Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 01/07/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Releasing the violence

One of the mildly unpleasant side effects of my employment as a journalist is that I receive a lot of press releases. While these are often a source of useful information about industry developments, they are also sometimes semi-literate, overly verbose and a major reason for my having the messiest desk in the office. I especially dislike it when I get releases that:

As long as these problems are avoided, though, me and press releases get along fine most of the time. But not always. One release I got last week really took the cake. Not only did the distributors of this particular missive set a new world record by sending five individual copies, all of which somehow managed to end up on my desk, but the content! Check out this sample:

"Demolish! Devastate! Destroy!" Get ready to play Return Fire, the only military strategy game of its kind - and it's coming to you soon from Warner Interactive on PC CD-ROM. One of the most violent, explosion-filled firefights ever seen, Return Fire allows players to wipe out everything on screen - plow through buildings, crush civilians as they run, and trample trees with three types of ground vehicles.

Now, as long as computer games echo the world in which they are created, violence will be a component. Violent games may also serve as some form of cathartic release for some individuals, satisfying impulses that could otherwise be realised in some other more harmful fashion. Recognising this, and opposing in general the introduction of censorship to the world of computers in any form, I have always accepted their right to take a place on the desktop (if not on my desktop, which has games like The Swedish Chef's Vegetables Of Doom, pictured above, which expresses wrath only towards vegetables).

Reading this kind of thing, however, I can see why various bodies start getting upset by the whole computer gaming scene. The only selling point, apparently, is the potential for violence, and the destruction of trees is just a useful bonus. And hey, why stop at killing the bad guys? Let's shoot some civilians as well!

Most game players I know (and I know quite a few) don't appear to be especially hung up on the violence aspect. The key issue is conquering, finishing, completing the game. The challenge is somewhat abstract, and the medium of violence, while recognised, is secondary. What a pity that approach isn't reflected in the marketing. Shame on you, Warner Interactive. If the stupid laws proposed by NSW Attorney-General Jeff Shaw and others get a toehold as a result of this kind of thing, you'll have a lot to answer for.

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