Okay, amidst all the recent games-playing that’s been going on at Chateaux Koffdrop there’s a few things happening in the culture that I want to get off my chest. Let’s begin:

Do games kill people? Well, the response to a question by the culture is typically “Don’t be daft, games don’t have that power!”. An argument tends to ensue about how games don’t have an influence in real life. I’ve no problem with this. However, when the same culture will pick up a piece of news from some science report stating that games have some positive effect on people’s reaction times or multi-tasking abilities my mood changes somewhat. You see, I believe the argument is that games either have some influence on people or they don’t. What I tend to see is very selective reasoning demonstrating a mentality that chooses to dismiss any negative influence but champions any positive influence. This is biased and hypocritical. It’s also an over-simplification – but that’s something the culture does too much of and is never going to change.

So, if you’re going to argue that games don’t have the power to influence then make sure you’re consistent and your view doesn’t suddenly change when it suits you to pimp games as some sort of science boon to the human race.

For what it’s worth, I’m very much in the camp that says games do influence. I know I’ve played long sessions of Burnout and then found myself in a car wondering why we’re not putting our foot down and just tearing up the traffic. Hell, I’ve been playing a lot of Crackdown recently and every time I see a multi-story building I see jumping and ledge-gripping potential. That’s influence. Now, I’m not about to go crashing cars or doing a Spiderman impression because other parts of my brain kick in before these idle thoughts take over my actions. What I’m saying is that games do influence. I believe that’s a constant. The influence can be good or it can be bad – but the influence is there. The difference, of course, is on an infinite number of other factors such as how balanced the person being influenced is in the first place or whether they have access to guns or not.

If you want to be listened to and taken seriously, it’s important not to come off as a knee-jerk reactionary. This is especially true if your view or stance is the one under scrutiny by popular opinion – regardless of how accurate or informed that opinion may be.

This little nugget of wisdom works in many ways – from being the switched-on gamer that understands what gaming is and how corrupting it may or may not be to being of the popular opinion that, hey, you’re a gamer so you know when people who make games are being lazy or not because, after all, you play games so you know everything about how they’re made. In that latter example, I’ve placed the gamer in the same spot as gamers view ‘the public’ in respect of the whole “games kill” argument. Gamers know that anyone who’ll spew that rhetoric at them clearly doesn’t understand the breadth of what they’re talking about. Yet, in an instant, they’ll immediately adopt that manner when it comes to deciding how a game is this or that or what Brand X is doing and how they should be running their global corporation.

Take, for example, some recent news that broke about how some new maps for Gears of War were going to be sold rather than given for free. Apart from the outcry by gamers over the idea of being charged real money for extra content (which is hardly the worlds greatest crime – unless you’re so used to getting things for free that you believe nobody other than you should earn money for what they do – even if it’s something regarded as the best of it’s kind – which rather makes rational people somewhat unsympathetic when you talk of the supposed selfishness of others) the culture generally decided that Epic were good and MS were bad. That MS were ‘evil’ for overruling Epic’s desire to give content away for free and, anyway, they already pay some bucks for xbox live in the first place so more stuff should be free and, besides, MS don’t need the revenue as they’re rich fatcats anyway. That’s pretty much the gist of what I read.

MS as a platform holder and MS as a publisher are two different entities. Forgetting the indignant rage gamers feel whenever they’re reminded who’s actually in control of things in the games industry it’s worth remembering that, typically, the publisher calls the shots. They fund the developer to make the game. Both developer and publisher will be subject to some frighteningly detailed contract that stipulates god-knows-what-but-you-can-be-sure-that-YOU-don’t-know-what. Also, let’s get some perspective on things. Games cost the same $50 or £40 ten years ago as they do today. In some cases they cost more. In fact, factor in interest and inflation over a decade and it works out that, if anything, games are cheaper today than they were in the late 90s. So, actually, if you stop and think before complaining you’d realise that, these days, you’re getting more for less. In fact, if gamers stopped thinking about themselves for a brief moment and factored in the broader picture that involves, not just gamers, but publishers and developers too (because, hey, you wouldn’t have games without publishers and developers would you?) you’d realise that whilst the cost to the consumer has, if anything, gone down a little the cost to developers and publishers has shot up astronomically.

The whole deal with mircotransactions or in-game advertising is to earn revenue in, hopefully, non-intrusive or optional ways that mean the rising development costs can be offset in a way that avoids having to charge $120 or £100 per game at retail. Nobody wants that so here’s the alternatives that are being considered. Will this become the norm? Well, it depends if those methods are successful or not. That’s where consumers do have some power.

But, please, don’t sit there refusing to think of anything other than your explicit belief that you’re entitled to free digital entertainment whilst choosing to ignore anyone other than yourself in the equation and then brand others as selfish. Nobody who is presented with that argument or line of thought (and I use the term lightly) will give you the time of day – because presenting that to those who DO know what is going on and who DO understand how and why these decisions come about will simply regard gamers in precisely the same way that gamers regard those who make statements like “games kill”.

In all cases, you’d make a better argument and have a greater chance of being listened to if you stopped and thought things through first.

Try it sometime!

3 thoughts on “If the shoe fits…”
  1. This could go a long way.

    I remember playing the likes of Skool Daze and Back To Skool on my beloved Speccy (which I still have) all those years ago. Did it encourage me to bring a catapult into school? No. Did it encourage me to start bullying and attacking other puplis at my school? No.

    Did they encourage me to put my real-life teacher’s names in? Yes. And great fun it was too. But it didn’t change the fact that I was a swot at school in real life. And I’m glad of it.

    {Fast forward)…

    Manhunt/GTA/Hitman games…

    Have any of these games in any way influenced my non-gaming life in any way? No. And neither will they. Why? Because I do consider myself to have more than one brain cell.

    Gaming for me is a form of letting my hair down, and it always has been/always will be. Forms of entertainment of all kinds, be it literature (The Catcher In The Rye – Mark Chapman – the guy who blew John Lennon away), television (I’ve seen people go nuts at celebs who star in soaps by retards who think they’re the same people as their character in REAL life), movies (Various) or games (Jack Thompson fill in here from Counterstrike to Manhunt) can give out a form of escapism. If people can’t make the difference between escapism and reality then there’s clearly something wrong with them in the first place. Period.

    I could go further, but that for me is layman’s terms. If people can’t understand that then they’re fucked up. I question their right to breathe, quite frankly.

    And no, that won’t be converted to textspeak for under 50 IQ chav retards. Because I don’t have time for Jeremy Kyle watching wankers.

  2. I think games can influence how we think, but for most of us it won’t make the slightest bit of difference to how we act. I can’t remember the first time I caught myself confusing games with reality, although I know that finding a lighbulb in a (real-world) cupboard and wondering if it would fit in Ryo Hazuki’s basement light socket is my most vivid memory.

    Of course it’s stupid to say that violent games don’t affect the people who play them at all, but I think it’s equally silly to insist that they make people killers. 90% of the time this debate comes up in the media, it’s claimed that nobody could see this level of depravity and gore and not become a psychopathic killer. But if witnessing violence and gore is all that’s required, why aren’t more cops and paramedics turning into mass-murderers?

    I think it’s obvious that violent games – all violent media in fact, as well as witnessing a lot of real-life violence – can desensitize a person. But that’s not the same thing as turning them into a killing machine.

    As for the other aspect of your post… I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable to criticize a developer for being “lazy”, from a gamer’s perspective. I’ve never made a million-dollar movie, but I know when I feel being cheated by a film. I don’t know the minutae of every contract signed during a TV show’s production, but if it seems cheap and lazily put together, I’ll say it.

    The one real problem with fans in that whole discourse is the habit of the fan to state their opinion as fact, rather than qualiying it as simply one point of view. And even then, I’ve rarely heard a professional critic being taken to task for slagging off a game, even though they might be no better informed (or no more experienced when it comes to playing games) than the man on the ‘net. The only difference might be a position of perceived authority.

    It’s not unreasonable for fans to praise a company when that group puts out a strong, polished product; why then is it not fair when they criticize a company for a poor product?

  3. The simple fact is, whether people like it or not, games and other media do psychologically affect individuals in a way which can have a negative outcome. It’s been scientifically proven time and time again.

    What seems to be the counter argument put forward is the one that sounds very logical – that just because someone sees someone being stabbed on screen, they aren’t going to do it. Of course, that is true – to an extent. Some people will not be affected by games in the slightest, others, more vunerable people psychologically, whether they be children or they be psychologically damaged adults, can be affected. I wouldn’t say games and other media cause violence, but what they can do is influence an individual to violence – and indeed the science points to that.

    I have to agree about the whole payment for maps thing – people do lose sight of the fact that the games industry is a competitive market – people wouldn’t complain if a director’s cut version of a film was released – so why is this any different?

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