Monday 16 November 2009

They are pixels, not people

Mild controversy during the week I was on holiday: Is burning a picture of a baby morally equivalent to burning a real baby? Discuss.


CPL said...

I would actually call MW2's efforts a resounding success. Civilian slaughter is nothing new to gaming (Carmageddon, for instance, reveled in it)... why is MW2 any different? Because finally, at last, a mainstream game successfully manufactured suspension of disbelief. By having their pixel-people scripted with facsimiles of suffering and virtual desperation, they remove the 'Black Knight' element from the simulated damage we've been doing to polygon people for years. Tom's description of going from "Game On, bonus points for nuns and orphans" to visceral repulsion shows how well that segement of the game worked. Now, perhaps in context it was spurious or tangential... but it can be done.

On a side-note, I can't help wondering if some of the strong reaction from the general press/public is because a lot of people are still stuck with the idea of "computer games are trivial entertainment", and any attempt by developers to explore serious concepts, or elicit genuine emotion, is seen as exceeding their mandate to produce lightweight distractions.

Pelto said...

I thought that it was a pointless scene.

It would have been far more affective if you were a hapless civilian stuck in the airport with those terrorist. The only part that I really liked about the mission is how all the flights are delayed as you walk down the stairs. Other than that your forced to march instep with the thugs around you, and pull the trigger or not, and then when you get outside it's strait COD:MW2 action with the SWAT guys. They didn't even have the balls to make you play and shoot your gun so it's barely a statement in my books if it can be skipped.

It's only real purpose was to give the Russians a reason to be mad with the U.S., making it an extended cut scene as far as I'm concerned.

x said...

I've gunned down innocent people in GTA3. Is that as morally wrong as gunning down innocent people in real life? Of course not. The same is true with this baby stuff.

Andrew Doull said...

All: The answer, of course, is that on one level it is. Read for a more complete explanation.

I picked a burning a picture of a baby because Dan Gardner uses an example of early on in the book where someone runs into their burning house to try to rescue the photos of their family. I suspect the reason reactions to this are so in contrast is that (borrowing the terms from Risk) the Head can distinguish between photos and reality, whereas the Gut cannot. The scene is initially distasteful, but the more you analyze it, the less distasteful it becomes (unless you stick with your gut reaction).