Videogames in other Media Ep. 5: Law And Order

Yeah I know, it’s a low-hanging fruit. But on the other hand, can you blame me? It’s a perfect example of mindless repetition of outdated gamer stereotypes.

It’s easy to list all the problems with this depiction of gamers. But I’m going to re-frame this and think only about the salvageable parts for a second. It’s noteworthy that gaming is depicted as something that can be enjoyed by men and women. Both seem to be adults too, so at least they avoid the male teenager cliché. Also, let us not discard that gaming is depicted as a vaguely social thing thing. It’s not a lonely guy sitting in his basement. It’s actually two people sharing a passion. They mention details about going to tournaments and game releases at least.

And to be fair, some parts of the fake game hit home. Sadly, too many traditional games still can’t get around the midriff armor waring amazons fighting fantasy daemons cliché. In this regard, Law and Order scores a point.

But that’s pretty much it. While they mention some social aspects of gaming, generally the gamers are represented as utterly disgusting, unhealthy and emotionally challenged subhumans. Some of the details are really just here to underscore the outdated cliché without making much sense. How can the guy not have sex since 6 months if he is living in a relationship? Doesn’t matter. This is not supposed to be a believable character in the first place

What a game-experienced person notices right away is how horribly disfigured the fictitious game is that they are playing. First of all, most games almost consequently avoid any depiction of children. And it’s especially to avoid any uncomfortable scenes like the one in the show. Actually, that’s something they mentioned in one of the Fable 2 developer diaries. In Fallout 3 there are children but the game mechanics don’t allow you to hurt them in any way. Of course, that didn’t stop the writes to put in a virtual child hanging off the cliff. After all, there is a ham-fisted irony we they need to drive home – the gamers care more about their virtual child than their real child. Deep.

And so the virtual child goes beyond simply wrong to embarrassing and finally to simply bizarre. “Kaleb is going to be ok, he’s got extra lives”. What kind of function does the child have in this game? Is it supposed to be a persistent element? Like a virtual pet? Awkward… And why does the woman shout at the screen “Hang on Kaleb. Mommy is coming”? Yes, gamers often get emotionally involved in game worlds but this is ridiculous!

And the general idea of the game doesn’t make sense either. They are supposed to be MMORPG addicts I guess (got that Internet / Gaming mix-up at the end. Classic). Yet the game depicted is clearly a console couch co-op experience. What you see on the screen is looking more like a side-scrolling Beat ‘Em Up. Things really get batshit crazy when they mention “XBox tournament hosted out of South Korea”. That’s them just randomly throwing words together that sound scary for people who don’t know a thing about games – primarily the writers themselves I suppose.

On the other hand, I’m feeling bad about complaining about such details. Just the few scenes generally show signs of a terminal case of creative bankruptcy. I love how bizarrely submissive the two gamers react to two strangers entering their apartment and turning off their TV. The cops don’t even introduce themselves. It’s like nobody involved in the show even cares anymore. “Just get on with it”. And adding Capgras delusion into the mix is Jumping the Sharp with a back-flip. And it’s not even their idea either. I’m guessing somebody read The Echo Maker in their free time. This is just desperate.

So it’s not something to get all excited about. The show seems to have much more significant problems. Just sit back and enjoy the Internet digest this horrible piece of writing into delicious memes. “He had the cutest avatar”? Come on, it’s almost too easy.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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