97: It's Only a Wii Bit of Violence

"Replace a gun with a hammer or a sword, and the actions the player must use to control the onscreen action are even more tangibly violent in nature. Suddenly, the Wii's propensity to make players more animated takes on a much more sinister connotation."

It's Only a Wii Bit of Violence

What are you trying to say? I don't think you're implying that the input scheme somehow fundamentally separates violent content on the Wii from violence on any other hardware. Is your point that the people who already don't like video games are going to use this to reinforce their bias? Well that's a huge shocker. I mean, nobody could possibly have imagined that the people who took Mortal Kombat to Capitol Hill, or who raised a ruckus over the fantasy that there were genitalia in The Sims 2, would also cry wolf over waving a remote. I'm a little disappointed that it took three pages to say something so obvious, but I'm more disappointed at the opinion espoused here. We shouldn't make good games (this is, of course, assuming that representative gestures make a game better, which is something the author seems to concede), because the anti-game crusaders will use it against us? Have they not demonstrated time and time again that they'll find all the ammunition they need, and if they can't find it, they'll make some up?

If we want to put an end to all this punditry, the thing to do is to prove now, when it matters, that games are a medium with maturity and integrity. Ignore the critics and they will eventually go away. The more we act like we have something to prove, the truer it will be. Look at what happened to comic books when they caved in to the Comics Code Authority: forty years later, what kind of a reputation do they have? We don't want that to happen to games.

[...]the game indsutry needs to be absolutely above reproach.

I beg to disagree. I think we'd be playing the game of those who want to castrate the industry if we'd lower our heads and comply. I believe that a noticeable dose of imperfection, chaos, is nececssary. Controversy does help more often than we think, if only to point out societal issues.
If Nintendo don't do it, it's likely that another company will come with explicit controllers for more or less violent games.

The point here is that Nintendo, which have seemingly always been one of our best arguments to defend the industry's virtue, may be about to bite into the forbidden fruit.

It's about time! :D

All the titles mentioned as examples of violent games are already rated M (or the equivalent). Are you suggesting the ESRB should consider rating these games AO?

If the current ratings are enforced (an optimistic view), then impressionable younger players won't be playing M-rated games and there is little need for further restriction. It seems unlikely that a psychologically healthy 18-year-old would be heavily influenced by the the input method.

If the ratings are not enforced and the violence in Wii games has a greater psychological impact, assigning such games an AO rating would be overinclusive. Most retailers won't carry games with that rating, and adults would be denied access. Developers of M-rated games wouldn't port them to Wii to avoid the danger of such a market blackout.

It would be an interesting reversal of fortunes if Nintendo were to go from using a kid-friendly marketing slant to effectively having a coerced kid-friendly policy because of a corresponding violence penalty imposed by the ratings board.

I'm having a hard time differentiating between pointing a remote game controller at an onscreen enemy and using my finger as a pretend gun when I was little. For that matter, our pretend light sabre fights using wrapping paper rolls were "tangibly violent" as well.

Are we underestimating the grasp of fantasy vs. reality possesed by most people, children included? Violent play is fairly prevalent. I don't think the Wii controller is introducing an increased level of danger to anyone.

gcason:
I'm having a hard time differentiating between pointing a remote game controller at an onscreen enemy and using my finger as a pretend gun when I was little. For that matter, our pretend light sabre fights using wrapping paper rolls were "tangibly violent" as well.

Are we underestimating the grasp of fantasy vs. reality possesed by most people, children included? Violent play is fairly prevalent. I don't think the Wii controller is introducing an increased level of danger to anyone.

I hesitate to speak for the author, but my take on his argument is that the level of immersion offered by the Wiimote is akin to "virtually" throwing a punch, and then seeing the effect on an (again virtual) enemy. Sure, the Christmas wrapping paper tube lightsabres were imaginary, but so was the damage. With the Wii you're holding an imaginary weapon, but but the result of your violent actions (while still, admittedly, virtual) are rendered in satisfying, full-color 3D. Meanwhile the physical action brings it our of the remote, purely imaginary realm occupied by most videogame violence. The difference here is between playing a fighting game on a standard console and using a punching bag with someone's face taped to it.

I'm not sure I agree with the thought, but that's my understanding of it. But even if we are breaking this new ground with the Wii's control scheme, I don't necessarily see a problem with it. The onus is still on the consumer to retain control of their grasp of reality and not get all funny in the head over beating up virtual people.

I think there would have been more brouhaha if something like the Wii's control interface existed on the 360 or PS3, where graphics are more realistic.

I think the crux of the debate over whether violent gaming enables violent behavior centers on whether empathy for other human beings is the key impulse inhibiting violent behavior.

If so, it doesn't matter how "realistic" an image is. What matters is the fundamental ability to understand that a bunch of pixels is not a human being.

I probably should go rent The Godfather before I make this post but i'll drop my opinion anyway. So far with the wii I've used the controller as a surgeon's scalpel, a steering wheel and (loosely)as a cartoon hero's sword.

I have to say though i have to wonder what it's going to feel like when the game has me using it to simulate vigorously bludgeoning a very human looking character to death. I seriously think that's going to be something not many people have ever experienced personally.

I'm trying to imagine the scenario. You turn around, see some psycho coming at you with a knife, your pulse quickens, flight or fight instinct kicks in, you raise your baseball bat at the same time your heart rate skyrockets, you start bashing away with all your REAL energy. blood sprays from his head as he collapses to the floor, time decompresses back to normal as you catch your breath.

The thing is, so far the Wii can be played strictly armchair, but what if Manhunt actually expects you to put some serious oomf into your weapon swings? what if it is entirely necessary to get on your feet with your blood pumping? of course this is all currently speculation.

I do however truly believe that once a game puts me in the scenario I described (actually moving my muscles in response to fear stimuli rather than mashing a button), then the industry might have to take a good hard look at the situation.

court12b:
I do however truly believe that once a game puts me in the scenario I described (actually moving my muscles in response to fear stimuli rather than mashing a button), then the industry might have to take a good hard look at the situation.

I'm of two minds on this. ON the one hand, I agree that once we've crossed that barrier between pushing buttons to create an on-screen action and actually mimicking that action, with the stimuli described, we've gone a step towards blurring the line between games and life.

But the other half of my brains thinks this is awesome, and exactly what we've been clamoring for since we started playing computer games. And it thinks that we will still be able to tell the difference between games and life.

court12b:
I'm trying to imagine the scenario. You turn around, see some psycho coming at you with a knife, your pulse quickens, flight or fight instinct kicks in, you raise your baseball bat at the same time your heart rate skyrockets, you start bashing away with all your REAL energy. blood sprays from his head as he collapses to the floor, time decompresses back to normal as you catch your breath.

OMG - When does this game come out? That sounds awesome.

I know, I know, I'm missing the political ramifications. I can't help it. This is the immersion I've always wanted.

What about flight sims? The interface is almost exaclty as it is in reality - throttle, rudder and joystick. You kill people in fliught sims. So you are saying that all flight sims should be rated AO?

I know what i think...

Also there was significant research carried out that films are more not less immersive than games. I forget the link but someone will be along with it soon i am sure...

I think it is far more important to get army HR personel to stop hanging around stores that sell games like Halo 3, hoping to get people to join up, than to worry about the Wii. Human beings have been imagining violent behavior since before we had a word for violence.

http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-7530211269500857329&q=shaguar

this is a pretty funny documentary i mean the guy is a tool, but if you skip to near the end you'll see that his research into the area has games coming out below media such as films for influencing them to act atrociously etc etc. Films are still far more engrossing and i don't want to know the day a kid learns to wield a hammer using a remote....

 

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