200: War and Peace

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War and Peace

Do pacifists have any place in Counter-Strike? Have online games become the new City Hall steps? Could the next Million Man March be in a virtual world? James McGrath talks to a pair of in-game protesters about anti-war griefing in online games.

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Dammit! There were heaps of us protesting in Star Wars Galaxies, years ago. Check out Cantina Crawl XII. Game protest is not a new thing.

Also, there is a severe lack of non-combat content in sandbox games. A lot of protest derives from that. Not all gamers are intent on killing. Some of us would like alternatives to the ubiquitous violence.

I believe that anybody has the right to use whatever platform they most desire to exercise their freedom of speech and their right to protest.

I admire those who seek to use video games for things the developers never imagined, such as platforms for expression and protest.

It is true that video games (all media, really) sanitize and romanticize warfare.

With that being said, if I get into a game of Unreal Tournament 3 or Halo 3 and somebody is engaging in a peace rally, one of two things will happen: if you are my opponent, you will be marked as an easy kill and you will cost your team a good deal of points; if you are my teammate, you will get a polite yet stern earful about how this is a game, and there is an objective to be met, and if you do not want to work towards that objective then you need to leave.

Sandbox games as protest? Brilliant. Criticizing a game for making war look pretty when war, is indeed, Hell? Perfect. Injecting protests in such a manner that it directly (and negatively) impacts somebody's game play experience? That's disrespectful.

Of course, there are ways to criticize said protests and there are ways to just look like a fool. Telling somebody to "go play with their Barbie" is the latter.

"if I get into a game of Unreal Tournament 3 or Halo 3 and somebody is engaging in a peace rally, one of two things will happen: if you are my opponent, you will be marked as an easy kill and you will cost your team a good deal of points"

Okay, but isn't that kinda the point of the protest? I mean if they're protesting, isn't it a good thing from their perspective if they cost someone points? Protest that bothers no one is not protest. The whole point is to get you motivated to do something about the issue. They don't achieve that by making people like what they're doing.

So these velvet-strike people don't care about stats or competition or getting shot in the face, eh? Someone should pair up peace protesters and achievement boosters in multiplayer games. I believe the saying is 'kill two birds with one stone'?

Good for them, i think they have the right to do whatever they want. That said, if in real life i am tempted to take a gun to a lot of protestors, absolutely nothing is going to stop me on an online FPS that already provides me with a gun. Its not so much that i hate them for being annoying, its just funny to shoot people sometimes.

Protesting in Counterstrike? What dumb idea. They are no better than douchebags who run in the opposite direction and hide to grief everyone. If it was my server, I'd pull out the ban hammer faster that you can say "no good dirty hippy" in a Cartman voice. People play games precisely because they are NOT political. And it is NOT a public space. It is a private server. Get off my lawn.

level250geek:
Sandbox games as protest? Brilliant. Criticizing a game for making war look pretty when war, is indeed, Hell? Perfect. Injecting protests in such a manner that it directly (and negatively) impacts somebody's game play experience? That's disrespectful.

I couldn't agree more. Protest is important, and many games and communities deserve the wrath of protestors, but let's not forget that a game is a game. Some of us are just there to play and we don't appreciate protestors ruining the experience for us.

Protestors often miss a key part of communication: tailoring the message to the audience. If you want gamers to hear you out, don't get in the way of them playing their games. Perhaps they could make an entire mod for a server, kind of like the "birthday" mode that TF2 has. They could even go so far as to show how the same "game" could have an entirely different theme and still be the same game (a la Raph Koster's example of how a game where Nazis pile dead bodies in a hole is the same as Tetris in "A Theory of Fun for Game Design"). There are many ways to get the same message across without angering the people you are trying to impress.

In many studies about video game violence, it has been shown that players ignore the overlying theme, abstracting it away to just the game system below it. Yes, you may be American soldiers killing Nazis or Arabs, but players don't usually consider that consciously; they see targets that need to be clicked on and strafed around. They see objectives that require teamwork and coordination to accomplish. The fact that developers don't seem to be able to get past the xenophobic military theme for these games is a shame, but that doesn't mean the players who enjoy them agree with the themes. Protest to the developers who continually play on these tired tropes, rather than the players who enjoy playing the games beneath them.

By the way, this article's mention of America's Army touches on a key point about maturity ratings and violence. Developers and concerned parents groups alike seem to think that a game that inherently involves violence is somehow less violent and less harmful if they remove the blood and nobody "dies". Clearly that changes the theme, implying that war and guns aren't as harmful and messy as they seem. Obviously us adults know better than that, but perhaps kids who are young enough don't realize the difference. If the only exposure they ever have to weapons amounts to little more than a game of paintball, they may never understand the real danger of violence. Sticking to realism may actually be more ethical. Then again, it unnecessarily constrains the game mechanics, which may hamper the game itself.

Let them protest all they want. More kills for me.

ReverseEngineered:
Protestors often miss a key part of communication: tailoring the message to the audience. If you want gamers to hear you out, don't get in the way of them playing their games. Perhaps they could make an entire mod for a server, kind of like the "birthday" mode that TF2 has. They could even go so far as to show how the same "game" could have an entirely different theme and still be the same game (a la Raph Koster's example of how a game where Nazis pile dead bodies in a hole is the same as Tetris in "A Theory of Fun for Game Design"). There are many ways to get the same message across without angering the people you are trying to impress.

Thank you for saying what I was thinking, except better.

The one commenter above mentions that the point of protests is to get people to do something about whatever you're protesting about, but just angering your audience at YOU instead of at the thing you're protesting isn't helping anyone. Making me angry that you're ruining my favorite server is not going to get me to think deeply about my actions, it is going to encourage me to grief your griefing.

To the two versions of protest in the article, I actually didn't mind the latter example, but the first (Velvet-Strike) annoyed the heck out of me. One man, in a U.S. Army sponsored game protesting? A. He's not really disturbing the gameplay that much (one non-participating person doesn't ruin the game completely, heck, you can barely play any game without at least one griefer of some kind), B. The venue is relevant. For Velvet-Strike, by the same criteria, A. They're destroying the ability to play on that server, B. The venue is arbitrary. (Oh noes!! Simulated violence!! shock/horror) If they wanted to pick mods that were particularly offensive (like the mentioned "shoot the arabic shopkeep"), and protest there, at least it might be relevant, but as it is... ugh.

image

Great article, I love it when people do something nuts in an online game, varies things up a bit. Also agree with the earlier post that they'd get their message across by making an actual game instead of bothering people mid-frag but whose to say which is more effective? Either way the person is going to notice you and what you're saying.

Darkside360:
image

RESPECT OUR AUTHORITAL!!

Several points on this:
A) A privately owned server is not a public space. This Forum is not public space; Escapist allows us to speak here, but they have the owner-derived right to withdraw that privilege at any time. The owners of these servers, likewise, have every right to ban the protesters, if they want to. Or not. It's up to them.

B) Messing up the game for other people doesn't make them think, it just makes them angry. Imagine if the war-lovers ran around yelling "Bang! Bang! You're Dead!" or "American Soldiers protect our lives!" and leaving graffiti to that effect around an anti-war server (if such a thing exists). It's the same thing. These people are cutting into the enjoyment of others for the sake of their political agenda, which won't be advanced this way.

If the anti-war people want to make a point, they can create their own mods, maybe were points are scored by cooperation and helping people, and then invite other players to come join them. Changing hearts is a voluntary process, you can't force it on people.

While i admire there comitment i would hate to come across them. Imagine in counter strike where the bomber sits in a corner ans shouts "Peace!" and your tewma loses for it. Or they stand still in left for dead as "Infected are people too!"
They would be banned faster than you can say "make love not war!"

Games are for the entertainment of individuals and are not public debate and protests medium. Free Speech does not extend to the private sector (Privately run or Corporate run Servers) and there are better ways of getting the word out rather not. Distracting Joe Blow from sniping his buddy from a mile away with a piece sign right in his face is not the way to go. This would only add to the confusion and disgust of many gamers and mark the individual out for virtual death. Not to mention, agitate the company or individual that runs the server.

Here is my list for the protesters:

1) Leave the games alone and go talk to the Corp Reps. I am just a gamer looking for a bit of fun.

2) Free Speech isn't. This is similiar to Friendly Fire isn't. There are areas that the protesters can use and other mediums that are available to them that are allowed under the constitution of the United States. Game servers is definately not public domain since in some form there is payment made to use the service or purchase the game to use the service and is ran by the Corporation that has designed the game.

3) Protesters need to respect the gamers. If they don't, they will find out how short-tempered some of us can be. I am including myself in that last bit since I can be short tempered with someone shoving thier views in my face without asking me or disturbing me in the game. I guess dealing with Gold Spammers does that to me.

I apologize if this offends some of us, but it has been my personal experience that nothing good will come of this if protesters continuously harass players in games. I feel a virtual war coming on.

I am also reminded of what a friend of mine once stated: Why can't we all get along?

EliteCore1:
3) Protesters need to respect the gamers. If they don't, they will find out how short-tempered some of us can be. I am including myself in that last bit since I can be short tempered with someone shoving thier views in my face without asking me or disturbing me in the game.

Agreed. When we go online to blow the crap out of friends and strangers, some of us expect to go to an area where everyone is respectful of each other, and just want to have a good time blowing off some steam or engaging in a good match. When protesters go in and start trying to obstruct our ability to communicate or interact, it really is a major sign of disrespect. Do people like having religious views shoved in their face every time they visit someone's house? Not typically. It's the same for gamers in FPSs.

We know how bad war is. We know that soldiers are dying in the Middle East for something the government wanted to do. Heck, some gamers are probably even in the streets protesting the war. There's no need to bring it up by making it impossible for others to have fun how they want to.

<( - . - )>

my problem with these activists is the same problem I have with all activists - they're so quick to push and shove around their ideas of how the world needs to change they lose focus on how THEY need to change.

At any rate, I personally think it would be funny to face off against people who don't fight back and just send annoying messages. Just hit the mute button, grab your favorite sniper rifle, and get a ton of head shots... next thing you know, there's a ton of bodies laying in the shape of a heart in the middle of the battlefield, you just boosted your stats a lot, AND you basically just made a bloody mosaic... ^_^

As a Warfare Officer "peace" activists really piss me off. They live in their own rose-tinted little world and don't seem to realise that there are bad people out there to whom having a sit-in saying "peace and love" will result in the same thing as in-game. A whole bunch of wasted deaths.

Sure, Iraq has been mishandled and the extensive use of airstrikes in urban environments resulted in awful civilian casualties. That is not the beginning and end of the topic.

The Green Political Party here in New Zealand expressed a wish to remove the combat element from our Armed Forces and to teach civilians non-violent non-cooperation. Clearly these so-called peace activists have not done their research on what it means to be an occupied nation. They complain about the occupation of Tibet and the suffering of people there, but the only way to avoid occupation is to fight alongside other right-minded countries.

And after I come back home from a deployment where I have been defending civilians from violent scum it would be nice to blow off some steam in a safe environment without some beatnik telling me that we should all exhibit "peace and love".

Sorry dude, you need to get the message to the other guy. And if you go calling on him you'll get decapitated and videotaped.
You want to really help? Get a haircut and enlist.

Scubamike1978:
As a Warfare Officer "peace" activists really piss me off. They live in their own rose-tinted little world and don't seem to realise that there are bad people out there to whom having a sit-in saying "peace and love" will result in the same thing as in-game. A whole bunch of wasted deaths.

Sure, Iraq has been mishandled and the extensive use of airstrikes in urban environments resulted in awful civilian casualties. That is not the beginning and end of the topic.

The Green Political Party here in New Zealand expressed a wish to remove the combat element from our Armed Forces and to teach civilians non-violent non-cooperation. Clearly these so-called peace activists have not done their research on what it means to be an occupied nation. They complain about the occupation of Tibet and the suffering of people there, but the only way to avoid occupation is to fight alongside other right-minded countries.

And after I come back home from a deployment where I have been defending civilians from violent scum it would be nice to blow off some steam in a safe environment without some beatnik telling me that we should all exhibit "peace and love".

Sorry dude, you need to get the message to the other guy. And if you go calling on him you'll get decapitated and videotaped.
You want to really help? Get a haircut and enlist.

I second this.

Beery:
"if I get into a game of Unreal Tournament 3 or Halo 3 and somebody is engaging in a peace rally, one of two things will happen: if you are my opponent, you will be marked as an easy kill and you will cost your team a good deal of points"

Okay, but isn't that kinda the point of the protest? I mean if they're protesting, isn't it a good thing from their perspective if they cost someone points? Protest that bothers no one is not protest. The whole point is to get you motivated to do something about the issue. They don't achieve that by making people like what they're doing.

But there are effective protests, and there are pointless exercises in self-righteousness. Your team doesn't care about your political views; they want you to pull your weight. If you don't pull your weight, they boot you. They won't listen to what you're saying and they will not respect your creativity.

The best kind of protest doesn't force people to listen to you, because all that does is piss people off. The best protest reaches across the aisle and invite the opposition on to your turf, or has you going on to their turf and using non-invasive, yet highly visible tactics.

This is stupid.

Do they really have to bring politics into video games? I play video games to escape from politics. Now it's following me everywhere.

"They're part of a community protesting the virtual warfare in Counter-Strike the same way real-world protesters would - by generally making nuisances of themselves."

Oh come on. Straw man isn't even beginning to describe this. You want to decry some misguided people who can't get it though their heads that video game violence and real world violence are unrelated, fine. But leave real world protestors out of it.

All other considerations aside, this sort of protest is also self-defeating. "Attacking" people in places where they want to play and relax is far more likely to bend their mindset more against your cause than it is likely to gain their empathy. Protesting outside of a bar is fine, but if you follow people inside and keep shouting your slogans at them while they're trying to have a beer and watch the big game, they're more apt to get angry at you and then transfer that aggravation to your message.

"Wow! These people are playing a game that simulates war. We should just assume they don't realize it's just a video game! Because everybody else on this planet is retarded and believes everything they hear! Not us though, that is why we believe in global warming in God!"

That is what I assume is their thought processes at this point.

Have had that before, Guy throwing grenades and shooting me from up above for playing what i payed for so i shot him in the ass took his sniper spot and got everyone to go for him

"-Look! Those persons are having fun.
-Oh My! This is totally wrong.
-Yeah! They are having fun with virtual murder, which has no consequence on the real world and helps with the stress.
-We should do something.
- I know, lets throw a big bunch of grenades to where they are, while shouting loudly. Because grenades are totally safe, aren't they?
- Of Course!"

That's how those jerks think.

Interesting, how one women can get the wrong message and take it up way too far into a place that games were never mant for.

But they have their opinions, and i have mine, they should keep theirs to themselves.

Nothing quite like alienating your audience for getting their attention, I guess... but I don't think you're going to like the results. Stuff like in-game peace protests is going to be even less effective than those idiot streakers that used to infest public events, most notably the Oscars; David Niven's response, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?", is pretty much mine to a "peace" protester in an online game.

Dude. Go find a more constructive way to convey your politics than interfering in the few hours a week I can dedicate to games.

-- Steve

who are you going to sway by just annoying people playing a video game and even then you get into a server with at most 30 or so other people when there are millions who play these types of games online protesters should stop wasting our time and theirs.

Clemenstation:
So these velvet-strike people don't care about stats or competition or getting shot in the face, eh? Someone should pair up peace protesters and achievement boosters in multiplayer games. I believe the saying is 'kill two birds with one stone'?

I know that sounds awesome. "Let me shoot you in the face, then maybe I will consider joining your protest." I seriously doubt that protesting in the very thing your against is the best way to go about protesting. Its like telling people not to smoke while you smoke. At the end of the day you will still be using the game that your protesting against, to protest.

hmmmm.....haven't met any tree hugging hippies on the console multiplayer games. Is this a pc only pandemic?

I hate these morons, but on the fortunate side I know a lot of the admins on a majority of the servers I frequent.

A swift banhammer - it's all they deserve. Just because they are confused about their message doesn't mean they're any better than the common griefer - worse, because ordinary griefers manage to be hilarious occasionally, and aren't this bloody stupid.

Moralfags are the cancer that is killing gaming.

Video games are mostly a political medium. But anti-violence and video games is the most ridiculous subject. Video games are an area where we can live without dire consequences, and interact in worlds to achive goals. It is the achieving of goals in the game that pulls people to it. If people play violent video games, it's not because the endorse violence, it's because it is a system of rules that engages their mind most actively. They are able to immerse their mind into the experience more completely because on a purely visual and audio level it arouses them (not in a sexual way) the same way real violence would, only to a lesser degree. No other visual medium, except violence (and perhaps sex) is going to generate that kind of arousal.

Now, if they want to get a political message across,(and I agree that the games are already generally politicized, and, like gothic fiction, usually have some sort of vague axe to grind) then I think they should mod their own games. If they want the consequences of war to be a big part of it, then they need to create an entertaining way for people to feel those consequences and interact with them, and make them a part of their goals. I have thought about this a lot, would love to design a FUN GAME that does this.

Video games are a wierd medium. In the PC world, the vast majority of gamers are WHITE MEN with expendable income. Servers are often extremely hostile to people of other races, and in general to women. Women who play online have to do deal with all kinds of anti-social misogynist behavoir. By coming into the server and simply trying to break the goal system, it may be a protest, but it is alienating. Now, if they started servers that operated well, presented various kinds of the material desired, but promoted respect, then it could be done. Have they thought of starting a server that posts anti-war news articles upon entering? That bans the use of misogynist words like, bitch, whore, cunt and racist words, etc.? These are very important things. Maybe this way women and people who arn't of european decent would feel comfortable in the forum. This would be a way to use the medium in a positive manner to convey the message.

For now, going all peace mode in server is working against the people they are trying to communicate with. Despite what they might think, people are very used to this, and already have a reaction in mind. For one, we deal with hackers, spammers, griefers, ass-hats, racists, and heterosexists all the time, and what we do is tune them out if they're mild, and we ban them if they interfere with gameplay. These kinds of protests are just more griefing/hacking/spamming, and to many, since they arn't anti-war, it is ass-hatish. (it's ass hatish to even me). I am anti-war. I agree with the message that we do have a responsibility to prevent wars we disagree with as tax payers. But I play counter-strike. I dont' play counter-strike to shoot arabs (I very often play as the "arabs, or south americans, or vaguely white peopel in aviator glasses, or the dude in the ski mask who could be anything", as everyone does) I play on servers that don't allow racism or disrespect. I have had quality interactions on those servers and made friends who might turn into people I meet and have a dialogue with in person. I say something when people start griefing a girl for playing. I do a lot of things to make sure my experience is not one that feels disjunctive to my real life. I live with a gay black man and straight jew and I genuinely like women as more than sex objects, and it is important for me not to feel as if I am endorsing racist, misogynist, disrespectful behavoir.

So, in counter-strike, I have learned something far more important than what a heartshaped group of dead people will teach me. I have learned that war involves dying. Most counter-strike games end with 95% of each side dead. The vast majority. I die every 3 minutes in counter-strike. Do I want to go die every three minutes in real life? Do I want to kill people? No. The politics of this particular game are not politics at all. Neither side is demonized, there is no f'ing plot! I often think of myself as fighting off the counter-terrorist just incase I have to fight against a government for my rights one day. In a vague far off sense that feels important.

I really, strongly recommend that these people embrace the good things about team-oriented violent video games, and get creative about using the fact that the forum does exist to inform and ENGAGE. Not just some onesided discussion of "i'm right, you're wrong so I'm going to ruin your night."

Besides that, shoudln't the protesters be worried that there is no public space more than they should be worried about what people do with their mice and keyboaryds late at night?

Whatever, I've typed myself out. I can't wait to see all the tl:dr posts.

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