Games

Why We Can't All Just Get Along

The parallels between those taking sides in the battle over the merit of Grand Theft Auto and the battle over the merit of blogs as journalistic devices are striking.

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto IV is, at this point, an utter phenomenon, not just a gaming entity but a media entity that is currently, in the few days following its release, destroying every other form of entertainment in terms of popularity, interest, and commentary. On one hand, we have the side of 99% of the gamers who have bought it: basically, that it's the best damn thing since San Andreas came out. Then, there are those who are utterly and unequivocally against its release, suggesting that it should be locked behind counters or banned outright. There is very little in-between to be found, which makes for a dearth of common ground from which intelligent discussion of the merits and flaws in the game can appear.

Buzz vs. Will, Round 1...FIGHT
(Image courtesy of AOL Fanhouse)

Interestingly, this particular split is happening just as another such split is popping up and threatening to consume the media: blogs vs. the mainstream (read: print) media. It's a split that had been brewing for some time, but it all seems to have come to a head now that Buzz Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights himself, relentlessly browbeat Deadspin.com progenitor Will Leitch all over Bob Costas' HBO show the other night. The divide is framed as such: those who have spent their life cutting their teeth on print media can't stand the brash, brazenly amateur tone favored by the majority of blogs (and have no trouble saying so via endlessly trotting out the tired "living in their moms' basements" line), and blogs are dismissing those criticisms as baseless and completely without merit (often by indulging in exactly the sort of bottom-feeding that the "old guard" is criticizing). Much like the split inspired by Grand Theft Auto, sanity can only be found somewhere in between those two arguments, but let's face it: arguments that try to reconcile two sides of a very tall fence are a) difficult to present, and b) bound to be slammed to death by both sides of that fence.

Something that Leitch said before he got mauled Tuesday night was striking, however, in that it sheds some light on both of these debates. In responding to charges of the lack of accountability of blogs in general, Leitch mentioned that "There are many things that we might say in an e-mail or might say in a comment section...that we would not say in real life." One could presume that he would expand that to blog posts as well. The point is that the anonymity afforded to us by the internet allows us a sort of freedom to speak without consequence; the web allows people, who would never dream of acting this way in any sort of "real life" venue, the freedom to be racist, sexist, and just plain mean in a place where the ultimate punishment is merely to be banned or ignored.

Such freedom comes with a price, and the price that we pay for that freedom is to be presented with a series of difficult decisions every time we indulge in this new sort of journalism. Specifically, we are forced to either accept that with most of the new voices we choose to read there may well be some modicum of disagreeable behavior attached, or we severely limit the scope of the points of view that we allow ourselves to partake in. There are a lot of merits to the most popular sports and gaming blogs on the internet, but by patronizing a Kotaku or a Deadspin, even if we choose to ignore those articles that we find troubling, we are passively supporting a community that contains commenters (and sometimes writers) who espouse sexist, racist, and even classist ideals.

I tend to find that there are enough good bits to many of these blogs and websites, especially the ones mentioned, to more than mitigate the detriment that certain users and attitudes in the communities built by them happen to have. Still, the mere fact that the dross can be published -- and, often, celebrated -- understandably scares the hell out of people who have been protected by editors for their entire working lives.

In examining the parallel divide presented by Grand Theft Auto, we find that we are faced with many of the same sorts of decisions. There are, obviously, many positives to be gleaned from the Grand Theft Auto experience, not least of which is the ability to explore something new, a fully-realized world that you simply can't get to by hopping in your car and driving there. You can interact with the population however you like, you can drive pretty much whatever kind of car you want, and you can evoke new experience after new experience in a way that will far exceed anything else that $60 will buy you.

Still, in order to partake in this new, beautifully rendered world, you must accept that it will contain elements that are sexist, racist, and incredibly, unforgivably violent. You must also accept that in order to play the game as it is intended, you must in fact take part in many of the worst elements of this virtual world. What scares people about this particular mechanic is that it seems to confirm many of our worst fears about people and how they function in society; that, left to their own devices, people choose to be evil. Even this, however, is a jump in logic -- Grand Theft Auto actually rewards for much of the evil we choose to do as part of its world, so it's not necessarily an indictment or a window into much of anything other than what Rockstar developers assume we want out of a game. A medium that was once protected by the famous Nintendo Seal of Quality is no longer "safe", and this is a scary concept.

In both the Grand Theft Auto divide and the journalism divide, the fear is predominantly that of a generation used to functioning in a certain way, not ready to adapt to the new way. This group of people is battling against a new generation, largely unwilling to accept that anything could possibly be wrong with the way things are now developing.

Millions of people love pop music, despite the fact that much of it glamorizes hedonism and excess. No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood won Academy Awards despite the fact that the most memorable characters in both were morally reprehensible men. Many blogs will continue to cater to a largely *ist (and sometimes proud of it) constituency (where '*' could be 'sex', 'rac', or any of the other "ists", a designation which changes or disappears depending on the blog), and Grand Theft Auto, currently projected to be the biggest selling game of the year, is quite obviously here to stay. The thing is, despite the completely valid point that each of these things portrays and often glamorizes attitudes and ideas that, quite frankly, we should be trying to avoid, each of them also have merit, sometimes in ways that goes far beyond anything that preceded them in their respective mediums. The opposing sides will never agree on who's right and who's wrong; what we should strive for, however, is measured and intelligent discussion, and perhaps we can at least gain an understanding of and respect for viewpoints that don't necessarily agree with our own. From there...well, maybe we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.