I know E3 is supposed to be a time of celebration of gaming everywhere, but after the massacre in Orlando, you must’ve known there will be people who will scapegoat video games to exploit a national tragedy.
And they did.
What’s surprising about all this is not the usual politicians or parents rights groups that are decrying “the mass violent culture of gaming.” It’s actually worse.
The denouncement is coming from our own.
That’s right, it’s not Leland Lee (who’s in federal prison for corruption charges), or Hillary Clinton, or even Jack Thompson (disbarred) that’s leading the charge. It’s the industry. Who do I mean? Insiders such as journalists, developers, and commentators who had experience with the industry are now saying negative things about gaming in general.
First there is Chris Plante, co-founder of Polygon, now a Senior Editor at The Verge, who had this to say: How do you sell violent games after a tragedy? Pretend like it didn’t happen. Yep, that’s right, make this about video games even though the conference never made any games in reference to Orlando. Make this about video games even though what set off Omar Pateen was two gay men kissing in Florida (as his father claimed), or that he was possibly inspired by ISIS. Never mind he allegedly beat his ex-wife. For some reason, he thought that there was a connection between Titanfall 2 and the massacre that occurred, so he just decided to call EA out for… I don’t know, attention?
Then there is Jonathan Blow, creator of the critically-acclaimed Braid, who tweeted: The lesson of E3: Game studios are working very hard to build fantasies about how cool it is to be a mass murderer. Yep, make us feel guilty about enjoying our fantasy lives in a fantasy setting. Then he tries to justify it: To all the people mad at me for saying this … Why are you so threatened by an obviously true statement? Well, Jonathan, you’re implying that we should feel bad about our fantasy lives in a fantasy setting. Why else would you bring up that question? Why make a connection? Then he tries to downplay the insinuation: Like, is it so hard to at least allow a question about whether something is a good idea? If your idea is implying that people are heartless simply because they enjoy playing violent video games while you’re exploiting a national tragedy for whatever reason, then no, it is not a good idea. I can go on and on about him, but it’s moot.
And then there is Jonathan McIntosh, former executive of Feminist Frequency (not that she disagrees with him ideologically), with this: We need to have a serious discussion about how video games that fetishize guns and glorify gun violence end up contributing to gun culture. Let’s just say we tried, at least I did. When I tweeted you about Mortal Kombat by disagreeing in a civil manner, you blocked me! So, no, I don’t think you are interested in having a “serious discussion.” You just want the podium all for yourself while everyone else just shuts up and listen with no questions asked. Then he somehow proceeds that he won’t have any patience for games that “glorify gun violence.” Let me ask you something: why are you here? What makes you think you’re so damn important that will you resort to meaningless ultimatums? If you don’t have the patience, then go away. Goodbye. Very few people are interested in what you have to say.
Look, I’m very well aware that there are some studies linking video game violence and aggression. There are also some that say otherwise. But there is also the trend, despite reports of mass shootings, that crime in the U.S. has actually dropped for the past 20 years (as long as violent video games have been around. Hmm…..). Human behavior is much more complicated than simple correlations. Let’s admit this: we all have our violent fantasies, which have been around since Day One. It’s unfair to single out every violent piece of medium on crime because the same was said about movie, books, plays, etc. Video games are no different, nor should they be.
But at least you can forgive the politicians and other ambulance chasers for their ignorance because they’ve never been exposed to this medium as youths.
With industry insiders, I cannot do the same thing. These people should know better than to parrot their claims of their non-gaming counterparts. It is of course their right to not play these games and seek other alternatives like LIMBO, Catherine, Pac-Man, Braid, etc. But to completely dismiss gamers as violent or insensitive simply because they enjoy that genre, with the vast majority of them not being criminals, is to feed the ignorance that we had to put up with for the past twenty years. These people should be called out, and the gaming media needs to lead the charge.
Let’s learn from the Trojan Horse.