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Gaming

Embedded or Centralized?

I've worked in all kinds of team configurations in my ten years (so far) in the game industry, so I thought I'd talk a little bit about what I've experienced as a game UI/UX designer from two different perspectives: that of the embedded designer, and that of the "client services" designer. Both styles of working have their pros and cons.

The Evolution of UX Design in Games

I've been following with interest the discussion among non-game-industry UX designers that "UX is not UI," and finding that the evolution of UX from UI within the game industry has created a unique type of UX designer that really does seem heavily tied into UI design.

Rape, Violence, and Strong Female Leads

The new Tomb Raider trailer has been generating some discussion online about how appropriate it is to show female characters getting beaten to a pulp and then nearly raped. You know, the usual light video game fare.

Change, Outcry, and Layers in Game UI Design

UXMatters recently posted a great article called "Quieting the Outcry over Software User Interface Redesigns." It touches on something we've probably all experienced on sites like Facebook: the moment there's any significant redesign of the site, half of our feed is full of outrage over the change and threats to quit that almost always prove to be empty. As a UI designer, it can be hard to figure out where that line is between legitimate user frustration over something that turned out to be a poor design decision on your part, and the knee-jerk reaction to change that's very common when people have become accustomed to doing things a certain way and finding things in certain spots on their favorite web sites (or the game UI they've been using for the past few weeks). This article provides some great information on how to avoid that reaction (or mostly avoid it, since there will always be a vocal minority that hates change even if it's for the better). But there is one small bit that I disagree with.

In addition, evaluate the groups of users who are complaining and the tasks with which they’re having problems. Are they representative of the primary users of your product? Do they match one of your key audience profiles? Are they typical users? Are they upset about something relating to a key task—or a secondary task that users rarely perform? For example, removing a command-line Interface tool might make a tiny group of users very upset, but benefit 99% of your target audience.

I thought this was a poor example of a good point the author was trying to make. The usual goal of UI design, whether it's for games or for applications, is to make interactions simple. But frequently we as designers can take that idea too far and begin watering down gameplay or feature richness for the sake of UI simplicity, losing useful and in-depth features that the user may ultimately benefit from and enjoy once they've crossed the line from beginner to advanced user.

Instead, why not think of something like a command-line interface tool as a deeper, more richly-featured layer of UI that can remain in place as something accessible to the more hardcore users? In fact, a command-line interface is a great example that's directly applicable to games. Many online multiplayer games require servers to run, and for some games these servers are run by the players themselves, usually by players who are technically adept and know their way around a command line. For years, running a server was almost always only possible via the command line, but it's now pretty standard to include a GUI in the main menu with most of the common options a server administrator would want to set. And in most of these games, the command line interface is still accessible and allows really knowledgeable server admins to set many more advanced options on their servers.

The percentage of server admins compared to players is going to be pretty small for any game, but those server admins are a very important component of your game -- without them you'd have far fewer servers to play on. Instead of cutting the command line interface because it's advanced and only used by a small percentage of players, the ability to run a server is made accessible for both beginner and advanced players by adding an outer layer to the whole game UI.

Not every UI decision can be treated like this, of course. In some cases a game mechanic may be very complex, and the only UI solution that works with it may be equally complex. In cases like this, the questions to be answered are these: is there any way to create a layered UI solution that helps beginning players grasp the basics of the mechanic, but gives advanced players the information they need to play at a higher level? If there isn't, then does the mechanic need to be simplified in order to make it accessible to the highest number of players so it doesn't turn people away? Or would simplifying the mechanic unacceptably water down the gameplay goals?

In the best game UI design scenarios, layered UI can be created so that beginners don't feel alienated by advanced features or mechanics that they don't yet understand, but the more advanced layer of UI still exists so that when players are ready to go from beginners to advanced users, they can level up in their UI skills as well as their game skills. Yep, it's gamification of the UI -- if you're a Photoshop user you're probably familiar with the feeling of mastering the deeper layers of complexity within the app, and it's something that can happen in game UI, too.

So while we may run into situations in which we have to consider cutting that feature so that 99% of our audience is made happier, I like to approach game UI problems as layers of an onion first. Sometimes with more eye-watering, depending on how hard the problem is to solve.

The Path to Game UI Design, Part V: Further Interest

Yesterday, we talked about how to get experience you'll need to build good game UI; today I'm going to tell you about my own path into a career in game UI design and then give you a few resources to get you started.

"How Did YOU Do It?"

Right off the bat I'm just going to tell you that my own story of how I got into the game industry and became a UI designer is a poor example to follow only because the path I took is pretty winding and indirect, and huge, overflowing buckets of luck played a big part in the opportunities I was able to take advantage of. But I'll tell you the abridged form of my story anyway since most people ask, and parts of it still help answer the question this article is addressing.

I graduated with my B.S. in astrophysics a long time ago fully intending to go on to my Ph.D., while on the side doing a ton of gaming and game-related writing for GameSpy and other outfits as a freelancer since writing was a hobby of mine. When a bunch of ill-timed hurdles fell into my path I was offered a full-time job at GameSpy to run their biggest site, PlanetQuake. After doing that for about a year I moved up to the role of Action Genre Producer, managing all of the web sites on the network that fell under the action category since first-person shooters were my expertise.

The job didn't directly involve a lot of the qualifications of a UI designer except that I worked with the web designers at GameSpy, picking up a lot of the skills necessary for web design and development along the way. But after about three years at GameSpy I took a job with Activision as their online marketing manager for the "hardcore" titles (aka, first-person shooters like Call of Duty, DOOM, and others). The job involved a little bit more creative work, doing some marketing materials that stretched my pretty much non-existent at-the-time graphic design skills. To this point (and, really, at ANY point) I hadn't had any education in graphic design other than my own interest in web design, learning from colleagues and friends that I felt were good teachers in clean, good, solid web UI design and practicing on my own web site and associated logos and images.

While at Activision I kept trying to teach myself the principles of good graphic design since I had no background in it. In addition to that, in my spare time I created game levels and mods, which helped to translate some of the programming skills I'd learned doing theoretical modeling in astrophysics into game programming. Then I learned that a position for a UI designer was open at Raven Software, a company I'd worked with pretty closely while at GameSpy and Activision, and they were working on a game and tech that I was pretty familiar with: Quake IV.

I had bought DOOM 3 and knew that they would be using that tech for Quake IV, and I also knew that the tools to work with the game came with it. The UI for DOOM 3 used a pretty simple scripting system that I was confident I could pick up. So, pulling some late nights and cramming at every opportunity, in a short amount of time I did the following: I learned the GUI system, I created a small three-story level with the DOOM 3 level editor, I designed a few letters for a theoretical font to represent the Strogg alphabet (the Strogg being the alien enemy in Quake IV), and then created a working elevator GUI using the font that allowed the player to move to and from any floor, and in-between floors the GUI would ripple and flicker with static as if it were being affected by a war-torn electrical system. (For flair I threw a muzak version of "The Girl From Ipanema" into the elevator, Blues Brothers-style. Hey, the Strogg like to relax a little, too, you know.)

This was the centerpiece of my portfolio, meant to show that not only could I do the graphic design of the UI itself but could also take it into the game, hook it up to the scripting system, and then make it actually work. I added other pieces to my portfolio to try and show some capabilities in graphic design even though I knew my skill set there was limited -- theoretical Strogg decal work, and mostly some web design.

I got the job. Looking back, I can honestly say that Raven took a huge chance on me given that my skill set in actual graphic design was really weak, but they had picked me because I showed a strong ability to quickly pick up any technical skill needed to do UI design in their tech. And while at Raven I was grouped with people much stronger in graphic design and art than me, which let me do a lot of learning and growing, something I've continued to do since.

Raven wasn't the start of my game industry career but it was the start of my career as a game UI designer. While at Raven I worked on Quake IV, Wolfenstein, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and after Raven I moved on to Gas Powered Games where I worked on Space Siege and Demigod. And after Gas Powered Games I went to Uber Entertainment where I am today, working on Monday Night Combat and now Super Monday Night Combat.

Bringing It All Together

Making games is hard work no matter how much fun it is to play them, contrary to what many people who haven't made games may think. And game UI is no different. The skills and pointers in this article can get you to a certain point, but being a game UI designer means being able to deal with the incredibly fast pace of game development, having the ability to switch gears on the fly, and being self-motivated enough to obtain a range of skills that aren't readily available from a single college program. But at the end of the day creating good game UI is an accomplishment few people get to say they do, and your fellow game development colleagues will be happy to have you there doing it.

Resources

This is a very small list of resources to get you started. From here, look to other games and study their UI, and talk to as many game designers as you can about how they see game UI fitting in with their game design.

Tools

EpicGames UDK Scaleform

Web Sites

Design Shack Smashing Magazine

Books

The Design of Everyday Things Donald Norman

Edward Tufte's Books

Special Thanks

Several people helped me polish up this article and I'd like to give them a shout of thanks: my husband, Matt; Stacie Scattergood; Josh Sawyer of Obsidian Entertainment, and Ashley Matheson of BioWare.

The Path to Game UI Design, Part IV: Getting Experience

Yesterday we continued our series and discussed the tools that game UI designers and artists use. Today, let's talk about how to get experience when you're outside the industry and interested in getting in.

The Path to Game UI Design, Part II: The Roles

Yesterday we looked at what types of backgrounds might be applicable to game UI design. Today we'll talk about the three main roles that the UI designer or artist might play in the game industry.

The Path to Game UI Design, Part 1: Character Sheets

When you're a game developer and someone asks you how to get into the game industry -- which happens about twice a week -- they almost always mean, "How do I become a game designer?" or, "I have lots of ideas for games. How do I get a job where I can get paid for my game ideas?" (Hint: you can't, but that's another article for another time.) The question is almost never framed in the context of a specific position within the game industry, like a programmer or an artist. Most people tend to think of people like me who work in the game industry as having some kind of amorphous job title; in their minds the job description on my business card reads, "plays games all day" . But once in a while I get asked specifically about my job as a user interface designer for games, my qualifications, and how I got here. Every few months I'm asked the question, "how can I --" (or my friend, or my cousin) "-- become a game UI designer?" And I realized recently that it's time I laid out the answer in something I can pull up easily the next time the question comes up.

User interface design for games isn't glorious -- it's one of the less visible cogs in the machinery of making games, unlike programmers, artists, and game designers -- and this is one reason why I'm often surprised I get the question at all. But I'm always happy to get it, because the more qualified people there are going into game UI the better game interfaces will get over time. And if there's any question about the demand for UI designers, I can tell you that every couple of months I'm asked by some of the bigger companies in the industry if I'm interested in a position with them or know someone who's qualified. I'm not looking, since I'm happy where I am (Uber Entertainment, of course), but if the demand is still high by the time you're reading this and you're interested in this path into the game industry, it's a good time to be you. We'll spend the next few days talking about these topics in becoming a game UI designer:

- What Encompasses Game UI Design?
- Who is Qualified? A look at the different paths into game UI design
- Types of Jobs: The UI Designer, the UI Artist, and the Hybrid
- The Tools
- Getting Experience
- About Game Design Schools and Programs
- "How Did YOU Do It?" - Further Resources

What Encompasses Game User Interface Design?

A user interface designer's work is the glue that binds the player's input to actions in the game world; it can also be one of the ways that a player receives feedback from the game. The most common interface that people recognize in games is the Heads Up Display, or HUD. This is the overlay of information that a player sees in most games, and it frequently displays information such as health, ammo for weapons, what weapon is currently in use, and more.

Game UI also encompasses front end menus, such as options screens, server browsers, and other similar screens outside of the actual gameplay.

Who Is Qualified?

The path into game UI design can be approached from many angles. Let's discuss a few of them, going from most experienced to least.

The Web/App UI Developer: This person already has a background in UI design in another field. Since the principles of good UI design are the same no matter what you're designing UI for, such a developer is already halfway there. The web or application UI developer will need to translate his or her knowledge and skills into the world of games. Designing game UI uses the same set of skills and principles as web development and design or application UI design does: the UI needs to be communicative and easy to use. The additional skills the web or app developer will need to acquire are the ability to communicate game design information in an environment that is constantly changing and learning how to present what can frequently be complex game design mechanics in a way that is understandable, informative, and barrier-free. Later on we'll cover ways to practice these skills.

The Graphic Design Degree Holder: There aren't any colleges that offer a degree in game UI design, but there are plenty that offer degrees in graphic design. This is one of the most applicable degrees you can have if you're fresh out of college and want to work in games. Much of UI design requires graphic design skills, so if your education was focused on this, you've already got a foot near the door. If you fall into this category, your next steps should be to work on applying your graphic design skills to game UI and to educate yourself on the tech and tools involved.

The Self-Starter: What if you're not a web developer, app UI developer, or even someone with a degree in design? It's still possible to become a game UI designer -- I'm evidence of that. But you've got more work ahead of you than anyone else. You're probably doing design work on the side (or you should be), and plenty of working graphic designers are self-taught. Making sure you have plenty of work under your belt to show that you've got design chops is going to be the biggest task on your list.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at the three common types of UI jobs in the industry: the UI Designer, the UI Artist, and the Hybrid.

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There Is No Such Thing As A Girl Gamer

A couple of week's ago NPR's All Things Considered ran an interview I did with The Radio Rookies program about women, gaming, and female game characters. Once the link hit the gaming sites this week, comment comedy ensued. Here are a couple of samples.

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Oh Bill O'Reilly, You Crazy Kook.

I'll talk about this anyway, even though Bill O'Reilly doesn't need any help from me in exposing his screeching, shrill Chicken Little ignorance -- he's certainly done it quite well on his own in saying that video games are going to be the death of society as we know it. He believes that "a large portion" of people "under the age of 45" have no grasp on reality and no skillset to acquire a job, and that the launch of the Playstation 3 is going to change this country into some kind of unrecognizable monstrosity. O'Reilly's comments focus a lot on the erroneous belief that so many anti-game people hold: that people who play video games lose the ability to socialize with people. They don't know their neighbors, he says. Nothing could be further from the truth. Video games have, especially in the last few years, become a foundation for vast social interactivity. Hardly anyone sits in their room anymore playing a game in the dark by themselves; they're adding people to their Friends Lists and playing games together, either against each other or cooperatively. Or they're playing World of Warcraft with a thousand other people and making friends with them. Or they're going to game conventions or E3 and meeting people in person who they've only ever known as a voice on the other side of the Xbox headset. Video gamers have grown up and are having children, and now parents spend time with their kids playing video games together. As a video game developer, I can say that the social interactivity factor of games and the new console systems is nearly more important than the game itself now.

O'Reilly talks about gamers as if his sole exposure to them comes from a poorly written TV stereotype. I'd wager he's never actually met one. A video game console in a home is about as common a site today as a toaster. Video games are so common place that MTV, that shining beacon of social trend prediction, now has its own video game show. (Which bears the unfortunate name of The G-Hole...but we'll save that for another entry.) There are socially inept and withdrawn people who play video games, and there are socially inept and withdrawn people who have no idea what an XBox or a Playstation is. There are surgeons who have been shown to have improved motor skills and coordination because they play video games. There are soldiers in O'Reilly's beloved Iraq War that are better UAV pilots because they play video games.

There have always been people like O'Reilly -- people who are fearful of some new technology or new fad and think that it will be the death of civilization as we know it. It was said that comics would ruin society (they didn't), and the same was said about television and radio, the very media that O'Reilly relies on for his paycheck and yet conveniently considers benign.

He goes on at length about how impossible it is to hold a conversation with a computer geek, and that you can't really talk to them. The moment he said this, O'Reilly might as well have hung a big neon sign around his neck that read, I'M IRRELEVANT. While everyone else in the world moves on with new advancements and new technology, the dinosaurs of our society, the people who fear change, fear advancement, and fear their own relevancy and ability to keep up, wail and gnash their teeth about how society is dying and no one else can see it but them. And society doesn't crumble beneath our feet.

If O'Reilly can't have a conversation with a person who plays video games, uses computers, or uses an iPod (another device that he complains about), devices that are considered these days to be as basic as a calculator, it's much more telling about his own inability to keep up with the rest of society. Perhaps he should be more concerned about his imminent irrelevancy and less concerned about people who don't fear technology and are out talking to their friends and their coworkers about it.

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How to Fight Sexism in Games: Stop Making Cool Female Characters

There was a time in games, back before Alyx in Half-Life 2, before Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, when female characters in games came in only one variety: overboobified, underwaistified, barely-dressed stripper. For a female gamer like me, it was an easy time championing the fight to include less sexed-up female characters with more clothes on on their body and a few more brain cells in their head.

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"the house of representatives is filled with insane jackasses"

As my friend Fargo put it, "it's pretty sad when a comedy show has to be the voice of reason."If you didn't catch the segment on The Daily Show last night about the Congressional hearings on video game violence currently wasting your hard-earned tax dollars, your homework assignment is to watch it right here.

The first two thirds of the segment mostly just uncovers the complete out-of-touchness of the people that we hire to represent us to our government. You have some gems in there, such as Congressman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) proudly proclaiming that he's a gamer because he's an expert at Pong. I'm going to assume that right after he said that, he got into his Model T to go home and play the latest wax cylinder musical recording on his brand-new grammaphone.

Mr. Upton, if the last game you played was Pong, you haven't played a game in about 25 years, and there's generally a statute of limitations on the use of the word "gamer" when claiming that you are one. Things have advanced now. We have computers, there's a space station in orbit, and we have these things called lattes. You might consider checking them out.

But the best part is that while Jon Stewart is doing what he does best -- publicly making fun of those who deserve it -- he slips in some absolute gems of blazing ignorance. Take this quote from Congressman Joseph Pitts (R-Pennsylvania): "It's safe to say that a wealthy kid from the suburbs can play Grand Theft Auto or similar games without turning to a life of crime, but a poor kid who lives in a neighborhood where people really do steal cars or deal drugs or shoot cops might not be so fortunate."

I want you to read that passage again, folks, because those are his exact words, unaltered. And then I want you to wonder how someone so astoundingly ignorant could have had enough sense to put on pants that morning.

So let's analyze this, shall we? According to Rep. Pitts, crime did not exist before video games. People didn't steal cars, do drugs, or shoot cops before Grand Theft Auto told them how. That's right, folks: Rep. Pitts actually stated the cause of poor kids turning to crime -- that of living in an environment where crime is commonplace -- and in the same sentence proceeded to blame it on a medium that is approximately 1/1,000,000th as old as crime.

And in case it wasn't clear to you, Rep. Pitts wants to assure you that this is why suburban kids never steal cars, do drugs, or shoot cops. He wants to make sure you know that suburban kids can obviously -- without any fear whatsoever of being influenced by them -- play the most violent, gory video games and never, ever commit the crimes they see in them.

Wait...why are we having these hearings again? I thought they just said that kids are all influenced by the video games they play?

This is ridiculous. These people are assinine, and Stewart's quote that Congress is filled with insane jackasses is absolutely dead correct. These people have no right to say one word against a medium that they so proudly display an astounding ignorance of.

Not only that, but they only seem to have one game they like to hold up as the example for all video games that have ever been made; to them, every game is Grand Theft Auto or Postal. This would be analogous to saying that every movie is Faces of Death, and because that movie is out there we need to have a Congressional hearing about movies and how our young people aren't being protected from them. There is a world of video games out there of which the Grand Theft Autos make up a very small portion. But they refuse to get off of the Grand Theft Auto train because they are crusaders on a mission that lacks all common sense.

If you're reading this and you live in the states that these Congressmen represent, you owe it to your own intelligence to write to them and tell them to get out of office and let someone with at least one living brain cell do their job. These are the people trying to tell you what's best for you and your kids. These are the people who say that you as a parent aren't capable of making your own informed decisions on what your child should and shouldn't be exposed to. These are the people who are making our laws.

Don't let these ignorant jackasses tell you what you're supposed to think, especially when they don't even know anything about what it is they're trying to legislate.

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Gaming and Girls

A couple of things. First, Richard Cobbett has written a side-splitting article that will teach anyone how to write the perfect article about women and video games. If you aren't aware, the consummate article about women in video games is one of the most popular cliches in gaming journalism, and I can't say that I haven't committed some of those cliches myself when I was in gaming journalism. I believe the subject of women who play video games, why they do, and what they look for in a video game as opposed to men is still an interesting subject, but it's very difficult to write about it without reducing it to a page of tired and rehashed bullet points that include Lara Croft, men playing a female avatar for a day in an MMORPG, and how women -- as if we're one amorphous blob of conformity -- want heavy social interaction in their games. Richard Cobbett highlights all of these in his great satirical article.

Recently I was approached by a friend at GameSpy that I used to work with; he and I had talked in the past about a good regular column about gaming and women in games done right, and he recently asked me if I was interested in doing it and if I'd do a sample article for them. To be honest, I've been struggling with writing something that doesn't fit the cliches. I'm still trying to decide what kind of article would fit into such a column that I'd be happy with writing. My feeling is that there's value in an article that discusses video games from a woman's perspective. I do believe that while all women are different -- as Hellchick I, along with Stevie "Killcreek" Case and a few others, have been the token female first-person shooter gamer examples of women who don't fit the assumption of what women want out of video games -- there are some very interesting sociological areas of discussion having to do with gender and video games. How to explore these in a regular column without being a qualified sociologist myself is the trick; I don't want to just write a regular column about what games I'm currently playing.

The other thing I wanted to mention is the cool gaming bracelet featured in the picture above. A friend at work saw this charm bracelet featured on Girlz Gaming House -- the charms are weapons from Quake 4, the game we made at Raven. A bunch of us loved it. It turns out that the web site was having a contest and these were the prizes, so I entered, and apparently a couple of other colleagues did, too. And the shameful thing is that I pulled out all the stops -- I namedropped like a shameless hussy, including "Hellchick" and "Raven Software" and "We made Quake 4" in my contest entry.

The guy running the site wrote all three of us from Raven who entered and said that he'd be happy to just send us some bracelets. We got them the other day and they're fantastic! I'm planning to put mine proudly on my purse.

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Where Is Gaming's Frank Zappa?

There's this great page on PBS.org called "Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked". If you haven't read it, take a look and you might be surprised at what you read if you're not a gamer. It's nice to see an outlet generally recognized as intelligent and educational as PBS is stand up for the industry I work in when so many people want to tear it down. The article debunks the theories that youth aggression, violence, and desensitivity to violence increases by playing games, and even the myth that video games are aimed mainly at children (that hasn't been the case because those of us in our late 20's to 30's have grown up with gaming and are the primary audience that's introducing the younger generation to games).CBSNews.org recently ran an article titled "Where Is Our Frank Zappa?" The bulk of the article is really just the transcript of Zappa's hearings in the 1980's with Congress in regards to the PMRC (Parent's Music Resource Center). It's definitely worth reading since many of the issues can indeed be applied to games. But the article never answers the question is poses.

And it's a really good question. Why don't we have a Frank Zappa for the games industry? Someone in a forum I read speculated that the reason we don't have one is the age difference between music and video games. Zappa was in his 40s when he went before Congress. He was a seasoned veteran of the music industry. There was history and foundation there for him to work off of. But video games are only a couple of decades old, and that's if you include the harmless roots video games like Pac-Man and Pong. But the real history of video games as controversial mechanisms for fostering youth violence started with DOOM in the late 1990's. And this forum poster speculated that if you normalize the two histories, our Frank Zappa is probably a 26 year old without any clout to weild before Congress yet. It's a good theory and probably has merit. But I have another theory. I think it's because we lack a diverse enough gaming portfolio yet that we can use to defend games as a valid medium of expression. Music is art, and no one at this point can really argue otherwise. And controversy in art is somewhat easily defendable because it's part of what makes art what it is. But are games art? Not everyone thinks so, and game developers themselves don't completely agree on the answer. Within genres like rock and rap in music you can often find great examples to hold up that make the Moral Minority quiet down when you tell them, look, see? There's no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Movies have the same defense strategy -- if you want to defend the issue of violence having a rightful place in all movies, then when people complain about Pulp Fiction you hold up Saving Private Ryan. It's the defense strategy that says something controversial is valid within an entire medium as long as the medium has plenty of "valid" uses of it. But games lack that when it comes to the pivotal issue of violence. It's hard to defend a game like Grand Theft Auto when we don't have anything else to hold up alongside it. We have no Saving Private Ryan in video games, no game that uses violence to show how horrible realistic violence really is.

I wish such a game existed. I wish a game developer would make a game that made a point of using what games do that no other medium does -- forcing the player to make decisions and experience the consequences -- and tie it into the issue of violence in such a way that we could make the player feel the negative consequences of actions that result in the realistic violence that we're capable of rendering in today's game engines. I don't wish this game existed because I have a problem with violence in games and want to attach morality to it -- I don't. (Hey, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy running around in Grand Theft Auto beating up innocent people and stealing their cars. It isn't like I'm ever going to do that in real life, so why not enjoy doing it in a game?)

I wish it existed because it would force a discussion about broad-sweeping legislation of games that currently completely ignores any evaluation of the game content itself. We're on the verge of government legislating against any video game that contains material considered "violent" or "adult" based solely on the "M" rating on the box, and legislating it in ways that the movie and music industries have never seen, in ways that completely sidestep any discussion about whether or not the content in question provides discussion or educational value. Why? Because we currently don't have any games in which the violent or adult content actually does provide any value for discussion or education.

And we're doing all of this legislating because people are afraid of what they don't know anything about. Parents, the ESRB rating on the game box gives you just as much information about the game, if not more, than the movie rating gives you about the movie in its preview. If you're capable of making an informed decision about movies based on their rating without the government's help, then why aren't you capable of making the same decision about the games your child plays?

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