Real life suffering and video games: Where's the line?

The Japanese Tragedy and MotorStorm: Apocalypse

As some of you may know, Sony decided to delay the launch of the third PlayStation 3 iteration of its MotorStorm racing series, MotorStorm: Apocalypse (Motorstorm 3 in Japan), because it features a level called 'Waves Of Mutilation' that takes place during a relentless tsunami. Appearing in the Pro stage of the main Festival Campaign, 'Waves Of Mutilation' is an insane four-lap race that unleashes aquatic devastation on your surroundings as you speed around the track. In the level, you compete against other drivers through destruction as powerful waves cause ships, cars, and buildings to topple under impact. MotorStorm: Apocalypse has been in development for a long time, so neither developer Evolution Studios nor publisher Sony Computer Entertainment could ever have imagined in their wildest nightmares that one of their levels would parallel this real world disaster so closely, but its timing is indeed both incredible and unfortunate. Here's some gameplay of the aforementioned level:
  This is, of course, not the first time any of us has played a video game that displays a tragedy where human life was lost. Most of the time, however, massive loss of life is shown in the form of future, sci-fi crazyness like the atomic destruction of Megaton in Fallout 3 or in the form of wars which take place in the distant past (e.g. all them WWII FPS) or are based on fake  conflict (e.g. Modern Warfare) significantly softening their impact. With MotorStorm: Apocalypse, however, these events are still very raw. With the Japan disaster coming tragically unannounced, and the fact that Sony’s new racing title features such potent imagery that we’ve all seen on the news in the last few days, its impact is particularly poignant. The race, which was intended to be fictional, became all too real. Because of this I applaud Sony's decision to delay the game as the most sensitive course of action. Now, for the other side... 

The Mexican Drug War and Call of Juarez: The Cartel

First, we must admit that like Motorstorm 3, Call of Juarez: The Cartel has not been released and we have very few details about it so we can't make any final judgements.  We do know a couple of key facts, however: 1) Part of its story will be set in Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico. 2) It will deal with drug trafficking. 3) Violence will ensue. 
From these snippets alone one can already see how many would consider this title problematic. Cd. Juárez  is a hotspot of violence, just last year (2010) the city saw its homicide count reach 3075 people. The city's inhabitants live day to day in fear (they are struggling right now as you read this), scared of a system of violence that the authorities have continuously failed to control. In the middle of this comes Call of Juarez: 
  While I am cautious of the whole "Video games incite violence in children" debate, I am painfully aware of the contemporary suffering of these people. The colloquial expression "Too soon" does not even get close to fully describe the level of insensitivity I feel this release carries. Regardless of whether Call of Juarez glorifies cartel violence or not (we will see when it hits the shelves) or whether it functions as a bloody gateway for youth who are already predisposed to a a life of violence by their tragic environment, it is not difficult to understand why a parent would frown upon the idea of their child filling in their playtime with images of the same oppressive aggression that riddles their day to day existence. Nor is it difficult to visualize a victim of the drug war clenching her teeth at the notion that in the living rooms of her city and other parts of the world (particularly the developed world) people are treating her suffering --her present suffering-- as mere entertainment.  

The Question

In my opinion then, the video game industry as a whole should take up the social responsibility of respecting people's contemporary suffering; they should avoid present tragic subjects as material for mere amusement. Sony took the right decision when in delayed MotorStorm 3. Sony recognized that its title utilized images that were reminiscent of present, real suffering and that this images were there only for the sake of entertainment. It is too early to tell whether Call of Juarez: The Cartel will utilize its own tragic imagery simply as a tool for amusement or as medium of constructive social critique. But if it is the former (as years of video game history would have us suspect), I believe it insensible --almost insulting!-- for this game to be released at the same time the people of Cd. Juárez are suffering. Ubisoft: The sensible decision is rarely the necessary decision but always the most ethical. 
So then, What do you think about the above examples? What do you think about video games that use imagery that is either reminescent or based on contemporary tragedies? Should developers and the industry in general have limits to what subjects they can deal with, particularly those based on real life?


Dan Hsu in Duke Nukem Forever: 5 reasons it will succeed…and 5 reasons it will fail, mentioning Fox News and it’s Bulletstorm story from yesterday (hyperlinked with the words “raping people” in the original piece.) Fox’s (well known) fast and loose reporting aside, I am really sick of the gaming industry’s denial of the rape culture. It reminds me that game industry isn’t growing up because for the most part it refuses to — it’s still a late 80’s/early 90’s teenage boy obsessed with saving the world with a shotgun. There’s a quote from aboingboing feature that comes to mind, and a quote within that has really resonated with me. It’s about a visit to square-enix studios that ends with a visit to  Yoshinori Kitase, producer of many Final Fantasy games. The interviewer asks a question of Kitase about why so many years later, his games still so often feature young protagonists, setting out on life, trying to find their identity and place within the world?” His question even becomes an imploration of sorts to move on and offer something more grown up, more mature. Kitase answers back quite frankly “[That] games aren’t really for people in their thirties. The JRPG is intended for younger players because the journey of the character leaving the village to conquer the world resonates with them. He’s happy to continue serving this audience.”

Games are still being made to serve white, middle class, teenage boys.  Even games that ostensibly aren’t (so-called ‘girls games’) are being made in service of these boys’ dogmatic worldview — while the boys go out and save the world, the girls are the helpless princesses (who somehow also need to be domesticated servants? idk, Peach always manages to bake a humongous cake for Mario) in need of saving from not only the world and it’s untamable (by her at least) wilds, but from her own vanity.

Duke Nukem is a womanizing piece of shit who was conceived not as some ridiculous parody of macho-male culture, but as a ridiculous icon of that culture. The gaming culture’s love of Duke is wholly un-ironic. The thirteen-year-old boys writing, raving, and simply salivating in anticipation of this game want to live in the patently absurd reality 3D-Realms crafted for our hero — the same boys keeping score in Bulletstorm with rape innuendo.


Videogames and Stress a QUICK survey to help a student!

I made a simple and quick survey (9 questions) about videogames and stress for my Anthropology models final paper. Please help me by filling it out!
I made it through Zoomerang and I need about 30 responses to make it statistically significant. The current results will be shared with you upon completion of the survey!  IT IS OF COURSE ANONYMOUS.
I figure this is the perfect place for the survey since you all play videogames, THANK YOU VERY MUCH DUDERS!!
Here's the link to the quick survey:


Disabling Ach. notifications... for fun!

I will sometimes find myself dissuaded from playing a game because of its punishing achievements because I know that once I get one I'll at least try to get some of the rest and end up torturing myself or playing in such manner that my enjoyment of the game is potentially diminished (e.g. trying to find collectables, repeating the same mission over and over for a high score or no-hits play, reading spoiler-riddled guides as to not pass up secret achievements or difficult ones in which you have to prepare).
So, I decided, you know what? I'm just gonna disable the achievement notifications and just pass games that have hard achievements without worrying about them and just focusing on the main experience. I haven't touched Mass Effect 2 because a friend told me some of the achievements are pretty demanding but I think now I will give it a try, with no chiming distractions.
Have any of you guys done so with a game? Which one?


Fallout 3 curse!

 I've been hooked on achievements for quite a while now but I had never been particularly interested on S-ranking games until recently. Now I've completed about 5 games with an S-rank and thought I might do the same with ... But god damn it! The problem is, even though by now I'm only playing it for the achievements (I loved the story but after the main game and 3 DLCs it's getting a little tedious) I can't help but to detour to get all the unique weapons and special misc., extending my considerably. The worse part is, I don't even use most of the special weapons! I just get them and then store them at my house in Megaton. I acquired my favorite guns about 3/4 into the game and have been using those ever since with little to no variation. I mean, has anyone made considerable use of the Alien Blaster with its super limited ammo? I can't wait to finish this awesome but tormenting game and leave the nightmare behind. Anyone else has this problem? 


Quests are edutainment?

Like many other Giant Bomb users, I'm pretty excited about the new quest system introduced by Whiskey Media, and while I was trying to get some of the easier achiev... ahem... quests, I realized I was doing something unexpected: Learning. As I perused through the various articles, I discovered many neat little facts of the world of gaming that I had never been conscious about. Quests, apart from simple fun, are, in my opinion an excellent way to entice less participant gamers into taking advantage of the rich wikis that the site offers and to educate young gamers about the games of old and their history or refresh the minds of the veterans (and perhaps even offer some unexpected surprises!). What do you guys think?