Once again games are at the forefront of the news. Now they are being criticised by human rights groups, Trial and Pro Juventute, because they allow players to commit virtual war crimes. These groups were concerned that because games are interactive by nature and encourage the player to become immersed in the experience it meant that “line between the virtual and real experience becomes blurred and the game becomes a simulation of real-life situations on the battlefield.” [BBC]
These testers played a variety of different war games including Call of Duty and Far Cry in order to determine whether or not the games rules abided by the Geneva Convention. There were lawyers watching people play for Pete’s sake.
This annoyed me. Look, I firmly believe that war should stop and that the atrocities committed by people in war are simply heinous. However, I do not believe that people who play games, are going to suddenly put their mice down and say, “Oh well, I think I’m going to commit an atrocity today.”
“I think I’m going to head out and declare war on small people with red hair.”
This just doesn’t happen. Is this not a follow-on from the hype-induced madness of how video games make people violent? Let’s face it, if video games were as amazingly successful at turning ordinary human beings into crazed psycho killers as people say they are, then why haven’t we seen them being used as part of army training to build some kind of super soldiers?
This has to be one of the most random wastes of resources I’ve ever encountered. What about objecting to the fact that a recent video by Rihanna has her explicitly linking sex to violent crime? How come this isn’t being taken into consideration by these human rights groups? I suppose it isn't interactive enough...
Well excuse me for snorting derisively into my whisky. I happen to know that rock music caused exactly the same outcry when it first came out and Elvis’ pelvis was the root of all evil. So were books at one point. I’m beginning to see a pattern here.
Writing this is proving quite difficult. I’m wary of treading on toes when the parallels are so tricky and explosive but I still think that this study is taking it all too far. Not only does it turn games into these all powerful mind controlling devices but it also tells us, the gamers, that we are these hugely malleable and susceptible creatures that have no control over our actions.
Frankly it’s insulting. How many gamers do you know that work in high powered jobs and are extremely intelligent? I know plenty of them. They can hold their own in any debate and they can frag like loons when the mood strikes them. I have yet to see any of them emerge from a gaming session with their arms outstretched like zombies and muttering “Must. Kill. Everybody. Women and children first.”
I think we are all perfectly capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. We can read books about vampires without biting the furniture, we can watch movies about animated mammoths and not believe it’s the coming of the ice age and we can play games without turning into maniacs.
I found it particularly interesting when they mentioned that they didn’t choose movies for this study because they were not as interactive as games. Um. Ok. So, what about those people (like me) who can get completely swept away by a movie? I love a good film that has me believing I’m on an alien planet and about to be saved by Vin Diesel (please note, Vin, I really still would love this). I think that the lack of controls and choices does mean a substantial reduction in involvement but I also think that violence in film can easily fail the same stringent tests placed on games.
Finally what changed my irritation to ire, was the fact that they so kindly offered to help developers include these rules in the games. On one hand, I suppose, this could actually benefit gameplay by placing real-world limits on situations that may make them far more difficult to complete. On the other hand isn’t this a little like trying to control what people think, do and play? There are no fantasy games included in this survey and yet these have many similar crimes committed. Obviously they don’t count because they are “fantasy” and orcs don’t hang about the local airport. However, these war games are also fantasy so how about taking a chill pill and looking at them in the context they were intended?
This survey looked exclusively at war games but war movies, war books, war stories and war games (the ones you enact) have been around for a very long time and I don’t see them coming under the hammer. I am aware that this opens the door of debate wide open as I’ve left some glaring holes but ultimately I think that if you’re going to examine human rights violations in gaming why not open up all forms of entertainment to the same scrutiny. Otherwise it’s just another attempt to say nothing at all.