Moral Kombat - I write a lot. ^^; ...round 2. Fight.
A recent entry
at Penny Arcade (a really great comic btw!) pointed to this piece of sensationalist rubbish called Moral Kombat. They linked the trailer, so you can watch it there and make up your own mind about it. There has been some decent rebuttal since the trailer was released, but I feel more could and should be said on the subject.
The trailer opens up with a statement: "Whoever tells the stories defines the culture." While I have my doubts that such a sweeping generality is true 100% of the time (The culture also defines the storyteller. It's not a one way street.), let's go with it a bit. So if in fact the storyteller defines the culture, this trailer should show me some examples....but there isn't any to be had. There are no video game stories in the trailer. Just meaningless clips of seemingly meaningless violence, run in the background while people in the foreground made ominous, important sounding statements that don't hold water.
The second statement says that violence has been with us since the time of Cain and Abel....but that up we've always recognized violence as a vice rather than a virtue. The statement is deliberately misleading again...there's a clear, unspoken "But not now, and it's because of video games." So if violence is a virtue now and never in any point in history before this point, we should see at least one form of violence present today that has not presented itself in the past. So let's run through the list.
- War - See 9/11 and Iraq.
- Gang Violence - Hrm, nope, that's been around for a while. The mafia and the yakuza, and the whole thing can be traced back to the days when we were tribes and kingdoms.
- Racial Hate Crimes - Also been around for a long time. In fact, there are many who argue that the Cain and Abel story is the basis for the black vs white racial tensions that have lasted through history.
- Witchhunts - sorry, indulge a bit of snarkiness for a second Salem and Moral Kombat aren't really so far apart. I can prove that too. See Below.
- Rape - One of the oldest in the book.
- Murder - See Cain and Abel
- Torture - examine the "iron maiden" device.
- Dance Club fights - Bar brawls.
- Self mutiliation - http://wso.williams.edu/~atimofey/self_mutilation/History/index.html
If I missed a couple, let me know. I'm certain there is no form of violence today that was not prevalent in some previous point in history.
See, Salem Witch Trials and Moral Kombat have several core themes built into them: The witch trials were about stopping an evil that was thought to be spreading. So too is Moral Kombat. The witch trials were also about fighting off the unknown: people who had no idea what witchcraft was about, and didn't care to learn because they might curse their souls decided it would be a good idea to persecute those that they suspected were practicing witchcraft. The people in Moral Kombat? I predict, at most, one of them will say, "I picked up two XBox 360 titles and played through the first few areas." and the rest will, if forced, admit they've only seen games in passing. I cannot tell until the full length 'documentary' is released. In both cases, a very strong blurring of the truth was applied: for Moral Kombat, go ahead and look at Joe Liebermann's statement in the trailer, then go look at the ESRB. The trailer blurred his statement, turning a fact of history into a statement of irresponsibility and rebellion on the part of the game industry. For the Salem Witch Trials, have a look at all the evidence that was presented during the time here: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SALEM.HTM
Self Mutilation is in fact more prevalent today than it was in the past, but it too has been around longer than video games (and I could be wrong, but I don't think there are any games that deal directly with self mutilation). It is caused by one of a few serious psychological issues, as noted in the self mutilation link. These are conditions that are exacerbated by today's society, and not really any one part of it in particular.
So, the third statement in the trailer is that "We don't want to get into this, and have the government regulate video games. Or force you to adopt a ratings system. But if you don't do it yourself, we will." How many artists, writers, and musicians are there in the world who fear the word censorship? Censorship is simply, "We don't approve of this part of your work, so you can't show it to other people." A writer not allowed to publish a controversial article, an artist forced to paint clothes over his nude. During the time of Elvis, swaying of hips was considered taboo. So I don't think it was an unreasonable reaction for the games industry to be reluctant to even partially censor themselves. But they did in fact create the ESRB. In short, the quote taken in
context is meaningless to the argument Moral Kombat is trying to put forth, and out of context, it is a sensationalist comment meant to show us how the games industry is being evil.
Fourth statement: "Our culture is willing to accept a different level of violence in our products. Ah...whether they be film, television, or video games." ...yes? Our culture is also willing to accept a different level of sexuality in our products. And a different level of poison in our foods. (see my Health Info sig link) We also listen to different music than we did 10 years ago. ...the point is that there is no point to this statement. Just an important sounding sentence with some guy stabbing another guy in the neck with a knife. The fact that the game is Hitman doesn't make a difference in the presentation. It is just meaningless violence without context. So is the alien getting electrocuted in the next scene, which I think is either from StarCraft or The Longest Journey, though I don't believe the context is correct in either case.
Fifth statement: "We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about who we pretend to be." Um...no. Besides the obvious, "I play a superhero on City of Heroes, but I'm not flying around the world saving people" statement, the definition of pretend is to cause or attempt to cause (what is not so) to seem so: to pretend illness; to pretend that nothing is wrong.
Sixth Statement: "If you take a step back and you realize that people sat down in front of an equivalent of this, a flight simulator, and learned enough from a flight simulator to fly jets that they've never touched before into the World Trade Center, what do you think happens when a nine year old boy sits down and plays a first person shooter video game that rewards him for killing cops?" ....well first of all, flight simulators are not video games. They are flight simulators. They attempt to recreate with as much accuracy as possible the flight experience, thus simulating it. Because of the accuracy of the flight simulator's environment, you can in fact learn enough about the environment to pilot the plane from which the game took its data. The person who made this comment hasn't grasped the concept that training can be done virtually now. You just create the real world object in a 3D program. The simulator certainly didn't give the terrorists the idea that the US is an evil country, nor did it tell them to pilot the virtual plane into the World Trade Center. The simulator is a tool and as a tool has no sense of good or evil. An axe is used to cut wood, but it can also cleave a person. A gun can shoot a target, or it can shoot a person. A pencil can be used to write with, or it can be used to stab an eye with. Tools are not good or evil. The intent behind the person using the tool is.
So what do I think of the 9 year old boy? Well first I think, "Wow, his mom bought that game for him without even bothering to look at the huge ESRB logo on the game? She didn't think to read the back of the box to find out what it's all about? She didn't look at the front cover and notice the violence it portrays?" Second, I think that if he plays that game, he will indeed have been exposed to things he shouldn't have, but I don't think that he's going to grow up, buy a gun, and start shooting cops. See my comments on the fifth statement.
Seventh... "There's gonna be a Colombine like incident, maybe to the factor of 10 down the road. Then there's gonna be then there's gonna be a (human?) cry within the halls of Congress and elsewhere to ban these games altogether." I can't honestly touch this one because it's a prediction, not a fact. At no point in the prediction's quote does it mention video games, nor what about the games he thinks will make Colombine happen again. I will however go into a related tangent.
Colombine was not the result of the game. The game was used to develop a simulator that simulated the school. Like the terrorists who trained on the flight simulator, the terrorists here built an environment where they could train before the actual attack. If
they were playing Doom before that, I don't think Doom's gameplay contributed to it. I don't think anyone has tried to send a psychologist to find out whether those two did it because of Doom.
"This type of issue is politically a win-win type of issue. Um...it's the issue of where you're protecting the children." ...the issue of protecting the children is an issue of reading the game box and looking at its ESRB rating before you buy. If you pop in the game without reading the information about the game on the box, and suddenly you see people killing people and you don't like that...then that's your fault.
"You literally enter into a world that is so realistic that we forget that it's a make believe world." Yes, sometimes we do. But then we look away from the monitor, and it's like, "Oh yeah. Real life." And then the ones making this film apparently think that we say, "Real life. Let's go commit some crime that the game told us to."
"Now we're not there yet, but we keep getting closer." To....what?
"Here in MIT, when I started teaching here 15 years ago, most of my students wanted to be filmmakers. Now they want to be game designers." Dun dun dun...oh no. They say it like it's a bad thing.
"We cannot fathom
what this medium will be in four years. And I bet my life on..." ....on what? But yes, you can't fathom what the medium is in four years because you cannot fathom it now. It is the failure to understand that which you persecute which blinds you to the reality.
So there's my rebuttal on the whole trailer.