A tale of two Eberts: Videogames and the arbitrariness of meaning





Roger Ebert, games criticism, art, intention, meaning, Modernism


The article revisits and examines in detail the so-called Ebert debate: an exchange of polemic voices between Roger Ebert, his opponents and supporters, on the issue of the relationship – both actual and potential – between games and works of art. Initiated by Ebert’s famous remarks that games can never be art, the debate offers a variety of views on the nature of art, the role of experience in art and games, the possibility of artistic expression in games, and the autonomy of art. The main point of the article is not so much to compare these views as to explain the contradiction at the heart of Ebert’s own argument: the critic seems to be constantly torn between the idea that games cannot be art in principle and the more practical view that it is impossible to know for certain that no games will ever become art. This contradiction seems to stem directly from Ebert’s inconsistent views as to the source of meaning in games, and it allows us to shed new light both on the nature of games as a medium, and on fundamental issues with contemporary games studies/criticism.

Author Biography

Paweł Kaczmarski, University of Wrocław

Paweł Kaczmarski – is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wrocław (Faculty of Historical and Pedagogical Sciences). He is a member of the editorial team of Praktyka Teoretyczna / Theoretical Practice, a journal of philosophy, sociology and culture, and a co-editor of 8. Arkusz Odry, a poetry supplement to Odra. Recently, he has published Oporne komunikaty. Strategie znaczenia w poezji współczesnej (Łódź–Kraków 2021). His main interests include contemporary poetry, games criticism, and the politics of art/literature.


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How to Cite

Kaczmarski, P. (2022). A tale of two Eberts: Videogames and the arbitrariness of meaning. Replay. The Polish Journal of Game Studies, 8(1), 43–72. https://doi.org/10.18778/2391-8551.08.03