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Splinter Cell
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Playing terror?
FS 2002America's September 11th and its horrific occurrences have turned the modern world and their beliefs upside down. There's a new "quality" to today's barbarism, a less forseeable and even more devestating terror that knows no boundaries. Therefore, it appears almost outrageous right now to talk about such trivial things such as PC games. But that's exactly what happened - however, not on part of the gamers or the software industry but on part of the US critics who, in their search for an answer to the unanswerable, blame a PC game to be partly responsible for these terrorist acts. The grotesque thing about it is that the criticized game is not one of those violent 3D shooters, but Microsoft's pacifistic Flight Simulator. But the industry has already reacted towards these allegations and the events in the USA...
Flying like a bird:
Soldier of Fortune 2The critics are of the opinion that the terrorists had taken a few virtual flying lessons on the simulator to train their attack routines. The realistic 3D flying simulator does have a reputation for being painstakingly correct and, as some sort of authenticity bonus, features existing planes and settings. Among them are, of course, the two world-famous towers of the World Trade Center - the ideal game for terrorists? Microsoft itself naturally rejects all these allegations, calling them "highly speculative". But as a precaution, the company has removed all screenshots from its website showing pictures of the WTC. With Flight Simulator 2002, the sequel to the popular game is set to hit the shelves by the end of this year, and you can bet that it's going to set a new benchmark with reference to (graphical) realism.
A question of realism:
CounterstrikeIn this context, you inevitably end up pondering the question how realistic games should possibly be. On the one hand, there are the 3D shooters whose graphical explicity and in some parts drastic killing maneouvers (as with Soldier of Fortune) have upset worried parents and sociologists ever since. The ingenious Counterstrike even deals with fighting terrorists. In this case, less realism seems to be of the essence. And on the other hand, there are the simulations that basically cannot be realistic enough. Both in the racing and the flight simulations genre, a maximum amount of realism is synonymous with quality, a necessary ingredient of modern simulations. But so far, no one has ever given much thought to the unlikely event that this realism might turn into something threatening. Far from it, since e.g. also the American military experts of Jane's have developed a number of simulations with the help of accurate military data. In many cases, simulations are used to cost-effectively teach other people in military and civil aviation.
The end of realism?
FS 2002But even if the terrorists had used the Flight Simulator for training purposes, the question remains how to respond to that. Ban all realistic and what's more violent-free games? Hardly an adequate solution, among other things because a BBC expert confirmed that no matter how realistic a game might be, it didn't suffice as a preparation for real situations. In the case of flying an aircraft, landing and taking off are the most difficult procedures; if you steered a smaller aircraft before, it wouldn't be that big a deal to familiarize yourself with the controls, not least because of the high degree of standardization in airliners. To navigate the aircraft towards the World Trade Center, it took more cleverness than professionally acquired skills. You could teach someone the necessary knowledge for these operations within half an hour, the expert said.
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Clever gamers
No violence
The industry stirs:
FS 2002All the realism in PC games notwithstanding - also representatives of the gaming industry said that games were still unreal and people wouldn't draw the line from games to terrorism. No one could believe in all seriousness that video games had a role in that tragedy, someone stated in an interview with The Adrenaline Vault. Others reacted with frustration, as it seemed to them that the gaming industry often served as a scapegoat whenever there were acts of violence. However, game makers throughout the industry drew their consequences from last week's occurrences. Games set in New York are going to be altered accordingly, many war games have been postponed for an indefinite period of time, and one producer of online games wants to donate five per cent of its website's revenues to the American Red Cross. Some also wondered about possible long-term consequences for the entire industry in the wake of the terrorist acts. Less violence and more sensitive issues? Only time will tell, but it is to be hoped that there will be a time again when talking about games won't give you pricks of conscience...
© 09-18-2001 by CE