Time to revisit a subject discussed here on MP before. Freelance journalist Matthew Shaer has published an interesting piece on Foreign Policy on the latest crop of Iraq/Afghanistan-themed first person shooter games. Three of his points worth noting:

1) Now that contemporary wars are lasting long enough to spawn their own video games, game designers are deciding whether or not to cross an ethical line when they allow players to take control of the enemy and kill depicted US/NATO soldiers.

2) Point one assumes that one can speak of the ethics of these games, though that is a point contested by some. Here’s Shaer: “There is no moral nuance at play in any of the first-person military shooters on the market today, no greater cultural lesson to be learned — there is only the opportunity to use a cool-looking machine gun to take the head off a bad-looking dude, in a beautiful-looking environment.”

3) By taking this “no moral nuance” line, game designers are missing an opportunity to take players deeper and maybe teach them something. Here’s Shaer talking with communications professor Ian Bogost: “Games are great at depicting systems instead of telling stories. … And then there’s role-playing: What is it like to be someone else?” he said. “That’s the missed opportunity in Medal of Honor — what does it really mean to be the Taliban? Where are they coming from? What does that feel like? Now that doesn’t mean you have to endorse the opinion, but [in a video game] you can explore something from someone else’s side.”

Bogost paused. Medal of Honor, he added, “was never on that track, but if it had, it would have been interesting and powerful.”

0 Responses

  1. No moral nuance. I may be wrong but it seems to me that such a statement completely precludes the need for ethics. The making of money is the bottom line. It's the same stance, I think, as governments take when they authorize casinos, drug dealers when they look for new customers, or pimps when they recruit new hookers. Doesn't wash with me.