William P. Wend
Position Paper #7
In his essay Representation, Enaction, and The Ethics Of Simulation Simon Perry attempts to achieve two goals. First, he wants to “enhance critical discussion of interactive media practice and interactive media cultural practice,” which he considers an academic goal (73). Secondly, as an activism goal, Perry wishes to discuss the ethical responsibility of objects which may be considered an environment where someone can be trained to kill.
Perry begins his essay by citing Foucault and Bordieu to discuss repetitious social behaviors. From Foucault, Perry gathers that “bodily training is a powerful tool in the formation of citizens” (73). The repeating of psychical actions has been used in the education and socialization of citizens since the dawn of time. This socialization, Perry argues from Bordieu, is “learned without conscious intellectual understanding” (74). The rationalization of behaviors on an intellectual level is completely different from this. Perry argues that behaviors are learned successfully only when they become “automatic” (74).
Perry's paper continues by discussing the American military and their use of video games for training purposes. The Marines have licensed Doom from its creator, Id Software, to create what they called Marine Doom. Nintendo has created products for the Army. Finally, The Navy has used The Sims to simulate terror cell organization. This begs the question which Perry asks next: when someone plays these games, military of civilian, what are they being trained to do?
David Grossman, the author of the book Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill, argues that video games, and the entertainment industry in general, trains young people the same way that the military trains soldiers via Doom. Grossman argues that these games “hardwire young people for shooting at humans” (76). Eric Zimmerman, disputes this by arguing for Quake:
In single player mode, and especially in multi player “death match” mode, Quake's blend of light speed tactics and hand-eye coordination has more in common with the cerebral athletics of tennis than the spectacular violence of Rambo. Quake and games like it have succeeded in creating meaningful space for play... (76)
When playing Quake on a computer or laptop, Perry continues, the player is not using a gun or a gun shaped device to play the game. Doom is played often using a QWERTY style keyboard. This is significant for Perry because, in the world we all live in post Operation Desert Storm, today more often than not military offensives are done using keyboard like interfaces.
Perry continues by proposing a question about actors and why those who play serial killers on television do not become serial killers themselves. Theater, he argues, is a “virtual world” (81). Perry then asks what is the difference between performing Shakespeare and say, battle training.
Perry raises some interesting ideas in this paper. Behaviors, as learned from the Foucault and Bordieu citations, are learned from repetition until they are automatic. Citizens are taught from childhood to behave in certain ways which as acceptable to polite society. A child who knows to not cross until the light is green has been successfully socialized to cross the street at the right time.
It is interesting to me that the military uses video games to trains its soldiers. Video games are so realistic these days that a game like Golden Eye or Halo 2 could be used by the Marines to help teach soldiers how to use their weaponry. I am against the military industrial complex but if America has to have a military I am glad they are learning from something that will give them an accurate way to train themselves for combat.
As for Grossman's book about video games teaching children to kill, I have to absolutely disagree with his findings. Like Zimmerman, I believe that games like Quake teach hand eye coordination and being able to react to fast moving situations. As a child I had a lot of problems with hand eye coordination and playing video games was one of the things that helped me immensely in my adolescent development. I am also blind in one eye so learning how to react to what was happening on the screen helped me to adjust to the loss of eye sight.
Also, as Zimmerman briefly mentions, if Quake is so bad, what about Rambo? What about the NFL each Sunday? When ESPN shows all the “big hits” from the weekend's football matches in slow motion over and over again doesn't that show the developing minds of children that violence is not only ok, but really cool? Don't these things teach children to be violent? If critics are going to attack Doom they better also attack Rambo, G.I. Joe, and all things of that nature.
Grand Theft Auto Three is a game in which the ethics of simulation can be discussed. In this game the player kills cops, beats sex workers with baseball bats, and robs people. These things, while not necessarily a necessary part of the game, are part of what makes the game world interesting. I'm sure a critic such as Grossman would find this game deplorable for children to play. I actually would have to agree with that. Why are twelve year olds playing Grand Theft Auto?
While I don't think there is a problem with playing GTA, putting a game where the player murders and steals in the unsupervised hands of children who are still developing intellectually is problematic. I think parents should teach their children the difference between the way that they behave in a game than how they believe in real life. The same way children should be taught that there is a difference between Rambo and reality, children should be taught there is a difference between GTA and how someone behaves in reality. Video games teach the player excellent skills, but children should be supervised when playing so any Rambo like fantasies can be deterred.