At two years old we confiscated our
son's gun made from a stick. He went off, constructed a gun from Duplo,
and came back and shot us both. There is something about violence
in our nature. At the age of 16 he is strongly anti war. Yet he
plays violent computer games incessantly. They often sicken me, and they
are a contradiction of his own beliefs. NineMSN
reports "Mr Ruddock and refugee groups lambasted the game's
creators for encouraging people to take part in illegal activities and
trivialising the plight of asylum seekers."
I recall as a young teen, without computer games, spending hours
constructing battles on the cement of my bedroom floor with WW11
soldiers. And at the same time I was espousing an anti-Vietnam position,
and planning to be a conscientious objector, I would hunt barefoot with
my Dad's rifle in our scrub for hares. Perhaps it an evolutionary
development thing. Just as our embryos seem to reflect the morphology of
previous species, so our moral and ethical development must go through a
period of warlikeness on the way to a greater maturity. It would be fair
to wonder if some of us don't make it very far!
The current computer game involves stealing cars and driving around a
thinly disguised Miami engaging in less than savoury activities.
My son is laughing himself silly, because you listen to the car radio as
you drive. The stations, including Vice City Public Radio are what
we Australians would call a giant "piss-take," with a
prolonged send up of conservative America, including campaign adds for a
politician called Shrub.
Which brings us to Australia. Here, The
Australia Council, the Federal Government's principal arts funding
and advisory body, has just made a development grant to a computer game.
It's called Escape from Woomera, and involves playing the part of a
refugee seeking to escape from the now defunct Woomera Concentration
Camp (euphemised by the Australian Government to "Woomera Detention
Centre.") Minister against Refugees Ruddock has exploded.
Comedian Shaun Micallef recently showed a picture of the Boomerang
Galaxy on his show... allegedly the coldest place in the universe...
"except perhaps for here," he said, and held up a photo of Minister
Ruddock. Well, when the news of the game came out, it got very hot
under Ruddock's collar.
researcher said "Escape from Woomera was merely taking activism on
the issue of detaining asylum seekers to a new medium."
"We have expressed the concern of
refugee groups in a medium people are not used to, a more modern
The Arts Minister has demanded an explanation from the Australia Council.
Port August Mayor, and cracked record, Joy Baluch has condemned the game,
while "Apart from making a mockery of Australia's mandatory
detention policy for asylum seekers, Mr Ruddock said the game reflected
badly on the Australia Council for promoting unlawful activity." http://news.ninemsn.com.au/Sci_Tech/story_48151.asp
Link live at 1/6/2003
A number of refugee groups have also condemned the game on the
basis that it trivialises the suffering of refugees incarcerated in the
camps. I'm not so sure. While kids are working out their
violence, let's have them see some of the bad side of society.
Green Left Weekly notes
Green Left Weekly, May 11
"[Computer] games are potentially the most subversive media forms of our time", Kipper, the initiator of Escape from Woomera, told Green
Left Weekly. Drawing on first-hand testimonies, media reports and government documents, this unique game concept strives to represent
Woomera detention centre in virtual reality. It has already received positive responses from past and present
"I would have thought that locking people up in breach of international law is the real crime", Kipper told GLW. She noted that
many computer games portray "illegal acts", pointing to the best-selling PlayStation game, Grand Theft Auto III, in which players
steal cars, act as hitmen and sleep with prostitutes. "The real difference is that our game injects something that is socially
progressive", Kipper said.
The games site is at http://www.escapefromwoomera.org.
Among its FAQ's are the following (which I have edited.)
Wouldn't making a game on this subject trivialise something that
is a very serious issue? Isn't it the height of bad taste?
We're attempting to create a play–space in which people can have
access to and engage with this issue in an unprecedented and unique way.
We're serious about the issue.... When non–gamers think about videogames they often confuse
content with form. Just because some of the most high–profile
commercial games might be considered "bad taste" for their
'gratuitous' use of violence and no brain content it doesn’t follow
that the interactive nature of the videogame medium itself is a barrier
to representing serious issues. Early films were predominantly slapstick
comedy and pornography – but no one today would deny that the film
medium itself is robust enough to carry challenging content......
Believe it or not, the
truth is we're sick and tired of games that create heroes out of
professional killers and US marines. For us, refugees are some of the
greatest and most legitimate heroes of our time. And we're not prepared
to hold back and leave this facet of their story untold because the
lives of these remarkable individuals collectively constitute an 'issue'
so serious that it is supposedly 'untouchable'.
But isn't this game the height of bad taste?
Well, that seems to be implying that we're trying to make a joke – a
joke in poor taste. And actually, you could say that by consciously
making accessible a fully immersive experience of an environment that
has been deemed strictly off limits by the powers–that–be is the
height of political satire. But no, that’s not true; the height of
political satire was when the eighteenth century Irish writer Jonathan
Swift suggested that the English solve the problem of poverty in Ireland
by simply encouraging Irish peasants to sell their children to the rich
as a tasty alternative to pork. Interestingly, 'A Modest Proposal' is
considered the greatest piece of political satire in the history of
English literature – and not a 'bad taste' trivialisation of the
plight of the Irish.
be honest, I find computer games boring. I just don't get
them. But lots of kids do. And if they're going to play,
then I like the fact that in this game at least, there is also some
message with the content that goes beyond the usual shoot everything
that moves style. The problem for Ruddock and Kemp etc is not that
the game is wrong, or bad taste. The problem is that the game will
be too true to life. They are really reacting from fear about the
truth of our illegal and inhuman behaviour in Australia. Jan