Critical About Gaming: Where Do You Draw the Line?

I’ve never killed a man. Not once. Not even accidentally. I’ve hurt people, sometimes intentionally, physically, and emotionally. I make mistakes. I have no desire to hurt even a misogynistic misanthrope like Trump.

My Steam library approaches five hundred titles of which I will play only a portion, but some not ever. Certainly there isn’t enough time in the day to get to them all, even if I were employed gainfully to do so. No, when it comes down to I choose not to be part of certain scenarios and character behaviours.

In my youth I gave death no thought; in Doom demons were slain; in Duke Nukem, mutant cops and aliens; Quake, monsters, and notably, other players. Friends and associates. Capture the flag, shoot anyone who tries to stop you from running away with it. A fair description for a game?

Yeah, okay.

Is it a fair description for a real life situation?

Not for a nanosecond.

We make the distinction that doing these things is ‘okay’ because it’s not real. What isn’t real? The pixels? The portrayal of death? I’ll grant you that. None of those things are real, except … that they are.

Whether they’re accurate depictions of reality is another question, but they are, indeed, the creation of another person. Someone, maybe even a team, put those pixels together to resemble an event, or an action. Take Hatred, for example.

Oh you knew I was going to bring that up. Hatred has been ignored because it is gratuitous and silly. Its reality does not impress; being too dramatic, too brooding with the emotional impact of a wet noodle. That isn’t the point, no sir.

Hatred was designed with a point in mind. It represents the insanity of isolated violence that has no apparent purpose, but keeps happening. I’ve called it a Stand Alone Complex, but you can just call it crazy, if you like. Why it lacks emotional gravity has much to do with the developers, I suspect, who don’t grasp what it’s like to be in that state of mind.

That’s a good thing, in case you’re wondering.

What it also tells me, is that somewhere along the line they drew the line about the how graphic the violence should be. Yes, there are executions, yes they’re brutal, but in point of fact, they don’t hold a candle to anything you’ll see in Mortal Combat. I find that fascinating.

Why did they hold back? So help me there are so many games now that will run the moral gauntlet and throw it right at your feet. It’s a mixed metaphor with purpose; either you’re being threatened with morals, or they’re something to be escaped from. So let’s ask ourselves the question:

At what point do we decide not to play a game because we just wouldn’t do what they do?

Would I kill enemy soldiers and monsters in real life, like I do in Half Life 2? You’re darn straight I would. How about Rogue Legacy? That’s an odd one, but it crosses moral lines on a personal level for me in strange ways with no meaningful effect.

Do you know that Rogue Legacy begins with a character you bring into a castle to assassinate a king? Do you care? I didn’t, really, though thinking on it the motivation for the entire game is distasteful. Each character is motivated, supposedly, by family, but as a player you’re motivated by treasure hunting and stat grinding.

Here’s a tough one: Shantae. Pick either, the first release or Pirate’s Curse. Doesn’t seem problematic, does it? The game is cute, the character designs are … at least in Pirate’s Curse, adorable. Shantae’s a pretty saucy dynamo, in point of fact.

Don’t tell me girls have a right to dress however they want. As men we know better; honesty about how females impact us is fairness itself. I’m not alone in this; WTFashionshark is quick to lambast badly dressed women who bare unnecessary breast, tush and crotch. They’re deluded in many things, but I’m glad someone has the sense to say “Stop!” because clearly no one they know is going to do that.

My experience with belly dancing is that I couldn’t watch my sister do it. My father couldn’t, either. It’s called respect, and Shantae gets away with her little dances because she’s just a little, pixelated sprite. Mario’s not got that sort of issue, and anyone can comfortably play any franchise title without fear of being buy ambien triggered.

Look it up.

The developers of Shantae acknowledge the double standard, even though they exploit it. I don’t fancy girls, so Shantae herself doesn’t present a problem to me, but some of the situations and outfits she lands in are somewhat Babarella-ish, with tongue-in-cheek innuendo: “Now I look like a space princess.”

I mean seriously, a giant lizard that drools into a pool into which two NPC girls frolic in bathing suits? Shantae has flown under the radar, but what message does that send to the young ones who play it? That the sexualization of children is okay? Because it’s not.

Need I mention that Trump’s greatest infraction against womenkind is actually the charges against him of the alleged rape of a 13 year old girl? It’s detestable, despicable, just how many men and women are willing to excuse his behaviour for their own agendas. That said, would they go to the same great lengths for a man who was just sweeping up the streets?

In a word, no.

It doesn’t make sense, you say? It’s still not real? All right, what about your own feelings? When you smashed the boss through the plate glass window, didn’t you feel a sense of achievement? of victory? of anything? How you feel about a game is the reality that matters.

Here’s something to consider: Visual Novels, especially dating simulations, are very popular in countries like Japan, where there is a popular disparity; far more men than women. They don’t have time for them all, but visual novels do. Men get lonely, and you know what? So do women.

It’s not just Japan, though, and I’ve heard Visual Novels described as an empty, disappointing experience. For however long you entertain emotions about pixels on your screen, there’s an end somewhere that is going to leave you lonely again. Not to mention the “cultural differences” which present … issues for players less interested in the exploitative attitude towards women that these games entertain.

We’ve heard it before, and most of the West is tired of it already: Japan just doesn’t treat women with the same level of respect. I don’t care that the Prime Minister of Japan is a woman; she hasn’t changed those attitudes and the country isn’t going to let that happen. The younger generation is beginning to question them, but it’s not enough.

“My first trip to Japan” gives you a … rough idea of what to expect when you visit, like a tourism demo with a pair of charming guides. Both are young looking girls of differing body types. It’s strange that should matter, but it does because Anime tropes ensure that you see the one you like in their underwear.

Accidentally, of course. But who are we kidding? Is it supposed to be funny? The game pushes the boundary no further than that, but it is an out of place circumstance for a tourism title. Steam has suffered some bruises lately because of the introduction of Visual Novels to its library of games.

Briefly, the norm of sexual encounters being portrayed in many of these games is removed for Steam releases, as it doesn’t stock adult games for sale. That said, when available, that content can be added right back in with a patch from the developers. That’s left to their discretion, and yours.

Me? You must be joking. The closest my interest has floated to Visual Novels is Clannad, and actually writing/developing my own. Neither the time nor the artistic talent, frankly. I’ll take real companionship however fleeting, thank you very much. I’ve quite enough of my own emotions to deal with.

But there’s my point. I wouldn’t run and gun the opposite sex, game them for a relationship of any kind. That choice is clear, and easy to make. So often, though, we’re dealing with games that present moral choices in an ambiguous way.

There is a moral line, and it’s up to you to decide if you’re going to draw that line and stand by it. Even if you think you’re not affected by a game, how you feel and think says otherwise. Just ask America’s Army. Patriotism is so intense that this year I discovered I have a lot of it, for America, and I’m Canadian.

So think about it, and consult your heart. Who will you be sharing your time with, when you aren’t clicking or button pressing after some score? It’s something worth pondering.

  • November 21, 2016