I was going to write up a blog about the importance of characters like Princess Peach and Princess Zelda in their respective games, but I decided to table that in favour of a more pressing issue.
If you hadn't heard by now, Sony bowed to the pressure of White Knights all over the internet and changed the name of the God of War Ascension trophy from "Bros before Hos" to "Bros before Foes". Sony Santa Monica issued a typical PR statement about creating a patch that will change the name due to some complaints about the previous name hindering the enjoyment of the game for some players.
Before I get into the meat of my blog, allow me to pull out the world's smallest violin and begin playing. This is without a doubt the stupidest, most unnecessary "controversy" that forced a PR action in this gen yet.
I'm not going to talk about how wrong the White Knights are in claiming misogyny and thus implying that Sony Santa Monica are misogynists (which is a very damaging term) for a trophy that had no hate against women. I'm not even going to focus on more than this point that hundreds of people don't even realize that the context of the trophy **SPOILER ALERT** HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH KRATOS SMASHING THE FURY'S HEAD IN and is in fact about Orkos (sp?) choosing to help Kratos over his mother who happens to be the Fury that tried to kill Kratos. **END SPOILERS** No, this blog is going to be about the bowing to pressure and how that act and the fact that any publisher/developer can be forced into a position to do so as well will always compromise the "Games as Art" ideology.
The ideology of Games being viewed as Art originally came to life in an attempt to block politicians from passing any form of legislation that would heavily censor video games to the point where only family friendly games would exist. The reason why such legislation could even be conceived of is thanks to the concerted efforts of many parties to label video games as the cause of violence in youth that resulted in things like mass school shootings. Since then, the ideology has evolved to one that exists to help video games be seen by society as a legitimate art form that should be taken seriously and not be viewed as the hobby of children.
We all should know that Art is a form of expression, and as a form of expression its very existence hinges on the allowance of that expression to be free of censorship and outside influences to change its inherent intent and meaning. For video games to truly be considered as Art, they have to be able to tackle any subject that can be expressed for the world to see, hear, and otherwise ingest into their consciousness and do so without fear or worry of the ramifications that will be brought about by the philistines of the world who will take offense to even the smallest thing.
Any who contribute to the censorship, or violation, of the inherent right to freedom of expression that legitimate Art is granted also contributes to the devaluing of that Art and makes the implication that the subject is NOT Art but a publicly owned commodity that can be changed at the whim of any individual looking for something to be offended by.
Sony Santa Monica changing the name of the trophy implies that they were wrong, and misogynistic, to allow their female producer to name the trophy as she did. Despite the fact that there is no hate in the name, that the most vocal opposition has been from men and not women, and that the woman who named the trophy herself isn't offended, the wrong party one against big bad Sony today. I feel terrible for that woman. You know she must be thinking that she did a bad job and was completely wrong when she wasn't.
How can games be considered Art if, whilst allegedly being "critiqued", the one doing the critiquing sparks unnecessary rage to the point where that Art has to be redone to please a minority? How can it be the expression of an individual (which in this case SSM can be considered an individual as all the employees work together towards the same singular vision) if one or a group of people besides the individual can dictate if that expression is right, or Politically Correct?
That is another problem with why games can never be Art. So long as the prevailing attitude is that one must consider the feelings of everyone in the creation of Art, we will never have games as Art because you can't please everyone. Someone will always find something offensive, and if they have a big enough mouth they can convince others that it's offensive too.
To think that SSM put 3 years of hard work into this game only to have people say they can't enjoy the game, that the entire experience is soured by the name of a trophy so much that they are forced to change it just to please people who have no right, or reason, to complain about it is very, very sad. People need to consider everything before opening their mouths to complain. Why is the brutal mutilation of everything in sight perfectly fine and within tonal context of the game, yet a trophy name is where the line is drawn? How then can we say that games are Art if we're going to force Art to be what WE want it to be rather than what the artist hoped it would be, and worked for it to be?
Of course the argument of, say, ME3's endings being a form of artistic expression that we all changed can be used against me, but to that I put forth the following. Art never makes promises, businesses do. Bioware promised that the ending to ME3 would be NOTHING like the ending that ended up in the game. That moved the ending from an extension of the artistic expression of the game to the arena of false advertisement of a product and thus different rules apply. Plus, seeing as how Bioware then ADDED to the ending, there was no censorship involved since the original ending was still there.
I guess we've come to an impasse of sorts. We, as gamers, need to decide if we want games to be seen as Art. If that is what we want, then we have to make certain allowances for the kind of subject matter that can be included in that Art. If we wish games to be considered on the same level as Movies or Literature, then games have to be allowed to freely tackle any and all subjects without fear of recrimination. We have to grow up, grow a sense of humour, and learn not to let fiction upset reality. Games are not meant to represent any aspect of reality, thus if games are to be considered Art they shouldn't be bound by the same restrictions as reality.
The alternative is to continue on with gaming being nothing more than a hobby run by corporations. Corporations that will ensure games adhere to strict regulations based on customer relations and profit, where no one takes the medium seriously and we all continue to get shafted in every possible way but at least no one's feelings will get hurt.
Which sounds better to you?