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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Video Games Can't Save The World

I know, it's shocking.

But it occurs to me after reading this drek (via Wonderland via apophenia) that those who are out of touch with gaming make this insane leaps of logic.

Then proceed to bash gaming based on these leaps. It would fun to watch if it wasn't so inane. And annoying that these people actually expect to be taken seriously.

Let's begin.

Nourishing such behaviors are different genres of video games. One of the most common is the role-playing game in which the sole player is on a quest to save the world. Many of these games are medieval-themed because in these Dark Age games, it is easy to introduce every kind of fantastic magical element and demonic creatures as obstacles to a quest. What kid can refuse a quest?

Unfortunately, these quests usually pass through ultraviolent challenges like tar pits, death holes, ax and sword combat, and catapulted stones, with enough blood and gore to spare. To paraphrase Little Alex, the protagonist of "A Clockwork Orange," why is it that blood and guts seem most colorful and real on the TV screen?

Wow. How about that for a broad generalization? And what the hell is a death hole? Let's completely ignore the fact that most RPGs are fairly void of blood and many aren't much more violent than your average disney flick. This kind of gross condemnation is a clear indication of punditry who has never bothered with the subject material itself.

If we're going to simply outright bash anything with a violent strain in it's blood - let's start the list. Football. Shakespeare. Cop Dramas. Plenty of operas. Clue (the board game). Hangman.

You get the point.

Players are deliberately placed in situations where only fighting can solve the problems. What does this teach the player? The answer to all problems is violence.

See above. This is hardly unique in culture, sports and media. And yet all of us get through the day without punching anybody.

In this connection, we recall the horror of Columbine High School in Colorado. Both Columbine shooters were drenched in the play of ultraviolent video games. At the time, the murders caused a backlash against violent video games, but nowadays, the old ultraviolence has returned like an old friend.

Oh right, let's bring Columbine back into the fold. Let's forget the fact that no law enforcement agency ever believed such a connection nor did any judicial body. You can recall the horror all you like, but making an erroneous link between a tragic event and your pet peeve is irresponsible and dishonest.

Graphic violence is not the only reason video games are a social problem. They are an obsession with many people. It's OK to play a game once in a while, but when the play is for hours on end, that is not healthy. Players become addicted, living to beat the game. Recently, there have been a number of deaths in Asia from playing video games for days at a time.

Yes, it's true ... some players in Asia have died from what can only be considered overplaying.

It's also the largest and most fervent, by several paradigm shifts, online gaming culture on the planet. Comparing your average gamer to someone who spends most of his time and money in Internet cafes playing Counter-Strike or StarCraft is bit like comparing someone who bought a dirty magazine with spending a full on week in a Bangkok whorehouse.

Once you compare video games to actual addictive problems like gambling and alcoholism ... the cases and the rates of those cases clearly show that assuming games are a potential risk factor is complete and utter hyperbole.

Some kids even dress up as characters for Halloween, but often players do it just to look like or be the character. Is this healthy?

Just as healthy as American pie and baseball, broheim.

How many of our youth have become emotionally stunted from years of seclusion, unable to relate in normal fashion to the demands of ordinary social relationships? Psychologists will be doing a brisk business.

Eventually, the reclusive video-head must go to college, join the Army or get a job. But the only skill he or she possesses is the ability to rule a world littered with death and destruction — and perhaps a warped appreciation of classical music.

This really grinds my gears, to quote Peter Griffin. This assumption that anyone into gaming is inherently an introverted, psychologically unstable, inept malcontent is insulting. Not only does it ignore all the social aspects involved in gaming, all of the games orientated towards these social aspects, but it also assumes that to enjoy games is to not enjoy the world.

Hey, thanks to gaming I've had conversations with people in Britain, Canada and Germany .... on the same day. Wonder when the last time the authors of this piece could make a similar claim? I'm guessing never.

Say, how about developing an Internet game called Peace in the Middle East. Let's project the energies of teens and tweens the world over in solving the most intractable problem of our age. Now that's a quest.

And here it comes. The conviction that video games shouldn't be violent, because violence is bad. Video games should be peaceful, because peace is good. And if video games could only learn to be good, it could help the world be peaceful and cure cancer and perhaps even dance in the daisies from time to time.

The fact that a professor of social science honestly thinks a video game is a plausible solution for the problems in the Middle East is more of a condemnation of this man's education than anything I could type. And the freshman who helped him with the column should stop cleaning erasers and go make a few friends his own age.

Video games are no more likely to make peace in the world than they are to cause a violent uprising. This fear of new media is getting almost embarrassing in its luddism. Oh noes, the magic box in the living room is speaking!

Holding video games to a moral standard higher than movies, higher than books, higher than sports, higher than anything else in culture is indicative of a complete misunderstanding of the medium. They aren't all-powerful constructs, they're just games. They are not a major revolution of entertainment, just a minor evolution.

Hoping to "mitigate the scourge of ultraviolence" by complaining about games is nothing but boorish prudism. And usually shows more ignorance than it does illumination. If someone really wants to mitigate such a scourge, go protest the Iraq War or something. People are dying over there every day, but you want me to worry about Zelda?

I don't think so.

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Brinstar said...

Josh, you have an amazing ability to link to articles that make me angry. :-P

Josh said...

consider it my contribution to the scourge of ultraviolence :)

Casey said...

Yes, articles like these inspire me to far more violent thoughts than videogames ever could :)

This guy really seems to like Clockwork Orange, even going to far as to quote the beloved narrator to support his arguments. He might be interested to know that it was one of the first movies to receive an X-rating (later rescinded) and was the subject of public outcry much like that directed to videogames today.