The School Shooter Mod, Part 2

Ilikemilkshake

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Great article.
I somehow managed to agree with everything that everyone said, even though you were all disagreeing with different points.

Also i'd love to see a civillian surviving in a hostile environment game, nice idea.
 

Mr. Omega

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I'd rather have a guy who says,"Yeah my game is about violence and doing awful things for entertainment, whatever" than a studio like, say, BioWare, pretending its sex scenes are crucial to a mature narrative, only to throw in an embarrassing sexual encounter that exists for its own sake as a lame reward for a friend management mini game.
THANK YOU! I'm not alone in thinking this! Adding sex does not make it more mature.

Frankly, I think that Rebbeca Black's fame will outlive it...
Burn. That was surprisingly harsh and awesome.

Or better yet, a "survival" game where you're an innocent student/teacher trying to survive/escape the actual event by evading/resisting the shooters - maybe with a mechanic to lead others to safety (seriously, that JUST crossed my mind and now I'm wondering why it doesn't exist yet?) And hey... there's always the option of playing from the perspective of a police/SWAT man/team on the scene - something in the vein of Hostages aka Rescue: The Embassy Mission.
All these sound like good ideas. Not the best, but there's framework for a good game in each of them.

OT:
I get Jim's points. Just because it's a tastless game, or a game with a bad message or purpose doesn't make it a "bad game". The gameplay, graphics and mechanics still work.

But I still agree with MovieBob, partticulary the statement that story is important to the gameplay as the mechnics

A good debate. While this time I somewhat disagreed with some of Jim's arguements, I at least understood his position and agreed on a few points of it. James was a lot more active in this half of the discussion than the other half, and Moviebob pretty much summed up my opinions on the matter in the first response this week.

A good discussion by all involved. Well done.
 

TwistedEllipses

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A game where you play a civilian, sound interesting, but like most stealth games also seems incredibly frustrating. You could introduce a very limited puzzle and platforming element to keep it interesting. Weirdly the only games that include avoiding conflict that come to mind are parts of the metal gear solid series and haunting ground...

I'm really surprised no-one has done this set in a warzone or during a terrorist attack or natural disaster...

I'd rather have a guy who says,"Yeah my game is about violence and doing awful things for entertainment, whatever" than a studio like, say, BioWare, pretending its sex scenes are crucial to a mature narrative, only to throw in an embarrassing sexual encounter that exists for its own sake as a lame reward for a friend management mini game.
Jim really lacks attacking pretentiousness, but in doing so embraces games that try to be 'edgy' instead. Frankly, both are stupid. Though wouldn't you rather have Game of thrones with it's clumsy HBO sex, than Sparatacus: blond and sand? It's part of a package, you typically get a better quality product with pretentious sex than you do with than fratboy sex...
 

Delta2501

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The civilian victim aspect sounds like an avenue for a lot of interesting approaches to play. A more aggressive "ambush the guy and stop them with force" (would need to enforce your inferiority and require planning/cooperation) would work but I see more potential in attempting to lead others out/get help or to try to talk down the guy yourself. Those kinds of challenge seem to chime in with the "non-combat gameplay" Extra Credits was talking about.

This is a real emergency, and asking the player how they would react and what they would prioritise would be a very powerful and thought-provoking question.

You would need a preliminary area getting to know the classmates so you feel invested in their fates, but I think there would be a natural connection to the main character since they are an average person in a real-life situation. I'd say a blank player avatar would work better than a fully rounded character.

As example, while a game where you survive a plane crash and have to decide how to treat others and try to get help may be less exciting gameplay wise, but would make for a much stronger role-play situation since the player should have less difficulty remaining detached from the game. The reality of the situation raises the stakes a lot.
 

Android2137

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This is quickly becoming my favorite article/written debate/thingy/whatever. I may not agree with Jim, but I can understand his thought process and reasoning.
 

Delta2501

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Android2137 said:
This is quickly becoming my favorite article/written debate/thingy/whatever. I may not agree with Jim, but I can understand his thought process and reasoning.
I'm not sure I fully agree. Even if the gameplay is fantastic a game will lose points if its content feels morally objectionable to the players. While games like the horror genre can unsettle by making us do things we'd rather not and RPGs can force us into making tough choices, your standard action game doesn't need that and the unease you get by being forced to do these acts will just get in the way of having fun.

It's like if a game gave all the enemy soldiers the faces of your loved one. It might still have great gameplay, but I don't think you can deny it would be improved by not forcing you to do something unpleasant that you may not want to.
 

TheRealCJ

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I tried to follow the conversation, I really did.

But all I can think about now is that I have to see Surf Nazis Must Die.
 

gigastrike

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Someone has to make that "teacher survives school shooting" game. I don't even care if it's a top-down flash game, I want it done.
 

Smooth Operator

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Why is Jim included in this... I understand what hes trying to say but it just so completely misses the point.
 

Android2137

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Delta2501 said:
Android2137 said:
This is quickly becoming my favorite article/written debate/thingy/whatever. I may not agree with Jim, but I can understand his thought process and reasoning.
I'm not sure I fully agree. Even if the gameplay is fantastic a game will lose points if its content feels morally objectionable to the players. While games like the horror genre can unsettle by making us do things we'd rather not and RPGs can force us into making tough choices, your standard action game doesn't need that and the unease you get by being forced to do these acts will just get in the way of having fun.

It's like if a game gave all the enemy soldiers the faces of your loved one. It might still have great gameplay, but I don't think you can deny it would be improved by not forcing you to do something unpleasant that you may not want to.
I never said I agreed with Jim. I only said I can understand his reasoning. I'm not denying that a morally objectionable game would not be enjoyable. (Indeed, it's why I don't play games like GTA. The idea of murdering even stock defenseless NPCs are enough to make me feel uncomfortable.) But I can understand why he would say that a game with great gameplay should not automatically be bad even if it has extremely objectionable content. If you strip of the game of said content and present it in a less offensive context, you are left with the innovative gameplay. (Again, I shall say I understand Jim's points, but I do not agree. The content of a game is indicative of the developer's intentions and viewpoints. Content is context. If you strip it of it's original content, it's effectively no longer the developer's game.)
 

aeroz

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personally I'm more in the same logic, but for the opposite reason. In games I do not put thought into why I am killing except for role play reasons. Murder is murder and I do not pretend to justify it. But this is not murder its graphic representations of computer code. Might be in bad taste, but no one is actually hurt so I think nothing of killing them. In fact as a challenge seeker I only do random destruction for cathartic reasons. In GTA for example I killed civilians mostly to attract the attention of enemies that would take effort to kill.

That being said, I think denoting any group as untouchable hurts empathy more then anything. For example, in Fallout 3 and New Vegas it bothered me that you couldn't kill children. Its not that I wanted to or intended to, but by taking away the option you break the narrative. These aren't human children they are immortal gods and you are subject to their whims. Remember Little Lamplight, why did people find it so aggravating? It wasn't simply that you wanted to use force to get through there, I am sure alot of us did similar missions using stealth or negotiations. What was frustrating was that an option was stripped away from you. You were forced to do as they said, and they were placed in an untouchable level.

Then people got a mod to kill children and what did they do, first place they went to use it. Not out of a hatred of children but because the game didn't represent them as children. They were not weak or vulnerable, in fact their untouchable nature made them the most powerful NPCs in the game. You couldn't see them as being to be protected or lives to hold sacred because you knew they were immortal.

Feel free to punish us for it, like old Fallout games where you gained everyones ire if you killed a child, or Assassin's Creed where hurting innocents hurt you. This put you in the mind set that they were living beings and that there were consequences for harming them, instead of just driving you to hitting the fire button screaming "WHY WONT YOU DIE"
 

rsvp42

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I don't agree that BioWare's use of sex is somehow worse than blatant fanservice like Dead or Alive. They've rarely been over-the-top about it. The only real issue is how it's handled from a gameplay and dialogue standpoint. I think they have an efficient way of working it into the narrative, but it's not executed quite as well as it could be. I think they keep it because it moves units (guy players like getting with alien chicks/girls like the romantic subplots) It's a guilty pleasure for people and I think they oblige in a relatively tactful way, all things considered. I don't think being ham-fisted about it in an attempt at "honesty" is a better approach than what they've been doing.

Anyway that's not really the topic. Good discussion, guys. Great points all around.
 

mikespoff

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Yeah, I'm with MovieBob on this one - the SS Mod is just lazy attention-grabbing narcissism.

WRT the romance options in Bioware games: they've always been there, all the way back to KotOR and Jade Empire (although the most you got in the past was a kiss). I think they provide continuity and help build the sense that this is a team effort and there are interpersonal dynamics at play as you travel together. They may not have quite found the magic formula with their implementation of the climax of the romance stories, but I don't think that it's a case of pandering. ExtraCredits had a great article on different ways that a romance could go in a game, and perhaps BioWare would do well to use those ideas next time instead of having a sexual-themed cutscene, but they're still trying to achieve something that adds depth and immersion to the game.
 

The Random One

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but because at least it's not being pretentious
Oh, Jim. Just when I think maybe you can talk for three paragraphs without needing to remove your foot from your mouth.

The school shooter mod is the most pretentious work this side of the hipstersphere. It's pretentious because it tries to be a big statement without really offering anything to hold it up, and it's prentiously presented because they guy says 'oh you know it ain't no thang' while putting down his shades and winking at us while the Dinosaur Comics narrator says BUT ACTUALLY IT WAS. It's prententiousness squared, pretentious presentation of a pretentious work, and only a fool would not be able to see through its paper thin veil. Oh hi there Jim.

The comparison with Birth of a Nation, (which I don't know and only infer what it is from this article), may be unfair because it was done in a time in which white people being better than black people was actually their constitutional right. Which is to say, it wasn't supposed to be a shocking expose of the filmmaker's evil theories on race, but rather a reflection of the world. We all like to think we'd hold the same ideals we hold today were we born on an earlier age, and in every simple historical movie the heroes hold morals that wouldn't come around for centuries and look down on things that anyone born that age would find completely normal. I wonder what future societies will find of our culture. In that way, the Birth of a Nation comparison is much closer to RE5, since the perceived hatred comes from a cultural crevice - in one, a temporal gap during which we recognized black people are actually just human beings with a darker skin color, or lighter if they're albino, and in other, a spacial gap that makes Japan see no wrong with a game in which you only kill black people because that's no different from earlier RE games since black Africans and white Americans are lumped in the 'foreigner' category in their culture. Pointing and laughing at their perceived inferiority is pretending that the same thing won't/doesn't happen to us, which is a terrible case of tunnel vision.
 

Sylocat

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Jim Sterling seems to be buying into his own persona, which is sad. I reiterate that he's capable of being clever and insightful when he's not trying way way way way WAAAYYYYY too hard to be funny. He actually had something to contribute, even last week.

But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).

Still, it's nice to see Bob and James go back-and-forth at the end, I was fascinated by their points.
 

goldenjester

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Or better yet, a "survival" game where you're an innocent student/teacher trying to survive/escape the actual event by evading/resisting the shooters - maybe with a mechanic to lead others to safety (seriously, that JUST crossed my mind and now I'm wondering why it doesn't exist yet?
I love this idea. It could be a wonderful game. If nothing else, it could set up the framework for some very exciting horror games (real horror, not RE4/RE5) as well as making escort missions bearable. Cause that's really what the game would be, no?

Anywho, OT, I can't agree with Jim on principle. I feel that a game that's sole intention was to offend and/or trivialize one of the very things that got the games industry into so much trouble in the first place is just stupid. From a moral standpoint, I've never agreed with games in which the only point is to be evil. At least games like GTA give you a chance to be a good guy. In games like this, I can't see any redeeming qualities.
 

mikespoff

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For an example of how a game can be brainless but still have value, how about Left4Dead? I mean, what's the overarching message there?

Here are a bunch of zombies, have fun trying to kill them.

Nothing more pretentious, but lots of fun and really well made with some innovative AI. That's the right way to do a meaningless slaughterfest.
 

mr.mystery

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Sylocat said:
Jim Sterling seems to be buying into his own persona, which is sad. I reiterate that he's capable of being clever and insightful when he's not trying way way way way WAAAYYYYY too hard to be funny. He actually had something to contribute, even last week.

But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).

Still, it's nice to see Bob and James go back-and-forth at the end, I was fascinated by their points.
I agree with you. This jim guy isnt funny. I think he is trying to hard
 

mikespoff

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Jim: "However, let's say a more talented developer with a lot more time creates a School Shooter game from the ground up. Not like Super Columbine Massacre -- which comes with lengthy essays justifying the game and its message -- but exactly like School Shooter. No deep meaning, no morality, just a sandbox school environment in which you shoot up classmates and teachers for no reason. Would you still say it's bad?"

um... YES!

Because then you're taking an (apparently) talented developer and doing something pointlessly destructive. It's like taking a baseball bat and going around smashing people's car windows instead of hitting balls. There is never any redeeming value in killing random school children, so how could there possibly be anything good in this "sandbox" game?

Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.
 

Moffman

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James Has a book, any one know what it's called and where I can get a copy? (I did read that right didn't I?)
I can see where they're all coming from. For example "Streets of Rage" was an awesome game purely because of its gameplay, the story was a joke tbh and no one ever paid attention to it. So in this respect I agree with Jim... However, I also agree with Bob, that narrative is now extremely important in our games, Bioshock is given a great lvl of depth through this.

What School Shooter is is a lazy grab for attention, I doubt the gameplay is ground breaking and a game with an in depth narrative like the examples Bob and James give would be so much more interesting and explore the possibilities of an interactive medium, giving us the story from a different perspective, that we would not experience if the game was not made. School Shooter is dross.
 

ekkaman

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If school shooter is a lazy grab for attention, what can you say about another artical about it on the same web site?

Just leave it.
 
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In the wake of the Columbine incident [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre][footnote]While not there there, I was amongst the masses watching the news as events unfolded at Columbine High, as trailing students and teachers navigated their way out via channels with high amounts of cover, and the police tried to locate the gunmen. And I certainly remember the jock-esque kid disparaging the Trenchcoat Homosexual Mafia on national television, bringing to light some of the issues that may lead to shootings in general.[/footnote] when public outcry groups were blaming Marilyn Manson and violent video games, I had thought we needed not only a game about a high-school massacre (not necessarily from the perspective of the shooters) but one that celebrated the glories of video games. That is, one that would be a jolly good time to play.

1999 was a good year for First Person Shooters, as we were reeling from (and playing again and again) the original Half-Life. So I was thinking a Half-Life mod that that grossly plagiarized or referenced the original game was ideal, things like a school-bus ride that mirrored the tram ride. The story would begin with a walk to the principals office, him deciding you were crazy and locking you in his office while he called the white-coats. The crazed gunmen would then move through the admin-office, leaving you to escape via labyrinthine air ducts, accessed with a confiscated pen-knife that would coincidentally operate much like the crowbar (or the knife in OpFor).

Good times.

I had worked out that you'd be armed early-on by an encounter with the white-coat guys and would encounter radio-active guinea pigs (from someone's science project), overly aggressive SWAT guys, zombified slackers (thanks to mutant marijuana) and may or may not encounter the two gunmen during the course of the game. I wasn't going to worry about the feasibility of the high-school archetecture, so long as it occasionally looked like an actual school from the outside and a classroom was encountered from time to time.

Then life happened, and this game got filed away with my other incomplete projects.

238U.
 

Felblood

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Towards the end, this conversation really started to remind me of the mission in SWAT 4, where you have to fight the Children of Tarrone.

As a player, it really opened my eyes to a lot of my unexamined assumptions about the value of human life, and due process of law.

I won't spoil it, but some people go in with non-lethal weapons when they read the brief, but go kill crazy when they see what's in the basement, while other people go in loaded for bear, but start trying to subdue targets mercifully when they realize what's been happening. Nobody comes out of that mission quite the same way as anybody else, and nobody comes out quite the same way they went in.

As a game designer, that really challenged me. To be able to craft something, which would evoke such a rich tapestry of complex reactions would be pretty incredible.

I kind of pity the guy who made School Shooter for not having the desire to create something like that, since his product is clearly made to evoke one simple reaction universally: disgust.
 

Fiz_The_Toaster

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mikespoff said:
Jim: "However, let's say a more talented developer with a lot more time creates a School Shooter game from the ground up. Not like Super Columbine Massacre -- which comes with lengthy essays justifying the game and its message -- but exactly like School Shooter. No deep meaning, no morality, just a sandbox school environment in which you shoot up classmates and teachers for no reason. Would you still say it's bad?"

um... YES!

Because then you're taking an (apparently) talented developer and doing something pointlessly destructive. It's like taking a baseball bat and going around smashing people's car windows instead of hitting balls. There is never any redeeming value in killing random school children, so how could there possibly be anything good in this "sandbox" game?

Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.
Well in his defense that term "bad" has a two-folded answer, which he did answer, if I remember correctly. If everything involved, mechanically wise, in that game works as it should be and what makes a game a game, then no, it's not a "bad" game. However, fundamentally it's bad, horrible even, use any word you want to use to describe it, but the mechanics don't make it "bad" assuming that it's polished perfectly.

I say "bad" because it's such an ambiguous term since it gets thrown around without a real discussion on why it's bad, it's the same reason "good" is in the same boat.
 

Groundchuck

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I can tell by the name "School Shooter" what this game is about even though I'm not real sure exactly waht it is. But, I like the way this conversation was presented and Bob's cool went up a bit again. And, I can see what all sides are saying, I'm sure the game is shit but the idea of making a game that explores this idea in a positive way is genius, I would like to see it happen. I am sure their is a market for a more gratuitously violent school shooting game, but Im also sure a amature abortion game could sell to the right demo but kinda seems to be in bad taste (no real way to put a positive spin on amature abortion, but you know what i mean.).
 

MB202

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I think any game, no matter how shallow, can be analyzed on some level.
In that case, why not talk about Ninjabread Man?

Also, I think the idea of an otherwise fun to play game with controversy surrounding it is something Bob brought up in one of his Game Overthinker episodes.

http://screwattack.com/videos/TGO-Complex-Issues

Speaking of Bob, I find his stance on "stories in games" weird. I've been told dozens of times that the best stories in games are the ones in which story meshes seamlessly with the gameplay, and when Bob brings up Japanese interactive story-tellings, their kind of stories in games is the kind where the gameplay might as well not even be there, where the player has no input at all. Not to mention, Bob loves Mario games, and their story... Well, is non-existent.

I don't know, I'm just a little confused by what he said.
 

mikespoff

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Fiz_The_Toaster said:
mikespoff said:
Jim: "However, let's say a more talented developer with a lot more time creates a School Shooter game from the ground up. Not like Super Columbine Massacre -- which comes with lengthy essays justifying the game and its message -- but exactly like School Shooter. No deep meaning, no morality, just a sandbox school environment in which you shoot up classmates and teachers for no reason. Would you still say it's bad?"

um... YES!

Because then you're taking an (apparently) talented developer and doing something pointlessly destructive. It's like taking a baseball bat and going around smashing people's car windows instead of hitting balls. There is never any redeeming value in killing random school children, so how could there possibly be anything good in this "sandbox" game?

Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.
Well in his defense that term "bad" has a two-folded answer, which he did answer, if I remember correctly. If everything involved, mechanically wise, in that game works as it should be and what makes a game a game, then no, it's not a "bad" game. However, fundamentally it's bad, horrible even, use any word you want to use to describe it, but the mechanics don't make it "bad" assuming that it's polished perfectly.

I say "bad" because it's such an ambiguous term since it gets thrown around without a real discussion on why it's bad, it's the same reason "good" is in the same boat.
Yeah, I read his argument and I disagree. They're supposed to be making a game. Games can be fun, they can be educational, they can cause deep self-analysis, but they need to have SOME point to them. What he's describing may be a competently executed piece of software, but it still has no point and cannot thus be described as a good game.

If I place a perfect dog turd on a plate and serve it up for dinner, it is not a good meal. It fails in all the important functions of a meal, regardless of how well it was pooped out.
 
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This is, actually, a good place to acknowledge the issue of context which comes up in numerous shooters.

Playing Left 4 Dead not too long ago, I gunned down six police officers in a single campaign. Granted, they were all infected and zombies, but shit; that still makes me (within the game) a cop-killer, and wouldn't Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton and Fox News have a field day with that?[footnote]This is why, incidentally, there are no riot-police Uncommon Infected in the German release of Left 4 Dead 2. They didn't take kindly to the idea that the survivors would have to fight peacekeeping officers.[/footnote]

I sometimes also wonder if the game would feel any different if we were on the verge of a medical breakthrough, and all these berserking commons could be cured, if they were captured and treated in time. It remains an issue that when zombies are no longer magically-[footnote]...or atomically-...[/footnote]raised undead, but alive and infected, which means they are still human. Even if their brains have been fried by some kind of super-rabies or mad-human prion, they would still have rights according to every civilization known.

So, one of the easiest ways to raise the questions that come up with school shooting would be to create a Left 4 Dead campaign that includes wading through a school as part of the journey to safety and rescue. Zombies in school uniforms and faculty attire would hit the point home: The players are still shooting up a school, albeit, one in which not too much academic learning is going on anymore.

238U.
 

cricket chirps

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Wow, that "survive a ___" (either war or random shooting) realy does need to exist to an extent that i cannot even explain. How detrimental would it be to create such a thing in a GAME (our beloved medium) and show the world that something so serious can be lived/experienced in a way that so many can barely understand. That game would work so well as a learning lesson for so many reasons. Can you guys(those present in extra consideration) PLEASE continue a talk about such an idea? I would LOVE BEYEND LOVE to hear your thoughts on how that might be introduced into society and the media.
 

TwistedEllipses

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Uriel-238 said:
So, one of the easiest ways to raise the questions that come up with school shooting would be to create a Left 4 Dead campaign that includes wading through a school as part of the journey to safety and rescue. Zombies in school uniforms and faculty attire would hit the point home: The players are still shooting up a school, albeit, one in which not too much academic learning is going on anymore.

238U.
The nearest existing thing is in Dead Space 2 where you go through a nursery and school and are attacked by kamikaze necromorphed babies and children. The thing there though is they are so far from appearing and attacking like children that you tend to forget it...


127.60TE
 

Fiz_The_Toaster

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mikespoff said:
Fiz_The_Toaster said:
mikespoff said:
Jim: "However, let's say a more talented developer with a lot more time creates a School Shooter game from the ground up. Not like Super Columbine Massacre -- which comes with lengthy essays justifying the game and its message -- but exactly like School Shooter. No deep meaning, no morality, just a sandbox school environment in which you shoot up classmates and teachers for no reason. Would you still say it's bad?"

um... YES!

Because then you're taking an (apparently) talented developer and doing something pointlessly destructive. It's like taking a baseball bat and going around smashing people's car windows instead of hitting balls. There is never any redeeming value in killing random school children, so how could there possibly be anything good in this "sandbox" game?

Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.
Well in his defense that term "bad" has a two-folded answer, which he did answer, if I remember correctly. If everything involved, mechanically wise, in that game works as it should be and what makes a game a game, then no, it's not a "bad" game. However, fundamentally it's bad, horrible even, use any word you want to use to describe it, but the mechanics don't make it "bad" assuming that it's polished perfectly.

I say "bad" because it's such an ambiguous term since it gets thrown around without a real discussion on why it's bad, it's the same reason "good" is in the same boat.
Yeah, I read his argument and I disagree. They're supposed to be making a game. Games can be fun, they can be educational, they can cause deep self-analysis, but they need to have SOME point to them. What he's describing may be a competently executed piece of software, but it still has no point and cannot thus be described as a good game.

If I place a perfect dog turd on a plate and serve it up for dinner, it is not a good meal. It fails in all the important functions of a meal, regardless of how well it was pooped out.
And I agree with you. However, you can only defend something so far, and I believe that's what he's doing. There's the notion of intent, and that developer really didn't have a decent enough intention to justify that "game". All he wanted was a super violent and insensitive "game" to make, and mission accomplished. He acknowledged the criticism and didn't care, so to me, what he was doing was horrifying.

I will argue that some games have no point at times, GTA where you can do whatever you want, to me, it's pointless, but when you go back to the story and objectives you go back to the point. But that's a minute point, and I will admit you bring up a good point about what makes a "good" game. I still say it all goes back to intent at that point, and to use your example, if you served a turd as a meal and called it such, I would question your intent. Yes it's a meal, but what was the point in that?
 

TheRocketeer

Intolerable Bore
Dec 24, 2009
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Last week, I pointed out that, despite employing some of the most intelligent and opinionated writers on the website, Extra Consideration fails as a feature simply because no subject -that they've yet discussed- has possessed any real depth, and each column so far has fallen on its face when they figure out on the second page that they all feel the same way. Yet every topic so far has 'merited' two three-page columns.

This time, they admit on the first page that they have run out of things to talk about. I'd say they actually hit that point on this subject halfway through the last column, but either way, this entire three-page edition of Extra Consideration boiled down to a flaccid consideration of what exactly James Portnow meant by 'good.'

Gaming produces as much controversy and disagreement as it does solely for the fact that the people doing the bulk of the arguing are biased, stupid, bored, trolling, ignorant, or all five. I think it's a brilliant commentary in itself that three people with even basic insight can inadvertently expose how overblown and shallow gaming's 'controversies' really are. Otherwise, this is not a good use of the creators' time. Give them something worthwhile to do.
 

RTR

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I've always thought the "survive a warzone/shoot-out as a civilian" would be a great idea.
After this column, I can only say one thing:
Jim Sterling vs. Yahtzee. Make it happen.
 

Dogstile

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Mr.K. said:
Why is Jim included in this... I understand what hes trying to say but it just so completely misses the point.
He's included because he has a different point of view. Which you kind of need for a debate, otherwise you'd just get a bunch of people spouting off that its bad and then everyone does it and its boring as hell.

Sylocat said:
Jim Sterling seems to be buying into his own persona, which is sad. I reiterate that he's capable of being clever and insightful when he's not trying way way way way WAAAYYYYY too hard to be funny. He actually had something to contribute, even last week.

But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).
You seriously thought they added anything? As deep as Bioware tried to make the sex scenes, in mass effect they were cheesy as hell, and in dragon age they were both cheesy and easy to get. Like pathetically easy. It doesn't even affect your party much aside from the other person who wants the bang you is a little bit miffed.
 

Biodeamon

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TwistedEllipses said:
Uriel-238 said:
So, one of the easiest ways to raise the questions that come up with school shooting would be to create a Left 4 Dead campaign that includes wading through a school as part of the journey to safety and rescue. Zombies in school uniforms and faculty attire would hit the point home: The players are still shooting up a school, albeit, one in which not too much academic learning is going on anymore.

238U.
The nearest existing thing is in Dead Space 2 where you go through a nursery and school and are attacked by kamikaze necromorphed babies and children. The thing there though is they are so far from appearing and attacking like children that you tend to forget it...


127.60TE
yes, but they're zombie babies which technically aren't human anymore.
 

-Drifter-

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Sylocat said:
But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).
That paragraph makes no sense. Firstly, how is it pretending? Maybe that's how he feels, and frankly I'm inclined to agree with him there. Second, "projecting much, Jim?" What?
 

Sylocat

Sci-Fi & Shakespeare
Nov 13, 2007
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-Drifter- said:
Sylocat said:
But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).
That paragraph makes no sense. Firstly, how is it pretending? Maybe that's how he feels, and frankly I'm inclined to agree with him there.
Yes, "pretending" may have been a bad choice of words. Still, he makes some pretty baseless assumptions about BioWare's motivations, presents his own opinion as fact, and misses the point besides.
 

-Drifter-

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Sylocat said:
-Drifter- said:
Sylocat said:
But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).
That paragraph makes no sense. Firstly, how is it pretending? Maybe that's how he feels, and frankly I'm inclined to agree with him there.
Yes, "pretending" may have been a bad choice of words. Still, he makes some pretty baseless assumptions about BioWare's motivations, presents his own opinion as fact, and misses the point besides.
Am I wrong, or aren't you doing the same thing right now?
 

jmarquiso

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Delta2501 said:
Android2137 said:
This is quickly becoming my favorite article/written debate/thingy/whatever. I may not agree with Jim, but I can understand his thought process and reasoning.
I'm not sure I fully agree. Even if the gameplay is fantastic a game will lose points if its content feels morally objectionable to the players. While games like the horror genre can unsettle by making us do things we'd rather not and RPGs can force us into making tough choices, your standard action game doesn't need that and the unease you get by being forced to do these acts will just get in the way of having fun.

It's like if a game gave all the enemy soldiers the faces of your loved one. It might still have great gameplay, but I don't think you can deny it would be improved by not forcing you to do something unpleasant that you may not want to.
I disagree here. GTA III and its spinoffs do a great job of being an offensive crime-based Tarantinoid B-Movie, and people have a lot of fun playing it. The difference is craft, and the care placed in it. GTA: San Andreas would be far more offensive if it wasn't making allusions to already existing Gangster movies, not to mention the LA Riots.

Bioshock is another example of content that takes a stand and could be morally objectionable - to the point of alienating a specific player base (followers of Objectivist philosophy and/or Libertarians/Conservatives), but because it's so well put together, it works.

Craft can go a long way.
 

Sylocat

Sci-Fi & Shakespeare
Nov 13, 2007
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-Drifter- said:
Sylocat said:
-Drifter- said:
Yes, "pretending" may have been a bad choice of words. Still, he makes some pretty baseless assumptions about BioWare's motivations, presents his own opinion as fact, and misses the point besides.
Am I wrong, or aren't you doing the same thing right now?
*sigh* I don't feel like getting into this now. I'll just refer you to Felix Arturo Macias Ibarra's comment a couple posts upthread.
 

jmarquiso

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RTR said:
I've always thought the "survive a warzone/shoot-out as a civilian" would be a great idea.
After this column, I can only say one thing:
Jim Sterling vs. Yahtzee. Make it happen.
Ben Paddon would should join in just to make things interesting.
 

jmarquiso

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Felix Arturo Macias Ibarra said:
"a lazy, cynical media attention-getter dressed up as edgy provocation." Did bob just described Jim?

:D
HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Call Bob what you will, he isn't lazy.

Neither is Jim, really. He's one of the most prolific games writers - but I do think he stretches himself out with easy answers.
 

jmarquiso

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The Random One said:
but because at least it's not being pretentious
Oh, Jim. Just when I think maybe you can talk for three paragraphs without needing to remove your foot from your mouth.

The school shooter mod is the most pretentious work this side of the hipstersphere. It's pretentious because it tries to be a big statement without really offering anything to hold it up, and it's prentiously presented because they guy says 'oh you know it ain't no thang' while putting down his shades and winking at us while the Dinosaur Comics narrator says BUT ACTUALLY IT WAS. It's prententiousness squared, pretentious presentation of a pretentious work, and only a fool would not be able to see through its paper thin veil. Oh hi there Jim.

The comparison with Birth of a Nation, (which I don't know and only infer what it is from this article), may be unfair because it was done in a time in which white people being better than black people was actually their constitutional right. Which is to say, it wasn't supposed to be a shocking expose of the filmmaker's evil theories on race, but rather a reflection of the world. We all like to think we'd hold the same ideals we hold today were we born on an earlier age, and in every simple historical movie the heroes hold morals that wouldn't come around for centuries and look down on things that anyone born that age would find completely normal. I wonder what future societies will find of our culture. In that way, the Birth of a Nation comparison is much closer to RE5, since the perceived hatred comes from a cultural crevice - in one, a temporal gap during which we recognized black people are actually just human beings with a darker skin color, or lighter if they're albino, and in other, a spacial gap that makes Japan see no wrong with a game in which you only kill black people because that's no different from earlier RE games since black Africans and white Americans are lumped in the 'foreigner' category in their culture. Pointing and laughing at their perceived inferiority is pretending that the same thing won't/doesn't happen to us, which is a terrible case of tunnel vision.
Birth of a Nation is one of the most important works in cinematic history. It WAS considered offensive when it came out (not nearly as much as it is now).

Resident Evil V is actually a really good comparison as its offense was unintentional and deeply embedded in the culture. In much the same way that Soul Caliber was unintentionally sexist, it became defined by boobs.
 

LostCrusader

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I think its interesting that they don't point out in their comparison between GTA and school shooting, they don't point out that while in GTA many people will go on killing sprees and fight the cops/army, that isn't the full extent of the game. That is the full extent of school shooter.
 

mjc0961

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Nov 30, 2009
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Or better yet, a "survival" game where you're an innocent student/teacher trying to survive/escape the actual event by evading/resisting the shooters - maybe with a mechanic to lead others to safety (seriously, that JUST crossed my mind and now I'm wondering why it doesn't exist yet?)
Yep. No "survival" games where you're an innocent person trying to survive/escape a horrific event with a mechanic to lead others to safety.





Oh wait...

It does exist. The enemies are just zombies instead of guys with guns.

Anyway, I would like to thank Jim for saying exactly what I think about Bioware's sex scenes/romance plots. I never saw the big deal about them in Mass Effect. You talk to all your squadmates anyway and you end up "in love" with a bunch of them just by chatting and have to tell all the ones you don't want "Sorry, but it turns out that just chatting with you doesn't mean I want to have sex." And then you get to watch a brief cutscene that makes the Uncanny Valley look natural with the one you did pick. Why does Bioware make such a huge deal about this?
 

hathfallen

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I'm even more convinced that this "second person shooter" has to happen. Help us James, you're our only hope.
 

Zetsubou^-^

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a good topic. the moral problem of "could i call this good based on mechanics without considering plot."

i would say a game that makes a joke about it probably couldn't be proclaimed good, because intended or not, you are trying to lighten up a plausible real life event. this is the type of game that could rationalize the stereotype that games cause violence. all it would take is some dumb kid shooting up his school and saying he got it from this game to throw the whole medium into chaos. whether he really believed the game condoned it or not would be irrelevant as far as prosecution would be concerned. idk how a serious game would go, but it is a slippery slope.

that said, the ideas brought up for a game do sound intriguing. it could involve mental or social problems, and there could be sections involving shooter(s), hostage(s) and police. it could be a stealth/shooter if it was a multiplayer shooter, or a multiple solution novel type, where you could play out various scenarios from all the angles. as i said above though, trivializing anything in this could be hazardous for an already controversial topic. most companies don't have the huevos to even attempt a serious game this sketchy.
 

Nexus4

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TwistedEllipses said:
The nearest existing thing is in Dead Space 2 where you go through a nursery and school and are attacked by kamikaze necromorphed babies and children. The thing there though is they are so far from appearing and attacking like children that you tend to forget it...


127.60TE
Though that initial scene where the mother hugs what I can only assume she though was her child, only to be blown into pieces when they do hug; that stopped me for a second, it was sick and sad, yet good at the same time in that it was actually able to make me feel that way. Though when actually fighting them, they just become another necro to kill, and I never felt the same way towards them as that scene.
 

Extra Consideration

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I think I'm with Bob on this one. While all of what he said was interesting, this jumped out to me in particular, "I'd be REALLY interested to see someone have the stones to make an unironically non-judgmental one; i.e. one that doesn't instantly demonize the shooter(s) and maybe even - gasp! - explores whether or not there's a "point" to whatever they've been driven to... that maybe even says "obviously this is sick and horrible, but high school is HELL for some people and while I [the theoretical game maker] don't condone what they did I sort of understand how they got there." I'd be just as interested in this as you are. I've seen plenty of movies that take something horrible (and in no way supports it) and shows you how the person committing the act may have been driven to it. You see the problems in the system that torture some people, and it always raises the question, "Why do these problems exist?". I've seen this explored plenty in the film industry, but almost never in gaming, which, in my opinion, is a shame.

On a side note, reading one paragraph from Jim on this made me care three times more about what he has to say than all of his videos combined. Jim, i think it's in your best interest to put on your serious face more often.
 

Jumplion

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I dislike the argument that "If the gameplay is still technically good, it cannot be a bad game!" This comes from the thinking that somehow video games must only be about gameplay or that the only thing that matters in a game is gameplay and that everything else is just extra. Yeah, sure, if the gameplay mechanics of School Shooter are okay, that doesn't make the story, presentation, and overall message any less shit or pretentious (as, yes, if you read the interview of the guy you'd see that this guy is trying to make a statement as pretentious as other "statement" people).

So yes, School Shooter could still be considered a bad game. "Good" gameplay doesn't automatically make a game good, it's the product of the whole that makes a game good. By these definitions, BioShock should be a completely average game with its servicable shooting mechanics, yet the presentation, narrative, and overall concept made it shine above the rest.

I also don't buy the "it's hypocritical of the gaming public! They shoot down civilians in GTA!". Just because other games do that doesn't make this one any more right. I'm reminded of MovieBob's "Big Picture" episode on how one of the characters in Thor was black, check it out as it can sort of apply to what I'm saying. Just because other games let you mow down civilians (and do so much better with legitimate social commentary (at least some of the times) does not make the situation in School Shooter any less offensive or disgusting. Sure, free speech n' all, I don't care what the guy makes, but my point stands.
 

beefpelican

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Delta2501 said:
Android2137 said:
This is quickly becoming my favorite article/written debate/thingy/whatever. I may not agree with Jim, but I can understand his thought process and reasoning.
I'm not sure I fully agree. Even if the gameplay is fantastic a game will lose points if its content feels morally objectionable to the players. While games like the horror genre can unsettle by making us do things we'd rather not and RPGs can force us into making tough choices, your standard action game doesn't need that and the unease you get by being forced to do these acts will just get in the way of having fun.

It's like if a game gave all the enemy soldiers the faces of your loved one. It might still have great gameplay, but I don't think you can deny it would be improved by not forcing you to do something unpleasant that you may not want to.
I'm with you on this one. One of the classic arguments against "Video games cause violence" is "I know that the people in this game are fake. They mean nothing to me, for they are imaginary." I've seen it used multiple times in various Escapist articles, for example by both Yahtzee and Mikey in the Morality Matters episode of Extra Consideration. What I've found, though, is that the best games I've played were the ones where the characters stopped seeming like imaginary bunches of data and took on a new life in my head. As long as this is true, the mechanics of the game will not be the only thing that matters.

On a completely unrelated note, I wish I could have casual conversations with Crispin Freeman. I sometimes forget that James actually does work in the videogame industry.
 

beefpelican

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Jumplion said:
I also don't buy the "it's hypocritical of the gaming public! They shoot down civilians in GTA!". Just because other games do that doesn't make this one any more right. I'm reminded of MovieBob's "Big Picture" episode on how one of the characters in Thor was black, check it out as it can sort of apply to what I'm saying. Just because other games let you mow down civilians (and do so much better with legitimate social commentary (at least some of the times) does not make the situation in School Shooter any less offensive or disgusting. Sure, free speech n' all, I don't care what the guy makes, but my point stands.
On the other hand, why aren't we, collectively, similarly outraged by GTA and games like it? Perhaps you are, and you would have every right to be, but why wasn't the same debate raised within the gaming community when GTA was released? Personally, I think it's for two reasons:
1)The non-gaming community was against it, and so we united against them.
2)Killing civilians was not the main point of the game. A player can go on killing sprees if they want to, but that's not what the game is about. A game like School Shooter shoves the civilian killing right in your face and has nothing else to redeem it. I other words, we are willing to overlook and even participate in some morally questionable things as long as there's something there beyond doing bad stuff because it's bad. However, this does not necessarily excuse this behavior.

What do you think?
Also, I watched the Big Picture episode in question (Skin Deep, yes?) and while it was good, I'm not sure how it was relevant to this issue. Could you clear that up for me?

Also also, Dear Captcha. I cannot type Chinese characters on this keyboard.
 

MaxwellEdison

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I really don't think Jim, who seems mostly interested with the mechanics and gameplay, really belongs in a discussion with people who talk about games as they relate to culture and philosophy. You're not going to get anywhere in a discussion if one person maintains a game is good so long as it's developed enough to hold your attention, while everyone else is talking about actual content. I'd much rather have Yahtzee here.
 

Kyogissun

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>I was having a chat with Crispin Freeman this weekend

James, you have no idea how much I envy you that you can just have idle chatter with Crispin Freeman about things like that. D:
 

Aureliano

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I feel like there's a difference between a morally repugnant game and a bad game. That difference is whether or not the game is actually FUN. And the former can be a good game.

It's like the difference between Atlas Shrugged (Part 1 of 3!!!!) and Iron Man 2. They come from the same source material (awful objectivist bull, from my perspective) with the same basic story in mind, but while one is awful one is a lot of fun. I find the source material reprehensible but still enjoyed Iron Man 2 and would call it 'good'.

When you make a 'game' that has any purpose for the player other than entertaining that player, I wonder not only why the player would play that game, but why you would even call it a game in the first place.
 

paxmorgana

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This article makes me a little nervous for the platform of entertainment we have here. All throughout, you were trying to get a generalization of the material together of some sort, and that's a terrible way to look at things. It's terrible because each game is different, has its own flaws, weaknesses, strengths, and feats of awesome that make them what they are. Generalization does NOT help in this context, and is only making the matter worse.

Have any of you even played the game in question? If you have not because of the subject material, then you're just as bad as FOX News and other outlets that judge gaming at face value. I, for one, do remember the Imagination is the Only Escape incident. I was outraged that they, the news networks, had the gall to judge something that was barely announced, not even really in the devellopmental stages of being made, and got alten8 to presumably cease making it entirely.

The big problem I had with this article, again, was that you were trying to make a generalization of your view upon games of this nature. It may not be what everyone does, but I urge you to come up with different opinions of every game you play, basing them upon themselves and their own merit rather than their prequels, sequels, or subject material.
 

Fangface74

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Feb 22, 2008
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Birth of a Nation had this in the opening credits:

"A PLEA FOR THE ART OF THE MOTION PICTURE: We do not fear censorship, for
we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do
demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we
may illuminate the bright side of virtue - the same liberty that is
conceeded to the art of the written word - that art to which we owe the
Bible and the works of Shakespeare".
 

Chirez

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On the point about a game being good despite its impact on the player, I'm unconvinced. If we take the stand that games in all their forms are art, albeit for the most part really bad art, then surely the effect of the experience on the player is fundamental.

A 'good' game must affect the player in some sense, whether it makes you think deep and meaningful thoughts, or just engages you deeply in its environment. From this perspective, the quality of a game is dependant on the person playing it, a game can be good for one person and bad for another. I think this must be true for all forms of media, though subjective, relative judgements are highly inconvenient for a discussion like this.

There are of course objective measures of quality, from simple graphical fidelity to solid physics, coherent narrative etc. but it seems to me that those measures are distinct from the totality of the experience. (Is there any way to talk about this stuff without sounding horribly pretentious?)

Is the ability of a game to engender discomfort and disgust a strength, I wonder? What about the same ability in a book, film, painting, sculpture?
 

Ptwin77

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I like every alternative idea thrown out there i n the discussion (innocent civilian, desperate conspirator, reluctant co conspirator, police force) but the issue might be time. Each individual idea would need to be succinct lest it lose it's message. Maybe it would be a good idea to include one game that bundles each smaller game into a package of bigger games. This way you could make a game that keeps it's message, but contains enough gameplay to stay engaging, without making it a stretch. On top of this, you could represent one terrifying events from several emotional perspectives, containing terror, desperation, selflessness, and rage in one game, without padding gameplay.
 

jmarquiso

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mr.mystery said:
Sylocat said:
Jim Sterling seems to be buying into his own persona, which is sad. I reiterate that he's capable of being clever and insightful when he's not trying way way way way WAAAYYYYY too hard to be funny. He actually had something to contribute, even last week.

But now he just ruins it by pretending that the sex in Mass Effect and Dragon Age added nothing and were just there for shock value (projecting much, Jim?).

Still, it's nice to see Bob and James go back-and-forth at the end, I was fascinated by their points.
I agree with you. This jim guy isnt funny. I think he is trying to hard
He's a bit pretentious, don't you think?

Pot...Kettle...

nah...

He made it his job to be a personality, to bring some controversy into Destructoid. I don't like how this has leaked into the Escapist as they've brought him on as a regular. His writing on this very site has been stellar, and I rather read that than his Jimquisition videos (which he himself has said is a parody of an internet youtube pundit). Being part of the Escapist seems to have increased budget for a set and such, getting away from the amateurish nature of his originals. However, they aren't funny in the way he's intending (I don't think). Parodying it does take away from any points he's trying to make.

I do recommend listening to Podtoid or the Electric Hydra (gaming) podcast. He's much more tame and interesting there.

While I tend to disagree with him, it's in his writing and some of these places where he makes some interesting and valid points.
 

jmarquiso

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Chirez said:
On the point about a game being good despite its impact on the player, I'm unconvinced. If we take the stand that games in all their forms are art, albeit for the most part really bad art, then surely the effect of the experience on the player is fundamental.

A 'good' game must affect the player in some sense, whether it makes you think deep and meaningful thoughts, or just engages you deeply in its environment. From this perspective, the quality of a game is dependant on the person playing it, a game can be good for one person and bad for another. I think this must be true for all forms of media, though subjective, relative judgements are highly inconvenient for a discussion like this.

There are of course objective measures of quality, from simple graphical fidelity to solid physics, coherent narrative etc. but it seems to me that those measures are distinct from the totality of the experience. (Is there any way to talk about this stuff without sounding horribly pretentious?)

Is the ability of a game to engender discomfort and disgust a strength, I wonder? What about the same ability in a book, film, painting, sculpture?
Yep. There's a difference between "craft" and "enjoyment". Craft is the objective measure of quality by all those things you mentioned. This is used in Art all of the time. If games ARE art than this is certainly a component.

They already gave a great example of a film that's well crafted, so much so that it changed the industry, but incredibly racist (even for its time). There are entire movements of film and visual art based on the concept of making the viewer uncomfortable, and it's usually applauded. But then, it has to be a) well crafted, b) state an intent, and c) successfully communicate that intent. Shock art such as a Madonna made out of elephant feces is still art, and it's meant to shock the viewer into a reaction rather than have them enjoy the aesthetics of it all. This sort of thing still manages to end up in a museum.

School Shooter does not do this. It starts in bad taste, and ends in bad taste. It DOES provoke discussion, but it does nothing to justify its existence. While Super Columbine Massacre contains several essays and specific references (and therefore not "fun", but still thought provoking), it has a solid design for its very point. The media made unfair comparisons to other media - from video games to Marilyn Manson, so the artist decided to actually make a video game based on these ideas. Characters level up by "grinding" through the school until they go to an impossible final boss in hell. There is even a morality choice. You could choose not to kill anyone, but you wouldn't have the level necessary to beat said final boss. You have to do an extreme amount of mass murder to do this, in fact. Along the way, you find references to false accusations the media made about the kind of media the killers consumed. This is sound and cohesive design in that it makes a premise, and follows through with it. It is also extremely uncomfortable since it's based on a real world event, and I would even argue it is still in poor taste. This is all in service of the larger point about two different violences in media - the actual violence vs. the sensationalism and misinformation of "action" news.

School shooter presents a shooting gallery of innocents, and doesn't even do it well.

James and Bob have made some interesting suggestions on how to explore the violence of a school shooter better.

I get what the School Shooter mod was trying to do, but it doesn't succeed.

The reason Doom, GTA, Halo, Just Cause 2, etc. get away with some mindless violence involves a loosely held narrative that put you in the right position to do what you do. They also present clear antagonists on top of that. The violence sandbox that the SS author refers to are all right there (and I even get the point that the only difference is narrative). There's a reason for that Narrative, obviously, it justifies the actions and allows us to see past it to do violence against pixels.

SS doesn't make that point well.
 

jmarquiso

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Fangface74 said:
Birth of a Nation had this in the opening credits:

"A PLEA FOR THE ART OF THE MOTION PICTURE: We do not fear censorship, for
we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do
demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we
may illuminate the bright side of virtue - the same liberty that is
conceeded to the art of the written word - that art to which we owe the
Bible and the works of Shakespeare".
Well they were allowed, and were not censored. This was also added to later releases after the controversy.

It is a film that presents the KKK as heroes. And it was shown. And it had impact.
 

Gigano

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Interesting discussion.

While a game needs neither be pleasant or moral at all in its themes and messages to be "good", and to have serious artistic merit[footnote]In fact, those which are so are usually quite boring and bland.[/footnote], I'd also agree that merely having the technical execution down doesn't in and of itself make for a good game (merely a competent one).

What is important is that it raise questions, provoke thought, demands response, emotional engagement, and immersion from the player. The themes of it can be dark as all hell, as can the lessons it'll make you ponder, and none of that will impair its ability to be a work of serious literary and artistic merit; pleasantries and inoffensiveness are certainly not requirements for greatness.

Where the school shooting mod in question fails is not that it deals with a controversial issue - nor even that it takes perspective of the "bad" side in it - but that by all accounts it actually doesn't deal with it; it just use it as a façade to attract attention and controversy to an otherwise bland shooting gallery, making it a hollow and empty offering not worth anyone's time.

...

As for Bob's musings over whether a visual novel depicting school shootings exist, I can't really name anyone (although a few deal with students slaughtering each other, like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and some endings of School Days). You can certainly find some which are exceedingly dark in tone, theme, and message while maintaining an incredible level of literary quality and artistic merit though.
 

jmarquiso

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Jumplion said:
I also don't buy the "it's hypocritical of the gaming public! They shoot down civilians in GTA!". Just because other games do that doesn't make this one any more right. I'm reminded of MovieBob's "Big Picture" episode on how one of the characters in Thor was black, check it out as it can sort of apply to what I'm saying. Just because other games let you mow down civilians (and do so much better with legitimate social commentary (at least some of the times) does not make the situation in School Shooter any less offensive or disgusting. Sure, free speech n' all, I don't care what the guy makes, but my point stands.
The difference here is that GTA is a sandbox game, and hands you the premise of being a criminal. It also punishes you for the act - if a policeman sees you, you are arrested and bribe your way out. Of course it isn't an equivalent punishment for mass murder, but there are mechanics involved to make sure you understand that what you're doing is still wrong. But it IS a crime world sandbox, based on so many crime movies where this is the case.

As CJ on GTA San Andreas, I'd literally only kill the drug dealers because a) they were annoying, b) they had lots of money, and c) they shot back. Civilians barely did it for me and CJ wasn't a simple thug to me.

Sure, they present the option, but it doesn't mean you have to take it. And look for cues as to how they handle you taking it. There are entire narrative AND gameplay constraints that make it work as satire and parody - and this helps to justify the mass murder of pixels.
 

JMeganSnow

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Re: Birth of a Nation--you could say the same sort of things about No Country for Old Men, which has a dreadful theme but is very well-executed technically.

Oh, and James, it's "a different TACK", not TACT. TACT is what you exercise when you don't tell someone how horrible their haircut is. Your TACK is the angle you take when you are sailing against the wind.
 

Jumplion

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beefpelican said:
On the other hand, why aren't we, collectively, similarly outraged by GTA and games like it? Perhaps you are, and you would have every right to be, but why wasn't the same debate raised within the gaming community when GTA was released? Personally, I think it's for two reasons:
1)The non-gaming community was against it, and so we united against them.
2)Killing civilians was not the main point of the game. A player can go on killing sprees if they want to, but that's not what the game is about. A game like School Shooter shoves the civilian killing right in your face and has nothing else to redeem it. I other words, we are willing to overlook and even participate in some morally questionable things as long as there's something there beyond doing bad stuff because it's bad. However, this does not necessarily excuse this behavior.

What do you think?
I pretty much agree with you, GTA is a much more well crafted game than School Shooter and it's never the only option. While the criminal you're playing as takes part in a ton of illicit activities, in the end they almost always get their comeuppance. The whole series is well known for its satire/parody of the modern world, and while it's not always clear, it clearly has more thought put into it than this desperate cry for attention.

Also, I watched the Big Picture episode in question (Skin Deep, yes?) and while it was good, I'm not sure how it was relevant to this issue. Could you clear that up for me?
In retrospect it's probably not really related, but I felt that when he said "Yes, it's a double standard, so what?" about how it's okay to change a white character to an ethnicity and not the other way around, in kind of resembled how it's okay for GTA to let you go on rampages yet this one is not.

Also also, Dear Captcha. I cannot type Chinese characters on this keyboard.
Well, better get used to it, they'll be bigger than Jesus soon enough ;)
 

doriant

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JMeganSnow said:
Oh, and James, it's "a different TACK", not TACT. TACT is what you exercise when you don't tell someone how horrible their haircut is. Your TACK is the angle you take when you are sailing against the wind.
Tact: skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. First definition I got from googling the word.
And I think this stupid mod should be boycotted, not because of the school shooter themes (tasteless, but not the worst thing ever), but because of what the developer says about the medium, both through this game and the interview here on the Escapist. Saying that games can't have a deep meaning (not just that they could be fun without them) is just wrong. Screw this guy.
 

Extra Consideration

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mikespoff said:
Yes, I'm aware that most COD players don't really care about the military justifications and just want to murder each other's virtual avatars, but there is still a setting in which (under specific circumstances) their actions could be justified. Dead Space 2, for all its claimed shock value, is at least giving you the justification of "your survival depends on slaughtering everything you see".

Without those frameworks the games would have zero value.
Its funny you mention Dead Space 2, a game that explicitly involves slicing apart the corpses of dead children in the name of survival. The devs could've introduced an interesting capture mechanic in the case of the kids, or made the children some almighty swarm whose appearance beckons a 'run away' segment, or just done away with them altogether in favour for a different flavour of necromorph, but no. As crass an attention grab as any. I love the game, but I literally see no possible way to argue that the addition of kid zombies in that game was anything other then a blatant attempt to hit another creep switch via taboo.

Jims point was that is killing virtual teens really so far removed from killing virtual men, women, animals etc. as to make the latter not only acceptable but something done in the millions daily, and to make the prior disgusting in the extreme?

I can see what he's saying to be honest. I think we should ignore the game because the game seems really shit. I don't think we should demonise it though. Just pop it in the bin with all the other pointless, artless wank in the gaming world. It doesn't deserve the notoriety.
 

Weasker

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Please, take this troll who's only here to disagree, repeat a single point and be obnoxious of the otherwise all-star best VIP club the escapist did by creating Extra Consideration.
No, I don't need to say who because everyone knows who.
 

rembrandtqeinstein

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Dammit Jim stop being the most reasonable person in the world. Dead or Alive is more honest than Dragon Age or ME, thank gawd someone finally said it.
 

ccesarano

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Unfortunately I'm gonna be lame and skip to the end since I don't have the time to read this thread. So if someone else thought on this, well, sorry.

You can't really make Call of Duty out of it, for example... but perhaps it could be a "stealth" game where you (the shooter) try to get out of the place alive post-massacre. Or you could "No Russian" it - have the protagonist be less-than-totally-sold-on-it co-conspirator with options to follow-through or subvert the "leader's" actions. Or better yet, a "survival" game where you're an innocent student/teacher trying to survive/escape the actual event by evading/resisting the shooters - maybe with a mechanic to lead others to safety (seriously, that JUST crossed my mind and now I'm wondering why it doesn't exist yet?) And hey... there's always the option of playing from the perspective of a police/SWAT man/team on the scene - something in the vein of Hostages aka Rescue: The Embassy Mission.
None of those have to be the sole game mechanic. I don't know if you'd need to do it as interactive drama similar to Heavy Rain, but certainly take hints with how they handled the narrative. Have one scenario where you play as different characters. Maybe play as the co-conspirator first, and certain decisions will effect the next couple chapters of the story. Maybe you come across an intersection where the lead gunman decides to split up and you choose which path to take. Path A intersects with a survivor that you will play as later, and Path B will intersect with cops or SWAT members to result in a shoot-out. If you choose Path A, and then at one point choose to spare some people, then when you play as the civilian in Path A and run into the co-conspirator he will simply let you try to escape. However, if your path of escape in any way intersects with Path B, where the lead gunman will have a shoot-out with the police, then there's a chance you could die trying to escape after getting caught in the crossfire (or any survivors you have trailing behind you Dead Rising style).

Damn, the possibilities for such a game are amazing. You'd get to analyze a tragic event from multiple perspectives, allow the player to choose how they want to go out (surrender, guns blazing, or suicide as options for the lead gunman as an example) and, most importantly, explore it in a manner that can be referred to as art.

God dammit, I hate playing armchair game designer because it always makes me want to play whatever I come up with.
 

wadark

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I have to agree with Bob, and strongly disagree with Jim.

Why does our discussion of games always come in two parts: mechanical execution and narrative. Almost every reviewer does it. And what's worse, each reviewer almost always treats one as more important than the other. Yahtzee, for instance, seems to treat game mechanics as far more important than story (see Portal 2 review).

Granted, being that games are interactive by their very nature, this stance sort of makes sense, but that doesn't mean that the narrative of the game is to be dismissed. And, to be fair, Yahtzee did balance it out toward the end of the review.

My point, however, still stands, and that is why I disagree with Jim. As far as School Shooter is concerned, he is divorcing the mechanics and narrative of the game and trying to claim that school shooter is, at the very least, not "bad" because it doesn't try to be pretentious and vaguely justify its killing with a paltry context, like GTA.

But I stand by my point when I posted on the previous part's comments, that the context does make a difference. I expand that point now by saying that we can't divorce the context/narrative from the mechanics and judge a game as good or bad simply based on one or the other. Even GTA has a context and as far as the context is concerned, the Silent Guy, Tommy Verceti, and Niko Bellic didn't go on those random killing rampages. They killed the people in the way to their goal, and the people who were trying to kill them. I mean, why is that not an acceptable context in a game, but Scarface is a highly-held piece of art in the exact same context?

The two aspects of gaming are together, and have to be treated as such when trying to make an "objective" classification of good or bad. A game can't generally be "good" based only on mechanics, or based only on story. Sure, as a player, I love Shenmue because I love its story, even though its mechanics are kinda crap. But I gave up long ago trying to explain this to people who don't like it, and I totally get why they don't like the game.

But I digress, context and mechanics are two sides of one coin, two halves of a whole (cliche power activate ^_^), you can't judge a game based on one or the other. And you can't say that School Shooter somehow has merit (or even that it doesn't lack merit) because it's "honest" about it's subject matter, as opposed to all those games that are giving a "flimsy" excuse for the killing.
 

JMeganSnow

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doriant said:
Tact: skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations. First definition I got from googling the word.
And it's still the wrong word for James to use in that last sentence of his. People often don't know where their idiomatic expressions come from so they use the wrong words within them a lot. Taking a different tack was originally a nautical expression. It's now used to mean that you're attempting a different approach. It doesn't have anything to do with tact of any definition.
 

Falseprophet

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Re: BioWare--romance is a frequent subplot in genre fiction, and especially epic fantasy and space opera, the two genres BioWare plays with the most. And rather than making the love interest a mere trophy to be won (eg, DragonQuest) or a scripted, non-interactive romance (eg, Final Fantasy VII), BioWare tries to make it part of the actual "role-playing". You can quibble with the execution, or maybe the romance is not to your taste, but to suggest it's tacked on would be wrong.

Aureliano said:
It's like the difference between Atlas Shrugged (Part 1 of 3!!!!) and Iron Man 2. They come from the same source material (awful objectivist bull, from my perspective) with the same basic story in mind, but while one is awful one is a lot of fun. I find the source material reprehensible but still enjoyed Iron Man 2 and would call it 'good'.
Apologies for going off-topic, but I find it hilarious that some libertarians/Objectivists hold up Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 as some kind of personal hero, while completely ignoring the fact that he and his father built their business empire almost entirely on government contracts paid for with taxpayer dollars.
 

jmarquiso

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wadark said:
But I digress, context and mechanics are two sides of one coin, two halves of a whole (cliche power activate ^_^), you can't judge a game based on one or the other. And you can't say that School Shooter somehow has merit (or even that it doesn't lack merit) because it's "honest" about it's subject matter, as opposed to all those games that are giving a "flimsy" excuse for the killing.
You know what, I'm going to say it.

Narrative IS a game mechanic. No, it isn't an automated rule or system that's in place to make the game a game, but it IS what provides context for the story. Back in the day it was the arcade cabinet - with all of the artwork so we can make sense of the pixels. Later it was manuals of mythology and backstory. Later it was cutscenes that interrupted gameplay. Today, it's much more integrated, and that's a direction we should head in. Story can and should be told through gameplay, and they should be part of the whole.

Without context, Monopoly is just a game where one trades pieces of paper for other pieces of paper. The money, the deeds, etc, that's all part of the context and provide the value to the individual pieces.

Of course, this isn't always the case. Most modern games (particularly of the cutscene, gameplay, cutscene style) have the games narrative get in the way of the games themselves. But games work best where the narrative is woven into everything - from the rules, the art direction, and on. A sound game design SHOULD include a cohesive narrative flow.
 

RJ Dalton

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You know what would have been great? If all involved parties had answered the question of whether or not the mod was worth the attention by not saying anything. That would have been hilarious and meaningful.
 

Dastardly

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Extra Consideration said:
Extra Consideration: The School Shooter Mod, Part 2

The boys finally finish off the School Shooter mod.

Read Full Article
Sorry, Jim. I think you're just trying too hard to be an apologist on behalf of this game. And as hard as you're trying, the folks behind School Shooter are equally not trying. And that's the problem.

Making a game that is unapologetically about awful things (in whatever guise "awful" may take) is one thing. There's a certain amount of honesty to it, yes. Duke Nukem has that sort of "internal honesty." School Shooter does not.

What makes the difference? Credibility, for one. In a legendary "dick move" in music, John Cage premiered a work entitled 4'33" in 1952. It was basically four minutes and thirty-three seconds of a musician sitting silently on a stage. The idea behind it is that the sounds of the environment were the actual music, or so goes the claim. It's still a controversial piece in the discussion of what is/isn't music.

Now, let's say I pulled a stunt like that. Not even a blip on the radar. Why? For starters, Cage did it in the 1950's. But also, Cage composed a lot of great music before and after that. He demonstrated that he can do a lot of great stuff with music, and in doing so assured the public that the oddity of something like 4'33" was by choice.

See, an artist really only has two places in which to display mastery--mastery of the medium (technique within the medium), and mastery of the message (the ability to convey a "theme," in whatever form that might take). Cage established his credentials in the area of medium, and then set it aside for sake of message--but without the context created by his earlier demonstrations of mastery, it would just have been dismissed as a bullshit stunt.

The folks behind stuff like School Shooter aren't demonstrating anything in terms of technique. At the same time, they are openly stating that it's not supposed to have any message. So what are we left with to judge this as "good?" No mastery of the medium, no mastery of message. It's just a bullshit stunt with no deeper meaning.
 

Mosop

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I personaly don't narative or setting can stop a game from being good (of course they can make a good game better) as for me a game has to first and foremost play well and be enjoyable on that front. Great gameplay could negate a horrible narrative but not vice versa, if school shooter played incredibly I would consider it equal to the call of duty's/bioshocks/unreal tournament's of the gaming industry.
 

Silinrun

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The closest thing I can recall to "School Shooter" of Japan would be a Manga/Anime/Novel and i think even a live action movie called Battle Royal (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266308/ the movie).
 

Ursus Buckler

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It's amazing how much I find Jim easier to tolerate in an article discussing something intellectually than when he's on a video attempting to be funny. It's probably been the first time that I've read something by him that I've actually laughed at.
And assuming it wasn't Bob or James who brought out this new behaviour out of him, why does Jimquisition exist, again?
 

Arcane Azmadi

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On the second page, Jim said this:
Jim said:
As bad as this particular game may be, I still believe that the controversy surrounding it has exposed the hypocrisy of gamers within the community -- people who have indulged in Grand Theft Auto kill frenzies or have an ironic soft spot for the Postal series. People who are fine with the random murder of innocent and not-so-innocent human beings, provided it's not so contemporary that they cannot safely rationalize it with convoluted justifications.
This is why I cannot even take him seriously on this topic. As I commented in response to their last debate on the topic, comparing Grand Theft Auto to School Shooter is like comparing Steven Colbert to Bill O'Reilly. If you can't see the difference between a gleefully over-the-top narrative fantasy of criminal life and a mindless, brutal, meaningless recreation of horrifying real-life events you're either mentally handicapped or a total sociopath and if it's Jim's opinion that School Shooter is no more offensive than other games, well, his opinion is wrong.

School Shooter is possibly the most offensive game ever made because it exists for only one reason- because the vile scumbag troll who is made it thinks it's cool to piss on the graves of the innocents who have died in school shootings. He's doesn't have a statement to make or any agenda other than offending people and making them angry. That's why the game itself is completely crap- because he didn't want to make a game at all, he just wanted to upset, offend and enrage people. This is NOT freedom of artistic expression. That fucker is a complete monster, the mod is indefensible and anyone who uniroincally tries is probably a complete asshole (but then again, Jim basically trades on his reputation as a complete asshole anyway, so no surprise there).
 

jmarquiso

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Ursus Buckler said:
It's amazing how much I find Jim easier to tolerate in an article discussing something intellectually than when he's on a video attempting to be funny. It's probably been the first time that I've read something by him that I've actually laughed at.
And assuming it wasn't Bob or James who brought out this new behaviour out of him, why does Jimquisition exist, again?
He'd said it was to make fun of youtube pundits. Now he seems to have become that in video media.

-J