I like your style

When you play a video game, how do you play it? These days, many games offer you an open-ended world that you can explore in almost any way you want. Want to be a perfectionist and uncover every secret room? Want to go location-scouting for interesting vistas? Or maybe conduct physics experiments?

The upshot is that a British gamer posted an intriguing meditation on the Edge discussion boards, pointing out the different ways his friends play Grand Theft Auto. One of them is an Iraqi-American who’s into gangsta rap and “hasn’t yet completed the story because he doesn’t want the riot in Los Santos to end.” Another is an cocky Italian anti-authorian dude “who will steal police bikes in preference to any other vehicle on principle.” The author himself prefers to study the gameplay, trying to spy the influence of other games, “rather than waste my time giggling about the fact that I could sleep with prostitutes”.

The upshot, as he writes, is this point:

A Game is not merely the expression of the creator, but of the player also.

Game censorship is therefore not merely(?) censorship of art, it is a limit to our virtual and real freedoms.

If a piece of art depicts a world gone wrong in which bad things happen, we should look to solve the real life problem that inspired it, rather than analysing the gameplay or censoring content while we wait for the next big event (riots in paris/terrorist attacks in the west/hurricanes in New Orleans)to outline our real shortcomings.

I think “censorship” is a bit of a strong term, since the government hasn’t actually yanked any games off the shelves. But the idea is quite neat.

(Thanks to Tony Blow for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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