Extra Consideration

Extra Consideration
The School Shooter Mod

Extra Consideration | 16 May 2011 17:00
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The topic for this round: The School Shooter Mod. Is it the product of a disturbed mind or brilliant statement on the power of the videogame medium? Or is it something altogether more complex and terrifying? What does a product of this nature say about the society that creates it, the society that enjoys it, or about the society that seeks to obliterate it?

imageJim Sterling: I'm a lover of tasteless humor and offensive content, and as such, I've found it incredibly difficult to condemn this game as so many gamers have willfully done. In fact, it's my worry that anybody who does condemn this game is a hypocrite, because ultimately, what is School Shooter if not something that does what most games do, without the weak moral justification?

Take a look at some of the most popular games around -- Call of Duty, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto. Sure, they all have stories, and they all have "reasons" for killing the enemies presented in the game. However, you're still killing human beings. Uncharted is especially guilty here -- a game in which lives are callously traded over shiny gold pieces and historical secrets while a borderline sociopath cracks wise and laughs with his old sugar daddy. Really, is there a moral justification for the sheer amount of carelessly dispensed death in Uncharted? You can try to argue that "they shot first," but that doesn't quite take away the fact that Nathan Drake has claimed many lives in pursuit of something so fleeting as treasure.

I've played Grand Theft Auto and I'm sure most people reading this have. I defy the vast majority of you to claim that you haven't, at times, gotten bored and decided to go on a killing spree. In fact, if you ever played the original top-down games, you'll surely remember getting bonus points for running over a line of Hare Krishna followers -- some of the most defenseless, harmless, peace-loving folk on Earth. Saints Row is even more blatant, where entire minigames are dedicated to torching innocent civilians or destroying people and property with rocket launchers. Bear in mind, these victims are no more able to defend themselves than the teachers and students presented in School Shooter.

Yet School Shooter is singled out as particularly horrific, and I have to ask: why? Because it's set in a school and not on the street? That is the South Park effect, where something is perfectly fine and acceptable until it touches a nerve. Just as Isaac Hayes was cool with South Park mocking Christianity, Islam and other organizations, then got upset once Scientology was in the sights, so too do gamers betray their own hypocrisy when they're suddenly not cool with the digital taking of human life once the scenario changes to something a little harder to compartmentalize.

It's easy to call School Shooter sociopathic, but what is a sociopath? Well, sociopaths love to justify their own bad behavior by claiming that what they were doing was "different" and thus more allowable. Just like gamers are claiming that it's "different" when shooting "insurgents" in Call of Duty or sniping the heads off old ladies in Grand Theft Auto. It's not that different, really. School Shooter is merely being honest and giving us the end result of most popular games.

Just because it's set in a school, that doesn't make it any sicker than the stuff you can do in GTA. It just makes it more contemporary, and people have a strange habit of finding tasteless material unacceptable until some vague, arbitrary grace period has passed.

I've defended Grand Theft Auto from criticism in the past, and I feel like I'd be betraying my own principals if I abandoned School Shooter just because its scenario is aesthetically less savory. It's all digital murder at the end of the day. School Shooter's simply a little more up-front about it than most.

imageMovieBob: If you need one reason to hate the "ban violent games" argument, this is mine: The question of whether or not something like this should be allowed to exist (it should) always obscures the discussion of its actual merits (not many.) It's two entirely separate discussions that end up being wrongly conflated - YES, this absolutely has the right to exist. But that's the ONLY thing I can say in its defense. Otherwise? It's utterly irredeemable - right up there with the old KKK "race war" mods of Doom/Quake in terms of being as close to evil as you can get in this medium.

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