Gaming culture: Bulletstorm and grown up kids

I’ve been working recently with people who are fans of computer games. “Great,” you think, “we’ll have so much in common.” Well … yes and no. They play shooters on consoles. I play PC games. They like corpse camping people in Black Ops and I’m not big on PvP.

And I get this cognitive dissonance when they’re describing excitedly all the horrible things they did in game to people who annoyed them, when I know that they spend the rest of their day working with young people who’ve been thrown out of their parent’s homes for being unmanageable (as you can imagine, patience and respect is really important in this line of work.)

So I come back with a new view on horrible gamer culture in shooters, which is that most current players probably like it that way. And since they have plenty of buying power, people will keep making what Leigh Alexander calls “man-child bloodbath games,” and they’ll probably be huge hits. I’m pretty sure though that while the guys I work with enjoy the odd smack talk in game, they wouldn’t be down with the sexist, homophobic slurs which are so characteristic of the culture. Or would they? Fortunately I don’t play xbox shooters so I’ll never know.

Bulletstorm is currently kicking up a media furore as the newest entrant into the man-child bloodbath genre.

And I think, “Well, game itself kind of sounds fun … but I don’t think it’s fun to dismember people and have loads of foul mouthed jokes and comments from the lead characters.” And I know full well that to most of the desired audience, that’s a big part of the appeal. They can’t wait to play a game where you get to shoot other people in the bum (graphically, mind) and have achievements with names that go way beyond suggestiive (possibly not safe for work.)

Leigh argues that we shouldn’t criticise games for being puerile man-child fantasies. If that’s what the market wants then that’s what the market gets. Which is fine, but I’m wondering more and more if I am the one who is not the ‘true gamer’ because if I know anyone who plays and likes that game, they’re going down in my estimation. Which again, is part of the appeal.

Games are now being marketed on the basis that women will hate them. You may have seen or heard of the adverts for Dead Space 2, with the tagline, “Your mom will hate it.” Or in other words, if you hate women and want to be really sure you won’t accidentally be gaming with any, buy this game.



17 thoughts on “Gaming culture: Bulletstorm and grown up kids

  1. Being a man I can comment that I don’t play any of those man-child bloodbath games, nor do they particularly excite me. I know there’s a lot of gore in games like Dragon Age but that’s single player meaning I don’t have to deal with all those kiddies running round. More mature game for a (hopefully) more mature audience. Making improper remarks towards women does not then inspire me to pick up their titles, but I guess I’m not the target audience then.

  2. I think it’s perfectly valid to criticise these games for being puerile man-child fantasies.

    People have to get awareness from somewhere of the outlook of the society they live in and if everyone turns the other cheek youngsters can get hooked on this style of gaming without ever being aware that to some people it’s not ok to go online and “rape” some “faggots”.

    I would not support banning such games but it’s ok to resist this culture by standing up for your own.

    If nothing else it’s self-preservation. If someone learns how to play with other people in one of these is it any surprise that they come into co-op games and Need every item while calling everyone else “retards”?

    • “People have to get awareness from somewhere of the outlook of the society they live in and if everyone turns the other cheek youngsters can get hooked on this style of gaming without ever being aware that to some people it’s not ok to go online and “r–e” some “f—–s”.”

      I often wonder if we can’t identify some of the rocks under which this culture lived in the years leading up to these virtual outlets. I know some of it (sometimes in a less blatant way, sometimes infinitely worse) happens in locker rooms, some when boys are brought together by organizations like Boy Scouts (even as well-intentioned and helpful as the organization can be), but also just on schoolyards and school halls and in those out of the way areas where kids congregate in their neighborhoods.

      Does lifting the rock and putting the kids together online make this strange, abusive culture worse in some way? Is the culture of FPS games a potentially less damaging, safer outlet for those who /are/ part of this culture whether we choose to see it in other areas of our lives or not? The worst thing is that for some people, any of these experiences can be a trigger. And any of these experiences can potentially become a relatively safe outlet for working through self-actualization. Individually, it’s situational (he said with circular login). Overall, it’s tough to figure.

      That is to say, merely eliminating the games doesn’t eliminate the culture; it came /from/ somewhere. We all know some of the “where”. Since we can’t parent everyone, are these games — this one in particular sounds particularly well rooted in fantasy, as the ratings page says, “This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of a space pirate who must escape a planet populated by mutant cannibals” — net gains or losses for the community at large? And what are the metrics for your answer?

  3. “Your mom will hate it.” This certainly places more emphasis on gender than “your parents will hate it” would, but mom still seems defined mostly by the parental role, not the gender. “Your wife would hate it” would rate higher on my sexism scale. As it is I can barely put it at 4/10, which is only slightly higher than the 3/10 caused by half-naked game art. But maybe it doesn’t say parents because the dad is the target audience.

    Either way, I doubt I’m the target audience. I guess I need to be more sexist to have any fun, at least according to them.

    • I think dad probably is part of the target audience, “Remember how you felt when you were 15? Your mom would have hated this!”

      To me there’s an implication that while mom might hate it, dad could be persuaded to play a game with you when she was out. Just don’t let those nasty women spoil your fun.

  4. Agreed with Klepsacovic, “Your mom will hate it.” Seems more targeted at the parental function of instilling manners and good behavior.

    As a parent of three boys, I’m sure they’ll be begging for this game.

  5. Suggesting something is the province of Man-children strikes me as one of those particuarly obnoxious turns of phrase that kind of invalidates any arguments the person who’s saying it is making.

    It suggests the people who enjoy shooting other people in games don’t have the deep maturity needed to enjoy things like Bejeweled or Farmville.

    Something that needs to be considered that, even more than MMO’s, these games are essentially social activities and, perhaps more than any other genre, even pop cap style games, they tend to be played by ‘normal’ people rather than an older school nerdier gamer audience and it does cause that older audience a certain amount of discomfort that they exagerrate an attribute that you might consider as making more sense as friendly smack talking than anything with actual venom behind it.

    • Are you saying you’d consider xbox live to be mature?

      Anyhow I thought I made it clear in my post that I respect the guys I work with. They need to be mature to do that job. I don’t understand why they want to be immature in games, I just know that although I like them, we can never game together.

      I also resent the idea that ‘normal’ people play this type of game but not the type I play.

      • In my experience Xbox Live is 10x worse than PC shooters. Games on the PC seem to attract an older audience which leads to less degrading talk and actions. There’s still trash talk, but it’s more civil than what I’ve experienced on Xbox Live.

  6. I play shooters, but more and more (as I get older) the way I play them changes. I like a good single player campaign like the Halo, Gears of War, and Modern Warfare series. They tell an interesting story and have good gameplay. I also love to do the co-op modes with my real life friends online or sitting on a couch together.

    The thing that keeps getting less appealing is the online multiplayer. I hate the trash talk and the immature play style. I can’t stand how annoying little kids are when they try to tell you what to do. The tea-bagging and name calling doesn’t help either.

    The only shooter I play competitive multiplayer in anymore is Team Fortress 2. The community seems to be a few notches above most other shooters.

    I just wanted to give you another perspective. Try not to group all shooter fans together in your mind.

  7. I was struck by your doubt that you’re a “true gamer” as if that existed. People who enjoy games come in all flavors and gamers don’t have a lock on neanderthal attitudes. Those attitudes exist and some of those who adopt them play games and want those same attitudes mirrored back to them in their games. That doesn’t make the rest of us any less engaged with games, any less gamers at heart. I’ve enjoyed games all my life and don’t see that changing, least of all because some mouth-breathing boy wants to wallow in the worst attitudes of society. To think that gaming culture as a whole belongs to him and his is selling it short. There’s far more to gamers than this.

    • You’re spot on. It does all make me doubt myself as a gamer. They are working so hard to sell this idea that ‘normal gamers’ should want to play these types of games, complete with all the gore and swearing and smack talk and innuendo.

      It’s like if every film at the local cinema was Jackass all the time. Films like Up, Inception, and even The Dark Knight Returns just wouldn’t get made, even though they were all more successful.

      • If your local cinema only shows Jackass, that’s disheartening but remember that those other films do get made. There’s an audience for them. You might have to go a bit further afield to find them, but that’s a temporary problem of local perspective and very much worth overcoming.

        I’ve read your blog long enough to know that you are a real gamer. Support the cinema — or gaming culture — that empowers you. The market is going to throw up all kinds of stuff but it’s up to us to say whether any of it has value.

      • Here’s a consideration:

        There’s no longer any such thing as a “normal gamer”.

        I think we’re at, or very close, to the point where “normal” ceases to have meaning. What’s a “normal reader” or a “normal exerciser” or a “normal moviegoer”?

        Consider a hypothetical conversation:
        Q:”Hey Ano, tell me something you like to do!”
        A:”I like to read.”
        Q:”Oh. Okay. *crickets*”

        I’d say a more likely conversation might be
        Q:”Hey Ano, tell me something you like to do!”
        A:”I like to read.”
        Q:”Oh, right. What sort of stuff do you like reading?”
        A:”Oh a mixture really — I like [biographies] and [mills & boon romances], mostly, but anything good”
        Q:”[blah blah blah]”

        Perhaps the equivalent gaming conversation only happens in certain demographics, but I think the likelihood of it taking place increases every day*.

  8. I think there’s definite reason to criticize this sort of stupidity. Ban it, no (though parents banning it from the home is perfectly fine with me), but criticize it, absolutely yes. In fact, I’d go so far to say that nothing is immune from criticism, and suggesting that these insipid puerile pieces of offal are beyond criticism simply because they are trash is intellectually bankrupt.

  9. I share the man-child fantasy, but it’s more to be standing over a pile of unconcious bodies, not dead ones. Splinter cell: Chaos theory and more recently batman: Arkham Asylum fueled this fantasy pretty well. I love the fantasy of being kick ass, yet at the same time morally nuetral (perhaps even good) since I didn’t kill anyone.

    Mostly I think alot of these young men have a million years of instincts driving them to try and find their place in the pecking order, the higher the better. I think it’s actually fear that drives the sales of these games, despite what you think. Behind the adulation in violence and purileness is a fear of being left on the outside and alone.

  10. Argh, the Dead Space 2 ad is … bad. It’s also targeting the people who are going to buy it anyway, so it seems bad on multiple levels. Contrast that with the way the ads for Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 played up the shooting/killing/smacktalking elements, presumably to appeal to an audience which perhaps wouldn’t have bought it otherwise.

    That said, I do still want to DS2. I played and enjoyed the first game, which was singleplayer only (the second one does apparently have an online component, which I’ll happily ignore).

    The first game was a gory and shock-filled journey through a spaceship filled with horrible mutated creatures, and I liked it. It made me squeal in a most undignified manner on a number of occasions, when some monstrosity leapt out at me or took a chunk out of the/my character. It was atmospheric, had *brilliant* sound, and was something of a sleeper hit.

    Perhaps I’m a freak *sad*.

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