Tag Archives: Video Games

Mother’s Day has been cancelled…

So many times those words you see in the title are my unique way of describing a thought.  Sometimes in articles, they have no other meaning then a hook to appetite the mind to read further.  Sometimes they have a deeper meaning and bring the article back to that point.  However, rarely do I ever make a point to highlight it in my articles like I’m about to.

Mother’s Day has been cancelled, news at the 11 PM broadcast….

When tragedy strikes like it did on Friday, I have a policy of doing my best to avoid news.  It is not out of hatred, ignorance or not wanting to know but simply the point that has been so clearly made to me before.  Anytime a tragedy happens, what unfolds can best be described as a formulaic, scripted drama.  First, you see the scrambling, then the info starts trickling with misinformation, corrections, interviews and on and on it goes.

Not so long ago I had a conversation about the show Undercover Boss with my wife.  I am willing to give anything a shot, I had seen the British version of the show (I am a big fan of British TV) and in a few episodes, I had become tired with the formula.  What I had “learned” from the show was that every Boss in every job had to deal with the “exact” same set of employees.  And “unbelievably” by the end of the show everything was settled in the time format allotted.  It was “Reality” TV at its best.  Two episodes made me see the formula and I gave up on the show.  As some know, the show exists on American shores and my wife started watching it.  I tried my best but just could not watch the show.  It was too formulaic.  I remember that first watching of the US Version, my mind was putting together the book ends of all the people on the show.  It was sort of a game could I guess the future?  I turned out right on all but one and told me Wife I just cannot watch something like that.

What really bugged me and made me shrug about the show was how much it wanted to mix reality with something very real for a cheap reward.  I completely understand that television is scripted to draw you in, but I believe there is a line any show can cross.  When a show takes reality and mixes it with real life, while trying to hide the fact just rubs me the wrong way.  While I am sure someone out there is about to say that describes most Reality TV.  While I agree, I found Undercover Boss throwing away its fake “reality” to make sure the climax of the final act of the show would work better.  As long as the viewer felt good about the Boss, no matter how we got there was all that mattered.

Think about that for a moment: Reality did not matter when it came to a “Reality” show.

Friday the tweets started flowing (Yes, I use Twitter.)  The first one popped up, it was pointing out how two networks had already blamed video games.  More tweets came in, and I finally gave in I tuned in and had to hear the “amazingness” for myself.  Within a few moments I was reminded why I usually do not pay attention, the formula was in full affect.  Journalists who pride themselves on facts were stuck with no facts, starting playing Mad Libs with a tragedy.  Moreover, on full display was what I can only describe as, IHOTM (Ignorance in the Heat of the Moment.)  One of the first questions, and amazing how it can be I might add, was why?  Of course, our crack reporters were on the job, getting answers.  According to them, it started with Reality TV and Video Games.  Then it spread to everything but, conveniently, their own field of work.

They were Undercover Bosssing the tragedy.

That is the News networks, journalists, were taking the tragedy and forgoing the reality to make sure they were satisfying anything but reality.  The news was constructing a formulaic “reality” show.  Again in front of me was playing out the very thing I despised in Undercover Boss, and it was about to enter other areas of my life.

The news reports were quick to put a name to the killer, or so they thought.  However, for some in our society, this was enough to pounce.

twilight moms

Quickly a mob attacked a video game and deemed it the ultimate killer of all those children.

A Facebook pile-on began. “There is a connection between violent games and senseless violence in real life,” wrote Facebook user Becky Laird Gluff. Another user, Melanie Bowers, said, “Ban this game and the people who created such sickness.” And Catherine Barowski Plummer even wrote, “I am sure none of these precious children had this game on their Santa list… God help protect us from all the evil our society promotes.” 

masseffect mob

And that was not the end of the craziness.  A gamer by the name of Antwand Pearman wanted to do something, he wanted to send a message and asked other gamers to join him in an online ceasefire.  He wanted to do something to allow the gaming community to show its respect to the tragedy.  A gaming moment of silence for the victims.

“When I thought of this cease fire I saw it as a means for gamers to come together and show their love and support the families. The one thing we can’t get in this world is peace. War will always rage on but in the virtual world we have an opportunity to be better. This isn’t something for the media it’s for the families and us.

“So what if people stop playing shooters for a day? It will be forgotten the next day. The point is that in that silence you’ll have time to listen to something you haven’t heard in a long time. Something you have been too busy to hear. Too social to notice and that’s…your Heart.”

This is not the first time people in the game community have shown they are human.  The guys at Penny Arcade started Child’s Play to give back to the community.  It was also to combat the negative image people perceive around video games.

Child’s Play seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play. When gamers give back, it makes a difference!

So what response did the ceasefire bring out of people?

You’ve got to be kidding. They are putting down their “virtual bullets”!!!! Is everyone clueless here or do liberals only despise guns because of agenda pushing but find kids killing people in video games for entertainment acceptable. The producer of this mass crap has the nerve to say violent video games doesn’t generate killers – yet the mass killer of our babies played violent games. You can’t condemn guns without condemning this stuff which caters to sick individuals who crave killing for entertainment or worse, preys on the minds of the mentally ill until killing becomes reality.
– moutainlover39

“””I’m confused, growing up we’ve all been told to show love and support in anyway we know how.”””—- Because it isn’t actual support. It does nothing but make the person partaking in the event feel better about themselves. Yes, call me a cynic but putting crosses beside roads where people die or having a ceasefire in a video game or praying for the deceased does absolutely nothing for the deceased. The time to honor someone is while they’re alive. Once a person is dead the grieving need real support not nonsense that amounts to nothing more than platitudes and lip service.
– MegaProscrastination

Sigh, I guess the message was not clear enough…

NOTE:  Let that second comment sink in for a moment from MegaProcrastination

Before I hit the note of the crescendo…

Some may wonder why I am focusing on one aspect of the shootings and that is the subject of video games.

It is a valid criticism, I am taking the time to write an article on a multi-faceted tragedy about one aspect.  Some might say it is callous to concentrate on the subject of gaming when something bigger has happened.  To say I am desensitized to violence, to only care about the attack on something I have a passion about.

My only answer can be human nature.  It is a part of our nature to defend that which we care about.   As some who know me, I am trying to forge a career in game design.  So for me it is more personal then for others.  In addition, I cannot sit idly by and let people add the fuel of ignorance to the conversation.   Yes, this is selfish on my part.  I would only ponder would you sit by if people attacked your profession with ignorance.

And this isn’t to say valid criticism isn’t valid (see what I did there?)  However, it is the ignorance that is bothersome.

Which leads me to this:

Sorry I’m about to flip some tables…

Game design is all the constant questioning of decisions.  It’s the pursuit of an elusive perfection that can never be obtained.  Every design choice made will be questioned, and it is not for the faint hearted.  As with many creative fields, not only will you scrutinize every decision you make, but other people are more than ready to off their own opinions.  Moreover, those design decisions are made for many reasons.  However, one thing I can tell you is that there is not one collective force driving those decisions and questions.

That is not to say that some make games that are aimed at purely violence and carnage.  However, to simply focus on .000000000001% of the industries output is ludicrous and sadly way over the lines of ignorance but pure stupidity.  I almost want to say that ignoring is the best way to confront it but it is not.

Gaming encompasses so many different thoughts and emotions that saying the industry is about carnage and violence ignores the fact that there is more than one type of game genre.  This is as good as saying TV shows are only sitcoms, while ignoring drama, soap operas and sports.  Moreover, even worse is the attack of those that make the games.

I know some of the people who make the games that people say are killing trainers.  To say that there only goal in life is create games that teach children to kill is an even more pure form of stupidity.  A stupidity has no brain behind it, because the logic to get there is beyond reproach.

For some reason, there is this thought that games can only be for children or youth.  Moreover, those same people spouting this belief will merrily go onto point out how they cannot wait for their favorite adult movie or latest book that is about subject matter that is taboo.  Instead, they point the finger at something they do not care about.

They seem to forget the one finger pointing, three pointing back rule.

LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR: All forms of entertainment share the same similarities, characteristics.  It the form of the vessel and medium that changes.  Books, Music, Games, TV, Movies all have subject matter which encompasses different ages, genre and thoughts.

It sometimes make me wonder why people who read books ever move on from Green Eggs and Ham or why Dora the Explorer is not a prime time staple for TV viewing.

LET MAKE THIS CLEAR ALSO: Gaming is not mandatory nor the only form of entertainment.

Again, it has not to say valid criticism isn’t valid.  To bring up the question of game violence is a valid criticism.  However, to attack an industry, a group of individuals and imply they never have thought through this question is ignorance.  It conjures up images of a group meeting in the secret of the night, diabolically trying to figure out ways to destroy the innocence of childhood.

Am I supposed to swallow that sewage-filled cup with a smile on my face?

It is as if gamers and game designers are not real people or somehow not human:

I opened a chapbook in front of her, and she touched its pages, and then she took the magazine from me and shut it and kind of massaged its cover with her thumb. Then she dropped the magazine into the folds of the bed and reached for my hand, and she took my hand and squeezed it.

And squeezed it again. And then I cried, and she squeezed my hand another time, and I looked up and right into her eyes, which were wet and meaningful and so clear, and her face was obscured by the breathing mask but her eyebrows were furrowed the way they always are when I cry, and I apologized to her for hurting her and for being so sad, and I looked down again at our clasped hands, and then I folded myself in half and cried into both our hands.

And then I pitched forward off the chair and onto my knees and I cried into her bedsheets and kissed her hand, because there was that mask forcing air into her and there was too little of her face to kiss.

One final point, as this always bears repeating when the subject of violence and gaming comes up:


It’s been cancelled… FOREVER

When it came to this article I wanted someway to convey how seeing, hearing and reading the criticism on gaming stuck me.  I wanted to make it crystal clear how these statements sound to me.  I wanted to convey a thought that would spell it out in layman’s terms that would make sense to the general public.  How me as a gamer and game designer saw the criticism of video games during tragedy .


See using the same logic that I saw this past weekend, that is the best way I can put it.  Seeing as the shooter had a loving mother, it must be her fault and seeing as she is the only mother in the whole universe they must all be like her.  So the only solution to a tragedy like this is to cancel Mother’s Day.

and in other news pigs are flying…

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Gaming


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This again…

Excuse me while I go bang my head against my desk.

Ah much better, hold on one second while I bang it again.

Ooh yeah that feels better, you may be asking why the violence?

/sarcasm/ Well that’s because I play games… /sarcasm/

Here we are in the year two thousand and twelve and we are debate a two-decade-old argument.  An argument that has roots going far back, but alas here we are again.

“Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents — and children — about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior,” Wolf said. “As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games.”

I am not going to pull out the “don’t we have anything better to do” card, but doesn’t our government have better things to spend our time on?

More than a decade ago, I had found myself involved in this argument for the first time.  It started with PTC (The Parents Television Council) and their McCarthy witch-hunts to end violence of all forms.  It continued with the outrage over Grand Theft Auto and then sort of fizzled out.  From time to time, I would read about the continuing escapades of bills that were to tax “violent” video games, for the sake of the children mind you.  Remember that little problem I have with “For the…,” oh well moving on now.  I thought with nearly the cost of two million dollars to the California taxpayer, some politician would start to understand how ridiculous the cause is.  And that isn’t to say that the cause of keeping inappropriate materials from children isn’t a noble cause, but should it be the cause of people who don’t have understanding of the subject matter they are talking about.  Especially when those that want to protect children from video games never seem to approach the industry.  I understand that the industry will resist change to what makes money, but if you never approach the beast you want to slay, how can you make informed decisions, and craft laws.  Moreover, let me again point out, politicians crafting laws that do not cost taxpayers of your state almost two million dollars.

Doom be thy name with an order of Grand Theft Auto

Let’s go back to where it started for a moment.  One of the main problems I always had with politicians and their attempts to regulate the video game industry, was simply the lack of research on their part.  The games that really spearheaded the ESRB (Electronic Software Ratings Board) and the ratings you see on games now, was Doom and Mortal Kombat.  Take Doom for a second, the plot is you in the role of a marine on mars.  A scientific experiment opens up a gateway to Hell and posses everyone but you.  You alone are now in the position of taking on the armies of Hell to save the day.  So first point, the basis of Doom is formed around a concept that could never possibly happen.   Take then into consideration that this is a one of thousands, if not millions, scenario that would, again be impossible.  This is the stuff of fiction and sci-fi.  The next, that has to be made, is the granddaddy of MDK (Murder Death Killer) simulators Doom, did not even allow you to aim your gun.  This was a FPS (First Person Shooter,) which normally includes shooting weapons, at the time of Doom the ability for mouse aiming was not yet thought of, nor implemented.  So in Doom you used a keyboard to fire your gun, to kill an enemy on the second floor looking down at you, you would aim your gun directly under them and hit them.  That’s right the great MDK simulator taught you if you aimed a pistol at the ground in the direction of your prey, they would get hit.  I can only hope you see where I might have some problems with the MDK simulator conclusion.

Mortal Kombat has similar issues, from freezing people with magic to Babalities.  But let’s jump to Grand Theft Auto 3.  One of the main issues I had with Grand Theft Auto, was those complaining about the game never seemed to have a problem professing a love for The Godfather movie series.  Alternatively, the lack of seeing the connection between the two is surprising.  It is one thing to become outraged about a game for violence and adult situations, but to gloss over what the game was homage to, borderlines on blind rage.  In addition, never once brought up was that you could do good things in the game, like become a police officer and fight crime, or be a firefighter and fight fires.  I will admit this game heavily tilts towards performing heinous acts, but those who would not even tell the whole story of a game based on complete player freedom showed their true agenda.  I wonder if people had said this is the Godfather movie of video games, how it would have changed the argument.

It’s the parents…

I will hammer this one hard because of personal experience.  Not only do I have children, but also I take personal steps when it comes to gaming.  I am current with technology and the game industry but let that not make you think I do not face issues of my own.  I cannot know all of the games out there; I have to do research also.  Now I will admit to the advantage of knowing the language of games, I know what RTS (Real Time Strategy) means, but not taking two seconds to find out what a term means is inexcusable in this day and age.

Almost a decade ago, while waiting in line at a game store to checkout I ran into a parent contemplating buying Grand Theft Auto 3 for his twelve-year-old son.  I explained to him all the bad things the game contained because I personally felt the game was not for twelve-year olds.  I told him of the rape, the murder, the law breaking.  He asked a few more questions and we had a pleasant conversation but at the end of the day he still bought the game.  This was a parent, not knowing before but now well informed who still made that decision for his child.  He even asked me questions about the game rating on the package and I explained that to him.  When I later went to work at a game store I had many more of these type of conversations, both good and bad, but normally parents would make the same decisions.  At the store I worked at, the staff made it a rule not to sell M rated titles to children this led to a parent yelling at me and another clerk over interrupting their shopping experience.

I have to say that I have always been a supporter of ID requirements for M rated games, but the implementation is always going to be the problem.  Then there is the problem of parents who will not care, or even become outraged over having to be with their children to purchase games.  The other problem is content that is objectionable to one parent is not objectionable to another.  There are parents who find shooting of any kind detestable would ban Space Invaders, so a game with a rating is still going to be a guideline.  The parents in question must do their homework for their own children.  As history has shown me, everyone is offended by something.  Therefore, who should make the decisions that something is good and bad for children?

As a game designer, I know intimately the decisions that go into game design and presentation choices.  For myself, my business is that of family and designing games that are morally and socially responsible.  It is a hard and narrow road to travel.  In my first published game, I ran into the problem of cultural prejudice.  I had designed a family card based around being a farmer and penning pigs.  The pigs were cute and all given simple names and personalities.  My artist was given some liberties to design pigs, in going through her art I found the Italian pig family.  The decision was to cut them from the game for obvious reasons.

One thing that has to be kept in mind, games is not simply for children, not have they ever been.  Just as movies are made for different audiences, so are games.  Is it fair to say that games can only be made for children?  Would you want to live in a world where “Mary had a little lamb” was the only song you could hear on the radio all day long?  I know it is simplistic to say what I just said, but then why do we keep coming back to the need to warn children of mature games, when there is labeling already.  Then where do we draw the line, if we have to protect children from game content shouldn’t this also extend to all forms of entertainment?

Also I understand fully the argument that if parents will not police their children there may be a need for the law to do that.  But is that the case here?  Then how far does it go?  Again, do we have to apply the same thought to all forms of entertainment, and what is done when it affects those that are arguing for these laws?  It is also a question of the cost of living in a free society.  Maybe it is obvious, but the cost of a free society is one of being continually offended.  I understand a law to stop people yelling “Fire!” in a crowded building, but does that apply to entertainment choices that are not mandatory to life?

Been here, done that before…

I will say what surprises me most is the fact that we have not moved on from the find blame in one thing movement.  Also surprising is the fact that technophobia, hasn’t taken up the “___ is evil and responsible for all of societies ills” mantel which video games inherited from took over from music, begotten from Dungeons and Dragons and on and on and on.

If we did not need laws before, do we need them now?

Best question yet; When does this insanity end?

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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Gaming


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