Saturday, December 30, 2006

Video Game Venom: "Gears of War" Review

Words fail me--and that's rare. Read this review of AOL's "Video Game of the Year," and think of what it is doing to the souls of millions of people around the world. Consider also the soul-less, amoral attitude of the writer. It utterly stuns me that human beings would spend countless hours in these hellish virtual environments. But, then again, humans are dreadfully fallen. It is even worse that this kind of cyber excrement is publicly lauded. It is one thing to hide vice and relish its evils secretly; it is quite another to shout it from the rooftops as does this article.

Well, I guess words did not entirely fail me. The last word goes to Scripture:

"But those who fail to find me [the wisdom of God] harm themselves; all who hate me love death."--Proverbs 8:36.

--------------

Review : Gears of War
Microsoft's PlayStation 3 killer is an action filled blood bath.
by Chris Buffa

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Epic's Xbox 360 game Gears of War has been injected with so much testosterone that the disc should grow hair. There's nothing in this game that isn't ridiculously big, covered in dirt, and infected with a bad attitude. Hell, even the grenades look mean. Anti-violence crusaders will no doubt retch when confronted with the blood and guts splattering the screen, but for everyone else, Gears is a big-budget blockbuster chock full of monsters, weapons, and mayhem.


The game actually has a pretty decent story that chronicles the war between humans and a race of creatures known as the Locust Horde. The main character, a mean looking soldier named Marcus Fenix, has been tasked with saving the world. Naturally, nothing goes according to plan, things get FUBAR, and a small team of army guys find themselves stuck in the middle of hell (not literally, however). There's certainly more to the story, but let's skip the formalities. Gears of War is all about grabbing a gigantic machine gun and killing big, ugly monsters that die about as well as any glorified Hollywood stuntman. Blood erupts from wounds, heads explode, and dismembered body parts fly in multiple directions. It's a gorgeous display of war at its absolute worst, a fabulous combination of delectable gameplay and luscious visuals that are shock and awe at its most demonic. It's also akin to watching Robocop for the very first time. Despite the gore, despite the all of the offensive material, it's the coolest damn thing, the type of experience that begs for a replay mode, just so the best kills are seen a billion times.

...

18 comments:

Tim said...

My neighbor, who is about 85, is a veteran of World War II. When he returned from the war and settled in this neighborhood, quite a number of his neighbors were also vets. He tells me that they never talked with each other about their experiences in the war -- ever. Nobody wanted to relive that. There were things that happened that he has never told to anyone, things he never wanted to tell his children and grandchildren.

War is not a game. In war real people die, not just virtual figures in an animation scene. War is not gorgeous -- it is hideous. It is not an experience that any sane man wants to experience in replay mode.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Tim:

You are exactly right. These heros lived through a war and war is hell. They have the decency to try to forget, but to remember the severity and reality of it.

The video generation has no such sense of reality, of good and evil, of decency. This is one reason why America has difficulty waging a war on terrorists. They do not understand good and evil; it is a game to them.

God help us.

Timo_the_Osprey said...

Dr. Groothuis,

You will be interested to know that the (in)famous Milgram experiments of the 1960's, which have long been discontinued because of ethical concerns, are now being revived. Only now the "tortured" subject is a virtual subject!

See here: http://www.livescience.com/
humanbiology/061220_cyberexperiment.html

Is the unethical experiment made ethical by removing it to the virtual world?

I don't think so, but am unsure how the argument should go exactly. Any thoughts?

Tim said...

Timo,

I would argue that the experiments are unethical because they do moral damage to the subjects -- that is, the people who are asked to continue the experiment even when the patient begs that it be stopped.

Timo_the_Osprey said...

Tim,

I think I agree. But the patient begging for mercy doesn't really exist! So does the following sound like what you have in mind?

The moral damage in the subject about which we are worried is not from the very act of harming a virtual being, (after all virtual beings don't feel pain!) but in the consequent reduction of moral sensitivity in the human subject.

Or do you take the stronger stance that the immorality does not depend on the consequent reduction of moral sensitivity but in the (virtual) act itself?

Douglas Groothuis said...

Tim and Timo:

This is a fascinating ethical question.

1. I believe it to be a deontological fact (objective duty) that one should not torture what one takes to be another human being. That would rule out virtual torture, since the once torturing (or giving permission for such) thinks she is bringing about this state of affairs.

2. From a virtue perspective (personal character and its development), inflicting needless harm is poisen to the soul even if you only think it is being inflicted. It may make one more callous.

This would apply to virtual child pornography as well. Tech-perverts now create these illicit images, but no children are involved (although children might see them). So, the children in the porn could not be harmed (since there are none), but I plug in the same kind of concerns as in the case above.

Tim said...

Timo and Doug,

Yes, that's it exactly.

Sir Fab said...

Dr. Groothuis:

In October, you posted the following comment to an article on this website regarding the difference between the political parties:

"I have not worked out a carefully crafted philosophy of torture, but I suggest that while sadism is always wrong, torture (of a particular sort) may not always be wrong.

Some forms of torture might be justified on this ground.

There is a consequentialist concern to extract vital information needed to save lives from future attack. This assumes all other forms of interrogation have failed.

I am not wedded to this, and am open to an argument that would preclude any torture for any reason."

Now, in a comment to this post, you say "I believe it to be a deontological fact (objective duty) that one should not torture what one takes to be another human being."

Are we to infer that you have finally worked out a "carefully crafted philosophy on torture," one that precludes the use of torture? Or are you simply doing what neocons and religious conservatives seem to do do as liberally as the liberals they themselves condemn, which is flip-flopping in support of their theological and geopolitical view of the world?

Happy New Year!

Douglas Groothuis said...

Fab:

Why insult me and assume the worse? You aren't like that in person!

You do bring out a good point, one that makes me flesh out the idea.

The kind of torture I am refering to is sadism. That is what I intended, really. If one applies some heat to a terrorist who knows how to stop Denver from being hit by a nuclear bomb, that is not the kind of torture I had in mind with respect to the video games.

Sir Fab said...

I did not mean to insult you, sorry if you took it that way. I am not insulted when people call me a liberal, I did not expect that people would be insulted when they are likened to neocons or religious conservatives.

I understand there is a difference between torturing for sadistic pleasure, and torturing to obtain information that could save lives, but it is often a very fine line. I believe that torture is wrong, and I would not condone it under any circumstances. I would also question the ethics of torture from a Christian point of view. I also believe that sometimes a government agent may find himself in the position to use it as a last resort, but even in that spirit he should not be excepted from the consequences of obtaining information through illegal means.

Even from a utilitarian perspective, justifying torture to obtain live-saving information suffers from the same flaw that affects the death-penalty as a crime-deterring tool: it works only in theory, but in practice it does not.

Again, my sincere wishes for a Happy New Year.

Yossman said...

What if you have a suspicion that the terrorist in question has some vital knowledge that might prevent a Denver disaster but you're not quite sure if that's the case? Do you approve torture then? Torture as a means to determine whether there is such knowledge (with knowledge extraction as a secondary motive).

Douglas Groothuis said...

Fab:

Good. Let's have an Italian dinner together (with vino) when I get back. It's on me!

We can continue the discussion then.

DG

Sir Fab said...

Yossman, you raise a very good point. Unfortunately, while your scenario looks clear cut on a TV show like "24", things are much more difficult in real life. It is a slippery slope, isn't it? That is one of the reasons why most developed countries have banned torture as a method of obtaining information from enemies, no matter how high the stakes are.

Going back to the original reason for this post, I do not find it particularly shocking or, even disgusting, that videogames would exploit the worst and basest of human emotions. I remember President Bush on television, at the end of 2005, stating with astonishing indifference that the number of dead Iraqis since the start of the war was around 30,000. How can accuse the President of indifference? I know insay indifferently because I saw difference when I see it. He pronounced the figures with a tone of "well, what do you want me to do about it?", rather than in a somber, apologetic tone, as would have been more appropriate. That tone I find more shocking than any videogame could ever be.

I am not saying that we should not marvel or worry at the callousness that videogames display, and maybe even engender. Some are truly despicable, I am sure. I am saying that maybe we are focusing on the wrong symptoms when we seek to diagnose the ills of our society. But I digress.

Sir Fab said...

Apologies. Something went wrong in my last post. The sentence after the question mark in the second paragraph should read "I know indifference when I see it."

Yossman said...

Fab:

I don't know the "24" series well. I used to like movies and series with violence, but in recent years have started to shy away from it completely. There is something very evil in violence for enternainment, whether it is the video game or the gladiators in Circus Maximus 2000 years ago, whether live or virtual.

Often when I catch a glimpse of entertainment violence on a screen, I can feel an evil behind it. This of course is intuition, but, hey, intuition is God-given. And for arguments see the comments above. I have to agree, there is something seriouly wrong with our culture's infatuation with violence, with enacted violence in movies as well as virtual violence in games. It damages the moral values of the subject and blurs the line between fantasy and reality, thus lowering the threshold for real violence.

Sir Fab said...

Yossman:

I don't know that our society's infatuation with violence has increased. Graphic depiction of violence is certainly more prevalent now than it ever was, simply as a result of the multiplication of media that distribute it. My problem with violence, as portrayed by the media, in song, videogames, etc., is that the discussion too often focuses on violence of the physical kind, neglecting to expose other kinds of equally or more insidious and less visible violence, injustice, and abuse.

I often have the feeling that the morbid attention we give to physical violence serves to distract us from dealing with larger issues of justice, education, culture, values, etc.

Yossman said...

Fab:

There is truth in your statement that all kinds of violence are equally bad and equally need to be fought against. But has it occured to you that there may be a causal relation between more violence in the media and in the home?

I seriously doubt that the increase of violence in the media is merely the result of the multiplication of the media that distribute it.

There may be an analogy between porn and violence in the media. Porn was virtually absent 50 years ago and now threatens to dominate the entertainment industry. This was not caused by a multiplication of the media, but rather by the fact that the media, subject as they are to commercial principles, have resorted to giving people what their basest instinct craves for in order to gain market share.

Something similar is going in relation to violence. Look at the review discussed in Groothuis' post. Xbox needs to wipe out Playstation. How are they going to go about it? Porn is still not mainstream in the game business so violence will do it. That's why the subtitle of the review reads: 'Microsoft's PlayStation 3 killer is an action filled blood bath.' Consumer response? 'Wow, that sounds cool, I want it!'

I've been in the advertsing industry for more than 7 years now. All that counts is to shock and as people get desentized shock more in order to sell more.

The media in this way are a very powerful instrument in the process of relativizing all morals. It is there that we find a transferral and distribution of modern philosophies into the minds of the masses. And one of the many results is more violence in the home.

By saying all this I may have addressed your concern for the need to 'deal with larger issues of justice, education, culture, values, etc.'

zz said...

Is graphic realism then the only difference between Chess, a game of strategic war like Risk, and Gears of War ?

Does the simulated 3d environment pander to what Rene Girard calls "mimetic desire" ?

Does meditating and thinking on "whatever is good and holy" negate all violence ?

All games contain the idea of death. Are we not engaged in demonic warfare ?