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Soldat_Louis's picture
Joined: 2006-11-08

I feel I have to dedicate a thread to him, and not only because [URL=http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=9d1c96f4-ccb6-4e67-b327-19735432cfb6]what he said about Army of Two.[/URL]

Here is an academic who defended video games several times, and even praised James Paul Gee's book [I]What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy[/I] ([URL=http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3965/is_200304/ai_n9196683/pg_1]read it in 4 parts[/URL]), but gets verbally lynched by some gamers. And why ? Because of quotes reproduced in the [I]Montreal Gazette[/I] about mercenary game [I]Army of Two[/I] and the game industry's lack of originality.

Just [URL=http://gamepolitics.com/2008/02/29/prof-game-industry-barbaric-continually-chooses-violent-themes/#comments]read the comments to GP's story[/URL]. I was horrified by the angriness and the bitterness of many of them. He didn't like [I]Army of Two[/I] and called it barbaric ? He slammed the game industry for choosing violent themes ? So what ?! He has the right to think so. And that doesn't make him automatically a clone of Jack Thompson.

I must admit I lacked of courage, because instead of saying all these things on my own comments, I preferred to avoid discussion directly on GP's site and start one on GP's forum, hoping that it will be more peaceful. Anyway, I wanted to highlight Prof Hoechsmann's own comment, because he certainly was more courageous than myself, and anyway it's worth a reading :

[QUOTE=Michael Hoechsmann]
March 2nd, 2008 at 1:06 am

While the debate rages and all sorts of angles are explored, I am curious as to why there are no posts that question whether, or to what extent, the journalist got it right. It’s tough to control the message in an interview and when you speak to the print media it’s a crap shoot, because you don’t know what will be kept and what will be left out. For the record, the “it” that I called, or intended to call, barbaric was the Army of Two game, not the industry as a whole. And it was a gut reaction.

As for my research and the “expert” label – I didn’t go looking for this role. It all started after the Kimveer Gill shooting in Montreal. I was speaking about youth cultures - in that case, gaming, Goth and metal. I don’t spout the usual moral panic rhetoric, and I thought I should continue to voice my thoughts on the matter. If it’s left just to some other critics, gamers will continue to be labelled as asocial. Not that those that sent me hate mail deserve better.

I am not the worst of your worries. Believe it or not, I have defended video games/gamers/gaming consistently in media interviews, constantly rebutting the media effects model of thinking that suggests that game playing causes violence. I take serious Janet Muray’s claims about the future of narrative in simulation, Jim Gee’s points about learning in/and games, and Steven Johnson’s arguments about games making us smarter.

I also agree that game themes/designs evolve with the tastes of gamers and that most/many games are no more violent than the average Tarantino flick.

That said, I’m no fan of militarism in pop culture from GI Joe to shoot-em-ups in video games, and I do find games like Army of Two barbaric. I could find worse words for what I think of them. War is only a game in the privileged, myopic confines of the North American over-consumptive entertainment cultures and if the games industry wants to flaunt product like Army of Two they should expect something less than a cozy embrace from critics and theorists.

As for the “cultivation” of attitudes and worldviews, see over 40 years work from the Annenberg School of Communication. It is not a media effects model, but a long-term incubation.

Yes, I do believe the industry can be more creative and imaginative. When Canadian kids were surveyed by the CTF (2005), they said they liked “action,” good graphics and good functionalities in a video game. They did not say “violence” though the games industry likes to hide behind the claim that they are only producing what the consumer wants. OK, I know that many, even most, gamers are not kids, but that is the same case for TV audiences, and we don’t let TV networks off the hook with a shrug and a wink.

Last comment - the defensiveness and the animosity that I read from many of these posts leaves me befuddled.


I think there are many lessons to learn from this debacle.

First of all, we definitely cannot trust mainstream media, not only because of the sensationalistic way they portray things, but also because of the way they select and interpret quotes. So when someone is interviewed about video games, we may have to ask him directly if he really said and meant what he said (remember Frank Borelli last year).

Second of all, we (gamers) should stop, once and for all, being so defensive and knee-jerk about any critic of any aspect of video games. We should stop "thompsonizing" anyone for any pretext. I'm not calling for political correctness, though. And I'm not saying that our wrath is always unjustified. But in my opinion, we should keep it for the people who really deserve it. When someone like Janice Turner says, on a National newspaper, that video games as a whole are "Satan's Sudoku" and "crack for kids", she deserves massive negative replies. Indeed, a lot of gamers replied AND these replies remained civil, articulate and well-argumented. When someone like Keith Vaz claimed that in some actual video games you can rape women, I exposed his behavior [URL=http://gamingsince198x.fr/?p=220]on a friend's blog[/URL] (in French) as a demonstration of incompetence, cowardice and "gutter politics", because this is what he deserved. When someone like Lyndon LaRouche and his minions launched so many false and outrageous accusations against video games (and MySpace, and Facebook), I reported them on these forum and tried to expose them as what they are : nuts ! But when someone like Prof. Hoechsmann objects the content of the game, or the behavior of the industry, while calling for more diversity and tempering that [I]"It would be far too simplistic to suggest that playing a game of this nature would cause someone to want to be a mercenary"[/I], he deserves a serious and civil dicussion rather than bitter and knee-jerk reactions. Even though we may disagree with him, he's entitled to his opinions, and he's not totally wrong.

Third, during the pathetic Mass Effect fake scandal, there was a debate about whether Copper Lawrence had to be forgiven or not for her misguided views. I wonder if we have, ourselves, things to be forgiven for. Would we accept to be judged the way we sometimes judge others ? (By the way, I maintain that Cooper wasn't the worst in that case : it's Cathy Ruse sparked the controversy and launched the most infamous accusations, and it came unnoticed)


- Gaming Since 198X : http://gamingsince198x.fr/
By crazy old men, for crazy old men (in French)
- If you want to know more about the real Soldat Louis (which I'm not affiliated with : I'm just a devoted fan), go there : http://www.soldatlouis.com/

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