Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Violence in Games: Dastardly Deeds by Good Guys 

Life is a rorschach test. We each look at the same set of facts and come away with our own conclusions. For example, Clive Thompson at Wired News looks at the implications of violence in video games and sees nothing but conservative hypocrisy while I see a slanderous defamation of our police and armed forces:
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?

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.
Here is what rankles me about Mr. Thompson's view of the matter:

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.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: