Hello, as you probably know, April 16th marks the second year since the Virginia Tech tragedy has occurred. To this day, many authoritative figures are afraid and wish to prevent from this sort of event from happening again, and rightfully so. I don't have any answers as to how these shootings can be prevented, whether it would it be stricter gun laws, or a more efficient police force, but right now I wish to bring another event to your attention that got much controversy after Virginia Tech.
A few days after the Virginia Tech massacre, a young high school student from Sugar Land, Texas, was essentially removed from his school over something the administrators felt was threatening to the safety of the school. The reason in question was that he developed a map and painted the basic layout of his school to be used in the video game, Counter Strike. Counter Strike is a game that is called a first-person shooter and is popular for its multiplayer and modular capabilities, and it is a fairly social game in which communication is important amongst team members. In it, players are in teams and shoot their rivals in order to win, and this rubric is very common among a lot of games to this day. Whether or not you feel it is in poor taste to create a high school map as a backdrop, it was interesting to see just how the public was so divided on this issue. Probably the most vocal and critical of what this boy went through, appropriately, were journalists and developers who were involved in the video game industry. This is noteworthy, as these were not teenagers criticizing a higher power, but professional adults who played games, wrote about them, and even created them for a living.
For example, Mike Fahey from the blog, kotaku.com had this to say:
"I can understand folks being a bit jumpy in the wake of the Virginia Tech incident, but whatever happened to just...I dunno, talking to the guy? Asking him what his intentions were. Seeing if maybe he'd take it down? There are better ways to safeguard ourselves then having police ransack a teenagers bedroom. What a complete nightmare."
Yes, the police went to the student's house and forced him to remove the map, and in the end, the student was temporarily transferred to an alternate school. One thing Fahey's article neglects to point out, was that this incident reveals that a school can essentially question and say that ANY creative project is inappropriate, despite no laws being broken and even if the majority do not think that it is a very big deal, or at least this is the implication. Many journalists from Gamespot.com also voiced their anger on this issue. During a podcast, Jeff Gerstmann said that he couldn't understand why a school would punish an individual for something created in his free time and in the privacy of his home. Another journalist, Alex Navarro, pointed out a handful of his civil rights were violated, and that the police should not have been able to delete the student's map from his computer, being that it is only a game. These journalists all agreed that it was bad timing in the sense that the student had no idea that it would have gone this far, as well as not knowing that the horrific incident of Virginia Tech would have happened. Also, it was said that if the Virginia Tech shooting never occurred, very little would have been made of this map. Any programmer will tell you that it takes time to code and test these maps, so those who say that the student should have known he would have gotten in trouble for it, the map was most likely finished and distributed BEFORE Virginia Tech happened.
If you are interested in hearing that brief segment on the podcast, you can do so here:
Now I mentioned the opinions of journalists on this case, but what did the industry have to say on this matter? Well, Kenn Hoekstra of Pi Studios said the following:
"I speak from experience when I say that just about every aspiring level designer starts out by building what he or she knows. In this case, this poor kid built his school because he was familiar with it. Over the years, I’ve personally constructed the house where I grew up, my old grade school and high school, my old work office building and my apartment complex in various level editors. Why? Because it was fun! Plain and simple."
So why was acceptable for Hoekstra to make maps real locations in his personal life, but not in this case? Also, it brings about the question on what is and what is not an appropriate backdrop when it comes to mapmaking in a video game. If Hwang (last name of the student) had built a map of his house, would the school have been concerned? Would this change in location have meant that he was intending on killing his family? Because by him getting punished for making a map of his high school, the same reasoning is in place.
Then again, the game was Counter Strike. Soon after Virginia Tech, ex attorney Jack Thompson said that he believed Cho Seung-Hui was an avid player of the game Counter Strike, and that it was likely that he played this game before he went on a shooting spree. Later on, it was reported that the killer from Virginia Tech did not play video games on a regular basis, if at all, but many were eager at the time to find some sort of connection. That's one theory on why the school overreacted.
Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, had this to say:
"Paul Hwang’s only crime was bad timing. He had the misfortune of uploading his mod during a period of time in which the nation was, perhaps unduly, made sensitive about the supposed link between violence and video games."
The whole link between video game violence and real violence is a very divisive issue as well. If you search the internet, you'll find some articles saying that there is a link to aggression, while others saying that most research studies on this are flawed and do not point out their limitations. Because of this, I will not discuss these psychological studies at this time, although this scrutiny that the general public has on violent games may have also influenced the emotions of the school staff.
Now, I do play video games, as do a large amount of my friends, which is common for my generation, but I never made a model of my school, house, etc. in a video game. Still, a fair amount of people my age would be impressed if one of our friends had created such an accurate depiction of a location we were familiar with, because it takes a fair amount of dedication and intelligence to create one. It's funny how that works, but that's the general response defenders were giving this incident, some even going as far as saying that they created 3D models of THEIR schools in video games for school projects, which would show how adept they are in using a software program. In the end, however, there really is no way of knowing how the general public will react to the project, as these things can have several different interpretations by the educated, the unaware, and the close-minded. And because everything is up to interpretation, it is unfortunate that a cynic's opinion is considered to hold more value than that of the maker, all because the former has a professional title, or at least that is what happened in this case. Comic Books and Rock and Roll were both around before video games, and were both considered to have been corrupting the youth, whether the medium be considered a waste of time, or desensitizing them. Any new form of thought or medium is always being challenged for some reason, and judging by history, cases like Hwang's will happen over and over again, except that most of the time, those stories will never be discovered or told, and that is the most unfortunate part of all this. That is why these events should not be forgotten.
Finally, let me end this on a happier note. Hwang was eventually allowed to go back to his school and graduate, but it was unfortunate that it took time for him to be reinstated. So although it does not appear that the school directly admitted to being wrong, at least they allowed him to return.
That is all. Thank you for reading.
Game » consists of 6 releases. Released Nov 08, 2000
Originally created as a modification of the original Half-Life, Counter-Strike has since become its own franchise, setting new standards in online team-based shooters, and was at one point the single most-played online game in the world with a huge competitive following.
About 2 years since the Counter Strike/Virginia Tech controversy.
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