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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kieron On Demuzio

You remember Senator Demuzio, right? She championed video game legislation on the auspices that games are akin to pornography and tobacco. It ended up potentially costing Illinois taxpayers thousands of dollars. Nearly half a million, if I recall correctly (and I do).

Patrick points to Kieron Gillen's excellent rant-essay which largely uses the Senator's feeble grip on reality as a launching point:

Let's put aside the question, exactly in which imminent conflict the armed forces expect to utilize their finely-honed gold-coin-collecting skills. Let's take the good Senator at her word - games are almost military simulators, so not expression - and move forward

By an odd quirk of fate, I found myself in Prague a few weeks back, visiting Bohemia Interactive. They're best known for their breakthrough soldier-sim Operation Flashpoint, critically acclaimed for its extreme devotion to realism. The critics weren't the only ones who noticed. After its release, they were approached by cheery governmental bodies to transform the game into a training simulator for soldiers. The resultant VBS1 is used by the US Marines and National Guard, among others, as part of their training.

So, in the case of Flashpoint, Senator Demuzio is very much right. Flashpoint is exactly the sort of game she was thinking about when making her statement, with the game and the war-simulator merely tweaked versions of one another. Where she's entirely wrong is arguing that this somehow makes the game not a form of expression.

Bohemia is actually one of the more idealistic groups of developers I've met. They talk about their moral discomfort in creating a game about a real conflict, recalling a specific project based on Vietnam. The team disposed of months of work because they thought it impossible to make a game that was both accurate and enjoyable. They spoke of adding destructible buildings to their engine for future games, explaining the addition isn't because they want to give people the visceral thrill of seeing a building fall apart. Rather, it is because they want to create a persistent world where your successes and failures remain to remind you of your errors. Fail to defend a farm, and that burnt out shell is going to be sitting there for the rest of the game.
-- Culture Wargames

With things like Clinton's potential media tax and continued unrealistic portrayals about games in the press, this kind of frisking can't come nearly often enough.

See ya in November, Senator.

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Weefz said...

wrt the persistent world that reminds you of your failures through destroyed buildings...

I've always thought that that would be a great way to run an MMO. Attackers go for a village, defenders fail, village stays destroyed or occupied or whatever until craftspeople build it back up, or build something better or move to a new home or whatever. Makes the fighting have a point and gives crafters something to do other than stand around going "WTS magic shield"

Josh said...

Tangent: when I was in the Unreal mod set, another modder dreamt up a Lego-like FPS-RTS where there was a build phase to create walls and buildings out of bricks and attack phase to try and knock them down. First team to have all their resources depleted would lose.