Why Do Gamers Assume That They Have Exclusive Rights to the Moral High Ground?

If you tend to visit any of the big three gaming sites you will have seen many articles over the years which go something like this:

“Someone said this about a game, they are clearly wrong, this is why they are wrong and we are right. We are ALWAYS right!”

Gamers are possibly the most defensive types of media consumer around, and I can’t help but think that I know why. This week a writer for Destructoid had harsh words about the upcoming Medal of Honor game and it has caused a lot of people to suddenly realise that there are times when gamers are wrong, and blind faith is no more beneficial than ruddy-faced ignorance.

See for decades gaming was mostly contained to the bedroom but much like dogging the popularity rise led, in turn, to a rise in media interest. This was both a blessing and a curse as it normalised what was often regarded as the hobby of the nerd as celebrities such as Jonathan Ross, Dara O’Briain, Iain Lee and Dom Joly all came out of the beeping/blarping closet with a joystick in one hand and a joke book in the other. So much so that some gaming sites would suddenly deem it important news. Do we really crave acceptance that much?

I have been gaming since I was four and after twenty-six years I don’t really give a monkeys about whether of not something ‘I’ enjoy is popularised. That said I have, on occasion, thrown my hands up in the air in dismay when things like happen :

This despair is never pure rage though and gamers are famous for indignant rage at ‘opposing’ feelings.

This week I read this article with interest:


Yeah, it’s just a videogame — but for me, it’s more than that. It just hits too close to home. This is an organization that’s terrorized Afghanistan, America and numerous other parts of the world for decades now. To me, playing as Al-Qaeda means I’m helping the bad guys win.

Beyond my Afghan heritage, I cannot bring myself to play a representation of a group of people responsible for the events of September 11. I still remember, clear as day, seeing the second plane crash into the tower live on the news. The footage was so shocking that what I had actually witnessed didn’t even register to me until the following day.

The fact that this opinion is peddled as essential criticism of a game is so hypocritical it borders on farce. Whereas it is fine to play opposing forces from any war prior to 9/11 any game with recent history and featuring playable terrorists is suddenly ‘wrong’. But why?

I’ll tell you why.

The author of the article has ‘heritage’ and ‘family’ in Afghanistan, so a personal link means that a game suddenly stops being entertainment – the argument many gamers will wheel out when a game is criticised in the press – and instead steps over the line.

But why stop there? Why not go all Germany on the industry and remove anything that may have at some time or another offended somebody. This would mean that the Ds would be the only console worth owning.

The myopic views of some bloggers/journos never fails to bother me – and yes I understand that by criticising the opinion of others means that I think I have the moral high ground, thus rendering my argument flat, but ignore it and read 😉 – the fact that we claim that a game is a game, but then have double standards when it comes to others is laughable.

But can I cast that same criticism on my own writing? Of course I can.

When Bully was announced there were a lot of ‘false’ stories banded about in terms of what the game would feature. The game became so media savaged that it was eventually released – for a while at least – as Canis Canem Edit. The actual game was a good little title with an interesting take on the GTA formula transferring the activities of criminal gangs in Liberty City to the corridors and dorms of a boarding school.

That said I had not seen/played the game when I spoke in support of censoring the game if it featured a ‘bully’ as a main character, given that kids would play the game and bullying was easier to replicate than city wide police chases and drug deals from helicopters.

Now to this very day I am convinced that Rockstar either changed significant parts of Bully after the massive amounts of criticism and controversy or leaked misinformation to garner said controversy and promote the title, but the fact remains that I was willing to criticise a game based upon personal feeling and prejudice.

It’s a fine line to walk, you are entitled – if not obligated – to speak honestly as a blogger but sometimes it is equally important to think your own feelings through before you blab to the world about how ‘they’ are wrong and ‘you’ are right.

Luckily – and making a huge difference for the regular Destructoid type comments field – a lot of people didn’t agree with the views of the Medal of Honor article:

What a crock of shit. So playing as a Russian or Asian or any other imaginary Arabic terrorist organization member, which wants to blow your US to pieces and shooting at US soldiers is alright, no worries, but oh mah gawd, Al Qaeda? That’s unthinkable! That’s too much! Hell no!

Wouldn’t be surprised if DICE actually adds some prompts like “Are you sure you want to enable the name ‘Al Qaeda’ in the menus? Are you 100% sure? Are you 1000% sure? Absolutely positive? There is no going back! (unless you go to the options)” or some such cop out bullshit, like IW did with the MW2 introduction mission. Grow up, ffs. If these games disturb you, the go play Mario – that’s a great game also (unless you have Goomba friends).

While I understand that these are just your own personal feelings and everyone is definitely entitled to their own opinions, I do have to agree with a lot of the comments and say that it is quite a double standard after playing as Nazis and fake terrorists for ages to draw the line here because they are given a real life name. I don’t think that necessarily makes you a hypocrite, since it’s just your feelings, but it is really interesting that all it took to get an emotional reaction out of you was to change the name. That’s the interesting part for me anyway.

I can’t agree with you, regardless of how shocking it may be to see Al-Qaeda in a game. You should never be forced to play as the enemy, but if they’re making a piece of historical fiction, why get the setting wrong?

then I could not play Call Of Duty World At War because Americans NUKED my country? Villains and good guys?! pfff.. this always depends on your point of view. think about it.

Man, I totally agree with you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go play a game as the people who nearly killed my grandfather in a strafing run.

Oh, wait, you’re upset because you play as terrorists in multiplayer? Oh wow. Oh wow.

In a related subject, I’m just waiting for the game where one side is called the “Hatfields” and the other side is called the “McCoys.” To me it stopped mattering who I was and who I was shooting at in multiplayer games a long time ago.

Bah. Al-Qaeda, American Military…I don’t really care for either terrorist organization. I can suspend my disbelief for a few moments and play a GAME.

Oh, ffs… Gamer’s lack of perspective is so astonishing some times. It’s a goddamn game, stop taking this shit so seriously.

Replace Al-Qeada with the flying monkey’s from the Wizard of OZ if it’ll keep you blowhards from breaking out the tissues.

Games aren’t art, they aren’t a statement on the human condition… They’re rarely even interesting narrative wise. They’re just toys… A hobby. Have fun, and shut the hell up, please.

Nice to see views and opinions that differ from the author on Destructoid! Heh!


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