Monday, July 18, 2011

A Foul Play

Who doesn’t play video games? From young to old, girls and boys. We have all played some type of video game, though the frequency in which we play does differ depending on the individual. There are a variety of game genres from sports to adventure and even simulations of war. Many games have stirred controversial debates in particular those that promote violence and gun play, such as the Call of Juarez series. All video games go through a screening process, similar to the screening that movies encounter before being released to the public. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the organization that conducts the screening process and developed a rating chart to distinguish which games are “age appropriate” based on a game’s content.

The Call of Juarez series brings us back to the times of the Wild West in the 1800s. The realism of western gunfights is brought to our television screens for us to play out in the comfort, and of course safety, of our home. The video game series is known for its graphic images, strong language and intense violence in addition to inferences of sex and drugs granting them each an M rating. As popularity increased and the gaming technology advanced it seems war games in general have become grittier, more ruthless and more life-like.
The latest game Call of Juarez: The Cartel hit stores on July 19 and has caused a wave of controversy. This game bases its storyline on the real life events of the current drug war between the United States and Mexico. When the Mexican drug cartel bombs a US law enforcement agency, agents are sent in retaliation to hunt down the cartel.

In viewing the trailer it is evident which elements of the game are deemed controversial. The Call of Juarez series specifically focuses on Mexico and exploits its negative downfalls. The United States law enforcement is being represented in an unfavorable manner as well. The narrator states this is the New Wild West, where “bad cops” who consider themselves “above the law” kill in cold blood and steal drug money. Government officials of Brownsville, Texas are opposed to the game because it presents police and agents as corrupt. In the game the officers in pursuit are in a sense renegades, serving justice in regards to their own personal agenda rather than upholding the law in a just fashion. In the trailer one of the main characters, who is an officer, describes himself, his colleagues and the cartel as one in the same. Here it is explicitly clear that it is intentional for law enforcement to be depicted as corrupt. I noticed one scene in the trailer that can be considered police brutality and use of excessive force; the fight scene between the female agent and the criminal who she riddles with bullets driving him over the ledge.

The Mexican government is upset in how the country and its people are being exploited. This is a very difficult time for Mexico between the ongoing drug wars, the unofficial yet powerful control the cartel has over its government and the great numbers of deaths on a daily basis. Kevin Kelly and Steve Johnson are video game critics who gave their opinion of the game in February before the game’s release. They sympathize with the Mexican government that the content is very controversial and agree that the main reason for their opposition is the effect the game will have on children. Violence is an ongoing, almost normal activity of everyday life in Mexico. Kelly and Johnson mention that the Mexican schools even conduct a duck and cover drill in the event of gunfire in the area. This drill is an example of how serious and widespread the situation is in Mexico. The constant violence that children see everyday is sending them a message that this will forever be the way of life. With that kind of mentality children may thereby believe that this is the road to take if they have any chance of surviving. Kelly, Johnson and the Mexican government believe that the less exposure the children have to violence the better. For this reason the Mexican government has gone as far as to ban the video games from the country. Morally it is in bad taste of the gaming company to produce such a game knowing the current state of the country of Mexico. But to ban the game is a bit excessive because there are players who would be able to control themselves and distinguish between fantasy and reality.
The game in a sense hits too close to home. The tragic events occurring in Mexico are too fresh in our minds for it to be made into a game for our enjoyment when this is the reality for some. Yet video games have not been shown to increase the level of violence in a gamer. The Mexican government seems to be fighting against ethics rather than if the game is truly harmful to a child. How much more can a fictional video game affect a child who sees dead bodies on a regular basis?

There are other video games that have been released that are just as violent. Games such as this usually attract players because this is a world where they are allowed to act out in ways without consequences. Opposition such as this will not cease the production of war games, especially when the ESRB allows game creators to go back to the drawing board to tweak their content in order to pass the rating process. Though the ESRB rating guide helps to keep certain material away from children it is also the job of the parent to reinforce certain aspects of child rearing and teach them between right and wrong. The game then can be used as a teaching tool, a possible deterrent; if you do this then you will be punished. The games are based on real events, things we see broadcasted in the news everyday so there is no way to totally shelter a child from the world’s negativeness. Either way the theme of war will still be the foundation of the video game.


  1. It's wierd that I posted a response but it disappeared. Oh well. I 'll respond again.
    I just want to say... I can't wait to get this game.
    Apart from that I enjoyed reading your post. You bring up a great point with the allure of war. I think it is sad the world we live in exploits people's pain and trauma for financial gain. I think that is the negative side to the capitalist state in which we live. The allure of war though, is a very strong one. It is one that even I cannot resist. I've even volunteered to go Afghanistan many times (haven't had the chance yet).
    We can clearly see through the popularity of games such as Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and Halo that the allure of war crosses many ages, races and financial backgrounds. These games are all in the top ten list of games sold all time. They also share the main theme of gruesome warfare in the storyline and graphics.
    I feel bad that the plight of the Mexican people is being exploited but it would be hard to pass legislation against this time of activity. This legislation would affect not only video games but movies, musica nd other forms of media as well. The implications of the socio-political aftershocks would be very great.
    I think the real response would be a ocial change on a large scale insteadof government intervention, which may have negative side effects. These negative effects can include pushback by society and also negative votes for those career politicians who vote for it.

  2. Yes! I completely agree. There is a fascination with war, death and weapons that people are drawn to. It is something of interest that is considered taboo. Society looks at it as wrong to "like" war, death and weapons. Meanwhile these are reoccurring theme in many, as you said, movies and music. Which I believe movies are in a sense worse because humans are the characters rather than digital figures making it more realistic, more traumatic. Society does need to change it's views on what is acceptable and not. We live in a world where there are much greater problems than a game. People have certainly become overly