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Friday, February 02, 2007

More Wired On Super Columbine

In his artist's statement on the Super Columbine website, Ledonne says he created the game as a kind of cautionary tale. He describes his work as an exploration of the killers' mentalities, pointing out that he took great pains getting the narrative details right. I could be cynical and say he probably did it hoping to make a killing -- pardon the pun -- but for the sake of the higher argument I'll play along.

What makes Ledonne think that a video game is the best way to try and deconstruct the tortured minds that led to Columbine? Gaming is essentially escapist entertainment and while there are plenty of violent games out there to help you get off, if that's what gets you off, no one has ever confused a Sony console with a social laboratory.

With all due respect, I think this is the wrong medium for this sort of soul searching.
-- Shoot to Kill, Shoot to Thrill [Wired]

First to clarify ... the next paragraph insist that the author, Tony Long, is not supporting Slamdance's ban of the game or even covering that topic ... he is discussing Super Columbine Massacre RPG itself.

That said, I think I would politely call this line of argument as ... engaging? That's probably giving it too much credit. It's a very plausible and somewhat reasoned counterpoint - I just think it trips over its own assertion.

Firstly, I haven't played SCMRPG yet myself. I honestly don't really plan on doing so - I haven't hooked the PC back up and I have no real desire to do so just so that I can run through some games which didn't really interest me in the first place. However, like The Luddite himself admits he's not a gamer, I'm not sure that's the point. Actually, it's quite evident he isn't completely at grasp of the facts at hand since he routinely accuses Ledone of trying to make money.

Off of his free game? Seriously, Tony. Do a little research next time.

However - as he's not talking about Slamdance, I"m not really defending SCMRPG itself.

I just don't think you can get away with saying gaming "is essentially escapist entertainment" and excuse that as some kind of evidence that games can't make social commentary. Am I to made to believe that plays, movies, books and poems are not forms of escapist entertainment? Even when they are social commentary? Is Schindler's List the entertainment equivalent of a history professor's speech?

The problem with Long's case is that he has no case. He provides no supporting logic to show why games can't be social commentary while every other form of entertainment on the planet seems to be allowed that possibility. The no one has "ever confused a Sony console with a social laboratory" is only proof that Long hasn't heard of our dear friend BatJack. I mean, if a box can make an army of Manchurian children capable of killing people with their cranial menus ... how is that not social commentary?

At the crux of both Slamdance's Baxter's moral cold feet and Long's inability to embrace game is the concept that if Ledone had compiled the information he researched on Columbine into nearly any form other than a game ... it would gain acceptability. If instead of being interactive it were merely pictures thrown on a wall ... it would be legitimate.

But adding any kind of parser between the machine and reader ... and suddenly you've gone too far. Which once you've used the word parser ... well - that just makes it even weirder to try and narrow this down. So if Ledone were to make Super Columbine into an interactive text ... it would still be "wrong". Unless that interactive text removed the player from being in control of the narrative.

So at the core - at the real meaty center - what the detractors find distasteful ... is Ledone's choice of narrative control? It's OK to present information about Columbine, but no OK to try and interject a user into the information. It would be OK to try and represent enough information to make a reader feel like they were there and understand the facts of the day ... just so long as the reader had no control over the course of those facts. Unless, of course, someone were to produce a documentary about how Columbine could have been averted. Just so long as that documentary didn't come with a joystick.

You can immersion in your documentary. But if you have too much, you have a game.

And somehow that's wrong?

To date, Slamdance has not been able to provide a singular rational excuse for pulling Super Columbine from the contest. Instead, they've blamed anonymous third parties and given some minor legalities which could easily be cleared up. If this is the kind of logic game detractors use ... I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for one.

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1 comment:

Patrick said...

Well put, I think I'm going to do Pack Appeal with Storytron. I wonder if a lack of a non-fiction context and graphics will change how people react to it. I imagine, combined with real interactivity in relation to the discourse, it will be recieved with more critical appeal. Then I'm thinking, I'll be in a position to do a graphical verison.