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1:49 AM on 12.30.2014

Video Game Inspired Thoughts: Is There Really Such a Thing as 'Doing it Wrong'?

Ever since I was old enough to hold a controller video games have been a part of my life. And with a lifetime of experience in games comes an understanding of how games are supposed to be played. In "platformer" type games your character runs left to right and shouldn't fall into any holes, in "fighting" games you hit your opponent and don't let them hit you back, etc etc. These are simplifications but the general wisdom usually holds true. As with anything in our lives there's a natural tendency to draw on our own experiences to inform us on what to do when we are confronted with anything new. A new game? Our immediate response is to categorize it. What game is this most similar to? What set of rules does this game abide by that is the same as I've come across before? For the most part it's a helpful practice. It allows to skip past that initial learning curve and get into the action of the game quicker. But an interesting thought occurred to me: What if all of that past knowledge of how a game is supposed to be played isn't really as set in stone as we believe?
The thought occurred to me as I was watching my two young nieces play the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for the WiiU. They were just kind of hanging around in the beginning town making up stories about what they were doing as they ran around town talking to various villagers and picking up and throwing pigs into the ocean (they really do love throwing those pigs in the ocean). Essentially using the game as a kind of Legend of Zelda playset/dollhouse. So I tried to inform them that that's not how you play the game. There is all this other stuff you're supposed to be doing. And the older one turns to me and says "No. That's not how we're playing.". Oh wow, did that hit me for some reason. Who was I to say that they were "playing wrong"?
At the core of every game is the desire to be enjoyable. Obviously the developers have their own ideas about how they envision a game to be enjoyed. But if someone finds a way to enjoy a game that differs from what was initially envisioned it doesn't make it "wrong". Who's to say that the digital LoZ playset that those little girls had created for themselves is any less enjoyable. They were obviously having a fun playing the game but just in a way that had never occurred to me before. It was a bit of an eye opener not only in the way I personally view games but other things as well. There always seems to be this tendency to correct other people when we see them enjoying things "wrong". Whether it be with food, music, sports or movies. "That's not how you're supposed to do that" is a common phrase when we feel that we're experts at something. But just because someone is enjoying something in way that doesn't jive with our own vision of how it should be enjoyed doesn't make it incorrect. Everyone's enjoyment stems from different places. What one person loves about something may not even be a factor in someone elses enjoyment. If you're enjoying what you're doing then maybe there really is no way to "do it wrong".
Also interestingly enough the Shigeru Miyamoto has stated in various interviews that he always wanted the audience to identify with Link as themselves, which is why you can change his name to whatever you like. So just maybe my nieces Link isn't a boy who sets off on a grand adventure to save the world from evil. Maybe their Link is a just a kid who hangs out at home and throws pigs in the ocean.



6:12 PM on 07.24.2014

Video Game Inspired Thoughts: Sex, Violence & Critical Thinking

Let me start this off with an incident that inspired this topic:

I used to work at a game store and on this particular day a woman (average middle-aged soccer mom-type) came into the store with her son (looked to be about 10-12 yrs old) to buy him a game for his birthday. So I was helping them out by explaining about different games, prices and whatever. At one point the kid comes across Red Dead Redemption and asks if he can have it. The mother asks me about it and I explain.

Me: "Well it's a really good western game but it is rated Mature. There's a lot of violence, blood, and bad language. It's basically what you would expect to find in an R rated movie."

The mom: "Oh, well, maybe it will be alright..."

Me: "There's also a quick sex scene in the middle of the game with nudity. It shows exposed breasts. Just to let you know."

The Mom: "What? Really?? In a game? Well then I think that's definitely a 'No'."

At this point I really have no problem with anything that's going on. The mother is saying no to her kid playing an M rated game, that's her prerogative. Parents get decide what they do or don't want to have their kids exposed to.

So they decide to keep looking around and I go back to doing something behind the counter. A little later they come up to me holding a different game. The kid hands me a copy of Mortal Kombat. My first thought is 'Sorry, kid but there's no way your mom is going to say yes to this if she turned down Red Dead Redemption'.

Usually I'll just read off the back ESRB rating panel to a parent to let them know about a games content but with Mortal Kombat I always feel the need to be more explicit just so a parent 100% knows what they're buying for their kid. My spiel went something like this:

"Just to let you know, ma'am. This is an extremely violent game. It has graphic depictions of people being dismembered and beaten. There is a lot of blood and gore. It's probably the most violent video game we have in the store."

But to my surprise the mother answers with:

"Oh. But there's no nudity in it, right?"

Well, no. But...

"It's fine. I guess I'll be the cool mom now!"

I don't know why the incident surprised me so much or stuck in my head. I know that in general American culture is much more accepting of violence and not so accepting of nudity. But for whatever reason what happened there really resonated with me. I started thinking about how I've acted myself.

I have two young nieces that I take care of frequently. I thought about how I've treated them. I noticed I've done the same thing with them that the mom did with her son. I'm OK with them watching somewhat violent shows or games but if something sexual related comes on I'm quick to change it.

But why? Why is it so much worse to see a woman's nipple than to see a man beaten bloody? Of course the answer is 'It's Not'. Society tends to set our morals and values. Obviously other countries have different takes on these issues. Nudity and violence are seen differently outside of the good ole' US of A. Some more permissive. Some more restrictive.

I don't really feel like arguing the merits or disadvantages of violence and sex in the media. In my personal opinion every adult should be allowed to watch whatever they want. Ultra violence. Ultra sex. Whatever floats your boat (excluding anything that involves anyone being hurt that doesn't want to be hurt). But the point I am trying to make is about critical thinking and self reflection.

What everyone needs a little more of is some time to really think about why we do what we do. If we're condemning something or restricting it's availability, is it being done so for good reason? Or are we doing it with only the rational that it's 'wrong' or 'sick'? If you want to crusade for the ban of sex in video games, go for it. But do so with good reasoning.

It's something that can be applied to more things than video games. If you despise a certain type of game/person/media/book/movie take a little time to think about why it is you truly dislike it. Is it a justified dislike? Or is it simply a knee jerk reaction to some perceived moral wrong? The only way to stop ignorant behavior is to be less ignorant ourselves and to truly think about our actions and motivations.

(My first post btw. Feel free to post thoughts about the topic or corrections about the article in general.)   read

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