Why Games Matter Blog - Games Don't Matter After Sandy Hook Tragedy
By Edward Smith | December 19, 2012 4:20 AM EST
I watched an interview last night with We Need to Talk about Kevin author Lionel Shriver, where she said that, following the Sandy Hook massacre, several newspapers had asked her if she'd write a column for them. But she'd had to decline every offer because she'd been totally humbled by the tragedy. It was too much, Shriver said, and there was nothing a mere best-selling author could say to change things.
That's precisely how I feel about Sandy Hook. As a game critic, I don't do proper news. There was a time a couple of months ago when everyone else in the office was crowded round a story about an explosion in Syria, while I was busy reviewing Carmageddon on the iPhone. That sums up my job - I feel as if I'm a capable enough writer, but also that I'm a child, playing with toys while the adults handle the real-world.
Games occupy a cultural space between films and LEGO, where there are interesting things to say about them, but only within certain boundaries. Games and game criticism is very self-contained, it only really deals with itself. It's writing wearing an anorak.
So when news of the Sandy Hook shooting broke, and my TweetDeck exploded with reports from the AP about how many people had been killed, there were also tweets about upcoming DLC packs, and people talking about cool t-shirts with Borderlands characters on them.
And that image of my Twitter feed, detailing how 20 children had been murdered while, at the same time, telling me that Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 would be coming out on PlayStation Vita, has stayed with me since Friday. It sums up, I think, a kind of uselessness among computer games that I've suspected for a long time.
When my parents used to snigger at games and tell me to get a life, I'd shrug it off as them not understanding what games are. Now, I'm beginning to think they might be right, and that mortgages, politics and marriage probably do matter a lot more than Starfox 3D.
I'm sure that, in the face of genuine tragedy, fashion, music and lifestyle writers feel similarly humbled, and that what they do doesn't really matter. In fact, I expect everybody who's heard about Sandy Hook feels that way.
But even when I hear that some people are blaming the shooting on the videogame Mass Effect, I don't feel like I should get involved. My job description says journalist, but since I write about computer games, I don't think I'm equipped to report on stories related to something that real.
My only feeling is that the people blaming Mass Effect are themselves so scared and numbed by Sandy Hook that they need something tangible to explain why it happened. I'm not angry with them, because they're just as confused as me. My honest reaction is to think that, like me, what they say doesn't really matter.
I'm going to stop here because 26 people are dead and I'm talking about computer games.
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