by drayfish, last updated 28 Jul 2012 06:32
Colin Moriarty: the Videogame World's Chicken Little
I just discovered the most brilliant satirical article. It's by this comedian, Colin Moriarty, who is pretending to be a games reviewer. He says all this amazing nonsense about how games should only be considered 'Art' if no one bothers to critically analyse them, then he wails about 'political correctness' destroying discourse, finally pleading with developers not to be responsible for the work that they produce.1
It's – brilliant.
A perfect piece of self-reflexively ironic commentary. But the best part is, Moriarty himself plays the idiot. He actually makes you believe that as a gaming 'journalist', he could really voice such contradictory statements without realising how reductive they are, and how damaging to the validity of his own profession. It's a kind of Sacha Baron Cohen style comedy – except here Moriarty is playing the 'Borat' of dogmatic douche bags.
And right from the start he lets you know it's a joke, because this is Colin Moriarty. This is the same guy who only a couple of months back, was insulting the Mass Effect fans for being 'entitled whiners'… The critic who declared players had no right to complain about the games they were lucky enough to be given, is now complaining about the kind of games he is being given. Someone who belittled others as 'entitled whiners', is now 'whining' about how he is 'entitled' to whatever games he wants.
It's patently, wonderfully idiotic. It's genius parody.
See, Moriarty pretends to argue that all videogames are currently being 'censored' by a liberal media that panders to the complaints of 'politically correct' nay-sayers, and he offers three examples of games that he thinks have had their Artistic integrity stifled by the whims of morally-indignant 'vocal minorities'. Because, as he says:
'Even the most mundane and inconsequential something can send a person into a tizzy.'
And what are these inconsequential, 'tizzy'-inducing 'somethings'?
Just the small stuff: rape; violating the sanctity of people's religious beliefs; and graphically trivialising contemporary military conflict where recently-deceased soldiers gave their lives.
Moriarty cites the upcoming reboot of Tomb Raider (which had pre-release footage that showed Lara Croft being threatened with rape); the game Smite (which offers unflattering depictions of Hindu Gods maiming and slaughtering); and Six Days in Fallujah, a now defunct FPS that intended to painstakingly recreate the real-world events of the bloody insurgency in Fallujah). And in each case, he opines, voices of dissent have irreparably damaged each text, ruining their ability to communicate anything of worth.
But of course, none of this is accurate. Both Tomb Raider and Smite are each going ahead without any changes at all; and the issue with the rape threatened in the Tomb Raider trailer had nothing to do with arguing that sexual violence should never be depicted in games. It was about calling publishers to account for using it – cynically – as a means through which to get the player to sympathise with the protagonist by disempowering her - because players might not be interested in playing a strong female character unless she is first beaten down and violated, a weakened damsel in distress to be rescued from predatory men.2
So Moriarty pretends not to comprehend the nuance, wanting to vent to the world as if only he can see the truth behind the facade. He's playing the Glenn Beck of the video-game world: ranting that he can save us all if only we'll listen. 'Please, won't somebody stop thinking of the children?!'
It's all indignant fear-mongering aping outrage as a flimsy pretence for purpose. An infinite regression of gobbledygook, whipped into an angry soufflé.
Maybe he does push the joke to its extreme when he criticises war veterans – you know, the part where he accuses them of getting the game Six Days in Fallujah cancelled by Konami – but that's what great comedians do. They push boundaries.
I mean, everyone knows that Six Days in Fallujah was almost certainly cancelled because of projected sales figures – not because of any outcry by 'vocal minorities' – but Moriarty is just pretending to condemn soldiers (people who have actually served in armed conflict and who fought bravely for their country) for expressing concern that someone might be trying to trivialise their pain for profit.
You can hear it in phrasing he uses:
'Instead of letting the market dictate whether we collectively wanted the game, Konami let a few loud people tell us that because people died in Iraq, we couldn’t have this game. Never mind that we have hundreds of games about World War II – a war in which some 65 million people died – anything to do with Iraq should be censored. Why, because it just happened?'
I mean, he has to be joking. Belittling soldiers for expressing concern that their bravery and sacrifice might get trivialised by a piece of commercial entertainment? Equating humane pleas for respect and decorum with Orwellian 'censorship'? Actually calling heroes of war complainers with 'hurt feelings'? All because he wants to rack up a kill shot score on his sofa?
I mean, the level of parody at work here is masterful.
Could you imagine if someone actually did believe such things and expressed them in the world-wide media? That person would be a complete jackass.
That's what such a person would be.
A total f* *king jackass.
With no redeeming social value at all.
So no, I think what we are actually seeing here from Moriarty is some deep Andy Kaufman-style commitment. This is unfiltered performance art, and I for one admire it.
Just look at all the 'Political Correctness' clichés he uses. We get the predictably un-contextualised Benjamin Franklin quotes about 'free speech'; the 'Thought Police' get their vague obligatory mention. He even works himself up into a neurotic tantrum fuelled by a pretence of victimhood: 'I know plenty of fire-fighters and stuff but I don't stop nobody saying things about 9/11!!!' It's a perfect satire of all those self-involved paranoiacs with persecution complexes that think the PC bogeymen are always out to spoil their fun.
And the way he reduces everything down to a petulant either/or scenario: Art is not there to be critiqued, you either buy it or don't; love it or shut up. Watch the way he tries to use Commercial Darwinism to rescue us from the burden of thinking for ourselves. It's so wilfully ignorant, a false dichotomy to shut down any further discussion:
'Should we succumb to the plight of political correctness and let it ruin the creativity of our industry like it’s corrupted so many other artistic avenues? Or should we stand up and say “anything goes” and encourage the creative minds that give us the games we love to push the envelope, social consequences be damned?'
This is the kind of infantile ultimatum popular in all rhetorically specious debate: 'Well if you don't agree that torture is acceptable then you support the terrorists'; 'If you eat meat than you can't complain about animal cruelty'; 'If you laughed at Leno then you must hate Dave'; Pepsi versus Coke; Jacob versus Edward; ninja versus robot.
Indeed, his whole 'Let the market decide' screed is pure comedic gold. Because money – and what people are willing to pay for – has always been the best way to decide what has cultural worth, right? That's why Transformers remains the most important touchstone in cinematic history; why Twilight is considered the finest piece of literature to have ever elevated the written word; why Justin Bieber remains society's finest composer; why Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. …As if we're actually meant to believe that he's never heard of the pornography industry and how profitable it is.
What I really admire, though, is how committed he is to the act. He's willing to appear every bit like a toddler stamping his feet and railing incoherently about how people want to make him feel bad for enjoying stuff – because ultimately, it's only funny if people really think that he's serious. If he blinks, if he lets his eye twitch and give it all away – 'Yep, that's right, I'm just playing at being the raving paranoiac' – then the whole effect will be ruined.
And he's more imaginative than that. Instead he'll show us how tedious such ill-informed opinion can appear, sacrifice himself to contempt and scorn so that we won't be tempted to fall into the same traps ourselves.
Because remember, he is a part of the gaming press – his employers have given him a platform to claim that the best way to protect the validity of videogames is to reduce them to the level of base product.
Could you imagine if his employers actually did allow him to say such things? To genuinely sully videogames (which have always struggled for legitimacy in a world that too often dismisses them as juvenile distraction) in such an ugly way? Could you imagine if they helped directly feed into such a vile portrait of contemporary gamers?
There's no way they would let him do that. No way at all. Because then they too would be shamelessly pandering to the lowest common denominator, attempting to stir up a controversy that debased the very culture they are supposed to promote.
And IGN Playstation would never be that irresponsible.3
Of course not.
No, it makes much more sense to say that Colin Moriarty is one of the greatest satirical performance-artist the world has ever seen, and IGN Playstation is his wise and discerning patron. They are both using Art to defend Art; exposing the illogic of those witless zealots who would cry 'censorship' in the midst of a pitiful tantrum; willing to present an ironic caricature of a squalling child who believes that the mummies and daddies of 'political correctness' are threatening to take away his toys.
Either that or Moriarty is an irresponsible, delusional clown who's an insult to his profession and should immediately be fired.
You know, one of the two.
And I know which one I'm betting on.