Welcome, feel free to leave comments or e-mail me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Thin Line Between Offense And Offensive

After reading Stephen Totilo’s article In Defense of Offense: Why We Gamers Shoot, which was featured in the New York Times, I admittedly had mixed reactions and feelings. In the article, Mr. Totilo, who is also the editor-in-chief for the popular gaming website kotaku.com, explains why big blockbuster games like Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 are such a big hit amongst the mainstream gaming community.

However, I found it odd that Mr. Totilo also failed to address why it was exactly he had chosen to “defend” the appeal of shooter games, and instead chose to use language that could give critics of these games more (pardon the wordplay) ammunition. Shooting games are constantly “under fire” as it were for promoting violence and glorifying war since rarely do such games offer any other path besides “shoot and kill everything that’s trying to do the same to you.” 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy shooter games as much as any other gamer. In fact, some of my favorite games include Bioware’s Mass Effect series (a sci-fi shooter/RRG hybrid), Bethesda’s Fallout: New Vegas (a post apocalyptic shooter set in Las Vegas, Nevada), and Valve’s Team Fortress 2 (a popular and addictive team-based first-person shooter) so saying I’m “against shooters” would make me a pretty big hypocrite. But even I couldn’t shake the notion that Mr. Totilo lost an opportunity to address a difficult, yet important, issue.

My mother, a woman who despises violence in any form, echoed my concerns when I shared the article with her. After having her son (my brother) enlist in the U.S. Marines and serve not one but two tours of active duty in Afghanistan, she found it hard to accept Mr. Totilo’s simplified terms such as “shooting at shapes” and “connecting point A (the gun’s crosshairs) to point B (the enemy target)” as sufficient justification for simulating an experience that could have very easily taken her son’s life on any given day.

I’m sure it wasn’t Mr. Totilo’s intention to cheapen the impact of my brother’s actions or to offend my mother but by trying so hard to build up the positive elements of these games, he inadvertently ended up burying the negative elements. I don’t want to climb up too high on my soapbox here, but for many people - both in this country and around the world - war, combat, violence, and, yes, shooting, are much more than just a game. 

As long as developers continue to make games like Halo 4 and Black Ops 2 they’ll inevitably incur some backlash, but I don’t feel Mr. Totilo’s approach of simply ignoring the backlash will help either side. Respect and sensitivity towards the subject material will get both developers and journalists a lot further than simply trying to overhype a game and drown out the naysayers – especially when real lives are lost every day to gun violence.

Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and check out my other work at vgutopia.com and rantgaming.com

No comments:

Post a Comment