‘Political Correctness’ Isn’t Ruining Games — Bad Ideas Are

The idea of “political correctness” isn’t about equality or progress, it’s about fear: fear of embarrassment, fear of backlash — fear of money lost, where business is concerned. And political correctness as a means of self-censorship in order to fight those fears or protect that money has no place in art. In those aspects, IGN’s Colin Moriarty and I agree.

But I have to take issue with a few of the points in his opinion piece, “The Problem With Political Correctness in Video Games,” because too often is the idea of political correctness used as a deterrent against dissent. Moriarty means to support the free expression of ideas in his piece, and he’s right to do so — but the way he goes about it, by vilifying the rights of people to take issue with the messages depicted in video games (inadvertently or otherwise), actually encourages censorship, it doesn’t combat it.

Moriarty points to several games that have offended various groups of people, but I think he misses the point of why these people are offended when he talks about the discussions and arguments on the Internet concerning Smite, Tomb Raider and Six Days at Fallujah. Moriarty argues that those games were and are victims of random outrage from people who like to be outraged. Starting with the premise that “everything offends someone,” he goes on to claim that that outrage causes games to be censored, and to discuss whether “offense” is a good reason to change or alter creative works. He also quotes Ben Franklin and George Orwell to get his point across.

He’s missing a phrase coined by John Adams, though, as long as we’re going by American Founding Fathers and their wisdom. Adams once wrote of the “tyranny of the majority,” a fear he had about democracy (echoed also by Plato, Aristotle and others). That’s the idea that a majority can use its power to marginalize and silence a minority. And backlash against political correctness is a perfect example of that: Moriarty even states, “Don’t let the few ruin things for the many.”

But taking offense is more than just seeing something and getting mad about it. Often when people rail against political correctness, they fail to realize why a person might be upset about that thing — especially when they don’t understand the viewpoint of the person being offended. And it’s important to draw a distinction in the ways that people offend one another, especially in creative works: it’s one thing to offend someone in order to make them think; another to offend them in order to shock them.

But in terms of things like the debacle over Tomb Raider, it’s important to think about why people were offended. That explosion of fervor concerned comments by developers suggesting that Lara Croft’s origin story included her response to her attempted rape, but the issue was never that Crystal Dynamics might be dealing with the subject of rape in a video game — it was how Crystal Dynamics was dealing with the subject.

The trouble isn’t the inclusion of offensive things in creative works when it’s done with a purpose — it’s a problem when those offensive things are included, more or less, accidentally. In the case of Tomb Raider, the trouble with rape in Lara’s backstory is that it suggests that Lara can’t grow into the character she becomes without fighting off sexual abuse. And that’s to say nothing of the idea of Lara being forced to fight off her own rape, which many have pointed out makes the player complicit in the potential failure.

Smite, a MOBA that uses Hindu gods as characters and has been criticized for their depictions in the game, also gets a mention from Moriarty, as does Six Days in Fallujah, a game that depicted the conflict of the Iraq war. In both cases, the sentiment is that “somebody’s bound to get offended,” and, at least in the case of Six Days, now we, the consuming majority, are robbed of a piece of entertainment because of the loud voices of a vocal minority. (How hurt are we, the unoffended, that we’re robbed of the chance to play another military shooter? As our Ross Lincoln likes to say, clearly we are history’s greatest martyrs.)

In the case of Smite, the game features, in particular, the sexualized depiction of the goddess Kali; with Six Days, it was the fact that the game depicted an on-going war with real casualties as a game. In both cases, there’s more than enough reason for a person to be offended, really, and the very least you can do is listen to the reasons those people have for their criticism. And then you can ask yourself, why does Smite need to use religious figures for its characters? Why does Fallujah need to turn an on-going conflict in which many people have been killed into a game?

It’s not that these themes and issues can’t be discussed in video games. There are definitely ways through which games can explore complex and sensitive concepts. The breakdown comes in, however, when developers are dealing with these issues without considering their implications, or considering the viewpoints of the people they may be marginalizing by adding them.

That’s not an issue of political correctness. It’s not a situation in which censorship is necessary. It is a situation in which creators need to think why they’re saying what they’re saying, and whether the thing they’re portraying is worth hurting people, whether they agree or not. Author and games writer Chuck Wendig sums up the point nicely in his blog post, “On The Subject of Being Offensive.”

Political correctness in a case like this is used to sum up any dissent to such messages. It effectively turns the blame for offensive material on the people being offended, and it claims that not only is taking offense incorrect or not warranted, but that bringing it up should be discouraged. Keep your mouth shut and take what you’re given. If it marginalizes you, well — sucks to be you, then. The majority is happy, so your viewpoint isn’t important.

Except that it is important. What are George Orwell and Ben Franklin getting at when they talk about the maintenance of ideas in society, or about making people hear things that challenge them and make them uncomfortable? They’re talking about the ability to voice your dissent and your concern. Moriarty has it backwards: the censorship he’s advocating is against the very people who should be able to speak up when something is wrong. Censoring criticism, as Kate Cox mentions in her response to Moriarty on Kotaku.com, is just as bad as censoring art. I’d argue that it goes beyond that — by demonizing “political correctness” in this case, the comfortable people, those with power, are attempting to marginalize the viewpoints of those who don’t have that power.

The reasons that Tomb Raider, Smite and Six Days in Fallujah are troubling aren’t that they include tough-to-swallow material, it’s that they do a poor job of including it. Including things haphazardly that can and do offend people isn’t something to be applauded or commended; including those things thoughtfully in order to make an important point or to educate people, however, is.

When Moriarty says he wants to be challenged and made uncomfortable, I completely agree with him. But I think he fails to understand that the people who are mad about these things are challenging him and making him uncomfortable, and he’s reacting by saying their voices should be stifled. I want video games that deal with tough themes and viewpoints, that tackle situations that are extreme and maybe even scary — but I want them to deal with those things with brains and heart, not just because they make for good set pieces, dramatic character development, or convenient art or monsters.

And I certainly don’t want to tell anyone that they’re not allowed to discuss troubles they might have with the ways those big, important, tough and challenging issues are being handled. You can’t fight the fear of real or imagined censorship with more censorship; stifling your opponents doesn’t make your message any more right.

Follow Hornshaw and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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46 Comments on ‘Political Correctness’ Isn’t Ruining Games — Bad Ideas Are

Tom

On July 18, 2012 at 9:34 am

Thank you. Reading Moriarty’s piece yesterday made me sick. IGN even went so far as to censor all comments disagreeing with his opinion. Nice to see there are other thoughtful gamers out there

T Wal

On July 18, 2012 at 10:11 am

Good ol’ Colin Moriarty. Defending the freedoms of developers while at the same time saying that lesser beings have no right to speak their minds. He would be right at home in a fascist society.

lee

On July 18, 2012 at 10:59 am

Personally I think people get offended way too easily these days. Look I hear things that people say to me that is really offensive but I don’t let it get to me. I simply move on because when people say offensive things to me or about other people they are not worth my time.

CatmanStu

On July 18, 2012 at 11:05 am

Although I agree with the logic behind this sentiment I can’t help but feel like I am listening to someone preaching pacifism in the middle of a warzone.
The reason that people like Colin Moriarty can put across views such as his with the illusion of validity is because of the industry he is talking about. After all the years of game evolution the industry still hasn’t evolved beyond using conflict as it’s primary game mechanic and sexuality as a female characters primary characteristic.
I feel that if a developer wanted to include sensitive subject matter in their product properly, they would be wasting their time. The industry isn’t ready to break the chains of it’s instant gratification pandering to twich gamers; There is too much money in it and there has been too much criricism for any game that has tried.
Complaining about overt sexualisation and/or inappropriate violence on mainstream games media outlets is like promoting vegitarianism outside a fast food retailer; you may have a valid moral or ethical point to make, you may get a lot of attention, but nobody will be listening.

Phil Hornshaw

On July 18, 2012 at 11:12 am

@CatmanStu

I see where you’re coming from, but I think you’re being a little too cynical. Spec Ops: The Line JUST came out, and that’s a game where the intention is to cast a hard light on military shooters and their glorification of war.

You’re right — there’s a lot of immaturity in the industry, but I’d argue that there’s more to it than that. The discussions I’ve been seeing online lately seem to be flaring up more often and focusing on more topics that have been ignored in the past. Take Tomb Raider or Hitman: Absolution — these are controversies that you’d argue show that the game industry is still immature, whereas I’d argue that the fact that people are calling out those situations loudly shows that gamers, at least, ARE maturing, and that we’re starting to demand as a culture a higher level of product and entertainment. I think it’s getting better, and that we’re making forward progress, personally.

James

On July 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

If you see something offensive you should do something about it. That is how it works in a democracy.

Participation is the absolute basis of it. If you don’t think it should be censored then be vocal about it.

There is no reason to get pissed at other people for being vocal about their beliefs.

No one is taking away your ability to voice your opinion, and neither should you seek to take other’s ability away.

wesker1984

On July 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

God that Kali monster in Smite is very gorgeous yum!

Like a said in another post, IGN is a band of retards.

Mike

On July 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

The premise of this is wrong, its like Trey Parker and Matt Stone always say, “Either everything is okay, or none of it is okay.” In a world where a fire department is forced to remove their American flag from their trucks and uniforms because of A complaint (that’s right, just one) of being offended by the symbolism behind the flag, then yes political correctness has gone overboard.

Bruce

On July 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Left a wall o text responding to that IGN article, then came here and saw this… I love how often Game Front shoots that guy down

gasmaskangel

On July 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Personally I’ve always believed that the only way to fight bad ideas is with good ideas. Yes calling out things like Tomb Raider for their depiction of rape can probably get that one part of the game toned down or removed, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is fundamentally one of perspective.

People still react with shock and awe at the idea of female gamers, and I genuinely cannot name any major figures in the gaming industry who are female. I’m not saying that the industry is inherantly sexist, but I am saying we’ve essentially been seeing games produced from a hetero sexual male perspective for years now, and maybe it’s time to change that.

Also, while I generally agree with the concerns raised in this article and elsewhere, theres a part of me that worries that all of this concern thats being thrown about towards not offending any single group will slowly strangle the fun from gaming.

T Wal

On July 18, 2012 at 5:52 pm

People get offended. Sometimes people get offended over miniscule things. But what’s important is how and why you are offending them. Are you touching on a sensitive topic with professionalism to bring across an important point, or are you slipping in a snide gag about a specific social group because you think they’re stupid?

Chris

On July 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

In the case of six days, i think the issue is completely overblown. a small family group doesn’t want it done, and that groups size is, if i recall correctly, smaller than the group who DIDNT want there loved ones idolized in a movie staring nick cage for Sept 11th. the argument that “omg we lose a shooter what ever shall we do!” is a cop out cause you cant think of any real reason that made it different from any other shooter.

I always thought kali, being the aspect of death in that superstition, was sexualized because of a religious back story, not because the studio was all male.

i do agree with the tomb raider bit, but not for the same reason. rape of a tribal/crazy island wouldn’t be too hard to imagine, but allowing the player to fail to stop said rape would be in bad taste. it better if it is cinematic or implied to happen in the future and she escapes before hand.

Kevin

On July 18, 2012 at 6:27 pm

TWal says it best. Are you trying to offend for a legit purpose, or is it just the shock factor? Tomb Raider honestly just sounds like it tries to titilate. Actually my one criticism of Witcher 2. The constant profanity didn’t further the narrative much. Ironically enough, the sex (at least the main storyline stuff) worked better than the constant profanity.

A lot of companies see that in some areas, the taste of the gamer is indeed starting to mature. The only problem is they think “mature” means ass n titties and f bombs.

Axetwin

On July 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm

First small nitpick. @T Wal, while I agree he would be right at home there, what you described is technically a Dictatorship with Colin being the dictator. A Fascist society is one where the people with the most money (usually big businesses) are the ones saying “the lesser beings have no right to speak their minds” (you know, like the Republicans are trying to do in the US), in this instance, EA being the one with the power since they pretty much own IGN.

Ok moving on.

I get what youre trying to say Phil and as much as it pains me to say this, Colin is….well let me say, more right than you are. For those that dont know, Colin was the one of the ones leading the personal attack on gamers claiming “if you didnt like the ending for MassEffect 3, then you have no right to call yourself a gamer and you should give up gaming until you grow up and stop being so immature with a huge sense of entitlement” (and yes, I was paraphrasing).

He was right when he said “everything pisses off someone”. To which you suggested this wouldnt be so if things were done in the right way. Which is a great sediment, in an idealistic way but the reality of it is, there is no right way to deal with it. Trying to fix Tomb Raider would lead to that specific scene being removed all together and all references to the event being stricken from the game. In other words, the only way to “fix it” is to simply censor it. Trying to fix Smite would lead to it being censored because certain religious groups dont like that their deity is being put on display like that. People want to cry about Kali being depicted in a sexual way simply because she’s wearing skimpy clothes? I would suggest they do a simple Google search. She’s wearing more clothes in this game than she does in the depictions made by her own culture.

As for 6 days, again Colin said it best (as I said grudgingly through gritted teeth) what makes this game any different from the hundreds of WW2 games? Heck, Ill take it one step further, what makes this any different from the hundreds of Vietnam games, or the hundreds of games based off Desert Storm or simply the war games set in the Iraqi desert? What makes this any different from putting the player in the shoes of a man in his final moments as he slowly dies from the wounds he suffers as he staggers out of a crashed helicopter after a nuclear bomb went off?

Ignorance and oversensitivity are what drive MOST(most but not all, I cannot stress this enough) of these politically correct movements. Most of these are just as silly as the frivolous lawsuits for stupid crap like “oh, I sued this restaurant because I wasnt expecting their coffee to be hot and I burned myself”.

MertvayaRuka

On July 19, 2012 at 1:23 am

Got a few nitpicks of my own, Axetwin.

“He was right when he said “everything pisses off someone”. To which you suggested this wouldnt be so if things were done in the right way. Which is a great sediment, in an idealistic way but the reality of it is, there is no right way to deal with it. Trying to fix Tomb Raider would lead to that specific scene being removed all together and all references to the event being stricken from the game. In other words, the only way to “fix it” is to simply censor it. ”

Is there really no other way to convey a sense of imminent danger besides a near-rape? I highly doubt that. There are plenty of ways to “fix it” and still have a tension-filled and engaging story. To suggest otherwise is to ignore just about every written narrative in human history.

“People want to cry about Kali being depicted in a sexual way simply because she’s wearing skimpy clothes? I would suggest they do a simple Google search. She’s wearing more clothes in this game than she does in the depictions made by her own culture.”

The depictions of Mother Kali made by her own culture portray her as a near-corpselike blood-drinker wearing a skirt made of severed human arms. She doesn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model with blue skin. If you’re going to fall back on the actual cultural depictions of the goddess, you might want to do some Googling of your own first.

“Ignorance and oversensitivity are what drive MOST(most but not all, I cannot stress this enough) of these politically correct movements. Most of these are just as silly as the frivolous lawsuits for stupid crap like “oh, I sued this restaurant because I wasnt expecting their coffee to be hot and I burned myself”.”

That would be more accurate if you said “oh, I sued this restaurant because I wasn’t expecting their coffee to be hot enough that I’d need skin grafts after spilling it on myself”. It wasn’t a red mark. It wasn’t a little blister. It was third-degree burns that required reconstructive surgery. I realize that this case is the poster child for every poorly-thought-out screed about the overly-litigious and the overly-sensitive but what it serves best as is an example of how people will believe something to be true if it’s shouted loudly by a great number of people. And that’s the problem here. The majority believes that the minority should STFU because being reminded that other people have feelings too is the worst oppression EVAR. Forget that stuff about slavery, or about women being treated as chattel, or homosexuals being subjected to electroshock and chemical castration to try and “cure” them. Apparently real oppression is being told you can’t use “” as a pejorative or make jokes about a woman being gang-raped without someone criticizing you for it.

Plainly put, “political correctness” has become nothing more than a catchphrase to justify intentionally jerkass behavior by people too thin-skinned to handle criticism and who want to be able to bully and upset the less powerful with no consequences. And like any bully, they get freaked out when their targets don’t just sit there and take it.

John Jefferson

On July 19, 2012 at 3:17 am

Political correctness is a sham. Phil Hornshaw made it clear that he disagrees with it, so those arguing that he’s advocating it obviously didn’t read the article. What he’s saying is that it’s no more correct to simply ignore or silence such criticism, because it’s the same tactic that political correctness itself achieves – it tries to stifle ideas by playing the race card or bringing things down to the lowest common denominator, but at the same time simply passing off ANY criticism based on offence – no matter how genuine or justified – as ‘political correctness’ is the exact same stifling tactic and doesn’t help anyone. That’s what Phil’s saying – freedom of speech and freedom of expression is a two-way street. Just as those who seek to censor anything that ‘might’ offend have no right to tell others they can’t say what they want in a free world, nor do those people have the right to say that criticism should always be passed off as nothing more than uneducated whining from people looking for a purpose to exist (though a lot of it is) and that therefore they are above scrutiny. The last few months, especially with the ME3 ending fail, has shown much of the mainstream gaming press to be little more than mouthpieces for the corporate elite, flat-out refusing to engage in debate with anyone they may have a hard time debating with and resorting to childish name-calling and straw man arguments – Kotaku did this as well, by the way.

Gamefront continues to challenge the consensus in an objective, analytical manner, and must continue to do so in the wake of identikit career journalists who happen to be writing about games.

Axetwin

On July 19, 2012 at 5:11 am

@ Jon Jefferson, I refuse to take Kotaku seriously as a credible source of journalism. Far too many of their fact based articles are based on rumor, hearsay and information that comes from the friend of a friend of a friend.

Skyanne

On July 19, 2012 at 5:35 am

I’ll believe Smite has the right to use Hindu Gods when I can play as Jesus, Mohammed and Moses.

Also, whilst I’m not against Laura’s new backstory entirely, how about in Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake has to fight of the sexual advanced of a perverted Catholic priest? That’ll -really- challenge us!

PaddyWolf

On July 19, 2012 at 5:59 am

And yet again, IGN O – Game Front 1!

BattleaxeMaiden

On July 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

Great article, I heartily agree. It’s easy to tell people off for political correctness, when you’re living in a bubble of privilege. It’s easy to eschew racially charged topics, when they don’t really concern you. It’s easy to tell people to suck it up, when the rape statistics are in your favor. And it’s easy to tell people they’re a bunch of killjoys, when you’re living a safe life and war as a real thing is so far from YOUR reality, that it’s literally just a game.

Russ

On July 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

If someone has the right to complain, I DO have the right to ignore them. (Whether I should ignore them or not is another issue.) As a teacher, I have had college students claim “offense” at some policy or action or other as a _tactic_ to induce immediate capitulation on my part. Instead, I tell them that _I_ am offended at what they are doing and saying.

As for Tomb Raider, unless people have seen segments of the game hidden from the public, Lara WAS NOT raped. There was the suggestion of physical assault, but nothing shown rose to the level of rape. There was not even _attempted_ rape shown. Given the island and the nature of the bad guys, I could well imagine rape might result. But people are criticizing something that has not yet been shown to happen! As far as I have seen, there are no FACTS to back up the contention that Lara WOULD be raped if the “player” doesn’t properly fend off the bad guy. Nor is there any real basis for proclaiming that Lara “can’t grow into the character she becomes without fighting off sexual abuse.” We haven’t seen the whole sequence or what options are available to the player. Nor is there any suggestion or reasonable expectation that this one act is so utterly defining that without it Lara would never become a fiercely dangerous tomb raider.

This reminds me of the nonsense of guys who are browbeaten to “admit” they “raped” a date when both were drunk and the woman agreed to have sex but then later regretted her drunken decision. Criticisms about that short sequence in the game strike me as a similar course that tends to trivialize rape rather than sharpen focus upon such a deable act. To the extent that I saw Lara fight off that jerk, bite off part of his ear, and shoot him in the face, I admired her guts, her determination, and her willingness to defend her life and the sanctity of her self. People who criticize that sequence apparently would prefer she be a simpering wimp and see her as helpless to direct the course of her own life.

And, finally, if I am not mistaken, wasn’t the writer of the game a woman?

Nulltron

On July 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Very good article. Every point made is valid.

This may not be the place for this stuff, but the way Colin Moriarty is going about trying to stife dissent and criticism is exactly the way neoconservatives went about stifling dissent and criticism of starting disastrous, criminal Afghanistan and Iraq wars together with putting an end to what was America before 9/11. There, they spoke with the voice of power and had the entire industry and all the money in the world behind them. Fascism, pure and simple. The lesser ones like Colin Moriarty learned, joined them and are now trying the method on the absolute lesser ones. Unfortunately thousands like Colin Moriarty have flourished around America after the success of post 9/11 neocoservative takeover of the dialogue in America.

Thank you for the article again. Let’s hope that gamefront.com will never sell its independence and free thinking.

Ben

On July 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Do I get a feeling of extreme liberal bias on gamefront?

Zeph

On July 21, 2012 at 2:21 am

What mindless dribble of an editorial. I know what games i will be buying now.

This is what we call a free market. If you don’t like the product DON’T BUY IT and the problem resolves itself. What we have here is the case of a few easily offended (what the gamer community calls QQ baby noobs) people with the mentality of a 6 year old. Grow the hell up please. The writer of this piece of anal dribble should do some research next time before putting pen to paper..or in this case goes all keyboard warrior.

GraySloth

On July 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

No one is forcing any on to play Smite or Tomb Raider, if you don’t like their content don’t purchase them, that’s how capitalism works.

deep

On July 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm

stop this immediately… its against our religious.. no one should never hurt other religious matter. Because it can made a too bad effect that no one can imagine.

Michael

On July 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm

What I have seen in the Lara Croft controversy the only complaints I have heard was the sexual assualt which was almost not existant because she fought back and put a hole in his head. To that I say go Lara!! Another is that when she got hurt she was making sexual moaning sounds. Now if that is the biggest complaint then you need rethink moaning sounds. Just about any moaning sounds sexual.

Nulltron

On July 22, 2012 at 1:26 am

Zeph,

Capitalism can be very ugly and wrong. You just cannot not cover everything with free market or capitalism arguments. That way, there will no right or wrong anymore, just bank accounts and financial records. In America pornography is big business, tobacco and alcohol is big business, gambling is big business, prostitution is always big business, guns is big business, and hate mongering is the biggest business of them all. The list is by no means exhaustive. And all that is made possible by the duplicitous notion of freedom and capitalism that America is propagating and propagandizing.

Wrong and ugly is wrong and ugly. It does not become right and beautiful if there are people who are willing to pay for it.

At any rate, this article is not about free market and capitalism. Of course people are free to not buy what they do not want to buy. Given America, I am not sure how long it will stay like this, though. This article is arguing against using freedom to stifle freedom. On the other hand, America is so far into the abyss that it has dug itself into, that I am almost certain that this article or a thousand like it, will not do any good at all.

Jay

On July 22, 2012 at 9:30 am

Nice piece. I actually feel that Six Days in Fallujah should be praised for it’s setting, rather than just serving up WW2 again (that war games find entertainment in misery is inescapable, matter how few survivors are left to remember a conflict). You’re absolutely right though; the dialogue’s healthy, and Moriarty’s attempts to stifle it fall somewhere between disquieting and a bit ish.

MertvayaRuka

On July 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

“This is what we call a free market. If you don’t like the product DON’T BUY IT and the problem resolves itself. What we have here is the case of a few easily offended (what the gamer community calls QQ baby noobs) people with the mentality of a 6 year old. Grow the hell up please. The writer of this piece of anal dribble should do some research next time before putting pen to paper..or in this case goes all keyboard warrior.”

Ah yes, the glorious free market. That would be the same free market that tried to bury every single bit of medical evidence regarding the health risks of smoking. The same free market that allowed restaurants to still exist and turn a profit despite the “whites only” signs in their front windows. The same free market that’ll allow your employer to suck every last drop of life out of your carcass before they fire you because you’re just another replaceable part and not the special little snowflake your mommy told you you are. The free market that’ll gladly crush you without a second thought no matter how much you worship it. I love it when people start in with this hurfblurf about the free market, because then I know exactly what kind of selfish little privileged snot I’m dealing with. Because what you guys mean when you say “free market” is “the market that panders to me and everything I like so I think that means it’s working fine, screw the rest of you”.

And seriously, “people with the mentality of a 6 year old” and “Grow the hell up please” coming from someone who starts off by basically saying “I’ll show you, I’m gonna buy ALL the games you said are bad!”. You sound like the morons who address environmental issues by saying, “Oh yeah? I’m gonna drive my H2 all over town with the windows open and the AC on max, that’ll teach you hippies!”. You just impulsively want to do the exact things that offend and upset other people for no better reason than to offend and upset people. We get it. The games market makes what you want it to make and the idea of it doing otherwise offends you and probably scares you a little bit. Too damn bad. Other people are making themselves heard and you can’t shout them all down.

Don Flamenco

On July 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

I read Moriarty’s article and found myself agreeing with most of it. I don’t think he’s trying to silence the offended, rather it seems clear to me that he’s calling out those who take it too far. Everyone has a right to be offended and speak up about it, but I think he is defending the rights of the product’s creator and the consumer who isn’t offended by whatever particular detail causing the debate.

I think he’s saying: subject ‘x’ may make you uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t deny my right to experience, or heck, even enjoy it because it doesn’t sit well with you. These game publishers aren’t forcing anyone to play their games.

The debate is a good one, and differing opinions should be let to fly, but no one person’s, or group of people’s opinion should have a say on whether or not someone else can experience the content. That is where I, and I believe Moriarty, has the problem.

Robert Ellis

On July 24, 2012 at 10:20 pm

First I’d like to say I found this to be a well written article, and the comment section has a decent conversation to it (for the most part – really people, check your spelling?). I don’t fully agree with your point that there be a specific need in order to include ‘offensive’ content. I think a character who is a rape victim solely for back story is perfectly acceptable.

Ah rape, such a taboo subject for any to enter into. Of course, being that it is such a socially dangerous topic, everyone must always affirm their stances that ‘rape is bad’ and ‘go Lara for shooting that guy in the head’ etc. It’s become rhetoric. How is murder completely acceptable but rape is not? I can’t answer the question, but can any of you? If anything, using the issue of rape in a video game brings awareness to it in a more productive manner than simply censoring it out of our consciences. I quickly looked up a few rape stats and found some pretty alarming figures, especially in the US (btw I’m Canadian), every two minutes in fact. Adding an element as a ‘set piece’ that is naturally prevalent in our societies truly reflects our own world back upon us through the television. Seeing it happen, or almost happen, would bring more support against such criminal action because it would be in everybody’s mind. Ignoring it like an ostrich with its head in the sand is the real immature response to something that challenges us so fundamentally. I could understand a business addressing the issue right before the credits role, as the last scene fades to black, maybe stating that 97% of rapists never serve a day in jail. For just including it as part of the “world” (which in a sense is a reflection of what we see in our own world) I would have more respect for that video game as a piece of art. Saying this however, maybe turning rape into a mini-game in which you as the player either fight off an attacker, or play the attacker, would be too far. But again (devil’s advocate) why is killing in games okay?

To the religious issue, it is really up to the developer to decide if they want to alienate a group of potential customers, and that is a primarily business issue. We all hate hearing about your views just as much as you hate people not agreeing with you. The whole my god is better than your god, how dare you offend my beliefs, blah blah blah, shut up… yes, a bold stance, one that I will gladly stand for and debate to anyone that wants to spout their magic at me. If you don’t eat pig, don’t buy bacon. If a sexy Hindu goddess is too sexual, don’t buy or play the game. Easy enough.

I am a little conflicted on the whole war topic. I myself served a tour in Afghanistan (had a blast btw – no pun intended), and I thought what it would be like to play levels around Khandahar. On one hand I think it would be cool to go back to those old stomping grounds, blasting away with digital bullets, reliving old memories. On the other hand, seeing a LAV blow up might also evoke some raw emotions. I played the campaign for Medal of Honor and absolutely loved it, arms covered in goosebumps as the music culminated and I let those Taliban mothers have it. Good times. How would a family member of a fallen soldier take it? Probably not well at all, but then again they would never think of playing the game, only in protesting its creation. To censor an idea because it is painful will only diminish any sacrifices made, just as ignoring rape will just amount to absolutely no awareness of it, and is probably detrimental to the causes these offended minorities take. Funny thing that.

I can agree that stifling your opposition doesn’t lead to a fair and just dialogue, however it does allow you to win most of the arguments. It helps if you have the ability to understand what is being said, and more importantly what people aren’t saying, and you possess the ability to pass that understanding on to others. Reason here is the key. When it comes to video games these issues will constantly have to be addressed and judged based upon the specific variables to each issue, but if there are enough rational people willing to voice their ideas and opinions, reason will probably prevail.

Seriously… spelling…

Weedlord Bonerhitler

On July 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm

woah , gamefront actually has good articles? i thought it was just a download site for 2000-era quake maps that couldn’t be found elsewhere. pleasant surprise!

Rho

On July 26, 2012 at 1:21 am

Being offended for something not aimed directly at you is one the worst things that the world had developed. I’m glad that it’s not in its terminal stage yet, for we would already be at war with each other for incorrectly depicting various nations in various media and people finding that offensive.

I wish I could say “People need to grow up and stop taking things so seriously”. But I don’t think that is so simple. Somehow I doubt that most of those offended are anything more than people going after easy money or free PR, camouflaging it with “Oh, I’m so offended” bull. Otherwise world would be swarmed with court hearings and legal actions, because every tiny thing in modern media can offend someone.

Don’t know about the rest of people here who think that cutting and changing content based on the voice of minority is cool, but I don’t want to end up in the world where all I can play is minesweeper and all I can watch is… Now I’m having a hard time thinking of any movie title that has no scenes that could potentially offend someone.

P.S. Minesweeper?! You s! My brother died that way!

Phil Hornshaw

On July 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

Something I think is worth addressing is that a lot of the arguments being made “against” political correctness aren’t really getting the point that I was making here. “Political correctness” is not something I favor. Nor do I suggest that everything offensive should be shackled, censored, hidden, repurposed, whitewashed, sterilized or rendered inert. FAR FROM. But there’s absolutely no value in offending someone *because you never considered that what you’re making, saying or doing might be hurtful to them.* This is a breakdown not of art but of human understanding. To make something you think is cool that actually hurts other people and having no idea why just because you didn’t think it through, or do your research, or happen to know anyone it would affect — that’s wrong. That’s LAZY. That’s reprehensible. That’s hurting people and saying, ‘Well, sucks that you’re hurt but you look/sound/act different from me and therefore your point of view is not important.”

That publishers, developers, corporations, media and others over-correct in the other direction is definitely a problem in and of itself — and one that I think Moriarty is trying to address — but he fails because rather than dealing with the overcompensation, the lack of understanding, the root of the problem, he wants to punish the people who TAKE offense. Not the people who give offense merely because they never bothered to think past their own point of view or small existence.

Political correctness is a bad way of dealing with a real problem. Telling people to suck it up because something hurts them is a WORSE way to deal with that same problem. What we need is MORE discussion, not less. And we need to call people on it when they act dumb, explain WHY that thing is dumb, and help everyone to learn about life outside their own lives. That information, that understanding, doesn’t create WORSE art or WORSE stories, it creates BETTER ones, that speak to more people, that reflect the human condition. Isn’t that better than just throwing in offensive things for their own sake just because they look cool?

Robert Ellis

On July 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Very righteous. Who is to say what is offensive though? The hurt feelings police? The population as individuals are so vastly different from each other that there cannot exist an issue that someone somewhere will think isn’t offensive in someway. Laziness is not the issue, oversensitivity is. You cannot hope to actually believe that you can please all the people even some of the time. It is entirely naive! I understand what you are saying, but in the realm of reality it just doesn’t hold any weight. Sure it would be nice if we could produce and appreciate “art” in an amiable fashion all the time, but even My Little Pony is repulsive to some. An issue that “you” find is crude and offensive on purpose for the sake of being offensive doesn’t necessarily mean that the producer was intentionally doing something to offend your sensibilities of a better world. It doesn’t make him/her lazy. It just is. I’m pretty sure freedom of expression also allows for us to express ourselves in an offensive way too, just watch South Park. Good and evil do not exist beyond a person’s perceptions, and the same goes with offensive art. Bottom line, if you don’t like something, don’t support it. But please have the decency to keep your insults to yourself, lay off the preaching on morality, and hopefully realize that you cannot stop people from doing things they want to do, and try and remember that you do not possess the right to take away anyone’s ability to express their ideas and beliefs – that is the purpose of art after all – no matter how much you disagree with them.

Nulltron

On July 28, 2012 at 3:50 am

“Very righteous. Who is to say what is offensive though?”

We are. Everybody. Since when people have to apologize for being genuinely offended. If you cannot walk the fine line of being creative while still respecting other people’s sensitivities, then that is your problem. To say that it is possible to find someone that takes offense from the most innocent expressions of ideas or entertainment is wiping the problem altogether. That is taking the easy way out, not adding anything to the understanding of the issue.

The love of art taken to careless extremes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockhausen

“Well, what happened there is, of course—now all of you must adjust your brains—the biggest work of art there has ever been. The fact that spirits achieve with one act something which we in music could never dream of, that people practise ten years madly, fanatically for a concert. And then die. [Hesitantly.] And that is the greatest work of art that exists for the whole Cosmos. Just imagine what happened there. There are people who are so concentrated on this single performance, and then five thousand people are driven to Resurrection. In one moment. I couldn’t do that. Compared to that, we are nothing, as composers. [...] It is a crime, you know of course, because the people did not agree to it. They did not come to the “concert”. That is obvious. And nobody had told them: “You could be killed in the process.” (Stockhausen 2002, 76–77.)”

Not good at all.

Be Jay

On July 28, 2012 at 4:33 am

Nulltron – in future, it’s better if you add context to your comments. The Stockhausen quote is meaningless in isolation. It’s only when you know that he was referring to 9/11 that it has any value. Besides which, I really don’t know what you were going for. This doesn’t have anything to do with, well, anything. The crux of the issue here is that developers and mainstream journalists are using the ‘artistic integrity’ argument to justify anything and everything in videogames even when those very games don’t even come close to being art. They are saying that ‘artists’ need to be given complete freedom to express themselves as they see fit, but don’t wish to grant that very same freedom to critics. This is blatant hypocrisy built upon a conflict of interests. Showing some quote from some guy’s interpretation of a terrorist attack has no relevance to this debate whatsoever, unless you’re just trying to show how some artists are disconnected from reality.

Either way, this needs to be made clear – there is no room for manoeuvre when it comes to ‘offending’ people and invoking political correctness because that DOES completely piss all over the idea of artistic credibility. However, as you are right to say, going out of your way to upset or anger people and not giving them enough of a framework with which to understand the intention – likely because the intention was literally just to get people talking and make a name for yourself rather than serve the game, as was the case with the ME3 ending and ‘No Russians’ and so on – is something that deserves to be scrutinised and it’s utterly ludicrous to insinuate that it should somehow be above explanation or above critique just because it calls itself ‘art’.

Nulltron

On July 28, 2012 at 5:58 am

Be Jay,

There was a link to the source of the quote. I could have cut and paste more, but it would be a waste of space. If gamers are good at anything, it is clicking, or so I thought.

I agree with what you say completely. To believe that art and freedom of expression allows for shutting other people up, is pure hypocrisy.

Robert Ellis

On July 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Nulltron, I don’t believe that society knows very much when it comes to right and wrong. Society is constantly being manipulated by small groups of intelligent people for their own ends. If you, me, and everyone else had the moral authority to impose the definitions of right and wrong, then we wouldn’t even be arguing about this issue, the fact that we are all so different doesn’t allow for a greater census. Many people will just go along with the vocal and tenacious few because most people are sheep and willfully give up their rights, beliefs, and opinions for all the wrong reasons (yes, wrong in my opinion). It is not the artist’s problem when it comes to who is offended, unless it begins to affect sales profits… but then what kind of person are you to change your artistic expressions for a series of numbers we call money. If a majority has a problem with a piece of art, say Mein Kampf, then it becomes banned or boycotted by those who make the laws. The artist should still be able to produce the art they want, for their reasons, with zero requirement to even consider other people – so long as they do no harm to others ala SAW! Think about it anyways…

Nulltron

On July 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Robert Ellis,

This article does not go into censorship and banning of books or art. It is a reaction to art endeavoring by proxy to shut up its criticism, where the mere criticism of art by parts of the target audience is made equal to legal censorship and state totalianirism. That is bull. People have the right to condemn, ridicule and abandon any work of art they choose. It is not censorship. It is what made art possible in the first place. It is what art is there for. And they have the right to praise any work of art that they choose too. One right does not abolish the other.

Anyway, I have been for freedom of art all along. It is just that I firmly believe that it does not end there. It is just the beginning. Some people like Moriarty try to hide it from others or force others to not see art as the beginning but an end. Don’t let them fool you.

Art is action. The artist acts by creating art. As such, there will be reactions. In fact the artist is hoping for that reaction, be it financial reward, prestige, or recognition or debate. In fact art can be considered a sort of reaction which is action anyway. Otherwise he would not publish his art. Artists do not live in isolation. They act according to the environment in which they are, or have chosen to operate in. No artist can really claim isolation. If he did, he would not be known as an artist by the rest of the people.

To allow artists to hide behind some self-proclaimed, a priori, strange, ethereal, exclusive freedom, flinching at the first notion of critical thinking, and relieving him of the consequences of his actions is akin to banning him to an a posteriori, abstract, isolated asylum. One reaction to art can be learning from it and duplicating it, as has been the case for as long as people have been. Another reaction is learning not to replicate it and avoiding whatever it has tried to achieve. Both cases are valid reactions to art. In short people should be free to adopt the art or piss on it at will. They will do it anyway. Of course law is different. People are not allowed to piss on the law at will.

As for right and wrong, even the few lines of your post, is full of your ideas of wrong or right according to you. You cannot shake it. Nobody can. It is with every human being. It is ultimate human attribut. The human condition, if you will. Even if you do not want to make judgements, big or small, that is the choice you have made between right or wrong. The big point about all this is, that if you actively do not make a choice between right or wrong somebody else will make it for you, and in the end that will be the choice that you have made. That will be your action, not his.

lkjvb

On July 30, 2012 at 7:49 pm

You are stupid. If you don’t like it, don’t outlaw it, and don’t play it

zeuberbot

On July 31, 2012 at 4:24 am

Sorry for my English, it is not my first language.
Plato and Aristotle were pro-aristocratic, living in a society were slavery was a norm, both obviously weren’t fans of democratic state. Aristotle actually believed that slavery is beneficial to the one who is a slave by nature, in his understanding basically those who are best suited for physical labor. He believed that even artisans do not deserve to be citizens, that is free men. Basically using political ideas of those two in a given context is not the best idea. Minority in their context is an aristocracy. I can imagine even a few getting offended by their ideas nowadays )

And let’s not forget that minority can be of many forms and in some forms can have in principle capacity to oppress majority. My view is that nothing should be a taboo, if someone gets offended they have a right to respond, but in a rational manner using reason and not shouting we are offended therefore the subject offending us must cease to exist solely based on that fact.

Nulltron

On July 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

ikjvb,

On this thread, nobody has suggested outlawing any game.

Robert Ellis

On August 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

From what I had taken away from the article – and it has been a week or so since I read it – was that censorship is bad, but maybe nothing would be censored if we used the forethought to create conditions where people wouldn’t cry for censorship… basically let’s censor! Now Moriarity crying about censoring the censor-ers (just go with me here) also reeks of ignorance.

I guess the point I was trying to get across was that the very purpose of art, regardless of its intended meaning or limited purpose, is to be raw and most definitely uncensored with no thought towards offending anyone’s sensibilities. Of course it will happen, it will always happen, yet the discussion is still about political-correctness and how we could abate heated arguments by appeasing those oversensitive minorities with more useful content and “good ideas” for “good reasons”.

Since when is hostile criticism a given right? Expressing you anger in an offensive way is not a right, though many of you will claim it is so. I agree that people will do it anyway, but a right? Our society – and by that I mean Western society – has gotten it into our heads that we have all these untenable rights and it must be our duty to exercise them. The majority of society have done nothing to earn those rights, haven’t had to pay for them, so why is it they think they deserve them?

Nulltron, as for myself believing in right or wrong, I don’t attempt to confuse myself with grand thoughts of Good and Evil, God or whatever. I think right and wrong only exist within the perceptions of people, and that because a large majority of absolute clueless morons say something is wrong, doesn’t make it so. I have no faith in humanity, especially our “democracies”. However, I have a certain code of principles I live my life by, one that is open to change as new information and experiences develop, as I develop as a man, and there are certainly clear definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in my own head. Those are for me though, and as a firm believer in freedom, who would I be to begin imposing my views on other people. If people were to assault me in such a fashion I might just shoot them. Self-defense being right imo.

Artists then take it upon themselves to face the wrath of angered minorities (because who in their right mind offends everyone?? :P ), some who will do more than voice dissent. That is the path they choose, so be it, but do we really require a legal framework to prevent such actions in the first place? To snub out ideas or forms of art before they have the chance to raise expressive emotion? To censor?

Nulltron

On August 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Rober Ellis,

” … but do we really require a legal framework to prevent such actions in the first place?”

Who is talking about legal frameworks? I am not. The writer of this article is not. Then who is? I don’t know why posters are trying to push the thread in that direction.

There is a subtle point about the arguments in this article, which I find people keep missing, purposfully. They equate criticims of art with censorship. Now, please make it clear once and for all: Is criticism of Art, by the common citizen, equal to censorship through legal frameworks? I would really appreciate a simple answer. My answer to that is no.

To go on extremes and say that there may be some that criticize with violence, and so criticim is not a good thing in the first place and free people do not criticize is killing the idea of criticism itself. The next step in that argument is that people do not have the right, earned or not, to get offended either. And if they do so what, we always have guns. That is heading for disaster of one sort or another.