Edit 02/02/2017: I have changed the original title, which was a play on words using Jonathan Blow’s name, followed by a very unflattering and wordy description. I now believe that was a bit unfair and I think Blow is way more reasonable than what a few tweets may imply, and he isn’t even the focus of this piece. Still, I think the rest of the article is still relevant, so I haven’t changed anything else.
Video games, now literally worse than ISIS. This shit is beyond parody. Source: @whenindoubtdo
Taxonomical classification of The Blowhards
Kingdom: Intellectual knowitallatry
Phylum: Social Justice
Species: Vidya journalist.
If there is a tragedy like an ideologically motivated massacre, what should be the first thing you should do? Ponder about the dogmas, beliefs, and worldviews of that ideology? Hell, no. Obviously, what you have to do is to misunderstand the event, and then use the anxiety of that day to conflate the tragedy with your own petty, nonsensical issues and your deluded and constipated misuse of language. For example, gaze upon this and despair:
I know that personally, I spend about as much time per week playing games as I do parenting my kid [lol. Mother of the year award]
What we do in our leisure time MATTERS, because our leisure is a huge part of our lives. And for most people, at least for just about all the Millennials I know, our leisure defines us far more than our shitty, dead-end, low-wage, soul sucking jobs. [lol2]Who cares? WHO CARES?I care, and you should too. 49 people are dead and 53 are injured because of our culture of homophobia and intolerance. The shooter wasn’t an entirely unique phenomenon formed out of the ether. He was informed by a culture of white supremacist patriarchy that told him that his rights were paramount.
“I pledge my alliance to abu bakr al Baghdadi..may Allah accept me. The real muslims will never accept the filthy ways of the west”
Note the use of words like “fantasies” and “mass murderer.” I will talk about that later.
That kind of language is a bit like those post-structuralist French blowhards who talked about violent language, oppressive metaphysics, and freeing oneself from the tyranny of classic linguistics. You start applying that warlike and revolutionary language to such asinine subjects and you end up believing your own shit, that you are some sort of world-shattering freedom fighter.
Well, Mr. Blow, I am a psychologist -although a somewhat unorthodox one who’s trying to forget almost everything he learned- who is also writing a book about this kind of retarded moral panics, and my diagnosis is that you are full of stupid. Or a bit confused about the meaning of certain words, at the very least.
You can’t expect a free pass to condemn something by associating it with a despicable crime and then, when people react with comprehensible anger, equivocate, dodge, and claim that such reactions merely proves you were right all along. That’s what is commonly known as throwing the rock and then hiding the hand… and then arguing that they deserved getting hit by that rock anyway.
There are many wrong things with E3, from its high level of cringe to the fact that most of the games presented there aren’t even that good, but conflating it with a religious (yes, that’s the word) mass murderer is low even by the abysmal standards of contemporary journalism.
Let me explain this slowly, without any psychological mumbo jumbo or excess theorizing, so even a Polygon journalist can understand it:
“Violence” in games is mostly scenography and pyrotechnics.
No amount of blood, guts, or edgy violence will save a game with terrible gameplay (and, I believe, most contemporary FPS are crap.) That would be like adding exploding guts and killing animations to a game of chess lacking half the pieces and with broken rules. You may fool a few, and as long as people don’t play the game and only watch someone play it on Youtube (which is basically “Hype creation and Marketing 101”) they may be deceived, but sooner or later they will realize the game is shit. And, conversely, removing those gory extras will not destroy a good shooter (although it may make it a bit duller.)
Why am I saying this? Because of the first image, the one from Justin McElroy (which he later removed,) crying about “when will they stop making shooting people seem fun?“
Now, I can understand when people without experience in video games say these things because they lack a mental framework to understand games or what the human brain is actually doing when “shooting” things in a video game (and no, it’s not recreating homicidal behavior or murderous thought patterns,) but I’m shocked when I see that retarded nonsense coming from the mouth of the editor of a video game website. You see, your question is bullshit because it’s not “shooting” (you aren’t actually shooting) “people” (and they aren’t really people) that is fun, it’s the underlying game mechanic. Also, even in a pure shooting game like Quake 3, most of the fun comes from other activities that are not shooting per se. It’s the competition, it’s mastering the system, it’s the tension, the split-second decissions, it’s knowing the level so well you could play blindfolded, it’s telefragging a 12-yeal-old noob, etc.
If the game system of a hypothetical shooter were shitty, probably because it had been designed by the same Polygon staff mentioned before,
“shooting” playing would not be fun. Shocking, isn’t it? It’s almost like games can be fun or boring according to how well they are designed and nothing else. The “external representation” or what happens to the enemies (if they are “killed” or not) doesn’t matter. You could be shooting murderous lead or harmless snowballs, as long as the game system (projectile speed or if it’s a hitscan system, enemy reaction time, and so on) is the same, there is no difference whatsoever.
B) FUN REINFORCES VIOLENCE.
And no, making something fun in a game doesn’t “reinforce” that behavior in the real world, that’s a serious misunderstanding of the psychological concept of “reinforcement.” You know what a game reinforces? Itself. If you enjoy the game, you will want to play it more. If it’s chess, you will want to play chess more; you will not become a monarchist. If you enjoy Risk, you will want to play Risk more; you will not start plotting world-domination. If you enjoyed the Gender Wars, you will want to play that or similar games, not to become a mysoginyst or misandrist.
Arguing about transference of violent behavior, implied beliefs, worldviews, or whatever is basically like believing than having fun in a wrestling or darth-throwing exercise will make you want to tackle random people on the street or stick them full of darts.
“Reinforcement” means “anything that increases the probability of a behavior reappearing.” A game, therefore, reinforces… itself. If you think a game is fun, you will play it more. That’s it. Value reinforcement through gameplay by semantic or visual association is mostly bullshit academic nonsense.
C) “KILLING” “PEOPLE”
The life or death of that “people” for whom some blowhard video game journalists cry more than for the real people massacred by jihadi scum is irrelevant since they have no life at all, they are just targets or obstacles, a challenge to a set of skills the game wants you to master. They are removed once you beat them; how the game describes that act of removing, if as “killing”, “knocking” them, or sending them to an alternate dimension doesn’t matter. The pleasure and fun come from the feeling of overcoming that challenge, not from any self-awareness of having “killed” anything. Unless, of course, you are psychotic and you truly believe you have killed some kind of breathing entity. In that case, I warn you, you may have suicidal thoughts every time an enemy kills you.
You could add a Triggered DLC that every time you “kill” someone a pop-up message appears, informing you that you actually didn’t kill anyone because you are using magic bullets with pixie dust, but that would change nothing. Except making the game utterly stupid, that is. So no, designers are not making shooting people seem fun, they are making fun games (well, or so they like to claim) about (among other things) shooting “people.”
If you want practical examples, install the original Dooms, enjoy the great first levels, and then go to Doomworld and download the worst wads you can find, then try not gouge your own eyeballs. According to the bright minds of contemporary “I’m not a video game journalists, I’m a cultural critic” the game should still be fun and problematic since you are still shooting things, murdering by proxy, and being reinforced by a glorification of gun violence, right? Well, no, because the level design is shit and nobody wants to play shit, violent or not. In fact, I’d argue that violent shit is way worse than non-violent shit. There is no worse shit that edgy shit. Literally, it’s quite painful.
Think about a game like Cook, Serve, Delicious. Its gameplay is more frantic and brutal than many contemporary FPS, and it can certainly be fun if you desire a heavy challenge, but it has nothing to do with “murdering” people. Now, imagine that the same game mechanics were applied to one of those “mass murder” simulators you blowhard journalists like to despise. Then, when you press GPSOUMKBIT (I think that’s the recipe for Pasta with Manhattan pesto) instead of making a delicious dish, your characters fights an enemy whose defeat required pressing those same buttons.
Now, what exactly has changed? Not much, because the underlying skills necessary to play the game are exactly the same. Instead of cutting carrots you may behead someone but the game is basically still the same. And if it’s fun or not is not predicated on the amount of blood or murdering that is going on but on the quality of the game, its rules, and all those things game journalists should understand and know about.
Conversely, if you enjoy Serious Sam 3, removing blood and making all that “mass murdering” an exercise in transdimensional creative gardening will not alter your gameplay experience that much.
For similar reasons, if at the start of all games a disclaimer page explained that, in fact, all guns shoot rubber bullets and no “living being” (wut?) is actually killed, that they are merely unconscious, and how later (off-screen) they will be revived and given counseling and PTSD classes to become productive
social justice bloggers members of society, as long as that doesn’t alter any gameplay element, the game will be exactly the same. Without blood and hilarious unscientific gibs, but basically the same. Seriously, I don’t care if the guys I’m blasting are dead or merely mimicking being dead because they were never alive to begint with, what matters is that they are removed from the game because I beat them at whatever challenge the game set up for me. Nobody that isn’t psychotic or a game journalist should care about the alleged existential quality of anthropomorphic bundles of pixels.
If you feel adventurous, you can even remove all recognizable visual elements of violence and create a game using ASCII characters. Is the game still violent, a “glorification of how cool is to mass murder people” or now it’s Halal uh… I mean, progressive enough?
I don’t think I’m grasping at straws here. The argument the Blowhards make is not one about too much blood, gore, or photorealism. That would be an issue of taste and aesthetic preferences because, for example, I may not like how gory some CSI and other procedural dramas are (“Hey, look at the contents of this poor guy stomach. Hmmh, is that Parmesan cheese?“) but I won’t say that it’s a moral hazard. It’s just disgusting.
No, what the professional moral panickers say is not that. What they say is that the act of killing in a virtual world is a moral transgression of some sort, the beginning of a slippery slope that starts with video games and their glorification of violence, and (somehow) ends up with a culture of mass shootings. In fact, I have read some of these idiots ask this rhetorical question with that tone of intellectual superiority they always exhude even when they write: “Why is the era of mass shootings also the era of the first-person shooters?“
Good question, here’s another one: “Why is the era of retarded mass murderers also the era of retarded media journalists?” Clearly, something to ponder about because I’m sure there is a causal link somewhere (actually, there is, but that’s a subject for another post.)
In any event, according to their mental gymnastics, it should not matter how the game or the act of killing is represented as long as it’s killing and the player is aware of the murder and its deadly (lol) consequences. That’s the moral hazard, otherwise it would be just an issue of toning down the edginess a little, but that is a minor issue, something that is not click-baiting enough and, most certainly, will not allow you to write dozens of articles demonizing games.
D) MASS MURDER, FOR FUN AND PROFIT.
Let’s ignore for a moment that in almost all games everything that moves is your enemy and that if you don’t shoot back, you lose and “die.” So, behaving like a pussified pacifist is basically suicide. Hell, you could argue that Firs-Person Shooters simulate not being a mass murder but being the victim of a bunch of psychotic mass murderers who shot to kill for no apparent reason. If we don’t realise that is because enemies suck at their job, the main protagonist is a bullet sponge, and we destroy thousands of them. But stop shotting back and you will see what happens.
Anyway, even assuming that all games were like Postal 2 or about “mass murder” (no, they are not) nobody is “murdering” or “killing” anything, no more than you are “murdering” your friends when you hit them while playing dodgeball, or how you “murder” wooden targets at a shooting gallery or all those dartboards you viciously slaughtered after playing that game with your friends for years. And that’s what first person shooters are: a digital, interactive, shooting gallery where someone thought it would be amusing to add blood effects, music, a (with any luck) well-designed maze/levels to explore, and perhaps a little plot to justify that nonsensical shooting spree.
In fact, the original “shooting games” from the first home console (1972,) the Magnavox Odyssey or “The Brown Box,” came with a rifle-looking lightgun for “target shooting” games, something that in today’s cultural climate will cause a shitstorm.
That console had four shooting games, Prehistoric Safari, Dogfight!, Shootout!, and Shotting Gallery. Primitive as they were, their basic elements were similar to the ones from other contemporary games: dodge, aim, and shoot. Rinse and repeat.
More modern shooters, starting with Doom, were basically Shotting Gallery meets Dungeons & Dragons, even to their maze-like dungeon/level design. So, unless you want to imply that going to a shooting gallery is some sort of a moral crime (what are you, some sort of decerebrated sissy?), or that Dungeons & Dragons is still satanic and hazardous for your soul (congratulations, you are an idiot,) most of the alleged ethical dangers of First Person Shooters are basically nonsense, an example of self-inflicted mental and verbal diarrhea.
Now, about mass murdering in games. Where are the ill-will, the racial hatred, jealousy and other motivations that drive people to commit murder? Where are the “I won’t accept the filthy ways of the Western world!” ideological beliefs? Are you, video game journalists, so psychotic that you actually HATE the enemies you “kill” in a video game? Are you happy when you kill some nameless goons in a video game because you believe you have made the world a better place? No? Because that’s how ideological murderers feel and think, and if you want to link the two, at the very least there should be some sort of overlaping between the behavior or emotions of both. Oddly enough, there isn’t. Gaming and Mass Murdering have as much in common as surgery training is related to becoming a knife-wielding serial killer.
Do you blowhards understand that what drives ideological mass murder is the desire to REMOVE certain classes of people from existing, the end goal being a world without those people (or one in which they are cowed into submission) because the mere existence of these people provokes murderous anxiety to the ideological warrior? When was the last time anyone wanted to REMOVE from existence the targets at a shooting gallery or the monsters in a First Person Shooter because that was a moral imperative from their worldview/ideology, or because their existence gave them an anxiety attacks?
Now, I understand that Morrowind’s Cliff Racers are an exception, but does anyone really hate a monster like Doom’s Cacodemon and hopes that one day it will be extinguished like your random Saudi preacher hopes Jews will one day be exterminated (insha’Allah)? Does the mention of the creature’s name drive you crazy like using the wrong pronoun for a transexual drives social justice warriors crazy? If not, why are you confusing both things?
I’ll repeat. Why the hell are you conflating ideological hatred with aim and reflex-based games that are nothing more than a virtual version of a snowball fight? If it’s just because there are blood and visual representations of “killing” then you are a deluded imbecile whose brain can’t distinguish between make-believe and reality, between going to the theatre to see Macbeth and seeing a real murder with your own eyes. Because 4-year-old kids and many higher mammals already do mock-up fights and play/fight for fun, training, and social bonding, that would mean your average social justice crusader has a pre-mammalian brain, something like the brain of a trout probably.
You may believe that this feline mammal is just playing, recreating a mock-up fight with someone it loves. You are deadly wrong! It is engaging in violent and aggresive behavior, an example of toxic feline masculinity. Its master refusal to condemn this behavior reinforces old societal expetations of socially constructed feline mindset. Also, note the lack of female feline representation in those games. If that violent and discriminating behavior is not stopped, your cat may end up becoming a misogynyst gamergater, a Trump Supporter or who knows what.
Could it be that, in fact, gamers actually remember and love those unique, soon-to-be brutally murdered enemies because thanks to their “existence” they have experienced a great game/challenge? Could it be that the relation gamers have with those “enemies” they “murder” is similar to the one you have with someone with whom you played a good and entertaining game? Like a good friend, even? Nah, of course not, the correct analogy is that of mass murderers!
E) MURDEROUS FANTASIES.
And that leads me to the nonsense of video games being “fantasies.” Unless you are using (and they clearly aren’t) “fantasy” as another word for make-believe, then no, video games are not fantasies. A fantasy, meaning a wish-fulfilment proxy for the real thing, is what pornography is. On the other hand, “killing” people in a video game is not a proxy for the real thing. That’s what torturing little animals is for, and that’s a sign of psychopathy. And, by the way, psychopaths are prone to boredom and they usually don’t enjoy playing games.
People basically masturbate to anything that barely resembles a human (and, sometimes, not even that), and pornography is a substitute for the real thing, a fantasy that provokes more or less the same desires, emotions, thoughts, vascular engorging, and so on than the real thing. If someone becomes a fan of a particular adult actress, you know what he would want to do to her if she was willing.
On the other hand, when playing a “shooting game” your response (emotionally, behaviorally, physiologically, and so on) has nothing to do with doing THAT in the real world.
When you play, you don’t feel anger or anxiety (although you may become frustrated if you get stuck,) ill-will, or hatred, you are not even doing any of the movements required to accomplish that behavior in real life. In fact, you are in a very different mindset (that of playing,) and your body is not doing all that biological and hormonal stuff that it does when it prepares itself for a real fight or for danger. When playing, there is no overarching ideology or theory of Evil that explains (or, even, mandates) why the enemies must die; it’s just a game, and they are an obstacle. You are just having fun, playing a reflex-based game with a shooting mechanic to gauge your aiming skill. That’s it. You are playing a virtual snowball fight.
On the other hand, the last time I checked, Jihadist are motivated by religion, ideology, and a colossal and malignant hatred, not by a playful desire to meet a worthy, virtual, and safe challenge. Although perhaps they do and that’s why they target unarmed homosexuals, behead minorities, kidnap women, or travel to Syria to rape 10-year-old girls, because they just want a playful challenge. Yeah, that’s probably the reason. Too much video games, probably.