Video Game Haters

The video game Mass Effect was released as a shining example of the effect of subtle choices towards the outcome of a situation. Small choices in dialog could mean the ultimate death of a friend or the salvation of a planet. It also threw unbelievably difficult moral choices at the player. One such choice was having to decide which friend to save from an impending military invasion. It was choices like these that made the game much more personal (and thus enjoyable) than other games of its ilk. Naturally, this was a game meant for more mature audiences. Weighty political debates, hard moral choices, and epic space operas aren't really the gaming fare for your average 10 year old at home on a Sunday. So, when FOX news has this to say about the game, it makes me want to cry. You should seriously watch the whole thing. It's unbelievable.

Now, before we continue, just know that almost every fact mentioned by the anchor is utterly and totally false. Some basic research would show that:

- There is no frontal nudity in this game. It's definitely suggestive, and there's definately stuff going on off-screen, but pron it ain't.

- No, the "man" in this game cannot have his way with any woman in the world. There are actually two women with which romantic relationships are possible, and it's actually quite challenging to achieve the results portrayed in the interview. And you can be a woman in the game, anyways.

- The "offending" material is a one minute long snippet in a game experience that can take up to 30+ hours to complete.

- Notice how neither the anchor or the psychologist have actually played the game. Nuff said.

Either way, it is not the stellar investigative journalism that I want to discuss. That's a train wreck that doesn't really need any more wrecking. What I want to know is how are these questions even being asked? These people are acting as if this is the first time objectification of women has been thrust on adolescent males (which, apparently, are the only people that play video games.... What???) in our saintly Western World. Lady, have you been to the movies lately? Have you walked around outside? Have you seen the abject and total moral emptiness that the entire Western World is predicated upon?? Of all the things that you could come up with to discuss the moral desensitization of our youth, you seriously chose a 1 minute clip of questionable nudity- alien nudity- from a video game that is not only 30 hours long, and features no blood in any of its violent scenes, but chooses to actually explore the moral consequences of our choices?! In an environment where blood flows like kool-aid on the big screen, where women are glorified by the amount of skin they show, and violent, vulgar, muscular men are the heroes, you're going to choose this moral experiment of a game to prove your point? There is something very wrong about this, and naturally, I have some answers for you.

Remember, only adolescent boys play video games. This is key. This is a stereotype that has plagued the industry since the very beginning. I'm not sure exactly why this is, but I think it was just a perfect storm of social movements. Video games only became widely popular with the onset of arcades. They were too expensive to mass produce for home use, so arcades became the outlet of choice for the industry. Being hangouts, arcades drew the adolescent crowd more than any other demographic. Video games being the main aspect of an arcade, adolescents became the target audience. The male part of the stereotype has to do with competition. Just like the pool shark image is that of a smooth talkin' male hanging out and dominating the competition at the local pool hall, the gamer became the male who dominated competition at the arcade. The arcade origins of the video game also gave rise to the video game as time waster. It became an immature, irresponsible diversion. "Grown-Ups" didn't hang out at arcades because they had "responsibilities" of their own. 30 years later, those arcade junkies are in their 40s and 50s, and the stereotype remains. We've come a long way, but apparently we still have a long way to go.
The reason why video games are held up to such a higher moral standard is because the media still believes that video game developers are still exclusively targeting the 13 year old boys with every title they put out. Anyone that has played a serious video game in the past 10 years knows that to be absolutely false. Games like Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, and most other blockbuster M-rated hits are not meant to be played by children. I have a game called Ninja Gaiden. It is, naturally, an extremely violent, if over-the-top, video game. My wife saw me playing it and said, "Is this what you want your children to be watching?" The answer, quite simply, is no. That's what parenting is for. I wouldn't let my kids watch my copy of The matrix until they were old enough to understand it either. Video games should be no different than movies when it comes to monitoring, screening, and general parenting.

One more point. Video games are often argued as being different than movies because violence in movies is simply shown whereas violence in games is acted out by the player. When acted out, those acts of violence become internalized and accepted easier. This is a pointless argument on many levels. First of all, choosing to shoot a gun by pressing a button, and actually pulling a trigger at a person are two very different things. Anyone who argues that kid pressing a button on a controller will then go out with a real gun and shoot someone in the face is simply being intellectually dishonest, lazy, and trying to cheaply argue their point. The choice to shoot somebody digitally is typically very simple. Do I press the button or do I not press the button? The decision to really shoot somebody involved getting a real gun, loading the real gun with real ammunition, finding somebody to shoot, listening to that person beg, plead, pee their pants, cry, scream and break down, and finally choosing to pull the trigger anyways. If a kid can really go through those motions and blame a video game, they either have a really bad lawyer or they have a serious mental disorder. and all that is assuming that the video game is even somewhat realistic. Most of the time, you're shooting bizarre creatures that bleed green. I don't think that's going to create child psychopaths.

I think you get my point. Video games should not be treated any differently than movies, music, or any other entertainment outlet we use for distraction. The video game haters are still living in a world of arcades and leather jackets, not in a world where the video game industry is a multi-national, multi-billion dollar industry run by the best business and tech minds of our time. Grow up already.

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