Tuesday, March 17, 2015

MTR, In That Order

Trigger warning for this. For, like, all of this. Just, it's just, don't even read it. Go home.

I. What's Okay?

Many years ago I took part in a discussion that would fundamentally redefine the way that I looked at fiction from that point on.

The topic of the discussion was the inclusion of rape in tabletop games.

The original poster made the argument that, while rape is horrific, so are torture, murder, arson, etc - all widely accepted as fare for tabletop gaming campaigns, even lighthearted ones. Attempting to draw a line about the inclusion of rape suggested that it was implicitly, intangibly more heinous than torture, murder, etc. There were essentially two counter-arguments being made: "rape IS more heinous than torture, murder, etc., which is why those are acceptable and rape is not", and "they're the same, in that they're all unacceptable".

We can essentially chart this argument by creating three points on a line.

The LEFT SIDE is "all acceptable". The premise of this viewpoint is that "it's just fiction" is a common, accepted idea. It is a view that can be described as distasteful, but not inconsistent. It is an idea that fiction lies outside our "real morals", and thus real morals cannot be applied to what is purely fantasy.

The MIDDLE SPECTRUM is the idea that some things are innately okay, and some things innately are not. Since it is a spectrum, this covers a wide combination of "some things are okay, others aren't". This view is best described in terms of its objective weakness: its principles are established based on personal feelings, rather than a legitimate guiding principle. However, due to the nature of our society, it is by far the most common viewpoint.

The RIGHT SIDE is "all unacceptable". While the Left Side operates under the argument that "if it's fiction, it's okay", the Right Side uses the concept that fiction does matter, and does have moral bearing. Therefore, if you wouldn't do it in real life, you probably shouldn't glorify it in fiction.

The original poster's goal was to convince people in the Middle Spectrum that they were hypocrites, while also expecting their enjoyment of murder & torture to override their disgust at rape. The Middle Spectrum individuals would then be shunted over to the Left Side, so they could continue enjoying the distasteful things they liked without feeling hypocritical about it. However, in the case of some individuals (myself included), the disgust for rape overrode the enjoyment of murder & torture. As a result, we expanded our feelings of guilt and disgust to include acts of murder and torture. This pushed us away, onto the Right Side.

This basic argument is the foundation of all "it's just fiction" arguments that have ever, or will ever, happen. You either accept it, you don't, or you muddle in between picking and choosing.

II. Criticism of Sexism vs Criticism of Violence & Issues of Severity

Beginning primarily in the early 90s, videogaming was constantly under fire for the depiction of violent, gory, or otherwise distasteful content. The most common assertion - or at least the most prominent assertion - was that violent games would transform a regular human being into a murderous psychopath. This idea is commonly confronted by gamers specifically because it is easy to disprove; there are numerous studies that debunk the idea that violence in games leads directly to violence in real life.

When critics of sexism in games bring up concerns that the depictions of women and sexuality in games will propagate certain ideas in the gaming public, the counter is often that video games are "proven" not to affect people. Which is to say: "if violent games don't affect people, how can sexist games?"

I've seen quite a few critics have a difficult time with this question, and they usually have a difficult time because they're trying to make excuses for violence in games. The most common explanation is that "murder" is an act, whereas "sexism" is an idea - it's easier to propagate sexism than it is to commit murder, and it's easier to convince someone to behave in a sexist way than to convince someone to commit murder.

The argument is fundamentally sound, but in the context of the discussion, it's simplistic. It does this because it is trying to encourage one discussion (sexism in games) while quashing another (violence in games).

MURDER is the most extreme actualization of the concept of HATE.
RAPE is the most extreme actualization of the concept of SEXISM.

Saying "games don't cause murder" is like saying "games don't cause rape": it's provably true, but there are many ways for a concept to affect people without pushing them to the furthest possible reaches. Refusing to talk about violence in video games except in terms of "murdering people" is like refusing to talk about racism in media except in terms of "lynching people". There's a lot of room between "absolutely no change" and "the most extreme change possible". There are plenty of studies that indicate violent video games can increase aggression, and it's common sense that cultural depictions affect people's perceptions of the society around them.

It's also worth noting that murder and rape tend to fall under the same primal concept: the desire for power. People enjoy killing in video games because it feels good to be better and stronger than other people. A similar motivation exists for rape in fiction; it's certainly not about the sex, because the sex itself is fabricated, and could be totally consensual just as easily. But it's not, because that's not what's important. Rape is about power, just like killing is about power.

III. Comparing the "MTR" Triad

These are the three most prominent "immoral acts" in games: Murder, Torture, and Rape. They are written in order of ascending vileness; murder is the least bad, torture is more bad, and rape is the worst.

Here's an example sentence regarding morality in fiction:

"Yeah, I know it's bad in real life, but in fiction it's okay."

Going back to this article's Point I ("What's Okay?"), one of the defenses I've heard from the Middle Spectrum is the idea that murder and torture are widely accepted as "bad", whereas rape is still a common issue and thus more dangerous with regards to influencing people in real life.

However, I don't agree with this idea. In fact, the specific order of the MTR triad reflects how commonly accepted actions are in real life (and, accordingly, in fiction).

MURDER in real life is easily excused by a huge number of scenarios, many of which even strip the act of the name "murder". If you kill an enemy, that's not only "okay", it's encouraged. If you kill an attacker, that's okay. If you kill a criminal of pretty much any sort, that's considered okay - and this one forms the slippery slope, because you'll see people encourage the shooting of protesters and other perfectly legal inviduals under the ASSUMPTION that they're doing something illegal. The United States of America in particular has a massive legislative bloc built around the idea that private citizens have the right to bear arms - which is to say, private citizens need to be able to commit "justified murder", because there are so many scenarios in which that need might arise. Real pacifists are few and far between, and they're massively outnumbered by people who think that killing is an acceptable choice in a pretty wide number of scenarios. It is therefore extremely simplistic to say that people generally accept that murder is "wrong", and more accurate to say that it is commonly glamorized, glorified and anticipated.

What does that mean for this comparison? Killing in games is not only common, but more often than not it is depicted in a purposefully unrealistic manner ("shoot bad man, bad man fall down"). Killing, as an action, is not "shocking" in games, or "jarring", or "upsetting", unless a game is specifically going out of its way to create that effect. And as games have gotten more realistic, we begin to associate more in-depth depictions of murder with simplistic black-and-white morality - Sniper Elite being the most prominent example of that. Despite having incredibly in-depth models of the human body being penetrated and torn by gunfire, the game operates on the same basic moral assumption that fueled Wolfenstein 3d: "it's okay to enjoy killing if you're killing bad guys". So you end up with cases where even brutal, visceral murder is associated with clean, justified morality.

TORTURE in real life is generally discouraged by society, but exceptions always exist. The Jack Bauer concept of a "ticking time bomb" convinced many people that torture was (a) effective and (b) necessary, and if we took away the CIA's right to commit torture, we would end up in a scenario where we could not effectively protect ourselves. This argument was so persuasive that it was cited by Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court - yes, it was a fictional scenario in a fictional show, but many people were convinced that it was hypothetically plausible. Of course, the reality of torture, especially the CIA's torture, is that it is (a) generally ineffective and (b) pointlessly, needlessly, grotesquely cruel. The "ticking time bomb" scenario almost never arises and is thus statistically irrelevant to actual torture issues.

When torture shows up in games, it is almost always of the "brutal interrogation" variety. From "Splinter Cell" to "The Punisher", the idea of horrifically hurting a flat, one-dimensional "bad guy" character draws into the same wellspring of hatred that fuels the act of killing, and the act is morally justified because prisoners provide intelligence. It's not needlessly cruel, goes the implication, but an act of genuine tactical necessity. Therefore, games feel okay showing torture as an extension of their existing paradigms; you kill because you have to, you torture because you have to. It's all necessary for self-preservation and/or saving the world. Also, they're bad guys - they deserve it anyways. They'd undoubtedly kill you if you left them alone. So what's the harm? By presenting unlikely situations and totally dehumanized enemies, fiction is capable of distorting the public's view about real torture and what it entails.

RAPE in real life is "almost never okay". Without getting into the network of fringe philosophies, it's generally accepted, in our society, that "rape" is a universally bad thing. If a soldier kills an enemy, that's justified; if a soldier tortures an enemy, that might be justified; if a soldier rapes an enemy, that's weird. Games commonly feature killing as a mechanic, and sometimes feature torture as a mechanic, but the inclusion of rape in a game generally only exists if the game is rape pornography.

There are a lot of nuances of the depiction of rape that we could talk about. For example: most rapes in fiction involve strangers ("thugs") when in reality this is a small percentage of the total. The reason most rapes are depicted as "thugs in alleys" is because there are very clear ways to deal with "thugs in alleys" that coincide with conservative values ("don't dress a certain way", "carry a gun", "don't do drugs", "don't be a prostitute"). As a result, the "thugs in alleys" model is used as a coercive threat - "women, do what we say or else rape will happen to you". Often, conservatives will dismiss other types of rape because they suggest an alternate problem - a cultural problem, a patriarchal problem, a communication problem, etc etc etc. "Rape" is only useful to conservatives when it is "thugs in alleys", which is one of two reasons why "rape in alleys" is so common in fiction.

The other reason is because "rape in alleys" is an easy conundrum easily solved by violence, which is a thing that fiction loves. Superheroes solve alley rapes because that is the only thing they are good at. We don't have superhero comics about systemic reform and revitalization efforts; we don't have superhero comics about legislation and education. We have superhero comics because (a) we want to enjoy violence and (b) we want to justify this violence as good and necessary and heroic. "Rape in alleys" fulfills that condition by being easy and simple in a way that most real rapes aren't.

I could also talk for quite a while about the "no means yes" angle of certain rape fantasies and why that negatively impacts a "positive consent" culture. I could also talk about the "rape victim starts becoming aroused" angle, which is an incredibly volatile issue in real life and is often used to justify an act as "not being really rape". But, believe it or not, I'm actually getting off-topic.

IV. Desensitization

The point of the MTR comparison is this: rape is unacceptable in most games, torture is sometimes acceptable, and killing is almost always acceptable. Very relatedly, rape is almost always unacceptable in real life, torture is sometimes considered acceptable, and there are a wide variety of justifications for murders. The representation of "bad things" in fiction matches up pretty well to the justification of those "bad things" in real life.

Games do not commonly feature killing by accident, they do this because society, in general, accepts the idea that it is Okay To Kill Bad Guys. The fact that it's okay to kill bad guys means that depictions of killing (whether simple or detailed) are common in our media. Eventually, games move on to the idea of killing people who AREN'T bad, and justifies it because it's "just fiction". The missing piece of that transition is that people are already okay with the idea of killing people. It's not shocking or disgusting because we've already been exposed to the idea in a safe, justified environment.

However, rape is NOT commonly depicted in games because it can't be justified. Therefore, unless you're into rape pornography (and a lot of people are, especially in the gaming world), the imagery of rape is probably going to be jarring and disgusting to you, because the act of rape itself is jarring and disgusting. By default, a human being watching a rape is most likely going to think it's horrific, in the same way that by default a human being watching a murder is most likely going to think it's horrific. For killing, repeated exposure to "sanitized" fictional murder has created a smoother, less jarring experience, but that process hasn't happened for rape. So the people who are into rape pornography, who have already been desensitized to the act, are going to be like "I don't see what the big deal is", while everyone else has horrific visceral reactions to one of the most objectively awful things that can happen to a human being.

That is the difference between rape and violence in games.


  1. *There are plenty of studies that indicate violent video games can increase aggression*

    No, there are not. Your link is not to such a study but a sensationalistic report on one in the popular press that confuses correlation with causation to create a story. This is classic bad "science" reporting. The overall balance of evidence is that games do not cause real world de-sensitization: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/10/video-games-violent-study-finds

    ..Which shouldn't surprise anyone, otherwise Tokyo would have the world's highest murder rate instead of the lowest.

    As for whether we should rape in games: no, we shouldn't. Not because rape is never justifiable (killing innocent people is never justifiable and we show that) because rape combines moral outrage with sex, and some people are going to find the sex part entertaining and this is in itself an insult to victims and a likely source of trauma. And also, just yuck.

    But when you are quoting arguments about desensitization then you have a moral obligation to use better sources than a scare story in Time, because such stories have a profound moral significance outside of the relatively trivial one of gaming. They're often used as an excuse for looking at issues in gun control, poverty and use of potentially violence causing anti-depressants.

    1. You know, I wrote an article about "bad arguments made about murder in games", and you've conveniently brought all of them right to my comments section. It's very convenient.

      1) I don't think you're arguing in good faith. I think, no matter which article I'd chosen, you would have gone "that's not rigorous enough" and shut it down. That's why I only chose the one - because I was making a point about the debate existing, not actually creating a study-base.

      If you really, sincerely, want a better example, here's another one: http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/12/11/negative-effects-of-violent-video-games-may-build-over-time/48918.html

      But I don't think it matters. Again, I only grabbed ONE ARTICLE because I don't think you're going to care if it's one or fifty. I think, every time, you're going to shut it down because it doesn't say what you want it to say. That's just how bias works.

      Ultimately, it's not important to me what you BELIEVE the facts are.

      2) Let's look at your words about rape:

      "because rape combines moral outrage with sex, and some people are going to find the sex part entertaining and this is in itself an insult to victims and a likely source of trauma"

      So, going by objective facts, your argument is that rape combines "moral outrage" (I assume you mean the fact that rape is bad) with sex. The reason sex is bad in this context is that people find sex entertaining.

      So, in short, your argument is that rape is unacceptable because people will find it entertaining, and that's disrespectful to the real victims of rape and a likely source of trauma.

      Now, explain to me why you think KILLING in games is somehow different.

      Are you making the argument that you don't think violence in games is perceived as "entertaining"?

      Are you making the argument that making violence into entertainment isn't disrespectful towards real victims of violence?

      This is why I characterize the Middle Spectrum as "not really having arguments". Because of things like this. Because you don't apply consistent standards; you enjoy killing, but you DON'T enjoy rape, so you make excuses for killing and then justify disliking rape.

      I've been dealing with this for, oh, let's say seven to eight years. I think I'm pretty familiar with this argument.

      3) "oh something something poverty gun control" No. Turn around and go home.

  2. ..Also the idea of trying to rule out rape using the argument that it is the "worst" part of the MTR triad is in itself morally objectionable. Firstly because such a comparison is inherently awful and in bad taste, like those whackos who try to argue the Armenian Genocide wasn't as morally awful as the Shoah. And secondly because it potentially imposes a huge burden of guilt on rape victims who decided to limit their attempts to prevent their rape because they were threatened with death or torture - which is arguably most.

    1. >Firstly because such a comparison is inherently awful and in bad taste

      And yet you felt comfortable saying that killing in games is okay, and rape in games is not.

      So...who's inherently awful and in bad taste? Who's "potentially imposing a huge burden of guilt"? Who's creating an artificial divide between different kinds of Bad Thing?

  3. "...a human being watching a rape is most likely going to think it's horrific..."
    There's a decent chance a human witnessing a rape may not actually realize it, or may at the time convince themselves it isn't a rape.

    "It's also worth noting that murder and rape tend to fall under the same primal concept: the desire for power. People enjoy killing in video games because it feels good to be better and stronger than other people."
    No. Unless I'm misunderstanding it, this is silly for a dozen different reasons.

    What was the main point of this whole article? Was it just "Should we put rape in games, Yea or Nay?" when the obvious answer is "sometimes, depending on what we're trying to accomplish with our game and how willing we are to offend our audience?"

    1. >There's a decent chance a human witnessing a rape may not actually realize it, or may at the time convince themselves it isn't a rape.
      While you're right to point out - as I did - that most rape is more subtle than media depicts it as, if we're going to talk about rape IN GAMES, it is going to be of that one exact type. If you're talking about the "dubious consent" issues, those kinds of rape already exist in games - they're just played off as something else. We're talking about "rape" as a concept that produces an immediate visceral reaction.

      >Unless I'm misunderstanding it, this is silly for a dozen different reasons.
      Perhaps you are misunderstanding it. Perhaps you would like to list those reasons.

      Games are about power, first and foremost. That is why they are called "power fantasy". Rape and murder both play into that fantasy of Being Powerful. If you would like to argue this point, be my guest.

      >What was the main point of this whole article?
      Well, it was-

      >Was it just "Should we put rape in games, Yea or Nay?" when the obvious answer is "sometimes, depending on what we're trying to accomplish with our game and how willing we are to offend our audience?"
      Haha wow, no. Good job picking the dumbest possible answer, dude.

      The point of the article is that rape is kept out of games because there is a belief that (a) games can't handle them tactfully and thus (b) the inclusion of rape is likely to be horrific, traumatizing, etc. MY POINT is that this is also true of murder and torture - two things that are included in games often, and usually without controversy. I would like people to admit that the distinction is generally hypocritical, and I would like people to stop being so accepting of violence in games.

      Look at the first part of the article again.

    2. >"Haha wow, no. Good job picking the dumbest possible answer, dude."
      The first heading is "What's Okay?", and the left, middle, and right sides are about what is 'okay' and 'not okay' to be put in fiction. Pardon me for being confused.

      >"While you're ... reaction."
      Alright, thank you for clearing that up.

      >"Games are about power, first and foremost."
      Games are about entertaining or engaging the player. Except when they're not. Being about "Power" is way too cerebral a concept, when the reasons we play games are often far more visceral. It's the immediate feeling of accomplishment, the game feel of the controls and the action. While "All games are about power more than anything" makes a great turn of phrase in a theory, and you can probably convince yourself of it in nearly all cases, it's really simplistic, and not really helpful. Games are about a bunch of different things, and while an element of power is always there, because power arguably exists in most things...
      I guess what I'm trying to say, is that differing power relationships are a tool used by game designers and story writers, but saying "games are about power" seems as pointless and nonsensical as saying games are about graphics, or about controls, or about agency, or about choices. Yes, it's always there, and it's always a prominent part, but it's not what games are 'about', any more than a house is 'about' walls and a roof.

      >"because it feels good to be better and stronger than other people"
      People enjoy the act of killing in some games because the mechanics and dynamics of those games are designed to make the act of killing feel good to the player. Other games are designed to make the act of avoiding killing feel good. Players do the action, because doing the action has been made to feel viscerally good, rather than because some state related to the result of the action conceptually feels good.

      >"The point of the article is that rape is kept out of games because there is a belief that (a) games can't handle them tactfully"

      Rape isn't in many games because it's not necessary in many stories, and it's inclusion would probably hurt sales and/or the reputation of the developer and publisher.

      >"(b) the inclusion of rape is likely to be horrific, traumatizing, etc. MY POINT is that this is also true of murder and torture - two things that are included in games often, and usually without controversy. I would like people to admit that the distinction is generally hypocritical, and I would like people to stop being so accepting of violence in games."
      But depictions of violence, murder, and torture in games often aren't horrific or traumatizing.

      >"Look at the first part of the article again."
      But then the last part of the article talks about how rape is qualitatively different from the others.

    3. Okay, I think I'm seeing where your confusion is coming from. Let me attempt to clear some things up:

      1) When I talk about rape being more heinous than murder/torture, I'm doing so in the "cultural lexicon". Which is to say, it is Generally Perceived as being worse, for a number of reasons ("less exposure", "less necessary"). I assumed it was obvious that I didn't accept the standard cultural reasons for killing being okay, but that's easy to miss and it's an important part of the context here.

      2) Even aside from your relatively nitpicky "not every game involves killing", your understanding of "killing" as a concept in games seems simplistic. You need to learn to separate the mechanics from the context. There is a reason that games involve killing, and it is NARRATIVE, not MECHANICAL. Mechanically, there is no reason that games couldn't be about killing demons or zombies or robots. The depiction of "humans" in shooters is not realistic enough to make their inclusion mandatory. Games are about killing humans because the act of "killing humans" is enjoyable to many audiences, and the act of killing humans is enjoyable to those audiences because it makes them feel powerful. Beginning, middle, end. It has nothing to do with the mechanics or the "game-feel" or anything like that. It's purely a narrative/contextual issue.

      Power is not a cerebral concept. It is a visceral concept - the very CORE of our culture. Power is the feeling of being better than someone else. That's it.

      3) You say that people don't include rape in games because "it would be unpopular", but you don't seem to want to examine WHY it would be unpopular (and it's also strange that you believe that the devs themselves might be disgusted by the inclusion of rape). And then you imply that violence is okay in games because it's not traumatic, thus suggesting that the only reason rape in games isn't accepted is because it IS traumatic - not because it's distasteful, trite or in bad taste. This is a limited view of the subject.

    4. (Sidenote: I've been assuming you're familiar with the Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics white paper. You may disagree with it, but it's useful when discussing these things. Same thing with Game Feel.)

      1) I get that you're talking in terms of modern mainstream cultural values, rather than personal belief. (Although from what you seem to imply here, your personal belief may disagree with me completely...)

      2) Narrative and mechanics work together to create the player's experience. Changing the mechanics and/or narrative can make killing humans enjoyable, unenjoyable, or both. You can make a situation where killing humans makes the player feel powerless. Games can include killing humans for many reasons: it fits with the setting; humans make more relatable villians; it helps make the game's political or social point, established market trends, etc. It seems like you're saying that all games which let the player kill humans, do so because all members of the audiences for those games like pretend killing humans, because doing so makes those players feel powerful. Which is obviously not true. If what you're really saying is that some players of power-fantasy games like pretend murder because it makes them feel powerful, then yeah, of course.

      Power is a word with a bunch of meanings, which has gotten vaguer and vaguer as people overuse it.

      3) Rape isn't often included in games for a bunch of reasons. Some are business calculations on how it might effect sales, some are because marketing didn't know how to sell that, or PR thought it would create the wrong kind of controversy, or the lead dev would rather do something else, or the guy who thought adding a rape scene would be deep and profound made an ass of himself while trying to explain it to his colleagues. Core point I'm trying to say here is that there are roughly as many practical reasons that rape isn't included in games as there are moral reasons.

      Woah, woah, wait, hold up, just caught this bit:
      >"...you imply that violence is okay in games..."
      I'm not making any judgements about what's 'okay' or 'not okay' in games. I would say that a a subject is used poorly in a specific game, but I would not call any topic 'off-limits', nor would I condemn a game just for mentioning a certain subject.

      A few more things:
      >"...you don't seem to want to examine WHY..."
      Didn't need to examine. We both already know several reasons why, from the perspective of the developer, publisher, distributor, buyer, player, and spectator.

      >"...it's also strange that you believe that the devs themselves might be disgusted..."
      That's not strange.

    5. You're going to keep trying to obfuscate the issues, and I'm going to keep cutting through it.

      1) If you need to cite someone else's theories to explain yourself, you're not very good at arguing. So no, I haven't read that paper, and I don't need to. Argue using concepts. Construct an argument out of the building blocks of basic fucking logic. Don't rely on someone else's system to justify yourself.

      2) This is simplistic and, dare I say it, trite. Power is power, killing is killing. If you're earnestly trying to convince me that a SIGNIFICANT number of games include killing to "fit the setting" you are either ignorant as hell or audacious as fuck. 99% of murder-games are not about realistic consequences or appropriate story-game relations. The majority of games about killing are "fun" games. Games where the act of killing is as divorced from reality as it is possible to get, so that it can be appropriately "entertaining" and not depressing or scary.

      3) Your points re: "why humans are chosen" are remarkably bad. To wit:

      "You can make a situation where killing humans makes the player feel powerless" - but in such a scenario, it wouldn't be the primary mechanic. Binary Domain is a good example; the game is primarily about fighting robots, but there's one police chase where humans ight be involved. If you have an ENTIRE GAME about killing people, it is not going to make people feel powerless, it is going to make KILLING feel ROUTINE.

      "Games can include killing humans for many reasons: it fits with the setting" Oh yes, I'm sure there are a lot of games where "immersion" is a primary concern when talking about the inclusion of murder. No, please, go on. Tell me more about your knowledge of ludonarrative harmony. Provide examples.

      "humans make more relatable villians" OH WAIT HOLD ON you mean that it feels GOOD to kill HUMANS?? like if a human does a bad thing, you feel good when you kill them??? holy shit breaking fucking news here

      "it helps make the game's political or social point" Unless that social/political point is "xenophobia and jingoism are good" I think you're barking up the wrong tree. Either that or you're going to try to pretend Spec Ops The Line had valuable things to say. "I couldn't have possibly convinced someone that murder was bad without four hours of boring cover-shooting preceding it!"

      "established market trends" This is a circular argument, just FYI. You've used it like seven times already, but this is like saying "they like it because they like it". There are reasons that people BUY games that have murder in them. Those reasons are generally related to the fact that "killing people makes you feel powerful". THE REASONS are what we're talking about. It's pointless to say that violence is popular because [violence is popular].

      3) "I'm not making any judgements about what's 'okay' or 'not okay' in games." - and then you go on to say that anything is okay, or at least nothing is off-limits. Do you not understand what "okay" means? Am I going to have to teach that to you as well?

      4) I forgot the negation in that last sentence: "it's also strange that you DON'T believe that the devs themselves might be disgusted", which is to say that your argument about the inclusion of rape was drawn up entirely in terms of sales (refer to the earlier point about "established market trends" re: why this is a dumb argument).

    6. >"...you're not very good at arguing..."
      That's because I'm trying not to. Arguments are made to show an audience that you're right and the other person is wrong. That's not my purpose. I'm trying to find out what you think and why you think it, to see if it's new or something I've heard before, if it jives with everything I'm already familiar with or something contradicts it, if I already basically agree with it or if I'm going to change my mind. I referred to MDA because being familiar with the terms it uses is useful when talking about games. I don't want to write a wall of text fully explaining every point, sub-point, and sub-sub-point of what I think, partly because it would take ages, and partly because I don't want to force you to read it all.

      2) This one is really simple. If yo're making a historical WW2 shooter, it makes more sense for the enemies to be people than space aliens. I'm saying that 'fitting the setting' is one of a bunch of reasons, and so is the power thing.

      3) You can make a game where you're always allowed to kill people, but you only do so when you've screwed up your other options. You could even make a power-fantasy game like that. But whatever, that's irrelevant.

      That's not all that 'humans are more relatable' means. People are already more familiar with how other people think, what their motivations are, how they express themselves, what their limits are expected to be... but again, we both already know this.

      What Spec-Ops: The Line had to say may not have been valuable, but saying something dumb is one of the reasons it did what it did.

      "Established market trends" isn't circular. It's saying "they'll probably like this in the future because it's in some ways similar to something they liked in the past". Some things get popular for a few reasons, then stay popular for a while only because they're already popular, even though the original reasons they got popular are no longer there.

      3, again) I would condemn a game for the way it includes a subject, not for just it's inclusion at all. My answer for whether including some topic is ever 'okay' or 'not okay' will always be 'sometimes', and I might still change my mind about it many times.

      4) Some devs might be, some might not be. And in any case, they might or might not be the ones who decide what's going to be in their game.

      5) What's with the being intentionally insulting? I've been ignoring it, so that it could go away without me having to acknowledge it. But really, it started immediately and has just gotten worse. What's up with that?

    7. >That's because I'm trying not to.

      "You're not very good at assembling coherent ideas", then?

      >If yo're making a historical WW2 shooter, it makes more sense for the enemies to be people than space aliens.

      No game, and this includes Red Orchestra, has ever been good enough to be called "historical". What you're saying is that there are games SET in World War 2, but that doesn't prevent a work from being (a) harmful, (b) in bad taste, and (c) ultimately just a vessel for power fantasy.

      You're trying to work around the core argument ("people like to kill in games because it makes them feel powerful") by making exceptions ("sometimes people kill because it's a part of a story"), but ultimately all your exceptions are turning out to just be part of the rule. In a "historical shooter", people shoot Nazis because it makes them feel good & righteous to pretend to kill bad people. Thus, they get the sensation of power without the sting of "being a bad person". That's it. "World War 2" becomes a vehicle for self-adulating fantasy instead of somber reflection on one of history's greatest tragedies. That's what happens over and over again. That's gaming.

      >People are already more familiar with how other people think, what their motivations are, how they express themselves, what their limits are expected to be...

      What does this have to do with video games, a medium where no character EVER behaves like a human being? Human beings in 99% of video games behave like murderous robots, throwing themselves at the protagonist until they are destroyed.

      >What Spec-Ops: The Line had to say may not have been valuable, but saying something dumb is one of the reasons it did what it did.

      Jesus, talking about circular reasoning..."it may have been dumb, but it was intentionally dumb, so it's okay and not a bad decision!"

      >"Established market trends" isn't circular.

      It absolutely is. We're talking about why people like killing in games. My reason is "because it makes them feel powerful". Your reason, among others, is because "it sells well". Why would people buy a game "because" a concept sells well? Doesn't a concept sell well because people buy it? That's circular. That's putting the cart before the horse, dude.

      >even though the original reasons they got popular are no longer there

      wait are you trying to argue that humanity has evolved past the idea of power fantasy because if so, what the fuck, dude

      >What's with the being intentionally insulting?

      Your argument is bad, and for that I am making you feel bad. I mean, understand your position here: you are, right now, wasting my time. You're throwing half-formed arguments at me and then when I rebut them you're throwing quarter-formed arguments instead. I don't believe you're arguing in good faith, because I don't earnestly believe a human being can have this much trouble with basic concepts like "people enjoy pretending to murder because it makes them feel powerful". This is not advanced. This is caveman-level. Power is the most fundamental concept in our society and you're treating it like some space-age theoretical. That is why I am not treating you kindly.

    8. Whew, vindicated. You're really bad at understanding things. Core aesthetics, network effects, storywriting, how organizations work, things having multiple causes, how people talk...

      If you're going to talk about something like you're an authority on it, there's a mountain of background information that you should know. And you just, don't. You talk with the background knowledge, and temperament, of a child.

      I'm not wasting your time, you are.

    9. >Whew, vindicated.

      Yep, there it is. "I don't NEED to make arguments! You're the uneducated one!"

      If I give you a physics test, and you tell me "hey, man, don't ask me, YOU'RE the one who needs to read Bernoulli's Principle", you are going to fail that math test.

      Similarly, if you're having an argument with me - and it IS an argument now, since you've so helpfully developed an argumentative temper - and your core argument is YOU NEED TO READ THIS OTHER THING, you are going to lose that argument.

      If you're not capable of discussing ideas on your own, like an adult, you lose.

      Thanks for your time.

    10. Jew Sheats, that guy BTFOed you. He is right that you are unable to understand why people play games (or do anything else) with your limited and infantile neo-Marxist world view. A world view that only understand the world and people in terms of power relations. If you want to engage other adults then it is time for you to drop the pretensions, the priggish attitude, and start engaging others in good faith.

    11. Tell me more about "good faith", dude who's responding to a comment thread from over two years ago using terms like "infantile neo-Marxist" and who called me a Jew for some reason?

    12. Jew Sheats it means when x->y,z,u,v,... you always cherry pick the cases that support your ideology and ignore any particulars that run counters, even when those counter particulars are the most common cases. Such reasoning is infantile and binds you to ideology rather than enabling a sober analysis of reality. Never go full McIntosh.

    13. Hi Paul,

      I know what "good faith" means. I was sarcastically implying that you weren't in a position to accuse others of arguing in bad faith since you yourself were very clearly doing it. I was also mocking you for posting on a 2-year-old post with stereotypical 4chan bullshit and expecting that to be a convincing argument.


    14. Hi Jew Sheats,

      Throwing insults is not arguing in bad faith. It is clear from your failed snark and the majority of your writing that you still don't know what arguing in 'good faith' means or how to practice it. Also what is the issue with commenting on a 2-year-old post when you have not evolved one bit since said post. You are still the same smug and pretentious prig that can't take any criticism.

      Paul Walker

    15. Hey Paulie,

      Weird to talk about "failed snark" when you're trying to make an argument that (a) you know I won't be moved by, since there's no rational backing to it, and (b) nobody else is going to see because it's a 2 year old post. Speaking logically, what are you hoping to get out of this?

      Also, does it bother you that you're actively providing supporting evidence re: my opinion of gamers?

      Your Bud,

    16. Hola Jew Sheats,

      There is plenty of rational backing to my argument, though for you to see it will require self awareness on your part. I don't discount your ability to grow in the future, to do so would dehumanize you. Why do you assume that I am doing this for others to see? Though I doubt nobody else will ever see this, blog posts like this tend to have a long tail.

      Most of the time when people posit broad-brush opinions of heterogeneous groups they end up revealing more about themselves. Your bragging about holding such broad-brush opinions is quite amusing given the content this blog.

      Your Gamer™,

  4. I really like your blog. Thanks for this read.
    Also, come back to twitter.

    1. Out of curiosity, why did you tweet part of this article out of context? You linked two paragraphs, but those were just a setup to a following point. My point is that violence is ALSO an idea that can influence people, just like sexism is; without that follow-up, it seems like I'm just saying that violence is okay and sexism isn't, which is the exact opposite of my argument.

      Also, Twitter is a bad platform and there is zero benefit to going back to it.


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