You are not the media you consume

Whatever your opinion or view on the Rittenhouse trial, it’s been a doozy to follow on the side. While this blog doesn’t really care about it, as it has no real relevance here, one point the prosecution raised does raise eyebrows. Naturally, that point is when the prosecution asked whether or not the Rittenhouse plays Call of Duty with his friends. The prosecution then continued to ask if the aim of the game was, to quote Isn’t the one thing people do in these video games, [is] trying to kill everyone else with your guns? Rittenhouse’s respond to this inquiry was lacking, but that’s probably the point. Prosecution wants to sell the debunked idea of violent video games having relation to violent acts. Rittenhouse, however, did make a point how a video game and reality are separate, thus the prosecution’s point is invalid. Only people who cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy act in reality as if they were in fantasy. I guess I’m beating a dead horse with this post, but this issue has been raised once again on the media, and I can’t help myself. 

An old post of mine how there is no evidence for the Gaming Disorder still persists as true, including that electronic games have no negative impact on the player’s psyche. Something already has to be there. In Rittenhouse’s case, there was no case made for such a thing. Yet the old perception that violent video games lead into bad behaviour sticks to the cultural perception, and while it seemed that electronic games as a whole were getting rid of that stigma, cases like this show that people are willingly intending to mislead that a form of media, once again, would explain something about a person other than what their tastes are. Raising Call of Duty as a point of any kind was a weak attempt at illustrating a point and using video games as some sort tell-tale sign. 

Media is less influential than we give it credit for. If we allow media to influence us in a stereotypic ways, e.g. not questioning its content or message and taking it as valid truth, of course that’s going to influence our behaviour and thinking patterns. That goes for everything else as well. However, with fiction we are aware of its status as make-belief fantasy, we don’t tend to allow be influenced by it. Only works like documentaries and such which people can and often take as word of authority on a given subject, we are influenced to some extent. However, no documentarist would like to be accused of enticing people to commit violent acts. Of course, you have peer-pressure from social media, which might make you want to act in a way or another, or changes your perception because you want to belong to the inside circle of things, but that’s a different form of media influence. 

We all have consumed violent media in a form or other. Horror films with visceral gore was, and perhaps still is, accused of corrupting the youth and yet we don’t see news of horror movie buffs going about killing people in gruesome manners. Such things are often done by people with serious mental issues. Pretty much every form of media and genre has been accused for corrupting people in a way or another. The history of electronic gaming just happens to be very much tied to the old pinball and arcade parlors even before the previous century. It’s understandable that something which has been deemed as immoral and corrupting since almost their inception hasn’t got rid of their infamy. It’s just that the form of games has changed from kinetoscopes to mechanical pinballs to arcade games, and lastly to home electronic games. Even if the place where games are being played has become our homes, the content of these games is still being contested. Children are no longer in dark pinball parlors among the seedier members of the society finding alcohol, sex, drugs and criminal activity; now they’re finding such things in the comfort of their homes.

Joking aside, one of the more pressing issues with modern electronic gaming is the other people. Parents who do not follow what their children are playing or with who they are discussing things are letting things slide too easily. One of the more pressing issues parents have with online multiplayer games is how their child might be talking to a child predator. Violent content is always another, though the question why children have access to all this content without adult supervision is rarely the issue. Funnily enough, the twelve years old kid who plays Grand Theft Auto probably got the game as a present from his mom.

Normal people don’t go out and chop people with sword or riddle pedestrians with bullets because of video games. A video game might be an outlet, where a person might be letting out some steam and live out a fantasy, but the game is a third party tool; it’s not the instigator of such action. Neither are movies of books, which may contain glorified violence for the sake of storytelling effects. You don’t learn how to shoot a gun within a video game. You might learn how to operate one, if the game is accurately simulating the functions of a real firearm. Yet, the first time you shoot a gun, you will not hit your target dead-on. You won’t be ready for that kickback or the loudness of the gun. Then again, you can learn all the necessary things of weapon operation from manuals and some such. 

Games also don’t teach kids to act like they are in the military, as very few game even attempts to portray a realistic situation or methods of training. For example, any military wants soldiers that are professionals who are able to think and solve problems rationally, not vigilantes. At best, video games like Call of Duty teaches moment-to-moment reaction with your eye-hand coordination. The framing of a video game is far too narrow to allow realistic decisions and reactions to take place. The adaptability of a soldier cannot be found within the restrictive frames of a video game. While militaries across the world have begun to use virtual learning tools, which can utilize video games as their core, they do not teach violence or desensitize to it. These tools are teach decision making when the shit hits the fan and working with your team. 

What influences people more are real factors. Family violence, depression, alcoholic family members, peer influence, mental disorders, bad parenting and such. None of these issues are easily solved, and at worst, may be things we can never truly remove as factors. Rather than work on these difficult issues, scapegoats like the media gets propped up. If you want to prevent violent behaviour in children, it has to start with the parents and the family surrounding. If there are mental issues, they must be met with proper care. 

What does cause people to have violent behviour, be it through words or whatnot, is more often than not the competitive nature of a game and frustrations that come with it. If we were to ban violent games because losing may rile people up, we really might as well take a hard look at sports as well, where people riot when their football team loses and other similar cases. Clearly, the game and its competitive nature must be equally at fault for peoples’ reactions rather than the people themselves. 

To round back to Rittenhouse’s case, all the above play a role in the prosecution bringing Call of Duty to the table. The prosecution wants the jury to make their own mental connections with the negative effects of video games and Rittenhouse, as it is easy and cheap. While many think its ineffective method, sadly the news media is still full of parents who blame their kids’ misbehaviour on games. Then you have Jack Thompson and his ilk, who championed on the total ban of violent video games while citing misinformation out of belief. 

I highly doubt electronic games, or overall media for the matter, will ever get rid of the argument that media makes us act in some way. Bad behaviour has always been associated with media, though it changes with time and culture. Someone, somewhere, will find use of blaming the media for a tragedy or negative actions in order to further their own agenda. Let not a good crisis go to waste. 

X logic is awesome, when used properly

Have you ever wished you could fly by yourself like Superman or have some other ability that’s beyond the human reach? I’m sure we all have something like that. Fiction, of course, has always offered us a way to live those fantasies to some extent, but out of all media games really is the only one where we are able to take control of that power of flight. Well, you can always argue that base jumping and the like gives you the feeling, and I wouldn’t argue against that, but that’s more controlled falling than actual flying.

Games stray just enough from the traditional medias with its interactivity that it allows everything to be possible and be enacted by the player. In Super Mario Bros. we have a cartoon fantasy land, where we can travel through pipes. Sure, we can find a big damn pipe and walk through it, but we won’t find an underground cavern filled with shiny golden coins floating in the air. We don’t question this, because it’s comical and functions well within the setting and the logic it uses.

Similarly, Metal Gear Rising has cartoon logic to itself too. Same goes to the rest of the Metal Gear franchise, but in different degrees in different games. Some are worse in this regard, as it’s almost like they build a cohesive semi-realistic world and then just drop the ball with nanomachines or overtech robots or functioning artificial intelligence in the 70’s. Anyway, in MGR you are able to cut pretty much anything and anyone, because the logic allows a cyborg ninja to have an infinitely sharp blade. The explanation doesn’t make any sense, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we can go our way out and slice that big hunk of junk into hundreds of itty bitty slices.

Call of Duty, the first one, on the other hand is grounded. While it has some elements that are necessary because it is a computer game after all. Nevertheless, there was a lot of research done to stick with the realism of the war. Hardcore fans and historians of course will notice all the mistakes and errors in the maps, and so on, but these are mistakes in the world, not in the more realistic logic the game employs. You can’t travel through pipes, you can’t slice everything you see, but you need to conserve your ammo and advance with care.

Of course, we have games that wholly just ignore most what things are considered realistic and go town with it.

The recent Transformers Devastation trailers and gameplay footage looks like your standard Platinum game, which may can be a positive or a negative thing depending whether or not you like their games. The game has things that simply are there that I didn’t consciously notice, because TFD functions wholly on cartoon logic. Things like Autobots accelerating in air for a pursue attack and Optimus Prime’s trailer suddenly appearing when he does a burnout in the air and smashes immediate enemies with it.

Cartoon physics and logic is more often than not fun to employ in a game, because they allow both the developer and player to do things they couldn’t before. It’s a more honest way to break the laws of real world in fiction than Star Trek Voyager’s endless streams of technobabble about absolutely nothing. Hell, Voyager’s technobabble was so bad that they contradicted each other and the most basic science wrong more than once. It’s not even entertaining. You can argue that the other at least tries to explain with the in-world logic what’s going on rather than taking the easy way out with cartoon logic and science, and I would agree with this if it wasn’t fucked up. Star Trek, the original series, tried to keep itself somewhat grounded and did screw up more than once, but there’s something that a show like Star Trek has to remember; it’s television. It needs to be well scripted and it needs to deliver the information. While TOS managed to make threatening scenes and their technobabble work as a device and convey how screwed they are, Voyager’s same scenes are incomprehensible babble about absolutely nothing. While games have similar scenes as well, they’re more about the action of the player rather than the passive watching of a scene.

Sometimes, I sit down with Call of Duty and play it for few hours because it’s a legitimately good game. I want something that’s a bit more tied down. Sometimes I just launch Doom or pop in Nuts & Milk for the opposite reasons.

Both extremes are not anything to scoff at, and more often than not it’s best to employ both approaches when creating a fictional world at least to some extent. Of course, the logics may colour the works to some extent with realistic approach having a more serious tone and comical ones with more gleam in their eyes, if we’re allowed to generalise a bit. When speaking of games, perhaps the visual striking difference between Transformers War for Cybertron and the upcoming Devastation gives off a good example what sort of difference the approach on the logic can make. One is dark, gritty and portrays lumbering robots with a raw feeling, the other is filled with colours, slightly tongue in cheek and absolutely honest about the fun it wants you to have. Some would say the other is more adolescent than the other, but that’s something that’s a bit more on the side of personal opinions than anything else. After all, it’s all dependent on how the work itself is.

Music of the Month; Shoot Shoot

Sometimes I question the intelligence of spokespeople on television. Ok, I question their intelligence a bit too often for my taste, but sometimes an idiot comes up who takes everything to the nth degree much like their certain predecessors. Of course, I am talking about the recent Glenn Beck rant about violent video games. Hooboy .

The thing is, everything he rants about is more or less without any base. He begins that we, as a culture, do not discuss the role of interactive media in our modern busy lives. Which is bullshit. We discuss this matter quite a lot, and about video games particularly.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Beck uses suicides of four teenagers as an example of bad influence of video games. We all have to ask; how does four people out of millions who play Call of Duty series a good example of anything the game series does? It is stupid to say that linking playing a game prior to suicide merits to anything. If Call of Duty would coin to suicides, we’d have truckloads of people committing suicides. But this doesn’t happen; the figures do not support Beck’s views. Of course, the matter concerns Beck greatly and he does not do any research to ease his concerns.

Actually, let’s ask this for a moment; how the hell were these teenagers playing Call of Duty? The game series is R-18 game. No minor should even be able to get their hands on the game, if we are completely accurate, unlike Beck. What where the parents of these teenagers doing? Did they know what their kids were doing on the computer? Were they on the same page with their kids about their hobbies and world views? Last Christmas I typed in my own concerns how parents are illiterate when it comes to digital media, i.e. the World Wide Web, social media, games etc. I am far more concerned how thousands if not millions of parents are allowing their teenage kids and younger ones to access and play games Call of Duty, which are about warfare.

Of course, Beck continues with Brevik’s statement that he was trained by Call of Duty to wield arms. Which is, in all honesty, complete and utter bullshit. A video game does not and cannot teach you how to shoot. Unlike it is portrayed, shooting is not point-and-shoot. You need to know how to hold a gun, how to take the recoil, how maintain a gun and so on. No games teaches these things. However, books do. There are multiple books that teach how to use a firearm and how to keep them in good condition. Beck’s also incorrect; everybody had the video game talk too, but thankfully there were people who realized that entertainment media is lesser concern than real goddam guns. Rather than talking about guns or video games, why doesn’t these people raise the issue of further weeding out the people who would become mass murderers through shootouts and who have the inclinations for suicide and other harmful ways?

An outside influence like a game, movies or book does not force a teenager to shoot himself, unless this teenager has some mental problems. Many parents do not want to admit that their child is mentally unstable or sick, and then allowing them to have an access to products that feed those negative sides is wrong. Does this mean these products should be removed? Hell no. Otherwise we would have no entertainment media and people like Glenn Beck would be taken out of air because he makes we want to punch a baby otter. The difference is that because I am mentally stable, I won’t act on that.

I’m not surprised that Beck and his people are surprised that games are a multimillion industry. As mentioned, most modern parents are digitally illiterate. Only now we are getting generations that have grown up with this digital era, and only now we can say that we have people who understand the possibilities of digital medium for both good and bad. I’d actually go as far as to say that we still don’t have the full capacity of Internet out there, and perhaps never will because it’ll change with each new generation and with each new technological step. But electronic games, those we understand. Beck’s generation does not, and sadly they don’t even want to. This is far too apparent when Beck explains how the Watch_Dogs teaches children how to hack somebody’s computer. Also, he complains that we don’t have heroes any more.

Let this sink in a little bit.

So, Watch_Dogs teaches children how to code? No, it does not. This is an outright lie from Beck’s part and shows that he does not understand anything how the game works. Hacking is not holding a cursor on a person to get all information. If you think you have a good grasp of hacking based on video games, movies and television, do visit and try your skills. It’s a bit more complicated than how Watch_Dogs portray it as. Or just watch this hour and nine minute long video to introduction to hacking. Modern hacking has gone more to social hacking anyway, and most of the information you would even need to use to steal e.g. someone’s Google mail account, is out there in the social media.

And no, iPad does not teach you how to hack. There’s nothing wrong with us, there’s something wrong with Beck for thinking that.

But the hero thing. We do have heroes. Super Mario is still a hero who does the right thing. Rayman is a hero from Ubisoft, from the company Beck seems to thing is a great evil. Pretty much all Super Robot main characters from Super Robot Wars are heroes in the sense of the word. Ace Combat’s pilots are heroes in their own world. Code of Princess has classical hero tropes to the brim. Shenmue’s Ryo is a hero on his own rights. Panzer Dragoon series’ main character are all heroes. Actually, one could argue that many of the Call of Duty player characters are heroes, who fight against terrorist and for truth, justice and the apple pie. When you concentrate on the things that you find concerning, you may go blind to all the good things and Beck is as blind as a bat in a room that does not reflect echoes back.

Funny thing with Beck is also that games are a new stuff and we don’t understand it; that it rewires the players’ brains. Well, everything rewires your brains, like awful political agendas. Secondly, games are only relatively new, and have been here since the 1970’s. Thirdly, we know what games do. There has been studies, both short ones and decade long on how video games affect on people and if they even affect at all. There’s even a damn site devoted to collect every study about electronic gaming and other related phenomena. If you are concerned what games do to your brains, start reading on the researches.

Also, reading from a book or a tablet is the same thing. Only personal preference is between the two. Beck’s claim that you can’t find certain spot via an e-reader is because it lacks tactile feeling that you use with your memory. Of course you won’t find certain sentence in an e-reader version of a book you never read in an e-format, just like you would have hard time to find the same passage in a completely differently laid out edition of the same book. Also, Beck’s a goddamn idiot for dog-earing his books. There are things called bookmarks for a reason.

At least Beck doesn’t compare video games to drugs OH WAIT he compares them to cocaine. Now, I do enjoy the occasional coke on woman’s bosom, but no way in hell video games are comparative to cocaine. Modern media and connectivity isn’t even about addiction; it’s about comfort and ease of use. When we go back before we had the WWW, we still had phones at our homes. If we turn out cell phones and other connected devices off, we return back before the phone was invented. Beck says that making reunions with old friends was the way people used to sort things out. Before Internet people used phones, and before that they used letter mail. Should we all go back to writing letters then? No, but sending and receiving a letter here and there is always nice.

Much like how I take to things to eleven, Beck takes everything to minus eleven in his rant. He is ignorant on every front with this matter and he hasn’t even done his homework.

Do me a favour and next time you meet your parents, talk with them about the Internet and other media out there. Find out how much they truly understand the modern connectivity, and if you’re still under age, please do ask your parents to learn about these things properly for their own sake, and on the long run, for your own sake too. We don’t need more people like Beck.


Every First Person Shooter loses money

Here’s an interesting news. Why developers want to have games that are like Call of Duty if the latest Call of Duty didn’t sell enough?

Rather than that, the reason these games lose so much money stems how much it takes to develop them. HD gaming demands so much money during the development that every game has a tough time to make it even. In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake’s moustache has as much polygons as your normal soldier in Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ve always asked why. There’s not reason to have such a high polygon count. I would say that the players see Snake’s back more than his face, but I can’t because the game has more movies than gameplay content.

What developers need to realize is that HD gaming is killing what we have left. The other is that they dumbed down PC games are not the way to make money. PS3 and 360 lost to Wii because they were basically PCs with dumbed down PC games. These “hardcore” games are the very thing that’s killing the industry. This unhealthy industry can’t see that they’re slowly killing itself with willing stabs.

As for Timesplitters 4, I would’ve enjoyed it, if it had been in the same spirit as Timesplitter 2. While they’re not the shining example of console games, the second game gave me loads of hours with friends and GameCube. Timesplitters is far from Call of Duty crowd, and changing it closer to CoD franchise would’ve been a deathblow.

I have to say that Ellis’ decision to go into smartphone bandwagon is disheartening, but vaguely understandable when you take account how little developers in general understand the market. Ellis’ is stepping from console developing to PC developing, and we’ll have to see if his set of skills work better there.