Friday, September 5, 2014

Game Ethic classes

Two weeks ago, some lunatic thought it would be a good idea to make a little internet game called "Euro BUK Simulator". In other words, using a Russian BUK anti-air missile system to shoot down (MH17) planes. In case you were in coma or in another stellar system past month, the MH17 was shot down above Ukraine, most likely by a BUK. Almost 300 people died, including about 200 fellow Dutch.

Horrible shit always happens -just turn on the news- but for our little country this disaster had an extra dimension. We never lost so many people in a plane crash, and the context of young families with children going on vacation, getting killed by a ridiculous accident(?), laying to rot in a warzone where drunk Separatists kept help and research on a distance. Well, you get the point. With all the violence on TV and internet, we almost got immune for beheadings, manslaughter, and war. But some disasters feel different. Each country probably had an ink-black day in somewhat recent history. A newsflash that turns your day upside down, an event you will never forget. News that makes you cry. Several Asian countries had heavy tsunami's, in Belgium a bus crash killed many of the little kids that came back from a school trip, and even though I got tired of all the drama and stupidity in the Mid-East, IS still manages to shock and disgust me every time with their demonic deeds.

But as a I was saying, some guy thought it would be funny to make a game about this plane crash. It could be compared to someone making a "9-11 Twin Pin" bowling game, one month after it happened. Or a "Sink the boat!" board game for the whole family, right after the Titanic sunk. Well, I don't have to explain that most people here weren't exactly charmed. Dutch that are normally neutral, calm and sober, now suddenly reacted furiously. Internet ninja's tracked him down, radio stations phoned, calling him sick and pathetic. I don't know, but I bet he received tons of hate-mails and death-treats by now.

My opinion about it? First of all, I think he's an idiot. If you have any empathy or moral, you don't make a game like this. Or at the very least wait until the wounds are healed a bit. Then again, I bet this game got more attention than any other (flash)game here. People judge and speak their disgrace, but download and play it at the same time. Same thing with porn. Of course nobody watches it. Where the billion hits come from each day? Nobody knows. It's in our curious nature to peek at everything God forbids. We hated the Separatists for showing Dutch passports without any shame or discretion at the crash site. But at the same time, we were all googling for the gory pictures. We consume horrible news like junk-food. More, more, more. With some bloody sauce please.

Bon apetit.

History lessons are fun
But moreover, there are more violent games -often based on real events-, where we kill people. Probably there is a "Taliban destroy-the-castle" catapult-thrower game out there (if not, here you go, a free idea), and then it's suddenly ok to see blood and limbs flying around. Some people are worth less than another. I must have killed at least a whole battalion of Germans in several WOII games. Napalmed countless little yellow men in Vietnam, and I'm still fighting with those nasty Russians and Chinese. Storming Utah Beach, the Tsjernobyl site, virus outbreak world domination. Fun as games, but don't forget that the actual events weren't so funny.

But, but but, except from the sudden Ebola outbreak, most of the examples I gave, happened a while ago. Our generation, the gamers, didn't fight in the Bulge or saw the news how president Kennedy got shot. I can imagine some elder people that actually lived through the war, can't understand how their grand children are shooting Jerries in “Medal of Honor”, with a bored look on their face. Grandpa was there, in the ditches, with a real rifle. Not with a bowl of chips in the sofa, with an XBox controller. But just because grandpa doesn't like it, is that enough reason to forbid using World War II as a game theme? If so, then we shouldn't make games about medieval castles, knights and princesses either. The dark ages were horrible as well. Crusades, battles, witch burning, slavery, starvation, ugly women. Well, pretty much anything related to historic dramatic events should be forbidden then. Some people may think that is an excellent idea, getting rid of those nasty games. But don't forget that should also include TV series, movies, fantasy novels, card-games, and making jokes about the past.

No. Most will agree that we should be allowed to make fun of the past. Making fun and games about it is just one way to get over with it. But at the same time, it also keeps the history alive. My little girl knows about pyramids because she saw them in a kids cartoon on TV. Should we forbid that, given the fact that the old Egyptian society was also based on slavery and bloodshed? Of course not.

The red line

Is it ok to shoot innocent Russian citizens at an airport? Yeah, if it was completely fictional. But given the actual terrorist attacks on metro stations and busses, maybe this comes too close? If you don't really care, google "Beslan" and think again...

Right. So, when is it ok to make fun about horrific events then? Do we have to wait two months? Two years? Unless you live in a caliphate or North Korea, there are no strict rules. It depends on what the majority thinks and feels. If the wounds are still open, it isn't very nice to throw salt on it. Then again, some people seem to stick forever. Grandpa-X that survived Auschwitz, probably has some more problems getting over the past than grandpa-Y, who joined the armed bicycle division and made a Tour du France. Some people forgive and forget, others don't. Some have humour and can put things in perspective, others don't.

Basically if you touch sensitive topics such as war, death, religion, or someone’s cultural background, it's almost impossible to have a light-hearted conversation without hurting somebody. It's hard to find a good balance. Some people love a fight, and keep kicking "sensitive spots". Then use "freedom of speech!" as a weak defence for just being an asshole. Personally I think you can say and make jokes all you want, but just be a bit careful about your company. You don't make vagina-jokes when having diner with your mother-in-law, now do you? In the other corner of the boxing ring, we have people that feel urged to "defend the weak", and raise their moral finger each time somebody says something that *may hurt*. Please stick that finger up your bottom, and don't treat grown-up like children that need protection. Bullying is a bad thing, but you'll have to produce some skin to avoid it as well. Get over it.

For games it's more or less the same. It's about context and society. Since 99% of us thinks abusing children is disgusting, we (thankfully) don't make child-abuse games either. However, the global opinion is a dynamic thing as well. Making mockery in the theatre about the church 200 years ago was the biggest crime you could commit. Now it's all normal. Things change.

Wolfenstein, one of the first games where you could shoot Nazi's, received a lot of criticism in 1992. And not really because you were mowing Nazi's, those are bad guys and deserve to die. No, the Swastika's everywhere was what made the game really "shocking". How could they! Twenty years later, nobody even cares when seeing a Swastika, unless its tattooed on someone's arm maybe. We learned World War II on school and in the movies. Germans were bad, Hitler even worse, Allies were good. We paid attention, it should never happen again, bla bla bla, but now it’s time to have fun and play shooting games.

And in the meanwhile, games got a whole lot more violent last twenty years. If Swastika's are ok... then maybe you can also uppercut your opponent in a cliff with spikes? Or rocket-launch zombies into chunks? Drive over people with pimped monster-cars to get bonus points? Or say "dang!" in a game. Or say "fuck" maybe? Steal cars? Or open fire on a crowd during a terrorist mission? Or, and please don't faint now, see 3D boobies.

The Violent Downward spiral
Making a bloody horror game, you can guess I'm not in the anti (violent) game camp. Yet that doesn't mean we shouldn't respect any boundaries. For one thing, I wouldn't make an airplane-shooter game (nor Twin Tower bulldozer challenge, nor Hiroshima puzzle quest, Hutu & Tutsi Conquer, or Pakistan Quake, Shake & Dance III). Neither do I feel the urge of pushing the limits further, just for the sake of pushing them and get my 5 minutes of fame. Just want to make an intriguing game, that's all.

But regardless what I say and think, there is trend towards violence. Not just those darn pesky games though. Movies introduced swearing and tits a long time before games. Cartoons like “Dumbo” have been replaced by hyperactive ADHD DisneyXD shit cartoons, where the main characters are cool and swift, instead of innocent and sweet. My little daughter sings she is a slut and wants to put her bum on your face. Not that she has any idea what she is talking about, but that is what the radio just sang. Put on the TV at 19:00, and lotion commercials will show you a boob or two. Zap further to MTV. More boobs, drunk sluts, and horny cavemen demolishing their house in Jersey Fuck or whatever the fuck that fucking fuck-series is called. Fortunately we still have the journal at eight o clock. Oh... your daily IS beheadings, Separatists playing with cuddles from a dead kid, and the news lady herself saying "boobies!" (really happened here, hehe). Right.

Bloody enough for you? Probably none of you will find this T22 corridor "inappropriate", yet some people do. It's a matter of perspective

You can blame games or movies, but it just seems the whole society is slipping away into extremes. Or at least into rudeness. Like I said, the society and its morals and ethics are dynamic. I think I’m a pretty decent man, but probably my over-great-bronze-age-grandmother would choke in shame if she saw me doing what I do.

Now the chicken & egg question: Did violent games and movies made us that way? Or do we like violent games and movies more than ever, because we are violent and sick in the head? Who shall say. Although I'm still convinced that the most violent places on earth, as well as our most violent history chapters, didn't have much to do with Grand Theft Auto or the Exorcist movies. Hitler didn't get a Gameboy for his birthday, Vlad the Impaler didn't watch “Natural Born Killers”, Khmer Rouge didn't play Doom before picking up their machetes, and IS sure isn't murdering because of Jersey Shore. Or maybe they are actually. I would.

Fact is, we all are just sick, twisted, violent, egoistic, disgusting, sexist, lying, hypocrite, but also lovable creatures. Games just surf that tidal wave. Maybe they push the limits a bit further sometimes, but blaming them for screwing up our next generation is very short-sighted.

As for the Dutch creator of Euro Buk Simulator, I still think you're an idiot. But I don't hope you get death-wishes or get lifted from his bed by the moral-police. I just hope you grow up and realize this was a very stupid move.

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