The year is 1768. You’re in the forest, deep in the American Frontier, far from civilization, in what will someday be the state of New York. You sit, carefully, waiting in the brush, watching the trap and bait you’ve laid twenty feet away in the grass. Then, suddenly, your eyes are drawn to a deer, slowly and cautiously edging its way out from behind a tree, making its way towards your lure. It glances about, quickly scanning the area, before finding comfort in this place, and beginning to eat. Just as it does, you slowly and silently raise out of your haven, bow in your left hand, right pulling the string and arrow taut as you prepare to unleash your fury…
The scene changes; the year is now 1775. You stand on a rooftop ledge in the town of Boston, arrow still at the ready. Rather than a dear, a redcoat has taken its place, pestering and threatening a citizen unable to pay a tax the King has levied. Just as things look grim for the defenseless man, you release, the arrow sailing straight and true, straight through the soldier’s chest. Just as it does, you take off along the roof, running the length of the edge, before jumping into a tree, from there to the top of a fence, and then hitting and rolling along the cobblestone street, sprinting forward and making distance between yourself and the other soldiers close behind. You duck and weave through the crowd as the street opens up into the waterfront harbor, continuing to move through the crowd past smiths, merchants, and fisherman selling their wares. Gliding, up, over, through, and under stalls, you quickly become lost in the crowd, finding safety in the anonymity of the populace, far from your pursuers.
I recently got some time to play through Assassin’s Creed III, the bookend of the phenomenal five-part series began back in 2007 by Ubisoft. Of all the entries in the series so far, it seems like few have been as divisive among fans as this one in particular (1), even as it quickly outsold the others (2). People have found ways to criticize almost every aspect of the game, from the Mohawk protagonist Connor Kenway (Ratonhnhaké:ton), whose brash but introverted confidence is a far cry from the ‘most interesting man in the world’ Ezio Auditore was, to the twisting, surprising, and emotionally bleak story that is just as unique as any other in the series (3). While I personally have my own opinions on the matter, loving the creative story even as I struggled with the bizarrely uncommunicative gameplay direction that assured multiple failed missions, there is no doubt in my mind that the aspect of the game truly on show here is the setting, Colonial America during the 1700’s.
There are likely few people who truly enjoy the setting of the game as much as I do. Raised and grown on a strong diet of U.S. History as much as I was fantasy and sci-fi, I came to love the stories it told just as much as J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin’s novels. Even then, there is no historical period I love more than the American Frontier era, with all its’ freedom and chaos, lands free and unsettled by the western world symbolizing infinite opportunity and limitless possibilities. When the game and story were first teased back in March and April, I could hardly contain my own excitement, even as the rest of the gaming world was mostly unsure what to make of the chosen time and setting. It was hard to contain that restlessness when I finally got the chance to jump in myself just over a month ago.
The world I finally stepped into was even more beautiful to imagine, owing to the Ubisoft team’s incredible attention to historic detail, and matched by their necessity to be as faithful and representative in their depictions as possible, down to even the oft-glossed over and unpleasant truths of history. It should have come as no surprise to me that the very team which effortlessly planted my own infatuation with the Italian and European Renaissance should produce the living, breathing Colonial environment which they did. In fact, in all my own experiences with period pieces of this era, I’m certain that we’ve never gotten the chance to see, let alone experience, this setting and time in such a faithful embodiment as Ubisoft has privileged us with (alternate history main story aside, of course).
In all honesty, I’m certain that no other game world has ever captured my attention and affections as strongly as the world of Assassin’s Creed III has. Whether I was roaming across the forested frontier itself looking for whatever adventure I might find, leaping about rooftops and running through city streets as I fled from the authorities, navigating my ship through the Caribbean in fierce dogfights on the high-seas, or hunting down other members of the Brawler’s Club to best in mano-a-mano fistfights, there was no part of the game where I wasn’t fully captivated and at home. Everything from the authentic folk-music and orchestral soundtrack, to the way every character and creature in the game seemed to have a mind and purpose of its own, served to make me feel as if I’d really gone back in time. In the end, even after completing everything the game had to offer and pouring in 30+ hours, it still saddened me to have to put the game down, even when I knew it was time to pick up something else. Of course, I know it probably won’t be long before I return to it again, even if just to roam about the game’s world, taking in and experiencing the natural order inherent within it.
The very moments like these are what I love so much about being a gamer. They are the moments when developers and writers push the limits of the hardware and programming to do things which you had never even thought were possible before. The team at Ubisoft have crafted something in Assassin’s Creed II which I may never have even contemplated before: a period piece which is not only a remarkably accurate depiction of the period itself, but which literally lets you experience that very period in all of its harshness and glory. No other medium, be it novel, movie, or music alone can immerse you in that time setting as I know realize videogames can.
What they’ve done has the potential to change everything about how we relate to history, from how we teach it to our kids in school, to how we may understand it as we piece it together. There is almost limitless potential for developers to recreate history in ways that are exciting, fascinating, and engaging to an expansive range of audiences. And as the technology develops, the nature of those recreations will continue to become ever more realistic and authentic.
I am continually surprised and impressed by how people are able to use the medium of videogames in novel new ways that in some cases may even benefit society in addition to being progressively artistic. There is no doubt in my mind that videogames will continue to play an ever more important role in the shaping of our society’s future and progress. I suppose the real question that remains, of course, is whether or not any other developer will choose to use the technology in this fashion for the greater good, or whether it will merely sit as an impressive landmark in the history of videogames. My only hope is that people will continue to develop the technology for these very purposes, that the everyday person may benefit in the ways we come to relate to and understand human history through videogames. Only time will tell whether others will see the potential in such an endeavor.
1.”Assassin’s Creed III.” metacritic.com, Metacritic. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
2. “Assassin’s Creed 3: Fastest-selling Game in Ubisoft’s History.” gamergrub.com, Gamer Grub. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
3. Hamilton, Kirk. “How has Assassin’s Creed 3 Disappointed me? Let Me Count the Ways.” kotaku.com, Kotaku. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
(NOTE: Unless otherwise referenced, much of my information on the FGC comes directly from UltraDavid’s own remarkable editorial, in regards to his historical perspective on the FGC, from the Shoryuken.com website (1). While an incredible piece, I should warn you that it is extremely long. I’ve thus sought to summarize the most important points of it as I explain my own arguments in this piece.)
Of the many forms of competitive gaming that exist today, I am most fascinated and admiring of the Fighting Game Community (hereafter known as the FGC). Originally conceived in underground arcade communities through titles like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II, the FGC has a long and storied history. Now, recently coming out of a dark age with the rebirth of the Street Fighter franchise (Street Fighter IV) in 2008, the FGC has grown in the past few years to be greater than ever before. Yet it still carries characteristics of both the underground culture that birthed it and the very individualistic nature consistent with the type of competition particular to fighting games: two players pitted in quick and intense one-on-one battles of wits, dexterity, reflexes, and strategy that are just as skill-based as Starcraft or Call of Duty, but distinctively carry the added emphasis of brutally crushing your opponent into submission.
Humans are by their very nature competitive creatures. Sports, debates, children’s games, even our own capitalist society all revolve around the fact that we thrive on opposition and competition. Due to that very fact, understanding the forms of competition that come to dominate any type of society and/or culture can be incredibly significant for understanding the history and trajectory of that society and how it functions. In addition, fighting games are of particular interest for the fact that they are still so closely linked to the underground gaming culture they thrive in. The FGC has a tendency to do what suits itself rather than cater to business or sponsors like the other competitive game communities (MOBAs, FPSs, and RTSs), and is characterized by an unwillingness to cater or bow to forces or people outside of the community itself.
With this in mind, my own experiences in watching the gaming community have impressed upon me the fact that the FGC and fighting games are meaningful and representative portraits of racial and gender trends in general gaming culture and the general gaming industry, respectively. The best and worst aspects of both of these collectives are taken to extremes within their fighting counterparts, which not only helps us to better understand them, but to get a better picture of where the two are going.
As a preface, I should say that none of what I write here is meant to be insulting or condescending towards the FGC or fighting games in any way. As a particularly avid (albeit still rather green) fan of fighting games and the incredible community that surrounds them, I have a deep respect for everyone involved in that aspect of gaming and gamer culture. While I admit there are certain negative aspects to both collectives, my pointing them out is not meant to criticize or demean, but instead to show the difficulties and challenges that beset them each and the ways that those will need to be addressed, and are already being addressed, as the two move forward. I also intend to give the best view I can to people otherwise ignorant of the FGC and the important aspect of the gaming industry it represents, as I feel it to be a community that deserves much more recognition and attention.
To start with, let’s look at the games themselves.
Fighting games have always been an oddity in their own seeming embrace and flaunting of racial and cultural stereotypes that other genres will often avoid like the plague. As Matt “The Sw1tcher” and Woolie stated in their Fighterpedia series on youtube, “Fighting game characters are arguably some of the most memorable, classic, beloved character designs in all of video games. They are also arguably some of the most offensively offensive. You cannot get away with [these depictions] in any other genre today (2).” One glance at the some of the Street Fighter (SF) character roster and you’ll see what he means – Zangief, the massive Russian wrestler (originally meant to carry the groan-inducing name ‘Vodka Gorbalsky’). Dhalsim the Indian yoga master. El Fuerte the wacky Mexican Luchador obsessed with cooking. T. Hawk the stern Native American. All of them, as well as several others in SF and other fighting games, represent cultural and racial stereotypes taken to ridiculous extremes in attempt to create characters as distinct and memorable as possible.
Three guesses who this guy is.
Not only is this an obvious issue, but fighting games also have a history of sexualizing female characters in ways that are practically on par with comic books, if not worse. Cammy from SF, whose green, one-piece combat outfit literally ends at the waste in a thong. Mai from King of Fighters (KoF), notorious for her massive, dangling, half-exposed breasts, emphasized by her fighting stance and almost nonexistent outfit. Chun-Li, also from SF(affectionately nicknamed ‘Thunder-Thighs’ by fans), with her nylon stockings that only further emphasize her massively muscular legs and, again, white thong. The list goes on and on, with some fighting game franchises even holding all-female casts (ex: Arcana Hearts, Skullgirls).
Cammy. What does the outfit have to do with her being British Special Forces again?
The problem is, as absurdly over-the-top as these sexual and racial depictions are, they serve to highlight viewpoints that are incredibly common within videogames. Although there’s been a major shift to see more complex and non-traditional, non-caucasian characters in gaming within the past few years, there’s still a major uphill battle being fought to increase racial diversity among videogame characters, one which has had some major setbacks in the years prior to that (Resident Evil 5 comes to mind); as with movies, it’s still very rare to find a non-caucasian-american (or non-japanese) leading character in a videogame these days.
Women have it even worse off. In fighting a similar battle, women characters that aren’t sex symbols are even less common as leading roles. As I stated earlier, while these may be taken to ridiculous extremes in fighting games, the views of racial and gender roles are just as twisted in general gaming as in any other medium.
The converse to this is that, while still a major issue as of the time of my writing this, things have been quickly changing for the better, tending towards much more respectful views of women and ethnicities.
Though this shift has been slow in gaining momentum, and evidence is thus hard to find in any genre, shifting of gender views is seen most prominently within fighting games. Whereas older fighting game characters tended towards stereotypes and sexuality to easily create very unique and memorable fighters, the past decade has seen much more of a trend to create characters that stand out for other reasons. In the past two major iterations of SF, three female characters have come to the fore for reasons other than sexuality: Makoto, the tomboyish karate master, Crimson Viper the very modestly dressed (albeit ample-bosomed) CIA operative, and Juri, the dark and sadistic Korean assassin. The KoF series has taken this concept even further towards gender equality, in that their standard roster includes just as many non-sexualized and modestly-dressed (if not outright masculine) women as it does characters like the infamous Mai (Elisabeth, Mature, etc.). Their roster is also rounded out by a number of surprisingly feminine male characters (Ash, Duo Lon, K’ to name a few).
Elisabeth from KOF XIII. See? Appropriately dressed, still wacky and memorable, everybody’s happy.
The shift in racial roles has also changed most prominently in the past decade within the SF franchise, above others. In the past few iterations of the series, fans clamoring to see fighters from their own countries and cultures has prompted the creation of three distinct characters that almost avoid stereotypes altogether: Sean, a boisterous Brazilian of mixed Japanese-Brazilian descent, practicing jiu-jitsu; Elena, a lanky young white-haired woman from an African Savannah tribe, specializing in flashy capoiera; and the most recent, Juri, mentioned previously.
Juri is particularly progressive in the fact that her personality serves to turn the former sexualization of female characters on its head. Almost overwhelming in her use of strongly sexual language, including double-entendres and suggestiveness, the coupling of this trait with the rest of her personality genuinely serves to make her more intimidating and frightening, rather than sexy.
Got a death wish? Try to hit on her, I dare you.
The fighting genres’ push towards progressivity in recent years has reverberated in all other genres of gaming in ways that are only being strongly felt today. Last year, Telltale Games’ video game version of The Walking Dead, which has won multiple game of the year awards across several gaming publications, was particularly groundbreaking in its’ choice for lead role – Lee Everett, an intelligent, resourceful, level headed, and deeply empathetic former university professor, who also happens to be African-American. Similarly, the Assassin’s Creed series was groundbreaking last year for its’ choice of Connor Kenway (Ratonhnhaké:ton) as the protagonist for it’s third iteration – a brash, half-Mohawk young man who aggressively supports and defends his own tribe in the midst of the American Revolution, fighting against whichever side threatens his people. Lee and Connor’s inclusion as protagonists is the result of several years of undercurrents pushing towards racial equality within videogames, first seen (and likely first possible) in fighting games, which naturally tend towards multiculturalism, stereotypical as they have been in the past. Indeed, being the leads in such massively-popular titles is historically and culturally significant in the shift it will no doubt come to represent in the future of gaming.
Progress has been much more difficult for strong and/or non-sexualized female characters in games. It seems as if for every major step forward, they take two backwards… For every Samus Aran (Metroid) or Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2), there is an Ashley Graham (Resident Evil 4) or Bayonetta (Bayonetta). However, recent trends have at least shown some promise with the new Tomb Raider game due out soon, as well as the continued surge of realistic female supporting characters in the past few years; Elena Fisher of Uncharted and Bonnie MacFarlane of Red Dead Redemption come to mind. Time will tell if this will be a continuous trend on par with their male, non-caucasian counterparts.
Continuing forward, we’ve just spent a considerable amount of time talking about the typical characters that make up these games, but what about the people playing them? Analysis of the FGC, and the cultural characteristics of game communities that it represents, is even more telling, and in my opinion, even more interesting.
Watch any stream of a major fighting game competition and one thing will be overwhelmingly clear at the outset: no one ethnicity or skin color is dominant in the multitudinous melting pot of characters who make the bouts so exciting to watch. There is Justin “Wongba” Wong, the Asian-American powerhouse with a generally cheerful and fun-loving disposition; Kevin “Dieminion” Landon, the dapper-dressed and glasses-adorned African-American, quiet and humble outside of the game (and almost unrivaled in his reflexes and deadliness within it; also my personal favorite); Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, the charming and gregarious Latino-American with a penchant for supporting the community and its growth in any way possible; and innumerable others, all varying in character, ethnic background, and game they play.
This intercultural representation is very likely an indicator of the ethnic breakdown of who is actually playing videogames in general, and in the end, this kind of blending shouldn’t really be surprising. When it comes to videogames, it doesn’t matter what your race, gender, or age may be when you’re behind the screen, even when it comes to online play with or against others; all that really matters is how good you play. Starcraft II and League and Legends necessitate quality PCs and all the financial quandaries in keeping it up to date, thus selecting for more upper-class players (which, obviously, are more often than not whites). Fighting games on the contrary are arcade and console particular, and thus are much less expensive, allowing for a much broader range of cultural circles to partake. Unfortunately, the incredibly frustrating truth is that no study of the game industry has attempted to get solid numbers of what ethnicities are gaming, and so all we have to go on is what we see at these competitions.
However, the surprisingly multicultural nature of the FGC is also slightly mitigated by the fact that women are almost entirely absent within its ranks. Of the competitions I’ve seen so far, females are a very small majority within the the populace, and are often nonexistent within the highest elites of competition. The problem itself has been noted multiple times by various individuals within the community, and is often a point of contention with the greater gaming media that pays attention (3). Women players are gradually becoming more and more present, and there has been a major push in the past year to address sexism issues in the community and bring more female competitors out of the shadows and into the fray, but the changes are gradual and represent a long road ahead for women in the FGC.
While the FGC is naturally more selective towards males for the cramped, sweaty, trash-talking and macho characteristics of the arcade-competition underground that birthed it, this nonetheless identifies an issue present within the gaming community at large. As of 2012, female gamers made up 47% of all videogame purchasers and players (4), a figure that you would likely never assume based on the public image of the gaming community. Female gamers themselves have made great strides in recent years towards being a cultural norm, slowly moving out of the living room and into the public image, but there is still a very real struggle taking place in the industry and community to welcome them there.
The logic behind all this is that gaming has primarily been seen as a male-centric entertainment medium since its’ creation, and even today the undertone lingers; a common internet stereotype posits that as soon as someone specifically identifies themselves as a ‘girl gamer,’ they are immediately going to say something about videogames that is incredibly ignorant and false (obviously not true, but with enough examples of it for it to have gone viral in recent years). Just as women have a long road in becoming more accepted and present within the FGC, it will take some time before they are commonly accepted within the community at large.
The FGC and industry are unique beasts in the racial and gender functions of both, even within the gaming world. Where they can be seen as strongly progressive and forward-thinking in some ways, the layman would consider them unusually backwards in others. The undercurrents and background that color its personality and characteristics are present in every other gaming genre and every other part of the industry, and simply await someone perceptive enough to parse the veins which are most obvious within the fighting game industry and the community it relies upon. Yet with all their flaws, strengths, and outright peculiarities, they remain a significant pulse for the gaming world at large, boldly expressing the cultural and ethnic norms that will come to shape the future… Whether those are battlefields for equality or bastions of social maturation.
1. UltraDavid (Graham, David Philip). “Momentum Matters: A Historical Perspective on the FGC and Esports Communities.” Shoryuken.com, Shoryuken. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
2. Machinima. “Fighterpedia, Episode 1: Rejected Street Fighters.” Online video series. Youtube.com, Youtube. 30 October 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
3. Orland, Kyle.”Is pervasive sexism holding the professional fighting game community back?.” arstechnica.com, Ars Technica. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
4. “Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry (2012).” theesa.org, Entertainment Software Association. April 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
Last week I spoke of the merits and characteristics of videogames as a new art form. In this medium, the interaction and engagement aspect of what were simple games has been wedded to the art forms of imagery, music, and storytelling in a wholly unique, purpose-driven collaboration that uses each aspect to strive for something greater as a whole. However, what I may have neglected to mention in my previous post(s) is how each of those art forms is in turn individually enriched as they are given new fields to play in and novel purposes to accomplish. While the major topic in that discussion is that of how videogames have breathed new life into storytelling, as this collaboration allows for players to be immersed into incomparable tales at the unexplored frontiers of the imagination, it would be disrespectful to speak of the narrative aspect (1) and no other.
There is another medium that has been revolutionized and diversified just as much as modern narrative – one that is rarely glimpsed by those outside of the industry itself, and yet deserves just as much attention. That medium is music.
There’s an obvious difficulty in trying to fully measure the power and value of the medium we call music. For millenia, people have invented and built sound-generating instruments ranging from simple to bafflingly complicated; and since the earliest days of these instruments, people have brought them together in novel and astonishing ways to sonically communicate their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and beliefs, often accompanied by singing. It is an art that has proven its’ versatility time and time again as it continues to evolve and grow throughout the ages.
At its’ heart, music is a way of expressing deep thought and soulful passion in engaging and complex ways that the written word alone may not always be able to accomplish. Every note, chord, or bar makes us feel or think a certain way, can even bring certain images to our mind. The most beautiful songs are also the strongest in how and what thoughts, images, and feelings they can evoke in someone, written words included or not. As they move one from image to image and/or emotion to emotion, they communicate their purpose in a very profound, almost spiritual level. Based upon this reasoning, as well as personal experience, I personally think and believe that music, even in its’ simplest forms, can tell the most powerful of stories.
That being said, music is ultimately written for various purposes, and thus the instruments, tonality, key, and notes must fit the scene, the subtext, the culture, the message, and the audience (all coming together to tell the ‘story’ proposed). In keeping this in mind, one could hypothesize that the broader and more multifarious of a narrative pool music has to draw from, the greater ability there would be to tap into creative and unexplored ways to write and produce music of varying types. Of course, as you have likely already surmised, that hypothesis has already proven to be true; the highly imaginative and ever expansive worlds and cultures portrayed within videogames have become that creative pool.
As I’d said in that earlier post, videogames have continued to evolve as developers seek to envelop one in complex and emotionally transformative narratives, seek to create mind-warping and thought-provoking worlds at the limits of the imagination, seek to test and manipulate ones’ own perceptions of logic and reality, and to seek other, even more abstract ambitions. In working towards those goals, music has become a significant tool for reaching those ambitions and goals, and the medium is now a major aspect of the immersion videogames offer, to the point that it will on occasion be the defining factor between a great game and a terrible one. The art form has therefore rapidly transformed and diverged to suit those needs, being used to fit worlds, situations, and cultures that were inconceivable more than 20 years ago.
Of course, I cannot stress enough the fact that none of this is to say musical creativity and artistry was suffering in any way previously – that’s not the point here. Music has experienced rapid and exponential divergence in the past several decades, culminating in ever-expanding realms of genres and sub-genres as more and more people have taken to evolving the art form with novel concepts of instrumentation and purpose. While I myself am a rather outspoken enemy of most of what is played on the radio (by that I specifically mean mainstream pop and hip-hop), I know there are still nearly endless other artists, let alone genres, to find enjoyment in. Videogame music is rather the next expression of that ever furthering musical frontier.
Neither is this expansion into new forms a ‘need’ for the medium itself. Indeed, what is particularly special about art is that, where it is concerned, there never really is the question of ‘need’ (artistic drives aside). Van Gogh never ‘needed’ to paint Starry Night, nor did Michelangelo ‘need’ to sculpt The David. Yet because of their work, just as with those of videogame composers, our culture significantly benefits from the sacrifice they made to bring us that art.
The wonderful thing about this topic is that, for once in these many posts, I can finally bring to you the very thing I am presenting to you and inviting you to experience, which I thus intend to do. (If you are reading this, I would highly encourage you to use the links offered to listen to each piece for yourself. Not only are they pieces which are of special significance to me and many other gamers world over, they are some of the best musical creations the industry has to offer. )
In following my logic of viewing music as stories, few other game soundtracks would be as strong an example as the main theme from Final Fantasy X (as in ten). Final Fantasy X, driven by one of the strongest stories in any videogame, is at its’ heart a love story about two people from very different worlds. Set in a land of very particularly blended sci-fi/fantasy, where the very fate of the world is at stake in a rather sweeping and epic adventure tale, the story itself is nonetheless concerned with the very realistic human concepts of sacrifice, maturity, hardship, friendship, forgiveness, redemption, perseverance, and of course love. In the end, the tale comes to one of the most tragic and bittersweet climaxes of any powerful modern narrative. What’s remarkable about the game for our purposes, however, is the fact that every word I’ve just used to describe it comes alive and can be truly felt in the main theme of the game (“At Zanarkand (piano)” by Nobuo Uematsu).
You would find equally beautiful and powerful music were you to head to the opposite end of the gaming and music spectrum, as in the Indie hit Bastion . Bastion is a much darker game at its’ core, portraying the exploits of a silent, blue-collar young man (known only as “The Kid”) in a steampunk-western world horribly ravaged by a disaster known only as The Calamity. As he travels far and wide across the continent he once called home, searching for the handful of survivors that are left, he seeks to build what life he can for them all through the magic of a sanctuary built to withstand the supposed end of all things… And yet, in pursuing that aim, everything turns on its head as he slowly comes to understand why his world came to a sudden and violent crash. It is dark, gritty, and charming, teeming with music that draws on a blend of folk and grunge to color what’s left of his world, as shown in its’ own theme (“Build That Wall(Zia’s Theme)” by Darren Korb).
As remarkably inspiring and imaginative as the worlds, settings, and designs of which are currently at the leading edge of modern-gaming, the music crafted to accompany them is equally astonishing and fresh in its own right. Whether you’re a survivor stomping through the wastes of a post-apocalyptic steampunk western (“Spike In A Rail” by Darren Korb, from Bastion), an outlaw trying to survive a brutal Wild West shootout (“Triggernometry” by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, from Red Dead Redemption), a member of a graffiti gang fighting for artistic freedom under the glitz and neon lights of the future Tokyo nightlife (“Funky Radio” by B.B. Rights, from Jet Grind Radio), or just being soothed by string quartet as you try to bend your mind around the logic puzzles of Echochrome (“Prime #5” by Hideki Sakamoto, from Echochrome), there will be music to help immerse you in the world you’re inhabiting. Just as videogames themselves continue to evolve as an artistic medium in and of themselves, so music will be carried along with it to incredible horizons no one can foresee.
–“Liberi Fatali” by Nobuo Uematsu, from Final Fantasy VIII
–“Fight CLub” by Lorne Balfe, from Assassin’s Creed III
–“Prime #4507, Part 2” by Hideki Sakamoto, from Echochrome II
–“Nate’s Theme” by Greg Edmonson, from Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
–“Battle 2” by Nobuo Uematsu, from Final Fantasy IX
–“Another Winter” by Anamanaguchi, from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
–“Passion (Sanctuary)” by Utada Hikaru, from Kingdom Hearts II
–“Uncharted Worlds” by Jack Wall and Sam Hulik, from Mass Effect
1. Clevenger, Ethan. “Video games have more storytelling potential than any other medium.” venturebeat.com, GamesBeat. 12 August 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
Videogames have come a long way in the past several decades, morphing and evolving to utilize and innovate new computer technologies, all the while marching hand in hand with the ever advancing verge of mechanical progress evident in human society. Long gone are the days of two white paddles bouncing a similarly-colored ball back and forth across the screen, or of a tiny ship floating around a black space and blasting large balls into smaller bits. The modern state of gaming is more concerned with things like enveloping one in complex and emotionally transformative narratives, creating mind-warping and thought-provoking worlds at the limits of the imagination, testing and manipulating ones’ own perceptions of logic and reality, and even more abstract ambitions. In short, videogames are growing up, and our own perceptions of them within our culture are beginning to do so as well.
Yet with matured lenses of any aspect of culture come differing and opposing viewpoints, debates, and schools of thought. And sometimes, things get nasty.
In a recent article on the website of (geek) media giant IGN, journalist Tim Biggs sought to bring new light to the modern argument of whether videogames could be considered ‘art,’ arguing that “Games are conceived and created as objects to play with, not to draw meaning from (1).” Mr. Biggs’ comments are the most recent to touch upon a war that’s been seething within the game industry for years, with most major publications refusing to choose sides even as their journalists publicly do so. In fact, his own comments regarding the art debate are the most provocative since Roger Ebert’s public statements a few years back regarding his opinion that “Videogames can never be art”(2; of course why we should be concerned with a man whose entire subset of artistic knowledge lies in an entirely separate medium is beyond me). Both articles have garnered considerable negative attention from the other side of the debate.
As someone who emphatically and enthusiastically supports the opposing school of thought, the magnitude of Mr. Biggs’ article necessitates an appropriate response in explanation as to why, without any personal offense to him, his argument is just flat-out wrong. However, although I do feel there are a number of things wrong with Mr. Biggs’ thesis, I pen this response not to viciously tear apart his own words, but rather to address and counterpoint them in way that is respectful and conducive to dialogue on this subject. This happens to be a debate which will have implications reaching far beyond the boundaries of the gaming industry now and in the near future, and which will become ever more significant in years to come.
To begin our discussion, we start with an understanding of the basic question. Are videogames art? Well, even before answering that, what is ‘art’? To be frank, art can have many definitions: “the process of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions,” “the imitation of nature,” “a skill being used to express the artist’s creativity, to engage the audience’s aesthetic sensibilities, or to draw the audience towards consideration of the finer things (3).”
The kicker to all this is that I could point out any number of games that would qualify as ‘art’, regardless of the definition you would choose to use. While I admit that both of the opposing writers have their own valid points on the debate, my own answer to the original question is, as I have just stated, an eternal and enthusiastic “Yes.” Videogames are a unique form of art that, while still as culturally relevant as any other form, are nonetheless entirely separate in the ways that they achieve these artistic goals. The issue with writers like Mr. Biggs and Mr. Ebert is that they are weighed down by woefully inadequate and archaic language in truly defining what a videogame ‘is,’ which leads them to miss the forest for the trees as they then go on to miss several incredibly significant points that overwhelmingly argue against their own position.
There are two major schools of thought regarding general game studies that characterize how videogames themselves are socially perceived: ‘narratology’, which insists that the most important aspect of a videogame is the narrative it deigns to tell, similar to a story or book; and ‘ludology’, which posits that, as ‘games’, our understanding of them should be entirely based on the ‘rules’ which inherently characterize each individual videogame, rather than representational elements that are considered entirely incidental. Biggs and Ebert obviously fall within the boundaries of the latter in their perception.
The major issue concerning Biggs’ and Ebert’s opinions is not just that they are exclusively married to the ludology school of thought, but that they would even accept the need to choose one side over the other in what I perceive to be a false dichotomy in our understanding of videogames. Most games these days have grown far too complex to forcibly restrict to either of the two viewpoints, and even if we tried to do so, there are several games that would still be called ‘art’ regardless of the school of thought one adhered to.
Look at it this way. The very first videogames were entirely dependent on the definition of what a game is, owing to the fact that developers viewed them just as any other sport or board game: they had very real and definitive rules which sometimes had to be taught just like any other game, and like those other games, were concerned with racking up a score in hopes of beating an AI or human opponent. Pac-man, Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Dig-Dug, Donkey Kong, even the original Mario Bros. (not Super Mario Bros,. mind you, which came later and broke this trend) all embody this formula of gaming. Pretty standard, right?
However, in the past few decades, most of these traditional guidelines for game development have gone entirely out the window as people have come to see development as more of a canvas to experiment with than
blueprints to rigidly adhere to. Today, games that follow those original arcade-style guidelines, while finding new life on mobile and web platforms, have slowly been driven into a small minority within the industry. Modern games are more interested in pushing the boundaries of what the term ‘videogame’ even means, reaching ever high zeniths of interactivity and captivation as they shoot for new artistic, narrative, and philosophical horizons. The term ‘videogame’ itself has become rather archaic and outdated, oft being the subject for debate in and of itself as people struggle to define what even characterizes a ‘videogame’ anymore.
Biggs quotes renowned games scholar Markku Eskelinen when he says: “If I throw a ball at you, I don’t expect you to drop it and wait until it starts telling stories (1).” Well, of course not; not only would this make for an incredibly poor game in any sense of the word, it would probably make a crappy movie too (although I’m sure Pixar could save it). Videogames are no longer like two people playing catch with a ball, they’re more like a ball trying to tell you its own story, while making you move it in a way that helps you relate to what’s happening in the story. Sometimes you’re bouncing, sometimes, you’re rolling it against a wall, sometimes you’re juggling, but you are always directly engaged with the story itself. Even then, this analogy still can’t really encapsulate the complexity of playing a modern videogame.
Due to the fact that Ebert and Biggs seem to be out-of-touch with how far the gaming industry has progressed, they can’t seem to move past this limited thinking, and feel the need to inherently force videogames to adhere to the ‘game’ concept, with definitive rules, objectives, and ‘scores.’ Yet videogames no longer even harbor anything akin to ‘rules’ in a traditional sense; for example, the modern worlds of adventure games (a genre) actually consist of something more akin to ‘laws,’ which dictate how the game world itself functions just as the laws of our own world do, while the player themselves is concerned with living out a story. For example, take a game like the massively-popular RPG Skyrim: Skyrim, which involves a character of the players’ own creation running about freely in a massive fantasy world, could care less about the player following ‘rules;’ it quite literally drops you into the world with absolute freedom, letting you discover and understand the ‘laws’ of said world on your own as you create your own adventure. There are quests to take on, breathtaking ecosystems and scenery to explore, and even a world to save (if you really care, that is).
“I bet I could get ten points if I climbed that huge mountain!” said nobody ever (4).
We could even take a look at the other extreme of videogames more akin to the original arcade games, such as the sleeper-hit puzzle game Echochrome. In Echochrome, your avatar is a small mannequin that constantly moves about the level map, and your goal is to get him from point to point on said map, which is composed of incredibly minimal pathways, columns, and staircases. The catch is that the world functions according to laws inspired by M.C. Escher, and thus the entire world will shift and change merely as you rotate your perspective. Gaps and holes will cover up, dead ends will connect to form bridges, and launch pads will throw you in impossible directions as your character treats the world as a flat, 2D-plain. This logic-defying approach to physics, the charming, minimalist (yet incredibly creative) structures, and the marrying of both to a string-quartet soundtrack which is comprised of some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard (more on that next post), make for a unique experience that is at least as thought-provoking and beautiful as Escher’s own works.
As much as I love this game, I can’t tell you how much it would make my friends’ heads hurt to watch (5).
My point is that videogames, as such a unique collaboration of imagery, music, storytelling, and gameplay, far outmatch anything else that could ever be called a game, and are not something that can be boiled down to subatomic parts as narratology or ludology would insist. All of these separate aspects of a game are entirely interdependent on one another, and each piece is thus integral to the identity and purpose of the game it inhabits. Videogames as an art form are a newly opened medium that is remarkably different from any other form of art in how it operates, and thus will never be able to truly be compared to them in each and every way.
I will agree that not every videogame itself can be called ‘art,’ just as not every film or book can; many can have very separate ambitions. Yet those that can be called art continue to push the creative boundaries of what they can make people, think, feel, or experience every day, just as literature and paintings have been doing since their conception.
At this point you’re probably tired of my ramblings, and I’m honestly a bit tired of appealing to your intellect, so I’ll get to the basic heart of the matter: isn’t the very nature of art to appeal to and push you emotionally, psychologically, or intellectually? I’m certain that if you ask any hardcore gamer today, they would be able to give you countless examples of games doing the very same with their stories, their impact, or the ways they captivate the player. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead) Most people who grew up playing RPGs in the 90’s likely have a story about how they cried when the villain Sephiroth shockingly and unexpectedly murdered the love-interest Aeris in Final Fantasy VII; nearly everyone who played Bioshock when it was released was utterly wrecked when they discovered that they were the ones being played, rather than the game; most major fans of the Metal Gear Solid series likely carries the same anti-war and pacifistic sentiments which it pushes through the dark, incredibly complex, and equal parts humorous/frightening stories that it tells. Within the past decade or so, videogames have come to have a social and cultural impact on the way people think, feel, and perceive, just as any other artistic medium.
As for me personally, videogames have come to shape my own thinking and worldview in ways just as powerful as any novel or movie, picture, or painting ever could. Silent Hill 2 was the only narrative that could impress upon me how incredibly emotionally and psychologically powerful a romantic, marital relationship could be for two people. The horrifically tragic ending of Red Dead Redemption is impressed upon my mind just as strong as that of The Grapes of Wrath, and it also happened to be the only piece of art (videogame, movie or novel) that ever really came close to making me cry. Playing through Braid not only forced me to twist my logic in ways I’d never had to, but its’ own story made me question my very own perceptions and wisdom of life just as much as Citizen Kane did as I resonated with their respective main characters. To say that none of this could possibly be considered art is not only close-minded and evident of misunderstanding, it is incredibly insulting to millions of people that play, and are shaped by, these games every day. (End Spoilers.)
At our very core, we are a creature with the self-evident need to create. As our own society continues to progress, we have continued to find ways to do so through our imagery, our music, our movies and stories, using them to inform, to question, and to move each other in an infinite amount of ways. Now we have begun to do so by finding a way to combine all of these previous elements in a way that involves and touches people in ways never thought possible even twenty years ago. As someone standing on the very wave of the industry as it continues to push forward, it is not only incredibly fascinating and exciting to see and be a part of, it is also impossibly beautiful, while still being inherently human.
1. Biggs, Tim. “Opinion: Games as Art – Another Perspective.” IGN, ign.com. 30 December 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
2. Ebert, Roger. “Video games can never be art.” Roger Ebert’s Journal, blog.suntimes.com. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
3. “Art.” Wikipedia, wikipedia.org. 9 January 2013, Retrieved 23 January 2013.
4. Coldewey, Dewey. “Review: Skyrim.” Techcrunch, techcrunch.com. 20 November 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
5. Jeriaska. “The Sound of Echochrome (Echi2.jpg).” Siliconera, siliconera.com. 11 June 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
Human emotion can be a very fickle, vain, and yet immensely powerful thing. When public tragedies occur, we truly come to see this power as people are stricken to their very core. They are moved, along with society as a whole, in remarkable ways, to address issues which they feel are responsible for such tragedies and potentially avert them in the future. The majority of the time, this incredible unity and power can bring about wonderfully beneficial changes to a society seeking significant reform… And yet there are also times where such power can quickly turn dark, as people unabashedly lash out against any and all forces they think may be responsible for such loss, regardless of whether there is any true relation between the crime and the asserted perpetrator. It is for this reason that, time and time again, people have continued to find fault in, and lobby accusation against, violence in videogames.
Indeed, as our country continued to seek reform for things such as gun regulation and our country’s woefully inadequate mental health services, it barely took a few words against videogame violence from Wayne LePierre, executive vice president of the NRA (1), to spark a firestorm that quickly swept the country as people and media publications leaped to join the cause. Before we knew it, people were boycotting and throwing away these games on a massive scale, to the point that one neighboring town in Connecticut even cam close to burning them in a bonfire (2), a twisted story that made me wonder if we were suddenly back in the middle ages. It almost seemed as if the country had gone mad.
I’ve grown tired of watching this argument happen time and time again. I’ve grown tired of people obtusely shaming an industry that bears no guilt and continues to bear the brunt of such criticism regardless. Above all else, I’ve grown tired of people finding fault with such a powerful creative and artistic force that continues to evolve in socially beneficial ways before their very eyes, which they refuse to acknowledge or see.
It is socially and culturally imperative that the argument stop once and for all.
As is often the case in this particular argument, the most difficult side to take is that of defending the video game industry and their right to portray violence under the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech). The reason for this is that, although I could (and will) pull on a myriad of sources to defeat any of the ridiculous claims that the media have levied against the game industry, those on the other side of the argument actually know very little about the industry, and thus wage war against it simply because it appears as an easy target for scapegoating. It’s hard to find fault with them on their own position; they will typically ignore the industry and the games it produces, completely oblivious to it all, until they see some of the violence depicted within videogames (almost always pulled entirely out of context). When they do see it, often incorrectly correlated to a massive tragedy such as that at Sandy Hook, they take it as a sign to rally together and start getting angry, feeling threatened by this culture because they in fact know so little about it.
Yet things are changing, and have been changing very quickly over the pas few years. The time is coming soon when they will no longer be able to ignore video games as they do, when in fact doing so may only serve to retard social, artistic, and creative growth within our society. In order to explain why that is, we need to understand and be educated on where games have come from, and where they are going.
Violence has existed in video games since their creation, but it was the release of Mortal Kombat in 1992 which first garnered mainstream attention for its wanton use of violence as a way to differentiate itself from the other mainstream fighter of the time, Street Fighter II. Mortal Kombat drew such negative attention for its extreme violence and gore that it necessitated the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB, 3), an association whose purpose is to analyze and assign a rating to all entertainment software, including videogames, similar to the way in which movies are rated. Every game released would now receive a rating which parents could use to determine whether it was appropriate for their child, and it was assumed that this would put a quick end to negative attention of violence in videogames (hint: it really didn’t).
From that point forward, games would continue to be released that pushed the boundaries of acceptable violence within a videogame, almost all of which would receive negative media attention for their usage and portrayal of such violence, whether it was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (4), Grand Theft Auto III (5), Duke Nukem 3D (6), etc., just to name a few. And with every major release of such a game, there would always be people who would blame said game for directly influencing violent crimes perpetrated by offenders (and in some cases, even offenders who would use videogames as a scapegoat for their behavior). The mainstream media, always looking for a monster to rally against in order to sell their publications, would eat up each and every claim against videogames they could, when in reality they knew very little about the games they were attacking. The last part hasn’t changed.
The major problem with this is that, while the tactics of such attackers has not changed within the past two decades, videogames themselves have continued to evolve and change exponentially within that time frame. Within the past several years, video games have quickly grown to become the major medium for creative storytelling (7), and three years ago, video games surpassed movies, music, and books as the most popular entertainment medium of our day, a popularity which is even now on the rise (8).
Due to the way in which videogames can interact with and fully engage their audience in a way no other medium can, they allow writers to tell stories and artists to create imaginative worlds in ways never thought possible, and in ways that people can enjoy like never before. Two decades ago, no gamer would have even been able to imagine something like Bioshock Infinite (9) or Heavy Rain (10), which engage their audience with such strong social commentary and superb writing as to instruct and move people in the same ways which fine literature has been doing for hundreds of years, and in which movies have been doing for the past century. Certain videogames have slowly grown into what can only be called ‘art’, telling stories and moving audiences in ways that will be increasingly significant and beneficial as they continue to evolve in their scope and ability.
You might be asking what this has to do with the matter at hand. I will answer you with three major reasons, all closely tied to what videogames have come to mean in our society.
First, bringing this type of unwarranted and undeserved negative attention towards the gaming industry is not only counter-productive, but if it is allowed to continue, such negative and ignorant perceptions of videogames will slowly come to hinder our society as a whole. As of yet, videogames are a medium with incredible power for personal instruction, social reformation, and artistic expression with potential which even today we do not truly understand. While there are many games that use violence as a gimmick, violence itself can still be used in incredibly artistic and thought-provoking ways. Some have even progressed to the point that the socially-conscious issues they tackle, and the thematic ways they do it, can only be described as literary, whether it be through exploring the intense immorality of a truly anarchistic and Randsian society, as in Bioshock (11), or whether it ruptures the fourth wall in uncomfortable ways as it questions the true psychological horror of the fact that we even find entertainment in war videogames, as in Spec Ops: The Line (12).
Perhaps it would be better if I used examples from a separate medium altogether. Quentin Tarantino’s recent film, Django Unchained, has seen widespread critical acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the horrors and inhumanity of American slavery in a way that no other previous director had the guts to even come close to. Would it even register a passing glance if it harbored the need to ignore violence altogether, or circumvented situations and scenes that necessitated the viewing of it onscreen? Or consider the way violence is used to showcase the brutality and insanity of the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now. How would our culture have even registered the conflict if Francis Ford Coppola had not brought himself to bring the true nature of the conflict into our own theatres and living rooms? The true purpose and social power of such violence, whether it is found in the movie Saving Private Ryan, or the videogame Killzone (13), is one in the same.
As videogames become an even more dominant medium for entertainment, violence will continue to be used in creative and meaningful ways, and it is just as important that future adults are allowed to explore the themes within Bioshock (11) just as freely as they would explore those within Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. They are a social boon rather than an ill, which we still do not truly know the limits of, and which it would be foolish to hinder from flourishing.
Secondly, the majority of people against violence in videogames are those that feel the need to protect their children from what they perceive as a threat; however, rather than necessitating any kind of guilt on the part of the gaming industry for its usage of violence, the attempts of parents to draw ties between said violence and violent crimes from kids who’ve played them only highlights the fact that most parents are blissfully unaware of what games their kids are actually playing. As I stated before, there are many games that use violence as a sort of gimmick, especially considering brazen violence within shooting games is the expected norm, and I will admit that there are many times where violence within the industry is anything less than artistic or socially-minded. Yet the truth is that this majority of games are the equivalent of violent, aggressive B-action and horror movies that are so common in the film industry today. In fact, the rating many of them receive (M) is directly equivalent to an R rating for a given movie; would you let your child go to see Aliens v. Predator: Requiem? If not, then why in good conscience would you let them play Bulletstorm (14)?
Not only are these game ratings carefully selected to reflect the internal content of the games they adorn, this crucial component highlights another step in videogame evolution (and another major issue) that parents need to be more aware of: the majority of videogames these days are actually made for fully-grown adults. The average gamer age these days is 35 (according to the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, 15), and as game developers have shifted their aims to apply to an older (and more intelligent) crowd, it’s only natural to see an increase in violent games. The caveat to this is that this older crowd has much more of a grasp of the idea that violence within these games is pure fantasy, a connection which children may not always be able to grasp.
Both of these trends imply the fact that parents can no longer be indifferent to the games in which their children find entertainment, especially not to the point that an absurd wave of negative media can instantly lead them to start burning said games in a bonfire. The pervasiveness and evolution of the industry stopped allowing that kind of passivity years ago, and it’s time for the rest of our nation to realize that.
My third and final point, in following these arguments, is that we as a society need to stop obfuscating issues by resorting to obtuse and absurd allegations against forces that have absolutely no connection, even correlative, to the real issues at hand. Not only did video games play no part in leading up to or influencing the horrific tragedy that occurred, but this argument against them should have lost all social viability several years ago as scientific studies started to abolish any and all evidence for it. As stated in a Washington Post article posted on December 17th, in direct reference to a UNODC study on the connection between violent video games and violent crime (16): “…the data just doesn’t support this connection. Looking at the world’s 10 largest video game markets yields no evident, statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related killings… In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime.”
It seems darkly and absurdly comical that a few statements from a man intent on proliferating violent weapons can cause such a negative wave of media against something of such burgeoning social and cultural importance, especially when his accusations are not only unfounded, but frustratingly ignorant. It also reflects incredibly poorly on those who would unquestioningly adopt his sentiments.
Whereas I am not entirely certain what issue at hand must be addressed for future prevention of such events as the Sandy Hook tragedy, I am entirely certain that the issue has nothing to do with videogames. The continued barrage against videogames only serves to distract from what may be a very dire social situation that we can no longer ignore, and we will only be able to understand such issues when we stop making media pariahs of scapegoats.
I am well aware of the fact that violence in video games can often be unwarranted and unnecessary, and I have no qualms with people who choose to not play or own such games. I personally only play brutally violent video games which I think have creative or thematic significance in their stories that necessitate such violence. However, I also know that to hinder the gaming industry in any way with such undeserved blame will only limit the artistic and cultural power which videogames as a whole can and will have in shaping a better future. To continue to attack the industry itself for this is incredibly archaic and restricting of our society’s creativity and the potential for such creativity to bring beneficial changes. I for one know, for a fact, that nothing but good can come from a deeper understanding of both videogames as a creative medium, and the industry that creates them, but such benefits will only come when we allow the medium to grow and evolve into the instrument for social and cultural change which we allow it (and will it) to be.
In order to start on that path, however, the argument has to finally stop.
1. Linkins, Jason. “NRA Leader Wayne LaPierre’s Much-Criticized Sandy Hook Speech Was Actually Quite Effective.” The Huffington Post.com. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
2. Leibovits, Lei. “State of Play: The Video-Game Burning in Connecticut Can Only Backfire.” The New Republic. TNR.com. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
3. Kohler, Chris (29 July 2009). “July 29, 1994: Videogame Makers Propose Ratings Board to Congress”. Condé Nast Publications (Wired). Retrieved 1 June 2011.
4. “Grand Theft Auto III.” Wikipedia.org. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
5.” Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Wikipedia.org. 1 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
6. “Duke Nukem 3D.” Wikipedia.org. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
7. Clevenger, Ethan. “Video games have more storytelling potential than any other medium.” venturebeat.com, GamesBeat. 12 August 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
8. Chatfield, Tom. “Videogames now outperform Hollywood movies.” thegaurdian.co.uk, The Observer. 26 September 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
9. “Bioshock Infinite.” Wikipedia.org. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
10. “Heavy Rain.” Wikipedia.org. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
11. “Bioshock.” Wikipedia.org. 7 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
12. “Spec Ops: The Line.” Wikipedia.org. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
13. “Killzone.” Wikipedia.org. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
14. “Bulletstorm.” Wikipedia.org. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
15. “Industry Facts.” The Entertainment Software Association, theesa.com/facts/index.asp. December 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
16. Fisher, Max. “Ten-country comparison suggests there’s little or no link between video games and gun murders.” washingtonpost.com, The Washington Post. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.