'Grand Theft Ovid'

by Dave Weigel

Seth Schiesel has my favorite review of the week, if only for the line "the actor Fred Backus deserves praise for his performance as the deliciously rapacious Pac-Man." It's for "Theater of the Arcade," which is exactly what it sounds like. Let the creators explain:

“We would have these parties in junior high school and all the guys would be playing Street Fighter and most of the girls would be off doing their own thing, but I was pretty good at Street Fighter and definitely beat a lot of the guys,” said Gyda Arber, 30, the festival’s executive producer. Ms. Arber, who also directed “Theater of the Arcade” (written by Jeff Lewonczyk), said that she was halfway through Final Fantasy XIII on the PlayStation 3 and that she and her boyfriend recently played through Sony’s noir thriller Heavy Rain not once but twice as they explored that game’s impressive narrative depth.

There's a fun field of "I weep for my culture" criticism, perfected by Steve Sailer, which asks how much talent has been squandered by smart people turning their talents to video game development instead of, let's assume, the perfection of cold fusion or sequels to "Ulysses." I don't like this criticism because it reminds me of the hours I spent beating Final Fantasies II through VII (American titling) and the relaxation hours I now devote to "Call of Duty" and "Rock Band." (Hello there, David Hajdu.) How do I know this time wouldn't have been spent, in another era, by playing poker or Monopoly? How do we know that the developers of the game would have been successful at some other, less suited arts or sciences? Screw it. Enjoy the games or enjoy being a scold out of touch with the culture.