There's a Huge Problem With Fighting the Anti-Video Game Debate With a #NotAllGames Mentality

From IGN - March 13, 2018
By Chloi Rad

When the Trump administration dragged video games in front of members of Congress and the games industry, we didnt expect anything more than what it was: a transparent attempt at scapegoating and skirting the real issues this country faces. Its nothing new for games, which have been dealing with the anti-video game crowd for decades. But maybe this could be the industrys chance at self-reflection anyway.

Almost a week after the White House released an 88-second montage of violent video game scenes, Games for Changea non-profit focused on empowering creators to make positive change with games and technologyreleased its own short reel to showcase what it described as a different view of games.

Unlike the violent games montagethat lingered on brutal executions and massacres from shooter series like Call of Duty, Fallout, and WolfensteinGames for Changes edit featured more pleasant moments: Link riding a horse through a windswept plain. Ellie from The Last of Us petting a giraffe. Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn watching a herd of machines from a snowy clifftop. The point of the video is, presumably, to show that not all games are as violent as the White House presents them, or that there's more to violent video games than a collection of out-of-context clips.

Its a noble effort, but one that does not change much at all, and in fact may actively harm the larger discussion around video games artistic merits.

The montages most obvious issue is that a substantial number of the games it showcases are incredibly violent. A shot of Aloy admiring a herd of mechanized creatures barely has room to breathe before, a moment later, shes tearing them limb from limb. The Last of Us is known for its savage depiction of violence. Shadow of the Colossus is a gorgeous game with a single goal: find every one of the majestic beasts in its world and kill them. Violence doesnt inherently make these games bad, but it does weaken the videos ability to counter the White Houses reel.

Anyone can pick and choose moments from a game to fit their agenda.

Fox Newsdid it with Mass Effect back in 2008 and, now,the White House employs the same tactic in 2018.If the goal was to contradict the White Houses cherry-picked depiction of games, there are plenty of choices of exclusively non-violent games: Portal, Stardew Valley, Katamari Damacy, Night in the Woods, Opus Magnum, The Sims, Gorogoa, Even the Ocean, The Witness. Highlighting these games makes the point that video games are a diverse medium with a rich selection of experiences not that theres some pretty scenery in otherwise violent action games.

But theres more harm in fighting out-of-context clips with out-of-context clips than just legitimizing the anti-video game crowds reductive tacticsit also lends credence to the idea that depictions of fictional violence are inherently bad and that the gaming community should minimize them to retain a good public image.

Violence exists in every art form on the planetfrom movies to books to ancient potterybecause it can be an interesting and valuable subject to explore. Violence does have a place in video games. The way to defend that isnt to shy away from it. Allen Ginsbergs Howl didnt survive its obscenity trial in the 50s off the existence of its less lewd images, but off the merit of its vulgarity. But if our gut reaction is to keep on insisting that games are more than the x-ray killcams, headshots, and stylish executions the White House reel depicts, maybe its because were afraid to admit that video games exploration of violence kind of sucks.


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