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Game over...and over.

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Mark Kermode | 13:47 UK time, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

When someone seeking to generate a moral panic about corrupting video games attacks an article about the very subject of moral panics and video games simply to service their own agenda, then we are in disagreeably familiar absurdist territory.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    next they'll bring out games based on video nasties hust so they can ban them as well and the vicious circle continues...

    how about 3D nasties. Im sure you would love them Doctor K!

  • Comment number 2.

    next they'll bring out games based on video nasties just so they can ban them as well and the vicious circle continues...

    how about 3D nasties. Im sure you would love them Doctor K!

  • Comment number 3.

    You know Charlie Brooker's a fan of you, right? A little while ago, he was asking his followers on Twitter to suggest video games to you, and just recently he tweeted that you are the only man for the job of hosting Film 2010. Could you please do a show together? The ranting would be off the charts.

  • Comment number 4.


    Although, like Dr. K, I don't play video games, and wouldn't ever want to (not in a snobbish way, but I simply have no interest in them), I wouldn't be surprised if they become the training ground for movie makers of the future - Just as TV ad's were in the 70's and music videos in the 80's and 90's.

    What's the best example of a big-screen adaptation of a video game? Of the ones that I've seen, they've all been sub-standard. The movie version of Tekken, due for release later this year, already has an absurdly high rating on imdb.com.

  • Comment number 5.

    'Videogame nasties' are the new 'video nasties'.
    The majority of videogames are family fun.
    Sadly games like modern warfare 2 (and others) lack any type of real drama, comedy or meaning.
    Imagine if film skipped 60 years and almost started out with video nasties and action- that’s the state video games are in. Every big budget 'film like' game is Michael Bay (but worse).

  • Comment number 6.

    @DrK: Point well made, the same accusations have also been made against comics, rock music & dancing. Oh and please take the Film 2010 job! :)

    @wheatbisuit: Check out a current release "Uncharted 2" - it has a better script than Indiana Jones 4! (Not difficult I know). Also take a peek at an upcoming title called "Heavy Rain" on the PS3. They're doing their best to make that title emotionally engaging.

  • Comment number 7.

    Dear Mark,

    Despite being a big fan of yours, I sense a contradiction in your view about the ability of movies to influence people's values, behaviour and attitudes.

    You often lambast (rightly) e.g. The House Bunny, Michael Bay movies and the Judd Apatow oeuvre for encouraging girls/young woman to ape the brain-dead, fake-breasted, man-pleasing airheads featured therein. But when people query whether very violent movies might affect people's behaviour, you are adamant that they do not, and that to even entertain such a thought is in some way absurd.

    So which is it? If, as you say, leery misogynist movies risk encourage leery misogynism, then surely violent, sadistic, nasty films risk encouraging violence, sadism and nastiness?

  • Comment number 8.

    Good points - well made.

    One thing... Camera work?! In future please don't use those silly off centre cut away alternative angle shots. They're distracting and the sound changes with each cut like an old VHS pirate video nasty.

    Please take the Film 2010 job and resurrect the dying franchise... Wossy has dumbed it down too much and ruined it with his sycophantic, shallow interviews... Come on it's not Sky it's the BBC!

    If you ever do anything with Charlie Brooker that would be fantastic. The pair of you are the two best minds in their field. Combined it would be an interesting show to say the least...

    - Stuart
    http://www.stewzer.com

  • Comment number 9.

    Because Mark's a twerp, there's no link to the article to which he was referring. Here's his original article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/dec/11/mark-kermode-video-games and the spirited (if somewhat misguided) response is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/16/adult-videogames-sexual-violence-women

  • Comment number 10.

    Echo Stuart completely. The best thing would be for Charlie Brooker to repond to the "response".

  • Comment number 11.

    Those cutaways made it look as if you were remaking Zardoz.

  • Comment number 12.

    Those cutaways would look cool in 3D :)

    To be honest the genuinely good games to genuinely good films ratio is about equal. We spend most of our time complaining about the bad ones and celebrate the odd good one.

    If you think about it, a game has to engage you for 10-30 hours of play, but a film only needs 2.

    Not sure what i'm trying to say, someone help me.

    See you at the Edinburgh Cameo in a couple of weeks Dr K

  • Comment number 13.

    Dear Dr. K,


    You appear to be making a very flawed argument despite your recent experience.

    I'm happy with your comments on the video nasties as you earn the right to make a statement having been someone who has watched these movies and knows about them.

    But to comment on modern video games and make a comparison between them and video nasties when you haven't even picked up a control pad means that sadly you are comparing a work that you know almost nothing about.

    You should really play MW 2 (and don't worry there's a training level before the actual war play itself) and only then, once you have tasted the wine... you may make a comment.

    In fact, you may even change your mind about it slightly?

    Who knows?

    Could you compare love-making to fishing if you have never actually been fishing?

  • Comment number 14.

    A few of my friends have been saying that Kermode and Brooker should have kind of review show together. Maybe something along the lines of the Culture Show but being a bit more tongue in cheek and irreverent. Or maybe an odd couple style situation in which Mark wants to sit down and do a marathon Fellini marathon through the night but Brooker wants to play GTA and mime masturbate to his TV set. Hilarity ensues.

    As for CoD:MW2 I, and nearly all my friends, play it and we're all well balanced people. It can be slightly distasteful at times, especially the infamous airport level, but it's not going to psychologically damage people to make them crazed killers. Anyone that is affected by the game probably had psychological issues anyway and could be influenced by all manner of things. Didn't Charles Manson listen to The Beatles obsessively? We're not all going to go out and ban every copy of Abbey Road because of that, are we?

    Videogames serve as a moderate relief from the real world for man fans across the globe. It's be wrong to ban that because a very small minority of people may looking into them with an already twisted mind view and come to the conclusion that they need to start gunning people down.

    Also, DR K, I strongly recommend you put that CoD disc into a console and indulge in one of the best video games of our times. I promise you that you wont regret it.

  • Comment number 15.

    wheatbisuit ,the majority of games to which you are refering to, are those released for wii console,and indeed they are silly and funny.

    The rest of the games made for "hardcore gamers" are far from lacking drama or meaning.
    I'm guessing you never heard of the metal gear solid series,silent hill,resident evil,zelda,final fantasy,warcraft and many others including the recent(not yet released) heavy rain as mentioned by Brian,which by the way has a script of 4000 pages.Metal gear solid's story could make the best film writers envy.

    I'm not going to make this a knowledge about video games debate,but clearly you don't know much on the subject.
    As the doc said,if you don't know anything about a subject,you can ask someone that does.

  • Comment number 16.

    The one point I think Mark is very right about is that the impression of people who watch video nasties or play video games by those who don't always seems to be negative. I'm a 30 year old female and have always loved games. "defeis" is correct, there are some real gems on the games market nowadays with super drama and meaning! I watch films and play games to live a different life, if only for a few hours but can also appreciate that the product is someone's creative vision and there is real artistry to it. Does playing Assassins Creed or CoD:MW2 make us monsters? Does watching video nasties make me us monsters? I suspect not.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear The Good Doctor,

    I think you absolutely correct to link the video nasty scandal with the never ending video games will make monsters of all of us debate.

    Hypocrisy seems to be at the heart of this issue. I find it strange that on the one hand we are told by moral guardians and politicians that playing a video game where you are a western soldier running around various War on Terror settings killing terrorists is the height of depravity.

    On the other hand we are supposed to cheerlead 'our brave boys' when they are actually out there killing and dying in the real world War on Terror settings. I suppose it links into the problem with TV news where a news report can show lots of explosions and smoke but cannot show a corpse with its limbs blown off for fear of upsetting the viewer.

    It just confuses me. Is Modern Warfare's crime that it is too realistic, or not realistic enough?

  • Comment number 18.

    At my school Call of Duty is the most takled about subject, yet when I sk them about killing, their immediate response "There's loads of guns init!". They didn't complain about blood or the fact that they were killing people.
    They saw the game for what it was: Cheap fun where these are just virtual 3D people.
    This, in my opninion, proves Marky's point that fuss over video games are from people who now scarecly nothing about the game or film.

  • Comment number 19.

    Dear Dr K

    Thank heavens that at last, respected, educated critics are starting to talk about videogames without declaring them to be some sort of corruptive digital antichrist. Being a huge fan of both film and videogames I have also noticed the increasing similarities between the condemning of video nasties and the recent controversies surrounding the games industries. The problem in my opinion is the hypocracy of the majority of the reactionary public ready to condemn games. Having worked for a major games retailor for two years, let me give you an example of an all too common scenario: A beaming twelve year old approaches the counter with parent in tow, clutching the latest eighteen rated title. We explain to the parent that because of the rating, the game isn't suitable for their under-age child as it contains strong violence, nudity, language, or any combination of the above to say the least. The usual response from mummy dearest is 'I know it's terrible' (as she buys it anyway), or 'I know but they've got all the others'. This is something that we are confronted with everyday. The fact is that, due to the challenge twenty one scheme it's become almost impossible for a child to buy anything with an age rating that would prohibit them. If an under-age child has access to an eighteen rated game, in most cases it is because a legal guardian has provided them with that access. The video recordings act is in place to give parents control of what their children watch and play at home. As long as parents continue to ignore this basic parental right, the situation surrounding games is only going to get worse. Whether games are a corruting influence to minors or not is irrelevent. Their are laws in place, as with films, that stop minors from getting hold of the games in the first place.

  • Comment number 20.

    I totally agree with Doctor K about video games....

    by the way is that a giant bafta award in the back ground?

  • Comment number 21.

    Moral panics are ridiculous. The cold hart fact is that in ANY medium there will always be one nutcase whose deluded interpretation will lead them to deadly things

    99.99% of people Read 'Catcher in the Rye' and thought it was a good book. However mentally disturbed Mark David Chapman saw it as a coded prophecy telling him to kill John Lennon.

    99.99% of people who watched 'Taxi Driver' saw a great film. But one guy thought the movie was a channel through which Jodie Foster would fall in love with him if he really shot the US president, which he did.

    ditto with Charles Manson and the Beatles White Album

    I think moral panics, and the calls for banning happens, because a group likes to think that they can stop random evil acts, and it gives them a sense of being in control.

    Will someone somewhere be inspired by a videogame to kill someone, Yes. But you will always get the solitary nutjob. It's no reason to 'ban games'

  • Comment number 22.

    computer games are only nasty-like.

    there isn't really THAT much fuss being made is there? just a few nutters.

    the press are just trying to make something out of nothing. nostalgic for a proper public outcry.

  • Comment number 23.

    i mean 'the press AND KERMODE are nostalgic for a proper public outcry'

  • Comment number 24.

    @Surinderism66 - I think you've missed the point Mark was making. He wasn't talking directly about video games, you may have heard him re-iterate this point several times in the video, he was talking about the way people talk about them. He is making the point that when people are so vehemently against something, or so apparently scared of it, it's usually because they know very little about it, therefore when people whip up a scare, it's worth being sceptical about that and paying attention to people who actually have an in-depth knowledge of the subject.

  • Comment number 25.

    You do realise that the tabloid (The Sun) press will take your 'video games are the modern video nasties' comment out of context.

  • Comment number 26.

    I love video games but I have to take issue with defeis's statement that: "Metal gear solid's story could make the best film writers envy".

    I've played all MGS games since the PS1 and think they are superb but that statement is just patently wrong. The MGS series is full of overblown pseudo-philosophy, plot holes you could drive a bus through and was very much in danger of collapsing underneath it's own pseudo-psych-twaddle after the 2nd installment. The cinematic quality combined with superb gameplay made it what it was. If the rumoured movie is to succeed then the script will need trimmed down A LOT.

    A lot of "hardcorde" games 'lack meaning'. I say this as someone who plays a lot of video games, CoD:MW2 was an excellent game but it (and it's predecessor) was scripted like Black Hawk Down but without the heart. It *is* mindless action with a lack of drama to a certain extent, which is fine - that can work for an FPS. The first one had more grit in its delivery (post-nuke Helicopter scene). By and large though, games do not do this. GTA4 was an intriguing stab at a real character story but had that been a film script it would have been reviewed as having caricatured stereotypes and a lack of depth.

    Video games are getting there but the list you reeled off has nothing anywhere near what the "best film writers" would be worried by.

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps the often polarized and highly charged debates around this subject could be more constructive if the idea of influence or reinforcement were approached calmly, without just being dismissed or brandished hysterically.
    Instances of any form of culture could be regarded as reinforcing unpleasant and damaging attitudes and behaviour. There are certainly people capable of considering violent behaviour in real life, so the question of how far gaming can genuinely validate or embolden any kind of extreme tendency can reasonably be addressed sanely and without prejudice. I don't think it helps to deny it on the one hand or to regard it as an inevitability on the other: each position only makes the other more extreme in reaction.

  • Comment number 28.

    Contrary to the recommendations of many a subscriber, I don't think it is a good idea for you to play Call of Duty. You'd only really find it fun if you had any interest in shoot 'em ups in the first place (which you clearly don't). Call of Duty doesn't have anything else to offer other than the obvious - it has a story derivative of ALL of the mediocre action films and the characters are cut from the same crop.

    The kind of things you can get up to in video games are, out of this world, despicable. But all it simply comes to is this - If you can't do it in a game then where else can you?

  • Comment number 29.

    If there were any games around, of the modern type, I could suggest to you they would be Fumito Ueda's Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. In fact I will go all out and recommend them to you.

  • Comment number 30.

    I also support the Kermode/Brooker show suggestion. Great idea.

    On the subject at hand: some people will never understand computer games, and will treat them with suspicion and hostilty when it is convenient to do so. This seems to often be the way with emerging technology.

    Even hyper-violent games exist in the 'this-is-not-real' part of *most* people's heads and are not going to cause them to go around murdering or molesting people. I can't say for everyone, and no-one can, so the government did the sensible thing: to restrict the most extreme games from younger (and therefore more impressionable, so the idea goes) people.

    Even moderately-objectionable, *popular* games such as like Modern Warfare 2 (as opposed to some extreme, Hentai game chosen at random) are going to be harmless to most people with their heads screwed on. It gives them release from some other aspect of their lives and enables them to relax.

    In fact, I'd go as far to say that games can improve not just the player's mood, but also 'useful' things like, handto-ey co-ordination, spatial awareness, social skills (in online games), knowledge of history, evolution, economics and trade (e.g. in Elite, Civilization, Pirates! etc..)

    Nothing so grand can be said about the effects of viewing any of the recent Hollywood blockbuster snooze-fests; in fact, they often make me question the worth of having senses at all.

  • Comment number 31.

    FYI - Both games are for the Playstation 2.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ahhh 'reductio ad Hitlerum'... the classical indication of a truly exhausted argument. Godwin's Law FTW!!

  • Comment number 33.

    @Miracle Mile
    Tekken the film only has 43 votes is far too few to judge it so far. It'll probably be a let down.

    As for games being turned to films, it is not a way to validate a game's quality. Some of the best games are simple puzzles, eg Tetris.

    At the end of 'No Country For Old Men', to paraphrase the speech it is mentioned that violence has always been around. Be it 'The Video Nasties' or computer games of modern times, violence of sorts has always been a feature of entertainment.

    If anyone has ever read Marquis De Sade '120 Days of Sodom' just to name one example, that there are things in literature which as shocking or even more shocking than video games or film. One of my favourite novels 'Blood Meridian' features violence which is as horrific as anything I have ever seen in a Video Nasty but is regarded as one of the finest novels of all time. Violence by it's self is meaningless, it's validity as a form of art is all dependant on context, which is what is seemed to have been forgotten for the best duration.

  • Comment number 34.

    the only part of modern warfare 2 i liked was the bit where you kill all the civilians, but i'm pretty sure if you sent me out into the street with a gun, i wouldn't kill anyone, and most of the people who have played that game wouldn't.

    people need to realise that videogames, like horror films, aren't real.

  • Comment number 35.

    another thing that annoys me is that they focus on things that aren't actually the point of the game. i remember when the game 'bully' came out, it had to be renamed and it was widely criticised by the whingers, despite the fact that the game, while it involved beating up kids at your school, was actually against it, and that you got really boring and tedious punishments for starting fights.

    they always bring up the grand theft auto arguement, and how you can kill prostitutes, but it's not the point of the game, but rather 'something you can do when you're not playing the game properly'. the point is to live out the gangster storyline, and much like gangster films, there's some killing involved.

  • Comment number 36.

    The first comment on the response article from BobbyFoster sums it up pretty well:

    "Does it matter if it's a straw man or a straw woman?"

  • Comment number 37.

    This moral panic thing is getting tedious & I'm surprised to see the Guardian printing something that would be more at home in the Daily Mail. As a gamer & a human I do think that this Rapelay game referred to in the article is pretty shocking & not something I'd want to play, but it is something that is not available in this country and there is no way in hell the BBFC or PEGI would rate it. That is why governing bodies like that are there - if there is any content in any media that may be unsuitable they are there to make that decision in a reasoned, balanced, informed & intelligent way, not jumping to conclusions in 5 minutes. For people to tar the whole gaming industry with the evil brush just because of one game is just laughable & in fact sounds quite childish.

    I've been playing games for 20 years & worked in games retail for 4. Over that time I've known lots of gamers & lived through all the moral panics from Postal, Doom & Thrill Kill through Manhunt to GTA IV & Modern Warfare 2. I don't personally know anyone who has suddenly become a morally bankrupt individual from playing any of the more controversial titles. Occasionally there is content I personally find objectionable (eg. being a Socialist I tried the original Modern Warfare but switched it off when quotes from Norman Schwarzkopff & Ronald Reagan appeared on the screen) but this is just my own judgement on the content - I didn't condemn any of my friends for playing it or accuse customers in my store of being warmongering right wing nutters.

    In any creative media one man's fear will be another man's high, 99.9% of the population are intelligent enough to make their own judgement on what they want to watch, play, read or listen to & we can have reasoned debate about differing viewpoints just like on this blog. I find it sad that the news media give so much creedence to kneejerk opinions & uninformed soundbites without taking the time to have a balanced discussion around the issues. Rant over!

  • Comment number 38.

    This is a VERY strange coincidence. I have just posted a rather sizable chunk on my own blog about videogames culture. I am a gamer, maybe the woman who wrote the response article should check it out. Also, I mention this blog and the radio show in passing, feel free to check it out; http://www.jameselliottjackson.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 39.

    The inherent dilemma is, as Mark points out, that there is really only one party which can you give you an honest and seasoned opinion on the medium.
    However, that same party could very well be blinded by bias and an overprotective disposition.
    The sensationalists gets all the press, and there is never any substantial discourse to be had since the two fractions are basically just flinging their fecal matter at eachother.

    I think Mark's simile is accurate in the sense that an isolated part of a wider spectrum is being pointed at and demonized for reasons just as misjudged as they are ignorant.
    Being a decently well-versed connoisseur of cultural history; my impression of the conflict is that of an artform growing out of its infancy.
    The pattern is not unheard of. Every major step forward in artistic creation has been met with both open arms and closed fists.
    Now, the one differential factor in this particular case is that the interactive arts suffers from a significant and currently inescapable ailment:

    - The commercial market is targeted at adolescents, and a majority of the industry is riddled with juvenile developers.

    But I make a point of adding "commercial" to the calculation.
    Because as anyone who's ventured beyond the mainstream can attest to; there is some magnificent work to be found.

    Take for example the morbidly charming comedy of Tim Schafer's "Grim Fandango" -- the tale of an undead travelling agent who uncovers a web of corruption in the land of the dead.
    Or what about Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyns "The Path" -- an allegorical account of Little Red Riding Hood with allusions to psychosexual imagery and a haunting combination of adaptive mileus and soundtrack.
    Another work worthy of ones attention is Ken Levine's minute dissection of Ayn Rand's flawed and inhumane philosophies in "BioShock" which mixes sociopolitical commentary with imaginative steampunk art-direction and an engrossing horror setting.

    The sooner these thematically profound and aesthetically sublime creations penetrate the mainstream, the better.
    Of course there will always be detractors who choose to point out the seedy and unwholesome aspects of the medium, and those of us with a genuine love for games shouldn't shun these critiques or approach them with scorn and insult - but confront and debate the issue.

    It's time to take the bull by the horns and not ride; but charge through the storm and celebrate the multifaceted possibilities of artistic expression.
    Myself with a mouse and keyboard held aloft.

  • Comment number 40.

    A statement like "trust the fans" is rather imprudent. The lady had an agenda but in video game terminology "you got pwned"

  • Comment number 41.

    Hmmm, I'm in two minds about this. I don't think it's as clearcut as either side of the debate would have you believe. On my animation course we did a media module, I remember there being two dynamics between the film/game makers and the audience. The first was called the "hypodermic" model, i.e. bad ideas are injected straight into the mind of the audience with zero filtering. To put it another way, monkey see monkey do. Or to use the computer analogy [G.A.G.O] garbage in, garbage out. Many critics are quite sniffy about this idea, and there are arguments for and against.
    I forget the term applied to the alternative, it was something like the "Uses and interpretations" model in which the audience has total autonomy over which ideas they accept and which ideas they reject.
    Now as others have rightly pointed out, for the most part only the people with an already shaky grasp of reality, the mentally disturbed or sociopathic would play a game in which you have sex with a prostitute and then shoot her in the head to save on game credits and continue that philosophy into their everyday life.
    However it's not without precedent. TV advertising while not affecting us on a concious level can be proven to work better than merely hoping the audience buys your product.
    On a more sinister level, [at the risk of resorting to Godwin's law] Hitler's final solution wouldn't have been made palatable to an entire nation without the help of Goebbels, his propaganda minister, who created films to heighten the general idea that what he was doing was right.
    When Prof. Stanley Milgram attempted to recreate those conditions with his famous experiment, it was assumed that around 25% or less of his test subjects would administer a lethal electric shock to a stooge actor simply because an authority figure in a labcoat told them it was necessary. The experiment (which has been repeated many times since) has a hit rate of more like 80%.
    My conclusion is that it all depends how pervasive and persuasive the message is. (Apologies for the long post!)

  • Comment number 42.

    PS. Just found out the alternative to the "Hypodermic" model.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypodermic_needle_model
    It's called "The Uses and Gratifications" model.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uses_and_gratifications_theory
    Any thoughts on all that?

  • Comment number 43.

    dear Niall

    The difference between video and tasteless gross out comedies . Is that video nasties are obvious set in what are obviously are fantasy worlds and complete escapism, zombies and satanic beings do not exist in the real world. Gross out comedies on the other hand are set in a worlds very similar to that of their target audience one that they might aspire to live in(i.e A world of teenagers or young adults just learning about the complexities of social interaction).

  • Comment number 44.

    @ Cadwern.

    Many video nasties are NOT set in a 'fantasy world'. What makes most horror films work as horror per se is that they are set in the real world. The ghouls, ghosts, zombies and/or other monsters are introduced as a corrupting force to expose the fears and failures of a society. Putting ordinary human beings in incomprehensible situations acts as an exercise to exorcise the inadequacies of that society and also the character/s, which are of course, the product of it. A fantasy 'world' would be something akin to the one in Avatar.

  • Comment number 45.

    @ liquidcow succinct analysis. nuff said.

  • Comment number 46.

    Jim
    Ok the statement about metal gear solid was a little over the top,but its only to give emphasis that games at least nowadays are far from lacking good story..at least most of them...you played mgs and you should know better that anyone else what i'm talking about.
    I think the same rule applies in the movies..out of 10 movies ,6 of them will be rubbish and the rest watchable,decent or even pretty good.

    As music or any other art that can have extreme form,video games are a very easy target for people that are looking for someone to blame.We've seen that happening before and dr.K's arguments are right on spot on this one.

  • Comment number 47.

    A lot of people have said things like 'only a few people' could confuse (violent) fantasy with reality. I don't think mental instability, violent impulses and tendencies to lose track of the distinction between real life and internal life are quite that rare. Even if they are were, people with those problems still exist and are part of society, it's a bit thoughtless to steamroller other possibilities out of existence just because one is confident of one's own ability to resist any kind of delusion or influence.

  • Comment number 48.

    It doesn't really sound like a response to Kermode's article, but rather someone taking any opportunity to get their idea out there. But that she has used Kermode's article as a counter point makes her sound misinformed and a little ignorant.

    I can understand how she'd want to get her message out into the world, but perhaps this response was not the best way? It sounds like the kind of scare article you'd read in the Daily Mail that ignorant people would read and go away thinking how terrible Mark Kermode is because he said such and such, but he didn't...

  • Comment number 49.

    I wholeheartedly agree that video games are vindicated now just as video nasties were, and before that music and literature. It seems that as time progresses the youngest medium for art becomes the easy target for demonization. There are a small selection of video games which are indeed reprehensible, but none of them are major or commercial titles. It's unfair to lambast video games as a whole for these few titles as, guaranteed, there are films and books which never receive publication or distribution for their content. However due to the advent of the internet it is easy to find and acquire such prohibited or banned content which spans everything from the anarchists cook book to uncut copies of banned or censored films and excessively graphic video games.

    I'd also like to add to the mentions of Heavy Rain which is due out in a matter of months. I urge you to take a look as it promises to be more than just a game but possibly a truly interactive movie experience with immense depth.

  • Comment number 50.

    1) Video games are not neccesairly video nasties, because not all video games are 'nasty.' It's easy to think they are, because so much attention is given to the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, but that's neglecting the likes of Super Mario or Pokemon which, ironically, are the best selling games of all time. I'm sure Mark didn't mean to suggest all video games are inherently violent, but it needs some clarification.

    2) As for asking the fans, I think sometimes a bit of objectivity is needed (if that's even possible: video games are, after all, 'art'). Of course a video game fan is going to support video games in times of a national panic - they're video game fans! Hardly the most unbiased of people. But at the same time, there's no point asking a stuffy politican to deem whether a video game is good or bad. Who should judge? Should we even be judging?

  • Comment number 51.

    Modern media has always been the subject of 'scapegoatery'(if scapegoatery isn't a word, it is now), lets not forget that Elvis Presley was condemned for his so called "impure" stage performances. some people will go a hundred miles out of their way to condemn a cheese sandwich. the fact of the matter(and by fact I mean my opinion of the matter)is that much in the same way one mans rubbish is another mans treasure, one mans video game to pass an evening of boredom is another mans scapegoat to put all the evils of the world upon. now if you'll excuse me, i need to go play some call of duty, listern to some rage against the machine and eat those evil grapes that incite terrorism.

  • Comment number 52.

    actually, to add from my last comment... at least in video games like call of duty, we are simulating something exciting we cannot otherwise do. is nobody else concerned that right now, millions of people around the world are on facebook trying to manage a virtual farm?

  • Comment number 53.

    i judge alarming conclusions of how certain video games and/or films affect their consumers in a corrupt way rather critically. however i am keen on dr. K's response to Niall's comment (7. At 3:44pm on 19 Jan 2010) as it appears to be quite disarming.

  • Comment number 54.

    Dear Doctor K,
    Everyone appears to be distracted by camera angles, seemingly more intrested in camera work then intelligent substance.

    Critics of violent video games need to understand that the exsessive violence in an otherwise intelligent video game like, Bioshock (quite good, Dr. K. you should look it up it's an upcoming blockbuster) is necissary for the tone and enviroment of a game.
    Just like any video nasty, what you see on the screen is suppost to make you feel a certain way, it's an emmersive experience, that for the most part is a succesful companion to the plot.
    Video nasties, as far as I'm concerned are to me, "experience movies" where the emotions you feel are more important than the immorality or grossness of what you're watching.

    I'm a teen, and have watched more video nasties and played more gore-fest videogames then I'd like to admit to, but I have yet to go on a murderous rampage...

  • Comment number 55.

    wheatbisuit, I would like to thank you for proving Mark's point. I know I'm not the first one on here to say it but if you are going to make remarks like that you should really attempt to access the media you are referring to. I won't go on because there are already plenty of meaningful contributions above.

    the most exciting of which is the prospect of Heavy Rain and where this can take interactive storytelling. I played a demo at the Eurogamer Expo and it really does seem to have the mechanics right for having a really engaging, interactive, cinematic story. It's interesting that it has deviated from the open world aspect that games have been pushing in recent years, an aspect that really sets games apart from other forms of narrative and character building. In its place it offers an experience much more attuned to a film. a liniar story but with a multitude of alternative routes through a conversation or conflict. Until the game is released it won't be known just how much of an impact the player makes, but if the Demo levels were anything to go by, I must have seen about seven people complete the scene (along with myself) and everyone approached it completely differently and therefore had very different experiences.

  • Comment number 56.

    On the subject of Heavy Rain - while I partially enjoyed their previous work "Fahrenheit" immensly, it also suffered from a seemingly terminal ambition to be cinematic rather than interactive.
    And personally I don't see games as a medium comparable to film.
    It has more in common with music, in the sense that the fundamental mechanics of a game are presented to you as tools of the craft in very much the same way as musical instruments serve as the medium for musical expression.
    The rules and restrictions of the digital world could be likened to the notes of a musical composition.
    That system is available to you, and acts more like a proposed course of action for any particular piece rather than a strict regulation. So if you'd like to, you can deviate from the construct and act out all your dormant aspirations of untamed ingenuity.
    - Any narrative progress and/or emotional impact of a good game lies with the player's will to test the boundaries of its environment.
    An example from personal experience would be Mirror's Edge, which could be described as analogous with a jazz concierto by John Coltrane.
    It's smooth, it's cool, it's adventurous and daring, but always in control.
    So yes, I'd say that Mirror's Edge is the gaming worlds answer to the saxophone.
    And I urge you to pick it up and play.

    P.S
    If everything else fails, try percussions -- the musical equivalent of Counter-Strike.
    D.S

  • Comment number 57.

    A couple of people have misunderstood my earlier comments and assume that I am not a games player.
    Truth is I have been for 20 years and studied video games at university.

    My problem with the medium is that the majority of the better ‘film like’ releases actually pale in comparison to movies. See what Jim has posted especially, and Ramus Windengard above.

    Watch The last king of Scotland and compare it to Resident Evil 5. Both have similar themes, both set in Africa, both have graphic scenes. Scotland is an excellent movie with meaning and drama, RE5 is almost pornographic in comparison. The most fun I had with RE5 was chain combo’ing African villagers for high scores in the mini game Mercenaries.

    The main appeal of a video game is how it plays. Substitute gangsters, army men and zombies for mushroom men, fairies and Smurfs. If the game plays well it doesn’t matter what the theme is, i.e. Mario bros.

    What the cinematic part of the games industry really needs are writers and directors from film to harness the market appeal publishers are trying to achieve and put that directly into the gameplay, to put some substance and meaning to all the mindless killing.

    Personally i'd love to see gaming have it's 'Citezen Kane', but we are a long way from that.

    No one has to religiously defend all video games; there is nothing wrong with being a critic.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think there are plenty of games which made substantial points through the inherent violence.
    But Resident Evil 5 is something of a poor example and comparison I'd say, as it sports one of the most incongruous intrigues in the entire history of the medium.
    A better focal point would be Far Cry 2; set in a fictional part of Africa and sharing "Last King's" thoroughly nihilistic approach to its subject matter. It remains one of the few commercial titles we've seen with an upfront political ambition.
    Half-Life 2 is also worthy of mention, as it's practically defined the proficiency of interactive narrative for many years to come.
    And while I agree on that the medium needs to grow as a hole, I resent this perception of it as unsophisticated by nature.
    I don't mean to speak for anyone, but there is a gist which suggests such an opinion.


  • Comment number 59.

    After "Wheatbisuit's" (where's the 'c') argument above comparing Last King of Scotland to Resi Evil 5 I feel abhorred as a gamer and film fanatic! Resi is and has always been an action game whereas the LKoS has a basis upon factual events and isn't just a set-up for some kind of action sequence. video games are their own artform and truly deserve the same respect other mediums are afforded!

    As for gaming having its' citizen kane moment, I think it has actually had many over the years and the goal posts keep shifting. Take Halo for instance, after the flood has been released and you can literally walk by your enemies without their retaliation as they're now fighting against the scourge you've unleashed. How about Deus Ex when you discover your brother has been working against the government to help the oppressed and you're urged to flee but if you've got the gall you can take out the android agents coming to eliminate you and your brother?

    Video games have just as much to add to the film debate nowadays more though than some films. Mentioned somewhere above is how much better the game Uncharted 2 is than Indiana Jones IV. It's not that the game is groundbrakingly astounding but the script is what essentially makes the game, the same follows for assassins creed 2 which isn't necessarily a paragon of gaming but is so well constructed that the gameplay mixed with the narrative results in an immensely enjoyable experience!

    I could yammer on but it's almost half 4 and my alcohol consumption is clouding my grammar and dialogue options, suffice to say that games have sufficiently evolved that they matter as an artform in the same way film is regarded.

  • Comment number 60.

    Mark - I would just like to mention that at 46 I'm the same age as you and I'm a fairly avid video games player. Not a 'hardcore' player as the 'yoot' would have it, rather a hobbyist who enjoys some mindless zombie slaying from time-to-time on his Xbox 360 and Wii.

    I do wish you'd engage a little more with what is a not inconsiderable entertainment medium (and, dare I suggest it, art form), but I do applaud this video from you and the sentiments it contains. Video games will continue to suffer the slings and arrows of wilful misrepresentation from the likes of the Daily Heil and other mainstream media, partly out of ignorance and partly out of a hostility borne of fear. New entertainment channels - especially interactive ones - present nothing but bafflement to establishment media unable and/or unwilling to engage or even respond with anything other than a barely concealed contempt.

    Blaming video games for any number of social ills is as old as blaming video nasties before it - and we can usually find ignorant, grandstanding politicians out to score a few cheap behind most such attacks. While it might serve to provide lurid, sensational headlines for some broadsheet that really ought to know better (like the Grauniad), it does nothing whatsoever to contribute to a meaningful, informed discussion around what is now an established and undeniably major entertainment industry.

  • Comment number 61.

    the thing with videogames is that they're not as much about stories as they are about environments. that's not to say that they can't have a story, but in order for the experience to be truely immersive, it needs to take place in a believable world, and that's why games like left 4 dead, which has been criticised for lacking a story, is still extremely highly rated and popular, because it *feels* like you're trudging through small towns in a world where a rage-esque virus has taken over. the same applies for gta 4, while the storyline is good, it's not as good as the city you're in, which feels like a living, breathing city.

  • Comment number 62.

    This reminds me of the fuss surrounding the game "Mass Effect".

    Mass Effect is basically a Sci-Fi adventure role playing game in which the player explores the galaxy trying to solve a mystery based around the destruction of an ancient race who left only a few remnants of their civilisation behind.

    One of the key selling points of Mass effect was the immersiveness of character interaction, with cinematic style interactive cconversations and development of relationships with other characters within the game.

    The controversy was surrounding the fact that if the player developed a relationship to the point of romantic with certain other characters, a love scene was initiated.

    Now Fox News ran a report inwhich a journalist who had never played videogames, let alone Mass Effect, or even researched mass effect ran a report on it stating that this love scene demonstrated full nudity and sexual intercourse, with the player being able to interact with this scene and choose "what to do".

    In reality this love scene was just that, a scene. There was no player interaction in it, it wasnt a sex game, and there was no nudity involved. In fact it was reminiscent of James Bond love scenes, in which alot is implied but not shown, and camera angles hide the, ahem, naughty bits. It is purely cinematic.

    Theres a rather laughable debate on this video in which a professional games journalist tries to explain this to the reporter but is shouted down by reactionary, ill informed garbage from the Fox reporter:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKzF173GqTU&feature=related

  • Comment number 63.

    I particularly liked this post Dr K, and ill have you know i am an avid gamer and have been almost all of my memorable life, as well as an equally avid art cinema fan, and i am 100% positive that games as they stand now are either already, or will be in the very near future, a (recognized) form of art and are already by FAR more creative, original, and can even be more poignant compared to many films at the moment.
    In one of your podcasts recently i was stunned to see you recommend Max Payne to someone over a selection of other god-awful films as sending someone to the hell that is watching Max Payne should be a crime. Max Payne is a brilliant example of a game which had the story-line of a scorsese beater. The people who's job it is is to write the story-lines for video games clearly are on the same level as those who do so for films in many instances, and Max Payne, although a very enjoyable game, i believe was MEANT for the cinema, yet accidents happen and as it was the film had NOTHING in common with the game and bastardized its name forever. Other games also like Killer7 are more clear in their aim to bring art into videogames in a truly absurd David Lynch/Tikeshi Miike style (this was an example of a game that was almost so meant for the cinema it was painful to play as a game, it was like an 'interactive-dvd' release of a film at Blue Velvet's level).

    But on the subject of this post what i think is most relevant to say is that not all games have this artistic edge and are made souly on the basis that rampant violence = rampant fun. I believe it doesn't take much of a thinker to make the comparison between violent video games and violent movies. People who do not find entertainment in violence and gore will see most slasher films (the really mindless ones anyway) and video games as the same kind of entertainment; perverted trash. The only issue is that over time these people have come to acknowledge that although slasher films may seem pointless to them but they are still films and should be treated as films in the context that other movies are infact undeniably art and have had huge impact on the world of art. Yet when dealing with a video game, what history do they have to create a unbiased context to which they can argue against games from? To people familiar with games, the world of gaming and the true passion that can go into and come out of a game, this context is clear, but to those unfamiliar with them, this experience is yet to enter their lives and therefore they cannot express their opinion with the (very slightly) open mind that they cannot help but do on the topic of films.

    Lets not also forget that this coming bond between the world of cinema and video games is also clear in the amount of high-class celebrities and celebrity actors taking part in the roles of characters in video games. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas starred hordes of famed hip-hop artists including Ice-T (due to the games depiction of the ghetto culture) and also included such actors as Danny Dyer and Samuel L Jackson in leading roles, whereas the game before it (Grand Theft Auto Vide City) features such actors as; Ray Liotta, Tom Seizmore, Dennis Hopper, Burt Renynolds, Danny Trejo, Robert Davi, Lee Majors, Gary Busey and countless other recognized film actors! Even the game you featured in this post had Lance Henriksen in a lead role (he is becoming a regular to video game roles).

    Back on the topic of violent video games though, taking into account they are to be seen under the same light as horror films with only the purpose of supplying buckets of blood, it comes back to that same old discussion about that little shard of darkness many of us have and how we seem to express it through our longing for cinematic violence. It is about time it was recognized as something that isn't a sure-fire diagnosis for the psychotic serial killers among us... i thought we were past all this...

  • Comment number 64.

    to krn

    you make some really good points but i really don't think videogames and cinema are as closely related as you seem to imply. killer 7 has a fantastic and inventive storyline, and a really unsettling tone (much in the same vein as lynch or miike films), but it is videogame through and through, and the experience just would not work as a film.

    i don't get this obsession with trying to make videogames *like* cinema and vice versa. while i would love for there to be a genuinely brilliant film adaptation of a game (although i did enjoy doom), it's a very difficult thing to accomplish because videogame storylines tend to be more akin to books or tv series, as they span over several hours and contain several elements that don't necessarily tie in with the overall plot but are relevant in an indirect kind of way.

    i am still wishing they would release a stop-motion film of grim fandango, mind.

  • Comment number 65.

    I can see where Kermode is coming from when he says he doesn't have time to play games as I feel exactly the same way. I do play computer games but I hardly devote a lot of time to it and will usually only play a game in the story interests me.

    This is mostly because there're so many films I want to see and I know I won't be able to watch them all in my lifetime, which is something I find oddly depressing. Coupled with the fact that I've got umpteen TV box sets to watch and it's an impossible task to keep up with everything.

    All in all I guess I am snobbish in that I would much rather watch a film than play a computer game but with so many unseen gems that I need to see I don't really care. I hope I'm not alone in thinking this.

  • Comment number 66.

    Nice from-the-heart blog, Dr. Kermode. But surely the pinning-down of language without re-contextualisation of the specific and original intent is independent from the whole issue of whether films and games influence people(they do, right? Surely we're talking about the extent to which people are influenced by them). The assumption here is that they are synonymously for the same point.

  • Comment number 67.

    There has always been controversy over computer/video games. I remember back in 1994 the controversy surrounding an Amiga game called 'Cannon Fodder' for it's 'excessive violence and glorification of war'.

    When you look at what 'Cannon Fodder' looks like and considering it was a satire on war you'll realise how ridiculous the arguments against it were.

    Also the outcry over a PD game in 96 called 'Schoolyard Slaughter' (even though it was made in 1989 and was incredibly hard to find) because it was disrespectful of the Dunblane tragedy.

    People are always looking for excuses for evil/bad behaviour and they would rather believe it's something like rock music, horror films or violent games rather than something like bad parenting or gun laws.

    The amount of misrepresented reporting on games from news outlets is amazing. This is a good example from Fox, the woman who is criticising the game 'Mass Effect' for it's sexual scenes is asked if she has played it. Her answer, no, yet she is willing to attack and discredit the game. It's damaging and irresponsible journalism.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKzF173GqTU

    Games aren't made for just children, they are many advanced and well written games made by adults for adults. It's about time people realised this.

  • Comment number 68.

    This all reeks of the FOX scandal on Mass Effect's sex scenes. Calling the character a "sexist space pig" simply because he/she is getting alien tail on a spaceship is mind boggling. Did they skip the whole part where you have to build the relationship in a cordial manner? Shepard was no Captain Kirk!

    If "graituitous" is showing the left profile of a woman's exposed butt cheek, we're all doomed of ridiculous censorship in the near future.

  • Comment number 69.

    i'd not heard that about mass effect, but there was a similar deal when someone cracked gta san andreas and found the 'hot coffee' sex minigame, but to quote bill hicks, 'when did sex become a bad thing?'

  • Comment number 70.

    As a person thats played computer games since i was a child i can unequivocally say there are parallel's between the videogame industry and the film industry. The game Manhunt explored the art of violence as a provocateur and is every bit as gruesome and tastless as any of the video nasties. In fact Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt were devised to be the video nasties of their time.
    Games such as ICO are considered art, the game revolves around two characters, one saving the other, the sense of aloneness in the game is tangible and it's the antithesis of games you referenced such as Modern Warfare. The music is majestic and the story operatic, the ideas expressed in the game are groundbreaking in any art form, or any medium.
    Also i'd like to add that games are the only truly interactive art form, you can be morally ambiguous, you can change the course of the story with your actions, decisions or indecisions. In fact the first game to contain 13 different endings was Chrono Trigger in 1995, all of which were affected by dialogue choices, moral indication or time invested into the game.
    As a fan of both video games and films, i fully understand that video games will superceed films in terms of popularity, major production companys will start investing more and more money into games, as there are bigger returns. A renaissance is happening in the game industry, were it is shedding it's skin of being a market for geeks and lonely adolesents, in doing so it will permeate every corner of the market. Look at the Wii Fit, eventually it will revolutionise the way we exercise. Already we have arthouse games, subgenre games, games as entertainmen, games as provocation it will only continue to diversify.

  • Comment number 71.

    The point about video games, like anything else, is if you are brainless enough, immature enough, mental enough to actually try to emulate what you see happening within the fantasy confines of a video game...you're an idiot.

    However, wasn't the "video game nasty" 'Manhunt' linked directly to a murder? Soon after, the victim's mother embarked on a campaign against such games, and MPs including Keith Vaz joined her. But perhaps this still doesn't prove that games, intrinsically, are a direct causal link to violence; more another example of a knee-jerk reaction from human beings trying to find a cause to what is essentially a random act.

    PS: I speak as an avid gamer who is currently addicted to the war game, 'Ghost Recon' (the original). Yes it's fun being shot at, but no I don't think I'm a member of an elite fighting force.

  • Comment number 72.

    It's a fine line really, there are certain cases that completely justify censorship ie works that garner absolutly no artistic merit whatsoever, that are used solely as a means for exploitation and as a catalist for the general degradation of society as a whole. For instance Micheal Bay's entire body of work.

    But on a serious note thats the difference between something as exploititive and vile as Bum fights and the ideas expressed in Lars Von Triers The Idiot's. It's the intentions of the piece, whether it withholds a dramatic message or whether it's there just a means to derive sadistic pleasure from misfortune or suffering.

    Ironically it makes you question whether bumfights could of been justified if it was made by a luminary director that tried to show the lengths at which a human being is capable of, in the mist of a hopeless situation. It gets into that whole debate "it's art because i say it's art" i find that notion fasinating, good work Dr K on another thought provoking blog on censorship.

  • Comment number 73.

    I am a thrirty something executive and on again off again computer gamer. By on/off again I don't mean casual user, I mean I play them compulsively for a few months until they eat progressively more of my free time and then I will stop for a few months.

    I must play (relatively) a lot of games as I have played pretty much all the good games around (according to both my own opinion and online polls)I have played the game in question CoD2 (The nom de plume of Call of Duty 2 amongst gamers) and I have to say that as a non gamer, Dr Kermode is right on the money. The only people who can judge/comment with intelligence on games are those who play them.

    That also counts for people who say "I have never played games, I have no interest" as well as people who say that they lead to violence etc.Here is why.

    Had you not watched films (most likely due to the family nature of the cinema during your childhood) You may never experienced film, and therefore may have no interest. Yet here you are, an avid film watcher (So much so that you blog on a film critics website.) To judge something you admittedly know nothing about seems close-minded.

    This pales in comparison to people who assume they are actually bad for you. Some me any significant evidence that this is the case. Refer me to any reputable peer reviewed scientific journal containing a study that computer games affect morals, levels of violence or anything like that and I will at least consider your opinion. Otherwise you are basically in the same camp as a creationist.

    Too much gaming can be bad, you'll pack on the pounds and your health (and relationships) may suffer, but doing anything to excess has that effect.

  • Comment number 74.

    Oh, and regarding CoD2 there are two points which are worth watching. One, the ambush scene when your character is in a 4x4 when they are ambushed. If it was in a film, it would be a quite visceral experience if done in frentic wobbley cam.

    The main scene discussed in regards to the video nasties is the airport scene, in which your character is undercover with a group of criminals/terrorists who storm an airport, killing indiscriminately. To be honest, I thought this was a kind of comment on what constitutes going too far "To ensure our security" (Ie War on Terror, renditions etc etc)or was to debunk the Special Forces "combat is glorious" stereotype of the first game. The end of the game, with betrayal from within the military's own ranks seems to justify this.

    It was quite shocking, I spent some time processing this and decided that it felt as though the games designers had probably had this same discussion we are having now, but in more depth. It didn't feel like they just jammed in a bit where you kill civilians at all.

    Or perhaps I am overestimating them.....but I doubt it.

 

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