Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in “Netherworld”

October 28, 2010 -

A ForeignPolicy.com piece on the state of war videogames asks if such titles are bringing the reality of current conflicts into the living rooms of gamers, or simply exploiting them for commercial gain.

A good chunk of the piece centers on the recently released Medal of Honor, in light of the controversy it generated. That controversy, the author writes, “wouldn't have occurred even five or six years ago,” as “video game studios seemed to be reticent about tackling contemporary conflicts, preferring instead to crank out games based in abstracted worlds and full of abstracted enemies.”

Older games such as SOCOM and Full Spectrum Warrior began to depict newer enemies, but “the level of graphical complexity was remedial enough that the game remained, well, a game.” Then, recently the Six Days in Fallujah game popped up, generating negative press, and last year Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 appeared. Suddenly, “Gone was the cartoonish violence of past simulations; ushered in was a world of dizzying alleyway firefights.”
   
The most interesting comments in the article come from Georgia Tech School of Literature, Communications and Culture Associate Professor Ian Bogost, who said that the videogame industry has never had an interest in politics.

Bogost stated:

Studios are stuck in this weird netherworld, between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. And games are stuck in that place, too. They want to be technology, and they also want to be entertainment.

When asked if games might someday “say something meaningful about foreign conflicts,” Bogost responded:

I'm optimistic. Games are great at depicting systems instead of telling stories. ... And then there's role-playing: What is it like to be someone else? That's the missed opportunity in Medal of Honor -- what does it really mean to be the Taliban?

Where are they coming from? What does that feel like? Now that doesn't mean you have to endorse the opinion, but [in a video game] you can explore something from someone else's side.

Bogost said that if Medal of Honor had taken this approach, “it would have been interesting and powerful.”


Comments

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

Call of Duty still remains one of the top war games of all time. Thanks Activision! ttp://www.marketwatch.com/story/video-game-makers-aiming-high-with-new-shooters-2010-06-17

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

Ian Bogost isn't just a professor; he's a respected game designer. Bogost founded Persuasive Games, which develops for newsgames for major media outlets. He was also interviewed by Stephen Colbert several years ago.

 

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

"A ForeignPolicy.com piece on the state of war videogames asks if such titles are bringing the reality of current conflicts into the living rooms of gamers, or simply exploiting them for commercial gain."

The latter and there's nothing wrong with that.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

The Bogost quote is interesting indeed, on many occasions I have tried to explain the potential for video games to explore the complexities of conflict. Many FPS games do not do this, but the potential is there. The Metal Gear series goes some way to doing this, but unfortunately it is buried within an extremely convoluted narrative.

I would also point out that COD4 was much more realistic than MW2, and got there 2 years earlier.

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

And even MORE controversial.

People are already mad at just PLAYING THE ROLE of the Taliban -- imagine if the game had gone to the effort of humanizing them and making them sympathetic in some way.

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

Some would brand the developers traitors and demand their executions.

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

Imagine if a movie featured the Taleban sympathetically! It would have to be banned and all copies would be destroyed.

 

One of the Rambo movies, Charlie Wilson's War... I'm sure there are a lot more out there, even if they were from a different decade.

Re: Professor on War Games: Studios Stuck in ...

Rambo is actually an example of something more subtle and, I would argue, more insidious.

First Blood was a movie that was harshly critical of Vietnam.  It depicted a damaged man, traumatized by the horrors of war and mistreated on his return by an uncaring civilian populace.  It showed him driven, by their abuse, into an autopilot mode where he became an unthinking killing machine.  It's a movie that clearly depicts the horrors of war and the impact they can have on our fighting men and women.

And then the sequel shifts the theme so fast you get whiplash.  All the Rambo sequels are gungho, pro-war action flicks, missing the nuance and the power of the original.  When you mention Rambo, people think about the guy kicking ass in the sequels, not the guy broken by his loss in the original movie.

And in that way, I think they defanged the original movie far more effectively than if it had been banned.

 
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IronPatriotAndrew, before anti-science Baldwin coined "Gamergate", there was pre-existing harassment of women in gaming like Sarkeesian. Gamergate got applied to it to add an excuse, but all the "ethics" claims were lies.08/04/2015 - 1:34am
Andrew EisenGood general advice, I think: if you don't like someone's opinions to the point you find them upsetting, stop consuming their output.08/04/2015 - 1:33am
MattsworknameAndrew: Fair enough.08/04/2015 - 1:33am
Mattsworknameclaims were accurate08/04/2015 - 1:33am
MattsworknameIp: Again, you have no examples or indications as to what your refering to, so your argument is spurious at best. AS i said ,given that almost all the inital targets, save anita ,quin and such, have had the change there polices in response, I'd say the c08/04/2015 - 1:33am
Andrew EisenMatt - Most of the comments I've seen of his I thought were dumb. So... I don't read his Twitter.08/04/2015 - 1:33am
Andrew EisenBut yeah, a huge part of the what evolved into GamerGate was a focus on Zoe Quinn who had nothing to do with journalism or the ethics thereof.08/04/2015 - 1:31am
MattsworknameAndrew: Fair enough, i'll say say that I imagine most would find his actions in that regard vile and leave it at that, you can look into on your own if you like08/04/2015 - 1:31am
Andrew EisenIt's also a tough question to answer succinctly because GamerGate wasn't really created or founded. It evolved and adopted a name.08/04/2015 - 1:30am
IronPatriotAndrew, I am not talking about LATER claims by gamergaters. I am talking about what gamergate was FOUNDED to do.08/04/2015 - 1:29am
MattsworknameZippie: Ive had an idea for a story kicking around for years. just never got enough time to really put it together cohesively08/04/2015 - 1:28am
Andrew EisenI prefer to discuss specifics.08/04/2015 - 1:28am
ZippyDSMleeBefor I publish I plan on having a pro editor clean it up as best it can be without a total re write.08/04/2015 - 1:28am
Andrew EisenIP - It's more complicated than a hard yes or no. It took me half an hour to explain GamerGate to someone in person. Obviously, I don't have the space to do that here. So, rather than make sweeping generalizations (which I'm generally loathe to do)...08/04/2015 - 1:27am
Andrew EisenI have no idea who that is or what McIntosh said about him so I can't comment.08/04/2015 - 1:25am
IronPatriotAndrew, you are right. So since NONE of gamergate's founding targets had ethics breaches, those who claim gamergate was founded for "ethics" are wrong. Right?08/04/2015 - 1:25am
MattsworknameAndrw: normally i'd not have the energy to hate, but with him, one thing set me off. His actions regarding Chris hitchens following his death. I found them deplorable and an example of the most vile kind of ideaogical hate in exsistance08/04/2015 - 1:24am
ZippyDSMleeMattsworkname: I been chipping away at the 17k story for over 5-6 years LOL The 40K one 4 times that. But I only started to take heavy notes around 06 or so.08/04/2015 - 1:23am
MattsworknameAndrew: huh, il have to double check that. sorry for the mix up08/04/2015 - 1:23am
Andrew EisenMcIntosh doesn't deserve hate either. Disagree with him? Sure. Find his opinions and Twitter comments laughable? Sure. Hate him for it? That's absurd.08/04/2015 - 1:23am
 

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