This is a tough topic for people to cover, to even think about in daily life because it can and does affect millions of people, either personally or in a through the grapevine kind of way. I personally have never lost anyone on 9/11, and I was just as shocked and terrified as every other American on that day. I wanted us to hurt our attackers, but I digress.
When Konami announced Six Days in Fallujah a few months ago, I was actually excited for the game, because I think we can handle this kind of topic in our games now. I truly believe that if we are to have our preferred choice of entertainment accepted as a valid and respected medium, we need to tackle topics like this. We need to tackle the tough topics like racism, crime, religious views, and terrorism in a respectable way. Grand Theft Auto IV did a good job of covering mature topics like greed, lust, and how your interpersonal relationships not only define you but guide your life path. I personally hated the end message that nothing will ever matter because once you’ve done something you’ve done it and life will always be bad if you make bad choices. I personally believe that you can make mistakes and then be able to redeem yourself later, but that does not justifying criminal behavior and just plan douchebaggery in real life.
I have to say that I was vocal in my pride that Infinity Ward made to include the level, and the option to skip it, no matter how integral to the story it is. By the fact that you can skip playing it means that they understood that some people would be affected and turned off by doing so… They were being mature. I was checking some of the forums when the story broke and a lot of people were shouting to either boycott, burn and destroy, or hate Infinity Ward for the choice of doing this. People can decide what they want to do, and if they avoid the game when it comes out, so be it. With people who were affected on a personal level whom have lost loved ones to 9/11, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in our recent war on terrorism, I can understand how they think this is unfair and wrong. I truly do. But if you played the first Modern Warfare, you remember experiencing being executed in the beginning of the game, you remember the shock of it happening. Now, Infinity Ward crafted one of the best first person shooters ever with MW, and they need to top themselves while telling a tight story and outdoing the first game in the current story arc. The way they chose was to show you how just gruesome and horrible terrorism is by having you be an unwilling participant. The fact that the story is about an undercover Ranger who is infiltrating a group of terrorists to take them down seems to have been overlooked by a lot of people. The fact that you can participate or not should be a ringer that they know that people can be offended.
Whether or not it’s a bad choice, the choice is made, and I believe that we won’t all start breaking apart emotionally because someone dared to challenge us, asking us to connect emotionally to a game. The fact that someone was able to take a chance, take a break from the norm to include this should be noted as a triumph because we’re able to hopefully take the level for what it is, a visual aid to how terrorism can and will affect people.
To put it into better perspective, take a moment to think of a movie that depicts terrorism realistically, like Munich, Boondock Saints, and other movies and novels. How many of them were challenged because the director, script writer or author decided to write about this topic and it came off as successful, no matter how graphic the violence was portrayed. The first part of Heat was a visually impressive scene, and the bank scene was probably one of the best sequences I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I remember people being upset about this movie because of the realistic portrayal of these scenes… But it’s considered one of the best crime epics ever.
What people don’t understand is that there have been many, many games that have and have tried to cover terrorism in a light that is respectable and have pulled it off on one level or another. Gears of War 2 was a good attempt at showing the results of a prolonged war upon a population, especially with the events of the first game affecting the world (rust lung, the Hammer of Dawn attack upon their own cities) that the characters live in. Bioshock showed the results of trying to have a Utopian society in a disturbing and correct manner. Bioshock is a perfect example of how people can use books, movies, and the real world to craft a living breathing world, tell a story and give their thoughts on topics discussed on a daily basis around the world.
I understand how the gaming public reacted to Heavy Rains’ strip scene during E3 this year, they were within reason to feel disgust and sickened… It’s what David Cage wants gamers to feel with the sequence, and if I ever get a PS3 and get around to playing it (which I do want to), I know that it will be a tough period in the game to get through.
Terrorism is horrible, making people do things that are immoral and wrong for the pleasure of it, every bad thing that you’re able to think about happening to someone in real life shouldn’t be ignored or swept under the rug… We need to bring these things into the light to be examined and treated to fix or prevent it from happening if we can, and our medium is growing more and more every year, and we’re going to come across things that bother us, that disturb our psyche but we need this sort of interaction from every art medium.
I’m not saying we need a game that is all about killing, raping and just plain wrongness, I just feel that we need more studios to take a chance and step outside of our comfortable zone for interesting and engaging stories that make an impact.
Something that a friend mentioned the other day when I was discussing this with him was that he made a good point. He believes that the level should not be included because kids will play this and think that terrorism is cool… My reply was that the game is rated Mature for a reason. Kids and teens will get their hands on things that are not appropriate for their ages, they have for years, and in some cases you will not be able to stop them, no matter how many laws and regulations you slap on any industry that has questionable content for younger consumers. Parents who just don’t know about the maturity of modern games are not entirely at fault either. The stores whom sell the products have safeguards in place that can and do prevent this content from reaching the wrong audiences but there are ways around it. I remember talking to a Game Crazy employee whom refused to sell a M rated game to a preteen who was clearly immature for the title, and the parent screamed at him for not selling the item to the child, and the opposite happened the next day. The second event was strange because he knew the gamer and figured he’d be mature enough to play the game because of previous discussions of other M rated games that he had played and sold it. A few hours later the parent was in the store, screaming at the employee for selling the title to the gamer. So it happens both ways, either the parents will purchase the title if they believe they are mature enough to handle it, and store employee’s either don’t care or pay enough attention sometimes… But it’s not ultimately a stores responsibility to be a parent to customers.
I remember being a teen and wanting Metal Gear Solid bad, because the demo had been the most played thing on my Playstation. I begged and begged my mother to let me get it, I had to cash to buy it, she wouldn’t have to, and I liked the game play. My mother looked at the cover and saw the big black M, the thing I was dreading. My mother was in the know about the rating system and she checked the list on the back… “Do you know it has Mature Sexual Themes? I really don’t want you to buy it Todd, but it’s your choice.”
I froze. I was 15, and my mom had just given me the keys to what ever I wanted to buy from then on, because she let me chose if I was mature enough to get it. I actually stood there and debated if I should get it or not, if I was able to handle the content. In the end, I purchased it, and I actually explained to my mother what made the game have the sexual content, and I truly surprised her by being mature about it.
I explained that in the demo the camera zooms in on the rear end of a female that Snake was attracted to, not for sexual reasons entirely, but to give away the fact that she was female, because she was dressed as a guard. I also went on to tell my mom that I’d stop playing if there was anything worse than that if I felt wrong or uncomfortable about it. She respected my decision and let me decide, which I have always respected her for. Now, my mother would ask me if I knew what the mature content was before she let me buy an M rated title most of the time to see if I could handle it and I could usually.
This is the kind of things parents of gamers should do, but unfortunately it doesn’t happen often from what I’ve seen. I’ve seen parents pick up a GTA title for their 6 or 7 year olds and I’ve warned them about it. I’ve gotten thanked and I’ve gotten screamed at for telling them how to raise their kid when I was only being helpful, so the parent wouldn’t be shocked when their child was having sex with a hooker or running around and blasting everyone in the street. The ratings exist for a reason, and COD:MW 2 is a good example.
For the people who read this article I would like to ask you a question that has been on my mind recently about games: What’s worse, a level full of shooting innocent people (where you can do this in almost any open world sandbox title out, albeit in a third person perspective) or a boss who spits out dead babies from her nipples at you?
Article from Gamersyndrome.com