Monday, February 14, 2005

Law & Order Does Videogames

I watched an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit the other night. The show, always well written and willing to engage issues, centered on a crime allegedly caused by a videogame. Tony at and Andrew at Tales of a Scorched Earth give the episode a pretty good review (from a gaming culture perspective). I agree that it was a remarkably even handed look at videogame violence for something as mainstream as Law & Order.

That said, there were some things that irked me as a proponent of games. The open-mouthed stare of Stabler's kid as he played "Intensity" (the episode's Grand Theft Auto stand-in). The developer portrayed as irresponsible, too cool and a bit overworked. The fact that no other (non-violent) games were really even mentioned. These things reflect poorly on the medium.

Of course, now that I've written that and thought about it some more, I have to admit that in many ways, Law & Order was presenting reality (which is what I love so much about the series). Kids often get that hollow stare while playing games (I'm sure I don't look super smart while I'm playing). Parents often don't monitor what their kids play, leading to surprise and shock when kids are found killing hookers in GTA, just as Stabler was shocked to watch his son play Intensity. Developers often work on multiple projects aimed at multiple age levels, which leads to confusion as parents associate the entire industry with "kids stuff." Some developers maintain an aloof attitude which many people interpret as nonchalance or worse. In fact, the open-ended nature of games could possibly be seen as a failure to take a stand. And let's face it, the developers being too busy and overworked is pretty dead-on.

After thinking about it, I guess what bugged me about the Law & Order episode is that it reflected how many people see this industry. And the industry isn't doing much to help itself. Sure Law & Order takes the occasional potshot at Hollywood, but Hollywood can take it. Games are at a point where more negative press can seriously affect how people perceive gaming as a medium, as a form of expression. I just wish the industry would attempt to spiff up its image, broaden the types of content, treat developers better. Pipe dream?


At 4:59 PM, Blogger Greg Liddle said...

I am kind of new to blogging.
I have a videogames site.
Come and look at it if you a spare moment


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