Friday, August 20, 2010

Controversy in video games... yawn

I'm not sure if it's the dog days of summer or whether it's some sort of deeper simmering discontent, but I've been very weary of the media lately (that includes my role in it). I'm becoming more and more aware that much of what we see and read is simply there to fill space, and to attract us to that particular space, as opposed to it actually being important.

Such was my reaction when I came across a tidbit this week about the upcoming Medal of Honor video game, which allows players to control Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Fox News, that bastion of important journalism, interviewed a woman who is taking exception to the game because her son recently died in Afghanistan.

Yes, it's a tragic loss, but really? Do we really need more of these by-the-numbers sorts of stories? Let's connect the dots, shall we: 1. Piece of entertainment comes out that includes something remotely controversial. 2. Find someone who might think it's offensive. 3. Confront them and broadcast it.

Owen Good over at Jezebel actually gives Fox kudos for its "fair and balanced" treatment of this issue, especially given how the network has been god-awful in its previous portrayals of video games (Mass Effect anyone?). Here's the video report:

I'm not willing to be as charitable on the fair-and-balanced front because, like I said, it's the same old, same old. Perhaps Fox was more reasonable in its on-screen discussion of this particular game, but the fact that the story aired at all shows the network is still sticking to the same old "let's make a controversy" formula, especially when it comes to video games.

We heard the same schtick last fall when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out. In it, players were put in control of a terrorist whose cell kills innocent civilians in a mall. That drew howls of outrage, even though the themes in the game were no worse than what's found on television almost every night, and Fox has now simply gone back to that same well, albeit in a slightly different and more stealthy way.

If there's anything positive to come of this, it's that the new, more measured approach might actually mean news outlets such as Fox have learned from their earlier overblown reactions, and that perhaps their viewers let them know it. I have to believe that fewer and fewer people care about the latest "controversy" in video games every year, so hopefully we'll get to a fall games season without having to see a single story like this one.

By the way, since we're on the topic, I had the good fortune of spending some of my birthday the other day at Microsoft's annual holiday games preview, and I got my hands on several upcoming games. That included the awesome Call of Duty: Black Ops, which comes out in November. Check out my report. And speaking as a guy who's addicted to Call of Duty, judging by the footage in that Fox report, it sure looks like Medal of Honor is ripping off its main rival.


Justin Mohareb said...

Seriously, dude? Fox is a fly, crawling over shit in search of ratings.

The Sun did the same thing with a play at Summerfest. When you have no ideas, you try to generate controversy.

Add in the fact that their target audience is past the point of understanding the start button concept, and you're wasting electrons.

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