First Person

First Person
On The Other Side of Videogame History

Dennis C. Scimeca | 22 Jun 2012 17:00
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All the negative commentary on the violence at E3 this year is consternating. Why this year, and not last year? I understand a renewed fervor against booth babes because they were out in much stronger force at E3 2012 than they were at E3 2011, but last year's Expo was just as loaded with shooter games as this year's was. I don't remember E3 2010 being any less of a hothouse for shooter promotion, either, so the sudden bandwagon of anti-videogame violence rhetoric can't be laid on how many shooters were at E3 in 2012.

It's as though people from all different corners of games journalism and punditry have had a spontaneous, communal awakening to the issue of audiences cheering for violence in videogames. How many times in the last two weeks have we read an op-ed hung on the peg of the audience's reaction to the last scene in the demo for The Last Of Us when the hero shotguns a human survivor in the face? Leigh Alexander wrote about this problem two years ago; this is also an old issue, not some new controversy that ought to be such an attractive, safe angle for everyone to jump on this year.

The anti-violence rhetoric might not actually be about protesting the violence. It's possible that's a surface concern underlying other, deeper issues. Most everyone who writes about videogames is hip-deep in virtual blood. So many of these rhetorical exercises begin with something along the lines of "I'm a first person shooter veteran, but ..." or "I love violent games as much as the next person, but ..." and then it feels like someone driving by in a gas-guzzling Humvee while screaming out the window about the damage everyone is doing to the environment with their cars. The subtext is guilt at realizing shared culpability.

There may be a dawning realization that one of the charges core gamers love to throw at the videogame media, that the media doesn't represent their interests, may actually be true to a degree. The core gamers were the people cheering at the Sony press conference during that shotgun blast at the end of the trailer for The Last of Us. Anyone raising their voice in protest of that trailer and the violence it represents is making a statement that they're growing past such violence faster than a large segment of the audience is. We can't even cast the core audience in the mold of "18-to-35-year-old males" any longer, not with our current understanding of how diverse the videogame audience is, and not with as many women vocalizing their love of the shooter genre.

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