Home > censorship, social control > Video Games, Violence, and Society (Part 2)

Video Games, Violence, and Society (Part 2)

June 30th, 2008

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Generally speaking, the power of computers has given us the ability to imagine different objects of totally diverse natures, program them into a system of laws of interaction, and then sit back and watch the show. Biologists can now see things that are very logically real, but do not have to be directly observed or deduced by hand anymore; one researcher speaks of DNA shuffling for forecasting genetic behaviors: “we used thermodynamics and reaction engineering to evaluate and model this complex reaction network so we can now predict where the DNA from different parent genes will recombine. “[1] Economists can imagine economic actors of certain preferences, assume they are utility maximizing, plug in the amount of resources available, and learn about what kinds of things people will produce. In the same regard, the video gamer can ask, “let’s say we have a mountain lion fighting a huge wasp; who will win, and will the fight be awesome or lame? ” The process is about imagining independent things and making assumptions about their characteristics, and then throwing them into a figurative box, shaking it, and then pouring it out to find out what is there.

Gaming as Art and Narrative

Some have argued that video games offer no valid mode of expression. In April 2002, U. S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. ruled that video games are not subject to first amendment protections under the constitution: “[There is] no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that could possibly amount to speech. The court finds that video games have more in common with board games and sports than they do with motion pictures. “[2] Nothing could be farther from the truth, even besides the point that board games and even athletics can, too, be artistic in the creativity that goes into their rules and aesthetics. The games contemplated and cited in the court opinion, “Fear Effect,” “Doom,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Resident Evil,” were not only six to nine years old at the date of the court opinion, but had titles falsely cited as “Mortal Combat” and “Resident of Evil Creek. ”[3] This is testament to the fact that inexperience with video games has a strong positive productive relationship with total, ape-like ignorance about them.

Though to some degree this paper is guilty of it, the primary problem with much formal academic research into video games is its insistence on “boxing” characteristics of games into neat little propositional packages. Usually, it is the result of an infrequent video game player conducting a study, or a frequent gamer attempting to appeal to a broader audience with his writing. The problem with this approach lies in attempting to convey the facets of such a complex kind of thing to someone who has never experienced it. Simply to say, “imagine something like a movie, where the player holds a controller that moves a character around on screen and makes him do things” clearly fails to capture all the qualitative essence of video games, especially in the present-day context. It is the equivalent of trying to explain to an 11th-century Catholic Bishop the concept of a car as “imagine something like a carriage, but one that moves by itself. ” He, too, would condemn it, probably as the product of witchcraft, because he would not understand how it worked. The attempt, then, to “sound-bite” video game research certainly creates skewed perceptions of their supposed social implications.

Thankfully, the 7th District Court (which affected a much broader jurisdiction than the Limbaugh ruling) had previously upheld video games as free speech. The bottom line is that inanimate visual art, audio, and films are protected under freedom of expression, no matter whether their substance is contributory to public discourse or not. The same should go for video games, and relying on prejudice against the “new guy” will not suffice. Many games require just as much, if not plenty more effort than a single painting or a book. Development teams often number between thirty and two thousand people, frequently allocating many members simply to developing the plot and characters and making them believable. Besides all the technological input that must go into the game in order to make it playable on the user’s computer, the art for the “look” of the game must be drafted and implemented into three dimensional graphics, while voice-overs and sound effects must be created and integrated into the entire process seamlessly.

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