Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shorter McCullough: I've never played video games and here's why we should ban them...

I don't read Townhall.com, and I don't really know that much about Kevin McCullough, but this story makes me glad that I'm not a regular reader, for sure.

To save you the pain of reading it- McCullough is outraged- Outraged, I say!- about Mass Effect. It's pretty obvious that he's never played the game. He's got a great list of claims about it, everything from claiming that game-players are universally male (fyi- the only people I personally know who've played the game are actually women), to claiming that it allows players to engage in "the most realistic sex acts ever conceived" and that they can "hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of." (Conceived! Get it? That's funny! And "hump"? Really?) *ahem* Anyway- It's got a very realistic relationship, but the most realistic sex ever conceived? It's less than a minute long, and less explicit than half the stuff you see on network television.

I also love that McCullough thinks that character creation is a "disgusting idea" that "tends to objectify women, sex, and human relationships". Nevermind that the only customization you can do is in a limited area, and that the ability to create custom characters is actually a beneficial gameplay aspect that allows players from diverse backgrounds and physical types to create avatars that they can personally identify with. And ignore that the sex only happens as a result of multiple hours of relationship building. Showing people (and aliens, I suppose) as having complicated relationships- relationships that, yes, involve sex- isn't objectifying. The argument seems to be that any depiction of sex must necessarily be objectifying.

The criticisms just go downhill from there, ending up with the claim that Mass Effect:

can be customized to sodomize whatever, whoever, however, the gameplayer wishes.

With it's "over the net" capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away.

It's worth noting, here, that Mass Effect isn't an online game.

I know I've talked about this before, but this is just another example of someone taking an issue that's important and should be discussed- the sexism that exists within games and gaming culture- and completely missing the mark by not knowing what sie is talking about. There are games that allow the player to, yes, rape with the push of a button. And there are games that go to great lengths to objectify women or that push unrealisitic and unhealthy attitudes about sex, or gender, or relationships. But, spreading lies or untruths about games and gaming culture doesn't do anything to address those problems. Instead, it makes the conversation harder to have. It obfuscates the real issues, and puts gamers into a defensive mindset. It destroys the credibility of your argument when you can't even be bothered to find out what level of customization you have over a game, or whether it has online play.

The silver lining here is that a lot of McCullough's readers have called him out on this article. The comments (over 500 of them right now), are filled with plenty of people pointing out "Wow, you've clearly never played this game."


Anonymous said...

Wow. The only way McCullough could have been more wrong is if he'd just sat down at a his computer and started randomly hitting keys--kinda like the 300 monkeys typing will eventually reproduce Shakespeare thing. Except McCullough is clearly less informed than the 300 monkeys.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah...if anyone is actually interested in a review of the game without all the crazy, here's one from Tom's Hardware Guide.


N1nj4G1rl said...

"can be customized to sodomize whatever, whoever, however, the gameplayer wishes."

Sounds like he's confusing mass effect and second life/sarcasm

Now I must play mass effect, if only I had a system it would run on.
It's so sad when people can't be bothered to actually play a game before reviewing it. Then it becomes hilarious when they are so bold as to post their nonreview on the tubes where everyone can see the lazyness! Great way to retain readership.