Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Digital Line

Poppa Bradford and I have this re-occuring debate on censorship. His point is that we can't impose censorship on some things and not others. It just doesn't work. Doing so, says wise ole pops, allows for personal biases, politics, religion and trends to enter the equation. That is, how does one judge what can or cannot be consumed by our culture and how did they get to be the one to decide?

All in all, his answer is simple; no censorship.

And, hell, that scares me.
I can't put my finger on what it is exactly, but I'm holding out for a middle ground that appeals to free speech and the need to keep society at least somewhat accountable for its goings on.
Take the recent ban on Manhunt 2 for instance (you had to know this was leading back to videogames).
In a nutshell, Britain has altogether banned the game from distribution on the grounds of it's graphic portrayal of murder. In the game (as far as I can tell, as I've only played the first and the second is now mired in controversy), you play a man who is rewarded for each of his human kills. The bloodier and more depraved, the better.
In the Wii version, one would (as of press time) use the controller to mimic stabbings and throat cuttings. Nice huh?

Obviously, the reactionary video game crowd is all in a frenzy over this 'absurd attack on free speech' and I can somewhat see their point. 'Torture-porn' is the newest craze at the box office and there are television shows depicting the exact same thing.

Herein the issue becomes the degree of influence. In this case, the medium calls on the player to assume the role of murderer and, in turn, work towards a goal of murdering human beings in order to progress.

So, ok, dirty stuff--but nothing that hasn't been done before...right? Maybe. With graphics nearing picture perfect quality, the argument can be made that Manhunt 2 is the most 'real' portrayal of murder. This is bloody, gritty and each face and cut wound has been rendered in beautiful 1080p.

Then there's this....where is the line? If gamers are arguing for free speech and the right to perform whatever acts a developer can dream up, at what point do our moral compasses point to censorship? Will the same videogame martyrs defend a game that allows one to become a pedophile? What about a child muderer? Because, hey, it's just a videogame...right?'s a question of how far we're willing to fly the free speech banner. Personally, I'd like think that everyone could handle a totally non-censored culture, but there are depraved sickos out there and we are influenced by media so there has to be a degree of social responsibility for the acts in which we participate.

Eventually, one game would come along that would test our patience, and I fear that if Manhunt 2 isn't that game, that we can all expect something much much worse to truly test where we stand.
Now, maybe the states have got it right by imposing an 'Adults Only' ban on the game. Then again, what defines an adult? Age? If so, then we disregard the fact that some adults are about as immature and ill-equipped as twelve year olds.
It's a muddy muddy situation. And before we go fighting for the right to murder, I think we have to put our own soapboxes aside and look at this not as 'The Man against Videogames' but 'Where We'll Draw the Line' - because if you ask me...if we aren't drawing the line here, where will it be drawn?

1 comment:

Tirzah said...

Good words.