Friday, April 20, 2007

You Can’t Be Serious ?

As a current article from Gamasutra points out, video games are indeed a serious business; serious to the tune of billions of dollars a year in revenue. Likewise, serious revenue streams tend to attract serious minded people in all aspects of business like a moth to a bright light. On the surface, this may look like it's not such a big deal, but it certainly can be.

Take for instance the game Postal (and it's sequel), which was infamous in gaming circles several years back for it's supposed glorification of the buzzword it was named after. Not only was it attacked by everyone and their brother, but it found itself banned in several countries. Even the good old Postal Service, a normally benign arm of our government gave the games the hairy eyeball. In more recent times, we've seen the same treatment/hostility towards a couple other mature rated games with equally controversial themes…..Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto.

Now the crowning achievement of the shock game movement (at this moment) has to be the Super Columbine Massacre RPG game. It takes on the very touchy subject of the infamous school shootings in 1999 that caused an entire nation to shudder. There's no need to delve into the details here, but I think you the reader are getting the gist of things.

So now that you've had a list of controversial games to chew on for a bit, its time to ask exactly what this all means. Like Sharon Sloane pointed out, games are following the natural progression of their movie counterparts .Now this whole concept of one medium being given the blind eye by the media, and the other one coming under so much scrutiny seems pretty ridiculous at first glance. After all, each showcases the same themes of violence, sex, and "creative" language. So why is that so?

The big difference, it seems, is that games manage to do something in the process that movies just haven't been able to do yet….. Make you feel like your part of the story. While you can sit back and watch pretty much anything on TV, and feel shielded from the moral and social implications of what's going on before your very eyes onscreen, playing a similar themed story in a videogame takes things one step further. You, the viewer, take part in the action by way of a video game controller. Yes, in both cases, the same potential for all the above mentioned taboos are very much there. Playing the game all the way through from beginning to end is the equivalent of watching a similar movie of the same caliber. So you may be thinking to yourself, what does an obvious video game player such as yourself feel about all of this? I thought you'd never ask.

I view video games just like I view movies. They are two similar, yet slightly different forms of entertainment. While I feel that some subject matters are less tasteful then others, I really hesitate to label them good or bad. Would I be the type to take part in a game based on another's personal tragedy? My outright answer would be a resounding NO. Having said that, I've played my fair share of War themed games, such as Medal of Honor, and Call of Duty. Did we somehow forget about all the pain, suffering, and death that their subject matter was inspired by? What makes this any different?

You see, just like anything else in life, video games have their own gray area that we must wrestle with. The line to draw in the sand isn't always as clear cut as we like, and it's very much a matter of personal interpretation as much as it is your own moral fortitude. Maybe we as a whole really need to step back from all of this, and take another look at the situation from all of its perspectives. As it stands right now, much time and money is spent zeroing in on the negative aspects of video games. In essence, some view in them in the same light as Heavy Metal Music music found itself in back in the Eighties. Others like myself, just see it as another form of entertainment that the individual should take it upon themselves to decide what's right and wrong for them. If you like it, great. If not, that's okay too. No one is going to hurt you if you don't watch these types of movies, or play these types of games. Just don't be so quick to jump on the bandwagon and light the torches with the fellow villagers, and condemn those that do.

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