eXTReMe Tracker

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Do You Want To Play A-Gain?

With the release of Bully in the US, and the banning of Canis Canem Edit's sale in Currys, Dixons and PC World here in blighty, it's time to take a rather different look into violence and gaming.

Yesterday, Keith Vaz (anti-videogames advocate, Labour MP) challenged British PM Tony Blair on the issue of simulated violence in Bully by asking, "Does he accept that this is not about adult censorship, but about protecting our children?" .

Blair's response was as follows:
"I think it can be said that the video games industry, or at least a substantial section of it, has made significant advances over the past few years, but as my right honorable Friend [Vaz] says, it is important for that progress to be maintained."

And you know, I think Blair may have unknowingly stated exactly what the gaming industry needs to learn. After three decades of development, should not our community be producing content more evolutionary than an eternal era of hitting people with baseball bats?

I believe that violence has its place in gaming; blood and death are part of the medium of adult entertainment, but so too is philosophy, the surreal and the unexpected. The concept of life and death in gaming has for too long been analogous with victory and defeat. Fifteen years ago, Sonic was collecting rings to avoid instant death, a life lost - and a loss for the player. Today, many games still operate at the whim of a similar mechanic.

Last night, I read in Edge about a game called Captive. Your character is a prisoner, trapped in a cell but with remote access to robots able to find and release him. Victory will come when you see yourself from the eyes of the robot, and look up to see the robot looking at you. When this happens, the player can either choose to 'win' the game, ending the experience by freeing the prisoner from his cell, or alternatively to continue the game by choosing to be re-imprisoned and thus required to free themselves all over again. This game was released by Mindscape on the PC, Atari and ST in 1990 - that's right, sixteen years ago. As Blair notes, our industry may have made significant advances in recent years, but what kind of advancement can gaming claim to have made within our minds?

It's time to proclaim gaming for what it truly is - an active medium, suited to stimulate the human brain. Rockstar produce fine games, the GTA series and Bully, I'm sure, will provide quality interactive adult entertainment. But does a Rockstar game, or any other recent development, truly utilise our hugely flexible medium to challenge our minds, to shock, confuse... reward, only to punish; and ultimately to present a difficult decision to us - game over or continue?

No comments: