Upping the game

Letters to the Boston editor, May 23, 2008

Regarding the politics of video games: in the past, games have asked us to kill Asians (Red Steel, Deus Ex), Hispanics (Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter), and Middle Easterners (Call of Duty 4). I believe games should be able to choose their setting. I think I speak for most gamers over the age of 20 when I say that we are sick of space stations, sewers, and warehouses. It’s true that these settings offend no one, and that is why they are so widely used. But you can only wade through so many sewers.

I want to play a game set in Africa. If we attack Resident Evil 5 (and Call of Duty 4, GRAW, Deus Ex, etc.) for taking a chance with the setting, we will only set the clock back on the industry. We’re at a turning point — games will either ascend to a legitimate place in the artistic pantheon or remain forever the domain of the 18–30 male demographic. In Mass Effect and GTA IV, we’re seeing games that are driven by character, story, and setting every bit as much as they are by gameplay. All of these aspects have the possibility to be offensive. Characters can be unlikable (even racist), stories can be dark, and settings can be controversial. Part of the transformation of games into something that isn’t “just a game” is incorporating these elements. The protagonist of RE5, for example, is not a white-hooded fascist. This is something that professional activists fail to understand when they refer to games as being racist and subsequently offer little evidence of racism. All we know is the color of the skins involved. That’s not enough.

Patrick Donnelly
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Perception problem
I liked Adam Reilly’s “Hardball” story, but he’s so far from the truth. I’m a newspaper junkie and hope that Boston will always be a two-paper city. Between the Herald and Globe, I get what I need, but there are major differences between them. When Filene’s did the retail dirt nap, it wasn’t the death knell, but it was a semi-mortal wound, since a paper’s main — if not only — source of revenue is ads.

Reilly is correct about the sports sections. They’re both good, and with Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy, the Globe will always be a major player, not only here but nationally. The bottom line is that the Herald’s main problem — and they can add 60 more sports writers but it still won’t fix it — is perception. People see the paper as being aimed at Southie, Charlestown, Dorchester, and everything in between. Even if Dickens and Shakespeare wrote for the tabloid, it wouldn’t alter that. For good or for bad, the Herald is a paper for Bostonians. For me, it’s why I like it, but it’s also its main weakness in terms of circulation. If it ceases publication, we will all be the poorer for it.

Mike Arnold

Editor’s note
Due to a reporting oversight, the April 28 story “Underground Art” (News and Features) neglected to mention the Jackson Square Mural Project — youth-created public art, made possible thanks to the Hyde Square Task Force, the MBTA, and State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez — that can be seen on the street level of the Jackson Square T station. We regret the omission.

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