Battlefield Hardline and Objectivity


The events that took place in Ferguson, Missouri are a tragedy. However, it’s something i’ve made no mention of here because it’s simply not my place as a game blogger to try to try and educate, inform or persuade you on social matters. While I have made mention of my political standings before now, it’s always in the context of whatever game or movie or whatever I was talking about at any given time. For example, part of why I like Neill Blomkamp as a director so much is his clear leftist political views, and one of the reasons I cannot get much into the “Call of Duty” games due to their political and philosophical ties to right-wing militarism. But the fact is, as the events of Ferguson have not been the basses of a Movie, Game, TV show or Comic, i’ve had no reason to talk about it. Until now.
Foe those who don’t know, on August 9th, 2014 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson. While some say Michael Brown recently commuted a robbery, eyewitness accounts say he was shot from behind, with his hands up and I believe on his knees. The Autopsy report cane be found here: The Michael Brown Autopsy Report. When residents of the area started a protest to end racially biased police brutality, the response from Ferguson police looked more like a military invasion that a police procedure.
So what does have to do with games? Well, around the time that this was all happening the creators of of the “Battlefield” franchise announced their new game: Hardline. Unlike previous installments, this game wouldn’t focus on modern war but instead “Urban Warfare” You play as a police offices (maybe more than one, details at the time of writing are still a little unclear) and you will still shoot your way through waves of bad guys.
At first I ignored the game by not doing any trailer reviews for it because I found this choose objectionable and didn’t want to give the game any attention. But then I watched the 12 minuets of single played and I found myself liking a few of the games mechanics. For example, I like how you have to scope out enemies like in “Far Cry 3” I like the “Freeze” mechanic and how it can be used to stall enemies. I like how arresting targets instead of killing them can lead to rewards and I like how many non-lethal options there were. After watching the game play video I found myself thinking that the game looks very well made. And I still will not spend my money on it.
Now we’ve gotten to the point: due to my personal political and philosophical views I cannot sport a game were a police officer guns down people with a fully-automatic assault rifle. And to even suggest otherwise to say that I should give you a dishonest review. The same can be said for every gamer or movie reviewer, and really, this goes for everyone. And i’m sure i’m not going to be alone here either. There were many, many people who have been effected by the militarization of the police, and i’m sure some of them are going to be gamers. While i’m sure the game wasn’t trying to upset these people, the fact is is that this is too real for too many people, so how could they not be bothered by it?
If a game or movie takes a point of view you find objectionable it will have a negative effect on how you view that that game or movie. For example: part of why I like the Half-life games so much is that almost every character is a PhD recipient and I love science and have more respect for scientists than just about anyone on the planet. On the flip side of this, movies like “I Origin” and “Transcendence” I have no interest in due to the fact that they both aim to demonize science and scientific advancements. For a more extreme example of this: even though “Birth of a Nation” is held as the birth of modern American cinema, can you honestly say you would expect any black audiences to find the film agreeable? Even if they were cinephiles with an interest of this history of the medium?
The fact is, yes, objectivity has a place. Good sound design is good sound design wither or not I like the content of what i’m hearing. Good level design is good level design, but if that good level design is in the service of making the player do actors they have a moral objection to, it will still end up coloring the game negatively. It is the job of a review to tell you one thing: did I find this game/movie/comic to be worth the time and money I spent on it and why. We are not here to hide our opinions, we are not here to cater to your idea of a good game. That is up to you. I disagree with a lot of the reviewers I watch but I watch them because they bring something interring to the conversations. But when i’m watching or reading a review to see if something is worth my money, I look to reviewers I seem to agree with. It is our jobs to be honest, that’s it. Whether you agree with us or not or how much stock you put into out options doesn’t matter. To say other wise, to even suggest a review shouldn’t include something in their review you disagree with is to say that they should give you a dishonest (and therefore meaningless) assessment of the work in question. We all have our biases and triggers that make us like certain things more and that make us dislike others. And that’s okay.

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2 responses to “Battlefield Hardline and Objectivity

  1. I agree completely. I couldn’t believe the fuss a while back over the GTA V review on GameSpot – and all just because the female reviewer mentioned she found some of the gender politics in the game questionable. From that people inferred that she had lowered the score of the review to a devastatingly low 9.5 😛 It is totally absurd, the idea that reviewers are supposed to be these objective, apolitical, bias-free individuals.

    I think a good reviewer should try and be frank about their own tastes, biases and so on when talking about a game, so they aren’t trying to write a review with some imaginary “average gamer” image constantly in mind. As you said, Birth of a Nation is a great example of a film that means completely different things to different people depending on what angle you come at it from. In the case of a review, what’s important is offering your own opinion – “I’m not a strategy game so I might not like this as much as a fan of a genre”, “I didn’t like the gender politics in this but your mileage may vary”, and so on. The best way is just to be upfront.

    I should mention this hilarious piece from another blog (not my own), you might enjoy it. It tries to imagine what an objective gaming media would look like. I keep coming back to it, it’s really funny. http://evilasahobby.com/2014/10/02/the-unbiased-games-journalist-a-fiction/

    Like

    • thanks for sharing that, it was a fun read. also, it’s funny that you mentioned Gamespots GTA 5 review, as that was one of the most major factors in making me want to pursue game journalism as a career. anyways, thanks for your feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

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