Worst Year Ever: Videogaming’s 11 Worst for 2007 (part 2)

Originally posted on GGL Wire 12/19/07.

Be sure to read part one!

5. Cheating in EVE Online

Within the world of EVE Online, it’s perfectly acceptable to lie, cheat and steal. So why cheat in the game itself?

Without going into the tedious details, it seems that at least one EVE Online developer was cheating, using his “powers” as a developer to provide serious advantages for his friends in-game. This, and other alleged misconduct, was discovered by a player who operated as a spy in-game, finding ways to get into private “corporate” and “alliance” message boards, and then selling the information he found to competing corporations.

When publisher CCP learned the cheating was going on, the punishment was swift – for the “spy” who discovered it. The developer got off scot-free.

You can read in my original post my opinion, that it’s impossible for a developer to “cheat.” But he did violate company policy, and whether it’s justified or not, the EVE Online community felt betrayed.

But the real shanda here is that CCP killed the messenger. The spy who reported the dev’s misdeeds lost all five of his accounts.

4. China’s Civil War disrupts the World Cyber Games

You-chen Liu at the WCG Finals.

At the World Cyber Games Finals in Seattle, Taiwanese cyberathlete You-Chen “D2C-BURBERRYqq” Liu took third in the Project Gotham Racing 3 tourney. On the dais, he held aloft a Taiwanese flag. This spurred ten of the Chinese players to rush Liu and verbally assault him. The altercation was the low point of an event that already had its problems.

For those of you who were educated in American public schools, and therefore know nothing about world history; in the middle of the last century China had a civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists. The Communists won, and the Nationalists fled to the island of Formosa, aka Taiwan.

Each side considers itself to be the legitimate government of China, and accuses the other of being a rogue state. But because the People’s Republic of China is so influential, Taiwanese who attend international events usually do not show their national flag.

In their defense, the Chinese gamers who assaulted Liu were not necessarily supporting the Communist government. The PRC has declared that if a Taiwanese flag is shown at an event, the Chinese players will no longer be permitted to travel. Yes, the PRC will punish its own people, just because a Taiwanese person is proud of their own country.

So should Liu have made his political statement at an international gaming event? That is certainly open to debate; my own opinion skews towards Liu’s freedom of speech under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.S. Constitution. But a sixty-year old civil conflict that has divided one of the world’s greatest nations managed to bring shame upon its people, and soured what should have been an event to bring the world together. And that sucks.

3. Microtransactions

Coins of the world.

Why are microtransactions one of the worst things in this particular year? Two reasons. First, they are one of the worst things in any year. And second, this is the year this pernicious practice began to creep from Korea and Europe into the American gaming market.

What is a microtransaction? Basically it refers to a system for purchasing in-game virtual items with real-life cash money. Many of these items will be very cheap, even less than a dollar. A microtransaction system allows the game publisher to collect the gamers’ money via credit card, even though the purchases are too small for ordinary credit card systems to profitably process.

Right now gamers buy a block of points, or in-game money, to spend on collecting things like costumes, weapons and armor. But soon, games will charge your card individually for each item. Why is this evil? Because most people are very, very bad at tracking expenses, especially for very low cost items. A gamer, especially a kid, will say “hey, that cool costume is only 75 cents, I can afford that,” not realizing this is their hundredth purchase in a month.

World of Warcraft costs me $15 a month. I know exactly what I’m getting for my money — and people who buy items with real-life money are cheating scumbags. A Korean game, like Maple Story, is advertised as a “free” game. But there’s all kinds of in-game stuff you can’t get without paying – how is this “free?”

Publishers of “free” microtransaction-based games claim you don’t really need any of the cash items, and that they don’t throw off game balance. But how long will that last?

2. Nintendo Seizure Boy

Gaye Herford, who doesn’t know how to read a seizure warning.

Earlier this year, the 10-year-old son of Briton Gaye Herford suffered a photosensitive epileptic fit while playing Rayman: Raving Rabbids on the Wii. Since then, Herford has pushed for legislation to ban games that may cause seizures in a tiny percentage of the population. She has also called for warnings on existing games, apparently unaware that most videogames already contain a seizure warning.

Herford:

Most people don’t know if they’re susceptible to epilepsy caused by flashing lights. We need a change in the law to force all game manufacturers to remove the scenes that can provoke epileptic fits.

Unfortunately, legislators in Britain are listening. Conservative MP John Penrose has submitted a motion in Parliament that would require video game publishers to ensure that their products will not trigger photosensitive epileptic seizures in players. It’s hard to see how this would even be possible.

Penrose:

We don’t allow toy-makers to sell products that could poison or injure our children. This shouldn’t be any different. We need government action, now, to change the law so no more young lives are affected by seizures triggered by electronic video games.

I would suggest to the British government that they also look into game boxes that may produce paper cuts, reflective DVD surfaces that may shine glare into the eyes, gaming consoles against which susceptible persons may stub their toes, and console controller cables that may accidentally become wrapped around the base of the male genital region, cutting off blood supply and leading to impotence. It could happen.

1. Jack Thompson and Virginia Tech

Look at me! Look at me!

On April 16th, an emotionally disturbed Virginia Tech student named Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 23 others, then committed suicide. It was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

That same day, censorship advocate Jack Thompson went on Fox News to blame the killings on violent content in videogames. This was before any information about the perpetrator was known. Later, a complete investigation blamed the killings on Cho’s various mental problems, not videogames. Cho played some Counter-Strike in high school, but had no other connection to videogames.

Fortunately, commentators noticed that Thompson jumped the lightgun, and the Florida lawyer’s stock fell in the media. A few days after the shootings, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews laid into Thompson for making premature statements and for blaming videogames without any evidence. Thompson kept insisting that Cho played violent videogames, despite direct evidence that Cho only used his computer for schoolwork. Thompson’s logic was that, since all school shooters “train” on violent videogames in Thompson’s view, then Cho must have been playing violent videogames.

Thompson’s reprehensible behavior in taking advantage of this tragedy to promote his cause just helped highlight the man’s irresponsible behavior over the years. Hopefully, this distasteful incident has permanently damaged Thompson’s reputation, and news producers will stop turning to him for sound bites. Perhaps the tiniest smidgen of good can come out of this horrific tragedy.

Special Jury Prize for Worst Fuckup of 2007: The Red Rings of Death

I’m afraid I can’t let you play that, Dave.

In February it came to light that the Xbox 360 was scratching game disks, due to a design defect with the optical lens; and in July, a class-action lawsuit was initiated against Microsoft over this flaw.

Then the press discovered what gamers had known for a while – that heat problems can brick your 360, resulting in the infamous Red Ring of Death. Initially, Redmond denied both problems. But once the mainstream media got on Microsoft’s case, the company had to take the situation seriously.

In December 2006, Microsoft had extended the warranty of all 360 consoles from 90 days to one year. This July, due to “an unacceptable number of repairs to Xbox 360 consoles,” Redmond extended all 360 warranties to three years, at an estimated cost of $1.15 billion-with-a-“b.” Note that if your console gets repaired or replaced, your new warranty is only 90 days.

This isn’t the kind of disaster for Microsoft that it would be for a company like Sony, which is already in dire fiscal straits. Microsoft has more money than God. But it certainly represents a serious failure on the part of the Xbox 360 team.

Be sure to read part 1!

Ten Tales of Videogame Terror – Part 2

Originally posted on GGL Wire on 10/25/07.

And now… the final five tales of videogame TERROR:

Saw V

Nooooooo! Not House of the Dead!When Brittany awoke, every part of her lithe, tanned body ached. She tried to move her hands and feet, but they were immobile. Terrified, she opened her eyes.

She had never been inside the shack, but she recognized it from hiking through the Schwarzwald. It sat alone in a dark dell full of stunted, black-skinned elms. She had assumed it belonged to some local poacher, but now she realized the terrifying truth.

Brittany was bound hand and foot, strapped to an ancient dentist’s chair. Various implements of torture were hanging from the walls – specula, knives, drills and other shiny stainless-steel horrors of unimaginable purpose.

She vowed not to scream.

The door swung open, and a man entered – short, stocky and balding, his face hidden behind a mask which amplified the raspy wheeze of his breathing. He closed the door.

“Let me out of here!” Brittany yelled.

The man laughed, low and quiet. He walked over to a television set with built in DVD-player that sat against the wall in front of Brittany.

Slowly, with relish, the man slipped a scratched and mottled DVD into the player.

“What are you doing?” Brittany demanded.

The man spoke with a thick German accent. “Soon you vill know a horror unlike any other,” he hissed.

The screen came to life. It was a movie. Brittany didn’t recognize it at first. Was that the chick from Terminator 3? And the guy who played Ghandi?

The realization crashed down on her. Someone was screaming, screaming at the top of her lungs; and it was a moment before Brittany realized it was her.

The movie was BloodRayne. The man was Uwe Boll!

“Oh god please don’t do this to me! Why? Why?” she screamed.

Brittany had the will to survive. She made it through BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark. But by the end of Postal, her lifeless body had slumped in the chair, her face contorted into a permanent rictus of terror.

Boll dumped her body in the peat bog, and went back to lurking along the hiking trails, watching for hapless young people to kidnap and torture. So the madness continued.

The Pits of DespairThe Pits of Despair

Bobby always wanted to be a game tester, and now he had his chance.

The campus of Electronic Arts was a beautiful cluster of buildings in Playa Vista, a stone’s throw from the Pacific. Bobby’s heart tintinabulated with excitement as he parked and was checked in by security.

“So you want to work in QA?” the woman asked. She seemed pleasant enough, just another ordinary HR drone.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then sign here and we’ll get you started.” The woman pushed a complicated-looking form across her desk.

Bobby reached for a pen, but the woman handed him a strange silver implement with a sharp tip. “Use this?”

“What do I use for ink?”

The woman took the implement and jabbed Bobby in the finger.

“Sign in blood,” she demanded.

Well, that’s weird, Bobby thought, as he bled onto the silver pen and scrawled his name across the bottom of the page with his own sanguineous humours.

The woman snatched the paper away, and locked it in a steel man-sized safe that lurked in the corner of the office. “Come with me, she said.”

Bobby followed her through the offices and down a long hallway lined with paintings of Mediterranean scenes. At the end of the corridor was an ancient freight elevator, the kind with the iron gate. That’s funny, Bobby thought, this building looks only a few years old.

They stepped into the lift, and the woman pulled the gate closed and flipped a giant electrical toggle switch.

The elevator car plummeted at an alarming rate. The sides of the car were open, and Bobby first saw several floors of the EA offices, then a long stretch of dank bedrock. The further down they went, the hotter and wetter the air became.

Suddenly they came out in a massive chamber, an ancient rent in the uttermost depths of the world. Strange gasses spewed from lava-filled rivulets. The whole cavern was lit from above by massive fluorescents that buzzed audibly. The pale white light gave Bobby an instant headache.

“Where are we?” he asked tremulously.

“QA,” the HR woman replied.

The lift hit the floor of the chamber, and two burly shirtless men in turbans grabbed Bobby forcefully and dragged him toward a cubicle. They wore cruel-looking whips on their belts.

“What’s going on?” Bobby screamed.

“You will work 20-hour days,” the HR woman intoned, like an ancient Druidic priest offering a human sacrifice to satiate a bloodthirsty deity. “Eight a.m. to 4 a.m. No bathroom breaks, no weekends, no vacations.”

Bobby wriggled, panicking, as the guards wrapped a red-hot manacle around his ankle. The cooling metal melted his flesh, and he wailed in agony.

“We’re two months behind schedule on Mail Order Monsters 2,” the woman continued, “so we’re withholding gruel and water until you catch up.”

“Let me go! I don’t want this!” Bobby cried as he was forced into his work chair.

“You signed a contract,” the woman replied coldly. Then she leaned in, and spoke with more feeling. “Besides, if you ever want to be a game designer, you have to work up through QA. Don’t you want to be a game designer?”

“Yes.” Resignedly, he put his hands on the keyboard and mouse. He cried out as a guard lashed his back.

“Get to work, slave!” the guard bellowed.

Bobby never saw his friends or family again. And it was years later, his crippled frame wracked with years of labor, he realized the truth – they would never promote him out of QA!

Hello? Anybody home?The Last Man

Robert Frisco boarded his flight in Philadelphia, eager to begin four days of fun, sun and gaming in beautiful Southern California.

He would return to his small Pennsylvania hometown impoverished – between the cost of the flight, the hotel, and the convention passes, Frisco had very little money left. But this was E for All, the biggest event of the gaming year.

Frisco was never able to attend E3, but this trip would make up for all those disappointing years reading about all the E3 action on the Internet.

The first sign that all was not as it should be came when the plane descended over Los Angeles.

The city was burning. Massive fires poured plumes of reddish ash into a sky already choked with car exhaust fumes. What had happened while Robert was in the air? Why hadn’t the pilot made an announcement?

But it’s when Frisco approached the actual convention center that his panic began.

The place was EMPTY.

E3 got 30,000 visitors a year! Where were the people? Was it a terrorist attack? Famine? Plague?

Frisco stumbled across the convention floor, looking for any sign of life. No Xbox, no Sony. Nothing at the Nintendo booth of interest but Super Smash Bros. Just a pitiful few survivors playing RockBand, undoubtedly to drive from their minds the horror of whatever cataclysm befell this place.

Something shambled at Frisco from around a darkened corner. He gasped – it was a booth babe, or what was once a booth babe, shuffling forward in her high-heeled shoes, wearing little but a tight t-shirt and skin-tight short shorts. She languidly offered Frisco a flyer for some no-name videogame resale site.

“H-haaave a flyyyy-er,” she groaned.

Frisco ran, as hard and as far as he could. He burst through a black curtain and into a vast unused space – the remainder of the convention floor that the E for All organizers couldn’t sell.

“Why?” Frisco called out to whatever foul gods still hearkened to the prayers of men. “Why????”

Alone in a vast and empty space of total desolation, Frisco fell to his knees. The despair was too much for his fragile mind, and he slumped to the floor, dead.

The Red Ring of DEATH!The Red Ring of Death

Angrily, Susan finished packing her brand new Xbox 360 back in the box. After only two days of playing Geometry Wars, her console overheated; and the button on the front lit up with the dreaded Red Ring of Death. Now her console was completely bricked, and she would have to wait weeks for Microsoft to repair the damn thing.

She left the box on the porch for the FedEx man, and went back into her apartment to watch TV. But when she pressed the “On” button on her remote, she was greeted by a terrible surprise.

At first, the TV wouldn’t some on at all. Then the screen warmed up, and an image appeared. It took Susan a moment to realize the image was not from some television program.

It was a giant Red Ring of Death.

But how is this possible? Susan asked herself. My TV shouldn’t have a red ring!

She went to the phone to call her brother, the tech expert. But when she picked up the receiver — there it was again, the red ring! The phone was otherwise dead, no signal.

Suddenly, the lights went out. Looking up at the ceiling lamp, she saw the red ring, glowing brightly in the near-dark.

Susan ran for the front door – but the red ring shone out from the doorknob. She tried to open the door, but it would not budge. The door had been bricked!

Losing her mind with terror, Susan ran into the bathroom, where natural light from outside made it possible to see. She struggled to catch her breath – there was a red ring on the bathroom scale, one on the shower faucet, even one on the bath mat. How do you brick a bath mat?

Susan turned to look at herself in the mirror, and the monstrousness of what she saw there drove her mind over the edge of insanity. There in the mirror staring back at her was herself – with two giant red rings around her eyes.

She dropped to the floor, dead. She had been bricked.

The Coral Gables SlasherThe Coral Gables Slasher

Dawn broke through the tiny cellar window, and Brendan decided to try opening the cellar door. Still clutching the tire iron he found, he moved the barricade of boxes and old furniture away from the door.

It had been hours since he last heard the Slasher, pacing in the kitchen above, muttering to himself and occasionally singing bits of hymns. Brendan hoped and prayed the lunatic had become tired of waiting, and left.

Brandishing his weapon in one hand, and fiercely clutching his copy of Manhunt 2 in the other, Brandon nudged open the cellar door. Morning light illuminated the dust motes in the stairwell leading up to the kitchen. He heard nothing.

All his friends were dead. Nikki and Elijah, strangled and burned while playing Grand Theft Auto; Clancy was found hanged, with his smashed copy of Quake 4 lying at his feet; Tim and Monica were stabbed and shot with arrows, their eyes sliced out using a broken CD of Bully.

Brandon slowly climbed the stairs, straining his ears for the slightest sound, the tiniest evidence he was not alone. Forcing himself to continue despite his terror, Brandon reached the top of the stairs to face the horror of the kitchen.

There was blood everywhere, especially on the center island, where it looked like a boar had been slaughtered. But Brandon knew it was Corinne’s blood – Corinne, the beautiful French exchange student, whose only crime was bringing the unrated French version of Indigo Prophecy into the U.S.

“Japanese videogames are the next Pearl Harbor!”

Brandon spun around to find the voice. There he stood, the Coral Gables Slasher, his absurd white hair stained with blood, his cheap suit ripped apart by the clawing human hands of his victims. His eyes burned with insanity, or at least with a serious personality disorder. He held a machete in his had.

Holding aloft his tire iron, Brandon tried to back away – but the Slasher stood in the only exit door (there was no way out through the cellar, or Brandon would have escaped hours ago).

The Sims 2 contains nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair!” the Slasher hissed.

“What?” Brandon could not understand the old man’s ramblings. He looked about the kitchen frantically, hoping to find a better weapon.

“God is in this battle, and I am privileged to be a foot soldier!” The Slasher leapt forward, chasing Brandon around the bloody central island of the kitchen.

Brandon tried to make for the door, but The Slasher was too fast. He caught Brandon across the face with the machete, and a crimson spray shot across the wall. Brandon slipped and fell, and then the Slasher was in top of him.

“I love the smell of burning gamers in the morning!” The Slasher cried as he raised his machete for the kill.

Suddenly the front door burst open, and in seconds the kitchen was filled with armed police officers.

“Alright, what’s going on here?” one cop demanded.

“Thank God,” Brandon cried out. “This lunatic killed all my friends! Get him off me.”

To Brandon’s horror, the cop laughed. “I guess you don’t get it. We’re with him.”

The cop turned to the Slasher. “Will you finish this one up, Mr. Thompson, or shall we?”

In answer, the Slasher plunged his machete through Brandon’s neck. The last thing the young man saw before death was the Slasher smashing his copy of Manhunt 2 while the cops laughed and laughed.

Note: all Coral Gable Slasher quotes used in this story are real.


Read Part One
.

Rating the Murder Simulators

Originally written in December 2006 for GGL.com; images updated March 2009.

This holiday season has seen two seventh-gen console launches, so video games are back in the news. Mainstream media outlets, particularly local television news programs, seem to be devoted to two, and only two, video game-related memes, regardless of whatever is actually happening in the video game world.

The first is the hoary old “geeks wait in long lines to get a toy” meme, which is closely related to “parents fight each other to buy their spoiled kids a toy.” I guess I can’t be too judgmental – we did it here at GGL this year as well.

The other is “video games will turn your children into raging, murderous psychopaths.” For every positive story about video game culture, there are ten that decry this imminent menace to our children’s very lives.

Scientific studies claim to show a connection between “violent” video games and violent behavior in teens and grade school children. Politicians espouse anti-games rhetoric, and craft laws policing or preventing the sale of video games to children – laws that have to-date been struck down as unconstitutional. Large retailers place restrictions on video games sales, in response to pressure from pro-censorship groups.

I have already discussed why a video game cannot be “violent” or “dangerous.” This absurd idea, that video games are harmful to kids, never seems to go away, or to even die down. For politicians and religious leaders, the allure of this demonstrably false claim is easy to see. In the Sixties, these same forces assailed rock music. But now those sixties rockers are the parents; so the “culture wars” crowd must turn to things parents are less likely to understand. Today, those things are hip hop music and video games.

The most pernicious claim made by censorship advocates is that first- and third-person shooters are “murder simulators” that desensitize kids to extreme violence and train them how to kill. Some studies show that video games can excite and agitate youngsters; but it’s a big leap from there to assume games train kids to be killers.

Therefore, I have decided to review all of the “murder simulators” in our society, including video games, but not excluding the others. I challenge censorship advocates to explain why, of all the items on this list, they focus on “violent” video games.

Grand Theft Auto 2. This doesn't look so very violent...Video games

In recent years, censorship advocates have most commonly targeted Grand Theft Auto 3, and have labeled the game a “murder simulator.” The GTA games are third-person shooters – I would think a first-person shooter, like Halo or America’s Army, would better train a person to commit murder.

A few FPS games, like House of the Dead, are played with gun-shaped controllers. But most employ standard game controllers for console games, or a mouse and keyboard for PC games. They do not teach the player how to hold, load, or fire an actual gun. And Back to the Future 3 notwithstanding, I don’t think a gun-shaped controller really teaches anyone anything about real firearms.

The “aiming” skills required for an FPS game are completely different from those required in real life. “Aim assist, “friction,” and “client prediction” don’t exist in the real world. Aiming a gun is all about the wrists and arms, while “aiming” in an FPS is all about the thumbs on a console, or the mouse hand on a PC. There is no such thing as kickback with a game controller. Games often try to simulate things like kickback, muzzle flash, and reloading, but these simulations are nothing like the real thing.

Forget the guns – existence in an FPS or TPS game has little to do with real life. Movement is unrealistically smooth and quick (or the game would become boring). Video game characters are nearly impervious to pain and injury, enduring “violence” that would fell a real person, or at least put that person into shock. FPS characters can leap and climb better than a real human being. They get “health packs” and “power ups,” things we could definitely use in the real world, but which are, alas, unavailable. And when you die in an FPS, you “respawn” somewhere else. Why are all these unrealistic things included? Because it’s a game, not a simulator.

But doesn’t the army use video games to train soldiers? Sure, but they aren’t teaching how to kill, they’re teaching tactics. Before video games, they taught tactics with books, then films; now it’s games. But no drill sergeant is going to let his soldiers sit through a few gaming sessions and then send them to Iraq. The games are a small part of an intensive training course (see below). So could the Columbine murderers have learned their tactics from Doom? Sure. If their victims had been maniacal Martian demons with rudimentary decision-making powers, I suppose they could have.

The pro-censorship forces will insist that I am avoiding the real issue. Do “violent” video games desensitize our youth to violence, making them more likely to commit violence? No study has ever demonstrated this. Kids may become agitated after playing a game, but they do not objectify other humans. They maintain their sense of right and wrong. I myself am concerned about media, whether books, movies, television shows, or video games, that depict casual murder. It’s bad storytelling, and I believe it does desensitize everyone, child and adult, to the atrocities they hear on the evening news.

But it’s a huge leap from media burnout to murder. Censorship advocates want you to believe this connection is self-evident. In fact, it is self-evidently absurd, if for no other reason than this – not every person under 35 is a murderer.

In conclusion, video games are not terribly effective murder simulators. They improve reflexes and teach hallway-combat tactics; but they fail to prepare the participant for actual killing. Let’s move on.

LARPers. It is NOT weird.LARPing

Some people believe that live-action role-playing gamers represent the lowest, most pathetic level of geekdom. These people have never meet filkers, furries or fan-ficcers.

LARPing is like regular role-playing (Dungeons & Dragons and the like), except the players go to a public location, often in costume, and act out whatever their characters are doing. Players called “storytellers” act as referees, guiding the overall story and arbitrating player combats and disputes. Like most other RPGs, LARPs revolve around science-fiction, fantasy or horror themes, and involve some of the characters trying to kill other characters.

What value does LARPing have as a murder simulator? A player puts on a real outfit, travels to a real world location, and plays face-to-face against other human beings, sometimes friends but often mere acquaintances or total strangers. In most (but not all) LARPs, real weapons, fake weapons, and items that could pass for weapons are not allowed, and players may not touch each other. But in-game altercations can turn very loud and emotional. And players may see a long-term, beloved character slain as an outcome of a combat.There is real human contact, unlike with a standard video game; and you meet your enemy face-to-face, unlike an online game. And you have to deal with real emotions when you “kill” another player.

So, as a murder simulator, LARPing is not terribly satisfying. There are no weapons, no acrobatics, no visual scenes of violence. But you do pretend to kill people, and those people are standing right in front of you, expressing either real or “in-character” dismay at their own deaths. And because of that one characteristic, I proclaim LARPing to be a superior murder simulation experience to video games; it provides a human element missing from any computer game, even an online or LAN game.

Paintball player.Paintball

Now this sporting activity can, in all fairness, be called a “murder simulation.” You put on real military gear, go out to the real woods, and use a real gun to shoot real people. All the things that FPS games fail to simulate – holding a gun, aiming, firing with kickback, reloading, dodging, hiding, running, jumping, keeping sweat out of your goggles, even the pain of getting hit – all these things are REAL. And in paintball, one shot and you’re down – unlike video games with their health packs and respawns.

Of course, nobody gets hurt – not seriously, anyway. That’s what makes paintball a murder simulation, not murder.

Searching online, I could not find anyone claiming that paintball will teach young people to kill. Any reference to a paintball ban I could find was based on paintball guns being used in vandalism or in hold-ups. Strangely, no one is concerned that the real murder simulation is being used to train killers.

Now someone’s going to complain that I hate paintball. I have absolutely no problem with this sport whatsoever. I used to participate in something similar using shinai in a local park. I do not believe for a second that some kid is going to be turned into a murderer playing paintball.

But one wonders how the self-appointed stewards of child safety can justify attacking video games, and doing nothing about the horrific scourge of paint-filled plastic balls shot from air guns.

Hunting. It's pretty classy!Hunting

I’m tempted to say that sport hunting isn’t a murder simulation, it’s murder. Tempted, but I will restrain myself from sounding like one of those asshats at PETA. Killing an animal is not murder (with perhaps a few exceptions). And whatever your views on hunting, it does not help anyone to equate killing a deer with killing a human. They are not ethically equivalent. At all. Not even close. Not even on same planet.

That said, as a murder simulator, hunting takes paintball and elevates it to the next level. Not only do you get a real gun with real bullets, but you do real killing. Not the killing of a human, but still.

If I were planning to actually go out and kill people, I would practice by going hunting. It creates the single most realistic environment to hone those murdering skills. In fact, it has everything but human victims. If I’m worried that any of my victims will fight back, I’ll just hunt boar.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any online complaints about hunting teaching kids to become murderers. Anti-hunting activists focus exclusively on the suffering of animals. Just for even suggesting a link between hunting and murder, I’m sure I’ll get nasty emails from the NRA and other pro-gun extremists. Fire away (heh heh). I’m not suggesting that hunting creates murderers. I’m suggesting that hunting is a much better way to learn to commit murder than a video game.

No, seriously, it's this long when it's flaccid...Military training

Now we reach the crème de la crème of murder simulations.  In the military, people who have actually killed people will give you a real gun and teach you to kill people. Not how to shoot targets, or to hunt deer – how to kill people. And they won’t stick just to guns, either. You’ll learn tons of fun mêlée and ranged combat techniques. You’ll go out to the real desert and shoot at real people with real bullets. And when you’re ready, they’ll send you out to commit real murder.

Oh, here we go. Suggest that what the military does is “murder,” and you must be a Commie pinko subversive terrorist. My argument has nothing to do with whatever it is soldiers do in the field; whether it is murder, or justifiable homicide, or self-defense, or peacekeeping. My only concern is, does military training teach you the skills to be a murderer better than a video game does?

Unlike any other type of training, military training teaches young people to dehumanize other humans. Whether this is justifiable or not is beside the point. The military teaches people to kill people, and to feel minimal remorse afterwards. End of story.

Whether or not military training is good or bad or both, whether or not a trained soldier is a good or bad person or both, that soldier is eventually returned to society, where there is not a Viet Cong or Iraqi insurgent around every corner. I’m not aware of any “untraining” to re-instill human compassion back in a soldier. It seems police officers sometimes have the same problem, suffering from the possibly unavoidable dehumanizing aspects of their work. And yet, should we lock up our veterans? Should we ban military training? Or should we create a kindler, gentler military?

I suppose we only need ask these questions if we are so concerned about the effect of murder simulations on our society. Will we prevent murders if we never, ever teach anyone how to kill, and never ever represent murder in the media? This is an open question, and a much more complicated one than some people would like for you to believe. But let me suggest that actually teaching people how to use a gun and kill people MUST be more dangerous than creating a game where people fake-kill fake-people.

Conclusion

So there we have it: five different murder simulators, all accepted by mainstream American society, but only is one under attack as detrimental to the moral hygiene of our youth. Strangely, only one is not traditionally associated with right-wing political values, but rather with Hollywood and the entertainment industry. And strangely, it’s the same one.

Is it possible that those who wish to censor video games aren’t really concerned with the safety of children? That the real goal is not to prevent children from learning how to murder?

If so, then I can’t imagine what the real goal of all this is. Even the U.S. Army created a video game, a “violent” tactical FPS, to promote recruitment, apparently with some success. Could the real goal, for politicians, be to get votes from Baby Boomers ignorant of gaming? Could the real goal for pundits be to get their faces on CNN?

Nah. That would just be cynical exploitation, not of the games industry, which can defend itself just fine, but of children. Politicians and pundits wouldn’t exploit children, would they?