November 7, 2011
So I came across this Kotaku article today:
“The Video Game Industry Have Profited From Fear and Anxiety About Terrorism,” Professor Says
I was immediately annoyed, but I decided to check out what this woman had to say. She says she’s a gamer, etc. so this isn’t another Jack Thompson just trashing the industry, it’s presumably a concerned member of the gaming community. I came across this talk recorded last year.
[Feel free to skip it, I'll give you the cliff's]
Her main complaint initially seemed to be that military FPS games don’t focus on the economic, political, or social impact of war, but instead they focus only on the technology and field strategy. She goes nearly the entire video building on this premise, and then at the very end admits that these games do indeed focus on those very issues but that it’s not the fun part of the games – that she did not find those parts of those games fun. So basically, her main issue here is that these important topics did not interest her personally while she was playing these games. So what? There are plenty of examples, of course, but the one she herself cites in the above video is Army of Two, with its strong focus on the use of private military contractors.
She also tries really hard to invoke concern regarding post-9/11 fear-mongering by saying outright that games in the FPS genre startlingly trended to counter-terrorist and strong war-based themes after 9/11/2001, often citing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six as an example (a game which came out in 1998). I’d also refer her to the very first game in the FPS genre in which you face off against hordes of Nazis (Wolfenstien 3D, 1991), and also nearly every other FPS game both before and after 9/11 – including what was arguably the most popular competitive multiplayer FPS prior to 9/11, which was literally called Counter-Strike (released 1999). I’m not sure how she missed all that, being a self-proclaimed gamer and all.
She also tries to draw a very broad and deliberate connection between the commercial games industry and the serious games industry (military simulation) – likening it to WWII pro-war propaganda campaigns. She makes sweeping claims about the motivation of the developers, saying these games feature strong lone-wolf protagonists that operate outside the boundaries of international law in order to intentionally desensitize or embolden the public to military action in the face of global conflict.
The obvious truth is that terrorists make good enemies because they’re easy to hate, and lone-wolf protagonists are more interesting to watch. That’s it. This whole war machine conspiracy alarmism is completely unfounded. Yes, there is a large segment of the industry that focuses on military simulation, but the U.S. military is not responsible for the plot of Infinity Ward games in any way. These themes are popular because people find them interesting. Again, common sense.
While the fact that people enjoy shooting at imaginary terrorists has not changed, the storylines of these games certainly have – drastically. The argument can not be made that the commercial video game industry has moved further towards no-consequence violence in military FPS games after 9/11. The evidence overwhelmingly displays the exact opposite: more depth in narrative and a stronger focus on hard-hitting mature themes like civilian casualties, wartime politics, and war’s global impact. These game developers made this shift consciously for two reasons alone: because it was topical, and because it makes for better storytelling. Once again, common sense.
Pretending for a moment that she didn’t admit herself that these popular games do touch on the topics she sometimes chooses to claim they don’t touch on, and also ignoring the fact that the FPS genre has literally always had strong Nazi or terrorist themed antagonists, and also setting aside the fact that these games are not produced by the military, and also ignoring the fact that art imitates life and thet these issues are topical, and also removing from the equation the obvious fact that the prevailing commonalities she notes in the protagonists of these games simply make for better heroes; lets humor her and say that for the sake of argument yeah, ok so people do only play these games to cope with their fear and anxiety related to the real threat of terrorism – if that’s the case, these games are providing an extremely valuable service.
It’s not true of course. The vast majority of people obviously buy these games mostly because they’re entertaining. But if that were the only reason people were buying military FPS games, then the games would be profiting from people’s fears and anxieties in the same way Taco Bell profits from people’s hunger: by providing a valuable service that people want. In other words, even in that light, her comments would still only reflect a shallow and callous view of the relationship between the producers and consumers of these products.
That doesn’t make sense though. This woman appears, by all means, to be a legitimate gamer who’s done at least a moderate amount of research on the topic. Surely she can’t believe the obvious misinformation she’s spouting, can she?
It all made sense once a google search lead me to this page:
Suffolk University Professor and Gaming Expert Available to Comment on the Release of Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare 3
In reality, Nina Huntemann is trying to ride the wave of publicity surrounding this season of major game releases to try to sell books. Nina Huntemann is to video games in academia what Kelle Santiago is to independent game development: an outsider trying to gain notoriety by exploiting the legitimate creativity and hard work of others – and worse: she’s using the 9/11 tragedy to do so.
In a word: shameful.
If there’s any doubt about this woman’s eagerness to stir up controversy for personal gain, here’s another sample from her body of work. Don’t be fooled by the fact that she briefly appears in the trailer, this little gem was produced and directed by Nina Huntemann. Enjoy!
Posted by Thomas | 4 Comments