The World Without Games

The World Without Games
A Question of Manners

Spanner | 7 Mar 2006 11:03
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Videogames have been mired in controversy ever since their conception, providing an all-you-can-eat buffet of flavorless nourishment for the Thought Police to gorge themselves on, before spewing forth self-righteous subjugation in Mr. Creosoteian proportions.

And no bad thing, I say.

If videogames provide the sanctimoniously pious with fodder for grievance, it follows that players must also be enjoying a certain freedom of entertainment with which to annoy them. Keeping an eye on what's got the lobbyists up in arms can be an effective method of deciding on the next game to play.

Were we to remove all vestiges of luxury and pleasure from our lives (aside from an ostentatiously bound Bible or Quran, perhaps), think only Puritan thoughts and wrap ourselves tightly in wool, would it finally silence the twittering voices of those who would have dominion over us?

But people's reasons for protesting about the content of videogames can't be as one-dimensional as having irrepressible control issues. Games, movies, books and TV are a major part of our influences, and shallow as it might sound, these things matter. They have a profound impact on our day to day existence and people have a right to worry about them.

But what's so offensive about someone else enjoying the violence of a computer game? Is it a heartfelt concern that we (the players) will become so immersed in these fantasies that our perceptions will break down with axe-wielding consequences? We hear all the time how inadequately expressed grief and depression cause psychological fatigue, and even damage. So, why wouldn't stifled violent tendencies do the same? Maybe suppressed happiness would cause psychosomatic hemorrhaging if it weren't so acceptable to laugh out loud. Spock certainly had more than his share of emotional problems, didn't he?

The main argument for tighter control of our videogames always seems to stem from a concern that playing out violent or decadent behavior on the screen could ultimately lead to living out similar behavior on the streets. Dick Cavett is well quoted for posing the wry question:

"There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy on the streets?"

Well, kind of. Yeah. Who hasn't re-enacted a funny scene, or retold a joke, or quoted a catchphrase from a film or TV program? It's only reasonable to surmise that videogames also have an impact on a player's behavior. The mistake is in not granting people the credit to be able to differentiate between reality and fantasy; after all, if the distinction between the two was so easily blurred, wouldn't the censors themselves be blood crazed, flesh hungry psychos after screening everything they wanted to ban?

Neither does the gaming industry do itself any favors with feigned surprise and knee-jerk contrariety, claiming all the events, stories, gameplay and gore in videogames is "within context" or "demonstrative of consequence," raising no issue of commerce over morality. These weak, head-in-the- sand arguments don't fool anyone, and serve only to lend weight to the lobbyist's arguments. A videogame developer cannot talk about ongoing commitments to their customer's psychological welfare while holding a chainsaw shaped controller behind his back. These are nebulous wiles that insult the intelligence of players, lobbyists and the public in general. Who wouldn't think more of a developer who stood up and admitted they make violent games because we buy them, and they are not obliged to justify their actions to anyone? Another quick word from the sagely Mr. Cavett:

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