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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Value of Games

Ian Bogost is a sage amongst milder herbs. According to Bogost (and contrary to Splines' previous reports), we're all a little to blame for the failure of the original Manhunt 2, Carmageddon, Fahrenheit, and every other game deemed too 'adult' for retail acceptability. Bogost, who is the founder of Persuasive Games, conceives a need to critically assess the ramifications of the label 'Adults Only' (AO): the decisively fatalistic rating which the US' ESRB deemed appropriate for Manhunt 2 last June.

Reading this statement, I think that Bogost is outlining a failure of duty (and the existence of a duty!) on the behalf of those that produce, distribute, and enable the playing of games:

"A number of commenters… are calling for… an AO version for PC sold outside the traditional videogame retail channels… I suspect such a move is financially unimaginable in contemporary videogames […] But game devs and publishers are going to have to start making moves like this if they also want to continue making calls for the protection of games as speech. Who will take this argument seriously if game creators are so willing to compromise their intentions?"

To use a civil rights analogy (why not): I think that we as gamers should consider the example of Dr. King, who successfully displayed that a valid and effective strategy to bring an end to discrimination is to avoid an adversarial mentality and instead to persuade those who would discriminate (against games as a worthy medium) that we should be recognized as members of the community with a valuable contribution to make.

We can achieve the respect of doubters in a number of ways. We as gamers can take it as our duty to show our favorite games to our friends, relatives, and people who would really prefer we didn't. We can tell people why we love games, how the media tends to report only on the negative aspects of gaming, and that 'Adults Only' should not be demonized because a lot of gamers are just that: adults. We can praise the efforts of the many developers that strive to exceed expectations and to produce something truly exceptional. We can reject the studio that fails to defend its creation when it comes under criticism for being 'too extreme'. Games are a creative vision. Developers: for you to submit to outside interference is like poking yourself in the eye, suddenly that vision becomes blurry and indistinct.

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