The Needles

The Needles
Crying Wolf

Andy Chalk | 24 Mar 2009 17:00
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U-Boats that preyed upon Allied merchant shipping in World War II operated in squadrons known as wolfpacks. In Alaska, despite the protests of scientists, conservationists and even many hunters, they continue to be blamed for decimating moose and caribou herds as well as farmers' domestic stocks, and so continue to be the targets of state-sponsored aerial hunts. The notoriety of the wolf is also deeply rooted in our fiction, in everything from the Norse legend of the Fenris Wolf who will slay Odin during Ragnarok to the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame. And closer to home, let's not forget that the favored mounts of orcs and goblins always seems to be some sort of over-sized, slavering, red-eyed wolf-cousin.

Wolves have gotten a lot of bad press over the years, and their reputation has suffered as a result. It's why thousands of people can conjure a lupine apocalypse on a daily basis in World of Warcraft and nobody utters a peep, but plugging a few dogs in World at War - Nazi dogs, mind you - triggers a bimbo uproar over the unhinged gamers who will inevitably grow up to become the puppy-killers of the future. Dogs are loyal friends; wolves are distant and mysterious predators just waiting for an excuse to tear your throat out and make off with your chickens.

But I don't want to be heartless or unfair: As ideas go, the protest against dog-specific violence in a first-person simulation of World War II battlefields is no more ridiculous than, say, calls from high-ranking German officials for a complete ban on all violent videogames, or statements from Missouri police claiming that the only reason an adult would own Animal Crossing is because it's fantastic diddler-bait. Presentation really is everything, and although fanning the flames of hysteria, fear and anger that inevitably result when horrific incidents are perpetrated by deranged assholes is sleazy and exploitative, it's also pretty damned effective. Throw a rock at a crowd and the odds are pretty good you'll hit a gamer, but an awful lot of people - including people in positions of power - still consider videogaming aberrant behavior.

And this is where we find ourselves: Governed and policed by people who go to work with the same mentality as high school girls. Since that seems to be what we're stuck with, maybe we should make the best of it and start electing our officials from among the ranks of real high school girls. At least that way there's a chance they'll grow out of it.

Playing This Week: Finally wrapped up the demo for Necrovision, the supernatural First World War shooter developed by The Farm 51. The Farm boys claim a connection to Painkiller, but where that game brought shurikens-and-lightning-powered genius to the party, Necrovision manages little more than tedium and truly awful voice acting. The Painkiller pedigree is obvious in the level design, but literally everything else falls far short of the mark. I don't like to condemn games based solely on a demo, but in this case I'm willing to make an exception: Try before you buy, and then don't buy.

Andy Chalk strongly recommends Farley Mowat's Never Cry Wolf for anyone interested in seeing wolves from a different perspective.

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