Posted on November 6, 2007,

The Futility of the Manhunt 2 Controversy

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You probably noticed that we’ve had quite a lot of coverage on Manhunt 2 and the various groups and individuals who have stepped forward and called out both developer Rockstar and the ESRB. With a situation that essentially amounts to another Hot Coffee incident, people are going to raise all kinds of hell over this. Again.

But what’s the point? Think back to the San Andreas incident, and how nothing was accomplished by all of the fuss except causing Rockstar and Take Two to pay to fix the situation which was ludicrous in the first place. What does happen though, without a fault, is a certain person who shall not be named being paid to make various TV appearances – cashing in on seemingly good intentions. So much attention is paid to Rockstar for making these games, which I think any level-minded person would agree don’t surpass the violence seen in movies like Hostel.

Of course, this is all based on my personal experience. Speaking with people I know, discussing it with others online, reading reports; anecdotal data, in other words. Nothing I have to say is based on any scientific study used to make political book – I’m speaking from experience and intelligence with what I have to say on this matter.

I’ll try not to rehash points that have made ad nauseum around the ‘net and in magazines, but I feel compelled to echo a few points that tend to be brushed aside so that the brunt of the argument can take place.

There are a lot of people out there who believe politicians should stop trying to enforce laws upon the sale of videogames and instead focus on informing parents about videogames so that they can be the ones who decide what their children play. By these same politicians and anti-videogame violence groups’ own claims, they simply want to keep violent videogames out of the hands of kids, which is a noble intention.

hostel.jpgBut they always drop the ball when handling the matter. They help the mainstream media to portray videogames in general as shooting simulators that brainwash children and convince them to kill or hurt others. And in doing so, they’re only pushing away any support they might have from the videogame industry by depicting it as this murder training ground.

The bottom line is that people, even in this day and age, don’t really know what videogames are all about. And who can blame them? If you’ve never been exposed to them outside of the aforementioned media portrayals, what other conclusion could you possibly be expected to come to? While Roger Ebert can shout and holler all he wants about videogames being art, and game developers can talk about how movies and games are fundamentally different in that one is being presented to you while you interact with the other, they are, at their core, similar forms of entertainment, which is why I find the Hostel reference to be particularly interesting.I recently wrote about an old thesis that Chris Kohler has posted on Game|Life which explores how the attention paid to games like Mortal Kombat, and now Manhunt 2, actually increase the sales of games that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. As I so elegantly put it in one of the rough draft titles of this story – “Manhunt 2’s Bad Wrap – Who Cares, It’s Crap” – Manhunt 2 isn’t a great game. It wouldn’t have gotten even a fraction of the coverage it’s gotten; the time we’ve spent covering it here at Gaming Today during this past week alone is more than it would have received altogether if it weren’t for the controversy surrounding the game.

Jeff Green of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine often describes the solution to videogame ignorance as simply waiting for the old farts to die off – congressman and politicians in general are part of a generation that wasn’t based around videogames, and certain individuals and seemingly inaccurate reports feed into the already existing hysteria. Sadly, I think Jeff is right. As hard as gamers might push – even in large groups, such as the ECA – they’ll never be able to change the minds of everyone out there. Given time, the perception will change as today’s youth become the leaders. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being a new form of media, although involvement from big names like Peter Jackson can only help.

Bthe-eca-logo.gifut don’t get me wrong – I think groups like the ECA should be embraced, and gamers should try to take an active role in informing others about videogames. It may take time as Jeff Green said, but if gamers as a group try to work together, it can only expedite the process.

I’ve gone on long enough, so I’m curious and wish to pose a question to you readers out there – what do you make of the situation? Are you the type to write letters to your local congressman and participate in something like the ECA? Or do you have the outlook that your effort won’t make a difference?

Hit up the comments and share your thoughts.

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