Many comments on this follow up from gamers indicate the exact type of predetermined observational bias which they decried as Ebert's error. Rather than reading and attempting to understand, they have read and attempted to directly translate.
It's an odd comparison, but I think it apt. Translators, at their best, are not concerned so much with wording as they are with communicating the meaning of one language and culture into another. That requires, above all else, understanding of both one and the other. A direct translation, however, is only concerned with running the words or text through a set of preexisting rules. The result of this second process is warped and alien, bent to the preconceptions or ignorance inherent in the rules themselves.
I find it odd that these comments even bother to declare that Ebert is a jerk, or that he's still a stuck up old fart or any other silly insults. The man admitted, as we had wanted him to from the moment the debate started, that he is not an authority on video games, that he can't declare them to not be art, and that he can not know whether they are or will become art. What more do we want? Is he to prostrate himself before the gates of E3, kiss the feet of Nolan Bushnell 7 times, and swear to never defile the sacred wakka wakka wakka ever again?
Gamers have in this article a great victory. Don't ruin it by being exactly the type of person we complained Ebert was.