There have been a couple of recent controversies in the gaming industry that have made me consider what should be allowed in video games.
I guess I didn’t have to think too hard because I quickly came to a pretty simple conclusion: Anything should be allowed in video games because it is up to individuals to choose what they want to play.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s jump back a couple of weeks.
In late October, gamers started noticing censorship of several Japanese games being released on the PlayStation 4. The games, many of which previously had been released as the developers intended on other platforms, were launching on the PS4 with visual censorship of their more mature content.
Fans of these Japanese games, including Westerners, aren’t happy with Sony’s policy to censor them. I’ve heard some people are selling their PS4s and buying consoles that don’t censor the games as a form of protest.
In these gamers’ eyes, they are adults who can make the conscious decision to buy mature games and shouldn’t be getting anything less than the full product. I’m inclined to agree. It’s hard to argue with the logic that the audience, not the distributor, should decide what players can experience in their games.
More recently, a YouTuber’s entire channel was deleted after he uploaded a video of him punching a suffragette in the wildly popular and recently released game “Red Dead Redemption II.”
“Red Dead II,” like all other Rockstar-developed games, gives players an immense amount of freedom. In both the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption” series, you can go anywhere in immense and detailed open worlds and commit crimes and generally cause havoc.
“Red Dead II” is a Wild West-themed game in which you play as a gang member. By default, your character is a bad man, and some are taking this role-playing to its natural conclusion: They’re killing innocent people, and, yes, that includes women.
After this YouTuber, Shirrako, uploaded his videos, several websites wrote articles denouncing his actions. Despite the arguably far more terrible things you can do in “Red Dead II,” it was this YouTuber’s tongue-in-cheek video of him punching a woman fighting for the right to vote that had journalists clutching their pearls.
YouTube eventually realized its mistake and restored the YouTuber’s channel and videos, which was the right move. Shirrako violated no policies by showing a clip of him playing “Red Dead II” as the game allowed, especially considering the site hosts thousands of clips of players killing countless men throughout the game.
But scorned media don’t feel the same. Many are still outraged that a person would actually punch a feminist in a video game and post the video online, and some even called for the developers to make it impossible to kill women at all in “Red Dead II.” I find it all ridiculous. Disregarding the fact we’re talking about fictional video games and pixels on a screen, you can do far more heinous things in “Red Dead II” and hundreds of other games; where’s the outrage there?
Both of these situations got me thinking about what should be allowed in games, and my conclusion is that anything a developer wants to create should be permissible. The market—i.e., gamers—will decide what succeeds.
My conclusion is only fair. After all, we allow movies, television shows and novels to depict whatever the creators choose. Why should video games be treated any differently?
Some would argue that games are a unique case because the player has control over what happens in them. Surely there’s a difference between watching a violent movie and controlling the violence of a violent game, right?
Not so fast. That’s the argument used every time there’s a mass shooting. Inevitably, someone finds out a shooter played the latest “Call of Duty,” and suddenly video games are blamed for the crime when there’s never been any discovered link between playing violent games and committing violence in real life.
Nothing I do in “Red Dead II” is a reflection of my morals. I’m trying to play through the game as an honorable man—as honorable as a murdering gang member can be, anyway—but that is no more a reflection on my moral values than had I chosen to go through the game killing every innocent person in sight.
The fun of video games is the freedom they offer and how they allow you to be immersed in worlds of places you’ll never go and perspectives of people you will never be. It is only natural some adult players would choose to use this freedom to see how devious they can be, and in the context of video games that’s perfectly OK. Besides, assaulting innocent characters is a video game pastime. Who hasn’t made a new save on “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” before slaughtering an entire town for no other reason than to just try it?
When it comes to censorship of these Japanese games or the proposition to make women in “Red Dead II” invincible, it’s easy to dismiss gamers’ concerns. Even as a gamer myself, the Japanese games being censored aren’t ones I would ever play, and I haven’t been riding around “Red Dead Redemption II” killing women. Why should I care about the censorship of either?
That’s easy: Because it’s wrong on principle alone.
Censorship starts with what the majority deems inappropriate. Remove swastikas from “Wolfenstein” or “Call of Duty: WWII” and not many speak up because no one wants to defend the right for a game to include historically hateful symbols. But once that is censored, it gets only easier to censor the next thing until developers aren’t able to release Mature-rated games as intended.
Maybe I’m being dramatic, but my point is sound: Censorship must be denounced in all forms or it grows, and developers must be allowed to create whatever gaming experiences they want without the media or others shutting them down. Adults can choose what they want to experience, including games, and those who don’t want to experience such games are just as capable as choosing not to engage.
So what’s permissible in games? Everything.
There. Easy enough.