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Roger Ebert and His 8-Bit Addiction

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Last year, Roger Ebert drew an overwhelming backlash after claiming video games could never be construed as Art. In his blog, Ebert writes, "No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists, and poets." The critic was hit with a deluge of comments and, weeks later, admitted that his ignorance of the field should preclude him from giving a sweeping generalization on the medium.

But 22 years ago, whether or not a title from Nintendo's first generation system could be defined as Art is incidental. Roger Ebert was addicted to it, and the game's stranglehold on the critic could've driven him to the point of madness.

Gaming blog Kotaku unearthed a clip from a 1989 Siskel & Ebert Christmas special where the duo gave their picks for the best holiday gifts. At the top of the special, Siskel and Ebert conceded that the Nintendo Entertainment System was definitely a hot item with the kids and demonstrated the fact with a group of youths at the mall. Exactly as expected, the two older white men fumble through Techmo Bowl with as much finesse as a nine-year-old reviewing Cinema Paradiso.

Yes, that's Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, marveling that they can make the fictional football player say, "Hut!"

Afterward, Ebert had a confession. Having been sucked into the 8-bit world of the NES, he admitted to having an addiction to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"I got one of these sets (NES) at home, and I started playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with it. And after a while, after a week of this, I'd find that every time I had a spare moment and every time I came home, I was in front of the set playing with these mutant turtles. It got to the point where it was making me quite unhappy, because I was so obsessed with it, and I finally unplugged the machine and said, 'That's it for Nintendo.' "

He concluded, "Because it seems to me that it's so hypnotic and so repetitive that it was just not good for my mental health."

Siskel concurred. He remarked that at the end of a day of playing video games, what are you left with? And he was shocked, SHOCKED, that kids could play Nintendo for upwards of one to two hours a day.

Just wait until the Internet hits.
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