Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Death By Pixels

I don't know when it happened, but I've become offended by videogames...and I'm frightened. Typically, I'd be the first gamer to tell anti-gaming activists to get a life because, really, its just a game. Blame anything on gaming and you'd have to pretty much point a finger at every other autiory and visual influence. It's just silly.

And yet, here I am...offended.
Ok, maybe offended is the wrong word. Let's use 'leery'. And, to be clear, I'm only leery of one genre: War Games.
My thinking goes like this. Who loves War Games? Easy: Gamers (because they're fun and endorse co-op play), Designers (Because the history is already there and the gameplay comes naturally) and Game Companies (Because they're an easy sell for reasons above).
Who probably doesn't like War Games? People have fought in real wars.

I shudder to imagine how the situation would unfold if I were to whip out the Ps2 and pop in Call of Duty 2 with my grandfather in the room.

Me: Hey pops. Check out the awesome next-gen graphics.
Grandfather: Sweet jesus, I lived this.
Me: Yeah! Aint it cool? And check it out the death animations. Soooo lifelike.
Grandfather: Why are you killing your friends?
Me: It's a deathmatch.
Grandfather: A deathmatch? You do this...for fun? Is that a rocket launcher?
Me: Duh! I can kill like 1o people with this puppy.
Grandfather: My friends died during this exact war. Millions died during this war.
Me: I know! It's soooo much fun.

Ok, I wouldn't be this callous, but hopefully the point is made. That is; war games are creepy. I don't give two craps about the sci-fi/fantasy war titles (that whole violence debate is done to death), I'm more put-off by the ease by which gamers and companies are slapping a shiny gloss to the whole experience and translating what was, realistically, a horrible milestone in human misery to a fun carefree romp.
"Destructable Environments! Upgraded Weapons! Improved AI who actually suffer! Team up with a friend or go it alone - it's war, baby - have a blast!"

As videogames become more and more lifelike, so too does the experience and the influence. Yes, I said influence...because we're not talking about 8-bit sprites with little black guns anymore. We're talking about entertainment that's becoming so immersive that it can't help but change our mindsets about the subject matter it portrays. This is exactly why even the American Army has a game out because they know how effective a game can be at selling a romantic notion of war while blissfully leaving out the pesky downsides (death, mutilation, grieving, emotions, etc).

And then there's the reality.
War Games are, and will continue to be, a measure of just how damn good a system is. As such, they will continue to be the 'must have' launch titles and the persistant top sellers. Gamers love to play them, and Developers love to make money. Why stop the this lucrative partnership over something silly like respect for the dead?
In the meantime, I guess I'll just continue my one-man boycott and hope grandpa Bradford never watches G4Tv.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for having the balls to say War Games are "over and above the call of duty" by the gaming companies. There's enough violence in most games to keep people happy.

You're absolutely right when it comes to the fact that WAR is hell and shouldn't be made into a game and killing into a competitive score.

People are so desensitized when it comes to violence and war now because of TV, newspapers and video games because it's now a daily part of our diet. Just add a slice of toast and juice and you're on your way.

Wish more adults and kids thought like you.

paul l. said...

I completely 100% agree with you.

Well, 99.9%.

I am the proud owner of Guitar Hero, and it's not really a gaming experience as it is the purpose of living.

You're in Red Deer now? That's wicked! I was just in Jasper at the beginning of October; you's got some beautiful country out there. Damm you and your 6% taxes and Rocky Mountains!

Anonymous said...

Your grandfather would be appalled by this trivialization of his commitment to protecting our freedom. A sense or recent history never hurts...vic bickell