Tuesday, April 29, 2008


In HMV today, I was behind a very old couple, who were asking about the Wii game Bully. The girl working at the counter was explaining to them that it's really not all that violent or controversial of a game when you actually play it. The best part was that the old couple totally seemed to get it, and ended up buying the game, presumably as a gift for someone (but who knows; the Wii is breaking down age barriers). When I went to pay, she told me that she loves explaining video games to old people. We talked about how Bully is awesome, and the controversy over it, and similar games, is silly, but only sells more copies in the end. I probably should have developed a crush on this nerdy HMV girl, but alas, I was very hungry and thus unable to think of anything but food.

Of course, this is all very timely, with the big game in the news right now being Grand Theft Auto 4. The media is making a big deal out of it as usual (see this, this). I don't really see where the issue is. It's a mature-rated game, like hundreds of others, that yes, will probably be played by kids anyway. So?

Oh, well, this one has better graphics than others in the series, so it'll be more influential on fragile minds. But hey, you know what else has amazing graphics? Television. And movies. They almost look real sometimes! So why hasn't society crumbled under the morally corrupting influence of The Sopranos?

I've only played GTA 4 for a few hours (which is a lot more than some assholes commenting on games they've never seen or played), but so far, it's pretty mild compared to a lot of TV and movies. It's really not senseless exploitation either. It's a well-written story, told in a well-designed video game, that includes violence as part of its subject matter.

I think the escalating controversy over video games is partly due to their rise as a legitimate art form. Just look at Blockbuster, where GTA 4 will be displayed on the new release wall alongside movies. And even if the content is less extreme than in other forms of media, people get nervous just because it's wrapped in a new package. I imagine similar complaining happened during the jump from radio to TV. I know it happened when comics became popular. They got over it.

Human interest in the dark side of life isn't going away any time soon, so it will be reflected in whatever media we use to express ourselves. And it's a good thing our forms of media are becoming more sophisticated, because remember, we used to watch real people murder each other for entertainment. No matter how much those red pixels on the screen look like real-life violence, they're still just pixels.


See also: Murder good, nipple bad.


Anonymous said...
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Ubersehen said...

I'm completely in agreement on people's interest in the darker stuff in terms of the media. This is entirely based on personal experience, but I find that my reaction to real life violence, be it on the news or outside on the street, is magnitudes more intense than seeing it portrayed in movies or games. I suspect that knowing that what one is watching is fiction places a buffer between the viewer and the act that I think allows them to honestly enjoy it without having to condone it.

PS. I had a feeling that by taking off your little anonymity filter you would start getting spammed pretty promptly. It's such a tease when you see the comment and think "Hey, somebody loves me!" but then it turns out to be some automated computer program trying to sell you bogus meds to make your junk bigger.

SharkBoy said...

I'm totally enjoying Bully on Wii... to the point that poor DR almost gets a beating when I get up in the morning now.. I have this need to beat people and ... kiss girls....

And we're so getting GTA Four before the weekend starts... so getting it

Dead Robot said...

The above comment kills your "BULLY is not controversial" argument.

Seriously, I would probably not let my under-16yr old kid play it. Not without a stern heart-to-heart first, anyway.

I agree that the controversy is fueled by hype, especially after the whole Hot Coffee thing, but the game is categorized as Adult Only this time. The more people bemoan this game, the more dollars land in Rockstar's pockets.

PS: reports already on Gamespot of game freezes. QA department at Rockstar is staffed by blind parapalegic monkeys.

Jennifer said...

Obviously, I am uncool. I was lined up Sunday for my hot copy of Mario Kart Wii. Screw this GTA crap.

Also, I bought a sandbox shaped like a crab.

Phronk said...

Uber: Yeah, same here. One theory about this sort of thing is that the enjoyment of inherently unenjoyable things like this actually comes from the relief when they stop. When it's real, there is no anticipation that it will ever really stop, but with fiction, you always know it will be resolved, or at least that you can always just turn the TV off. That makes it much, much different than getting enjoyment out of real violence.

And yeah, spam sucks. I guess that's why I disallowed anonymous comments before, but oh well, I think it's worth the spam to have increased freedom.

Sharkboy: Oh no! Those old people were misled! But can't you kiss boys in that game too?

DR: Yeah, it's really not for kids. Realistically they will play it anyway, but parents should be careful about it, just like they are with other adult entertainment. GTA4 isn't AO though...still just Mature.

And it looks like the PS3 freezes most...hopefully it won't affect us 360 people.

Jennifer #2: Haha...I thought of getting that too. That wheel looks pretty fun. I'm glad there's still room for sandboxes alongside video games though...half of kids these days, they don't know what they're missing with all their fancy video games.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Having not played a video game since like 1989, I fit into the old couple category. Oh well. Hopefully whoever gets it will enjoy it.

Dead Robot said...

My bad, you're right. Damn CTV and their crappy news playing while I'm paying more attention to pureeing sweet potatoes.

How do I kiss guys in Bully?

Phronk said...

AG: You're missing out. You should come over and play it. We'll murder hookers and discuss feminism.

DR: Dunno, never got that far myself. But I remember the ultra-conservative folks getting upset at the option of homosexuality in it. Which is even more retarded than getting upset over the violence.

Anonymous said...

Played some GTA4 at my friend's place yesterday...that game is unreal.

Drunk driving is hilarious in the game because you stand pretty much 0% chance of survival...so difficult to steer.

And, also, I found myself cringing when someone got hit by a car because the physics are so absolutely spot on.

sarah said...

Violence in movies and video games is just a complaint that media companies event and encourage so they get more controversy, sell more stuff, and distract with the REAL problem with the media: they present consumerism as the only option and everything that is presented is filtered through the profit imperative. ahem.

Phronk said...

Bee: Haha yeah, I find myself running into things a lot less than in past games, because it seems so much more realistic and cringe-worthy.

Sarah: Yeah, I doubt Rockstar is gonna complain about all the controversy. I don't know if I would call consumerism the only real problem, or the biggest problem, with media though. Perhaps this is something we can disagree on. Yay!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a picture, with a kid sitting in his daddy's lap, watching him play video games. The caption was "FATHERHOOD: if you kill that hooker, you can get your money back."