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Gaming: Why it attracts the ire of society

It’s been relatively slow since E3, with all the major releases – my personal watchlist containing Resident Evil 6, Dishonoured and Need for Speed: Most Wanted – being hyped for the end of the year and all of our writers occupied with smaller reviews and articles, some of which could be argued as being irrelevant (I am not among these people).  Now that I’ve effectively caught up my audience on the situation, consider this my segue into the topic of this article: non-gamers can be jerks sometimes.

We’ve all seen it: the narrowed judgmental looks, the whispering behind our backs, the unnecessary controversies that mock, discredit and insult gaming as an artistic medium.  Look at the hub-hub surrounding the Hot Coffee mod, or Mass Effect‘s brief (read: uncompromising) romantic scene.  Anyone who hasn’t touched a video game since the days of Pong and Tennis for Two, or those who have never played a video game at all, view the medium as immature and irrelevant.

But why?

Haven’t people like Hideo Kojima, Shigeru Miyamoto and Warren Spectre proven that gaming is worthy of the same respect afforded to film, television and literature? Haven’t games like BioShock, Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid shown what the medium is capable of, in terms of entertainment value, storytelling ability or artistic direction? Why are we gamers universally labelled as sweaty weirdos who live in their parents’ basement?

So, to further rip every other form of “professional” journalism and media outlet, as well as “civilized society”, a new one, here is my analysis of the various factors that could influence these bigoted, prejudiced ideals.

1. Ignorance is bliss (for the ignorant, at least)

It’s a song and dance we’ve heard time and time again: People would rather stick to what they know and remain safe than risk ruining their reputations by exploring the unknown.  That’s why franchises like Saw and Star Wars stagnate, and that’s the best explanation for the old-school method of anti-gamer sentiments.

Coming back to Mass Effect, the good-ol’ bigots on FOX News were all-too-happy to go ape-sh*t on that one single scene.  You know which one I’m talking about… Their lack of knowledge on the game quickly took center-stage as two of the people in that particular segment – reporter Martha MacCallum and psychology expert Cooper Lawrence, with Geoff “Fratboy” Keighley sitting in –  stated that they had not actually played the game, but were acting on second-hand knowledge and footage.

So let’s see if I have this right, FOX: you put two professionals with no gaming experience in a room with a joke of a video game journalist (who is likely more “flimsy corporate slob” than “human being”), telling them that there is a storm brewing over an alleged sex scene, and you expect them to have a rational, reasonable and universally acceptable argument at the ready that will convince people that gaming is bad when two of them haven’t even seen or played the game for themselves? And you call yourself a professional news network…

2. One bad egg and the whole world hates omelettes

Yes, I made that joke.  Yes, I realize that making a joke in the middle of a very serious article can be seen as incongruous to my point, but god-damn-it, this is about gaming – it’s meant to be varied and dynamic.  And it only adds to my belief that people are all too eager to attack an industry just because of the actions of an individual person or company.

Take, for instance, the debacle surrounding Mortal Kombat back in 1992 and 1993.  Everyone has heard the stories: the game got popular in arcades and was due to be ported to consoles, to the joy of thousands upon thousands of adorable, yet highly impressionable youngsters. On a regular basis, these prepubescents go out in waves to the nearest  arcades and dedicated what some sociopaths would call worrying amounts of time getting immersed in cheesy, gruesome kontent (see what I did there?).  The parents of these kids were not amused, and after a lengthy series of court cases, the bloody irritating carcass of a government initiative that was the Entertainment Software Rating Board came into existence.

An now-archaic and restrictive rating system, the ESRB was designed to punish the innovative and creative individuals of the world for the existence of a few over-the-top, admittedly hyper-violent video games that did not paint a nice image of the industry’s true nature.  Just because one person commits a crime, that does not make it right to sue an entire city for irresponsible behaviour, and frankly, it’s just bad management of time and resources.

3. Everyone’s a critic…but not everyone can be a good critic

Last, but certainly not least, I turn my lovable, extremely loyal readers’ heads, and those of the jerks pretending to be my lovable, extremely loyal readers, to the single most irritating form of criticism foranyartistic medium, be it films, television shows or video games: “It’s too offensive! It’s not politically correct!”

Here, I turn to the most unlikely of warriors in this cause: LittleBigPlanet, or what I like to call, “The  cutest and most inoffensive thing on the face of the planet.” The game features one of the industry’s most universally adored and highly customizable protagonists of all time – little old Sackboy – and focuses on the simplest of game design ideas: creativity.  Millions of user-created levels have amassed in its 4 year existence, and it shines as both an experimental success and as an example of high production quality.

So where does controversy fit in? Well, to be fair, the issue was handled before the game featured wide-spread success, but back in October 2008, a swarm of media buzzards claiming to be professionals zeroed in on the fact that some PSN member claimed one of the songs in LBP‘s soundtrack contained passages from the Qur’an, a major religious text in Islamic culture, and could therefore be offensive to Muslims.  Clearly, Sony freaked out, as it promptly ordered a recall, delayed the international release on the game and patched out the vocals of that particular song.

I’ve heard some ridiculously over-the-top reactions to threats and potential dangers, but this takes the cake.  I am aware that the song in question was written by a musician who is Muslim, and I do not wish to disrespect anyone of any belief.  However, to recall and modify a ready-to-release game which is 99.99% inoffensive (a rough but fair estimate) on the grounds that one individual complained about it, when no other actual complaints about the music were made, is demoralizing to not only self-respecting gamers and people who believe in democracy, but also the developers of such fine, universally appealing products.

Conclusion

For the love of all that lives and breathes in this frakking universe, can gamers not get a break? Haven’t we proven that we’re as resourceful, well-spoken and intelligent as those literature and film snobs that sneer at us in the hallways? “No,” says the lifeless suits manipulating the government and the media, “you are all pathetic and you deserve to be slaves to our cultural ideals.” So, to wrap up my start-of-summer tirade against “the man” and all of his shallow, lifeless little helpers, all I can really say is: “F**k that, we’ve earned our rights and we deserve our time in the spotlight (for good reasons).”

To those so-called journalists and other a-holes serving the whim of jerks (my eyes turn to the Jack Thompsons, Martha MacCallums and Roger Eberts of the world), go look yourselves in the mirror and ask yourselves if you’re content with your lives…before promptly turning yourselves in for gross misconduct and irresponsible use of public resources.   To our beloved industry’s supporters, hidden and public, keep up the support and don’t be afraid to pelt those ne’er do wells with angry emails – just keep the points of reference strong and the language tasteful but simple enough that those glorified pencil-pushers can process it.

As always, keep reading, gamers.  The world is a lot less harsh when you know you’re doing good for a nice, well-informed group of people, as it is with you and I.

-Kurt Hvorup, Founder and Admin

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