Sunday, September 9, 2012

postheadericon The Morality of Gaming

I want to preface this by saying that i don't think that gaming needs any sort of moral guidance. Movies haven't for years. Embracing themes that are utterly repulsive, to anyone with any kind of good social conscience, but do however make good stories.

From paedophilia in 1997's Lolita staring Jeremy Irons, to human experimentation, mutilation and poop eating in 2009's The Human Centipede (Did anyone know there were 3 of these fucking movies? Jesus wept) to incest featuring as a surprise theme in 2003's cult hit Old Boy.

These are themes that we really aren't expecting to pop up in games any time soon. And personally I don't see why not.

Some may say that they wouldn't be interesting, but i think thats a matter for writers to address and the certainly could include many of these themes as part of a well made, immersive, story driven gaming experience.

Though apparently abortion did crop up in a final fantasy game on the SNES in Japan in its early days but i cant find a source for that right now.

I have had intense experiences with games that have made me laugh or made me cry. Games that have made me angry and games that have made me wrathful. But I'm wondering; have you ever had an experience where you felt legitimately BAD for doing something that you either HAD to do for progression or simply chose to do because you had the option in a game?

In the days of playstation 2 everyone had been waiting a long time for the new Metal Gear Solid to arrive and at last Metal Gear Solid: Sons Of Liberty arrived on the shelves.

I skimped and saved till i had gotten enough together to buy it and it did not disappoint (I didn't even hate raiden) A game where they had ACTUALLY rendered boxes falling off shelves. A game where not only did you cast shadows, but enemies gave a shit if your shadow fell in their sight line. It was an exciting time to be a gamer.

Then, when i had figured out that you could hold guys up and get free stuff from them it was like christmas come early.

But one time in particular I was standing in front of a soldier. I was holding him up at the top of a set of stairs. After i had taken his dog tags and whatever rations and ammo he had to offer up I shot him dead. But as he fell something strange happened.

He reached out to me, as i watched, his balaclava covered face my imagination filled in the blanks of what was going on behind that mask, He had hoped that he would get out of this situation alive. That I would take his tags and ammo and let him go. But i knew that if i let him go the first thing he would do is draw his gun on me and try to call in his buddies (he couldn't, i always shot out their radio). But I could legitimately empathise with his feelings and betrayal as he fell backwards down those stairs.

For the first time ever while playing a game I had remorse for doing something that the game had given me the freedom to do or not do.

In the past i had been pissed off by things that games made me do that i didn't want to do. Like in FFVII when Aeris dies. This kind of thing tends to be out of your hands and necessary for the pre-constructed narrative to play out. This is something that's an essential part of story telling but it also seems to be a part that players seem less and less willing to tolerate.

When you read a book or watch a movie, you may empathise with the characters that bad things are happening to. But in those cases it is completely out of your hands, just as in the case of Aeris or any number of other characters that die as a part of the story.

You neither see yourself as any character in the movie, or the protagonist in the book, and even if you do greatly identify with a particular character and project yourself mentally into their shoes, when the protagonist does something that's against your conscience, you quickly distance yourself from that act.

In games this isn't as much of a possibility as your place to escape to is already where you are. In the skin of the fantasy character you are playing. You don't have the option to distance yourself from the acts that you yourself are guiding. At the end of the day its down to you to actually pull the proverbial trigger.
Sunday, November 20, 2011

postheadericon A Pirate Is Just A Customer You Haven't Earned Yet

In response to

I have been saying for a long time that the movie industry needs to embrace the internet to a much greater extent. Piracy is a problem for many industries, but Napster gave apple a model that would allow them to get around the problem in the music industry. Sure, it’s still a problem. But people are much less resistant to just buying their favourite songs on-line from a simple, maintained, reliable, legal source. Steam did the same thing for game piracy, again, still a problem, but it has been a major step forward.

People are concerned with what is convenient and downloading is easy and convenient. You sit in your home and the movie/game/music is right there. If the movie industry would spend less time whining about what other people are doing and instead take the matter into their own hands and identify the OBVIOUS gaping niche, without all the litigious posturing, they would make a much better go of it.

There is obviously a massive desire for easily accessible movie content directly to homes. These companies would make a fortune if they put up their own website that offered not only their back catalogue of movies for a reasonable price to online buyers but also early release MASSIVE cost promotions. How much would a person have paid to see the second half of harry potter deathly hallows even a week before it was available at the cinema? They could have charged hundreds for tickets rather than $20 or whatever it is American cinemas charge these days.

Apple took Napster and turned it into a massive cash cow creating countless jobs not only in the technology sector but also in the sector they represented. Music. Rebecca Black anyone? Say what you like about her but would anyone have signed that girl? No way. As a result of her mother’s $4000 investment a LOT of money was made for someone with no apparent skill or talent. Because one industry that had previously taken a massive stance against piracy took on board the lessons that the pirate sector had taught them.

Netflix is a great step forward towards this cause, but here's the thing, there are active customers and convenience customers.

Active customers
·        Shop for CD's
·        Wait up all night outside gamestop for Skyrim to come out
·        Go to the cinema for new releases

Convenience customers
·        Download music on itunes
·        Download games on steam
·        Erm... "Acquire" movies

These systems not only create a massive amount of NEW business to these sectors they also give smaller developers/artists/whatever a much more accessible platform to distribute their material, for a profit. How many people would you want to see your home made documentary? Would you like your documentary to net you 1c every time someone simply reads its synopsis? These are REAL options if the movie industry simply got involved in the internet rather than trying to control it.

There will always be pirates. But the "millions" companies lose implies that if the pirate couldn't download it, they WOULD have bought it. This is not always the case. I know a lot of pirates who download stuff just to see if it’s anything they would even be interested in, so how about selling temporary licences for a nominal fee? Temporary but representative trial runs of content. 30 minutes of a movie for a dollar, 9 dollars for the rest of it?

How’s THAT for solution brainstorming? These things are not difficult, they have been shown to work for other similar industries, and also have made those industries obscenely wealthy... It’s time the archaic movie industry got itself into the 21st century.

A pirate is just a customer you haven't earned yet.

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