Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Disagree with me

I save a lot of links that I want to talk about on here, but end up without really enough time to put down exactly how I feel about them. Hence, I might try occasionally doing this kind of post, where I briefly put down some thoughts about something, hoping to provoke discussion with anyone reading who disagrees (or agrees, obviously).

So, this time around, lets try Should computer games which simulate criminal acts be allowed to exist? Personally, I'm very much against censoring art (and games definitely fall under the umbrella of art), and so would say yes they should. However, once you get into the extremes of the genre (if you can call it that), it gets more difficult to back up your position. But can a line be sensibly drawn? I'd say that even in these extreme cases, such art should be allowed to exist. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

After careful deliberation, I'd have to say I'm completely with you. With games that contain more relatively "socially acceptable" criminal acts (e.g. street fighting) it's easier to find your position. However, when it comes to more extreme criminal acts such as rape, the decision becomes more difficult. In the end, I came to the decision stated above, as even though I personally would never wish to play a game which is based around rape as I would find it an incredibly uncomfortable and repulsive experience, I don't think that gives me the right to judge whether such a game should even exist or not.

Exactly the same can be said for any other form of media. Just because you are personally repelled by a particular piece of media doesn't mean you should judge whether it should exist.

The main argument that people seem to come up with against such forms of media is its availability to those for whom it is not indended, usually involving age restrictions. My argument against that is that the regulation of such media is not down to the media itself or indeed the person who has created the media, but those people, bodies and organisations who have specifically been put in place to regulate its distribution and consumption. By that I mean if a piece of media intended for a specific audience reaches someone outside that audience with adverse effects, this is not reason to say that the media should not have been created in the first place, or that its creator needs to have restrictions placed up them. It means that whatever measures have been put in place to control the audience of the media need to be reviewed and reassessed.

So, in that way, whilst I personally would choose not to play a game about rape, and would hope that such a game has a suitable age restriction on to whom it is made available, I cannot in any reasonable way argue against its existence.

I hope all of that made sense. Feel free to ask me to clarify anything further.

Oh, and good debate starter, dude :-)

joebloggs said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree, and while I don't claim to be able to draw the line in question, I do believe that there is one. I don't think the difficulty in defining it is a good enough excuse.

My first issue is that since games are intended to simulate experience (unlike most other forms of art) by including a rape in a game you are suggesting that somewhere in the world there is someone to whom the idea of performing a rape holds some appeal, and that they should be allowed to indulge that desire. I find that very tricky to come to terms with.

The problem is exacerbated as games become more and more realistic, the experiences much more sensory and the line between reality and virtual reality harder to draw. It is not unusual for our legal system to make illegal activities that may (not necessarily will) eventually cause harm to others.

Drink driving seems to be a good example: if you get drunk then drive a car you are not definitely going to hurt anyone but the risk of damaging yourself and others is great enough that it has been deemed illegal.

Now, it seems to me that actively raping someone in an immersive simulation is the sort of thing that falls into that category. Whichever way you look at it you are desensitizing the act, and removing the consequences. Now while a large portion of the population might be able to deal with this psychologically, I'm guessing that they coincide almost entirely with the portion of the population who find the idea of simulating a rape absolutely repulsive and so wouldn't play the game anyway. Those left over will include people who are both unable to make the distinction and who are likely to be influenced to the point of harming people in the real world. I think there are sufficient cases of gamers recreating horrific gaming scenes in the real world to support this case.

I don't think this is censoring art. There are a few areas that I think are particularly grey here. For one, preventing art from being publicly available (or at the very least commercially available) is very different from preventing someone from being creative in the first place. There is also the line between art as passively absorbing a representation of the world, presented creatively through a medium in order to contain more meaning than is apparent at first glance, and art(?) as an active simulation of reality.

It seems to me that the closer an immersive gaming experience comes to reality, the closer the legality of what you can do in virtual reality should be to what you can do in reality. Rape seems to be far enough down the line that even a not particularly realistic simulation is probably dangerous enough to consider banning.

Agreed - good debate starter!