Monday, October 1, 2007

comics and video games

The censorship war rages on as video games push the limits of our realities and our attention span and anti-gaming comities ask for total collapse of the industry. This brings to our attention several conflicting moral dilemmas and media investigations. The arguments have all been heard; video games are killing simulators, video games breed violence, video games objectify sex, video games are addictive. All the arguments projected by anti-gamming comities seem to rely on the old fashion hypodermic model of audience reception; we are passive consumers soaking in poison like a sponge, and reacting like mindless drones. And once again the researchers are trying to identify if gamers’ uses and gratifications are a self fulfilling prophecy; do violent video games make people violent or do violent people seek out violent video games? Chicken, egg. Egg, Chicken. The end result regardless seems to be violence, or so we are told. Thus the world is responding as it always has; with White, Middle America burning things and telling us to think of the children. Thing is, kids aren’t meant to be getting their hands on violent video games. Hmmm. Video game production to blame? I think not. Parental ignorance or disinterest? Me thinks yes. But who am I, some chump kid who never played video games. But I have a theory.
Let me take you, if I may, into the histories of some of our most predominant media; film and comic books. Both of these started as family entertainment with peep shows and double spreads, both showcasing technology and attempting to entertain and extort money from the masses. As they grew and developed, their audience also grew out as well as up. Suddenly, not all movies were okay for children, and comic books were dealing with issues of war, sex, and the supernatural. ‘America” gets angry, once again “think of the children”. So the government does, and Hays Code and the Comic Book Code are born. Sex shall never be shown, blood shall not be shed, law enforcement will never be undermined. In response the film world created its own code to keep telling the stories, but comic books cleaned up their act to the point that they became bland, mockeries of their former selves. Artists of both the screen and strip struck out; if they were going to break the code and get a high censorship rating they were going to go all out. The content being show caught on and over time the code was dissolved, allowing film makers and cartoonists the freedom to tell their stories their way. The censorship in regards to distribution was tightened and thus the real culprit for the “children’s” corruption was curbed.
So let return to the history of the video game. Does it look familiar? The only difference is that the code is their own, in attempts to learn from past mistakes. The production companies will not allow themselves to lose control of their content, but the constant pressure is driving producers and artists to push the content limits (see manhunt 1 and 2, or postal 1 and 2). If you are going to break the rules go all out. Is the video games industry falling prey to history repeating or are they working out the kinks in the censorship system before its too late?


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