Unreal Tournament

Stopped by the gaming section at MacWorld today and stumbled on an Unreal Tournament tournament. Out of curiosity, decided to stay and watch for a while. If you’re not familiar with this game, it’s all about shooting anything that moves with high-powered weapons, except that you’re not killing mere computer-generated characters — you shoot at the other people in the room with you, who are playing over the network. I was speechless. All I can say is that anyone who wonders why we have Columbine-style disasters today has their head in the sand. Base and degrading violence aside, the motion was so herky jerky and clumsy it seemed like game technology has barely improved in the ten or so years since I last played (Descent?). Very disorienting and un-fun looking. Hard to figure out what the appeal is, or how something like that can be called a “game.”

Music: Sid Vicious :: My Way

21 Replies to “Unreal Tournament”

  1. multi-player gaming like that isn’t exactly new… people have been killing each other online for at least 7 years. Remember Bolo? That’s even older.

  2. Herky jerky? People call that “smooth” or “fast.” Herky jerky is due to mouse sensitivity, etc… Even Jedi Knight with all the options on a dual 8 with a 23″ display is fast fast fast. But that’s not the same as “herky jerky” or disorienting.

  3. All I can say is that anyone who wonders why we have Columbine-style disasters today has their head in the sand.

    Lessons From Columbine High
    by William F. Jasper

    While Jasper goes a bit hyperbolic about Marilyn Manson (his act is an act, and he knows it), still there’s food for thought.

    When Will We Learn?…
    by William F. Jasper

  4. Mark, I’m not going to touch Jasper’s comments on gun ownership – that’s not what I objected to at all, not what I’m talking about, and it’s such a can of worms.

    As for the effect of video games on the mind, I don’t think anyone disputes that they mess up young minds, do they? Do you? Jasper says that the psychological landscape is more like a cesspool (or something like that). Surely he would agree that games like this contribute to social and mental decay, not to mention blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.

  5. Erik – the motion looked pretty chunky to me – the characters didn’t look very realistic, and the motion was making me seasick. Maybe the problem was that it was so fast that smooth display was impossible – the POV was moving faster than any movie camera would.

    Etienne – Nope, never heard of Bolo. I know this stuff isn’t new, it was just the first time I had seen it personally, and it was a disheartening experience, to see people taking pleasure in something so vile.

  6. Hi, Scot. Playability and graphics aside, I don’t think any scientifically reasonable correlation can be made between playing a violent game and violence towards others, a phenomenon that was going on for, well, centuries before video games came along. They are an easy scapegoat, and I think to blame them for ‘corrupting our youth’ would be equivalent to assuming that Scot Hacker is doomed to take heroin and foment punkish revolt due to the current song he’s listening to (as listed in this blog entry).

  7. But games are not the only reason for teen violence, nor are they a major reason for it (http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/shooting/0502why10.shtml has a write-up about the Columbine shooters). Most teens and young adults play these games (and shoot-em-ups one generation earlier, and Cowboy before that) without turning into homicidal psychopaths.

    It is true that exposure to violence does have a bad influence on the development of children; but there are many more forms of violence than FPS games, which most children don’t even get to play until well after 10. Fact is that American society has a pretty violent bias, down to the language. When I came over here, I was shocked how people (adults!) would use expressions like “He did what? I’m gonna _kill_ this guy!” at the slightest offense without batting an eye, or casually refer to baseball bats to get back at somebody. Murder and aggravated assault as figures of speech – talk about desensibilisation.

    In the end it boils down to parenting. It’s a parent’s obligation to have an idea of what their kid is doing, and to intervene where necessary. If they can’t prevent their kid to play a certain game (think prohibition), the least they can do is to put the game’s action into context. If that means a visit to an ER or a pathology department to demonstrate the real effects of weapons on humans, so be it (and I think that many adults are even more in need of this reality check).

    [My dad taught me not to smoke this way. When I was 6 or 7, I became interested into his smoking, so he gave me his lit cigarette to try it. I didn’t even got so far as to inhale – the taste of the butt alone was enough to permanently kill any desire for it.]

  8. Oh, and as to the ‘shooting at the other people in the room’ – these people do know that it’s only a game, that they shoot at figures on the screen and not at the players themselves; so the whole thing is just a competition.

    There are other sports like that. Fencing for example is based on the deadly duels of yore; or martial arts competitions, where the deadliest attacks gain the most points.

  9. Robert and Lars –

    There seems to be an implication here that I find old-school, non-computer shooting games like cowboys and Indians are somehow acceptable while video games are not. Not true. I don’t think that violence is an acceptable play mode, whether on the computer or off. Children should not have toy guns and pretend should not extend to pretend killing.

    If you don’t see a correlation between America’s war-like ways and our general acceptance of violence in our culture, then I don’t know what else to say – it seems pretty self-evident to me.

    That said, these video games are different in degree from traditional killing games – kids are not seeing each other’s faces, they’re not running around outside, they’re not smiling and laughing as they play. The graphics are visceral and the gameplay is serious. Connection to a game of cowboys and indians is tenuous.

  10. Scot,

    Of course, there’s no way that either one of us is going to talk the other into what’s an ‘acceptable’ playing mode when we’re obviously so far apart on that issue, at least, so let’s leave that be.

    You’re right, violence is a part of American culture, perhaps originating in our various frontier eras. We are not unique in this, however, among countries now or in the past — American media pervasiveness can be blamed for this misperception, but that’s another discussion.

    It is fallacious (in multiple ways, Post Hoc to start with) to think that violent video games are a cause of violence. Someone who is unbalanced enough to shoot up a school might well have done something similar with or without a video game’s ‘influence,’ with or without ‘evil’ music. What is the cause and what is the effect?

    A much more reasonable (and supportable) explanation is a combination of chemical/emotional imbalance in the individual and piss-poor parenting, a point that Lars nailed. Bad parents who deny a child ‘violent’ activities can still cause the child to become violent, either to the self or to others.

    One can be repulsed by pretend violent activities, and I admire your dedication to an attitude in a culture that accepts such things, but it would be a mistake to assume they are the cause of real world violence.

  11. I mentioned Cowboys not to imply that you, Scot, accept them, but to point out that violent kid games are not a new thing – they have just moved into a new medium these days. A medium that at the same time is more realistic, but also more abstract than the old ones.

    I don’t argue the connection between America’s war-like ways and level of acceptance of violence because I mostly agree – what I don’t agree with is the populistic “Doom made Columbine happen” mindset. Life isn’t that simple.

  12. Perhaps if the Columbine kids had instead decided to play a multi-player killing game online the school would have been spared a tragedy. The problem, though, isn’t the kids… the real question is why were guns available to them in the first place? It’s not the video game that did the killing — it’s the kids + the guns. Is there any more morality being shown on popular television than on a killing game? Be fair. I’m sure you’ve reflected many times as to the violent/frightening/fearful nature of nightly news broadcast. Perhaps you’ve even noted the deplorable drop in moral television programming (step back through a history of Fox programming to see the gradual decline to morally corrupt pop shows).

    Violence in movies, violence in Europe. When there is no violence in the world around us, politicians make it up. We should be scared of this, we should be scared of that. People want to kill us. When was the last time you heard of good things being reported in the first 10 minutes of a television program? Video games are an easy target, because they don’t deal with adults (by and large). Adults are policy makers, not kids, and when adults view violence in their kids they do not want to accept blame! So, of course, the finger pointing goes right to what kids exclusively are engaged in.

    Operas are stories of murder, betrayal — basically pure evil tragedy. When was the last time the Opera was blamed for a woman stabbing her husband in the back because of his infidelities? Conversely, how many times has rap music been blamed for gang violence, racial secularism, etc.

    Kids know violence — it’s naive to think we can protect them from it. In fact, the role of parenting is NOT to shield a kid of the truths of the world, but to help them deal with it. Shooting up motherfuckers in a video game is healthier than keeping it bottled and taking a AK to a high school lunchroom.

  13. Etienne, great point about opera, although I think there is a great difference between watching a story that involves a murder and killing in the 1st person with adrenaline backing you.

    I’m not sure I buy the bits about video games functioning as a release, that they may actually prevent real violence. I’d prefer to hope that someone close enough to the edge for a video game to push him over would end up in actual therapy, not acting out violent ragefulness digitally. Wishful thinking, of course.

  14. Wow, here it goes again, another board full of angry parents, wondering why children are as violent as they ‘believe’ they are today. No, its not video games that make kids kill. Sure, it may look violent to a prude 50 year old who cant even see the screen due to aging vision, and gets dizzy watching someone jump around (personally, I dont think these games move fast enough..), but the average kid can tell the difference between real life and a game. The problem is that .001% of kids who CAN’T tell the difference. You people are making rash generalizations, seeing one kid blow up his classmates, and assuming that the millions of other kids in the school system are also violent, corrupted children, just on the verge of snapping and taking a few dozen classmates with them.

    But does that mean we should ban all violent games just because an extremely small fraction of kids think that it is real? No matter how many video games you ban, these children will still be exposed to violence. Whether it be on the news, seeing stories of families murdered in their sleep, or rambo-style movies, these kids will always be exposed to some form of violence. Maybe the problem is the parents themeselves, and they are just refusing to accept the idea that maybe they are the reason for school shootings, so they try and pin it on something else.

    I speak from personal experience when I say that we don’t laugh while playing these games for a reason. It’s not because we aren’t having FUN, it’s because everyone realizes how stupid they would look, sitting at a computer screen playing a game and giggling to themselves. These games are very fast paced and require you to focus completely on the game, and laughing would cause you to lose focus, and thus lose the game. And fun doesn’t always mean comical. Not everyone laughs when they are having fun. Sure, I chuckle every once in awhile when I see something funny happen on a game such as Counter-Strike or Battlefield 1942, but I don’t make a habit of it.

    And how does having the person you are playing against in the same room make it all the more worse, according to you. If anything, I find it scarier playing against someone that isnt in the room. These games (LAN parties) are social events, centered around the game. But that doesn’t mean that kids sit there, staring at the screen, and never saying a word. LAN games allow you to share a common experience with a friend. Afterwards, you can talk for hours about the game. LAN parties bring people together. On most occasions, the kids who go around shooting classmates are the non-social kids, cooped up in their basements, not socializing with anyone.

    I think that YOU people are the ones that need to take your heads out of the dirt, or your asses, whichever comes first, and realize that video games dont corrupt the youth. Video games themeselves are a direct result of our violent culture. Do you think there would even been violent games if there werent wars, or terrorism, or crimes? Instead of going after the imaginary shooting of friends in a safe environment, maybe you should be devoting your time to stopping the sources of our violent culture. It would be a lot more productive than sitting here bitching about how much of a problem video games are.

  15. hey scot, i don’t think etienne means that a video game is going to stop a psycho kid from going on a school rampage, but instead that for the average kid, it is a great release of anger. Did you ever get angry as a kid, and go into your room and punch your pillow, or something of the like, to get your anger out? This is a very common reaction; it is better to let this slight anger out than keep it pent up inside, until it explodes out. Maybe video games dont stop that kid from shooting his classmates the day before he plans to, but maybe video games will let that kid who gets bullied and pushed around a harmless way to get rid of that anger, far before he reaches that point.

  16. stopbitching, you’re missing the whole point. You’re basically saying that the real source of violence in our culture is everywhere but videogames, that videogames just reflect the violence that’s already out there. You’re not seeing that rising tides raise all boats — just like the media, video games both reflect AND CREATE the culture. In fact, their popularity is such now that they are part of the media, they are part of the culture.

    Look, nobody can say “this causes that” in a discussion like that. Psychology is way too squirrely for that. But I do think it’s pretty obvious that when you feed someone a diet of violence, they become innured to it.

    Ask yourself this: How is that we have a culture so accepting of our brutal invasion of Iraq, so completely willing to kill thousands of innocent people, wreak havoc, display muscle, destroy a nation, and feel proud of it. I see our oversaturation in violence as a big part of that – we dont even see Iraqis as real anymore, we are unable to imagine ourselves in their shoes. We have been suckling on violence for so long we’re jaded and half human.

    If you can’t see that as plain ans obvious, then I don’t know what else to say to you.

  17. I have a 7 year old son who plays UT under close adult supervision (My computer sits beside his) and we usually play together with family who are scattered all over the US. We all love each other and have alot of fun playing against each other. I choose not to have all that gore in my family’s face so I turn the gore off. This game has that option. I have also watched my son’s intrest move from the first person shooter games to more strategy oriented games. His intrest in computers and how they work has cultivated his cognitive reasoning way ahead of his first grade level. Don’t get me wrong he still plays the normal kid things, house with his sisters, soccer with his freinds and many other normal healthy things. My point is parent your children don’t let them be raised by a computer, television or some public institution where your child is just a statistic or he will become a statistic.

    Remember “The the little man with the slide rule and the computer will inherit the earth.”

  18. Hi Scot,

    When I posted originally, I had planned to argue that, what with all the other stronger cultural “signals”, the purported influence of video games essentially “disappears into the noise”, because I thought that’s what Jasper was saying. Then I reread his article:

    ‘In addition to these toxic influences, friends of Klebold and Harris have reported that the young men were obsessed with the ultra-violent video games Doom and Quake. According to some reports, they also played Postal, a video game in which the “winner” caps the fun by committing suicide.’
    http://www.thenewamerican.com/tna/1999/06-07-99/vo15no12_lessons.htm

    So it turns out that you and Jasper actually agree on this (knock me over with a feather!); however, his point remains that these games are only one of many other, stronger cultural influences. (For the record, I really do think Jasper’s hyperbole is showing; Manson is just an act, not the Sixth Sign of the Apocalypse.)

    But, you know, the Republic managed to survive the alleged cultural insult of video games (despite the witterings of then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop) during the Reagan Administration, and somehow I have the feeling that it will survive this latest crop of technologically-more-advanced games too. In short, I have faith in the eventual triumph of maturity :).

    I shall also continue to argue that “the existence of guns does not determine the state of our morality; the state of our morality determines the uses–good or evil–to which guns are put”.

  19. alrighty, time to throw the opinion of another teenager in there. And remember, that’s all any of these are, opinions. I’m not going to be so arrogant as to assume that my opinion is totally correct, and unless 1 of you has a degree in psychology your not going off anymore information then is available to me, so this is largely based off of personal feelings on the matter.
    First off, to “a angry youth”, you discredit our entire generation when you can’t post a valid point without the phrase “take your heads out of your asses”, and if you can’t make it through a post online debating a matter with people you don’t know then you are the reason that people are not listening to our generation in these or any matter. Frankly i cannot stand people who act like you, if you have a valid point it can be made without the use of profanity.
    As for the matter of the gameplay being herky-jerky and fast-paced, this is partially a generation gap and partially what you are used to. My father can’t watch me play fast-paced games, nor can my girlfriend, but i have no problem with these as i am used to it.
    As for the matter of violent video games making violent children, i feel that while video games to add to the desensitization of children, they do not make children inherently more violent. I am an avid gamer, and have done alot of research on this subject, both for my own personal knowledge and for college research papers. While you claim these games make the violence that much more real, i feel they make it more unbelievable, especially with games such as Unreal Tournament (a personal favorite of mine). The game is set in worlds which do not exist, using guns that are physically impossible, and the characters are often aliens with four arms or strange alien cows. If your child cannot differentiate this from the real world and shooting a nali war cow with a plasma ray leads him to shoot his classmates with the gun he probably got in YOUR house, then the issue here isn’t the game, it’s you and the child. I will succede that violent video games can dull children to violence, but not to violence in there own personal lives, only to violence in media. Yes, when i see an extremely violent movie 9 times out of 10 i don’t bat an eye, having played every violent video game out there, including all that have been mentioned on this board. However on the few instances i have gone to rotten.com and looked at the pictures there i have nearly vomited, because those are real people, and the one’s in the movie are not, and there’s nothing you can say to make me think otherwise. If your child doesn’t understand these differences then you are the problem, not duke nukem. anywhoo, just the random rantings of another psychotic video game obsessed violent youth. BTW, i graduated high school 4th in my class, 1st on ACT, and am commonly told by customers at my work and people in my life that i am extremely nice, many of whom are from the generation posting on these boards about my violent ways.

  20. just a few more things i thought of. first off, I would encourage you to watch one of these LAN parties and listen to the interactions between the people. Not the game interactions, the real world. They are talking, working as a team, and when someone does “kill” them, 9 times out of 10 they will probably congratulate them, and while they may utter some profanity for the most part they are all talking as friends. Conversely, how many times have you seen a player in a basketball or hockey game lose his top and start beating on a referee or another player? i guarantee you this is not something that you will be seeing at a LAN.
    Also, the people who make these games must be horrible human beings to, right? they must not care about society at all! except for the fact that the primary programmer on the game DOOM, which has been mentioned several times on this board, is currently one of the top runners in the new space race, a contest among private companies to come up with the first coomercially viable space plane. He probably just wants to put a big laser up there to shoot people with.

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