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Of course, you were upset with good reason; Ebert, in that short statement, undermined the significance of many a great game. But regardless of how misguided Ebert’s opinion was, this whole Shadow Complex business certainly provides people of his mindset with some extra ammo. After all, it’s one thing to defend your hobby when an “enemy” like Ebert is at the gates, spitting insults in your direction like hot fire, but when something like the Card controversey comes up -- something that’s actually a crossroads on gaming’s path to legitimacy -- and all many of us can muster is a mildly disinterested “It’s just a game,” well, why should so-called opponents of Games as a Legitimate Medium believe any differently? I mean, if gamers, the medium’s biggest backers, don’t even believe in the power of games to convey a message – be that a boycott-borne “cease and desist” to a Orson Scott Card, or some kind of wacky in-game zen philosophy ala Zeno Clash, or what have you – then why should anyone else care?
So, the question arises: What do you gamers actually want out of games? Do we want meaningful experiences, or do we just want to shout “Yeeeehaw” and shoot some dudes? Because, as film and literature have proven, there’s room in this medium for both. However, regardless of a game’s intended purpose – entertainment, high-art, or something in-between – it can make a major impact, and we need to keep that in mind. There’s no such thing as “just a game,” and we only jeopardize the potential power of our medium by bandying that phrase about.
If you need evidence, just take another hard look at Shadow Complex. The game itself is fairly mindless entertainment, but Orson Scott Card’s tangential attachment to the property has given rise to a number of interesting discussions, even with the shadow of “It’s just a game” looming heavy. The very fact that people are talking is proof enough that Shadow Complex isn’t “just a game.” So speak, people! Speak with your words, actions, or some mix of the two. If you disagree with Card’s stance on gay rights, let him know how that’s given you second thoughts about supporting the game he’s involved with. Boycott, write letters, tell your friends – whatever. Or don’t. It’s up to you.
Regardless, even with small actions like those, you’ll be helping videogames’ cause far more than you would be by telling off smug schmucks like Ebert. Your nerd rage-fueled sermons do nothing to sway these people’s opinions; they’ve all heard this stuff a thousand times before. But if we actually treat videogames as if they’re significant and legitimate – instead of just saying that they are with no real evidence to back up our claims – people will be forced to take notice. Actions, as it turns out, really do speak louder than words.
So then, you know what to do, and I’ve spoken my piece. Now get out there and do it.