Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shooter's Aren't Built for War

My latest PopMatters article is now live: Shooter's Aren't Built for War.

I basically use this week's article to undermine the Red Cross intent to incorporate international law in military shooters. I should make it clear again here immediately, their intent is admirable. While I don't believe shooter fanatics are more likely to commit genocide, I do believe misconceptions about the efficacy of international laws, treaties, and organization are more likely to remain if they seldom appear in pop culture. Even so, adding a punishment mechanism into a game is a poor solution to convey the importance of regulations on war.

As systems that favor physical repercussions, shooters in particular have few tools to address social repercussions. Yes, locking up a player character for killing civilians might get players to consider the real world implications of their digital violence, it's a poor solution to a larger problem. For the most part, the characters we play in games have no duties or obligations to larger wholes. Any limitations imposed upon us are tested and flexed and punishment itself is an unsatisfying feedback mechanic.

A better solution is to create more powerful roles and embed player into the larger systems that influence real world behavior, from those who wage war and those are are victims of it. Modeling these invisible repercussions is painfully difficult and, just not in the "shooter" wheel house. If the ICRC wants to have some persuasive influence on a wider gaming population, they should encourage a diversity not just of stories, but of the primary systems that shape them.

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