Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Then one day, as I was running over an innocent pedestrian during a car chase, I had an epiphany. Family-values types often deplore the brutality of today's action titles. But have they ever closely examined who's committing this carnage?Here is what rankles me about Mr. Thompson's view of the matter:
Nine times out of 10, when you're blowing people's chests open with hollow-point bullets, you aren't playing as a terrorist or criminal. No, you're playing as a cop, a soldier or a special-forces agent -- a member of society's forces of law and order.
Consider our gaming history. In Doom, the game that began it all, you were a Marine. Then came a ceaseless parade of patriotic, heart-in-hand World War II games, in which you merrily blow the skulls off Japanese and German soldiers under the explicit authority of the U.S. of A. Yet anti-gaming critics didn't really explode with indignation until Grand Theft Auto 3 came along -- the first massively popular modern game where the tables turned, and you finally played as a cop-killing thug.
Why weren't these detractors equally up in arms about, say, the Rainbow Six series? Because games lay bare the conservative logic that governs brutal acts. Violence -- even horrible, war-crimes-level stuff -- is perfectly fine as long as you commit it under the aegis of the state. If you're fighting creepy Arabs and urban criminals, go ahead -- dual-wield those Uzis, equip your frag grenades and let fly. Nobody will get much upset.
- Claiming anti-gaming critics only began complaining about video game violence with the recent release of Grand Theft Auto III is ridiculous. One could accuse these critics of being puritanical killjoys, but they are consistent puritanical killjoys. Doom is one of the most reviled games of all time, and I'm sure Pac Man's rampant cannibalism drew more than its share of flak as well. Inventing hypocrisy in an opponent and then demolishing that opposing viewpoint on the grounds of hypocrisy is, well, idiotic.
- He can scarcely conceal his pleasure that "the tables turned" and finally he could play as a cop-killing thug. Finally. Apparently Doom and violent World War II games weren't enough for him, since they didn't antagonize the family values crowd enough that the hue and cry made any impression on him. Now killing cops, that'll do it. Yeah. Finally.
- He identifies two distinct brands of authority figure violence in gaming. Yet the constantly creeping rot of relativism has so devoured his brain that he can no longer distinguish between bad cops rampaging against an unsuspecting public, and soldiers risking their lives to wipe out Nazism. The thought never occurs to him that someone might be outraged by a game that glorifies violent rogue cops while still approving of games that favorably depict the killing of Nazis in time of war.
Despite my differing interpretation of what the dark splotches mean, he has done a good job of pointing them out. Perhaps the anti-gaming, family values types might want to focus more on the outrageous treatment the custodians of law and order are receiving in video games. Put a stop to that first. Then you can work on Pac Man.