How much responsibility should and does the industry take over its own content? Following a screening of Danny Ledonne's self-made Playing Columbine documentary
at the UK's GameCity event last week, Indiecade/Slamdance's Sam Roberts and consultant Margaret Robertson discussed cross-cultural reactions in a post Super Columbine RPG
Ledonne, who originally created Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
, which recreates the 1999 Columbine High School shootings near Littleton, Colorado, filmed 'Playing Columbine' as a self-referential documentary about the reactions to the game.
A moderator from the New Statesman magazine put a question to the two asking how the industry can be taken seriously if it refuses to acknowledge any form of responsibility over violent content and its effect on children.
Said former Edge magazine editor Robinson, "It's not so much a question of industry facing up to its responsibilities, there’s a much much more important question of the industry facing up to its capabilities, which is the thing that it’s truly reluctant to do."
"There’s a really fundamental difference in the British market to the U.S. market," she continued. "We accept now that we do have the BBFC, that they do moderate what we watch, that we have a level of effective censorship that we’ve decided to be comfortable with. We accept that there is a governmental responsibility to prevent this material from being given directly into the hands of children."
"Often," she confessed, "it’s quite odd talking to Americans, because it seems to make so much more sense from our perspective. It protects the industry so much, it’s so easy for us to answer these sorts of claims."
Roberts, who was at the center of the Super Columbine RPG
debate as a director of the Slamdance Guerilla Gamemaker when the game was banned from inclusion, and has since spoken out
about its removal, drew parallels to the recent film 'This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated'.
Roberts said the Motion Picture Association of America's "completely anonymous group of people that decides what content is appropriate for movies... shows you how much the industry, by self policing, uses that policing to serve their own financial ends."
"That is an abdication of responsibility," he continued, but added, "America is a very libertarian country. We really, really believe in limiting the role of government in our lives at every level... We would like to take that responsibility on each one of ourselves, but we then continually abdicate that responsibility by allowing our children to sit in front of TV every night for 6 hours watching whatever happens to be on."
"For me as an American," said Roberts, "it’s not actually the games industry’s responsibility to make sure that a child is not exposed to media that’s not appropriate for that child. It is the games industry’s responsibility to make contact that’s worthwhile to everyone."
"I think the games industry is afraid of being an artistic medium," he said, "because when you’re an artistic medium, then you have to acknowledge that you have cultural influence. You’re making a statement, that statement is injected into the cultural dialogue, it can be responded to, it can be disliked, and that gets in the way of commerce, and that’s scary to these people."
Concluded Robertson, "The minute you can say ‘we can be a force for good', you have to start addressing whether or not you can be a force for bad, and that’s the thing the games industry doesn’t want to go anywhere near."