Arbtirary thoughts on nearly everything from a modernist poet, structural mathematician and functional programmer.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On video games, and adult content

This was supposed to be a post here

So... I've been playing video games for longer than I can remember. I'm sure I've played every game that any activist has ever said should be banned. As someone who is studying math and computer science, and plans on either doing research into fields that most of the world hasn't even heard of, or teaching at a Christian school in some random country, I really, really just don't see where the outrage comes from.

Lot's daughters rape him; Noah passes out drunk and naked; David (A man after God's own heart!) has his way with a woman (it never says how compliant she is, but since they marry, we can assume she didn't object) and kills her husband; Prophets rain fire from heaven; there are prostitutes; there are "male temple prostitutes"; there is a vile amount of sex and violence in the Bible. And yet, most of us here (myself included!) would encourage a child to read it. Why?
1) It represents a strikingly accurate picture of how vile and corrupt we humans are.
2) It is a song of praise to the glory of God.

Crime and Punishment contains a graphic depiction of a murder. 100 Years of Solitude contains multiple rapes, sex scenes, murders, massacres, ... Frankenstein is about a vile corruption of nature. Therese Raquine is horrifyingly gruesome
Many, many, classical books contain the same. Graphic depictions of sex and/or violence are an inherent part of literature.
And yet, most people here (myself included!) would encourage a child to read these things. Why?
There is an intellectual stimulation in reading literature; vocabulary improves, writing ability improves, speaking ability improves, etc., etc., etc.

Now, what we must remember is that sex is not evil; The portrayal of sex and the portrayal of violence are not necessarily evil, if in their proper place.

Now, mature people (I refuse the word adult) can handle portrayals of sex and violence, and either can see through them to the message (as in the Bible), or understand the entertainment or intellectual value of a story, which-- for immersion-- must necessarily contain sex and/or violence (as in Literature).

If you don't believe that there is intellectual stimulation in video games, find the name of a game and google search "[name of game] tactics" or "... strategy" or "... walkthrough". Look at the depth in the results you find.

Remember that there are no restrictions on ordinary literature, only on "dirty magazines". Remember that there is no *legal* restriction on the sale of R movies/tickets, or Parental Advisory music. What makes games any different?

There was a war with comic books. There was a war with movies. I'm sure the many centuries ago, there was a war with papyrus that sounded something like this:
Those rebels are using papyrus to write messages that blaspheme our gods and slander our king. We must control the use of this artificial memory.

I would have put something about "sex and violence", but that wouldn't be historical: the two things have been an integral part of nearly every civilization since the dawn of man. And certain people have the arrogance to claim that our "traditional morals" are being attacked? If those values are Elizabethan, Roman, Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, Indian, Turkish, Germanic, Frankish, Nordic, Chinese, Arab...
If those morals were the morals of the crusaders, the zealots, the pharisees, the Conquistadors, or slave-owning Americans...
Well, if any of those are the case, I really don't think I mind seeing any of those corrupt, broken moral systems corroded.

Instead, I will continue to study group theory, Galois theory, and combinatorics; I will continue reading about those two harlots- Oholah and Oholibah- and when I need a break, I will read about gruesome murders and outrageous rapes in books that have been praised for centuries, or I will play video games- probably violent ones, or ones with "sex scenes" that are on prime time TV- and I will feel confident that when my kids experience these things, they will have been raised well enough to understand them.

Edit: it has been brought to my attention (see comments) that I have forgotten to point out how wrong the original article is. Not only is there no rape (according to everyone I've heard from who has played the game), but the "sex scene" only has (quoting my roommate) "a few seconds of ass."

Since someone posted as a response to the original article a youtube capture of the video in question (I did not watch it), I cannot accept that the game is as raunchy as Mr. McCullough makes it seem. I would like to call him a liar, but I'm much too fair, and a little wise for such name calling. The question is not a question of misrepresenting data to fool others, but a question of misinterpreting the data your senses feed to your brain-- He's irrational, not malicious.

You see, when someone has not been taught to critically analyze information they receive, they automatically jump to a conclusion based in part by what they do see, in part by what they expect to see, and in part by what they have been taught to see. Mr. McCullough (and others who have advocated censorship of interactive content) expect games to be such filth, so when they see the slightest evidence of it, they cache that-- confirmation bias. It then exaggerates itself, so that these people actually believe the nonsense that spews out from their mouth and pen. I could go on for a while about the state of an education system which does not teach one to think, but I want to make progress in 1st Chronicles; I want to make progress in an abstract algebra book, and I want to start a story (ironically and coincidentally, it's about preconceptions)

Mr. McCullough is wrong. He is wrong about what happens in Mass Effect; Were he right about the nature of Mass Effect, he would still be wrong.


dbushik said...

Agree in large with your take here, but when you reference the particular article in question, I think it's a mistake to not point out that factually the article gets it repeatedly wrong from top to bottom.

The big discussion is a great and neccesary one to have, but the particular case here is total fabrication. The game described in the article simply does not exist in a state anywhere near as described. If it does, I feel cheated, because my copy certainly did not have the features mentioned.

Maybe you don't have first hand knowledge from playing Mass Effect, but lending any credibility to the article by not pointing out the plain-as-day inaccuracy of it, even in saying it brings up the larger more responsible conversation, I think is a little irresponsible.

But just my take...

Cory said...

Ah, yes, you're right... But it was originally supposed to fit on that comment section, where it had been repeatedly pointed out how wrong he was. I figured I would try to contribute something new to the discussion...

I will add an amendment.


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