Any time the mainstream media wants to get behind a trend which has an inkling of youth-appeal tied to it, they brand it “the new rock ‘n roll.” Comedy, indie, fashion, architecture, sculpture, street art, poetry, running a fanzine – the list of things that have all been “the new rock ‘n roll” at some stage or another is incredible. Of course, all of the aforementioned things aren’t and have never been the new rock ‘n roll. Video games have though – in fact they still are.
Before you make wretching noises and depart, let me explain; video games are currently the closest thing that mainstream entertainment has to rock ‘n roll. This isn’t due to their colossal popularity, or the edginess of their content, or the massive sales they enjoy. It’s not even a reflection of the the colourful personalities who create them. No, video games are the new rock ‘n roll because they’re the only artistic medium which is continually targeted by some segments of the media as an example of everything which is wrong about Western civilisation.
This practice is nothing new. Over the last century, self-appointed moral guardians have sign-posted countless works of art as proof that society is on it way to hell in a handcart. Examples range from William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch to Stanley Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange to Iron Maiden’s seminal album, The Number Of The Beast. The complaint is usually the same; these items will fall into the hands of innocent children who, upon consuming them, will become morally corrupt, anti-social, intellectually stunted and in some instances, violent. However, after hundreds of years of such tub thumping, an entire generation of children has yet to rise up and stab their parents.
Of course, detractors of video games will probably say that I’m trivialising their concerns and yes, I am. I admit it. The reason I am is because their unfounded criticism of video games is similar in tone, if not in detail, to the outrage which greeted Elvis Presley’s swivelling hips. And while it now seems laughable suggest that an audience of pre-teens screaming in delight at the King Of Rock ‘N Roll heralded the foreshadowing of the apocalypse, the moral brigade of the day certainly believed it. Video games are rock ‘n roll because they’re unfairly vilified.
You can tell this is true because video games are the only artform whose detractors are allowed to get away with announcing their thundering ignorance concerning the medium before they launch an all out attack on it. When any other category of arts and culture – be it book, film or TV show – is cause for concern on the six o’ clock news, pundits immediately turn to experts of each field – usually critics – to explain what all the fuss is about. When video games hit the headlines, it seems the less you know, the more you are likely to be asked to give your opinion. Loudly. Into a microphone.
This is probably because there isn’t as much widespread ignorance about books, film and music for media hucksters to exploit as there is about video games. No other visual entertainment medium is as much of a tackling dummy for the press as video games. Sexually provocative hip hop videos are broadcast before the nine o’clock watershed and no one bats an eyelid. A movie shows images of a woman being force-fed liquidised human body parts and the only reaction it elicits is a depressed yawn about the ubiquity of the torture-porn genre of horror films. But a story about a video game in which players are able to gun down civilians is splashed across news sites and then decried as evidence of the decline of Western Civilisation as we know it – usually by someone who has never played a video game in their entire lives, but hey, why let research get in the way of a good story.
It seems amazing to me that the artform I love and enjoy so much could be disliked by so many people. Still, I’m not one to judge on that score. If you’ve tried video games and they’re not for you, I respect your tastes (even though I don’t share them). But I can’t understand anyone who would fear video games to the extent they’d allow themselves to be influenced by ignorant, uninformed and self-serving con-artists, who are only in the polemic game to turn a profit. The same way I can’t understand anyone who feared Elvis’s wiggling hips.
This entire rant, by the way, was brought on by the UK Defence Minister, Liam Fox, who today called for Medal Of Honor to be banned. I’m going to write about that later this week, just see if I don’t.