Hey guys I know I said I was done writing about games, and really, believe me, I'd like to be. But, you know, there's been a lot of stuff going on recently and I think people could use a quick primer on the way games work and why things are wrong with them. Ready? Here we go:
1) Battlefield Hardline Is The End Result Of A Logical Chain Of Events
People are generally pretty surprised and shocked at the timing of a game wherein you kill lots of people who are forcibly dehumanized in order to justify a binary moral narrative.
But this is what games have done forever. Every game where you kill living human beings does this.
The thing is that, in order to justify a format where the protagonist is better than everyone, someone has to be the "everyone". In B:H's case, the "everyone" is people you might know, people who are your friends, people you would sympathize with. They have names and faces and value and worth. They're human beings, goddammit.
Every game about killing human beings is about killing human beings. Repetitive, I know, but games love to take that thought away from you. The people you fight look and sound like human beings, but they don't behave like them. They don't cry or beg or run. They just fight and die. In such circumstances you're completely obligated to kill them - if you don't, they'll just try to kill you later.
And of course it's only fair that you should have advantages - there's so many of them, and just one of you! It makes sense that you can regenerate health. It makes sense that you can slow down time. You have to kill everyone. It wouldn't be fair for the act of murder to be scary or consequential. You have to make it fun.
At this point you might be thinking about games like Call of Duty. Fine. Do what you have to do. But when you're done thinking about that, don't forget to think about the snarky nerd-bait games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Don't forget to think about literally every game where the act of killing is cheered and praised. Because they're all part of the same problem. Don't make excuses. Don't go "well it's okay in this situation". Wake up. Confront the real world like a goddamned adult.
Is it necessary to kill people? Inevitably, yes. Sometimes people have to die. Should we celebrate it? Should we cheer it? Should we draw pleasure from it? That depends. Look around you. Look at the people cheering on the murderers. Ask yourself if you want to stand with them.
2) Gamers Harassing People Is The End Result Of A Logical Chain Of Events
Gamers have been told all their lives that they're better than everyone, and if they're not better than everyone they're garbage. That's power fantasy.
If a gamer tried to shoot someone, the police would stop them. They know this. Their fear of death is more important than any possible desire to harm others.
If a gamer got in a fight, they could be overpowered physically. Failing that, they could be sued. Their fear of consequence is is more important than any possible desire to harm others.
But there are no police on the internet. There's no "being overpowered" on the internet. There's not even really any "being sued" on the internet.
Now they have a format where they can do as they please without being stopped.
This is what power fantasy does. This is what dehumanization does. This is the monster it bred.
Some of those monsters are reading this and they're nodding their heads. He's right. I can do whatever I want.
3) Polygon Headlines Are The End Result Of A Logical Chain Of Events
Gamers being ignorant and uneducated is nothing new.
"When I see MGS transcending the medium, pushing the envelope... When I hear [people complain that there are] 'too many cutscenes,' I think, 'you're a peasant.' MGS 4 made me think about PMCs -- which, in a way, I hadn't before. The fact that [Kojima] brings up these real issues and brings them to light for people who don't really think about them...." - Shane Bettenhausen
Do you understand now why I hate Spec Ops: The Line? Not for what it is, but for the reception it had. The idea that something so shallow and weak could be so enlightening to so many was a revelation about how ignorant and terrible the average gamer is.
But it's not surprising.
Gaming is an exercise in "not thinking". Gaming is an exercise in finding reasons to not think about things. Gaming is an exercise in being shocked when a game provokes the slightest thought.
Gaming is about a population who will only accept new information in an exciting or thrilling form, like a child who must be tricked into taking vitamins.
Maybe pick up a book. I recommended a few the other day.