Letters to the Editor

What Were the Odds?


In response to “A Slightly Serious Primer” from The Escapist Forum: I think a lot of people will read this article and go straight to the first sub-section. Personally, it was tough to concentrate on any other part of the piece after the initial “WTF” regarding a Columbine game. I have not had time to play it, and I’m not here to support or criticize the game specifically, but I do want to comment on it in another regard.

There is so much out there about it already, and very little is dedicated to the actual game-play. A few clicks around the net will lead to message board discussions from people that love it, hate it, hate the idea, or even completely miss the point of it.

My understanding is that the controversy over the game comes from a general perspective that a game such as this “trivializes” the incident. But, if society can comment on a game, why is it so impossible for a game to comment on society? Why do people believe that games inherently lack depth and serve only as a source of mockery of serious situations? What can be done to change this perception?

The problem is that games are ‘fun’ and nothing more. This stereotype is the biggest battle that gaming has been fighting for decades. What makes this such and uphill battle, however, is that, since the beginning of its history, the majority of games have been going strictly for the ‘fun’ factor. The most successful games have a tendency to locate within a fictional premise. Often, when a game takes place within a real time and scenario, the story is weak and takes a distant second to game-play. In some such games, the facts are not turned into a humanizing story, or the events are so deformed that the historical setting is flimsy.

Further, gaming often DOES trivialize matters. Log into Medal of Honor/Call of Duty/Counter-Strike/Operation: Desert Storm and have a good time. But, stop and think for a second while you are playing: What am I doing in this game, specifically? The answer: Killing lots and lots of enemies. When you play, do you bear in mind the lives that you ruin and end with each click of the mouse or push of a button? Probably not. (I know it’s not a new argument, but it bears merit.)

Beyond gaming, though, trivializing such subjects is not uncommon. How many war movies are there that have faceless victims, keeping you on track, cheering for the protagonist as he wipes out more and more people? There are too many to count. The same goes for books, novels, short stories, et cetera.

The difference is that those media have gained a level of respect by the over-arching populous. One reason that respect has been earned is that many of those stories discuss important events and force the audience to feel. Real emotional experience is available in many films and books. Games, unfortunately, have not been able to emulate that level of response. Video games are still childish in their story telling and their ability to trigger emotion.

The fact that there are only a few games out there that make the player feel strongly for the characters and story reveals an overall inadequacy. We are talking about an interactive medium. I put myself into a world, and yet, even with my first-hand interaction with it, I come out with little more than a sense of accomplishment by the end.

To bring things back to last week’s issue discussing film and games: If there is one thing that video games take most from Hollywood it’s the cheesy, shallow feel-good ending. I love games, but every now and then I want an experience that holds more weight than the everyday fluff of a bad movie. I want controversy; I want discomfort, and I want sadness. I want a full range of emotions.

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SCMRPG proves that games are, as a whole, currently in an adolescent phase. The subject of the game immediately causes debate. This is a necessary step. Something has to push things along, be it this game or another controversial title. When people say, “it’s a game that has such-and-such a subject matter, and that isn’t right” it is clear that the medium is not getting respect. The wrongdoing is being attributed to the game first and the subject matter second.

If video games are to be viewed as an important medium they must also comment on important events; they must instill emotion in the player for partaking in these events. Developers must prove that games are capable of revealing something of value to the audience. I think the controversy, causing emotional uproar from all sorts of people that haven’t even downloaded the game, is proof that games can, and will, be an important part of society and social commentary.

We need more games pushing the envelope.

– Blaxton

In response to “Buzz Games” from The Escapist Forum: I disagree that such a market might defeat itself. Instead there will be a competing investments; one predicting some “terror event,” and another predicting that this event will be stopped before it can succeed. If the market is open for all to see, this allows the possibility that a terrorist seeing a heavy investment against an event might call off the plan entirely.

– EastwoodDC

In response to “You Will Never be a Princess” from The Escapist Daily: I find it interesting that the people who can best distinguish fantasy and reality are those that experience both worlds. People who have no fantasy life believe that inside a fantasy, you believe that what is happening is real. People who have no real life (and I have met a few: I even spent time AS one) believe that the fantasy is real. It is only those of us that live both in our fantasy world of choice and in the real world that can see that fantasies are fantasies and reality is reality.

Please, do not ridicule those who do not realize that Fantasy!=Reality. Simply pity them: they do not realize what they are missing. And when you can, teach them: show them that fantasy worlds are not real. And do it without making them feel inferior.

– ZacQuickSilver

[a href=”http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/8.38522″]In response to “Reward Card 2” from The Escapist Daily[/A]: I’d have to agree that I’m finding the same problems myself. I’ve tried to get through Zelda, but I’m stuck at around the 25 hour mark because I realize that every time I sit down to play it, its gonna take at least half an hour to remember what I was up to and where everything is in the world and then another couple of hours to make any progress. So I tend to have a quick game of Wii tennis or Guitar Hero instead. I’d like to see myself picking up Okami and God of War 2 and perhaps a 360 with Gears and Oblivion in the coming months, but I’m more likely to get Warioware and whatever the next buzz (the quiz game) turns out to be, because I know I will play them more.

And it’s not like I don’t have the time to play games either. In the last few months I’ve managed to watch the first 7 seasons of Stargate from start to finish, its just that my spare time comes in small chunks around work and cooking and sport and a 42 minute Stargate episode fits in those chunks much easier than a couple hours of Zelda does.

– Goofonian

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