ABC World News recently ran a live Webcast featuring IGN’s “videogame expert” Michael Thompsen in which he ventured to answer, what is the Citizen Kane of videogames.
His answer, The Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Before I delve into this article I think it is important to watch this two minute video as I will be referencing its contents frequently. You can do so here or if you prefer assisted visual comedic validation, here.
As a final precursor I have decided to split this article into three arguments. Those being: my argument, my cohort James DeRosa’s argument, and finally the reaction of the masses. The reason for this is that the fallacy of Mr. Thompson’s claim rings untrue for many reasons and this format can showcase each while easing consumption.
Argument One: Your Not Answering The Question Mr. Thompsen.
When someone claims that they have found the “Citizen Kane” of videogames you assume what they are really saying is that they have found a game that has impacted the medium in a similar fashion. You also assume that this title, if not currently, will one day be critically considered one of if not one of the greatest videogames ever created. The introduction to this Webcast even states:
“There have been a lot of success stories in videogames but gamers say that real masterpieces can be hard to find. Though, IGN videogame expert Michael Thompson began a search to find a game that does for gaming what Orson Well’s Citizen Kane did for Films…”
Thompsen cements this idea of what Citizen Kane represents further with his first utterance:
“Citizen Kane has been hailed by film critics for decades as one of the best movies in history and if Kane were to have a symbiotic partner in the world of videogames it would be the Metroid Prime trilogy…”
However, Mr. Thompsen decided not focus his argument around these ideas. Instead, he decided to make thematic and directorial parallels between the two works. While these parallels can be found, they do not make something the Citizen Kane of anything.
By this same logic I could claim that Limp Bizkit’s song “Rollin’” is the Katamari Damacy of music because of the lyrics:
“…Breath in. Now breath out. Hands up. Now hands down. Back up. Back up. Tell me what you gonna do now. Keep Rollin…Rollin…Rollin…what…”
I could explain how these two completely unrelated items are related through their shared imagery but afterwards would you believe me when I claimed that the Song “Rollin’” is as important to music as Katamari Damacy is to videogames because of these shared themes?
Of course not.
They are completely unrelated. However, this is what Mr. Thompsen is trying to sell us. I’m not going to refute these parallels he mentions because they don’t matter. The point is that both ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Michael Thompsen stated what it meant to be Citizen Kane and instead of making parallels between their impact on their respective mediums or their critical success Mr. Thompsen decided to answer a completely different question.
The question he answered? What videogame has similar thematic and directorial choices to Citizen Kane? I guess saying that doesn’t have the same impact.
Argument Two: Are From The Future Mr. Thompsen? If So, Do They Have Flying Cars?
Citizen Kane has been at the top of several critical lists throughout the years and most importantly the Sight and Sound poll for over half a century. This fact led film critic Roger Ebert to say “So its settled Citizen Kane is the official greatest film of all time.”
My point being is that this idea did not happen quickly. Some guy didn’t go on television two years after Kane’s release and exclaim that this film would one day be viewed 50 years from now as the greatest film ever created. Nor did this fictional person purpose at this same time that Kane would change film forever in any sort of meaningful and definable manner.
Although, this is the bitter pill that Mr. Thompsen is trying to make us swallow.
To make such a claim you need the benefit of perspective that is only available after a reasonable amount of time. Time in order to see how Metroid Prime will effect games to come afterwards.
To not allow for this is just soothsaying.
Argument Three: Hey Mikey, I Don’t Think They Like it.
“This reminds me of the time in college when I got high on opium and wrote a paper comparing Disney’s Dumbo to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass on a dare.” – Tristero (commenter on Destructoid)
My final point is a simple one. This claim just rings untrue. I am by no means saying that I have the answer to this question. Hell, I could make an argument that there is no good answer and thats fine by me. I don’t think we even necessarily need a Citizen Kane equivalent. The iterative nature of videogames as a medium may not allow for such a title to exist. Although, there are better examples. Tons of them in fact. Examples that showcase the strengths of the medium in ways that can not be conveyed in film or any other form of passive media.
That said, I understand the public backlash that this video has caused throughout the Internet. For once, I agree with it. Well, some of it anyway.
In conclusion, thankfully this video was not aired on television. Videogames are constantly trying to prove to the general populace that they are as much of an art form as any other and videos such as this one are only making this fight more difficult. By making such a shallow and completely irrelevant comparison between Metroid Prime and Citizen Kane on a internationally respected news program makes videogames and their proponents look childish and just plain stupid.