~ August 2005 ~
My work has always trodden a thin line
between the responsible and the controversial,
so I'm often dragged into the gaming violence debate. Here,
Rick Dawson gathers my
thoughts on the matter once and for all...
On average, how many copies do you usually sell of a
game when it is released?
Experience has taught me that there is no right answer to that question! If I
say too little then I'm a loser, and if I say too many then I'm some sort of
millionaire that doesn't need anybody's support. The truth is that I'm playing
to thousands rather than millions. Tens of thousands visit the site; mere
thousands translate into paying customers. Nobody operating on word-of-mouth
could hope for more than that...
you feel that as an independent game developer, that you need to use violence
as a "marketing tool"?
Violence has grown to be a (rather regrettable) trademark of mine - especially
with the wrestling games. That's not from a commercial perspective though.
Nothing about my work is. It's more because that's what I find to be
entertaining. I like that destructive gameplay of being able to smash through
anything and emerging with the scars to prove it! It's not necessarily
"violence" as in wishing another harm; it's just the fun of chaos. The Big
BumpZ concept that got my work on that vibe is a good example. It was all
about performing stunts for entertainment. There was never any ill will...
Do you believe that sex sells?
In my experience, controversy is somewhat over-rated as a marketing tool. I
mean, The MDickie Show is one of the most "controversial" games that
I've ever made - but it's also one of the least successful, so there's got to
be more to it than that. Controversy only made an impact in the 1990's when it
was new and exciting. Jerry Springer, Eminem, and a raunchier WWF were
cleaning up. But nowadays everybody can see it for what it is. Now the WWF
is a laughing stock that's constantly derided for being too shallow. Same
thing with gangster rap. People are tired of the negative nonsense, so they're
looking to Kanye West and co for some substance. There's a lesson to be
learned there. If you attract fans for the right reasons then they stay
forever. I'm a firm supporter of that route. I'd rather fail for the right
reasons than succeed for the wrong reasons...
you received any hate mail saying that your games are too violent?
I get hate mail about everything EXCEPT that! 99% of people that write to me
are obviously players, so all they're passionate about is enjoying the games.
I can count on one hand the number of concerned letters I've had from parents,
and even then I've always managed to win them over. Deep down, my work is
perfectly honourable - so I find it very easy to defend. It was actually
swearing that used to be the biggest headache. When I first started, I was
cussing all over the site and in the games - and people of all ages would
regularly pull me up on it. They must have had a point, because I haven't done
it much since...
Do you think that the government should have the
right to tell gaming artists how much violence they can use in games?
I don't particularly think game developers (or artists of any kind) need to be
reigned in. I think we should be motivated to draw that line ourselves. It's
all about responsibility. My stance is that you should have the freedom to do
what you want, so long as you're responsible for the consequences. If you want
to make controversial content and it backfires, step up to the plate and
defend yourself. Explain where you were coming from. If you can't do that then
it really was an empty-headed endeavour. That's what got me mad about a
scandal here in England. A game called Manhunt was accused of copycat
murders, and the developers ran away like kids that had let off a stink bomb!
I would have been all over the media the next day talking people through it
and defending my honour. They obviously couldn't, so they didn't. They exposed
themselves as weak artists that have no method to their madness. That's the
real punishment in my view. Unfortunately, it's a punishment for us all
because it brings shame on the profession...
you think that violence in games causes violence in real life?
Only in a "straw that broke the camel's back" kind of way. Whether it's a
game, a movie, or a song, these things simply dictate HOW an evil mind
dramatizes itself - not whether or not it happens. It's a very easy connection
to make, but that doesn't mean it's a valid one. Sometimes the weakest links
are the most easily made! It comes back to responsibility again. Expose
yourself to whatever you want, but if you're stupid enough to act on it then
you have to accept the consequences. Your life can't go in any one direction
without your consent...
What do you suggest to parents that don't want their
kids playing video games with excessive sex and violence?
My stance is that you should raise a child (or raise yourself) to be
impervious to corruption. Instead of wrapping the outside world in cotton
wool, wrap yourself in armour! Expose your family to the real world, but make
sure they know what the score is. Give them the intellect and strength to
survive any situation. That's pretty much what my upbringing was like, and now
I'm invincible. It's impossible for me to be misled by any game, movie, or
song. I can listen to the grimiest rapper, watch the most horrific film, and
still keep my integrity intact afterwards. That was a glimpse into somebody
else's life - it wasn't a manual for my own. Some kids find it hard to make
that distinction when they're raised by the TV. Fiction becomes fact, and
suddenly there's no benchmark. That's the real problem...
you think that the government generally cares, or do you think that they are
using video games to push the blame on something else (other then themselves)?
Yeah, it's just one of many scapegoats for politicians and parents alike. We
live in a world where everything is somebody else's fault, and entertainment
provides the easiest targets. That said, I'm sure any self-respecting
politician needs be seen to be doing the right thing. It's good that they're
on the case of dishonourable content, but to imply that it's responsible for
anything else is a little melodramatic. The only crime controversy commits is
against its own industry! It's a civil war in my view...
Do you believe in the FCC's right to censor?
I don't really believe in censorship of any form when you're dealing with
adults. We should be able to censor ourselves. If you don't like to indulge a
certain aspect of life then demonstrate the discipline to leave it alone. If
you're too weak or stupid to do that then it's your entire life that needs to
be "censored"! The exploits of a civilized man should never be compromised by
the weaknesses of others...
What are your views on the FCC?
Living in England, I'm not exactly aware of the "FCC" - so I'll have to assume
that it's like any other censoring body. I suppose my stance would be that I
support their tenaciousness, but feel it's misplaced. Divert that energy into
teaching people how to handle powerful material instead of dictating that they
you think that we need things like the FCC and other rating systems?
I support rating systems as a means of communicating the content of our
entertainment. I have warnings and disclaimers all over my site to that
effect, so that nobody can claim they were being misled. If a product is
portrayed as being designed for an adult mind and you step in there without
that equipment, it's your fault when it backfires. Once again, it's the issue
of responsibility. The media has to market products responsibly, and the
public has to consume them responsibly. The first party to drop the ball
loses! It's all just a game...
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