I know what you’re thinking. “Does this guy have anything to do other than sit online blogging?” Well, sure but sometimes you need to get things aired and there is no better medium for finding people who are willing to agree and disagree with you than the highways and byways of the Interwebz.
Therefore, I’d like to direct your collective attentions here. This has the potential to be a highly charged topic. I know this isn’t specifically a video games blog but every single contributor here spends time playing them and as it’s our blog we’ll damn well post what we want! So, perhaps a civilised discussion about this then?
To be honest, it may be perceived that I have a bias as I’m sitting in the video game playing community side of things, I don’t own Modern Warfare 2, nor do I plan to. However, we see more and more in the media an attack upon video games as a form of entertainment. Just like rock n’ roll in the 50’s we have a new media being accused of the corruption of our youth. I’d like to think by now that humanity would have caught up with that people are free to make their own choices and sometimes they choose badly. This is nothing new but as society has aged and grown we have now entered this amazing era where someone else is to blame. Your kid goes out and tries to car jack some dude on the street? Must be GTA IV’s fault, after all, he’s been playing that for weeks.
Well, perhaps your 13-year-old shouldn’t be playing a game that is rated 18, you could also do some crazy thing like interact with your kids rather than let a console do the job of raising them… outlandish idea I know, I fully expect to be burnt at the stake for such radical and dangerous thinking. However, let’s have a proper look at just what the article linked to is saying.
War crimes are capable of being committed in computer games. You could argue that regular crimes are committed in computer games all the time and yet not all gamers are repeat offending compulsive criminals. I’ve pickpocketed stuff on my Rogue in Warcraft but have never lifted anything (nor tried it) from an actual person. We could also look at real warfare, war itself is a brutal act of destruction and invariably good does not come out of it. I’m not going to go into history and pick specific examples of anything but I do not believe that war is good, we consider ourselves an enlightened species yet we still fight each other over perceived differences. Being able to commit war crimes in a computer game is, to me, no different from the often seen lack of regard for the so-called rules by many parties engaged in armed conflicts. If you want to show through a media such as the computer the true decisions that are faced by a man on the ground then obviously they are doing a grand job. It is even possible that if certain acts are performed covertly enough or with enough like-minded individuals that in real life it is possible to get away with these things. There are many armed forces around the world today that are committing what are defined as war crimes and yet we get all hissy over a game that allows someone to make those choices. Yes, perhaps there could be some repercussions from those choices (more traditionally RPG territory though) but you tend to find that it is only the west that really and truly abides by these conventions in the conflicts going on in the world today.
Now, is this really about war crimes or, more likely, just another attack at the video games industry to create sensational headlines that will help to sell copy? I’ll leave that to your judgement. However, not everyone that plays these games is a sociopath. In RPGs that allow you to take different moral routes I will often play through at least twice in order to experience both sets of outcomes, I personally find it a lot harder to go through the bad as opposed to taking the good. Yet, in video game land, I can be an uncaring, insensitive person without having to face the consequences myself, however, the character inevitably does. Is it really any different than reading certain works of fiction that portray these kinds of things, or watching a movie?
Yet, while these kinds of media are accepted as soon as something appears in a video game everyone is up in arms. Perhaps this is due to the fact that video games are so prevalent in our homes that society feels compelled to yet again cry out with “won’t someone think of the children” well, in my opinion the person that should be thinking of the children are the parents and they should exercise discretion about the media that their offspring are subjected to. This may not be the preferred method of parenting these days but I think we can all see the consequences of that right now.
I imagine this story will have its moment in the sun and then vanish into the ether alongside all the other “computer games will bring about the apocalypse” style stories. I’m just stunned by the fact that people are bemoaning that a game allows you to commit war crimes (something that isn’t new to video games) when so many real life armies flaunt these “rules” anyway. If everyone agreed and fought the same way, then perhaps they’d have a case, by something that is supposed to represent the real world being labelled as bad because it does a good job of mirroring real life… well, I have no coherent answer to that.