Can videogames ever be taken seriously?
Ubisoft, the third largest multi-platform publisher announced Feb. 7 that they will release the third game in the “Call of Juarez” series, developed by Techland. The latest entry, “Call of Juarez: The Cartel,” allows the gamer, as the press release says, to “embark on a bloody road trip from Los Angeles to Juárez, Mexico, immersing yourself in a gritty plot with interesting characters and a wide variety of game play options.”
Very little, aside from a vague press release and few screenshots (which really look more like concept art) has even been released on the game. However, just the idea of this game seems to be an affront to everyone here, including the media, which has lumped the game in with the flash/app store game, “Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration.” Fox News Latino even interviewed UTEP’s professor of political science, Kathleen Staudt, who said that this game is the last thing citizens of Mexico need.
But when movies or television shows are made about this topic, we herald them. But that’s because they are movies and this is a game, right? Games are for kids, right?
Take movies like “No Country for Old Men” or “Kill Bill” (either volume), both of which have multiple characters get shot to death in our own wondrous city. “No Country for Old Men” has one of its major characters shot to death in the doorway of his hotel room and an innocent woman killed in the pool. “Kill Bill” includes a church filled with people who get assassinated and an injured pregnant woman who barely escapes. She gets to go to a hospital in El Paso…where she is in a coma and gets raped repeatedly during her stay.
Luckily, they do not actually show any of this on screen, they usually just cut to the carnage after it is done. That is much better than having a game that has you shoot a group of computer-generated pixels to death. I mean, you see that entire pixel-on-pixel carnage and that is something I don’t think anyone could probably take. Especially the children since this might just be the first time anyone hears about violence in Juárez. The very same children that are probably also not 17 yet, which means they cannot actually get the (most-likely)mature-rated game…unless their parents buy it for them (because obviously a game called “Call of Juárez: The Cartel” with a man holding a gun on the cover won’t set off any warning signs at all), they have some type of credit/debit card (which means they are probably 17 already), or they use their parents’ credit card (which means playing a violent videogame is probably the least of their problems).
If people are worried that adults playing this game might get the wrong idea about Juárez, I’m relatively sure that most people that do not live close to the border already have the wrong idea about Juárez. Every day, the news brings stories about the real people who are murdered over there and the real violence. Complaining about a videogame demonizing a group of people that the local and national news have already done a pretty good job of demonizing is utterly idiotic.
All anyone is doing is continuing to demonize videogames (including The El Paso Times) in their own special half-ass way, basing entire articles on a tiny press release.
After saying all this, do I think this game is in poor taste? Absolutely, this will be an epic PR nightmare for Ubisoft. I’m probably dumb to expect a game that could represent the violence in a sensitive way. But, hey, we could hope, right? That is the only way the medium will ever be taken seriously.
Editor’s note: This column was previously published on The Prospector on February 15, 2011.