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January 2, 2004 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Here's an article in the New York Post that initially looked like another bulletin on yet a new company being investigated by the SEC. But read the entire text. It has some very strong words to say against the gaming industry and particularly this game, calling it "10,000 times worse than the worst thing anybody thinks Michael Jackson ever did to a little boy". Via Penny-Arcade, their reaction is really worth a read.
posted by phyrewerx (64 comments total)

 
Byron's an asshat, plain and simple. Anybody who thinks that a video game is 10000 x worse than drugging and molesting children needs to have his head examined.

Comparing being molested to something as trivial as a video game is the sort of thing that the Post would fire him for if they had any empathy.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:48 PM on January 2, 2004


This article is just stupid. You can't say anything else about it.
posted by Orange Goblin at 3:01 PM on January 2, 2004


I thought the point about it being 10,000 times worse was that MJ can only drug and molest children one at a time, while a video game can harm millions of children at the same time. It's still a stupid thing to say, of course.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 3:02 PM on January 2, 2004


Um yeah.


This is the most unabashedly biased trash journalism I've read in a while. Nothing like having your concluding arguments worked out before you begin your research.
posted by fenriq at 3:07 PM on January 2, 2004


Oh come on now, its the NYPost. This is the Murdoch/News Corp conservative crap they're supposed to be producing.

The NYPost conservative propaganda machines loses $40 million a year.
Murdoch son says New York Post is Losing over $40 Million a year.


Lachlan
Lachlan Murdoch , NY Post Publisher, confirms the figure to New Yorker media writer Ken Auletta. At a quarter a copy, the Post "was losing more in circulation revenue than it was gaining in new advertising," Auletta writes in his new book, "Backstory: Inside the Business of News." But what's a few million to Post owner Rupert Murdoch? The Post has lost more than $Half a Billion since he first took it over in 1975, Auletta reports. Paul Colford says the book includes an expanded version of Auletta's Howell Raines profile. See New York Daily News story here. Lachlan's inter-office Memo refuting the Post story is on right. See the whole Memo here.

NY Post Murdoch denies $40M loss figure, but Auletta has it on tape. New York Post publisher Lachlan Murdoch is scrambling to cast doubt on an article that says the Post is losing $40 million a year. Problem is, the $40 million comes from Murdoch himself - and the author of the article has it on tape. See NY Daily News story here.

Bill Moyers on Rupert Murdoch: "He'll take losses on the New York Post and subsidize The Weekly Standard to advance his political agenda, which, of course, is ultimately aimed at the kind of government favoritism that boosts his corporate earning." See BuzzFlash story here.
"I think Murdoch and Ailes had it right," says Salon editor. Salon editor-in-chief David Talbot gives Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes credit for realizing there's an audience out there that wants their brand of journalism and commentary. But come on, adds Talbot, "I don't know why Fox dances around it -- they're right-wing. We all know it." Talbot on Howell Raines: "Raines momentarily did make the New York Times more colorful and a better read. It's a banal and timid read. The big picture gets lost." Read the CBS Marketwatch report here.
posted by skallas at 3:07 PM on January 2, 2004


yeah skallas that was the first thing i thought, its the Post
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 3:11 PM on January 2, 2004


If you're not playing America's Army, the terrorists have already won.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:41 PM on January 2, 2004


First off, I think that the Post is a poorly written and universally dishonest pile of dung. But why defend GTA?

The one point that everyone seems to be dwelling on, the Michael Jackson comparison? I think his point is that the activies portrayed in the game are worse than child molest. It's a stupid comparison obviously meant to generate shock without insight. But then, you can kill people by the dozen in the game, and if you want to look at it in a coldly quantitative penal code sort-of-way, that's worse than child molest.

Anyway, the thing that gets to me about this is that I've played GTA-VC. It sucks. Boring gameplay, stupid storyline. Why burn cycles defending it?
posted by steviehero at 3:42 PM on January 2, 2004


steviehero: you can't kill a person in the game. You can kill a 3d representaion of a person. There's kind of a difference...and if you don't like GTA3/VC, what kind of games DO you like? It has practically every genre mixed in there, except maybe RTS.
posted by Orange Goblin at 3:46 PM on January 2, 2004


steviehero, you can commit thousands of virtual murders in the game. Michael Jackson is accused of buggering kids in real life. I'll never play the game myself, if I had kids I'd probably disapprove but I'd still be wary of making any false hyperbolic comparisons. I don't think any parent would actually say "Well, Jim buggered little Bill, but at least little Bill wasn't playing any of those horrible video games."
posted by substrate at 3:56 PM on January 2, 2004


I'm thinking the right-wing culture wars may have a new target (I guess us gays aren't enough for them). And very little in the Post is worth reading unless you need to know what the current republican talking points are.
posted by amberglow at 4:04 PM on January 2, 2004


If they thought Vice City was bad, then they're going to have a difficult time with RockStar's latest creation.
posted by seanyboy at 4:11 PM on January 2, 2004


I think the article is pretty poorly written but I completely understand the Jackson analogy. To me he's saying that in real life we condemn people for certain crimes wheras in the game, having your character commit those crimes is the goal and how you "win" which is pretty fucking stupid. Yes, it's a game but it still rewards the player for doing extremely repulsive things. I'm always amazed how people rally around the defense of "It's just a game!" Do you honestly think that it's beneficial/applaudable/good to dismiss products which have lines like "Kill the Haitians!" or "Die Bitch!" (Unreal Tournament), etc etc? If these things were flaunted on television (in a positive light as they are in the games) you people would be all over it as irresponsible programming.

That Penny Arcade reaction was a better example of poor writing than the article was, IMO.
posted by dobbs at 4:15 PM on January 2, 2004


oh no... dobbs... you didn't just say that, did you? I'm going to bed before somebody mentions Greece.
posted by seanyboy at 4:37 PM on January 2, 2004


GTA: VC isn't a kids game, they make no bones about that. The fact that it makes kids want the game all the more is the porn argument revisited, or the underage drinking argument.

You can disapprove of the game but it is in no way worse than Michael Jackson buggering little boys (allegedly).

The difference is that one represents a crime and the other IS a crime.

Dobbs, have you seen any TV lately? Its no worse than GTA: VC and then there's the news. Violence is a part of the culture, why not embrace a safe and damned fun way of dealing with it?
posted by fenriq at 4:48 PM on January 2, 2004


The line "Kill the Haitians!" is delivered by a CHARACTER who WANTS TO KILL HAITIANS. This is very important to note. It is not the hero of the game. Even when a movie tries to portray racist characters in a positive light, people who see movies generally can separate a fictional character's motivations from those of the filmmakers, so why hold games to a higher standard?

Forget irresponsible programming, what about irresponsible PARENTING? People act as if Rockstar Games has magic elves that deliver free copies of GTA (and the expensive systems to play them on) to all the children of the world, at night while parents are fast asleep.
posted by kevspace at 4:53 PM on January 2, 2004


I don't think that the gaming community can have it both ways. They can't on the one hand herald the video game as a new form of interactive art, and then say "it's just a game" when a given work is criticized for the included content.

There seems to be a heck of a lot of knee-jerk tendency to just duck the subject by mouthing irrelevancies such as "Violence is a part of the culture, why not embrace a safe and damned fun way of dealing with it?" and "Forget irresponsible programming, what about irresponsible PARENTING?"

Of course the characters saying the racist lines are fictional but still, that does not mean that the producers are off the hook for criticism. No reviewer failed to grasp that Kill Bill was work of fiction but many were still willining to question whether Tarantino had gone a bit too far in his violent fantasies.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:02 PM on January 2, 2004


My take on it is that someone who would enjoy playing this game already has a problem. Sorry, I don't understand why pretending to kill people, etc. is entertaining-and particularly in a very realistic game such as this.

Yes, it's legal to sell the game-just like a lot of other things I find repugnant. Free country and all that.

BTW, how many of you who defend this game are pacifists in real life? Doesn't that feel just a little bit hypocritical?
posted by konolia at 5:09 PM on January 2, 2004


How / why is it racist? The rival gang is composed entirely of haitians. The videogame character wants them dead, for one reason or another. Hence, "Kill the haitians." Its not like there was a derogatory term thrown in there.

What is the big deal?
posted by pemulis at 5:12 PM on January 2, 2004


I would imagine, we'll come to our senses and ban these games from public commerce, just like we ban child pornography and entertainment spectacles such as cock fighting and dwarf throwing.

Dwarf throwing???

* googles *

Oh, dwarf throwing, of course.
posted by PrinceValium at 5:26 PM on January 2, 2004


konolia.. Tribes in New Guinea, if you meet a stranger in the woods and he is not from your tribe, you are supposed to kill him. If he is from your tribe, it is wrong to kill. If you are a soldier it is OK to kill in Iraq, but not in Idaho.. rules to learn. The notion of wanting to kill in a game is something we learn is "ok", it is legal, it is perfectly within the bounds of normality. So I don't understand your saying anyone who enjoys the game has a problem. The only problem is when people don't follow the rules and kill when they should not kill. Which is exactly the premise of the game.
posted by stbalbach at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2004


Actually, I think GTA-Vice City should be banned for a promoting Scooter-propelled pizza delivery service.

You have to admit that reading the NYPost can be amusing. It's like watching O'Reilly claim the ACLU is the most dangerous organization in America or how the cover story on the Weekly World News is how Batboy lead US troops to Saddam's hole.

As previously pointed out, the Haitian killing line is from a gang leader wanting to kill rival members of the Haitian gang that drive these cool hooptys with air-shocks.

Since there's a link to pennyarcade, does anyone remember when we worried about comics?

konolia,

Nice way to piss on those that can make a distinction from fantasy and reality.
posted by john at 5:32 PM on January 2, 2004


konolia, I am a pacifist in the sense that I am against war and violence, and the idea of causing another person serious pain is totally repugnant to me.

However, I have no problem with recreational or competitive boxing, fencing, or paintball, though those activities are certainly somewhat violent. Someone may get punched in the face while boxing, but they chose to participate and if I were boxing with someone and they fell down, I would withdraw until they chose to return to the fight.

Playing GTA or watching Scarface is less violent to me than boxing--nobody even gets punched in the face when I play a video game (usually).
posted by hashashin at 5:33 PM on January 2, 2004


My take on it is that someone who would enjoy playing this game already has a problem.

It's an excellent game. Riding a stolen Harley along the beach with the hard-rock radio station cranked, as the sun comes up - one of the best videogame moments, ever.

Show me a game in the first person - the genre's called first person shooters, fer chrissakes - that doesn't involve killing virtual opponents in order to 'win'. There aren't freakin' many, you can be sure of that. If you have a problem with that, then fine, bash away. But pick your targets, people, or its impossible to have a rational discussion with any wit or humour, because it becomes worryingly clear that the participants aren't even really talking about the same thing. They're talking past one another. It's everywhere these days - bad media setting up strawmen for people to get exercised about, which they perfunctorily do, missing all the while the core problems that need airing.

Focussing on GTA3 and GTA Vice City is the sort of strawman-bashing strategy that makes those who would be the self-appointed Protectors of The Young look both uninformed and hysterical.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:48 PM on January 2, 2004


BTW, how many of you who defend this game are pacifists in real life? Doesn't that feel just a little bit hypocritical?

Nope, because I maintain a healthy seperation between reality and fiction.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:51 PM on January 2, 2004


The fact that people are worrying about this entire issue is simply a reflection of why the planet is basically fucked.

...there are literally millions of better things to freak out about, but instead people freak out about a video game. A game.

However violent some games may be, they are ultimately still games. So rather than actually DO anything useful for society and the world at large, people choose to argue about video games.

How about the next time we all feel like complaining about a video game, we each give one day worth of salary to a charity instead? (I'm looking in your direction, Byron).

...or would that require more dedication than the average human can muster?
posted by aramaic at 5:54 PM on January 2, 2004


My take on it is that someone who would enjoy playing this game already has a problem.

...and that problem would be self-styled moral guardians who aren't satisfied that the game (which none of them will have played) already carries an M rating from the ESRB.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:58 PM on January 2, 2004


Meantime, Take-Two is milking this product for all it is worth: Next year the company will even be introducing a Gameboy version of the thing, so that kids can carry it around with them wherever they go

No need! No need!!
posted by dash_slot- at 6:35 PM on January 2, 2004


i blame pong.
posted by quonsar at 6:36 PM on January 2, 2004


BTW, how many of you who defend this game are pacifists in real life? Doesn't that feel just a little bit hypocritical?

No more hypocritical than the complete lack of outrage over developing new and interesting ways to torture one's ever popular and unashamedly bisexual Sims.
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:51 PM on January 2, 2004


Kill dozens of people in Grand Theft Auto 3... EVIL!
Launch nuclear strikes against allied cities setting them up for invasion and annihilation in Civilization 3... perfectly fine!

All this media attention on GTA is just because it's the game du jour, and the media feeds off of itself recursively. It's like the digital equivalent of Shark Attacks. No one even needs to play the game to criticize it anymore (the Haitian thing is a perfect example of it. Anyone that played the game would realize that "Kill all Haitians" doesn't refer to the ethnic group, but to the gang.)
posted by mkn at 7:39 PM on January 2, 2004


Though it's not a game that I would personally spend my hard earned money to buy, I really wish everyone would lay off it already. My husband bought it the first day it came out and then played it for DAYS on end (for a very LONG). Aside from the fact that I think his hearing was damaged by my making him wear headphones if he was going to crank it up that loud, he doesn't seem to be mentally damaged in any way ... and he certainly hasn't gone out and stolen any cars or started shooting random people.

I prefer fantasy role playing games, and really the only difference between the two is that my characters get to wear cool armor and kill people and animals with swords and magic spells (though Final Fantasy X-2 does have a Gunner class) ... and they usually don't show all the bloodiness of battle. All the same, my characters are running around looting and killing in order to win the game.

You can even take it further back to board games. Anyone here play Risk or Axis and Allies? Do you think those little plastic soldiers that you are bombing out of existence don't represent people? Oh, but those are war games, which are evidently OK, seeing as I don't see anyone whining about Medal of Honor or any of the other super violent first person shooters which involving killing as many of the enemy as you can while accomplishing "missions".

They are games, and not every person who plays them "has a problem". Some people are able to separate reality from fantasy and some aren't. Not all the people who can't do so play these games. Some people who go on killing sprees get their ideas from movies, religious texts or the voices in their heads.
posted by Orb at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2004


Shhh, mkn, we don't want to alert the Americans to our hidden terrorist covert training software!
posted by Darke at 8:09 PM on January 2, 2004


I don't think that the gaming community can have it both ways. They can't on the one hand herald the video game as a new form of interactive art, and then say "it's just a game" when a given work is criticized for the included content.

Oh, come the fuck on.

Movies aren't art. DIdn't you see Collateral Damage?

Books aren't art. Look at all the crappy romance novels.

The point isn't that the content is good or somehow redeemable. It's that the game is a creative work, and the medium as a whole is capable of transmitting a profound message. Therefore, the video game, as a medium, is art.

Just like books and film and paintings and everything else.

As far as the larger, "Grand Theft Auto makes criminals/should be banned" issue, well. How far are you comfortable taking this premise? Before there were videogames, comic books were accused of turning children into monsters. TV was accused to turning children into monsters. Hell, I blame my most recent murderous ramapage and cocaine addiction on Scarface.

My take on it is that someone who would enjoy playing this game already has a problem

Are you really ready to assert more than 5 million Americans (sales figures for Vice City, plus some that played GTA3 but not Vice City) have serious, muderous, even, mental problems? Is that you contention?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 8:10 PM on January 2, 2004


Vice City is one of the coolest video games I've played to completion. However, I must say this: during the weeks following my completion of the game, I experienced several negative urges...

Whenever I was stuck in traffic, I would get the urge to get out, pull someone out of a (better) car, and take off. There were times when I saw police cars and thought about going 'Vigilante' for a while.

Whew. Good to get that off my chest. Luckily, if I had acted on these impulses, I would have had a great excuse. It was all Rockstar's fault. Damn them!
posted by graventy at 8:12 PM on January 2, 2004


how many of you who defend this game are pacifists in real life? Doesn't that feel just a little bit hypocritical?

No. No one died because I played GTA. Hear that? No one died because I played GTA. No harm was done. Therefore, it's okay that I play GTA. Why is that difficult to understand?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2004


The really disturbing thing in this article isn't the Michael Jackson comparison, it's the fact that people are upset about a supposedly racist quote uttered in the game. It's FICTION, people. Remember freedom of speech?

Political correctness will be the death of our intellectual freedom. Take this trend to the logical next step... if I write a book where the main character utters the lines "Kill the chinese!", I will now be considered racist, too. Hey, pretty soon, we can have our poor little minds kept in a sandbox where we don't have to be exposed to anything that might cause us any distress whatsoever. All courtesy of your friendly fascist political correctness police.

Also, and this illustrates the aburdity of the P.C. crowd... if he had uttered the line, "Kill the White Man!" who in this whole wide world would have raised a stink?
posted by hurkle at 9:25 PM on January 2, 2004


My take on it is that someone who would enjoy playing this game already has a problem.

well then I guess you think I have a problem. I love that game. I love the soundtrack to it so much, I have the boxset. I've had it for a year and every so often, I still get an urge to flick on the PS2, steal a motorcycle, zoom around doing wheelies while listening to the New Wave station. And then sometimes I get bored and go have the character blow up boats for sport.

I really don't see the difference between games like this and super violent movies. It's entertainment, pure and simple and as long as everyone attending/participating understands that (as presumed they would as an adult) then we're all fine. There's a heavy thick line between fantasy and reality and that's why there are ratings on film, video games, etc.

I can assure you as an upstanding, intelligent, reasonable adult woman in her mid-20s, I have never sucker punched a hooker and stole her money or stolen a car simply to knock guys off their scooters. Nor as an impressionable Atari-playing child in the 80s did I ever think I was a yellow orb with a insatiable craving for ghosts, dots and fruit.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:43 PM on January 2, 2004


I'm just staggered at the laziness of the groupthink here.

Whenever this subject comes up, people trot out the bromide of "I play xx game, and I've never killed anyone" -- as if that addressed anyone's argument.

People say: "You must be in favor of banning video games" -- as if that addressed anyone's argument.

People act shocked, shocked that anyone could be so moralistic and blind as to attack the content of video games (e.g. "It's a GAME. A GAME" etc.). Why, they're so shocked they can't even imagine what these blithering idiots might be saying.

So. Imagine this: You have a very popular game that consists of, let's say, torture. Super-realistic graphics of a woman tied up in a basement, and you torture her as she screams in simulated pain.

Someone finds this offensive. (The nerve!)

I say: "Come on, people. It's a game. A GAME!"

Now, what do you tell me in response?

I agree that there's a difference in quality here, but in what does that difference consist? And can you at least recognize the character of the argument, instead of (see below) "quip commentary" (impress your friends!).

Is it possible to simply comment that games in which the entertainment consists of murder might be offensive or distasteful?

I mean, Jesus, at least engage the issue, or try.
posted by argybarg at 9:56 PM on January 2, 2004


Now, what do you tell me in response?

I said quit playing The Sims!

It's really that simple.
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:26 PM on January 2, 2004


Now, what do you tell me in response?

I tell you that it's been done, almost 20 years ago. Get with the times, Ranty McRantypants.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:36 PM on January 2, 2004


Is it possible to simply comment that games in which the entertainment consists of murder might be offensive or distasteful?

Of course it is. There's plenty of games I find offensive and distasteful. But that's missing the point. Unless there's solid evidence that playing such games causes people to become criminals, or maybe even just offensive and distasteful people, there's no sensible reason to stop them playing.

I mean, Jesus, at least engage the issue, or try

OK, here's the issue: What objective evidence is there that computer games cause people to commit crime? Not posturing pundits. Not annecdotal gossip. Not 'studies' by organizations with a blatantly transparent agenda. Decent evidence. Like a properly controlled double-blind experiment with a significant sample size and over conducted a sensible period, run by people who have a clue about controls and statistics? It's not like these games were invented last week.
posted by normy at 10:38 PM on January 2, 2004


argybarg: setting up fantasy worlds in an effort to construct freaky psychosexual strawman arguments does not constitute "engaging the issue".

...so let's try that again, shall we?
posted by aramaic at 10:39 PM on January 2, 2004


It all adds up that each and everyone of our lives is cheapened by the laziness in which it takes to "kill" a person these days.

The Army is using a battle simulation FPS in order to get kids to enlist. How much more prodding do we need to recognize that, for the most part, the rudder is broken and we've sent a couple of the guys sitting in the back a-diving to find our lost oars?

The right wing used to rail, bitch, scream about what was happening to this country in the eighties, what with punk rock, glam rock, DnD, messages in albums played backwards, 2liveCrew etc. Where are they now? What happened to the decency these moralists pledged to protect?

That said, I like the game. I don't own a console, nor ever would I. But I always reassure myself that it is I who is playing. The rest, I leave to get riled up on their own, but never do they on that which matters.
posted by crasspastor at 10:46 PM on January 2, 2004


Well, argybarg, I think you're missing the main point, which is that simulated violence is not the same as real violence. I agree that someone who played a game such as you describe would be in my opinion, nutty, but such a person deserves no sanctions. OTOH, someone who actually tortures women is repulsive and deserves to feel the full force of the law, which is why we have laws - to protect real people from real harm.

"Games in which the entertainment consists of murder" are actually very common. From cowboys and indians (or cops and robbers or whatever the kids are playing these days) to Doom to various pen and paper wargames to FRPG's, some imaginary person is getting killed by another imaginary person. And so what? Who cares if you, or anyone else, finds it offensive or distasteful? Let the imaginary people object, they're the ones getting killed.

Are you seriously agreeing with the article, that to play GTA is a thousand times worse than raping a child? Doesn't even pass the laugh test.
posted by alex_reno at 10:52 PM on January 2, 2004


konolia: "BTW, how many of you who defend this game are pacifists in real life? Doesn't that feel just a little bit hypocritical?"

No, actually, it doesn't.

It doesn't because I'm able to magically able to distinguish fantasy from 'real life'. I'm able to understand that pop stars molesting children in real life is almost certainly far WORSE than anything that happens inside a video game. Imagine that.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 11:09 PM on January 2, 2004


and particularly in a very realistic game such as this

You've got to be kidding. Vice City counts as "very realistic"? Puh-lease. It's a blocky, unrealistic mess - top of the line or not.

Look, Vice City both offends me *and* makes me laugh, often at the same time. That's part of its appeal to some of us, I think; it lets folks play with some pretty powerful emotions in a safe setting. I don't want to ban it, but I certainly don't think that everyone who has a problem with it is a kneejerk asshole. No more than the folks who make kneejerk attacks on the game's opponents, anyway.

I think you're missing the main point, which is that simulated violence is not the same as real violence.

I think you're deliberately avoiding the main opposing point, which is that there are legitimate questions to be raised about the effect of immersing oneself in simulated violence - like, oh, running over pedestrians and shooting whores in the head after fucking and robbing them - for hours at a time. You don't have to be a prude to wonder about how children are interpreting that, especially in a society with so many dumb and/or ridiculously irresponsible parents.
posted by mediareport at 11:23 PM on January 2, 2004


mediareport, normy already addressed your objection. With, say, this:

OK, here's the issue: What objective evidence is there that computer games cause people to commit crime? Not posturing pundits. Not anecdotal gossip. Not 'studies' by organizations with a blatantly transparent agenda. Decent evidence. Like a properly controlled double-blind experiment with a significant sample size and over conducted a sensible period, run by people who have a clue about controls and statistics? It's not like these games were invented last week.

Look, we've got people saying it's perfectly reasonable to assume that playing violent video games leads to violence, and we've got people saying that's bullshit. What we don't have is proof one way or the other. Not one link's been offered, to say nothing of a study passing muster. So what are we after? Do we want to get to the bottom of something, or do we just want to yell about it?

I haven't found compelling studies on either side, but since this issue originates with people claiming that there's a relationship between video games and violence, I pretty much think that the burden of proof is on them. Until I see some, everything's just opinion. And opinion is only good for convincing the like-minded.

You've nailed the appeal of Vice City, though. I like laughing when I'm angry. Audacity is refreshing.
posted by amery at 11:49 PM on January 2, 2004


Yelling at Nothing: Books aren't art. Look at all the crappy romance novels.

Wooosh, talking about missing the point here.

The point isn't that the content is good or somehow redeemable. It's that the game is a creative work, and the medium as a whole is capable of transmitting a profound message. Therefore, the video game, as a medium, is art.

That is the point. You don't get the luxury of working both sides. You can't claim that it is art, and then try to duck away from criticism by saying "hey, it's just a video game, don't we have better things to worry about?"

As far as the larger, "Grand Theft Auto makes criminals/should be banned" issue, well. How far are you comfortable taking this premise? Before there were videogames, comic books were accused of turning children into monsters. TV was accused to turning children into monsters. Hell, I blame my most recent murderous ramapage and cocaine addiction on Scarface.

Hrm, where did I say this game should be banned?

But I think that it is possible to question whether work of art should be made or consumed in mass quantities without calling for banning it. Cronenberg and von Tier for example are two people who have convinced me that their mastery of the medium does not justify their decision to inflict another round of emotional and moral sadism on the audience. I don't want to see these directors blacklisted, I don't want to see a ban on their films. I would like to see the market dry up in much the same way that the market for blackface Bojangles musical numbers in film dried up in the 1960s.

At least one of the key features of the gangster movie (both the 1930s masters and their more recent revivals) is that the over-the-top excessive violence and sex was presented with an air of moral tragedy. (A long tradition going back to Shakespeare.) The notion of being trapped by with accellerating cycles of violence until the protagonist reaches his own brutal, traumatic end is just not something I see in the reviews of video games. Even so, the gangster movies of the 30s created a critical backlash that resulted in the industry toning down the levels of violence.

jerseygirl: I really don't see the difference between games like this and super violent movies.

This is one thing I find interesting. Quite a number of reviews seriously questioned whether Tarantino had in fact, gone too far with Kill Bill. It seemed that about half of the reviews I read said that it was an admittedly beautifully flimed but ultimately sadistic and self-indulgent piece of cinematic masturbation filled with pointless violence.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:53 PM on January 2, 2004


(I only meant the first part in response to your post; KJS. Sorry 'bout that.)

If I made the "it's just a videogame" argument, I only meant to make it in the sense that a book is also "just a book." i.e., it's just a videogame, and has no influence on my actual, rational though process.

I think we're actually making almost the same argument.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:34 AM on January 3, 2004


mediareport, normy already addressed your objection.

No, he didn't. He said:

Unless there's solid evidence that playing such games causes people to become criminals, or maybe even just offensive and distasteful people, there's no sensible reason to stop them playing.

That's a ridiculous oversimplification of the concerns coming from places other than the NY Post. There's lots of middle ground between "causes people to become criminals" and "is great to immerse children in for days at a time." Folks like normy - and Penny Arcade, whose response is almost as incoherent as the original article - always seem to ignore that middle ground.

I'm simply suggesting that it's legit to be asking the kind of questions some of us are asking about the effect on children of a game like Vice City. It would be nice if adult supporters of the game would acknowledge that's at least a question worth exploring. Maybe together we can come up with the kind of studies that would answer it. But that's not going to happen when game supporters react to the perfectly legit concern by flinging poo and shrieking, "Asshole prude moralizer!" at whoever raises it.
posted by mediareport at 1:05 AM on January 3, 2004


Oh, and just to be clear, I doubt we'll be able to clearly document negative effects (whether criminal or just "offensive and distasteful") in a rigorously scientific way. We can barely do that with television, but is there anyone who seriously doubts that staring at the tube for 8 hours a day is a less-than-ideal activity for young primates? Toss in lots of adrenalin, immersion in a gleefully amoral and violent universe and, oh, what the hell, a cultural context of instant gratification and absent or uncaring parents, and yeah, I'd say there's good reason to be asking questions about the effect of games like Vice City.

Can't the gaming industry do any better than that? And isn't the company's Enron-style accounting at least slightly relevant here? At what point should smart gamers stop supporting people who pull shady crap like that?
posted by mediareport at 1:22 AM on January 3, 2004


KJS: That is the point. You don't get the luxury of working both sides. You can't claim that it is art, and then try to duck away from criticism by saying "hey, it's just a video game, don't we have better things to worry about?"

I have a difficult time imagining why this presents a problem for you. Video games are creative works and as such they deserve the same protection as other creative works. They are also just games, the violence is simulated, and no one is actually being killed. How are those two things mutually exclusive? I'd go so far as to say that both are self evident.

Mediareport: There's lots of middle ground between "causes people to become criminals" and "is great to immerse children in for days at a time."

Yes, there is. That was covered in the part of the post you quoted to reply to "or maybe even just offensive and distasteful people". In any case, the point has nothing to do with violent games being "great," nor with being immersed for "days at a time," but rather whether normal game playing patterns have harmful effects. Right now the assumption is that they might, and so games are rated like movies so parents can decide.

On preview I see you address the middle ground point in your follow up.

If we cannot document negative effects, it must mean the effect is too subtle or that it doesn't exist. Your question is so loaded as to not be worth asking. No one claimed video games were an ideal (Can you define that? I know I can't), no one mentioned eight hours a day, and the game is rated for adults not children.
posted by Nothing at 1:44 AM on January 3, 2004


Sorry, I see you were referring to TV with the eight hours a day, ideal activity line. My response is the same, though.
posted by Nothing at 1:47 AM on January 3, 2004


Yelling at Nothing: if books have no influence on your rational, actual thought processes then either you aren't reading the right books or you're not thinking about them enough.

Everything we consume affects us. Children have to be taught the difference between reality and fantasy because everything they see and hear and play gives them ideas of how the world works.

Art teaches. Art is powerful and profound. Art transforms reality and makes humans comprehend and interpret their lives, their hopes, their morals and their thoughts. And if you think video games are art, then you have to think carefully about what that art is saying, and who it's for.

Vice City is an adult game, just like many things in life. And playing it to excess is as bad as stamp collecting your house away, or gambling, or spending hours on the computer playing Tetris instead of going to work.

I don't want my kid seeing Kill Bill. I don't want my kid seeing my best friend slap her husband around (even if he likes it). I don't want my kid playing Vice City until I know they can understand why we humans get off on weird, violent, crazy shit like that.

I don't want my kid reading Burroughs when he's nine, but I do want him reading, because I know a book is an extremely powerful means of conveying ideas. Sure it's fiction, but the strength of the medium requires delicacy when dealing with developing minds. So too with the art of video games.

Vice City is pushing limits, but we adults can understand the draw of the game, can fathom the complex set of emotions it creates within us. Children have to be taught context and compassion, and inundating them with images of violence and mayhem--be it through books, games or real-life examples--will have an effect on their development into adults.

Fiction informs life and too many hours inside a fantasy can have negative effects. Don't ban the game or even compare it to pedophilia, but do think about what the game is teaching. And know that books do affect the way you think, just like any good art should.
posted by Bones423 at 1:59 AM on January 3, 2004


Can't the gaming industry do any better than that?

There are much better games than GTA, by almost any measure.

And isn't the company's Enron-style accounting at least slightly relevant here? At what point should smart gamers stop supporting people who pull shady crap like that?

About the same point that people stopped watching movies, and buying records. The games industry is no more shady than any other entertainment business.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:59 AM on January 3, 2004


Quite a number of reviews seriously questioned whether Tarantino had in fact, gone too far with Kill Bill. It seemed that about half of the reviews I read said that it was an admittedly beautifully flimed but ultimately sadistic and self-indulgent piece of cinematic masturbation filled with pointless violence.

Maybe so, but there's no way to watch Kill Bill nonviolently. Because film is what it is, there's no personal choice involved - assuming that you decide to watch it, it always turns out the same way.

This inevitability is not always true of games, and it is not true of Vice City, in particular. The player is not forced to play Vice City in any one way. You're supposed to finish the storyline in order to win, but you can spend your time doing random things like delivering pizzas and driving around listening to the radio, instead. Even if you decide to finish the missions and beat the game, Vice City is open-ended enough that you can choose to play it in a manner that's not much more violent than any other game.

I think I killed a few hundred virtual criminals while playing "Police 911", for instance. In that game, you cannot choose not to kill. Killing in itself is the point, and it's the only point the game allows for. So which is worse - a game that allows the player to express his or her free will as much as is possible, or a game that takes free will out of the equation? The funny thing about Vice City is, you have to decide what to do on your own, and your decisions have consequences. The game gives you the potential to cut loose on the entire city, but it's not necessarily mindless violence, because the possibility for mindful violence exists. As such, it's hard for me to denounce it.

But that's not going to happen when game supporters react to the perfectly legit concern by flinging poo and shrieking, "Asshole prude moralizer!" at whoever raises it.

Yes, there are perfectly legit concerns about games like Vice City... but there are also a lot of people who want to see a world where every game is suitable for children, even though a great many gamers are adults. A lot of gamers quite reasonably fear losing ground by taking a moderate stance, so long as many of their ideological opponents do not. I mean, come on, is this article even remotely balanced? Is it not flinging some pretty major poo of its own? I don't see why gamers should be expected to react to this article in a reasonable manner, when the article itself is highly inflammatory!
posted by vorfeed at 2:02 AM on January 3, 2004


Nor as an impressionable Atari-playing child in the 80s did I ever think I was a yellow orb with a insatiable craving for ghosts, dots and fruit.

cf ... If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music.
posted by seanyboy at 2:02 AM on January 3, 2004


Nothing: I have a difficult time imagining why this presents a problem for you. Video games are creative works and as such they deserve the same protection as other creative works. They are also just games, the violence is simulated, and no one is actually being killed. How are those two things mutually exclusive? I'd go so far as to say that both are self evident.

They are mutually exclusive to the point that if they are art, then they diserve the same kinds of critical defense that we get with art. People can and did create critiques of Natural Born Killers arguing that the levels of violence in the film was not necessary to make the point, while Oliver Stone could say, "look, I know what I'm doing and everything in there serves a purpose of social commentary." Brushing off criticism with "it's just a game" is doing disservice to games as an artistic medium. If you say "this is an artistic medium" then be prepared to justify how the medium is used.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:26 AM on January 3, 2004


I loved Vice City. And when I heard a character say "Kill The Haitians" not only did I do so in the game, killing the virtual Haitians, but I wanted to do so in real life.

Unfortunately, there are no Haitians where I live. Will kittens be a good substitute?

I know, I know - this should go in AskMe.

GTA has warped my fragile little mind.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:03 AM on January 3, 2004


One good thing that might come out of all this: the politicization of the gaming community. Most gamers I know are basically apolitical, probably leaning toward the "me first" values of the contemporary American right. These are guys who find nothing wrong with calling someone "faggot" as a term of derision.

But if this keeps up, more than a couple of the millions of gamers might open their eyes and start getting involved in politics, and they'll find themselves on the left side of the civil liberties fence.
posted by Eamon at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2004


mediareport: I'm simply suggesting that it's legit to be asking the kind of questions some of us are asking about the effect on children of a game like Vice City. It would be nice if adult supporters of the game would acknowledge that's at least a question worth exploring.

I'm an adult, I suppose you could call me a supporter of video games, and I asked that very question in my post:

Look, we've got people saying it's perfectly reasonable to assume that playing violent video games leads to violence, and we've got people saying that's bullshit. What we don't have is proof one way or the other. Not one link's been offered, to say nothing of a study passing muster. So what are we after? Do we want to get to the bottom of something, or do we just want to yell about it?

Or, put another way, "What evidence is there for the effects, good or bad, of video games on kids? And if we don't have any evidence one way or the other, what are we after here?"

I'm confused about what you mean by "exploring". It seems like this thread is full of serious responses to your question. I've seen plenty of posts that contain versions of the following:

1. Parenting is a job for parents.
2. Video games are no worse than other forms of entertainment; why single them out for special blame?
3. What proof do we have?

I understand your frustration with plenty of discussions on this topic, but I don't understand why you don't think the question is being taken seriously in this thread. Honestly, it sounds to me like you’re frustrated because you don't much care for the answers. Which makes sense and all, but it doesn't mean the question isn't getting the attention it deserves.
posted by amery at 6:40 PM on January 3, 2004


I was reading "it's just a game" differently than you were, KJS. I was seeing it as a response to those comparing (as in the FPP) video game violence to actual violent acts, not as a defense against all criticism. People may have criticized Natural Born Killers, but I would hope that no one claimed it was comparable to actual acts of violence. "It's just a game" might not be defense against a reasoned criticism, but it seems appropriate against a attacks that the game is actively harmful, indicative of the breakdown of society, and other such hyperbolic claims.
posted by Nothing at 9:39 PM on January 3, 2004


I've started the intro of Vice City, never played it, but GTA 3.. oh my. Quite a great game.
posted by firestorm at 7:03 PM on January 8, 2004


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