Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luckily, German already has a fifteen-syllable word for "feelings of dismay and frustration felt after ill-conceived PR fiasco"

In Germany, an organization called Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden apparently had a disappointing turnout for a recent event encouraging people to bring in and throw away their violent video games, presumably to be destroyed. Germany, which has historically censored video games to a greater degree than most Western countries, has seen a burst of political hostility to video games in recent months (previously referenced in this post) due to real-life violence that has been blamed on them.

Since this is an article involving both Germany and the public ritual disposal of disapproved cultural artifacts, it's traditional to offer some dire warning about burning books, or the Martin Niemoller quote about not speaking out when they came for the trade unionists, or what have you, but lets skip the preliminaries and cut to the chase. So, in that spirit, do you know who else didn’t enjoy playing video games? Hitler. Admittedly, that’s because they didn’t exist at the time, what with the difficulties faced by the industry back when computers weighed several tons and the installed base was limited to military cryptographers, but it's not as if reductio ad Hitlerum arguments need to actually make sense.

I don't know if the fizzling of this event has any larger meaning, but I find it heartening. It wasn't all that long ago that American events dedicated to the public destruction of heavy metal albums, Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia, and other items that people associated with Satanism and the occult actually drew crowds. You don't hear much today about the state of gibbering pants-wetting hysteria over the Satanic Cultist, Child Abduction, Ritual Abuse, Human Infant Sacrifice, and Socially Marginalized Low-Status Young Male Weirdo Menace that gripped much of the United States in the 1980s, but it wascertainly a force at the time. (It was sort of like the collective national equivalent of spending a brief stint in the Church of Scientology or taking prescription antibiotics for what people used to call a "loathsome disease": it's briefly the most important thing in your life, and then you never, ever speak of it again.) Thus, the disappointing turnout seems like at least potentially a good sign.

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