Thank goodness for Roger Ebert. Where would us lesser columnists be without him?
Fear not - I am not going to the bang the old drum of "games as art" again, except to say that Ebert's argument on gaming is eloquent, thoughtful, and thoroughly undeserving of the scorn poured on him by gamers. So although I disagree vigorously with Ebert's opinion on games as art, I will leave his opinion on gaming to be dissected by others, and move onto another thought-provoking piece of his: his take on 3D.
3D is the "in" thing across the entertainment sector this year - a $2.7 billion box office will do that to a technology. As 3D TV sets start to roll into homes (presumably ones where people really, really like Monsters vs Aliens), and channels around the world prepare to broadcast the soccer World Cup in 3D for the handful of people ready to watch it, one thing is clear: there's so much money and pride involved in the technology this time that 3D isn't going to just fade away in nothingness. Either it's here to stay, or it'll crash and burn spectacularly.
Ebert is on the "crash and burn" side, and his argument can broadly be divided into two separate points: "Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward [3D] is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience."
To diverge from the videogaming sector for a moment - but pay attention, this'll be important later - what is "essential" to the moviegoing experience is not only subjective, it is irrelevant. I watched many of the best movies of my life on a tiny 20-incher that was, or at the very least appeared to be, made of wood. The movies were still amazing, but that doesn't mean I want to go back to that experience. No, I'll take my flat-screen HD monitor, my Blu-Ray, my surround sound. And in time, I'm willing to bet, my 3D, too.
But on the point of the march toward 3D being "suicidal" for Hollywood, Ebert - a critic, rather than a businessman - is on much shakier ground, but this is where his argument becomes relevant to gaming. The reason Hollywood is so desperate for 3D to take off is, as Ebert correctly points out, that the movie business needs theatres to "offer an experience that can't be had at home." More to the point, it now desperately needs to offer an experience that can't be pirated at home. I believe, for a time at least, that 3D can provide that - just as it will for gaming.
Much like the medium of the moving picture now spans everything from videos uploaded to YouTube to multi-million dollar spectaculars like Avatar, gaming is gradually being divided into two streams - there's the low budget, bang-for-your-buck world of 99 cent iPhone apps and free Facebook games, and the "epic", "massive" "jaw-dropping" world of high definition, big budget, AAA blockbusters.