Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Future of Gaming, and of Punditry.

I just saw something absolutely fascinating, although in a way I wasn't quite expecting. It's about gaming, theoretically, but there's something quite "meta" about it as well, getting back to the battle raging over the validity of the 2006 Person of the year award.

First, check out this trailer. It's for a movie called "Moral Kombat", about violence in video games.

Done? Good. Now, you've probably noticed that it's looking like your typical "oh, won't somebody PLEEEEASE think of the children" lines. The same exact arguments have been made about movies, about comics, about pretty much every new and/or non-mainstream medium. Makes sense; for one, movies are hideously involving and realistic to someone used to reading.

The arguments presented are nonsense, of course. That whole line from Lieberman about "set up ratings or we'll do it for you" neglects to mention that the ESRB ratings have been around for a while and, if anything, are more restrictive than their film counterparts. There's precious little evidence that the argument presented about kids going on rampages has anything to do with reality; trying to tie it together with 9/11 was just sick. Violent crime has gone DOWN with the introduction of the Playstation, and continues to do so. It's likely a spurious connection, but like with the pornography-and-rape statistics issue, it's VERY hard to try to maintain that there's a direct connection when the stats at least imply the opposite.

(Personally, I stopped believing that video games desensitize people to violence the second I saw the faces of some game-sodden teenagers hearing the news about the WTC. The second. The plural of anecdote isn't data, but I saw what I saw.)

I haven't seen the full film; I may well like it more, or I may take an entertaining month breaking down all its ludicrous assumptions. Here's the thing, though- somebody already has done that for the trailer. Check out this response:

See THAT? Good. It blew me away. Not the presentation, of course, which was kind of amateurish, and more ad hominem than anything else. I'm more about what it represents. The kind of instant link-and-response that bloggers take for granted does exist in regards to video; that's what Crooks and Liars is all about. Same with Media Matters. What the Youtube "revolution" does, though, is make it possible for responders on the Internet to engage video and film at its own level; to create responses using roughly the same tools that the documentarists use, and then post it up on the Internet for anybody to see, watch, and embed. It levels the playing field in ALL media, not just text.

It's that last part that's most important, actually. It's why Youtube is successful and may become essential. Yes, Atrios and Co. have been playing their fun "dueling 80's videos" games, but they sort of miss the point, which is that you can easily post up exactly what you're responding to. If I had simply linked to the two videos above, it would be far, far less likely that anybody would have actually seen them. Embeds mean that with nothing more than a click, one can see them, and that little play button there makes it ever-so-inviting.

This exacerbates that level-playing-field effect. All these two embedded videos are, above, are two embedded videos. Yes, one is far better produced than the other. They're still the same little squares with the big play button. The responses can also easily include little snippets from what they're quoting, as that would be paradigmatic fair use, but even if they don't, simply pairing them off like this would ease comparison and response. It's all video.

It raises a question. Yes, progressive bloggers have a tough time getting on TV. That's probably not going to change. When "TV" is just another bit of embedded video, though, why not just do it your own damned self? People already are, of course, but what this suggests is that political "vlogging" may become as ubiquitous as textblogging is now. There are simply too many possibilities and too great an opportunity.

(And this leads into my take on that whole 2006 person of the year bit. That'll be next.)

(Edited for a few spelling mistakes.)

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