The School Shooter Mod, Part 2

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Interesting discussion.

While a game needs neither be pleasant or moral at all in its themes and messages to be "good", and to have serious artistic merit[1], I'd also agree that merely having the technical execution down doesn't in and of itself make for a good game (merely a competent one).

What is important is that it raise questions, provoke thought, demands response, emotional engagement, and immersion from the player. The themes of it can be dark as all hell, as can the lessons it'll make you ponder, and none of that will impair its ability to be a work of serious literary and artistic merit; pleasantries and inoffensiveness are certainly not requirements for greatness.

Where the school shooting mod in question fails is not that it deals with a controversial issue - nor even that it takes perspective of the "bad" side in it - but that by all accounts it actually doesn't deal with it; it just use it as a fašade to attract attention and controversy to an otherwise bland shooting gallery, making it a hollow and empty offering not worth anyone's time.


As for Bob's musings over whether a visual novel depicting school shootings exist, I can't really name anyone (although a few deal with students slaughtering each other, like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and some endings of School Days). You can certainly find some which are exceedingly dark in tone, theme, and message while maintaining an incredible level of literary quality and artistic merit though.

[1] In fact, those which are so are usually quite boring and bland.


I also don't buy the "it's hypocritical of the gaming public! They shoot down civilians in GTA!". Just because other games do that doesn't make this one any more right. I'm reminded of MovieBob's "Big Picture" episode on how one of the characters in Thor was black, check it out as it can sort of apply to what I'm saying. Just because other games let you mow down civilians (and do so much better with legitimate social commentary (at least some of the times) does not make the situation in School Shooter any less offensive or disgusting. Sure, free speech n' all, I don't care what the guy makes, but my point stands.

The difference here is that GTA is a sandbox game, and hands you the premise of being a criminal. It also punishes you for the act - if a policeman sees you, you are arrested and bribe your way out. Of course it isn't an equivalent punishment for mass murder, but there are mechanics involved to make sure you understand that what you're doing is still wrong. But it IS a crime world sandbox, based on so many crime movies where this is the case.

As CJ on GTA San Andreas, I'd literally only kill the drug dealers because a) they were annoying, b) they had lots of money, and c) they shot back. Civilians barely did it for me and CJ wasn't a simple thug to me.

Sure, they present the option, but it doesn't mean you have to take it. And look for cues as to how they handle you taking it. There are entire narrative AND gameplay constraints that make it work as satire and parody - and this helps to justify the mass murder of pixels.

Re: Birth of a Nation--you could say the same sort of things about No Country for Old Men, which has a dreadful theme but is very well-executed technically.

Oh, and James, it's "a different TACK", not TACT. TACT is what you exercise when you don't tell someone how horrible their haircut is. Your TACK is the angle you take when you are sailing against the wind.

On the other hand, why aren't we, collectively, similarly outraged by GTA and games like it? Perhaps you are, and you would have every right to be, but why wasn't the same debate raised within the gaming community when GTA was released? Personally, I think it's for two reasons:
1)The non-gaming community was against it, and so we united against them.
2)Killing civilians was not the main point of the game. A player can go on killing sprees if they want to, but that's not what the game is about. A game like School Shooter shoves the civilian killing right in your face and has nothing else to redeem it. I other words, we are willing to overlook and even participate in some morally questionable things as long as there's something there beyond doing bad stuff because it's bad. However, this does not necessarily excuse this behavior.

What do you think?

I pretty much agree with you, GTA is a much more well crafted game than School Shooter and it's never the only option. While the criminal you're playing as takes part in a ton of illicit activities, in the end they almost always get their comeuppance. The whole series is well known for its satire/parody of the modern world, and while it's not always clear, it clearly has more thought put into it than this desperate cry for attention.

Also, I watched the Big Picture episode in question (Skin Deep, yes?) and while it was good, I'm not sure how it was relevant to this issue. Could you clear that up for me?

In retrospect it's probably not really related, but I felt that when he said "Yes, it's a double standard, so what?" about how it's okay to change a white character to an ethnicity and not the other way around, in kind of resembled how it's okay for GTA to let you go on rampages yet this one is not.

Also also, Dear Captcha. I cannot type Chinese characters on this keyboard.

Well, better get used to it, they'll be bigger than Jesus soon enough ;)

Oh, and James, it's "a different TACK", not TACT. TACT is what you exercise when you don't tell someone how horrible their haircut is. Your TACK is the angle you take when you are sailing against the wind.

Tact: skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. First definition I got from googling the word.
And I think this stupid mod should be boycotted, not because of the school shooter themes (tasteless, but not the worst thing ever), but because of what the developer says about the medium, both through this game and the interview here on the Escapist. Saying that games can't have a deep meaning (not just that they could be fun without them) is just wrong. Screw this guy.


Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.

Its funny you mention Dead Space 2, a game that explicitly involves slicing apart the corpses of dead children in the name of survival. The devs could've introduced an interesting capture mechanic in the case of the kids, or made the children some almighty swarm whose appearance beckons a 'run away' segment, or just done away with them altogether in favour for a different flavour of necromorph, but no. As crass an attention grab as any. I love the game, but I literally see no possible way to argue that the addition of kid zombies in that game was anything other then a blatant attempt to hit another creep switch via taboo.

Jims point was that is killing virtual teens really so far removed from killing virtual men, women, animals etc. as to make the latter not only acceptable but something done in the millions daily, and to make the prior disgusting in the extreme?

I can see what he's saying to be honest. I think we should ignore the game because the game seems really shit. I don't think we should demonise it though. Just pop it in the bin with all the other pointless, artless wank in the gaming world. It doesn't deserve the notoriety.

@Bob: I think it's called Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Please, take this troll who's only here to disagree, repeat a single point and be obnoxious of the otherwise all-star best VIP club the escapist did by creating Extra Consideration.
No, I don't need to say who because everyone knows who.

Dammit Jim stop being the most reasonable person in the world. Dead or Alive is more honest than Dragon Age or ME, thank gawd someone finally said it.

Unfortunately I'm gonna be lame and skip to the end since I don't have the time to read this thread. So if someone else thought on this, well, sorry.

You can't really make Call of Duty out of it, for example... but perhaps it could be a "stealth" game where you (the shooter) try to get out of the place alive post-massacre. Or you could "No Russian" it - have the protagonist be less-than-totally-sold-on-it co-conspirator with options to follow-through or subvert the "leader's" actions. Or better yet, a "survival" game where you're an innocent student/teacher trying to survive/escape the actual event by evading/resisting the shooters - maybe with a mechanic to lead others to safety (seriously, that JUST crossed my mind and now I'm wondering why it doesn't exist yet?) And hey... there's always the option of playing from the perspective of a police/SWAT man/team on the scene - something in the vein of Hostages aka Rescue: The Embassy Mission.

None of those have to be the sole game mechanic. I don't know if you'd need to do it as interactive drama similar to Heavy Rain, but certainly take hints with how they handled the narrative. Have one scenario where you play as different characters. Maybe play as the co-conspirator first, and certain decisions will effect the next couple chapters of the story. Maybe you come across an intersection where the lead gunman decides to split up and you choose which path to take. Path A intersects with a survivor that you will play as later, and Path B will intersect with cops or SWAT members to result in a shoot-out. If you choose Path A, and then at one point choose to spare some people, then when you play as the civilian in Path A and run into the co-conspirator he will simply let you try to escape. However, if your path of escape in any way intersects with Path B, where the lead gunman will have a shoot-out with the police, then there's a chance you could die trying to escape after getting caught in the crossfire (or any survivors you have trailing behind you Dead Rising style).

Damn, the possibilities for such a game are amazing. You'd get to analyze a tragic event from multiple perspectives, allow the player to choose how they want to go out (surrender, guns blazing, or suicide as options for the lead gunman as an example) and, most importantly, explore it in a manner that can be referred to as art.

God dammit, I hate playing armchair game designer because it always makes me want to play whatever I come up with.

I have to agree with Bob, and strongly disagree with Jim.

Why does our discussion of games always come in two parts: mechanical execution and narrative. Almost every reviewer does it. And what's worse, each reviewer almost always treats one as more important than the other. Yahtzee, for instance, seems to treat game mechanics as far more important than story (see Portal 2 review).

Granted, being that games are interactive by their very nature, this stance sort of makes sense, but that doesn't mean that the narrative of the game is to be dismissed. And, to be fair, Yahtzee did balance it out toward the end of the review.

My point, however, still stands, and that is why I disagree with Jim. As far as School Shooter is concerned, he is divorcing the mechanics and narrative of the game and trying to claim that school shooter is, at the very least, not "bad" because it doesn't try to be pretentious and vaguely justify its killing with a paltry context, like GTA.

But I stand by my point when I posted on the previous part's comments, that the context does make a difference. I expand that point now by saying that we can't divorce the context/narrative from the mechanics and judge a game as good or bad simply based on one or the other. Even GTA has a context and as far as the context is concerned, the Silent Guy, Tommy Verceti, and Niko Bellic didn't go on those random killing rampages. They killed the people in the way to their goal, and the people who were trying to kill them. I mean, why is that not an acceptable context in a game, but Scarface is a highly-held piece of art in the exact same context?

The two aspects of gaming are together, and have to be treated as such when trying to make an "objective" classification of good or bad. A game can't generally be "good" based only on mechanics, or based only on story. Sure, as a player, I love Shenmue because I love its story, even though its mechanics are kinda crap. But I gave up long ago trying to explain this to people who don't like it, and I totally get why they don't like the game.

But I digress, context and mechanics are two sides of one coin, two halves of a whole (cliche power activate ^_^), you can't judge a game based on one or the other. And you can't say that School Shooter somehow has merit (or even that it doesn't lack merit) because it's "honest" about it's subject matter, as opposed to all those games that are giving a "flimsy" excuse for the killing.


Tact: skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. First definition I got from googling the word.

And it's still the wrong word for James to use in that last sentence of his. People often don't know where their idiomatic expressions come from so they use the wrong words within them a lot. Taking a different tack was originally a nautical expression. It's now used to mean that you're attempting a different approach. It doesn't have anything to do with tact of any definition.

Jim Sterling is much more interesting here than in his video series where he yells.

Re: BioWare--romance is a frequent subplot in genre fiction, and especially epic fantasy and space opera, the two genres BioWare plays with the most. And rather than making the love interest a mere trophy to be won (eg, DragonQuest) or a scripted, non-interactive romance (eg, Final Fantasy VII), BioWare tries to make it part of the actual "role-playing". You can quibble with the execution, or maybe the romance is not to your taste, but to suggest it's tacked on would be wrong.

It's like the difference between Atlas Shrugged (Part 1 of 3!!!!) and Iron Man 2. They come from the same source material (awful objectivist bull, from my perspective) with the same basic story in mind, but while one is awful one is a lot of fun. I find the source material reprehensible but still enjoyed Iron Man 2 and would call it 'good'.

Apologies for going off-topic, but I find it hilarious that some libertarians/Objectivists hold up Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 as some kind of personal hero, while completely ignoring the fact that he and his father built their business empire almost entirely on government contracts paid for with taxpayer dollars.


But I digress, context and mechanics are two sides of one coin, two halves of a whole (cliche power activate ^_^), you can't judge a game based on one or the other. And you can't say that School Shooter somehow has merit (or even that it doesn't lack merit) because it's "honest" about it's subject matter, as opposed to all those games that are giving a "flimsy" excuse for the killing.

You know what, I'm going to say it.

Narrative IS a game mechanic. No, it isn't an automated rule or system that's in place to make the game a game, but it IS what provides context for the story. Back in the day it was the arcade cabinet - with all of the artwork so we can make sense of the pixels. Later it was manuals of mythology and backstory. Later it was cutscenes that interrupted gameplay. Today, it's much more integrated, and that's a direction we should head in. Story can and should be told through gameplay, and they should be part of the whole.

Without context, Monopoly is just a game where one trades pieces of paper for other pieces of paper. The money, the deeds, etc, that's all part of the context and provide the value to the individual pieces.

Of course, this isn't always the case. Most modern games (particularly of the cutscene, gameplay, cutscene style) have the games narrative get in the way of the games themselves. But games work best where the narrative is woven into everything - from the rules, the art direction, and on. A sound game design SHOULD include a cohesive narrative flow.

You know what would have been great? If all involved parties had answered the question of whether or not the mod was worth the attention by not saying anything. That would have been hilarious and meaningful.

Extra Consideration:
Extra Consideration: The School Shooter Mod, Part 2

The boys finally finish off the School Shooter mod.

Read Full Article

Sorry, Jim. I think you're just trying too hard to be an apologist on behalf of this game. And as hard as you're trying, the folks behind School Shooter are equally not trying. And that's the problem.

Making a game that is unapologetically about awful things (in whatever guise "awful" may take) is one thing. There's a certain amount of honesty to it, yes. Duke Nukem has that sort of "internal honesty." School Shooter does not.

What makes the difference? Credibility, for one. In a legendary "dick move" in music, John Cage premiered a work entitled 4'33" in 1952. It was basically four minutes and thirty-three seconds of a musician sitting silently on a stage. The idea behind it is that the sounds of the environment were the actual music, or so goes the claim. It's still a controversial piece in the discussion of what is/isn't music.

Now, let's say I pulled a stunt like that. Not even a blip on the radar. Why? For starters, Cage did it in the 1950's. But also, Cage composed a lot of great music before and after that. He demonstrated that he can do a lot of great stuff with music, and in doing so assured the public that the oddity of something like 4'33" was by choice.

See, an artist really only has two places in which to display mastery--mastery of the medium (technique within the medium), and mastery of the message (the ability to convey a "theme," in whatever form that might take). Cage established his credentials in the area of medium, and then set it aside for sake of message--but without the context created by his earlier demonstrations of mastery, it would just have been dismissed as a bullshit stunt.

The folks behind stuff like School Shooter aren't demonstrating anything in terms of technique. At the same time, they are openly stating that it's not supposed to have any message. So what are we left with to judge this as "good?" No mastery of the medium, no mastery of message. It's just a bullshit stunt with no deeper meaning.

I personaly don't narative or setting can stop a game from being good (of course they can make a good game better) as for me a game has to first and foremost play well and be enjoyable on that front. Great gameplay could negate a horrible narrative but not vice versa, if school shooter played incredibly I would consider it equal to the call of duty's/bioshocks/unreal tournament's of the gaming industry.

A survive-the-school-shooting-game? Yeah, I'm pretty sure someone did that. As a custom game in Halo 3.

The closest thing I can recall to "School Shooter" of Japan would be a Manga/Anime/Novel and i think even a live action movie called Battle Royal ( the movie).

It's amazing how much I find Jim easier to tolerate in an article discussing something intellectually than when he's on a video attempting to be funny. It's probably been the first time that I've read something by him that I've actually laughed at.
And assuming it wasn't Bob or James who brought out this new behaviour out of him, why does Jimquisition exist, again?

On the second page, Jim said this:

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.

This is why I cannot even take him seriously on this topic. As I commented in response to their last debate on the topic, comparing Grand Theft Auto to School Shooter is like comparing Steven Colbert to Bill O'Reilly. If you can't see the difference between a gleefully over-the-top narrative fantasy of criminal life and a mindless, brutal, meaningless recreation of horrifying real-life events you're either mentally handicapped or a total sociopath and if it's Jim's opinion that School Shooter is no more offensive than other games, well, his opinion is wrong.

School Shooter is possibly the most offensive game ever made because it exists for only one reason- because the vile scumbag troll who is made it thinks it's cool to piss on the graves of the innocents who have died in school shootings. He's doesn't have a statement to make or any agenda other than offending people and making them angry. That's why the game itself is completely crap- because he didn't want to make a game at all, he just wanted to upset, offend and enrage people. This is NOT freedom of artistic expression. That fucker is a complete monster, the mod is indefensible and anyone who uniroincally tries is probably a complete asshole (but then again, Jim basically trades on his reputation as a complete asshole anyway, so no surprise there).

Ursus Buckler:
It's amazing how much I find Jim easier to tolerate in an article discussing something intellectually than when he's on a video attempting to be funny. It's probably been the first time that I've read something by him that I've actually laughed at.
And assuming it wasn't Bob or James who brought out this new behaviour out of him, why does Jimquisition exist, again?

He'd said it was to make fun of youtube pundits. Now he seems to have become that in video media.


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