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Monday, April 01, 2013

NPR's First Person Shooter Fantasy

Before your read this story keep in mind that the killer at Sandy Hook was addicted to violent video games.  So of course NPR decides that violent first-person shooter video games are great art.  Well .... this one is because it's irresistible to the NPR producers.

NPR broadcast an article today about a developer of a violent video game in which the bad guys were Christians who revered the Constitution and were blatant racists.  Of course with a theme like that it's obviously comparable to one of the great tragedies of literature.

Levine has turned a game into an Aristotelian tragedy and used the model of great tragic heroes.

"Whether it's Hamlet or Oedipus, there's a notion of greatness to them," Levine says, "and a notion of what would've / could've [been]. And what's so painful about them is how wrong they went and how right they could have gone."

So what's the game about?

The game opens in 1912. Two mysterious people bring you by rowboat in the pouring rain to an empty lighthouse on an island off the coast of Maine. .... your task is to rescue Elizabeth from the city of Columbia and return her to New York. ... As you make your way up the inside steps of its tower, there are portents of what's to come: religious music and signs with messages like "Of thy sins shall I wash thee." That phrase evokes an ornery response from DeWitt, "Good luck with that, pal." ...

... But everything is laden with clues of a darker story that will bring this floating city to earth. There are preachers and statues of historical American leaders.

"This city is run by a prophet figure who created a new religion that worships the Founding Fathers of the United States," Levine says. He describes their religion as "a mixture of Christianity and a sort of Founder worship."

Here's a scene that has the NPR reporterette virtually slavering as she imagines what's in the secret heart of every conservative Christian person who admires the constitution:
In one scene, you're directed towards a raffle in front of a stage. You take a baseball from a basket with the number 77. You win! The curtain opens to reveal the prize — you're offered the chance to be the first to throw a baseball at a captive interracial couple.

And you have to make the choice to throw the ball at the couple or to throw the ball at the announcer. But here's the tricky part. If you throw the ball at the announcer, you will be revealed as a traitor and it may compromise your mission to find Elizabeth.
To NPR this is just like Hamlet or Oedipus. This is an NPR employee's dream of all that's wrong with America; America's founders, the religious heritage, and,of course the racism of everyone who's not part of the NPR family.

Now imagine that someone developed another game that had Liberals in control, people who revered eugenicist Margaret Sanger and plotted to destroy what she termed the inferior races by addicting them - like a drug pusher -  making them totally dependent on government handouts.  Who made aborting their babies the top woman's right.  Who laughed behind the scenes watching the Black family committed cultural suicide as its mothers killed their babies and their children shot each other.

Imagine it getting any air time on NPR. Unfortunately it's a video game that's being played out on in America.  You don't have to fire up the XBox.  It's not a fantasy.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Jeff Goldstein and Glenn Reynolds for the links.  Some people have commented that I have mischaracterized the actual game. That’s not the point. I have not mischaracterized the NPR story. And for those who claim that the game has people in it who are worse than Christians, white people and those who revere the founders, the message remains the same. The message is that white people, people of faith and people who want a return to the constitution are dangerous fanatics.

From Jeff Goldstein's excellent post: 
Here, today, the narrative from the neo-Stalinist progressives is that constitutionalists are racial supremacists and paranoid freaks; the Founding Fathers are their false idols; and the founding documents are their fetish. Religion is both their opiate and their cocaine, the thing that simultaneously dulls them into an intellectual stupor and turns them into evangelical zealots bent on demanding obeisance. Taken together, this toxic blend of hateful ignorance makes these slack-jawed clingers to their guns and their religion exceedingly dangerous to “sensible” people who want to live in a “community” wherein “common sense” laws — not the hoary edicts of dead white patriarchal slave owners — hold sway. Rational, cultured, intellectual people want to live in a land that looks forward, to progress, not backward, to a time of tri-cornered hats and oppression of the Other.
Jeff is right, that is the narrative, in crude comic-book/video-game form.  Exactly aimed at the "low information" voter.

UPDATE 2: My goodness, it looks like Jeff Goldstein and I have caused a bit of controversy. The younger crowd is working hard at being accepted and is in full straw man burning mode. It looks like gamers are an excitable bunch.

I won’t get into an argument about whether first person shooter video games are great art. I leave that to gamers and NPR. I should note that the NPR reporter references Hamlet and says that “Levine has turned a game into an Aristotelian tragedy and used the model of great tragic heroes.”

In modern America – in fact in all countries - politics is shaped by the culture and culture is shaped by the media.
People have commented: “It’s a video game, for heaven sake.” Yes, and the Daily Show is comedy. But strangely enough lots of people develop their idea about who to vote for depending on who gets portrayed as “uncool” on stupid comedy show for heaven sake. Do you or do you not get that?

Try another thought experiment. How about a series of first person shooter games where you are on Jihad and you get issued a sword and begin with an opportunity to behead Jewish reporters. You pick up other weapons, shoot US soldiers, plant IEDs, recruit your coreligionists into crashing airliners into tall buildings or strap on vests and set them off in restaurants in Tel Aviv. The goal is the Final Solution.  Here, Levine, I've given you the story line for your next Bioshock.

Hey, lighten up; it’s a game for heaven’s sake. Or it could be a Shakespearean tragedy.

I was busy at work today so I was unable to reply to the hysterical denunciation we received at the hands of hip youngsters who “understand” the deep philosophical mysteries in first-person shooter video games. I have to admit that playing video games is not the way I would prefer to watch the minutes, hours and days of my life expire, but everyone has to go sometime and I doubt if, at the final trump, I will be asked about my gaming prowess. That’s for the recent graduates of Bill & Mary.

I am accused of claiming that NPR and the guy who developed a video game called “Bioshock” are, in this hysterical young gent’s words: “teaming up to destroy all that is good and true about America.” Well, not exactly, but then people like this hysterical young gent are not much into nuance.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I am tweaking NPR for:
  1. Putting on a story about a violent video game in the wake of revelations that the Sandy Hook killer was a violent video game enthusiast.
  2. Pretending that this particular video game - or any video game - is in the same league as Hamlet and Oedipus.
Finally I am making the point, one that Jeff Goldstein has made repeatedly, that those who control the language and the culture eventually control the country. The control of the culture is accomplished through movies and the mass media, but also via comedians, comic books and things as stupid as video games. So, yeah, it’s a big effing deal.

Jeff Goldstein has a good summary  (Bioshock Unhinged) that I can endorse.
My post — and its critique — wasn’t aimed at Bioshock per se. It was, I thought I made clear, aimed at how NPR (and Levine, as presented) were presenting “Bioshock Infinite” — and then using that presentation of its themes (whether fairly or unfairly) to connect those themes outlined to high art, namely, the cartoonish portrayal of Founding Father worshippers.

I went on to note that this is part of a larger effort by the left to peddle this very cultural narrative, so for my purposes, whether NPR misrepresented “Bioshock Infinite” or the Bioshock franchise or Levine or art is relevant only inasmuch as it makes my broader point about the efforts of the left to frame conservatism and to work its narrative into the wider culture. That is, “Bioshock Infinite’s” deeper story structure wasn’t a concern; how the game was being described and added to the cultural noise surrounding Constitution fetishists was.

I should have thought someone claiming a heightened grasp of subtext would have understood that. But then, maybe I just overshot. Or maybe Mr Bloom didn’t pause long enough to consider that perhaps we hoary old embarrassments have the ability to do nuance, too — and that in his rush to separate himself from the “extremist” kind of conservatives like me, he has accomplished his mission, but only by dint of showing that he’s more eager to be accepted by the literati than he is to is to give the benefit of the doubt to conservative writers who have been at this quite a while and have a track record of being more than mere hysterics who rhapsodize to the dullards who still read him.
Bloom seems to be the kind of "Conservative" who is happy to live in a world where reality is shaped by the Left and he's allowed to live in it as long as he doesn't put up much  of a squawk.  He probably considers Dr. Ben Carson an embarrassment.


Anonymous said...

I played the game. Ironically, if you choose to throw the baseball at the interracial couple, you're STILL the traitor. It was an illusion of choice.

Anonymous said...

Oh and one more note in interest of fairness:

At one point in the game, the oppressed minorities rise up and take control, and they actually make things worse. Then you have to stop them. Bioshock Infinite is a very smart and thought-provoking game. I'm sure NPR left that part out of their discussion.

Anonymous said...

The bad guys were not Christians and did not revere the Constitution. They prayed to Washington, Jefferson and Franklin and worshiped their leader. Literally. They also were in rebellion against the actual US government. As the other person said, the oppressed minorities were even worst and wanted to commit genocide against the white folk starting w/ the babies. What reveals the player as a traitor isn't throwing the ball, it's a tattoo on his hand. He gets caught before he can even pull the ball back to throw it, no matter who you aim at.

Not Likely said...

Ignorant post.

Anonymous said...

"Ignorant post"? That's it? That's your entire argument?

Care to supplement that with facts and data to explain why you think this is an "ignorant post"? Or are you just dropping a drive-by comment to make yourself feel better, and have no intention of debating?

BTW, posting as Anonymous because Blogger is being stupid. My real name is Robin Munn.

Anonymous said...

"Aristotlean tragedy"?

If you're going with pretentious classical references to show how cultured you are, try referencing an actual tragedian instead of a philosopher.

Moneyrunner said...

Note to Anon @6:30 "Aristotelian tragedy" is what NPR called it. Please click on the headline and read the NPR broadcast for yourself.

Moneyrunner said...

Thanks to Jeff Goldstein and Glenn Reynolds for the link. To those who played the game, please note that I’m not a player. I listened to NPR on my drive home and what I heard caused me to look for the transcript on their website. Feel free to read it for yourself.

Anonymous said...

"... is what NPR called it".

Irrelevant. Something only becomes stupid when said by a conservative, even if it's an explicit and literal quote, and can only make the conservative look bad.

Anonymous said...

There isn't really an excuse for this. You got upset by an accurate description of a game. Levine actually describes the game perfectly. He starts with a routine figure (the tragic hero i.e. Hamlet or Oedipus) and asks how do you go about fixing their fatal flaw/deed. Thus you get a game whose premise centers around alternate universes (hence the name "Infinite"). The game ultimately comes down to fixing that moment that went wrong with the hero.

NPR simply describes one of the earliest parts of the game. It is the exact moment that you first have to kill. it's the most obvious point to talk about in the game without ruining the story.

It would be a spoiler to talk about the middle parts of the game where the blacks and immigrants rise up, but it's there. Even the anonymous guy above me complaining about NPR not talking about it prints a gigantic "spoiler alert" before he even mentions it. But yes, there is a revolt. In fact one of the most chilling lines in the game is "Kill anyone who is a threat, so anyone with a gun or glasses." Hints of the Khmer Rouge on that. And those oppressed people start gunning for you too. This is all in the same game. Yet you claim NPR wouldn't promote a game with these elements. Hell, the previous game from Levine is about a society brought down by a socialist utopian.

This is why conservatives lose the battle in art and pop culture. All you do is look for petty grievances. Reaction for the sake of reaction. I mean damn, you are mad that a game set in 1912 has white racists... THINK ABOUT THAT.

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