Friday, November 09, 2007

Poor Besieged Nerds, Vol XMXCLIII In A Series

The interestingly-named Advanced Media Network is rakin' in the diggs with yet another uninformed slog through nerd-rage siege-mentality comparisons between movies and videogames. Appropriately enough, it's called "Ignorance".

The basic argument is facile: "why oh why do the squares gotta bust gamers' balls?" But it's augmented with a pinch of the standard "if this was a MOVIE..." crap, which fits in with what I laughingly call my theme; and so I think it bears a little stroll through their more ridiculous errors. Ostensibly because I'm sick of people taking these woefully ignorant positions, but mainly because little is more fun than ridiculing nerds' poor powers of reasoning[1].

If video games are getting criticized, then the same should apply to movies and the like. People should be out there arguing over R-rated movies, but for some reason that doesn't happen. Movies like Saw and Hostel are out there, and they rack in quite a bit of money. The director gets the liberty of expressing himself in any way he pleases, whether it be with an exciting car chase or a gruesome murder scene, but a video game developer is restricted. It goes to show that people just want something to blame, and video games are easy prey.

(Emphasis mine; for this quote I have chosen the "bold" option, mainly because there's no way to format text so it's wearing great big ridiculous clown-shoes).
Well, the nitpickery first: it's widely whispered that the torture-porn genre has jumped its economic shark, Hostel 2 having disappointed and Captivity having registered as nothing more than a somewhat unpleasant blip on radars both critical and financial. And also, you mean "rake", not "rack".

But more importantly: get down off the cross, sweetie, we could use the wood! A, movies have been regulated far longer than games have existed. Has Anthony LeBella, I wonder, heard of the Hays Code? I Spit On Your Grave? Salo? Do you think he's aware of the long-term illegality of owning, distributing or viewing A Clockwork Orange in the UK until recently? "The director gets the liberty of expressing himself in any way he pleases, whether it be with an exciting car chase or a gruesome murder scene, but a video game developer is restricted." Even for a topic so desperately overplayed, I'm impressed at the sheer myopia of this sort of assertion.

B, if the videogame industry could decide whether it was a "business" or an "art form" (or, heaven forbid, get with the 21st century and realise that it's both), maybe people could make mature decisions like, "well, this game has been rated adults only but we'll take a punt and sell it to adults only". LaBella's model doesn't stand up because it ignores the fact that filmmakers will as a matter of course decide what rating they're aiming for and tailor content appropriately. If the games industry was as creatively-driven as its exponents like to make out, Manhunt 2 would have been released as an AO title and damn the consequences; displaying admirable pragmatism, the kind of re-edit that's common practice in Hollywood was performed, an M pressed for. (Perhaps Take 2 are just more media-savvy than the nerds, and realised that films released with an unashamed NC-17 tend to tank, like Showgirls or Henry and June).

That's fine and dandy, and he does pay deference to the notion that maybe that's fine and dandy, but I don't see how a company freely making this decision, rather than coping with the headaches of distributing a game nobody wanted to sell, equates to unprecedented levels of persecution toward the poor beleaguered gamers. A clear parallel would be House of a Thousand Corpses, which got made then languished for years because nobody wanted to release something so distastefully violent. I didn't see the film industry grinding to a halt and wailing about some ill-understood constitutional amendment over that one.

The nerds can't have it both ways: if they want adult-oriented games (and as an adult gamer, I'd argue that most of the "adult" games released thus far have been fairly juvenile attempts to prove how matoor we all are; the control-pad-holding version of the average Vertigo comic), they have to accept that media, ALL media, that specifically skews itself toward an adult audience, is ALWAYS going to kick up a stink. Don't come the persecuted martyr with me till you're familiar with the releasing and distribution woes pertaining to books like American Psycho or Lolita and films like The Last Temptation of Christ.

And for God's sakes take the Jack Thompson disc off the platter, it's skipping something wicked: everyone else has figures like this presenting dissenting viewpoints every day of the damn week. It's only videogame-geeks who, a lifetime of persecution behind them, make like these guys are some sort of bogeyman out to spoil the pure artistic expression of their chosen pastime.

And I'm not even going to bother with the blindingly obvious discussion around the relative interactivity of games and other media and its implications for age-appropriateness[2]. If someone's not going to allow for the inclusion of this argument into their writing, I don't know what business it has being published in 2007.

So in conclusion: I am smarter than a fifth-grader.

[1] I'd like to think Emilio Estevez could've played me in The Breakfast Club, but popular consensus is it would've been Judd Nelson.
[2] A recent study suggested that third-person interactivity may actually lessen audiences' identification with a character; makes sense, but for God's sake nobody tell the nerds.

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