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The Console Wars: Expanding into Politics

Here's food for thought-what if we consider the "Console Wars" don't apply only to our realm of Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, and they can be expanded into another war that's been arguably going on longer then the other one: the one between us, and politicians. The arguments go back and forth-politicians come forth claiming that we, as gamers, have been tainted by our exposure to mass violence through such titles as Call of Duty, while some gamers refute back that all politicians aim to strip away human rights.

This is probably the best picture for this blog.

Like I discussed in the first entry in this "Console Wars" series, the reasoning for the conflict between owners of the various game consoles is a form of otherization, which is akin to "isms" such as racism and sexism, where one group of people singles out another for being different, and thus creates them as the "other" from themselves. Again, just a reminder, I don't think that "consolism" is nearly as bad as the atrocities that stem from racism and such, but that more so the basis for them both happening is similar. In gaming, some people may look at Nintendo players and say that "oh they only play kiddie games", or they may argue that "mature games aren't meaningful". Grouping people/things like this is the basis of otherization, and just comes from human nature.

Now, let's move beyond this world of only the "Big Three", and into another world, of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. This is a world that is actually very similar to our own of gaming-they have conventions where they announce what they plan to focus on in the future, as well as their "new hardware", aka, nominees for positions in Congress or the presidency. Joking aside, I feel that in recent years, I've seen the political race become less about issues and more about "they're wrong and I'm right". Admittedly, I don't follow politics as much anymore, since I've quit doing debate, but while I was in it, it seemed as though politics was trending towards this. Each side just seems to want to talk about why they're right, instead of real, open discussions about the issues between both parties. 

This isn't to say that there isn't anything meaningful in today's political dialogue-there are politicians who do good things on both sides of the political race. Anyway, the fact of how these two worlds are similar isn't my real argument today-it's how they interact with each other. 

Fight!

In recent years, we've unfortunately seen what seems to be more and more violent atrocities, from the Sandy Hook shooting to the attack at the youth camp in Norway in 2011. Almost immediately after some of these awful events, we see someone in a governmental position come forward and decree that it happened because the killer had played Call of Duty or Mass Effect 3. With the Sandy Hook shooting, because the mass media pointed out that the shooter's brother(who they falsely assumed to be the killer at first) "liked" the Facebook page for Mass Effect, BioWare and the gaming industry came under attack for being responsible for the attack. However, from anyone who would look at the situation logically(even from a non-gamer), this attack wouldn't make sense-Mass Effect is about SAVING lives, and takes place in a fictional universe far into the future, with there not being any sort of justification for the killing of young people. But, because it's a video game, the media and political sphere jumped in on it because of the tiniest connection-this is their otherization, assuming that video games are the cause of such awful atrocities. 

There are also statements from politicians who say that video games in general cause violence, because they are a sort of "simulator to practice on" (Democratic California Senator, Dianne Feinstein). Before I go into why this is wrong, let's actually look at their side for a second-politicians of this nature most likely watch footage of games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, without the vast array of other experiences that gaming offers. These are people who see this as a new, strange phenomenon, and are opposed to it because it is different. That's the whole point-they're blaming these atrocities on something different, only because one little sector of it can help a killer train to kill people. What about books, though? There are plenty of books out there that detail terrorism, and even how to use and operate artillery. Should all Tom Clancy novels be banned now because they can teach us how to fight wars? Of course not, they're simply exploring a medium, and have the complete right to do so under the First Amendment.

Books, movies, and video games use violence as a medium to elicit a response from the person who is reading, watching, or playing. They're not meant to say "yes, war is great, let's kill people", but just a way of explaining or exploring something. Titles such as Spec Ops: The Line and Metal Gear Solid use war as a plot device to tell a story, but don't justify war at all-they only serve to show how violence and war can be destructive, and showcase men who work to prevent war, not escalate it. We play these games to experience these things that we most likely aren't going to see in our normal lives-they provide us with satisfaction, knowledge, and accomplishment, things we strive for as humans. Some people in government seem to ignore this fact, and choose only to look at the negative side of things, as though our entire culture is a bane of humanity.

It's not the evil in gamers...or politicians...it's the evil within our human nature that makes us otherize and assume that if one person on your side is bad...all of you are bad.

That's not to say that this war is one-sided: gamers can be equally otherizing. We are exposed much more to the vast unique experiences of the gaming world, and are thus more more strong minded about it. Most politicians have most likely, again, only seen footage of violent games. Although the burden is on them to do research before speaking out against something, the fact is that mature games are the most popular critically and commercially today, so of course their researchers would focus more on them before games like Skylanders. We can't assume that they know everything we know, as they need to get the gist of an argument, considering they need to have a definitive stance on many, many arguments in today's political world. Although they should have more research done on a subject before talking about it, we as gamers should at least understand why they may have an opinion that is almost blatantly untrue, because assuming all politicians are out for gamers' throats makes us no better than them.

Going with that argument, from what I've also seen, it seems half the time that more gamers assume conservatives are all against violent video games, and lean more towards the liberal side of things. I know people are open to have their political preferences, but I just hope people realize that the hate for video games isn't one sided-the simulator quote I put above was from a Democratic senator. My parents are both ultra-conservative, and watch Fox News a lot. However, they've allowed my two brothers under the age of 15 to play Call of Duty, and let me play Dead Space when I was 15 as well. I'm not trying to bash liberals at all here-there are people in both political parties who make the right decisions and work for a better America. I just hope that gamers don't otherize one party into being gaming haters, because that again doesn't make us any better than the politicians who say all of us are going to end up murderers.

This topic is definitely more serious than the general "console wars", since we're talking about people labeling others as murderers, and those who restrict human rights. In the end, the real thing that we as gamers should realize is that politicians are also human beings, and aren't perfect. As for politicians, the best they can do is to look more into matters before jumping to conclusions, and not blame every atrocity for the latest new thing-once, when Adam Sessler was interviewed by Fox News, he talked about how things like opera and rock and roll were attacked in their time periods for being something new and different, which made them a target for explaining wrongful actions. Video games are no different, and we should recognize this as gamers. We can write letters to our Congressman explaining our sides of the story, and the good games have done. However, the best thing we all as humans can do, is to not otherize the other faction-in the console wars, and this war between politics and video games, it's not that one side is good and one side is bad: it's of how people on both sides choose to interact with the other. Not all politicians are game haters, nor are all game players murderers and thirsty for blood. The faster we recognize this, and start open discussions, the better our society will be. 

At least this Senator has our back...right?...

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