Letters to the Editor

What’s in a Game?


To the Editor:
I don’t normally do this but I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you what a great job you’re doing with The Escapist. The articles are consistently well-written, researched and thoughtful. Your layouts are always great, and the subject matter provocative.

Please keep it up!


To the Editor:
With all due respect, I must disagree with your assertion that the protection of games under the First Amendment is due to their status as “art.”

In fact, the landmark case you cite says nothing of the sort. The Court finds that games are protected speech based on a standard other than the highly subjective question of whether they are art.

The District Court’s decision (which can be viewed here: http://1stam.umn.edu/ archive/fedctapp/interactive.pdf) simply states: “In order to find speech, there must exist both an intent to convey a particularized message and a great likelihood that this message will be understood.” That expression need not be political or ideological, but can take the form of entertainment.

Ico was released in September of 2001. Baldur’s Gate II in September, 2000. Instead of those well-respected examples of the medium, the District Court’s 2002 ruling based its judgement of expression on violent clips from Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, and Doom. Perhaps wrongly, but not surprisingly, the Court found these examples did not meet the aforementioned standard of expression.

The Appellate Court disagreed, and their comparison of video games with other media is meant to demonstrate that video games utilize some of those same media (music, pictures and writing) in their own construction and thus are capable of the same expression.

There is no description of artistry, and artistic merits are not considered by the Courts.

-B. Doskocil

To the Editor:
Just so there is a chance at correcting a vast overstatement by Trip or, more to the point, to give an appropriate amount of props to the “Real Creators” of the Madden Franchise we are still playing versions of today, the only people who should be claiming they created Madden Football are:

Jim Simmons
Scott Orr
Richard Hilleman
Kirk Toumanian (sorry if I spelled Kirk’s last name incorrectly … it has been a while since I needed it)

There are many others who came afterward, including myself, who have contributed to the Madden Franchise, but Trip’s version of Madden existed on the Apple //e. It took almost six years to build, and was a commercial failure on the Apple // and IBM PCs of the day. The Sega Genesis version of Madden, completed primarily by the names above, had very little connection with Trip.

Trip should get huge props for signing Madden when he did – at the time EA signed Madden, he wasn’t the #1 Color Commentator as he would become later on. He was, at that time, more well-known for the Miller Lite Beer commercials that he was a part of where he would burst through scenery to talk some more as the commercial faded out. Lost in all of this is that John Madden was a great football coach … most people today only know him as an announcer, and will probably think that is why he is being inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year.

Love the mag,
-Happy Keller

To the Editor:
I’m a bit late to respond to the threat of having no games. After all, I played games.

“The blood was crimson…” as Tom Rhodes started his piece. It is fitting that he should start with an ancient reenactment of spectator games that were eventually banned. And why were they banned? It was because they had a coarsening, in other words destructive, influence on society.

There are some games that are better not to be played. Just as there are destructive books, TV shows, movies, etc. that should not be read nor watched. But we depend on a mature market to make wise choices. For wherever there is a market, there will be people ready to cater to it. Even if it is illegal.

Thus the existence of games like Grand Theft Auto, Dungeons and Dragons and other games that are recognized by many as having a negative effect on the individuals who play them is less an indictment of the gaming industry, as it is of society as a whole. True, for most players that negative affect will be small, offset by other influences in the players’ lives, but it is still there. Your magazine has given examples of such negativities in past issues. That is what animates the Cary Nations and the Prohibitionists of today, who want to get rid of the modern equivalent of “devil liquor” out of gaming. But just as Prohibition didn’t work, nor is the “War against Drugs” having much success, so banning destructive games without drying up the market for those games will be ineffective.

The proper response to destructive games is not to ban games, rather it is to be creative and make good games that are at worst, fun ways to relax, and at best games that have a positive influence on our lives. Further, it is to show that games affect the people who play them and to show what the affects are, both positive and negative. Thankfully, the state sponsored blood sports of the ancient arena are no longer available, but there will always be individuals who make unwise choices in the games they play.

A second response is to segregate negative games to the equivalent of the red light districts of yesteryear: a good, consistent rating system will help people recognize and avoid the red light district if they so wish. And no cheating, for though it may confer a temporary financial advantage to the cheater, it also brings on unwanted attention of those who would wish to ban them, which would hurt the industry as a whole.

Personally, before I play a game, I ask “What is this game’s message?” “How will it influence me?” Games that deal with destructive themes such as occult or unnecessary violence don’t even get opened. Our family had hours of fun years ago when we hooked up a group of Macintoshes over Appletalk (before ethernet became common) and played against each other. I used that as an opportunity to teach my children about what to look for in a game. Now that they are grown, I am pleased to see that for the most part, they make wise choices in the games they play.
Karl W. Randolph

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