Gaming, politics and philosophy: shaken and stirred

So a few days ago the Game Overthinker posted this entry:

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “TGO – Complex Issues“, posted with vodpod

Basic subject this time: The somewhat non-started boycott movement that arose around the XBLA title “Shadow Complex,” which I SWEAR was still new news when I started this 😉

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I posted my two cents about the subject in the comments about the video, and went on my merry way. (Short version of what I said: I don’t mind politics and/or philosophy in games–even philosophy and politics I disagree with–as long as the game is clearly mean to make a political or philosophical point. Its the occasions where writers/publishers/etc try to shoehorn politics and philosophies into games that have nothing to do with those issues that I get irritated and angry.) Then today I ran across the following story on Game Politics (http://gamepolitics.com/):

The year is 2011. President Obama has just outlawed the private ownership of firearms, announced that the Constitution has been dissolved and revealed that the United States is going to be replaced by the North American Union, an amalgamation of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Revolution breaks out. Your part in this is to help capture Obama and the renegade Cong (former Congressional leaders).

This is the premise of a new online community and game calling itself United States of Earth. The extensive site is almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of information it provides, but centers around a browser-based war game in which a player can train and amass troops with the intention of taking over counties in Virginia. Players can also challenge other United States of Earth users in real videogames on Xbox Live or the PlayStation 3 network in order to win points to be used on the site. (full story can be found here: http://gamepolitics.com/2009/10/16/war-game-imagines-obama-run).

Funny that I run across a game that completely challenges me on both a political and philosophical level right after I tried to get on the high “speech is free in this country and people should be allowed to make and play the games they want” horse. (Although in my defense, I did mention I would probably draw the line at a game that advocates treason or the overthrow of the government which, while not specifically what this game seems to be doing, is certainly hanging out in that neighborhood.) Do I approve of this game? No. Do I think it should exist? No, probably not. Will I play it? Fuck no. Would I boycott it if it was ever for sale (which, in fairness, I highly doubt it ever will be)? You bet. But do I think a game like this should be quashed, or blocked from distribution from those who WOULD like to play it? Well…that’s a bit trickier. If it was simply a matter of the game offending me and/or my sensibilities, I would say no. Distribute away even as I shake my head in disgust. But the issue this game tackles is a bit bigger than that, as I mentioned before. I understand its only a game, but I still very, very much don’t like the idea of some kid (or adult for that matter) pretending to hunt down and kill my Commander in Chief. It smacks of…something bad I can’t find the proper words to articulate right now. I honestly can’t tell if I’m being hypocritical about this. I probably am. Either way its probably time for me to get off the high horse and just admit there are some games I would rather never saw the light of day, freedom of speech or now.

Well…maybe the litmus test is this: as much as I dislike this game, would I stand by and allow someone (government, ratings board, whoever) come along and quash this game without me raising my voice in protest? …Well, no, I wouldn’t, in the same way that, if ordered to, I’d defend a parade of KKK or NeoNazi members from an angry crowd that clearly deserves to be allowed to kick their asses. Part of the price of free speech is having to put up with things like this, I suppose, and in the larger scheme of things its not all that high a price to pay.

Still, (and I would have said the same thing about George W. Bush if he were in this position) come near my President in anything but a virtual world, and you will have one hell of a fight on your hands.

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