Friday, January 25, 2013

On the Topic of Credibility: An Open Letter to Senator Leland Yee

The San Francisco Chronicle posted an article on Wednesday, that quoted Sen. Leland Yee(D) as saying "gamers have no credibility in this argument[about gun violence]."  As a lifelong gamer, I felt compelled to respond to his remark.  This is an open letter that will also be sent to Yee directly.

Mr. Yee:

I am not a constituent of yours, and I doubt you will ever read this letter.  Even so, I feel the need to point out a few things to you about your comments on the topic of credibility.

Your comment about "gamers having no credibility" raises quite a few eyebrows.  People who play video games come from all walks of life.  I, myself, work at a local community college.  My duties involve assisting students with general computer issues, basic tutoring, and enforcement of the posted rules.  I am a tax paying, law abiding citizen.  And I play video games.

There are thousands like me.  Many of them are likely your constituents.  We play everything.  We're known to have late-night sessions on weekends with friends, shooting the breeze while we're side by side in "Horde mode" in Gears of War 3, for the sake of an example.  We're also the ones who gather with friends after church to play Dance Central and look like complete idiots in front of their friends.  We're the ones who come home from work, log onto World of Warcraft, and do raids for three hours with two dozen other grown adults like us.  We are out there, and we exist.

Many of us are like this playstation commercial that aired in Europe.  During the day, we're law abiding citizens.  At night, we're the exact opposite.  Even so, we have no regrets.  Because we are living. And that's more than most people can boast.

Grimm's fairy tales were mentioned quite frequently during Brown vs. EMA.  When you think of books, you think of the story.  Video Games are increasingly including narrative in their story.  They're also placing the person playing the game as the main character.  Imagine you're Jean Valjean and you find out that the boys captured Javert.  You have the option to kill him, or spare his life.  What do you do?  Would you do what Valjean did?  Not surprisingly, this has already been done in a video game.  In Splinter Cell: Double Agent, protagonist Sam Fisher is planted inside a terrorist cell.  The group manages to capture his CO and tells Fisher to kill the man.  So the player is given the tough choice of "do I kill my CO to keep my cover, or do I kill the man I'm shadowing and get in a big firefight?"  Spec Ops: The Line explored PTSD in soldiers in a very unique, sometimes disturbing way.  Video Games allow writers to let the viewer become the player in the world's stage.

Now, I also want to take the time to point out a few interesting tidbits to you.  Take, for example, this graph on violent crime from the Department of Justice.

Yes, there are video games superimposed over it.  The hard data shows that even with these violent video games coming out, there's still been a sharp decrease crime rates.  It's also worth noting that Postal and Postal 2, shown on this graph, were on the list Politico listed as the "10 most violent video games."  It's also worth noting that nobody cared about Splatterhouse, Postal is basically old enough to drive, and Manhunt 2 was largely overlooked.

I do, however, want to take time to comment on MadWorld.  I own both the US and the Japanese versions of this game.  I love it.  I thought it was entertaining in its own deranged way.  I also know that it's completely impossible for some shadowy cabal organization to completely shut Manhattan island off from the rest of the world and have everyone inside partake in a deathmatch, hunger games style.  That's simply not going to happen.  We don't have the technological advancements to attach a chainsaw to someone's arm.  This game resides purely in fantasy, and will never see reality.

Gamers are also really awesome people.  There's a website called "Loading Ready Run" that do an annual charity drive for an organization called Child's Play.  Child's Play donates toys and games to children in hospitals, making their stay and their treatment easier.  How does LRR raise money for Child's Play?  They play a game called Desert Bus, a real time drive from Los Angeles to Reno.  It was part of an old SegaCD game made by Penn and Teller, and it was basically an "up yours" to Janet Reno.  Apparently it stemmed out of a comment of hers, asking why there aren't video games about driving a bus.  The reason?  It's insanely boring.  But these guys sweat it out yearly, and raise a sizeable chunk of change every year.  In December, 2012, LRR sweated it out for six days, eight hours.  They raised a grand total of $436,015.71.  That's pretty awesome.

It doesn't stop there.  I volunteer on staff with a convention called Anime Detour.  Held every spring, we pack 5,000 attendees into one hotel.  Back in 2011, after the earthquake and resulting tsunami that ravaged Japan, we raised $36,744.42 for the American Red Cross Japan Relief Fund.  We were one of the top third party donors in the nation that year.  And this was over one weekend.  Now, not wanting to let it go, we did the same thing with our charity auction the following year.  In March of 2012, we raise just shy of $28,000 for the Japan Relief Fund.  And there are a lot of gamers that show up to those events.  I would know, I work in the video gaming department.  I was the emcee for the Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Mortal Kombat tournaments.

Why yes, this guy actually showed up to the tournament, dressed as the guy he was playing in game.  He was damn good, too.  The fighting game scenes are some of the most amazing communities you will ever find.  Fans and competitors alike rallied together to send a Japanese fan with Cerebral Palsy to the Street Fighter World Championships here in the states.  Needless to say, he was ecstatic.

Now, I looked into your background a little bit before writing this article.  It says that your family moved to the US from China when you were three years old, in 1948.  That would have been at the height of the Chinese Civil War.  I would venture a guess that Mao Zedong thought Chiang Kai-Shek had no credibility in knowing how to run the country.  Your family likely left to escape the bloodshed.  1.5 million PRK supporters were killed, and millions more sent to internment camps.  Imagine if both sides were able to come to peaceable agreement and were willing to acknowledge each others viewpoints.  I feel there's a similarity to what's happening now.

I really feel there's a need to extend an olive branch here.   Many gamers feel that our country as a whole is too violent.  There is work that needs to be done.  And you could have legions of support rallying to help you solve this problem facing our country.  But scapegoating any form of media or entertainment is not going to help anyone.  We can help you, or we can vote you out of office next term.  Even though I'm not represented by you, there are plenty who are.  Let us work with you, not against you.


Anonymous said...

Nice! Perhaps you could bring up that he defends Asian culture like the premier of China and Shark Fin Soup against such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh, yet he's demonizing video game culture in the same way- in essence taking the role of Rush Limbaugh in this debate.

ddrfr33k said...

While that may be true, and he does have his share of hypocritical moments, calling him out for that in my letter would be attacking the arguer, not the argument. The "Ad Hominem" logical fallacy.

You also forget that many politicians are crooked souls who don't have their heads properly attached to their shoulders.