Guns. There are few topics more divisive in the politics of America today than gun control, yet games are full of them and their very presence merely fuels the political debate.
On the one hand there are people who believe (justifiably) that guns are dangerous. That accidents happen when guns are around and, even worse, that those with an eye for causing mayhem will turn first to readily available guns. The University of Texas was just last month the scene of a shooting spree that darkly echoed the historic bell tower shootings that ended 16 lives in 1966. The point of view of those who oppose the sale and ownership of guns is that, since these things can happen, they will happen and we, as members of a reasonable and polite society, should do what we can to prevent them.
On the other hand are those who believe (rightly) that the right to own guns, as written into the United States Constitution as Amendment number two, is as fundamental to Americans as that of free speech (Amendment number one). This point of view holds that the very freedoms we hold dear (up to and including those two Amendments) came about as the result of the actions of a few brave men bearing arms and that to protect them we should preserve that legacy. Gun rights advocates believe that, since bad things can and do happen, prevention is a less reasonable course of action than preparation for the unlikely event.
Neither side in this debate is crazy, and it’s that very fact which makes the debate nigh insoluble. You will not convince a gun rights advocate that they do not need guns any more than you will convince anyone else that they do. It is a polarizing conundrum that has been the focus of much political fire and will undoubtedly play a part in this year’s midterm election cycle.
You would think, then, that the escapism of videogames would be a safe haven from this kind of moral ambiguity, but you’d be wrong. In spite of the massive availability and (so far) lack of regulation against games with guns, games, too, are currently in the political crosshairs. The current case before the Supreme Court is about nothing less than the rights of minors to play games laced with violence and gunmanship, and political action committees and concerned parent groups have, for years, waged war against violent games (i.e. those containing guns).
Those against guns (digital or otherwise) point to one, single immutable fact as justification for their crusades: Guns have no other purpose but to deal death. This is true. All talk of “target practice” and “home defense” aside, there really is no other point to a gun but for its ability to kill. Target practice is, in effect, practicing the efficacy of killing and home defense involves wounding or killing those who would do you (or your home) harm. Whether or not one should have the right to own one, it’s inescapable that guns equal death.
So what of games? Can the same equation hold? Are violent videogames containing realistic depictions of guns “murder simulators” as has been alleged? Personally, I don’t think so. While I do think that tortured minds will seek out whatever means at their disposal – up to and including violent videogames and the political process – to exercise their dementia, I do not think that videogames have or ever will cause any sane person to suddenly seek to create mayhem.
Still, in light of the hot-button nature of today’s politics, we’ve decided to devote an entire issue of The Escapist to violent tools that are not guns, yet are still fun to play with. Like bubbles. Take that, Washington! It is therefore with great pleasure that I bring you issue 276 “BFG.”