"How I Learned To Love The Plot Spoiler" (5/12/10) - One of the things that struck me as I played through Alan Wake was the way in which the scattered manuscript pages told you what was going to happen before it happened. This went far beyond simple foreshadowing. Not only did this not detract from the experience, it heightened the sense of dread, anticipation, etc. So why is it that when we read a piece of videogame criticism, the author falls all over herself warning us whenever any plot details are about to be revealed. Usually in all-caps: "OMG SPOILERZ AHEAD! WARNING! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK! HEAD ASPLOSION!" Tom Bissell shrewdly reminds us that games are about the how, not the what.
"Herding Scapegoats" (5/19/10) - I'm as weary as anyone of hearing how violent videogames are responsible for all of society's ills. It seems that, with each successive generation, some new form of popular entertainment finds itself on the insta-blame chopping block. Growing up a heavy metal fan—to clarify, a fan of heavy metal; not a pudgy kid in an XXL Metallica t-shirt—I remember adults in my life demonizing (ha!) metal as some occultic tool of Satan. I just liked the guitars.
I think it's interesting that we don't really hear about the dangers of music anymore, while reporters investigating any crime by a youth will conduct an extensive background check to see if the suspect ever played a videogame. If it turns out that he played Super Mario Bros. even once as a kid, the headline will invariably read, "Videogame Addict Suspected in Murder of So-And-So."
Though I never quite manage to decode the underlying causes behind the scapegoating shift from music to games, it's still worth pondering why Modern Warfare 2 seems to be Generation X(box)'s Metallica. I suppose each new crop of kiddos must find its own way to make mom and dad and Joe Congressman skittish.
"Soldier boy, made of clay / Now an empty shell / Twenty one, only son / But he served us well / Bred to kill, not to care / Do just as we say / Finished here, Greeting Death / He's yours to take away."
- Metallica, "Disposable Heroes," Master of Puppets (1986)