February 8, 2007

Cut and Run

On February 2, Dennis McCauley ran a column over at Joystiq suggesting that the ESA, gamers and game developers back away from supporting "Super Columbine Massacre RPG." On February 7, GamePolitics ran a column worrying that "Manhunt 2" could cause a massive PR hit to the industry. The overall impression given by these is that games that generate this level of controversy bring an undue level of attention to the games industry, and that by supporting and developing games like this, we are doing a disservice to the industry.

Now, I like Dennis McCauley. He's done an amazing job of covering the political side of gaming news since starting the GamePolitics. Hell, he's even linked to me a few times. But in this case, I feel that his statements are doing more of a disservice to the industry than anything else, and we need look no further than Doug Lowenstein's farewell speech at DICE. I may disagree with a lot of how Doug did things at the ESA, but there is one thing that he did that I will always respect him for. To quote:
“It is a fight worth fighting, it’s a fight I’m proud to fight, and we need to keep fighting. But in my view there has been nothing more important that the ESA has done than putting its money and resources out there to defend your artistic freedom. And sometimes that’s not easy. Plenty of things are put out that are art, that don’t necessarily ennoble the culture, but they’re protected. We made a decision at the ESA that we’re going to defend constitutional freedoms no matter what. And I think we’ve done that, and we’ll continue to do that.”
I may hate "Manhunt," but is it any less deserving of protection than the works of Robert Mapplethorpe? I may think that "SCMRPG" is the videogame equivalent of two kids in trench coats reciting emo poetry at their local Starbucks, but that doesn't make it any less of an artistic statement.

My biggest concern with the stance that Dennis has taken is that it opens the door for our critics. It says that we will not fight for our brethren. It gives them a place to get a foothold. It sets the games industry up to where in order to stay legislation-free, we have to put even more insane restrictions on what we can and cannot do and essentially self-regulate this industry into obsolescence.

Appeasement is not the answer. To paraphrase Beatrice Hall's tribute to Voltaire, I may hate every single thing about your game, but I will fight to the end to protect your right to make it and your player's rights to play it.


Kevin said...

I disagree. I think that a line has to be drawn somewhere. There are just some things that should not be made. Hiding under the weak argument that it is 'art' is cowardice. Ultimately if it walks like a duck and looks like a duck...
Just my 2 cents and I know there are some that will eviscerate me for it. And yes, I believe there is a difference between my right to free speech in what I'm saying here and the right to create whatever content you want under the title 'videogame','film' or 'art'.

Michael Russell said...

There was a fairly large discussion over Lowenstein's speech over at Shacknews last night as well.


My personal stance: A line in the sand created by anyone other than the artist can be an impediment to greatness, but if an artist creates something, that artist must also be willing to back up his creation.