Thursday, November 01, 2007

Byte: And the award for Most Ill-Conceived Videogames Article Of The Year goes to...

Johnny Minkley of Eurogamer!

I'm pretty tired of the old analogy expecting films and games to be treated in the same breath and to the same standards. In many ways they are similar, but they are not the same. Games-writers, PLEASE GET THIS INTO YOUR THICK SKULLS. Gamers and games-writers are always first to crow about how videogames are so much better and more involving than films because they're interactive and you're not just a passive voyeur of the action, only to turn around and cry foul when they're judged on a different standard to those films that games are so different from. WAKE. UP. AND. SMELL. THE. FUCKING. ROSES. YOU. WHINING. HYPOCRITES.

I would take the article apart paragraph by paragraph, but I've neither the time, nor the inclination, so instead I will just address my main bones of contention.

Firstly, the very comparison of Eastern Promises to Manhunt 2 is ludicrous. Eastern Promises is primarily a character drama and only has two overtly violent scenes (not three): the scene in the barbershop and the scene in the bathhouse. The second throat-cutting isn't violent at all - because the victim character is stupendously drunk - he doesn't even realise what has been done to him for a few seconds. These scenes make up perhaps four minutes of the total screen time of an hour and forty minutes. So it's hardly a slash-a-thon like Hostel. And this brings me to my second point.

The representation of violence in Eastern Promises is so jarring compared to the rest of the film that it provokes a reaction of shock and revulsion (as it is supposed to) - the purpose of violence in the film is to sicken and repulse the viewer, to make them realise that violence is ugly, brutal and has deadly consequences - it's not there to titillate at all. The scenes do not glamourise violence in any way, shape or form, and the power of the scenes is entirely because the rest of the film is relatively genteel. Violent things happen in the film, yes, but they are not the central focus of the film - almost a complete opposite to a game like Manhunt 2. The article has either been written by someone who doesn't understand this, or has chosen to ignore it, because otherwise the comparison wouldn't fit their agenda.

Unfortunately, trying to equate a violence-driven videogame to a character and plot-driven film simply doesn't work.

The story in Manhunt 2 is almost incidental to the game experience. The whole point is to maim and kill your way through the entire length of the game - the implication being that you associate your "fun" from the game by committing acts of violence. Worse, the videogame expects you to empathise with the protagonists, (who, in the case of Manhunt 2, are mentally institutionalised sociopaths) otherwise there is no reason to continue playing the game than to commit more senseless acts of extreme violence.

Compare this to Eastern Promises: the main protagonists are a midwife and a gangster - Viggo Mortensen's character - who, it should be noted, only kills in self-defence when confronted by two knife-armed murderers. He also acts compassionately against the expected type of the role on several occasions (because there is more to the character than initially meets the eye - I won't say more for fear of spoilers).

The comparison doesn't stand up not just because one is a film and the other is a game, but because the core of what they are trying to say are literally poles apart. Manhunt 2 says "Violence is fun." Eastern Promises says "Violence wrecks lives." Two very different messages.

I've already gone on at length as to why I had no objections to Manhunt 2 being banned in the UK, so I need not reiterate them here. I've played more violent games than most, and know full well how specious the arguments are about films, books or games inspiring real-life violence. That in itself, however, is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that you can publish academic studies all you want, but mass perception of the "problem" is what matters.

Manhunt 2 has become some sort of poster boy for both sides of the violence in videogames argument, and the fixation on it (in my opinion) does nothing to change perceptions or aid either side. Instead we go around in circles saying "videogames are sick murder simulators" and "don't censor our art! you don't do it with films!"

For fuck's sake, can we move on, please? It's like a pair of blind men fighting over a pair of reading glasses. All whining about the banning of Manhunt 2 does is make gamers sound like babies who've thrown their dummies out of the pram.

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! WE WANT OUR MINDLESS, GORE-SPLATTERED MURDER SIMULATORS! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!"

As far as I can see, the problem isn't that games are starting to tackle more adult issues in a more graphic and realistic way - the problem is that games are growing up and gamers aren't following suit...
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