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  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    Personally, I don't think that authorial intention is that interesting when you're actually trying to analyse the messages that a work of literature embodies.
    I'd disagree, but I think that argument has been raging long enough elsewhere.
    I believe, based on what I have encountered of the empirical evidence - which granted, given the complexity of the human mind and its environment, is rarely clear-cut and unanimous - that games can have effects on an individual's beliefs and behaviour
    The problem is that is counter to how the mind works. Generally speaking, particularly with media, we don't pick up something to learn, we pick up something to reinforce our pre-held beliefs. Nobody is going to read Marx's Manifesto and decide Communism is a good idea unless they already thought it was a good idea, otherwise it will tend to have the opposite effect.
    Most games fail on a more fundamental level in simply not giving you anything to empathise with. As was pointed out earlier, who the bad guys are in CoD pretty much boils down to a uniform colour and accent. You could replace them with the bad guys from Space Invaders and it wouldn't affect the game in the slightest. Which isn't going to work because it's not really a game about shooting men so much as it is about putting one bunch of pixels over another and clicking the mouse.

    I'd say really you'd need to be looking at something with a little more depth and complexity than the likes of CoD before you could start discussing morality et al, since all CoD is offering is a digital version of the old shooting galleries. Like those, you could possibly argue the moral merits of having duck shaped targets or man shaped targets, but you'd be projecting far more complexity and depth on those targets than the average participant.

  2. #62
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    I said:
    I believe, based on what I have encountered of the empirical evidence - which granted, given the complexity of the human mind and its environment, is rarely clear-cut and unanimous - that games can have effects on an individual's beliefs and behaviour
    The problem is that is counter to how the mind works.
    So you believe that games have no effect on someone's beliefs and behaviour. That's a remarkably depressing point of view to take.

    Generally speaking, particularly with media, we don't pick up something to learn, we pick up something to reinforce our pre-held beliefs.
    Oh, so you do believe it can have an effect - it can reinforce beliefs in accordance with the message.

    ...otherwise it will tend to have the opposite effect.
    And act to reinforce ones opposed to it.

    So in fact, your quibble is that individual differences interact with the game - both in its selection and the effects that are wrought upon the person. I would agree entirely, noting that selection is often not sufficient to explain away correlations in beliefs and media viewed - longitudinal studies and so forth.

    The rest of your post I think comes down to this:
    you'd be projecting far more complexity and depth on those targets than the average participant.
    Where I think you're claiming that belief and behaviour change can only be wrought by factors that participants consciously engage with. Whilst such engagement is arguably deeply important in some processes of attitude change relying on actual argument and the like, there are obviously plenty of processes where concious engagement isn't required only a degree of attention to events. Learning about causal processes - as is argued is operating in CoD rather than the game being well-thought out piece that carefully tries to explain to you why violence is such a good tool - simply doesn't involve the kind of engagement that you're talking about.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    So in fact, your quibble is that individual differences interact with the game - both in its selection and the effects that are wrought upon the person.
    Pretty much. It's not so much gaming which is altering belief but our beliefs which alter our gaming. I'd say if anything, particularly in the more sandbox style games, games tend to offer us a safe means of exploring our existing beliefs. So yes, they can influence the existing beliefs insofar as providing a means to view or exercise those beliefs without any personal risk, but I'd consider it more introspection than anything external. The game is in effect simply a digital thought-exercise.
    Where I think you're claiming that belief and behaviour change can only be wrought by factors that participants consciously engage with.
    Last time I played a CoD game there was little to engage with whether consciously or sub-consciously, hence the shooting gallery. I'd see it as more the kind of thing you play as a distraction rather than something you'd focus on. Kinda similar to any repetitive mechanical task; you go into autopilot rather than active engagement.

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keep View Post
    Zetetic's doing a nice job explaining me there.

    I'm not saying there's an objective morality that developers are inserting into their games. I'm saying games end up expressing a morality because the game is - by deciding what the consequences will be - placing a higher value on some actions above others.

    And morality (f'ya ask me) is all about action and how to act.

    But if you disagree with that, that'd be great and I'd like to hear your take on the idea.
    I do, but before we get on that, it seems like I need only make a minor adjustment in my supposition to ascertain your point. Being:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    the game developer is (unavoidably) imposing a set of values and beliefs upon the gameworld.
    So instead of consciously imposing an objective moral guideline, the developer is unwittingly imposing an objective moral guideline. That doesn't really sate my concerns, because there is still an objective moral guideline, whether it's explicit or not.

    Actually, it adds a new concern, in that I'm essentially playing to a developer's prejudice, which leads to instances of cognitive dissonance like the one I mentioned in my first post in this thread, and if the developer insists on creating a morality system, this is one of the things s/he should have taken into consideration before putting metaphorical pen to paper. Not that I hold much hope, for just like Hollywood, the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that seemingly can't afford to retain a single writer.

    Now, as to our disagreement, I simply do not ascribe to the notion that we have an objective morality, and don't like it when those folks who do express one refuse to acknowledge that, popular or not, their system of morality is nothing if not arbitrary. This is why I prefer they leave out mechanical representations of karma entirely, unless they also depict that their system is itself explicitly arbitrary: WH40k's system of corruption, for instance, requires an actor that exists in the gameworld that you're pulling against or towards - namely, the warp and the leaders of chaos, who have their own motivations. D&D's paladins and clerics, divines and abyssals are beholden to beings that exist in the world and are defined as rather capricious.

    As to the idea of morality as only defined by actions, that's kinda like saying physics are only defined by engineering, but that's a minor nitpick.
    Last edited by Nalano; 11-10-2011 at 12:06 AM.
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  5. #65
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    It's not so much gaming which is altering belief but our beliefs which alter our gaming.
    Again this is something I subscribed to as regards media, but extensive longitudinal studies in other media indicate that this is not a sufficient explanation. Which I noted in the post that you replied to. Selection is important, but is very unlikely to be the end of the issue given what we the evidence concerning non-interactive video media.

    Edit: Oh, and various manufactured field experiments. These are obviously an improvement on demonstrations of the effect in a lab, and can take place over greater time scales - but they do tend to have other issues to do with the limited numbers of participants. Truly long-term longitudinal studies are generally harder to argue against, though they are dominated by studies of children - the data is not unanimous, but as a whole it is fairly convincing.

    Again I want to make it clear at the individual level, the effects of, to pick the most common if nebulous example, violent media, are not liable to predictable as regards attitude change and so forth.


    The game is in effect simply a digital thought-exercise.
    In the same way that a film is a visual thought-exercise and a book or a debate is a verbal thought-exercise? Do you believe that these things never change people's beliefs?

    Kinda similar to any repetitive mechanical task; you go into autopilot rather than active engagement.
    And you don't see that as more compelling (if anecdotal) support for the possibility that the game might be teaching you how to act without you considering this on a rational level?


    Actually, it adds a new concern, in that I'm essentially playing to a developer's prejudice, which leads to instances of cognitive dissonance like the one I mentioned in my first post in this thread
    Indeed. But you're liable to get that in books, films and games if you sufficiently disagree with how the author views the world.

    Now, as to our disagreement, I simply do not ascribe to the notion that we have an objective morality, and don't like it when those folks who do express one refuse to acknowledge that, popular or not, their system of morality is nothing if not arbitrary.
    I certainly don't think that I disagree with you here in the slightest! And it's entirely possible for an author (of a game, or a film, or a book) to express this claim about morality. But I don't think that many games accomplish this - your example of Fallout 3's Karma is an explicit one, but I'm only really going beyond this by suggesting that CoD's design embodies throughout implicit moral (and other) claims.

    As to the idea of morality is only defined by actions, that's kinda like saying physics are only defined by engineering, but that's a minor nitpick.
    I think it's more that morality is about our actions (from a perspective of judgement) as physics is about events (from a perspective of [mechanical] cause); we could move into more explicit psychological jargon - domains of knowledge and their ontologies but I don't think it's really required.

    That might seem facile, but I think it helps get at the idea why games that are concerned with judging our actions (and aren't so many? - we have to do one thing or another to advance, and doing something else often won't let us) are logically concerned with morality. Sometimes that's more important than others, depending how much the game does to suggest that its claims are relevant to the real world.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 11-10-2011 at 01:09 AM.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    So instead of consciously imposing an objective moral guideline, the developer is unwittingly imposing an objective moral guideline. That doesn't really sate my concerns, because there is still an objective moral guideline, whether it's explicit or not.

    Actually, it adds a new concern, in that I'm essentially playing to a developer's prejudice, which leads to instances of cognitive dissonance like the one I mentioned in my first post in this thread, and if the developer insists on creating a morality system, this is one of the things s/he should have taken into consideration before putting metaphorical pen to paper. Not that I hold much hope, for just like Hollywood, the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that seemingly can't afford to retain a single writer.

    Now, as to our disagreement, I simply do not ascribe to the notion that we have an objective morality, and don't like it when those folks who do express one refuse to acknowledge that, popular or not, their system of morality is nothing if not arbitrary. This is why I prefer they leave out mechanical representations of karma entirely, unless they also depict that their system is itself explicitly arbitrary: WH40k's system of corruption, for instance, requires an actor that exists in the gameworld that you're pulling against or towards - namely, the warp and the leaders of chaos, who have their own motivations. D&D's paladins and clerics, divines and abyssals are beholden to beings that exist in the world and are defined as rather capricious.

    As to the idea of morality as only defined by actions, that's kinda like saying physics are only defined by engineering, but that's a minor nitpick.
    Wait, who says morality is objective? I didn't mean to suggest that. I'd say the developer is, yeah unwittingly, imposing a moral guideline. But it's not objective, it's probably not even their own (I don't think many developers live by the edict "Shoot people when they approach you").

    You are playing to a set of prejudices in a game, same as you do with every work of art. If it's an intelligent game though, that's no more a problem than appreciating the Sistine Chapel while rejecting the Catholic Church's moral philosophy.
    If it's not? ...Well that's the OP's frustration I think.

    And I'd immediately get behind a game that has characters that adhere to obviously non-absolutist moral systems. Too often it amounts to nothing more than flavour-text, but if the mechanics of the game agree with the crackpot philosophies espoused, I'm sold.

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    Again this is something I subscribed to as regards media, but extensive longitudinal studies in other media indicate that this is not a sufficient explanation.
    I've never seen the studies.
    Truly long-term longitudinal studies are generally harder to argue against, though they are dominated by studies of children - the data is not unanimous, but as a whole it is fairly convincing.
    The problem with most studies is that it's something impossible to isolate. You'd have to rule out anything else influencing the beliefs or behaviour of the subject, which is rather hard to do without sealing them away from society for a few weeks and only allowing them to interact with the media. And then you need to establish it was in fact the media which caused it, and not the fact they've been locked in a room and forced to watch films for the past few weeks ...

    Unless of course you simply go with the neuroscience, but all you can really do with that is say it's not the learning centres which media stimulates.
    In the same way that a film is a visual thought-exercise and a book or a debate is a verbal thought-exercise? Do you believe that these things never change people's beliefs?
    Yes. Certainly I can't think of a book or film which has changed my beliefs, nor do I know of anyone who has stated such has occurred. Of course it's anecdotal, but like I said, how do you demonstrate it was the book, movie or game and not another factor (or indeed a number of other factors) responsible?
    And you don't see that as more compelling (if anecdotal) support for the possibility that the game might be teaching you how to act without you considering this on a rational level?
    Nope. Like I said, if the attention isn't on the game then it's rather hard to see how it could influence anything beyond muscle memory. I'm sure there's plenty of teachers who would happily support the idea that once a student is in auto-pilot mode it's impossible for them to learn anything.

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    I've never seen the studies.
    They are not well-hidden or confined to particularly expensive journals. Science has published such studies (and as you'd expect the references of such articles are a good starting point), and response to such articles including wider discussions of the variety of data and conclusions that are out there. Otherwise you'll find that quite a few university departments have made available, usually rather incidentally, discussion of relevant papers.

    The problem with most studies is that it's something impossible to isolate. You'd have to rule out anything else influencing the beliefs or behaviour of the subject,
    Or use a sufficiently large sample to minimise such problems.

    which is rather hard to do without sealing them away from society for a few weeks and only allowing them to interact with the media.
    Various studies have done precisely this.

    And then you need to establish it was in fact the media which caused it, and not the fact they've been locked in a room and forced to watch films for the past few weeks ...
    Which is why you have a control group that undergoes much the same conditions but only has media available to them that differs, as much as is possible, only in one manner.

    Unless of course you simply go with the neuroscience, but all you can really do with that is say it's not the learning centres which media stimulates.
    I'm trying to make sense of this - are you claiming that there is no overlap in the neural correlates of, say, classical conditioning (to pick one very simple learning paradigm) and the neural correlates of someone watching a variety of television programmes?

    It is clearly false. Most obviously the correlates of emotional reaction overlap quite significantly with those of classical conditioning - the orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala, from rather poor memory; noting that I certainly wouldn't infer from this that emotional reaction involves learning. Furthermore the idea that the great variety of activities that involve interaction with media has a well-defined meaningful set of neural correlates is not easy to make sense of.

    Also, if you're actually going to dispute that playing a game involves learning at all, then you're going to have to come up with an explanation as to how we deal with novel game mechanics. Logically, I don't think you can.

    Yes. Certainly I can't think of a book or film which has changed my beliefs, nor do I know of anyone who has stated such has occurred.
    Unfortunately, I am beginning to suspect that this might well be the case and I'm sorry to say that I can't see point in attempting to engage with someone has openly avowed that nothing that they've ever read or watched has changed their beliefs.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 11-10-2011 at 02:55 AM.

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    Yes. Certainly I can't think of a book or film which has changed my beliefs, nor do I know of anyone who has stated such has occurred. Of course it's anecdotal, but like I said, how do you demonstrate it was the book, movie or game and not another factor (or indeed a number of other factors) responsible?
    This is seriously pretty bonkers...

    Apart from personal experience, I would point out that, for example, that the adjective "Orwellian" has taken a place in our language. Do you suppose that people using that word as a way of expressing their extreme wariness toward authoritarian government might perhaps have been influenced by the better-known works of George Orwell? Do you suppose that people calling themselves "existentialists" cropped up in the 20th century solely because they knew other existentialists, and not because many of them were reading books by Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre? Need I mention Karl Marx, Adam Smith?

    If you're reading nothing but simple pulp fiction, and you're not terribly interested in religion, politics or philosophy, it's pretty easy to dodge having your beliefs changed by a book. Still, the main intellectual currents of humanity have, for centuries if not millennia, been largely promulgated by the written word, sometimes as essay, sometimes as fiction. You must have had some exposure to this, on some level, surely?

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    Perhaps the sticking point here is the phrase 'changed my beliefs'? Certainly I can't think of any book that's caused an instant, polar shift in my ideology -- a book or a movie can't suddenly convince me to abandon everything I once thought -- but my beliefs and ideas are certainly shaped and informed by, among many other things, the media that I consume.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    I think this probably the crux of where I'm likely to find disagreement.

    Personally, I don't think that authorial intention is that interesting when you're actually trying to analyse the messages that a work of literature embodies. Sure, it's often not a bad starting point, and it's interesting sometimes to try to work out what the author intended and examine how effective they are communicating what they wished. My belief is indeed that the developers of CoD largely have very little concern in the messages that their game sends regarding morality and behaviour (despite having an interest in gritty aesthetic accoutrements designed to give their game a serious and even philosophical air).
    I think logically if you're reading something in the text not intended by the author then by there are only two possibilities as to why you're seeing what you're seeing. Either the themes are so powerful they only manifest subconsciously in the author's mind and so he himself does not recognize it on a conscious level OR the author was...(un)lucky? The amount of stuff that people manage to find in literary works is really quite astounding. I remember the amount of stuff people come up with analyzing - particularly - short stories damn near make me fall of my chair laughing. Of course the amount of pretentious symbolism some of these authors manage to cram into their works is equally humorous to me but I think there's a general recognition that the academic types really do over-analyze things that simply aren't well supported in the text or are very, very ancillary.


    No. Do you think that the 'girl game' discussed by John was trying to make a point, or a buck?
    I don't know what 'John's girl game' is but i'll assume it's a sleazy game that puts girls in armored bikinis and you can bang them if your reputation is at least positive 5 and is therefore sexist - that kinda thing? But just how seriously can you take john's game when you know, in real life, that bikini-clad babes won't reward you for saving their shapely behinds with their shapely behinds? Yes, supposedly morality deals with thought rather than conduct. But then you would then have to accuse every guy who has fantasies over say, Angelina Jolie, of being immoral because she's married to Brad Pitt.

    Excellent example, although I'm going to take against "empathy" centre later. Let's assume that's precisely what Rockstar wants to make the GTA games do - in which case, we're basically claiming that that they're such adept masters of the human mind, of communication and psychology that they can switch off learning in the player during the bits of the game where he or she is making Niko beat a prostitute to death for money and then switch it back on during the cutscenes (assuming that the player can stand them).

    And I say learning, and not empathy, because I think that's important. Moral reasoning - certainly not pro-social or even altruistic behaviour - doesn't always and only involve point-of-view-taking. Furthermore, it's not as though empathy, and more relevantly when to apply it to decision-making isn't at least in part a learnt behaviour.
    I think the difference is that the cutscenes have a far stronger narrative element to it and are alot more serious in tone. You see close-ups, facial expressions and people are voiced and actually doing things. The prostitute is just one of the millions of passerbys that you can punch/shoot to death without much in the way of repercussion (1 star notoriety, and a few cops). In fact I find it rather comical the way pedestrians take up a boxing stance when you screw with them. Real life is wholly different. Now on the other hand, a movie that has realistic depictions and a world modeled after our own...that may be a little different. You still can't take a movie like triple X seriously though, even with the contemporary setting.

    I believe, based on what I have encountered of the empirical evidence - which granted, given the complexity of the human mind and its environment, is rarely clear-cut and unanimous - that games can have effects on an individual's beliefs and behaviour, and that they don't always have to provoke a process of rational engagement and acceptance in order to do this. (I've already appealed in this thread to examples where there is little controversy regarding very similar claims.)

    [I won't claim that my experience is overwhelming - it's that of a graduate with a relevant degree, some previous curiosity about behavioural change (not least because of this very issue) and some developing professional interest in the same- and there's always more to learn. I did once believe that the ability to consciously discriminate between fiction and reality was sufficient; now I am convinced otherwise.]

    Now, if you make a game that teaches players one thing or another about the world, and if that has behavioural consequences of moral importance - then your game is staking a moral position to my mind. Those with a greater experience in literary criticism can probably draw a similar argument out without such behavioural claims.
    The thing that's contentious is what you mean when you say a game is "staking a moral position." Most people have a very simple definition of morality: the question of whether something is right or wrong. Now something like this is a very deeply ingrained belief. It colors everything that you do. A moral position is therefore a unification of all the discrete and contiguous moral elements underpinning various facets of our psyche. You can therefore see why people find it strange to say Bulletstorm "stakes a moral position." If you phrased it as: "might reinforce aggressive patterns of behavior" then it would be less contentious, though most people would still disagree with you. But under such a formulation you can't really equate aggression with morality though they are part of each other.

    So, to concrete examples again. I don't think that GTA tries to tell a moral message by allowing you to beat strangers to death without consequence - even though this takes place in an environment full of the moral indignation and instruction of the developers, in the form of satire! I don't really imagine to be very damaging either. It's cartoonish and not related to the solution of problems or anything like that - but I can't speak for others or the actual facts of the situation as I simply do not know these.

    I think CoD is a contrast to GTA - it's deeply concerned with how we prosecute conflicts, our society's identity as 'the good guys' and the use of violence and it takes place in a world that's meant to plausibly resemble our own both superficially (in terms of particle effects and mo-cap!) and ostensibly more deeply in terms of politics and the threat of terrorists and so on. I don't believe many people take it rationally very seriously, but I do believe that inadvertently it helps confirm or encourage rather morally and practically dubious views.
    Not sure about this one. Very hard to pinpoint that undercurrent of thought.

    To return to empathy - which was certainly a good thing to bring up - I would wonder for example how CoD affects players ability to empathise with 'the bad guys' in our real wars and so forth, to take their perspective in a meaningful fashion.
    To be fair things are very well defined in games. An enemy is trying to kill you, you have to kill him back (err i mean kill him before he kills you :P). It's not like the mainstream public considers it a moral problem when opposing countries clash and soldiers die in war.

    I should also keep repeating this clarification - one shouldn't overstate the effects of these games or of the moral and other claims that they impart on purpose or by accident. Particularly one shouldn't overstate the effect of any given game (CoD's just a nice example of silly militaristic jingoism) on any given individual.

    Bugger, I still keep being drawn into the behavioural effects of games rather than more explicitly discussing their moral message; still I think it's quite easy for any reader to draw logical connections between the two.
    I think there kind of is a connection but they really aren't the same thing at all. As I discussed above, behavior is really something like a subset of morality.

    As for the empirical studies, those really do seem to be skewed somewhat by political agendas on BOTH sides, depending on who funds the study and the targeted effect (on the unsuspecting public). I mean even these days you have guys calling out studies for something like correlation rather than causation and shoddy sampling methods. It just suggests to me that the community is either all pursuing their own agenda or really are prone to making these errors willy-nilly. Well, I don't know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hamster View Post
    I think logically if you're reading something in the text not intended by the author then by there are only two possibilities as to why you're seeing what you're seeing. Either the themes are so powerful they only manifest subconsciously in the author's mind and so he himself does not recognize it on a conscious level OR the author was...(un)lucky?
    I think that the former is closer to the mark, but I also feel you're being slightly disingenuous. Very few (good?) authors have such a crystal clear intention in mind when writing a novel, or a poem, or a screenplay or directing a film; they'll write, and rewrite and shoot and reshoot often not because they have a point or a message in mind (at the very least not only that) but because they know what feels... correct to them. Some of Tarkovsky's writings point to something similar to this, where he emphasises that he just tell you what he's trying to convey in literal, verbal language, he can only show you with film and metaphor - does that not point you more towards the idea that the artist may not express a singular, clear message.

    Perhaps a more clear example is in order. Chaucer uses the phrase "The sweet jargon of birds.", sometime in the 14th century. To any modern reader the phrase has a nice connotation of birds having their own particular communications peculiar to themselves, drawing on how we use 'jargon' to refer to the specialised vocabulary of a profession or hobby or something; it really does alter the sense of the phrase. Chaucer, however, can't have meant that - to Chaucer "jargon" really did just denote the chirping of birds. Do we say that the phrase doesn't have that sense then, purely because of when it written and in spite of how people react to it?

    Sure, it's a particularly compressed example, but it illustrates handily how readers may react to a piece in a way that the author neither imagined, nor could have intended. Unless you're prepared to take the alternative position and reject the importance of how readers actually interpret work, I think you're stuck with dealing with the possibility that a work may mean something that was either not clearly articulated by the author inside his own head, or not intended by the author at all.


    I don't know what 'John's girl game' is but i'll assume it's a sleazy game that puts girls in armored bikinis and you can bang them if your reputation is at least positive 5 and is therefore sexist - that kinda thing? But just how seriously can you take john's game when you know, in real life, that bikini-clad babes won't reward you for saving their shapely behinds with their shapely behinds?
    Lady Popular. It's a bit more insidious than your suggestion, but for better or worse more real as well.

    I think the difference is that the cutscenes have a far stronger narrative element to it and are alot more serious in tone. You see close-ups, facial expressions and people are voiced and actually doing things.
    I'm not so sure how much the narrative element is important, but it's very interesting point. The other aspects seem mainly concerned with making the scene more real and coherent with the real world, and, yeah, that's a worthy point to make to.

    Real life is wholly different [to GTA freeplay]. Now on the other hand, a movie that has realistic depictions and a world modeled after our own...that may be a little different. You still can't take a movie like triple X seriously though, even with the contemporary setting.
    I'd take issue with "wholly", but otherwise I think we're pretty much in agreement here. I do think that realism of depiction, or more widely how much the game or film tries to convince us that it's relevant to the real world, is important. But there's clearly a continuum - the more that a fictional world bears resemblance to our own, the more that we'll take away from it.


    The thing that's contentious is what you mean when you say a game is "staking a moral position." Most people have a very simple definition of morality: the question of whether something is right or wrong. Now something like this is a very deeply ingrained belief. It colors everything that you do. A moral position is therefore a unification of all the discrete and contiguous moral elements underpinning various facets of our psyche.
    I don't think I'd take against any of this very strongly at all - it all seems sensible to me at first pass.

    You can therefore see why people find it strange to say Bulletstorm "stakes a moral position." If you phrased it as: "might reinforce aggressive patterns of behavior" then it would be less contentious, though most people would still disagree with you. But under such a formulation you can't really equate aggression with morality though they are part of each other.
    Hmm. What I'm trying to get at is that Bulletstorm (to use your example) teaches us - as a mechanic of the game - that shooting men in the testicles is a good act, is the right thing to do if the opportunity presents itself. That by the claim that morality is what's right and wrong to do, Bulletstorm has a moral system embedded in it.

    Now, given Bulletstorm's setting and general silliness, I think I'd find it hard to argue that it's presenting itself as any kind of guide to the real world and how to act in it - I'd be reticent (as I'm sure many would) about presenting it a young child who might be more likely to take the messages in it about to how to act on Stygia and (mis?)interpret them as how to act in the real world. But as a piece intended, and mainly played by slightly more developed individuals, I think I can suggest that it's not staking much of a moral position.

    It might still encourage aggressive behaviour - and probably does in the minutes or so after playing the game by mechanisms of arousal and so on - but I'd hesitate to suggest that it's liable to teach the average adult much about the world because it works so hard to not be about the real world.

    To be fair things are very well defined in games. An enemy is trying to kill you, you have to kill him back (err i mean kill him before he kills you :P).
    Which is part of what I'm trying to get at. There is no complexity, no real discussion of motive except in the most ridiculous fashion - set against a backdrop of ostensibly realism and brooding pseudo-philosophical cobblers intended to give the game a gritty sense of import.

    It's not like the mainstream public considers it a moral problem when opposing countries clash and soldiers die in war.
    Really? We had million strong marches against the war in Iraq in the UK. When we're not banging on about cats and immigration, Question Time has often involved discussion of working out why we're in Iraq and Afghanistan, and what the right thing to do is in these regions.

    I think there kind of is a connection but they really aren't the same thing at all. As I discussed above, behavior is really something like a subset of morality.
    I wouldn't say that they're the same thing either, but I do think there's a fairly strong logical connection between the influence of behaviour and moral communication.

    As for the empirical studies, those really do seem to be skewed somewhat by political agendas on BOTH sides, depending on who funds the study and the targeted effect (on the unsuspecting public).
    There's an aspect of that, and it's always worthwhile being skeptical of any given study, examining the paper yourself and the responses of experts in the field to it. Secondary to that is to examine the motivations of those behind the studies, but ultimately it's the studies themselves that have to bear, or fail under, the weight of review.

    I mean even these days you have guys calling out studies for something like correlation rather than causation and shoddy sampling methods. It just suggests to me that the community is either all pursuing their own agenda or really are prone to making these errors willy-nilly. Well, I don't know.
    I think if we're more generous, it's that psychology is very hard; humans are massively complex and massively varied. Demonstrating causation (if such a thing is possible even a very lay sense) is essentially impossible in the wild, and very difficult even in artificial field experiments and laboratory settings (which are problematic in themselves) - the very best that one can do is show some kind of time-direction-sensitive correlation. Obtaining and corralling humans how you want is expensive and often difficult - these days more than ever - to get past ethics committees.

    As it happens, most authors will acknowledge the limitations of their findings in their papers, while speculating about future investigations - they've got to seek future funding for one thing!

    Ideology does affect the softer sciences to greater extent, and this hasn't been helped in the United States (which has suffered this far worse than Europe ever did) by ascendence of largely ascientific theories of psychodynamics before psychology as a experimental and empirical science really got going. However, this doesn't mean that this isn't a large, impressive body of work moving forward in many, many areas of psychology.
    Last edited by Zetetic; 11-10-2011 at 03:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keep View Post
    (I don't think many developers live by the edict "Shoot people when they approach you").
    I'm reminded of a certain Winston Rowntree webcomic. "Tellingly idealized version of game staff." :P

    And certain games, through their mechanics, espouse an objective morality. "This person is Good. Killing this person is Bad. However, killing thirty slobs to save this person is Good."

    Quote Originally Posted by Zetetic View Post
    So, to concrete examples again. I don't think that GTA tries to tell a moral message by allowing you to beat strangers to death without consequence - even though this takes place in an environment full of the moral indignation and instruction of the developers, in the form of satire!

    [...]

    I think CoD is a contrast to GTA - it's deeply concerned with how we prosecute conflicts
    GTA4 gives a narrative where the protagonist tries to seek redemption and exit the underworld. While running over hookers to get his money back. No, we don't think R* are masters of writing. We think they've made a mistake in trying to impose a story that depends on morals on a game that is gleefully amoral.

    And CoD does not give two shits about anything but being a manshoot. It suffers from the same hypocrisy every war movie ever did: You can't make war entertaining and then try to tell people how wrong it is.
    Last edited by Nalano; 11-10-2011 at 06:01 PM.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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    "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy." - Woody Allen

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