November 22, 2004

Today's link dump

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at November 22, 2004 7:49 PM

Someday I will have time to write full blog posts again. In the meantime, here are some links.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing apparently finished System of the World about the same time I did, and posted a review of the series which is pretty accurate.

A column in the Washington Post decries Michael Powell's tenure as FCC chair.

Ever the voice of reason, Chad Orzel points out that the recent evolution poll is not necessarily evidence of Americans clinging to religious dogma, but probably just Americans being really dumb about science. From that link, here are things that half of Americans don't know:

  • The earliest humans did not live at the same time as dinosaurs.
  • It takes Earth one year to go around the Sun.
  • Electrons are smaller than atoms.
  • Antibiotics do not kill viruses.
  • Lasers do not work by focusing sound waves.

And this is supposed to make me feel better? Well, Chad says, "After twenty years of intense lobbying and frantic effort, [the creationism movement] still trail[s] the non-existent large-electron movement by seven percentage points."

Since I mentioned the JFK assassination earlier, I am now compelled to point out that this event has been made into a video game. You already know this, because pretty much everyone has been linking to it today.


Now, I'm not much of a fan of the Kennedy family, but that video game is just despicable. I'm not trying to speak from some sort of moral high-horse, I just think it's hideous that someone has made a game out of such a horrific event. What's next, Blow Up the WTC? Shoot down the Challenger?

Posted by: Tracy | November 23, 2004 1:59 PM

Just to play devil's advocate, why is this any worse than other games that re-enact horrific historical events, like Battlefield 1942?

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | November 23, 2004 2:27 PM

My guess is because it only represents one side, and because the action taken there were regarded as morally 'wrong'. (Just tossing this out, may be you can play both the sniper and the president in the scenario, and see how you can affect it. I certainly would find that more intriguing, almost as if it was simulating the events and we could tinker with the simulation). One would say a war is not necessarily morally wrong - each side believes itself to be in the moral right, and there is a substantive population on both sides who believe that. Whereas for the assasination, one could argue that very few people would agree that the sniper's agenda was morally 'right'. Another possibility, perhaps because the kennedy assassination, it has the direct connection with real people involved, rather than the usual abstraction in games such as battlefield. I for one would find it disturbing if battlefield made each player play a specific person who was actually in those battles, and it was clear you were playing as a historical character. In some ways, it's the layer of abstraction that makes most games involving violence acceptable to me.

Speaking for myself, the game looks stupid and i'll likely not play it.

Posted by: Zifnab | November 23, 2004 8:19 PM

Zifnab, after I posted the previous comment I read Slate's review of the game, which brings up your second point; the reviewer was indeed pretty disturbed by shooting at models of actual people when he played the game. I think the familiarity of the event and the people involved is part of the issue also--if the game were a re-enactment of the assassination of the Archduke in 1914 I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be such a big deal.

A related philosophical query: What makes this game worse (in a moral or ethical sense, not an artistic one) than Don DeLillo's novel Libra, which is about the JFK assassination from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald?

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | November 23, 2004 9:55 PM

Travis, I don't like any of those games...honestly I feel about those video games the way I feel about hunting. What is fun about taking life? Even if it's just make-believe? What is going through your mind when you sight down a defenseless animal and slaughter it? What kind of thrill does a person get when they make some character's head explode on Grand Theft Auto? I don't get it. I'm sorry, I know I'm in the minority here, and it's not the "cool" opinion, but I really don't understand the draw. But it's a personal thing, I guess. Violence really upsets me, on a whole.

Posted by: Tracy | November 24, 2004 8:31 AM

I think to some extent you are taking your view and projecting it on to the game or its players. At least for me, the things you mention aren't fun things to do either - I don't play games where it involves slaughtering innocent animals, and in games like GTA where I do have the choice to kill people indiscriminately, I don't do that, as I don't find it fun or appealing. However, there are situations in games which are fun, where violence is involved. For example, in Halflife 2, the game is built around you being a scientist (ok, he's a bit more than a scientist) who is on the run from the oppressive alien regime controlling the earth. Many portions of the game are about getting out of a situation where you're being chased/attacked/etc by alien troopers, machines, etc. Violence is certainly involved, but it's not 'fun' because of the violence. It's fun because it involves tactical thinking, manual dexterity and the element of surprise. Plus, it's a situation we'd never encounter in the real world, or one which i'd hope to never be placed in!

Now, I can certainly see you saying any violence is bad, regardless of whether we find the violent part to be directly 'fun'. I can see that point, though I don't necessarily agree with it, and there's a validity to it that it is hard to argue with. I find the main argument for avoiding violence completely is in the situation where one cannot trust or understand the mental affect of the exposure. For example, I am quite certain that though I play some games which are considered violent, I will never kill a person in real life. I wouldn't even think of harming a person/animal in most situations. I do find it disturbing that people who don't analyze the effects of playing violent games, still play them - this is where violent games in our culture can be dangerous. When someone plays them and becomes desensitized to violence, that is a real danger. I feel the answer, though, is in educating the player, not censoring the game. And I really dislike the media blaming games for people's violent tendencies. In most cases i've seen, the person is already violent, and they use games as justification, where the responsibility lies solely on the person.

... Anyways... :) I find the topic interesting and would be happy to talk about it more.

Posted by: Zifnab | November 24, 2004 3:32 PM

I never said that I blame violent games for violence in our society. I just said that I don't like them and I don't understand the following that they have. It's purely personal, I admitted that in a previous post. I also never said that I believed in censorship, of a game or anything else. I just don't like the games, that's all. My little brother is permanently attached to his PS2 and I would never dream of telling him to stop playing GTA or anything else. I'm certainly not going to buy him any of those games, though. If he wants them, he can get them for himself. I've said it so many times that I feel silly for repeating it, but this is just a personal issue for me. I'm just stating my own opinion, I'm not looking for people to follow me. :)

Posted by: Tracy | November 26, 2004 1:05 PM

Well, I didn't mean for you to get defensive - it had sounded like you wanted to be able to understand why others do like gaming in general, and violent games. :) I was just offering my own opinions on why people do play violent games, etc. :)

Posted by: Zifnab | November 26, 2004 2:40 PM

I didn't mean to sounds defensive, it just sounded like you were putting words in my mouth. I have enough gamer friends to know why they play, but I still don't get it. Ah well, no big deal.

Posted by: Tracy | November 27, 2004 4:44 PM
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