Extra Consideration

Extra Consideration
The School Shooter Mod, Part 2

Extra Consideration | 23 May 2011 19:30
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imageJim Sterling: If it's bad due to its gameplay and current visual state, then yeah, I agree. I don't expect School Shooter to actually be very good at all, and I don't expect the developer cares all that much. On that we can all agree. However, let's say a more talented developer with a lot more time creates a School Shooter game from the ground up. Not like Super Columbine Massacre -- which comes with lengthy essays justifying the game and its message -- but exactly like School Shooter. No deep meaning, no morality, just a sandbox school environment in which you shoot up classmates and teachers for no reason. Would you still say it's bad? Are we saying the game is bad due to its slapdash visuals and gameplay? Or are we saying its bad just because we read an article about it and don't like attitude that the game espouses?

School Shooter does bear some analysis. The fact we've managed to squeeze so many words out of it right here is proof positive that the game can be discussed and debated intellectually. I think any game, no matter how shallow, can be analyzed on some level. As bad as this particular game may be, I still believe that the controversy surrounding it has exposed the hypocrisy of gamers within the community -- people who have indulged in Grand Theft Auto kill frenzies or have an ironic soft spot for the Postal series. People who are fine with the random murder of innocent and not-so-innocent human beings, provided it's not so contemporary that they cannot safely rationalize it with convoluted justifications.

In the end, it's definitely made a few people examine what they're doing in all types of videogames, and look at virtual death in a new way.

That may not have been Pawnstick's intention when he made School Shooter - in fact it's highly doubtful he had any goal outside of attention - but it was a nice side-effect. For that, I'm glad the mod was put out there.

imageJames Portnow: Ah! Now we have it!

I'd argue that we haven't been analyzing the game at all, rather we've been analyzing the state of the medium. In our discussion I could replace School Shooter with Zionist Occupied Government and it wouldn't really change much. So I would turn the question in reverse and say: what if a much more skilled developer with many more resources made a game with no deep meaning and no morality that's just a sandbox where you shoot up African Americans and homosexuals, would you say it's bad?

imageJim Sterling: Ooh, slick.

Yet easy for me to answer. If the game is well developed, and the gameplay is actually good, then no, one could not, by rights, call it a fundamentally bad game. It would be a fairly grotesque and bigoted game, and I'd be about as interested as playing it as I am School Shooter (as in, not interested at all), but there is a chance that they made a good game that just so happened to promote an utterly corrupt and dreadful message. In that instance, I wouldn't call it "bad" - not when there are far more accurate words I could use to describe it.

I would compare your example to the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation. It featured people in blackface, portraying black people as stupid sex pests. A fairly dimwitted and despicable stereotype, for sure. However, Birth of a Nation is praised for its contribution to film as a groundbreaking piece of cinema. Yes, some of the messages within it are dubious and its racist elements are pretty gross, but it was a technically good film, not something one can simply and crudely write off as "bad."

And didn't they make a game where you just shoot black people? I heard they called it Resident Evil 5 (and we all did lol.)

imageJames Portnow: Bwahahaha... I was just having a discussion with Crispin Freeman this weekend about Birth of a Nation. I believe it wound up with me saying that I would definitively say that it has an important place in the history of film, but that it didn't meet my standards for "good" or "art" (as opposed to Intolerance, which certainly does).

Still, the point is well made, and I would agree: a "perfected" morality free school shooter is something I would call grotesque, disturbed and promoting an utterly corrupt and dreadful message, but I would never say that we couldn't learn from it just because of these factors (although in my book these factors would actually lead me to call it "bad").

Much as there was much to be learnt about film technique and cinematography from Birth, I think a game of this nature might be able to teach us things about mechanics and systems, despite its turpitude.

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