Grand Theft Opportunity

He hath set water and fire before thee: stretch forth thy hand to which thou wilt. Before man is life and death, good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him.- Sirach Chapter 15

There is nothing so damning to the human spirit as free will. No murder so heinous as one with forethought, planning and cold execution. When choice is consciously made, the most petty of actions become greater than the sum of their results. We raise our glass to men defending their homes from invaders. We would damn them without their justifications, their lack of choice because they were just protecting their families. In games we rely on the ends justifying means that would make the cruelest of dictators cringe.

This being the day Grand Theft Auto IV slips into gaming consoles all over the world, we’re going to be faced with questions of morality again. Not just from the media or concerned parents, but more importantly - ourselves.

The Grand Theft Auto series confronts us with something few games are willing to take on. It thrusts the player into a world that demands violence on a grand scale with no more justification than personal gain. Often there is no family to save, innocent to protect or even someone in a position of moral authority offering salvation. It’s just our willingness to do the drive-by because we’re told we have to. It’s a point system, and raising those numbers is usually all the comfort we need to squash any concern over what these actions say about us. We’ve been trained for over 20 years to think in these abstracts, to view digital people as obstacles and mobile treasure chests.

What Rockstar offers us is choice – the opportunity to shuck the responsibility of moving the story forward or gaining new territory. You can simply put it all aside, collect an AK-47, stride into a hospital and start shooting. Forethought, planning and execution. This is where we cannot hide behind the constructs of mission, points or saving the Presidents daughter. It’s just our guns and a lot of innocent treasure chests. Or people, depending on your viewpoint. We’re offered a chance to execute what society considers to be the worst kind of murder.

In those quiet moments when there are no friends to urge us on, we have an opportunity to see which side of the line we fall on. Sitting alone in the living room and gripping the controller lets us play out some of our basest fantasies. It’s an interactive opportunity that no other medium can claim to offer. Just how much is too much? How do we feel while we’re driving through crowds of innocents with the police hot on our tail? Are we still having fun, or just exorcising demons?

The answers are intrinsically personal because we all internalize things differently. It’s for this very reason that non-gamers are horrified at the prospect of having this kind of choice laid before them. There is no goal abstraction for them to get behind – there’s just people being gunned down. They cannot easily confront this aspect of themselves through a safe, interactive experience. It's an avenue largely unexplored by the older generation.

For gamers, Grand Theft Auto IV affords an opportunity to do more than just shock and titillate. By giving us the tools to plan and execute carnage on a grand scale we can learn something about the human experience. We can push further and find out where our primitive, club wielding aggression ends and our reason and compassion begins. We can make choices without the safety blanket of justification or righteous goals.

The freedom of choice, however limited it may be, is a rare opportunity in the gaming landscape. To cast story aside, pick up a gun and see what shakes out is another step toward learning about ourselves. Even better, we can explore these experiences and possibilities without hurting anyone in the real world.

What an opportunity!

- Shawn Andrich

Comments

I didn't particularly have any problems with the first lot of games, because the police, for example, were little crude and clearly fake. I killed on a grand scale with no remorse, because the world was clearly artificial.

However, watching one of the GTAIV Gamespot videos, where the reviewer shoots a copy in the neck with a shotgun and the cop clutches his neck and falls over actually made me slightly physically sick. I hope that when I see it full-size on a TV and the AI is more apparent than it is in a 20-second teaser that I can fall comfortably back into the illusion of non-reality.

Out of curiosity, does anyone have any information on the presence of GTA in other countries?

Here in Portugal it's pretty much looked on as just a game. No big scandals here. We have the habit to consider other factors when someone behaves violently, like the background he or she had, his/her propensity for violent behaviour, etc. Good, common sense.

Videogames are considered bad when they are so addictive that kids start failing at school or at having a social life. That's, I believe, the #1 concern about videogames.

Prederick wrote:
weswilson wrote:

So unless you are willing to define in absolute terms how they knew for sure that the space ship in Galaga wasn't a mass murderer, how bombarding planets in Sins of a Solar Empire isn't slaughter of unparalleled numbers of civilians, or how all those poor WoW animals we took body parts from were actually asking for it... you can get off GTA and take your righteous indignation back to church where it belongs. Because it is silly and irrelevant.

Agreed. Rome: Total War allowed you to literally crucify hundreds upon hundreds of innocents to make a point to the larger populous. In Europa Universalis III, i've killed (and that's probably using a nicer word) between 15,000 and 25,000 indigenous peoples across North America, South America, Africa and Southeast Asia in order to further my colonial exploits and fund a war with France. And I don't see how GTA gets slapped with the terrible "murder simulator" tag when Battlefield II is a a human cataclysm simulator, featuring murder and the continual extinguishing of hundreds of lives in order to pursue an unreachable goal. With teabagging. Hell, Call of Duty allowed you to shoot one of hundreds of Nazi's (who, are still, technically, people) and occasionally you'd get a certain animation, where the man you shot would fall to the ground, clutching at his throat and writing as (ostensibly) he experienced exsanguination. And you could put another round in him.

But GTA's the cruel, evil game. Sure.

I think we're missing the point here. It's not the killing per se. It's the justification for the killing within the context of the game.

In a WW2 game, you're killing Nazis. This is a problem? It's a stylized representation of events in a just war for the defense of Europe. You're not running around randomly shooting german people for kicks, you're running around shooting Nazis who are trying to kill you and, if they kill you, the implication is that they win the war and continue about exterminating "undesireables." I have no problem with mowing down hundreds of Nazis in that context.

Getting back to the SOASE example, the open nature of the game provides a fig leaf for the planetary bombardment tactic-- you get to have a justification for waging war. When I play SOASE I play standard random-map scenarios, and I tend not to play aggressive, but when I'm attacked I declare war and fight. The nature of the game allows me to justify my actions on the basis of self defense-- I get to fight only Just Wars. GTA 3 was as close as I remember getting to that point-- it was a revenge tale where you were taking on criminals who were worse than you, and your avatar had only the personality traits you gave him. But for the most part, you don't so much get to choose to play a white hat in GTA.

More generally, in strategy games the context still matters, but even when the actions of the player are objectively wrong (ie: Crucifying innocent people), there is a detachment that seperates the player from the atrocity. It's an old cliche- one death is a murder, one million is a statistic. People have a harder time wrapping their consciences around large scale atrocities-- which is why there are still holocaust deniers walking the earth. But when it's just you, an innocent victim, and a golf club, well that's something else entirely. That's something that people grasp on a visceral level, and that's the problem with GTA.

Am I defending atrocity simulators? Heck no. But there's a difference between clicking a button that results in a million innocent deaths that are reported to you by a status page, and having your avatar physically walk up to a random pedestrian and beating/stabbing/shooting him or her to death. Let's just compare apples to apples here.

I have never bothered with GTA. Cannot understand why ppl would. Then again, we are not all the same either.

I think we're missing the point here. It's not the killing per se. It's the justification for the killing within the context of the game.

I think that is exactly what some posters mocked in this thread. These "justifications" for killing people in most games are so thin and stupid that they might as well be nonexistent.

Moreover, at which point is it justified for you to kill somebody in a game?
This demon threatens the earth. Kill him.
This guy's a Nazi. Kill him.
This guy is a criminal. Kill him.
This guy who is walking there with groceries is really a shape-shifting demon. Kill him.
This family with three children walking over there. The mother's a criminal. The father's a Nazi and the children are demons threatening the earth. Kill them all.
Justified? Sure, but I don't think it would be moral for you.

I didn't finish Bioshock because I was getting increasingly uneasy about mowing down those mentally retarded splicers.

Andy wrote:

I think that is exactly what some posters mocked in this thread. These "justifications" for killing people in most games are so thin and stupid that they might as well be nonexistent.

ding ding ding!

As a reasonably intelligent person, let me present a few of the moral quandaries I see in some games.

  • Demons are considered evil by default, but history is written by the victors. What if demons were on the interdimensionally moral position and are merely fighting this war against god to save us from his malevolent path.
  • How can I be sure that my level 9999999 character has not been lied to by the NPCs? What if the final boss is really my father. What if I'm being manipulated into dooming everyone.
  • What did those animals ever do to me? 8 gazillion adventurers have collected those pelts before me... don't you have enough? Can't you just give me the money and experience without turning me into a killer of relatively defenseless animals?

So really, EVERYONE should be in moral jeopardy for every single game they play... right?

Wrong. A game in an exercise. It is a way to stretch the brain and get it a little workout by placing in an artificial situation with a fixed set of defined rules. By limiting the brain to a set of rules, you force it to create connections and associations where none may have existed previously. The idea that all those exercises must be morally just seems a little archaic to my thinking. Didn't we go through this 30 years ago with D&D? I thought that as a culture we realized that pretend time was not the same as real time. Why is that ruling suddenly reversed because a particular game suddenly seems more important than it really is?

It makes no sense to me.

That is not to say that people who have a problem with perceptions of reality should be playing this game. But those people shouldn't be watching The Sopranos or reading Anne Rice books, either... so it's not a problem with the GAME, it's a problem with the PEOPLE.

reaper81 wrote:

No. I certainly didn't defend any of the other games that have been mentioned here either. We are symbolically killing when we play games that involve violence.

ALL GAMES have an artificial conflict. This conflict is created to put tension into the setting. Even in abstract games, you "take" the pieces of your opponents. So whether you are killing your enemy pieces or just taking their stuff, you always seem to be in some kind of dominance fight for one reason or another. There does not seem to be, by the logic you are demonstrating here, any way that someone can play any game without being in moral jeopardy. Doesn't that seem a little bizarre? It surely short-circuits my logic... and I hope it's doing the same to you.

reaper81 wrote:

People defend a thing like GTA pretty hard. Why? I don't want an answer because I don't need one. I just posed the question to you all.

Because it's like the first amendment... any infringement threatens the entire structure. So we condemn GTA for being morally damaging... What happens to Painkiller... What happens to Dungeon Master... What happens to Knights of the Old Republic... Soon, we are condemning games for the ABILITY to make bad choices... and we end up with Barbie Horse Adventures.

Most of us here don't want that. We clearly recognize that there is a difference between killing a piece on a game board and killing a piece in real life. My problem with Diplomacy is that it requires me to build trust in real life so that I can exploit it in the game. Diplomacy fudges the line between reality and fantasy to me, and so I don't prefer to play it. I don't see that problem in GTA. I don't think people playing the wrong side of Axis and Allies should ponder their moral stature for having done so. That is not logical or sane. I don't understand why you want people to ponder it in GTA.

Reaper81 wrote:
How can you feel any kind of consequence, believing that what you see isn't real or definitive?

Something being "real" or not is irrelevent to this discussion. The discussion is whether our souls are "right."

GTA is a murder simulator. It rewards killing on a mass scale. We choose to purchase this feeling. We choose to feel like murdering. It's not so sterile as simple inputs and outputs. Your cognition chooses the action sent to the system. Is our collective cognition a right one if we feel rewarded by murder on a mass scale, whatever form it takes?

Your soul decides who lives and dies in a game just as it does in the real world. The consequences of the game are minimal on the real world. What of the consequences on your soul? You sell yourself a bit when you play a game like GTA. You validate the evolutionary past of homo sapiens when you beat a hooker to death in this game. Do we want to reward cave dwelling?

I kept reading this waiting for the punchline until I realized that you were serious. Like weswilson said, almost every game that we play is essentially driven by conflict- to reduce something to the level of "murder simulator" is both a gross oversimplification on the level of a certain lawyer we all love to hate, but also completely misses the point of the experience. You can do anything you want, sure, but you also have to face the consequences of your actions within the games. If you start killing, the police will come after you and try to stop you. The simple fact that the game is more lenient in it's enforcement of crime speaks nothing about the attitude of the game itself but is just a necessary aspect of what makes it a game- it would be next to impossible to play and derive any entertainment from if it followed the same strictness of laws that real society operates under.
Games like this offer a form of catharsis, the ability to work out the stress and aggravations caused by our violent evolutionary past intersecting with "civilized" modern living. While society has grown more complex and our caves may have gotten nicer, mankind has not underwent any significant changes in either biology or behaviour since the days of our early grunting ancestors. Physically and mentally, we are all still cavemen, the trappings have just changed. That games like this offer no lasting consequences in the real world is not a bad thing, it's a beneficial necessity.

But what it all really comes down to is: it's just a f*cking game. Don't think to hard about it.

edit: souls? Really?

I thought that as a culture we realized that pretend time was not the same as real time.

That's wishful thinking.

Even in abstract games, you "take" the pieces of your opponents. So whether you are killing your enemy pieces or just taking their stuff, you always seem to be in some kind of dominance fight for one reason or another. There does not seem to be, by the logic you are demonstrating here, any way that someone can play any game without being in moral jeopardy. Doesn't that seem a little bizarre?

Conflict doesn't equal violence.

If you start killing, the police will come after you and try to stop you.

This isn't aimed you specifically, per se, I've just found it really interesting that people seem to use this in defense of GTA.

While society has grown more complex and our caves may have gotten nicer, mankind has not underwent any significant changes in either biology or behaviour since the days of our early grunting ancestors.

Interesting.

I don't understand why you want people to ponder it in GTA.

Because, damn, people get in a tizzy real fast don't they.

edit: souls? Really?

Why not?

A game in an exercise.

And that's really the crux of the issue. Games and gameplay have great cognitive benefit. What are we adapting ourselves to?

I've noted this in the Catch-All, but it bears repeating here. It seems to me that GTAIV is the first game of the series that has a protagonist with some sense of morality and encourages (subtly) to behave in that manner. The nameless guy in GTA3 was just an avatar for the player, being whoever the player felt like at the time. Tommy Vercetti was a psychopath and thus made it more natural (if it can be called such) to go on a wanton killing spree. CJ is also a caricature with violent impulses. Niko, however, doesn't seem to want to go out of his way to kill. The first time I killed anyone in GTA4 was when I punched one of the loan sharks out a window.

weswilson wrote:

We clearly recognize that there is a difference between killing a piece on a game board and killing a piece in real life.

This is the heart of the issue and this is why it is a non-issue, because we have this knowledge, there is no morality involved in any game. The only way morality could arise out of such a situation would be if the player could not make this distinction.

Andy wrote:

I think that is exactly what some posters mocked in this thread. These "justifications" for killing people in most games are so thin and stupid that they might as well be nonexistent.

Moreover, at which point is it justified for you to kill somebody in a game?
This demon threatens the earth. Kill him.
This guy's a Nazi. Kill him.
This guy is a criminal. Kill him.
This guy who is walking there with groceries is really a shape-shifting demon. Kill him.
This family with three children walking over there. The mother's a criminal. The father's a Nazi and the children are demons threatening the earth. Kill them all.
Justified? Sure, but I don't think it would be moral for you.

Forgive me, I haven't played Call of Duty. Does it require killing Nazis and their families on their way to the grocery store? Which level is that?

The short form of my answer to your question is: If I would consider myself justified in killing the person in real life, then I would consider myself justified in the game.

Demon threatens the earth (ignoring the cognitive dissonance of a living, horned spectre with earth-destroying powers) then hell yes I'd kill it.
Nazi shooting at me during time of war: Shoot back.
Criminal threatens me or my family: Shoot him.
Guy with groceries who may be a demon in disguise: Absent a direct threat to me, I'll let him put his eggs and orange juice away before I take a flamethrower to him.
Family of crooks and nazis: If they're not shooting at me, trying to kill or harm me or anyone in the vicinity, then live and let live.

It's not that hard, really. You just have to understand that there is such a thing as right and wrong, even in fantasy, and even if the game has crappy writing that makes moral justifications "thin."

But then, I probably just have a moral compass that's on the severe side-- I don't harbor violent crime fantasies anymore. Heck, I don't even fantasize about women who aren't my wife-- I consider it a mild form of infidelity.

Some will argue that makes me boring, some will argue that makes me insane. Frankly, I don't much care. I have my standards, and other people have theirs. If your standards tell you it's okay to play GTA, that's fine. What you do with your fantasy life is no business of mine.

But I still believe that context matters, and so long as I do I'll stick with the white-hats.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

It's not that hard, really. You just have to understand that there is such a thing as right and wrong, even in fantasy, and even if the game has crappy writing that makes moral justifications "thin."

There is a difference between what justifies an action as moral in reality and in fiction. In reality, it doesn't matter how ridiculous the circumstances, because the context around a particular action is real. In fiction, when the moral justification for an action is nothing more than a silly excuse for that action to take place, it does matter, because that reality was intentionally created.

When it is obvious that the violent action is the point, and the context is only there to make the violent action "okay," then the writer has tipped his hand. If you were actually in a crazy contrived situation such as being on a real mars-moonbase covered with demons that had killed everyone and were heading toward Earth, saving the base and Earth would be real concerns to you. When you're playing Doom, you don't care one whit about the base or the people back home. You move on to the next level in order to find more demons and kill them, because that's what's fun about the game. The stupid story doesn't justify your actions because (unless you have horrible taste in fiction and are actually really into it) it has no bearing on them at all.

Are there games that present compelling stories and motivate you to act out of actual concern for the character? Yes. But most games don't. Most games are violent simply because conflict is fun and interesting. And that's okay.

Reaper81 wrote:

And that's really the crux of the issue. Games and gameplay have great cognitive benefit. What are we adapting ourselves to?

Do you read any novels where the protagonist is malevolent? Do you enjoy watching Dexter? Do you like playing FPS games? All these are exercises that have little to no applicability to real life. It's not that we're adapting... it's that we are using our brains in new ways. I'm fourty years old, what the heck does a plastic climbing wall mean I'm adapting myself to? Sometimes you just do things because they are fun... or because they are there... or because it's different from what you are used to! Not every action has to have a moral meaning behind it. We can use our brains without condemning ourselves to hell.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

You just have to understand that there is such a thing as right and wrong, even in fantasy...

OK. I don't think that "there is such a thing as right and wrong"*. Since this seems to be the basis of your argument and a part of your life philosophy and I absolutely cannot agree to it, I don't think we'll reach some kind of understanding here.

edit:
* And by that I mean even in the real world.

I don't think that "there is such a thing as right and wrong"*.

Moral relativism is a slippery slope. Believing that there are absolutely no wrong things means that nothing is wrong. Just something to think about.

Do you like playing FPS games?

Sure do.

All these are exercises that have little to no applicability to real life.

The military sure seems to think that First Person Shooters have some applicability to real life.

what the heck does a plastic climbing wall mean I'm adapting myself to?

Rock climbing, for one.

Reaper81 wrote:

Moral relativism is a slippery slope. Believing that there are absolutely no wrong things means that nothing is wrong. Just something to think about.

Yeah, so? Fine with me. What's your point again?

Reaper81 wrote:

Rock climbing, for one.

Your smiley does not trump my deadpan. I'm turning forty this summer. How much rock climbing do you really expect me to be doing in my future?

And just so we're on the same page, there IS no 100% right and 100% wrong. Moral relativism is the foundation for all realistic moral assessments. Black and white morality is the stuff of fiction.

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

Henry Ford's axiom that "Quality means doing it right when no one's looking" applies to quality of character the same as it does to quality of manufacture. The test of quality is determined by choices made when there were options. You have the option to dismiss this discussion as not worth having, but I disagree, and I think you're making an immoral choice in refusing to examine your life and your choices.

You can opine that choosing to kill innocents in a game is tantamount to murdering living people, and I think it's hard to deny that there's a degree of truth in there. It's a scary thing to admit, since it seems an incipient threat on our shared pastime. At the core, though, it's a question that needs to be asked--and answered.

TinPeregrinus wrote:
Prederick wrote:

But GTA's the cruel, evil game. Sure.

What I think is most fascinating is that it's the cruel, evil game precisely because it shows the events and thus evokes their consequences more realistically than the games no one has a problem with. It makes me think people are going to miss the boat on how pretending actually works for the next two thousand years, just as they have for the previous two thousand. IMHO.

Absolutely true. It's the realism that makes it harder to ignore the (virtual) reality of what you're doing in the game.

Higgledy wrote:
Mr. GOH wrote:

First GWJ post, lurker since time immemorial. I think Switchbreak and Certis are right. What sets GTA apart, in some sense, is that it challenges the absolutely virtual justifications that supposedly back up the violence in other video games.

I always remember when someone pointed out to me (forgive me. This is an old example. Shows my age) something very odd about the old Tarzan films. Tarzan was a 'hero' in the old fashioned sense and could therefore never deliberately kill anyone but conversely the evil doers of the film, being irredeemably evil as they were, had to die. To get over this dilemma the villian in the films would, in every film, accidentally kill themselves. They'd run into quick sand or fall into a pit of spears or be caught by a rock slide.

God/Nature passes judgment! A few games let you do the mainstream comic thing, where you don't actually kill people (I've always appreciated that Metal Gear and Splinter Cell games allow and even endorse non-lethal subdual), and I think they probably deserve more praise than they get for that.

The problem with sticking to preconceptions that good guys are right and bad guys are wrong is that it's an intellectual failure, either willfully due to intellectual laziness or cowardice, or accidentally, due to immaturity.

weswilson wrote:

I don't see any reason to justify why I am stealing the treasure from a dragon, nor do I feel the need to justify why I'm stealing my money back from a Liberty City hooker.

The hero vs. dragon myth is a classic story in which it's uncommon to question the morality and ethics of the characters and their actions. Again, it's a moral failure on the part of the storyteller and on the part of the unquestioning audience. That's why we get tongue-in-cheek retellings of fairytales: When you actually stop to notice the immaturity and simplistic trappings of the fairytale genre, it's easy to turn it into a farce.

weswilson wrote:

But I would also recommend people like that not watch Rob Zombie horror films, and I don't think there is a moral ambiguity for watching those movies.

I don't think that switching media changes the moral implications of a work. Certainly, one could dismiss Zombie's films as "popcorn flicks," but it's important to recognize that the dismissal is actually a choice not to think about the ethics of being entertained by the kind of gore Zombie features. Perhaps a better way to sidestep the ethical choice is to present the film as something you plan on witnessing more as an artifact and less as a narrative. That is, plenty of folks watch horror movies who have some film studies training, and are watching the film with that sort of critical or even a detached and comic eye (a la MST3K). To me, that seems a much better reason to watch gore fests than because of some desire to be entertained by suffering and gore. If, though, gory movies simply are more entertaining to you than other types of films, perhaps that is something you need to think about.

Ways to play:

There are a few different ways to approach games. You can approach them simply as a puzzle to be mastered, as a world to explore, or as a story to experience, among other things. If all you're looking for is an intellectual challenge to overcome, then I think you're doing yourself, the creators, and the medium a pretty serious disservice. If you get into the story and the exploration, though, you can learn to role play as well.

Role playing, ultimately, is a way of setting the mental codex through which you will experience the game. You inhabit the avatar and experience the world and story in first person. In inhabiting the avatar, you also create a persona for the character. That persona includes moral code and views of the circumstances the persona is faced with. That means you can imbue the persona with conceptions such as this:

weswilson wrote:

Who knows, maybe EVERY SINGLE person in Liberty City is actually an evil bastard... maybe we are an angel of death sent by god to wreak vengeance on the idolaters

I'd be willing to bet that, given a proper degree of detachment while playing through such a persona, you'd realize a thing or two about how you feel about the idea of divine wrath and forgiveness. Learning like that is a very valuable result of being able to role play. I've used role playing myself in a number of games as a tool to better understand the viewpoints of other people, by trying to "walk a mile in their moccasins." I don't always complete the plot line in games I play that way (I'll often start over as a new character), but I certainly do get what I came for.

There's an issue with role playing, though, in that character personas are often prefabricated by the game's creators. That can get in the way of the role you want to play. On the other hand, not everyone approaches games with an intent to inhabit a role. For them, the prefab persona can be an aid in experiencing the narrative, or it can be an annoying and superfluous disruption of the player's quest to master the technical makeup of the game.

Open-ended games and "sandbox" worlds tend to leave a lot of decisions up to the player or persona, though, even to the extent of not even signaling when a choice is being made. Oblivion was kind enough to change the cursor, for example, so that you'd know when you're actually choosing to steal, instead of just "collecting" in some impossibly less dubious manner. GTA doesn't ask if you'd like to hit that wayward pedestrian in your way. It doesn't prompt you to reload afterward or play on. It just lets it happen, without more than a little star lighting up on the top of the screen. GTA in previous iterations has not signaled when you're making a choice, making it all the easier to smooth over the ethical implications. From what I'm reading in reviews like that on Slate, that's starting to change, both in the game's overt narrative and via enhanced realism in the victims.

We're reaching the point where not even the designers are going to let us get away with ignoring the ethics of our gaming, and I think it's time we faced that challenge with integrity and with courage.

Addendum:

Mr. GOH wrote:

Edit: For grammar.

You, sir, are most truly welcome to this site.

weswilson wrote:

And just so we're on the same page, there IS no 100% right and 100% wrong. Moral relativism is the foundation for all realistic moral assessments. Black and white morality is the stuff of fiction.

Now I agree with you. There is moral ambiguity in everything, even in watching Rob Zombie movies.

weswilson wrote:

But I would also recommend people like that not watch Rob Zombie horror films, and I don't think there is a moral ambiguity for watching those movies.

But then I think that everything has symbolic meaning, as well, so take that as you will.

I think this thread just hit a slippery slope.

edit: this is not a reply to Wordsmythe.

Your smiley does not trump my deadpan. I'm turning forty this summer. How much rock climbing do you really expect me to be doing in my future?

Holy sh*t Wes, you're OLD.

Yeah, so? Fine with me. What's your point again?

Ethnic cleansing is justifiable, then.

How much rock climbing do you really expect me to be doing in my future?

As much as you want.

Reaper81 wrote:
Yeah, so? Fine with me. What's your point again?

Ethnic cleansing is justifiable, then.

Well, he is in Germany ...

Damn, I'm fired aren't I?

Reaper81 wrote:

But it's a game I play acknowledging the actions I take in the game reflect on me. You may disagree. You may feel that your virtual actions have no bearing on the "real" world.

Yeah, I just can't buy that argument. It's a little too close to that ancient idea that actors were immoral liars because they temporarily assumed a role on stage. It reminds me of those sensational news stories that cite things like "the suspect was found to have had over 200 pornographic pictures on his hard drive!", and try to create a causation between two things that doesn't necessarily exist.

Anyway, lots of people have cited how realistic the violence is in 4, and how it's offputting. I think this is a fantastic observation. I'm perfectly fine with beating an NPC to death in GTA because even though the realism is upped a bit, it's fairly cartoony and i'm still emotionally removed from it all. God of War, despite its violence, plays more like an Ahnold 80s action flick that a bloodbath for that reason.I think that when we get something a lot more realistic that we'll be more disgusted. Something like Condemned, but ramp up the realism. Picture an opponent face to face. You punch him and his nose crumples. He's on the floor and you beat his face in. It swells up, his teeth go flying, etc etc. I think that if we were faced with something THAT graphic, we'd give a bigger pause before committing heinous acts of carnage. I've never been in a fight in my life (outside of some sparring in Karate), so I don't know how I'd react to the tactile feeling of my fist hitting someone's squishy face and feeling things shatter (or feeling my own face turn into shards of pain). I'm really certain I wouldn't want to feel it, though. There's just something unsettling to me when it comes to realizing that I'm doing that to a living person.

This is what Certis was discussing in his original post and I was attempting to discuss further.

Personal opinion, but Certis was measured in the choice of language for the article. Your argumentation in this thread either situates us in a state of right vs wrong (i.e. "The discussion is whether our souls are 'right.'") which tends to put people you're having a discussion with on the defensive, or does a clever buddhist-sophist hit-and-run drop ('I don't think it's founded on a Murder-Rape-Abortion engine', "or IS it? ").

That said, part of the reason people may be "in a tizzy" is because they reject the notion that our play-time-pretend is an accurate or meaningful reflection of ourselves. I'm not saying it absolutely can not be, but rather that it doesn't need to apply 100% of the time.

Reaper81 wrote:
Yeah, so? Fine with me. What's your point again?

Ethnic cleansing is justifiable, then.

Unfortunately, for some people, it is. I do hold these people in contempt. This will now probably turn into a philosophical argument about my relativist / borderline nihilist philosophy.
Straight from Wikipedia:

Aside from whether relativism is true, critics say it undermines morality, possibly resulting in anomie and complete Social Darwinism. Relativism denies that harming others is wrong in any absolute sense. The majority of relativists, of course, consider it immoral to harm others, but relativist theory allows for the opposite belief. If I can believe it wrong for me to harm others, I can also believe it right – no matter what the circumstances.
Relativism does not say that all points of view are equally valid, in contrast to an absolutism which argues there is but one true and correct view.

Anything I or you can say has probably already been said before and is covered in the respective Wikipedia articles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism
I am not a philosopher, so I won't be able to argue as well as those in the Wikipedia article.

LilCodger wrote:
Reaper81 wrote:
Yeah, so? Fine with me. What's your point again?

Ethnic cleansing is justifiable, then.

Well, he is in Germany ...

Damn, I'm fired aren't I?

Yeah, you're fired This is the second time that somebody makes this connection here (the last one seemed more or less accidental) and it already starts to get on my nerves. I hate the stuff that happened here as much as the next guy.

I'm told by someone who has played it -- I won't be -- that you get more money for killing the Jewish civilians in GTA IV.

Oh yeah, Rockstar. You guys are a laugh riot.

Andy wrote:

Well, he is in Germany ...

Damn, I'm fired aren't I?

Yeah, you're fired This is the second time that somebody makes this connection here (the last one seemed more or less accidental) and it already starts to get on my nerves. I hate the stuff that happened here as much as the next guy.

[/quote]

Heh... I decided to avoid Cleveland, but had come close to pointing this out myself. My guess is that you are young, and that's why you think wikipedia is a great source for philosophical BS. I don't think being German has anything to do with it. Plus, just because you are in Germany, didn't mean you were German anyway.

There is a better case for killing people that can make "logical" arguments that support genocide than for genocide itself. At least in the realm of public opinion. We all live in this world, and for the better good, we don't need people justifying genocide.

For the record, we have enough problems with our own government in the regard, that we really don't have room to take on anyone else in that area.

I don't derive my philosophical stance from Wikipedia. My philosophy just so happens to encompass aspects that other people already called by a name and argued about and most of these arguments are documented on Wikipedia (most of them with a big "Neutrality disputed" template on top).
I try to be consistent in philosophical issues and since I don't believe in God or in a higher order a necessary consequence is that I and nobody else can know what's right and what's wrong. That doesn't mean that I have to let others do as they please and I certainly don't justify ethnic cleansing.

edit:
And on a completely unrelated matter, your post shows up incorrectly.

Wordsmythe, you're my hero. I take back anything bad I may ever have said about you. Put into words what I have felt (in part), but have failed to do.