In Defense Of Video Games
August 25 '05
By William Hawkins Published: Thursday, August 25, 2005 3:17 PM EDT
Most "violent" games, however, have the player assuming the role of a hero fighting the forces of evil. This was certainly true of this year's "G-phoria" award winners chosen by the online votes of a million gamers. "Worlds of Warcraft," "Halo 2," "God of War, "Half-Life 2" and "Knights of the Old Republic" took top awards from the G4 cable TV network, which is devoted to gaming. Many other popular titles feature counterterrorism themes, including the "Ghost Recon" and "Splinter Cell" series licensed by techno-thriller master Tom Clancy.These are the types of games that "do-gooders" love to denounce as immoral "war toys" along with military action figures and toy guns. Yet when I was growing up, toy guns and toy soldiers were the favorite playthings of my circle of friends. Our group would spend hours chasing each other around the neighborhood. We also fought major battles with toy soldiers on the living room rug and on the back porch. Later, we graduated to wargames recreating history's great campaigns on a table top. Video games merely represent the latest evolution of these traditional pastimes.
None of my old gang turned out to be public enemies. Instead they became lawyers, engineers and bankers. My best friend in these childhood "wars" grew up to be an Episcopal priest. This is because we lived in an era with strong values. Television was more violent, but less morally ambiguous then than now. Westerns like "Gunsmoke" and "The Rifleman" dominated my viewing. Our idols were the "good guys" who always triumphed in the end. The villains ended up in jail (usually awaiting the hangman) or had already been sent directly to Boot Hill by the hero. And we cheered because we knew that's where the "bad guys" belonged.Today's libertine culture is filled with anti-heroes who sneer at authority and behave in ways that are openly irresponsible - but then prosper as a result. Lust and greed dance in the name of free expression. Fortunately, there still are toys that teach the devotion of strength to good causes. Perhaps the best franchise is the one the "do-gooders" hate most: Hasbro's "G.I. Joe" which has been a favorite for nearly four decades. The Joes are individual "action figures," each with a personal history. Mainframe was a computer genius who quit Silicon Valley to join the Marine Corps. Airborne gave up a successful law practice to become a paratrooper. Ranger Flint was a Rhodes Scholar who became "bored with the groves of academe." In each case, a sector of our materialistic, self-indulgent culture is found shallow and unfulfilling. Only by putting their talents to the defense of their country do the Joes find satisfaction.This is a positive value to inject into a youth culture otherwise obsessed with extreme sports, fast cars, electronic gadgets and rock music. Conservatives should consider any medium that advances patriotic values to be the "next generation" of the boisterous NASCAR nation they have been courting.
The Joes use violence to defeat their archenemy Cobra, "a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world," but can anyone really think the simpleton "caring and sharing" philosophy of Barney is going to make our lives more secure?"Full Spectrum Warrior" was a military training simulation commissioned by the U.S. Army before the game went commercial. The player commands a squad battling through realistic Middle Eastern urban terrain that looks nothing like "Sesame Street." But there are reasons kids outgrow "Sesame Street" at an early age and never look back. It is the critics of video gaming who are trying to create what is an imaginary world.William R. Hawkins is defense analyst and writer working in Washington.