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Censorship Entertainment Games

On the Advent of Controversial Video Games 343

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-pixelpeople-explode dept.
eldavojohn writes "At some point in the history of video games, violence became uncomfortably real for censors and some parents. In addition to that, realistic use of narcotics has entered mainstream games. While gamers (of adult age) have by and large won the right to this entertainment, a large amount of games have arisen lately that challenge a different aspect of video games — inappropriate or sensitive topics. We've covered it before on Columbine to Fallujah, but I noticed through GamePolitics recently a large trend in severely controversial video games. Where do you stand on these titles?" Read on for the rest of eldavojohn's thoughts.

First I'd like to discuss the basic complaints many people have over these video games. The phrase "too soon" gets thrown around a lot. But what are the specific complaints about these controversial games? I've tried to divide them up from most serious to not-so-serious attributes (which a controversial game may have one or more of, and which is by no means a comprehensive list):

  • Human life was lost.
  • People who survived the situation or are survivors of victims of the situation still remember it, as it happened less than one generation ago.
  • It spins the situation too much as novelty or entertainment and thus disrespects those involved and/or detracts from the gravity of the situation.
  • It deals with a very real life issue that some people aren't comfortable discussing, such as: race, religion, sexual orientation, slavery, politics, the law, prostitution, drug use, etc.
  • Stuck in a think-of-the-children mentality, the "M" or even "AO" rating does not deter groups and people like Jack Thompson from arguing that it is not appropriate material for minors and therefore should not be distributed. Popularity of a title and great game mechanics may exacerbate this.

I'm going to start with an easy game to discuss: RapeLay — an obscure title by a Japanese publisher that focuses on forced sex situations. There is something special about sexual crimes that make them even worse than murder in the United States. I don't know why, but Hot Coffee in GTA3 drew far more criticism than the normal killing rampage in that game and games before it. This same phenomena occurs at parties where they play games that a murderer is at the party. Yet, if a rapist was at the party, people would probably be mortified. While the sentencing isn't as harsh, sex offenders are registered and tracked for the rest of their lives while murderers can be released or paroled under good behavior. I see RapeLay as nothing more than a game concentrating on a particular crime — a less serious crime than many I commit in some of the games I play. I've no desire to play it, but people who derive entertainment from that have a right to it. RapeLay is merely another adult game like Dangerous Toys for the Dreamcast.

Nothing could be more recent than making a simulation game where you're a Somali pirate invading other ships. You have an impoverished community with people starving to death and people being taken captive. A player is most likely deriving entertainment from horrible situations on other continents today. This isn't Disney making three Pirates of the Caribbean movies based loosely on a very real and life-threatening situation four hundred years ago. This is completely a function of when it happened. On the other hand, piracy on the water has been a classic platform for games, and if the game is historically accurate, how much different is this than an in depth news article? Keep in mind that this is the same game company that partnered with the History channel to bring you WWII and Vietnam games in the past. I think it is very much arguable that games based on war can be informative if done correctly.

A quick note on a more wide spread release for the Playstation 2 is a game that some Hindu groups say is offensive to their religion. Along the same lines, several online games have depicted Mohammad which is a no-no in Islam causing unrest. These situations are offensive to a small part of the population and — unless done in very disrespectful ways — aren't going to gather much more controversy. They're no Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide, but they are reportedly offensive to some groups of people. On the other end are religious games that gain controversy by targeting non-members of that faith. Left Behind: Eternal Forces was controversial because of violence against non-Christian characters in the video game. Video games like Ethnic Cleansing express extreme prejudice and hate towards a particular ethnicity or nationality. Murder and violence are still murder and violence whether you are religiously motivated, racially motivated or have no clear motivation (like GTA). It is difficult to argue that these games should be outlawed while claiming that it's our right to enjoy games like GTA. Is it because these games are used for propaganda or recruitment tools and mainstream games are not? Is it because of a controversial message in the game? If so, I would like to know why this is any more dangerous than murder in video games.

None of these games faced the wide distribution that Six Days in Fallujah was looking at. And that game is now canceled, the deciding factor most likely being that it was a big name publisher with wide distribution channels. Not that the content was any more or less controversial than some of the games Kuma has made about Vietnam and WWII, but it would have had a wider release and been about a present day war that is still in progress. Books written about the Iraq war have to be careful; news about the Iraq war has to be sensitive to families. Games — a form of non-necessary entertainment — have to be even more careful if they want to enjoy popularity and avoid criticism. As a society, we are just not ready to accept games as a dignified medium. Other mediums faced this same barrier and overcame it, and it's good to have these games testing the waters.

In the United States, it's easy to claim freedom-of-speech this and freedom-of-speech that, but the lawsuits will flow from interest groups with money — no rating system will satisfy them. Letting the popularity (or lack thereof) of a title speak for its quality and message is not enough for some people. The general populace do not yet accept games as an art form like books and movies. Entertainment and even edutainment are not seen as appropriate ways to portray current events, and they may not be for a long time.

Where do you stand on controversial video games? Should publishers and developers be able to release whatever they want? Super Columbine RPG? RapeLay? Six Days in Fallujah? Are they protected by free speech? Will games forever be entertainment and therefore never be able to cover current topics? How would you effectively regulate content if I should be able to play a game like GTA but not Six Days in Fallujah? Do these titles hurt the social standing of gamers and gaming as a medium?

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On the Advent of Controversial Video Games

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:53PM (#27910007) Journal

    Ok mods. I've said my piece. Backlash time.

    Mod him up. He is a perfect example of the general populace that I failed to embody or present fairly in my piece. This is the current view of games.

    Does anyone play an "adult" video game to explore the human condition. Heck no. It's all about juvenile self-indulgence. Real adults are far past that stage and have no real desire to subject themselves to unsavory sights and sounds.

    And there you have it. That barrier must be overcome for video games to be accepted as a dignified medium worthy of serious topics. It's the perception that must be overcome. I challenge game designers and publishers everywhere to break down this barrier. At one point Lolita [wikipedia.org] and Ulysses [wikipedia.org] were nothing more than "juvenile self-indulgence" ...

  • by vil3nr0b (930195) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:54PM (#27910033)
    I agree completely. IMHO, what is controversial today gets released tomorrow and it turns out society doesn't collapse with an explosion of rapists, murdering fiends, etc. All this is a lame attempt by the "moral majority" to keep us looking at the past and present through rose-colored glasses. No controversy here...nothing to see...move along.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday May 11, 2009 @01:54PM (#27910035) Homepage Journal

    Not only do I vote with my dollar, the games a publisher publishes or distributes affects its reputation in the eyes of the buying public.

  • Aren't most of the games that really stir controversy just in it for the short-term popularity? Thus, can't we expect to see games come out "too soon" that are "too violent", only to just fade away since the actual game itself just isn't that great?

    A strong history exists of controversial games with good gameplay that have outlasted their detractors by a long shot:
    Street Fighter
    Wolfenstein 3D
    Mortal Kombat
    Doom
    GTA
    etc.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:38PM (#27910715) Homepage Journal

    Been playing GTA: Chinatown Wars. I'm only 1/4 of the way through (hey, I know it's been out for a month, but I'm slow) and I've already had $100K in sales of illegal drugs. Getting there, I've killed 500 people, most of them innocent bystanders and a lot of them cops. Who, far from being vindictive when they catch me, simply confiscate my weapons and stash and accept a bribe for letting me go.

    Similarly unrealistic is what happens when I get killed. Quick trip to the hospital and everything's back to normal.

    Will this turn anybody into a criminal? Somehow I doubt it. Unlike most consumers of violent fiction and games, I don't buy the idea that there's no connection between media violence and real-world violence. I've certainly seen the effects on my own personality of growing up in a culture where violence is something you see every time you turn on the boob tube. But let's look at it a little more objectively.

    What kind of media violence turns people violent? Not the gross-out violence you see in video games or Tarentino movies. That kind of violence is only attractive to people whose lives are so screwed up that becoming a gangsta and being gruesumely dead before you're 30 is an improvement over the alternatives. And I doubt that such a lifestyle is made any more violent by exposure to the cartoonish violence in the media.

    The media violence that bothers me is the kind that makes violence innocuous. The hero gets knocked out and wakes up 15 minutes later with nothing worse than a splitting headache — no concussion symptoms such as extreme nausea and neurological impairment. Our plucky band of heroes shoot guns all over the place, and never kill anybody, except maybe the occasional badguy.

    That last one disgusted the summer camp dude who taught me to shoot. The thing he was most concerned with drumming into our heads was that guns are dangerous. This was even more important to him that his strong believe that the 2nd amendment was a last safeguard against communist invasion. Which is pretty damn important.

    The big problem with violence is people having their heads in the sand. And I don't just mean idiots who want to ban everything that even suggests violence. I mean you mister I've-got-a-shotgun-so-my-home-is-secure.

  • by Machtyn (759119) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:42PM (#27910779) Homepage Journal
    It's interesting. I didn't think I'd find it so blatant in WoW. However, some of the quests in that game appear to be the basic murder quests.

    NPC: Go kill that guy over there.
    me: Why?
    NPC: He put a rock in my way and made me stub my toe! Idiot! He's [insert race here] and I hate him and he needs to die.

    Of course, some of the better quests incorporate ideals of justice a little better.

    NPC: Go kill that guy over there because he's raping our sheep, burning our girls, and stealing our houses! And even though we're 20 levels above you, we're helpless to do anything about it.

    As you may have guessed, I don't like playing the bad guy. I never want to be in that mindset, it's a dangerous path to start.
  • by sfnate (1049552) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:44PM (#27910825)

    Sometimes, you just have dumbass parents out there, and in groups they can get even worse.

    As the dumbass parent of a 10 year old child, I feel qualified to say something that will irritate and exasperate all of the game-loving hipsters out there. I think these games that make a glorious (or is it "gorious") spectacle of blood-soaked and gut-choked violence are a plague. As a phenomenon, they suggest to me that something especially barbaric is stirring in our collective unconscious, like maybe the long repressed caveman insisting on his daily blood sacrifice in the absence of any authentic, constructive, or ritualized expression of his instinctive needs. Gore-gamers do what they do in a kind of solipsistic isolation: at a sub-conscious level they are performing the stereotyped routine of your typical serial killer, abstracted from society in a way that makes there mechanized, repetitive behavior seem particularly alien from any values that support life-sustaining activity. Sure, these gamers can form virtual roaming packs of killers--a perversion of community, to cast it negatively--but whatever benefit they get from engaging with other human beings is mitigated by the almost autistic intensity they bring to harvesting the surplus virtual flesh they encounter online. I'm sure there will be no end to the angry assertions that there's no scientist or researcher who can prove a single negative thing about FPS games, but come on, anybody who hasn't been completely assimilated and sucked into the virtual compound can see that the troubling, amoral, nihilistic violence done to people and relationships in these games can't be a positive thing, if only because the vampiric nature of the gamer-game relationship sucks real life energy down a bottomless hole of appetite, and gives nothing back. Except maybe adrenaline and carnival, car-crash thrills.

  • by funwithBSD (245349) on Monday May 11, 2009 @02:47PM (#27910893)

    Quote:

    Compare to videogames.

    I don't know about you, but I use MMORPG's to explore parts of my psyche. In essence, they are a shard of some part of my subconscious that has been identified, detached, and given a name of it's own. It can now go out and play and be "itself" without being, or becoming, a neurosis.

    And some of it is playing an adult version of "Cowboys and Indians" or "Soldiers" knowing full well the horror of those two ideas is now safely tucked away behind pixels.

    (I have noticed that Goldshire is full of people that have not made it past playing "Doctor")

  • by Mishotaki (957104) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:06PM (#27911169)

    If there were one change I'd have made to Fallout 3, I'd have included the ability to have lovers/wives/etc. There are enough subplots in the game involving family, enough families, heck the whole Republic of Dave thing, that it would have added another element to the game. The unfortunate problem with this is that American society is prudish and stunted when it comes to sexuality, to the point where what is considered "normal" is actually quite unhealthily repressed.

    The problem here is that the game is in 3D... The previous iteration of Fallout would let you have non-graphical sex with multiple partners as well as homosexual sex, given that the screen go black and there is barely some comments on your "performance" afterwards... nothing much, but at least you knew what happened...

    Now that Fallout is in 3D, having anything close to any sexual relasionship is a big no-no.... why? because americans are scared of sex!

    You complain about all those sex games coming from Japan... yet you fail to see that they have much harsher laws... the simple fact that they can't legally show any genitals in a game/comic/movie makes them much more harsher than us...

    But all you americans see is the sexual content in some games while most of the games with sexual content in Japan actually uses the sex as a reward for your hard-earned gameplay... just look at Katawa Shoujo [blogspot.com], the content that is available for now is not even close to pornographic... the part of the game that has been released (for free) contains nothing of sexual nature... yet it WILL contain pornographic images as a reward to the player who will play hours upon hours to form a relationship with a single character or walk the thin line of the "harem" route... but, as for now, you already have multiple hours of story without even a hint of anything sexual... Still, the game is included in the Japanese pornographic dating-sim game genre wich is extremely hard to get in America.. why? because the ESRB rates those games as "Adult Only" like they should be, no retailer will have a single copy available in his store...

    America is scared of censored genitals... just because they imply sex... Even if the average gamer is well over the limit of buying his own porn, he can't buy a game that contains porn because the industry prefers showing mass murdering than scrambled genitals...

    What a bunch of pussies(should that be censored?)

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:08PM (#27911195)
    Does anyone read To Kill a Mockingbird or Scarlet Letter for entertainment?

    No, I read The Scarlet Letter because it was required for a high school English class. It was a brilliant psychological drama. At the time, I wondered why a nun would assign us a novel so blatantly critical of religion until it dawned on me: it is critical of the Protestant religion, not the Catholic religion. Despite being somewhat dry and difficult to read (as most books written in 1850 would be to us. Try reading Dickens sometime!), I recommend reading The Scarlet Letter.
  • Apples and oranges? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by billius (1188143) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:12PM (#27911271)

    I'm going to start with an easy game to discuss: RapeLay â" an obscure title by a Japanese publisher that focuses on forced sex situations. There is something special about sexual crimes that make them even worse than murder in the United States. I don't know why, but Hot Coffee in GTA3 drew far more criticism than the normal killing rampage in that game and games before it.

    If I remember correctly, the Hot Coffee mod allowed your character in GTA3 to have sex with prostitutes, which is a completely different thing than raping a woman. That's why I disagree with the assumption that our aversion to rape in entertainment has something to do with our culture being prudish/puritanical/etc. For this to be true, it would seem to also follow that societies with a more liberal view of human sexuality (like in Europe, for example) would also have a more lax view on rape in entertainment. However, I seriously doubt that a German or a Swede would somehow be more relaxed about playing a video game with rape involved than an American.

    Rape is a particularly heinous crime because, unlike murder, once the act has been perpetrated the victim's suffering has only just begun. And unlike killing someone, it's never morally justified. There's nothing a woman could do to somehow justify a person raping her. If someone attacks you with a deadly weapon, however, you're well within acceptable moral and legal boundaries to kill that person. We're less averse to violence in games and entertainment because we can take "baby steps" with justifiable violence. Start with "Call of Duty," then move on to GTA and then once you get to Manhunt it doesn't seem all that bad. Hell, even in Manhunt you're only killing people because you're essentially being forced to.

    Don't get me wrong; American moral sensibilities about sex are fucked up, no pun intended. For some strange reason, when we go to see a movie about a guy in a mask stabbing people in the woods, nudity and sex are almost expected but when we go to see a love story, anything but the most white-washed sex scene will offend the audience. It's like the time I watched "Amelie" with my mom. She freaked out that a movie about two people falling in love might actually have some sexual content in it. But rape will always be taboo, as it should be. From what I gather, this isn't an exploration into the tortured psyche of a rapist (like a book or movie on the subject might be), but rather a rape simulator of sorts. Therefore, people are justified in their concern that folks would want to play such a game. Of course the developer has a right to publish the game, just as consumers have the right to boycott and criticize it.

    (sorry for the rambling post, kind of out of it today)

  • by Binty (1411197) on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:17PM (#27911345)

    The games you mentioned, especially Deus Ex and Bioshock, make gestures towards art, but don't fulfill their visions.

    Probably the best part of Bioshock is killing Ryan. You've been told throughout the game "Would you kindly" do this or that, and every time you do it. Then "Would you kindly" kill Ryan and the game takes control of your character and makes you! A really interesting comment on the genre of video games and freewill inside of video games. "A man chooses" but does a video game character (or player) choose? Never.

    But even amidst this admittedly very large step towards art, Bioshock is at heart rather hackneyed when compared to serious artistic endeavors. Why do you have to kill everyone? Why is everyone in Rapture so angry? They were all driven insane by their modifications is what the game tells you, but the truth is that it is an FPS and it wouldn't be an FPS if it didn't contain a bunch of people to kill. The parts that you're calling "artistic" are really just window dressing to the FPS mechanics.

    I suppose the response to this might be, "Why is that painting flat? Not in order to better express the artist's message, but because paintings are always flat: that what makes it a painting!" But FPS is not the medium that Bioshock was set in. The medium is an interactive three dimensional world. Until there is a video game that takes advantage of its whole medium to do something with artistic merit, I'll continue to believe that there is no video game with a coherent artistic vision.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:41PM (#27911709)
    "The hero gets knocked out and wakes up 15 minutes later with nothing worse than a splitting headache â" no concussion symptoms such as extreme nausea and neurological impairment."

    That always bugs me. As someone who works with people who have brain damage, I get a bit tired of seeing people suffer all sorts of head trauma but then have not neurological signs. I know movies aren't often meant to be realistic but we could have things a little more realistic more often.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @03:52PM (#27911853)

    Fallout 3 offered some very interesting moral choices. Here is one example:

    One of the side quests concerns a tree who has fused with a human. According to him he is in a lot of pain, so the tree/man asks you to kill him as a favour. However, there is a small group of people who worship the tree as their god. And their society seems to work well, so by killing the tree, you risk ruining the society they worked so hard to build. You are offered three choices: Either kill the tree by stabbing his heart (that is what he wants), burning him alive, or denying his request.

    It took me a few days before I had settled on a choice. No other game that I remember had me weighing the pros and cons of a decision as carefully as this sidequest.

    Fallout 3 was, in my opinion, a huge step into the right direction.

  • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @04:22PM (#27912383)

    Yes, currently (till they figure out how to make food inorganicly) life feeds on life. But that doesn't mean all forms of feeding are equal.

    Last I checked, plants (especially lone beans) don't have a brain or a central nervous system capable of feeling pain or terror; regardless of the "oh plants like it when we sing to them" bull there is no sentience in plant life. Contrast that the very real terror cattle experience as they are slaughtered, especially when someone fucks up and doesn't get a clean kill.

    I'm not a vegitarian but the "oh, plants are living too" BS is just that. If someone prefers to not partake in meat, dairy, or egg products because they feel they don't want to be part of the system that causes that sort of torture to living creatures actually capable of feeling terror and reacting to pain, that's their choice. And it's an honorable one as long as they don't spend the rest of their life rubbing it in our faces.

    I wonder how many gungho "I've hunted and killed for food before" bullshiters would still be "carnivores" if they spent a week working in a slaughter house.

  • by odourpreventer (898853) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:25PM (#27913461)

    Pretty much nobody in our society with the exception of hardcore gamers believes videogames rise to the level of high art

    Sorry, but you're wrong. For a recent, shining example, take a good look at Braid [braid-game.com].

    There's plenty of art in games, even though that's not the selling point. Games provide an experience, which often includes art, either as pictures (Myst), music (Final Fantasy) or story-telling (Thief).

  • by enderjsv (1128541) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:44PM (#27913759)

    Well, I'm not quite sure what you mean by this. So, a video game can be artistic, just not about anything controversial? I guess we'd have to first define what you mean by controversial. I know videogames already deal with things like death, war, racism, love, fear, and murder. Hell, all those subjects can be found in Mass Effect, a videogame I'd argue to be quite artistic.

    If videogames are indeed capable of artistic expression, then there should be nothing stopping them from being able to tackle controversial subjects in that artistic manner. It seems strange to me to think that there could be a form of artistic expression unable to do so. Hell, part of what makes something art is it's ability to tackle the controversial as well as the familiar.

    No, I think the argument is whether videogames are or are not capable of artistry. I don't think a compromise would work. It seems faulty to suggest that something can be artistic in one context and not another. That makes the already ambiguous nature of art even more so.

  • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:44PM (#27914707)

    Consider the various moral choices in Fallout 3. Functionally, the game allows you to decide what you want to be. If you want to be a slaver? It is possible. If you want to, instead, rescue slaves? Very much also possible.

    These "moral choices" are very superficial in today's games. There are no real, long-term consequences for behavior, as there is in the real world. In truth, violent people don't get away with it very long. If you do something bad to someone, they remember and tell other people, and your bad reputation spreads. If you drive GTA-style in a typical city you'll be shut down very quickly. Even in wartime there are codes of conduct; if you shoot your buddy, or an innocent bystander, there are big consequences. Games today don't represent any of these nuances. You shoot a bad guy, and all the rest just keep doing what they were doing. You shoot a good guy, and nothing much happens. I would never advocate for outlawing or banning anything, and I don't particularly fault game developers for giving people what they want. That said, I don't think the end product is very instructive for kids. Adults can see these games for what they are -- escapist action with no connection to reality -- but a very young kid doesn't yet have the context to see that.

    With regard to "protecting the children", there is an interesting (to me) difference between European and American perceptions. European children's literature is much more willing to touch on darker themes than its American counterpart; authors like Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, and the brothers Grimm address things you'd almost never see in any American kids books. As a parent I feel this is fine, however, since these works usually illustrate something true about the consequences of behavior, both good and bad. Bad things happen in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, when the kids are greedy or mean.

    Back on games, I think there is a coming backlash from consumers who are getting bored with the typical shooters. I like shooters as much as the next guy, but why do 95% of the top titles have to follow this formula? I used to buy a lot of X-Box games, until I realized they're all basically the same game (Portal excluded). Even things as basic as the color palette; why are all games so dark (literally)?

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:52PM (#27914827) Homepage

    Thanks for defining real adults for us, who are only interested in a work because of its social value. Clearly anyone who would want to subject themselves to any "unsavory" sights or sounds has not matured past the stage of adolescence. Hopefully you can define unsavory for us, so that we can all fully appreciate your insight and wisdom.

    That said, many "adult" games are filled with biting social and political commentary. For example, GTA IV, a game which is commonly considered to appeal to connoisseurs of "unsavory" sights and sounds, places front and center the cognitive dissonances that abound in American culture; violence (destruction) = ok; sex (creation) = not ok. It mocks commercialism and consumerism while exploiting and depending on them for its own existence.

    The song Priutt-Igoe is (ironically or appropriately) played on a radio station hosted by a computer. It was written for the soundtrack of, and thus is a direct reference to, a film called Koyaanisqatsi [wikipedia.org], but to discover that, you'd have to first discover how to obtain song names, which is not quite a straightforward process (and does not involve shooting anyone). The name of the song is an homage to, and the sequence in the film, are of the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe projects, and not coincidentally, one of the missions involves infiltrating buildings in the projects, which is a clear nod toward the failure of "urban renewal." The Pruitt-Igoe buildings were designed by Japanese architect Minoru Yamasaki [wikipedia.org], who was quoted as lamenting, "I never thought people were that destructive [wikipedia.org]." And yet, the development may well have worked in Japan, where society and culture impart a much higher regard for the respect of others, whereas in the west we focus on the respect of self. And in fact, many Japanese live in apartments that make the projects look like penthouse suites, but social order is well maintained. It could be argued that the projects were not a failing of architecture, or its residence, but of the society in which they live. And given the fact that urban sprawl is predominantly implicated in one of our biggest energy crises -- transportation -- it makes me question whether we are taking the right approach in seeking to reduce population density in order to increase the quality of life of assisted housing residents. Clearly it's easier to change our architecture than to change our culture, but what if the latter is the only way to achieve lasting resolution?

    That's just one of the many threads that can be teased out of the game. But of course, when you need a break from all of the waxing philosophical, you can also bang hookers and practice head shots on unsuspecting civilians; an unsavory practice which I enjoy from time to time. But then, I guess I'm not a real adult.

  • by enderjsv (1128541) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:39PM (#27916519)

    I see nothing wrong with a scripted outcome in a video game, and I don't think it detracts from the game at all. There's this misconception that video games, in their truest form, should be like "choose your own adventure" books, with branching paths, alternate endings and random elements. I disagree.

    I like to use movies as analogy to illustrate a point. Movies often use music to heighten the emotional significance of a given scene. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen a movie that didn't use music in some fashion or another. It's become such a part of the movie experience that I usually don't even notice the music is playing. It's like white noise, but it's effective.

    Does this mean that movies are cheating? After all, shouldn't a movie be able to stand on its own merits without the necessity of music to lean on? Most movie buffs would call that ridiculous, and I would agree. Music, whilst an art form unto itself, is also part of the make-up of any given movie, not an addition to it. The music is as much a part of the movie as the characters, the dialogue, the lighting or whatever.

    The same could be said for the cinematic portions of a videogame. Like music, the cinematic portions are part of the game. They're not additions to it. A videogame is a rich tapestry of all kinds of art forms melted into one. In that way, there's nothing stopping a game from giving the player certain gameplay elements and freedoms whilst still directing the user towards an ultimate narrative through the use of cinematic devices out of the player's control. Quite to the contrary of some people's beliefs, those devices aren't at the expense of the gameplay experience, they're for the benefit of it.

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:27PM (#27917409) Homepage

    It's no more and no less bullshit than drawing an arbitrary line between, say, cows and horses and declaring that if you eat one of them you're a patriot and if you eat the other one you're a bad man.

    As a vegetarian, I wholeheartedly agree. I never understood why people happily eat lamb chops and yet are horrified at the thought of moggy chow mein, and downright disgusted at eating roast cavies (and I had a pet guinea pig when I was a kid, those things are born and bred to be food)... anyway they're all animals, aren't they? I can understand an aversion to human flesh for health reasons but other than that... it's meat, why draw distinctions?

    As for plants vs animals, there's clearly orders of magnitude of difference in complexity between a sheaf of wheat and a cow. I simply see no reason to cause more entropy than I have to in order to eat (plus I don't like the taste, and the idea of consuming another creature's flesh is kinda icky to me - but hey, whatever floats your boat.) If I could get purely synthetic food I'd probably be happy with it (mi goreng is pretty close :P ), and likewise if it were a choice between me or a cow, I'm sorry but when I get hungry enough the cow goes. Until there's a real need for me to eat it, however, I'll leave it alone.

    I always hear about preachy vegetarians but honestly, I've never met one. I *have* met a whole load of meat-eaters who refuse to accept that I simply don't want to eat meat, and generally it takes them an hour or two to give up trying to convince me that I'm wrong and a bad person for not being exactly like them. It's not me that raises the topic either, unless I'm asking whether there's meat in the noodle salad. I figure diet is a personal choice, I wish more non-vegetarians could figure that out. :/

  • by PyroMosh (287149) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:58AM (#27918031) Homepage

    I believe you misunderstand what his or her post was saying.

    They are not saying that games are or are not art. They are saying that practically nobody believes them to be art. Which I agree with, even though I think games can be art.

    There is a disconnect though that is not often recognized. Not every picture, book, film, or game is art. Though I agree that games as a medium are no less valid than literature or film.

    I do take exception to the premise of the author of the article. The submitter seems to believe that controversial games are something new.

    Atari's Missile Command was originally called Armageddon, and was to take place using real Californian cities. These were both changed due to Atari believing that it would make the game to controversial. This was 30 years ago.

    Then you have Custar's Revenge on the 2600, NARC on the NES, Night Trap on Sega CD, Mortal Kombat in the arcade, and later on consoles, and a whole host of other games just off the top of my head that were controversial. I wouldn't call most of them art though.

    Somewhere along the line though, little gems started popping up. They were rare exceptions at first. Some would say they still are, but there were some games with compelling stories. Interactive narratives. Real fiction that was worth immersing one's self in.

    Then those games became more frequent. And now, you have games with worth while stories, and worth while concepts, and publishers are less fearful of them, and game producers *want* to produce games like that...

    It's slow going, but it is coming. Lolita, and Saving Private Ryan are certainly not entertainment. But they are important. Six Days in Faluja could have been too. I'm not sure it would have been, but I am sure it could have been if handled right.

    One last point: I've never heard of half of these. And not that I'm some kind of authority or anything, but when you point out games or mods that were made by one person in an afternoon because they though it would be funny, it's hardly some trend. That's like saying that every blog post, or pamphlet put out by some self-publishing nut is evidence of a trend in literature. Games like Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide only get *any* attention because they are offensive. If they weren't, you would never notice them at all, like most silly flash games, or small indie games.

    Should publishers and developers be able to release whatever they want? Super Columbine RPG? RapeLay? Six Days in Fallujah? Are they protected by free speech? Will games forever be entertainment and therefore never be able to cover current topics? How would you effectively regulate content if I should be able to play a game like GTA but not Six Days in Fallujah? Do these titles hurt the social standing of gamers and gaming as a medium?

    Should publishers and developers be able to release whatever they want? Yes. Including Super Columbine RPG, and RapeLay, etc. They can with books now. They can with Films now, and there is remarkably little market (though some) for the truly tasteless like that. I hate to use this tired cliche, but this is one instance where the market (with a little help from public opinion) will sort things out for itself. Sure we can and probably should rate things, and keep minors away from the most offensive stuff. But beyond that? Free reign I say.

    Absolutely current topics are fair game. But they need to be treated the way Saving Private Ryan treats them, not the way Full Metal Jacket does, or publishers need to be prepared to face the consequences. Oh, and of course this is a new media, so publishers have to face the real risk that early on, people won't understand (particularly non-gamers) and they'll face the consequences, even if they do everything right!

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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