Gamers are constantly battling the notion that video games have the ability to transform us into mindless zombies incapable of separating the virtual world from the real world. And I'd agree, if , having grown up playing Pac-Man and Super Mario, I would have had an obstinate urge to devour blue flashing spirits and kick retreating turtles that have receded into their shell. But curiously, my psyche never taunted me into living out those 2-D rendered scenarios, nor do I have this desire to clock a prostitute upside her head before mowing down innocent pedestrians a la Grand Theft Auto.
Now, I'd wager that most MPC readers are gamers themselves, and the vast majority of you don't buy into the notion that games, violent or otherwise, have compelled you to relive the experience outside of a virtual setting, just as we don't get the urge to go on a mass murdering spree after watching Natural Born Killers . Nevertheless, video game legislation continues to be a popular topic among politicians, usually in the wake of a senseless tragedy carried out by a psychotic individual, or following the release of a new game that pushes the boundries of taste and realism. But the latest game to make media headlines does neither of those, yet it manages to bring up an interesting question I'd like to pose to my fellow gamers: When it comes to video games, is everything truly fair game? Let me back up a moment and tell first tell you about the title in question.
Amid growing concerns from outside forces, a nuclear facility comes under attack. Your job isn't to fend off the infiltrators (too late for that!), but to recover the two kidnapped nuclear engineers in charge of the program, who also happen to be husband and wife, and were on their way to a religious function when nabbed. Of course, you'll need to kill any bad guys that get in the way, and like most first person shooters, you'll do so with a variety of weapons.
On the surface, it's your basic search and rescue fare, and if the first game by the same developer is any indication, even the graphics are rather tame compared to most modern FPS titles. But here's the twist; if you assumed you would play the part of a US soldier, think again. In Rescue the Nuke Scientists , as it's called, the US troops are the bad guys, and you're part of an Iranian special force. To win the game, you have to rescue the scientists being held in Israel, confiscate laptops containing government secrets, and kill US and Israeli personnel in the process.
According to The Associated Press , the hard-line student group responsible for the game designed it " as a response to a U.S.-based company's 'Assault on Iran' game, which depicts an American attack on an Iranian nuclear facility ," further stating that " We tried to promote the idea of defense, sacrifice and martyrdom in this game. "
From my vantage point, it's fair game. As much as I disagree with the premise and the concept of gunning down US soldiers, it would be hypocritical of me to proclaim free speech in defense of titles like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and the like. But what this new game does make me do is ponder just how far I'm comfortable riding this stance and letting my wallet do the talking. When does poor taste come into play, and if boundries do get drawn, who's responsible for making them? The alternative is to continue on without boundries, which could eventually pave the way for games that encourage beheading American journalists and troops, kidnapping and torturing children, and any other sick and twisted scenario someone out there would be willing to recreate from a FoxNews headline into a virtual playpen.
So for all of you out there that, like me, oppose restrictive video game legislation, do you have the stomach to ride that stance to the bitter end? Obviously such titles would never see a Wal-Mart store shelf, but if an online vendor was willing to sell a purely tasteless game that graphically depicted morally horrendous acts that would make Grand Theft Auto's crimes look like a Sunday School jaunt in comparison, would you be willing to defend said title from not being banned?