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On Games, Violence & Censorship

True to form, Congress has reacted to the recent horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a moral panic, spearheaded by Senator Jay Rockefeller, seeking to blame video games for the massacre.

I worry that we game developers shoot ourselves in the collective foot (pun intended) when we engage would-be government censors on their own terms. Our argument, "You can't prove a causal link between our art and our audience's behavior, so we're safe!" essentially invites censorship as soon as such a link can be established.

Censors almost always justify their bans on the basis of public safety, stability, harmony, etc. The idea behind a free society with a free press is that we sacrifice those conveniences for the sake of individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is, we believe that the free flow of information, the ability to discuss ideas (and to disagree) is better than any tyranny, no matter how benevolent.

Even though a work of art cannot directly cause behavior, certainly it can promote an idea. For example, reading the Bible doesn't make one a Christian; an individual bears the full responsibility of choosing whether or not to be a Christian, even in countries where the Bible is against the law.

While I am opposed to censorship in all its forms, I would also advocate for any artist to maintain a mature awareness of the ideas and values promoted by his or her work.

My own game, Elk Murder, uses humor and cognitive dissonance to convey an anti-hunting message. Gameplay-wise, it's an arcade-style shooting gallery replete with all the zoom animations, flashing lights, and floating digits gamers have grown accustomed to over the years. The surrounding narrative, however (particularly the deliberate substitution of the word "murder" for "hunting" throughout) continually reminds the player of the darker elements behind the game's commonly-accepted overt premise.

Free (ad-supported) versions are now available for iOS devices (in the iTunes Store) and Android 2.2+ devices (in the Google Play Store and Amazon App Store).

Rather than try to convince gamers to take a sudden, about-face interest in non-violent games, I believe we as developers can accomplish more with respect to unmasking the violent aspect of games through deconstruction and reduction to absurdity.


Elk Murder for iOS updated!

Check out the latest version of Elk Murder iOS, now available at your favorite price: GRATIS!

As far as we know, it runs great on the latest iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

Elk Murder v.2.2 may be obtained for free in the Apple Store.


Super Elk Murder 2012 for iOS v.2.2 released!

Be sure to download the latest version of Super Elk Murder 2012 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch!

As with all of our previous updates, we've not only further enhanced/optimized our own code, but also have taken advantage of some significant recent improvements to Adobe's AIR mobile platform.

Version 2.2 of Super Elk Murder 2012 can be found in the Apple Store: