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DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

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  • DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

    The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing





    There is a widespread tendency to condemn video games as an extension of the militarization of society into leisure time. Yet such accusations overstate the degree to which the game establishes preferred meanings for participants. In this video I use editing techniques to explore the moment of a kill. My intention is to challenge those who equate real-life violence with violence enacted within video games.

    [media]http://www.tacticalsites.com/~e-male/pictures/thekill.flv[/media]

    For a better viewing experience, download and play.
    This will give you a larger 640x480 screen.


    If you cannot view the streaming video (.flv file), download the .wmv version here.




    Theorists over-simplify the meanings embedded within the game when they treat virtual violence and killing as the same as violence committed in the real world. We see such claims about the game's preferred meanings within David Leonard’s article, ‘Unsettling the military entertainment complex: Video games and a pedagogy of peace.’

    Leonard claims that the ‘trigger happiness’ of video game players is a reflection of ‘their happiness with American military efforts.’ Yet this is simply naive and attributes to the gaming community a uniform set of opinions on American foreign policy. This type of statement represents a form of philosophical excess found within critical theory. It fails to account for the diversity of opinions about foreign policy that exists within the gaming community. In a similar manner, Leonard claims that:

    ‘the bloodlessness [within video games] contributes to an increasing acceptance of war’

    ‘Although war may seem harmless on the computer screen, this very harmlessness ironically elicits consent for U.S. foreign policy.’

    ‘We are teaching children to associate pleasure with human death and suffering. We are rewarding them for killing people. And we are teaching them to like it.’

    ‘[video] games teach … citizens to support murder without remorse.’




    While I do not intend to dismiss such connections altogether, it is quite clear that theorists are often interpreting the players' experiences from too great a distance.

    The Art of War is a two-minute video that captures action during my own participation in a modified version of the Battlefield 2 online game. In it you see the action from my point of view (first person point of view) as I ‘kill’ an enemy player, ‘blood’ spills from his head, and he falls to his ‘death’. The purpose of the video is to provide an example of how video games can be appropriated and remade into a form of art. This brief instance of online video ethnography is intended to challenge the naive conception that video games are in some way inherently aligned with the celebration of war, imperialism, violence, and murder.

    At what point can it be said that the video game has compelled me to consent to U.S. foreign policy, to associate pleasure with death and suffering, or to support murder without remorse? A simple exercise in auto-ethnography suggests that Leonard’s rather hysterical claims positioned the theorist over the subject in an entirely problematic fashion. We have been here before. We too often played the expert who tells the subjects what the ‘real’ meanings of their actions are. The culture of online video games is far too contradictory to fit into Leonard’s military-industrial box.



    Last edited by E-Male; 03-17-2007, 11:44 PM.
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  • #2
    Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

    Might just be me, but the video doesn't play.
    | | |

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    • #3
      Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

      Originally posted by Atomic Dog View Post
      Might just be me, but the video doesn't play.
      same here



      I think the one thing never touched on by video game critics is the parents of those children who do violent acts and then blame it on the video games. They always blame the developer and his sick twisted mind for putting that kind of game out. Never once is the parent to blame for their child, that is under age, who is playing GTA and then goes out and kills someone with a gun or car.

      If a parent was blamed once for the childs action more and more parents would actually sit down and care to see what their kid is playing. I can speak from experience, playing CC95 as a kid i began to swear at the screen when i couldnt beat a mission, so i got that game taken away. That lesson right there taught me its just a game and there is no reason to get mad at a game.

      Simple lessons of relality and games would go along way to cleaning up the gaming industry and the kids who play the games. I for one think parents look at the game console as an easy baby sitting tool, something they can get and the child is queit so who cares what they play. If parents actually just sat down and watched how their child acted during a round of some fighting games, then talk to them explaining to them the difference, less violent kids would be created. And less parents would ask the question " why my kid"
      that sounds like a good idea trooper.
      -Vulcan

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      • #4
        Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

        Originally posted by Atomic Dog View Post
        Might just be me, but the video doesn't play.
        Will post some versions asap, such as .avi amd .wmv files.
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        • #5
          Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

          wow... that's... beautiful? nice job

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          • #6
            Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

            It's playing now. Fun vid...very dramatic.

            I completely agree with the statement at the end. I'd go so far as to say that all philosophies of war are applicable to successful every day living. In so much that all of life is a series of choices that will either set you up for victory or defeat. For most it only becomes clear how we reached that point after the battle ends and the smoke settles. But for the Warrior who seeks to master his art the goal transcends victory and defeat. The goal becomes that of understanding every battles place and purpose within the larger war that is fought. Every drill, excercise, war game and conflict becomes a meditation and a tool to further his understanding of life and even his own soul. The Warrior who masters his art is not just a master over the battlefield, but over his relationships, his emotions, his fears, his pleasures, etc et al. In short, he becomes a master over all things.

            In non-philosphical rambling terms, games teach us about choices. How to think ahead. How to read an opponent. How to make sacrifices and admit defeat. How to be successful. How to improve upon yourself. They equip us with the neccessary tools to be competitive in a society where competition can be brutal if you want to be successful.

            Historically, war and conflict had been just another cold reality of life. But for most of modern civilization these days, war is just something you happen to catch on T.V. unless you're serving in the military and have actually been to war. As an American I know nothing of what it's like to be invaded or conquered. For this reason war has almost become entertainment. What I really feel is missing in the way we bring up our children is the chilling reality of war. Children aren't taught much about the subject. They're not taught that wars and bloodshed are how we rose out of the obscurity of history to where we are now. Instead they're sheltered from violence. Told that war is bad (and I admit I find most wars that have been fought in my lifetime to be without merit) and that video games corrupt. Yet at the same time bombarded with images from every angle the media can access. The problem isn't violence, the problem is that there is no respect for violence. And by respect I mean by the way we respect lions. They're beautiful and awesome to look at from a distance, but I respect them enough to not walk up to one and start petting it's mane. If children were brought up with an understanding of the purpose violence and war can often times play I think we'd see a lot less ignorance on the subject. And maybe in a generation or two parents would see the importance of video games just as they used to see the importance of cowboys-and-indians or hide-and-seek in their own childhood days.

            If you read all that, good job. If any of that made sense then I'm amazed!
            | | |

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            • #7
              Re: The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

              Admins -- please move this thread to the Battlefield 'general forum': http://www.tacticalgamer.com/battlef...al-discussion/ . I posted here in this forum by mistake. There are related threads in the other forum, and this is more specific to BF2, thus my request.

              Thank you,
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              • #8
                Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                I copied this thread to the BF2 General Forum, and moved the other copy here, to the Sandbox, for further discussion.
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                • #9
                  Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                  And maybe in a generation or two parents would see the importance of video games just as they used to see the importance of cowboys-and-indians or hide-and-seek in their own childhood days.
                  I was going to mention this but you beat me to it. I'm not into tactical military-like shooters, but I don't necessarily equate people playing them having uniform support for U.S. foreign policy. Most adults will know the difference from video game violence, and real life violence. If this video were a real video of somebody getting shot in the head and falling, I wouldn't want to watch it a second time. The impact of a real person being killed is far and away a bigger significance than polygons.

                  As for the argument that these types of games represent the militarization of American society, that's debatable. You are role playing, whether your a space marine or a special ops unit, its fake and vastly different from real life. Just because I'm okay with killing something fake, doesn't mean I would feel the same way doing it (or viewing it) in the real world.
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                  • #10
                    Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                    I've glanced at the Leonard article but I'm too tired now for a careful reading of it at this hour but I'll add something that I think Leonard may have missed--for most gamers it doesn't mattar what side they are on...USMC...PLA...MEC or Insurgents. That's got to be considered when he examines how video games today are affecting our society culturally and politically. Maybe TG is different but I don't ever think to myself, "...yay...I"m USMC now...I'm going to kill those muslim heathens..."

                    Though most of what he posits I see as a big stretch, I do think he's made some credible assertions about where we stand today on the subject of violence and society.

                    For an article like this it's inexcusable that he got "Call of Duty" wrong by calling it "Call to Duty". That tells me he doesn't know as much about his subject as his academic language and philosophical posturing indicate. You might say it's only one little word but the "Call of Duty" series has played a considerable role in the development of virtual war games. For him to get it wrong (and his editor too !!)..well, that just doesn't help me want to embrace his message.

                    I know Leonard can't help it but the language and syntax of academic writing is over the top. (wtf is "minstrelsy" anyway) For guys like Leonard this stuff is second nature but most of the rest of us have to read this stuff a couple of times before really getting it. I'd posit that had Leonard written in a more accessible style that he'd elicit more honest thought and discussion than he's ever had about the gamers themselves. For crimini's sake how many of your average gamers would want to read past his first 3 paragraphs ?? For all the clever language and perfectly turned phrases the author disconnects himself from he very audience he could gain the most information from.

                    On a personal level I will admit to having some angst over the Al-Basra map. This map is a little close to the bone compared to the ACTUAL US involvement in Iraq. I've been a bit conflicted when it comes up in rotation...Insurgents vs USMC...IED's, RPG's, Car Bombs. I mean this mirrors real life to the nth degree this very moment in Iraq.

                    It's true that it's only a game but sometimes I imagine just how horrified a grieving mother, wife, son or daughter would think if they were to watch us live out our virutal lives on the battlefield, only to witness our whole squad being wiped out by a car bomb, only to wait for the next spawn, all the time laughing about our demise. I'm not quite sure how, but Leonard hits a chord for me in all this.

                    Good stuff emale...keep it coming.
                    Last edited by Grunt 70; 03-19-2007, 01:48 AM.
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                    • #11
                      Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                      We live in an incredibly brutal society, and for anyone to place even a smidgin of blame on gaming is totally disconnected and very condescending. When I play paintball, I like delivering a clean headshot but that enjoyment comes from a primal place, not a game. The question is: Is it our responsibility as part of society to try to suppress those urges and not engage in activities that would encourage them? In an idealistic world; yes, but where would we be without a military? Speaking German perhaps.

                      What scares me is knowing that the same people who are pubbies acting out in game are the same people on the streets that I'm interacting with everyday. WOOOOOOOOoo *Shivers*

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                      • #12
                        Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                        Very interesting stuff E-Male, and a topic that is far too often misunderstood and overgeneralized in society, as your Leonard article clearly illustrates (I believe this to be true because most players would rather be playing than writing about it). I myself have struggled with this area of logic as well, and I think it comes down to this:

                        Video games (especially battle-related ones) create entertainment from virtual 'experiences,' including tradgedy (including violence and war). While film has been doing this for quite some time, video games are different because the 'viewer' is actually a willing participant. Instead of merely being a witness to something, you become a particpant, and are no longer innocent. This loss of innocence (or observation of it) is what triggers the hot button in a lot of people. On-line games only take this relationship further by pitting the viewer/participant against other human-controlled participants. The line between virtual and 'real' begins to dissolve when two human participants encounter each other in a virtual space - who is to say this is not real in some way? Is it surprising that saying "I want to kill that guy" would not have purely benign reactions?

                        This is about where my ability to hypothesize on the matter starts to fade out. Film (and more specifically violent or tragic film) has certainly had an impact on society, yet the exact impact is difficult to determine. When it comes to video games, is it equally difficult to determine whether or not a violent game is more likely to create a real killer instead of disarm one by giving them a way to safely play out such instincts? Isn't that more a matter of who the player is, and how they perceive the symbolic real - virtual line?

                        We've all heard the generic line "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." Why should it be any different to say "I'm not a killer, but I play one on-line." In broad terms, the results are always determined by the person, and not the medium. As far as I am concerned, the only harm in any of this entertainment is if mature content (I believe war simulation is mature content) is made available to immature users. It's unfortunate that there is not a better way to establish maturity other than age, but that's for a different discussion.

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                        • #13
                          Re: DISCUSSION-The Art of War: The Aesthetics of Virtual Killing

                          Excellent work, E-Male. I've been a staunch defender of our video violence since the days when GTA3 began creating such an uproar (zomg you can get a hooker and then beat her and get your money back!!1! - uh, no, you can press buttons and sprites change).

                          While I am disturbed at the increasing societal militarism in the United States, I absolutely do not believe (and no one with any decent evidence does, either) that video games either cause violence or create a tendency toward violence. I'm almost willing to bet that if I couldn't gun down PLA soldiers (or, yes, even US Marines) in BF2 as an outlet for my aggression it would manifest itself in a public situation -- and who wants to be jailed for assault (read: a bar fight)?

                          I also have an issue with America's Army being funded by the US Army. It's a fun game, sure, and I enjoy it. But I think it's pretty base to use a video game as a recruiting tool and that's exactly what America's Army is.

                          Again, that doesn't mean it's not fun or that I don't want to play it. I'm just uncomfortable with the Army spending tax dollars to create a recruiting tool in this fashion -- but since they've already done it, keep the updates coming! :D

                          Long story short, I'm not a violent person -- but I love my video violence, full stop.

                          -=Эл Кейси=-
                          За Родину!

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