Are video games art? Roger Ebert says no, Ben Kingsley says YES!

Roger Ebert's been on a tweeting/blogging bent saying video games are not art. I mean, geez, you don't have to play them, but why so harsh?

Well, some bona fide artists are jumping to defend video games now. Oscar-winner Sir Ben Kingsley, who stars in the movie version of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, says video games are a new form of art worthy of his own mad acting skills.

"I think it's a beautiful field of work for graphic designers, inventors, actors, technicians," Kingsley said in an exclusive interview by phone on May 18. "I have voiced a video game very recently, and I so enjoyed bringing that character to life and all the choices that he has in this game."

Just imagine Sir Ben sitting in a dark room hunched over an Xbox controller. Kingsley admits he doesn't play games himself. He just knows art when he sees it. "I don't play video games," Kingsley said. "Prior to Prince of Persia, I was on the set with Mr. Scorsese filming Shutter Island, so I had no time, for better or worse, I had no time to indulge myself in the video game."

Still, Sir Ben doesn't have to be a gamer. He did agree to do the movie, and movies are a different art form. When you hire Sir Ben, you want him to bring Sir Ben to the movie.

"I did my own thing," Kingsley continued. "I felt it better to do that than to try to bring to it baggage that I'm perhaps not very adept with. I just read the script, really appreciated the character of Nizam through that screenplay, with his nephews and his brother and his lust for power. I really enjoyed reading it and acting it on my own. I think most of my fellow actors in the film felt the same, that it was a chance to reinvent something for ourselves."

Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner, designer of the original Apple II side-scrolling game, was involved with the production of the movie. He responded to Ebert's criticisms in an online junket on May 8.

"I think video games, whatever Roger Ebert may think, are an art form in their own right, but they're an art form you have to play to experience," Mechner said. "Whereas movies are watched. Those two things are very different. It's a very different kind of relationship between the player or the viewer and the storytelling."

Mechner was happy with the conversion of his baby from playable art to watchable entertainment. He shared his kudos with Sir Ben. "Jordan loved seeing it all come to life, the inventor of the great video game," Kingsley said. "Jordan was with us sometimes on the set. He was with us at the premiere. He's so happy with how it's all turned out."

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens May 28.

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