Thursday, September 22, 2011 11:33 AM
When you think of first-person shooters, trigger-happy video games like Halo and Quake come to mind. Or if you’re old enough, you may remember the good ol’ days of Doom and Duke Nukem—and all of their pixilated gore. A game called Warco (currently in development) hopes to change the first-person shooter dynamic. In the game you get a video recorder instead of a shotgun, and you can’t kill anyone or blow up buildings. Your job is to sit back and document the scene.
Warco, you see, is a video game instilled with the principles of journalism. (The term “warco” is industry slang for a war correspondent.) According to techie blog Ars Technica, the game’s developer, Defiant, “is working with both a journalist and a filmmaker to create a game that puts you in the role of a journalist embedded in a warzone.” Half of the game play involves capturing the action, and the other half is editing your footage and creating compelling news stories.
“It’s also about navigating through a morally gray world and making decisions that have human impact,” Defiant’s Morgan Jaffit explained to Ars Technica. “It’s about finding the story you want to tell, as each of our environments is filled with different story elements you can film and combine in your own ways. It’s both a story telling engine and an action adventure with a new perspective.”
To the concerned parents out there: The violence in Warco is not toned down—in fact, it’s amped up and hyperrealistic. (Check out the promo video below.) War is rarely subtle and rarely free from bloodshed. But if the game developer pulls off what is trying to do, the gamers will need to survive on the opposite side of the gun. As players collect footage and try to make meaning from random violence through the video editing process, they’ll be forced into a conceptual position unprecedented in the video game world. After the Xbox or computer is turned off, perhaps they will have learned a new way to think about conflict, or perhaps they will better understand the inexplicable horrors of war.
The developer’s aspirations are noble. Which is why they should be especially worried about selling it to a wide audience.
Source: Ars Technica
Image is a screenshot from Warco.
Thursday, September 15, 2011 4:32 PM
As we were reminded ad nauseam on every media platform for a week, the mass murders committed on 9/11 continue to have an incalculable impact on foreign relations, world economics, and the broader culture. It’s a certainty the same will be true for decades to come. And while you may feel as though the event and aftermath has been covered from every conceivable angle (including pieces on how the attacks affected professional athletics and may have led to America’s latest recession), a just released, essential collection of essays go beyond the strained headlines and over-boiled melodrama.
The book, Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World (University of California Press), functions neither as a political autopsy nor an emotional anthology. Instead, it examines the tragedy from a philosophical distance that, while far from dispassionate, forces readers to consider the unintentional causes and subconscious effects of violence, both individual and collective.
The eight chapters, written by over 100 visionary thinkers who span generations and transcend borders ethnic (Federico García Lorca, Reza Baraheni), religious (Deepak Chopra, Rabbi Arthur Waskow), and political (Chris Hedges, Henry Kissinger), are strategically broken into two parts. The first takes a “Deeper Look” at the origins of fear and consequences of grief while convincingly establishing the editors’ broad definition of terrorism, which includes acts of aggression against any unarmed civilian, no matter the perpetrator. The ruminations in the second section, “Paths to Transformation,” demand unedited honesty, empathy for all, and raw self-reflection, all essential in the quest of equal peace and meaningful justice.
Given last week’s media blitz, no one could be blamed for wanting to take a deep breath and little down time before diving into such a collection. Keep it on your reading list, though, as the latest anniversary fades and the popular narrative around 9/11 further simplifies the complicated causes and horrific effects. Both historical distillation and timeless psychological treatise, Transforming Terror rivets and moves because it dares to recognize 9/11 not just as a painful tragedy, but an unwelcome opportunity.
Image by Bennett 4 Senate, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 11:09 AM
CAUTION: If you prefer not to read graphic descriptions of rape, you may not want to continue reading this piece.
Correspondent Mac McClelland offers no such precaution to her readers in the opening sentences of her article in Good (June 27, 2011):
It was my research editor who told me it was completely nuts to willingly get fucked at gunpoint. That’s what she called me when I told her the story. We were drunk and in a karaoke bar, so at the time I came up with only a wounded face and a whiny, “I’m not completely nuuuuts!”
It’s an interesting approach on McClelland’s part, shocking the reader with an immediate brutal image, a literary rape of sorts, and at the same time subverting the violence with a flippantly chick-lit-esque tone.
Author of the 2010 book For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never-Ending War, McClelland oscillates between the two poles—brutality and cheekiness—throughout the rest of her article. The subject is by no means frivolous. She’s writing about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in journalists, specifically her own. “As a journalist who covers human rights,” she writes, “I spend a lot of time absorbing other people’s trauma.”
After bearing witness to the paroxysmal breakdown of a Haitian rape victim named Sybille, McClelland experiences months of uncontrollable crying and what she calls “rapemares.” Any sexual thought led to violent thought: “I could not process the thought of sex without violence. And it was easier to picture violence I controlled than the abominable nonconsensual things that had happened to Sybille.” Thus the willingness to have sex at gunpoint.
I support every woman’s right to choose what’s right for herself, sexually. If McClelland wants to experience violent sex in the name of self-therapy, that’s her prerogative. Although I don’t buy it, and that’s my prerogative. If I were her friend, I probably would have tried to talk her out of it.
The piece has earned McClelland immediate praise. And perhaps, for her, it did help her overcome her trauma. She doesn’t claim that her article is a handbook to overcoming PTSD. Nor is it a handbook to role play sex (in which case she would surely mention the use of a safeword, for the love of god). McClelland is simply sharing one experience of PTSD, making one more woman’s voice known, and that contains value.
I don’t support the self-indulgent way she writes about it, however. McClelland seems to enjoy unseating her reader too much. As just one example, she did not have sex at gunpoint. She did willingly get pinned down and punched in the face during sex by a trusted ex who “loved and respected” her and with whom she’d “done this sort of thing before.” Which means McClelland opens the essay with an unearned image. Then, after raising some truly compelling issues about the horrors endured and absorbed by journalists, she concludes her piece with a description of the pinning and the punching. The detailed scene of her “willing rape” feels like a gratuitous conclusion to a real issue. By the time I was done reading, I felt brutalized and assaulted. Which may be a clever literary trope, but, hey, I’m not the one looking to feel raped.
Image by newbeatphoto,
licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, April 28, 2011 1:21 PM
Using statistics collected by the Pew Foundation, Good and Column Five have plotted the shifting sentiments of Americans toward Islam—specifically, what proportion of our population regards Muslims as inherently violent. For anyone who watches this topic, the stats probably aren’t shocking. What’s most interesting, though, is how drastically people’s beliefs and assumptions about other groups can change in light of foreign affairs and a few short years. In 2003, for example, 25 percent of Americans felt that Islam “is more likely to encourage violence,” but by the summer of 2007, the percentage has increased to 45 percent. After a few years of decline, the number of American fretting of Muslim violence has increased again to 40 percent.
Image by david_shankbone, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, November 30, 2009 11:46 AM
Children who eat a lot of candy are more likely to grow up to be violent adults. In a study of more than 17,000 kids, researchers found “a significant association between candy consumption as a child and violent behavior as an adult,” Brain Blogger reports, even when accounting for other variables. The candy itself, though, isn’t the problem. Researchers speculate that the violence stems from the children’s inability to make good choices. When parents bribe their kids with candy for good behavior, the children aren’t learning to delay gratification, which can make them more impulsive and violent. This is not to discount the effect of diet on people’s behavior entirely, however. Researchers are now looking into prisons to see if a more balanced diet can actually reduce violence.
Source: Brain Blogger
Monday, October 19, 2009 9:01 AM
“For environmental, business, and political organizations alike, the term that has come to stand for the hope of the natural world is ‘sustainable,’ ” Curtis White writes in Tin House. “But you would be mistaken if you assumed that the point of sustainability was to change our ways.” In the essay that follows, an excerpt from his latest book The Barbaric Heart, White offers a vivid critique of the mainstream response to the environmental crisis.
At the core of our problems, White argues, is something he calls the Barbaric Heart—visible in the ways that our culture considers violence a virtue—and its fundamental discord with the professed values of sustainability. He writes:
The artful (if ruthless) use of violence is obviously something that we admire in those sectors of the culture that we most associate with success: athletics, the military, entertainment (especially that arena of the armchair warrior, Grand Theft Auto), the frightening world of financial markets (where, as the Economist put it, there are “barbarians at the vaults”), and the rapacious world we blandly call real estate development. . . .
The idea that we can “move mountains” is an expression of admiration. When it is done with mammoth machines provided by the Caterpillar Company of Peoria, Illinois, it is also a form of violence (as the sheered mountain tops of West Virginia confirm).
To any complaints about the disheartening destruction and injustice that comes with such power, the Barbaric Heart need only reply: the strong have always dominated the weak and then instructed them. That is how great civilizations have always been made, from the ancient Egyptians to the British in India to Karl Rove and George Bush.
It’s a whirling, complicated critique—but wholly worth reading. Tin House also followed up with White in a delightful e-mail interview.
Source: Tin House
Tuesday, January 20, 2009 1:51 PM
The January issue of Global Journalist includes an “In memoriam” catalog of international journalist deaths in 2008. The remembrances are dry and you can’t help but want more about each of these victims. But there are pictures of the reporters and photographers, now dead, in passport photo booths and more casual enviornments. And there are a few moments of numbing gravity. Photojournalist Eliecer Santamaria was stabbed in his car in Panama while on assignment covering gang warfare. His last words, according to a bystander: “My camera is under the seat…my camera…my camera…”
To see the photos and learn the stories of these fallen storytellers, visit the Global Journalist website.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:43 PM
Talk of assassination during this presidential election has been a taboo violated in a few notorious instances. But yesterday’s discovery of a disturbing, if far-fetched, neo-Nazi plot to assassinate Barack Obama has renewed anxiety about various worst-case scenarios that many people think about but few mention aloud.
Yesterday’s revelation is only the latest resurgence of the A-word. There was Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate RFK gaffe last spring. There are jokes made by Fox pundits. There are websites created by insane people. And then there are the sentiments of those at Sarah Palin’s rallies, who have shouted “Kill him!” on more than one occasion.
Blog chatter among those sympathetic to the candidate is marked by anxiety. After Gawker ran a photo of Obama addressing a crowd of 100,000 in St Louis, some commenters fretted about him appearing in such wide-open spaces. “I was going to say something about how much this looked like a Kennedy or MLK Jr. rally, then I remembered how that panned out for them,” wrote one. “I just want to fast forward to November 5, if only so I can stop holding my breath.”
Another worried: “This sort of open air speech setting seems almost [to be] defying history to me. It's as if Obama is thumbing his nose at common sense.”
This comment was met with a sound rebuttal: “You either have to just get out there and give your speeches and assume God or Fate is on your side, or frankly, you probably don’t have much business trying to be president, particularly in these times.”
This last suggestion seems to be the one Obama has taken to heart on the campaign trail, thumbing his nose not so much at common sense but at the cynicism, hatred, and fear-mongering that has been too much the norm of late.
Monday, February 11, 2008 4:50 PM
Sex. Violence. Rebellion. While these are synonymous with success in today’s box office offerings, films containing allusions to—or, heaven forbid, actual examples of—such behavior were guaranteed a red light in Hollywood after the creation of the Production Code Administration in 1934. Thomas Doherty chronicles the film industry’s last-ditch effort to save itself from the censors’ scissors in his new book, Hollywood’s Censor, and in an excerpt published in Reason.
The Production Code Administration was tasked with upholding the film industry’s self-inflicted Decency Code. Producers and directors had generally ignored the code, but with a major boycott spearheaded by the Catholic Legion of Decency draining box office coffers, and with Roosevelt’s New Deal regulatory paroxysms pointing west, Hollywood producers knelt at the feet of censorship and kissed the insipid ring of values-based entertainment by agreeing to self-regulate film content.
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