The perception of Digital Games and Mass Media in Germany and Australia_Jens SchroederPresentation Transcript
'Killer Games' VS 'We Will Fund Violence'
The Perception of Digital Games and Mass Media in Germany and Australia
Erfurt School Shooting: 'Killer Games' as one of the chief causes
Generally you wouldn't have a problem with funding violent games as long as they don't step over a certain line?
"No, no problem at all. And again: it goes back to working in a completely global market place. If that is what is selling, if that is what is takes to establish our companies and have them self-sufficient and build a franchise then that's the reality of the medium that we're working in. And we need to [let] game development know that we couldn't start to censor and impose cultural values" (King, 2007).
Game Discourses in Germany: 1980s – Early 1990s 1980s – Early 1990s
"[M]ass circulation of violent TV star wars games" which have a brutalising affect on young people and promoted the losing of inhibitions (Spiegel, 33/1981: 148).
"Absurd fantasies" (Spiegel, 19/1982a: 49) that "appealed to mankind's inner Hitler" (ibid.) caused kids "of all ages to stick to the colourful tube, stirring the 'joystick' lost in thought or with their tongues sticking out in excitement, an absent-minded people of videogamers" (ibid.: 32).
If these games were a symbol for Western civilisation, the "West and civilisation would rapidly head downhill" (Spiegel, 33/1981: 148).
Gamers as "deformed personalities" ( Herzberg, 1987: 49 ) who enjoyed "extremely inhuman" (Mayer, 1992: 47) fare with "fountains of blood" (ibid.) and "psychopath killers fuelling a climate of terror" (ibid.).
The US was portrayed as setting disastrous trends and as origin of warmongering games
The US' "intellectual mediocrity" (Schroth quoted by the Zeit, 17 June 1983: 30) which caused students to exchange their entire readings against videogames was "not an accidental flood" (ibid.) but "an active political and economic force, a blood relative of capitalism" (ibid.).
As a "consequence of the commercialisation" (Kraft, 1987: 39) of the media market, the easy-to-digest fare of digital games increasingly stood opposed to the "substantial fare of Kultur" (ibid.); contagious and infectious to higher forms of culture, it was essentially dispensable (ibid.).
Call for regulations: – In 1984 Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons put first game on Index – In 1985 Law for Protection of Young Persons in Public Places passed: Youths under the age of 16 now had to be accompanied by a legal guardian in order to play arcade games in public.
Discourses on digital games, independent of their content, were also embedded in a broader Kulturkritik about the impact of computers – games "were gateway drug into the computer world" (Spiegel, 50/1983: 177).
"A positive attitude towards the computer is much more uncommon amongst Germans than most other industrial nations. Only a quarter are sympathetic to the PCs" (Spiegel, 50/1983: 177).
People experienced "the intrusion of their every day life by computerisation as a nightmare" (Haller, 1987a: 106). Anyone who doubted these apocalyptic visions but believed in the machine was deemed "childish" and "naive" (Haller, 1987b: 120) as computers more often than not stood for an "impotence of reason" (ibid.).
In regard to digital games, a whole range of effects was assumed which basically took up and combined the arguments against computers: – social isolation – flight from reality and escapism – danger of addiction – a digitalisation and degeneration of mental activity
Consequence for the human mind: "digital brain rot" (Herzberg, 1987: 33). – Structural lack of fantasy inherent to binary coding merely caused automatisms on part of the players/ programmers (Haller, 1987b: 112) and relegated them to a mechanical way of reasoning – "The contempt [for computers] is more than just fear of technology. Already the computer's origin, similar to all technical innovations, is alien to art to begin with (...) [The] computer was built to save money and to be efficient, therefore it is the exact opposite of art" (Siemes, 1995: 57).
A spare-time activity for "the simple minded" (Spiegel, 33/1981: 150).
Games as subculture: "counterculture of religious proportions" (Haller, 1987: 106), "occult altar" (Zeit, 16 January 1984: 79), "ideal medium for a new subculture" (ibid.) with only a "small circle of initiates" (Schnibben, 1985: 65).
Fascination: Apocalyptic – and sometimes enthusiastic – amazement shaped the relationship to the new. Not just a subculture but a subculture 'of religious proportions' whose disciples offered their souls to a 'relic' of lifelessness.
Nobilitation: – utilising games as teaching aids, a medium capable of raising awareness for political processes (Fritz, 1988: 217) – creating a conscience for the psychological and literary backgrounds of digital games
Game Discourses in Germany: Early 1990s – 2002 Early 1990s – 2002
Process of normalisation, slow mainstream recognition, continuing nobilitation
Illegitimate medium for "kids and the child-minded" (Spiegel, 50/1994: 73).
"So far video games were hardly considered a refuge for ethics and decency. The technical perfection with which the disgusting details – perforated bowels and ripped off limbs – are conjured on the screen in close-ups is a novelty" (Spiegel, 26/1998: 70).
"... degenerated into isolated video freaks who have no friends" (Spiegel, 50/1994: 66).
"... boundaries of good taste were needlessly sacrificed on the altar of profits" (Lindner & Wink, 2002: 104) – and the US, rich in technology but poor in culture, was the high priest.
Game Discourses in Germany: 2002 – 2002 –
Erfurt School Shooting: Counter-Strike as the "downright source for [these] ideas"(Spiegel, 18/2002: 84).
"Game publishers are dirty dealers who make money with violence" (Bönte quoted by Stock, 2009: 47).
'Killer Games' were constructed, a ban was called for
Continuing process of normalisation – the hypothesis that newspaper coverage was overwhelmingly negative could not be sustained (Stock, 2009).
From a journalistic viewpoint the medium had not yet reached its maturity: – small amount of reporting – Simplistic portrayal of game players as 'freaks' and 'gamblers' – essentially, "'urchins' with whom one should not play" (Stock, 2009: 103).
Nobilitation: German Cultural Council: Games = Kultur
"... those cultural expressions which do not have a market yet (…) and do not appeal to the mass taste" (Schulz & Zimmermann, 2008: 19) and which were 'especially valuable', i.e. of high cultural or pedagogic value (Schulz, 2009: 9).
'Humanisation' of a new medium by enlisting national styles and traditions and tying it to a 'spiritual heritage' with the help of a cultural elite: "Generally, the integration of a medium into institutions of culture and education is an indicator of its successful control (…) If it is to find more social acceptance, it needs to further civilise itself" (Spieler, 2008: 23).
Game Discourses in Australia: Late 1970s – Early 1990s Late 1970s – Early 1990s
Australia was simply "hooked on Space Invaders" (Gray, 1980: 16).
Sydney's George Street, had "one of the highest concentrations of coin-operated games in the world" (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 August 1982: 14).
"Video games: you can be a hero in your own sitting room. Television games produce the ultimate armchair heroes. People can pretend to be submarine captains, spacemen, ace-pilots, racing car drivers, and much, much more – without leaving the comfort of their sitting rooms" (Sydney Morning Herald, 18 September 1981: 20).
In Australia, the "phenomenon [was] not restricted to children and adolescents" (Gray, 1980: 16) – Doctors were organising Space Invaders parties where guests "turned up in space-ace costumes and the music took second place to the high-pitched laser noises of the machines" (ibid.).
"This sort of thing is for the kids I pronounced. It won't get the better of me. I was wrong. After the fourth encounter I was hooked" (Gray, 1980: 16).
"... increasing numbers of sales to 20-somethings and 30-somethings. Adults account for nearly half of the sales of hand-held consoles" (Smith, 1992: 3).
Games as "inexpensive fun for the whole family" (Campbell, 1988: 21).
Sydney Morning Herald: Regular reviews from 1987 ("There will be something for everyone", Campbell, 1987: 10).
Violent games mainly addressed in terms of their potential for entertainment: – Silkworm – "a new game with substance, style and masses of firepower" (Campbell, 1989d: 18). An "excellent war game" and "immensely playable". In fact, it was "the best war game yet" (ibid.).
Ironic approach: – "Your Ninja dude battles through battalion of various martial arts heavies with series of grunts, strokes, parries, thrusts. When that's accomplished, he cuts a swathe through a few dozen more" (Casimir & Pottinger, 1992: 2).
No antimodern discourse which focused on the negative impact of computers and digital technology on society, culture and the human mind
"Australians, so the conventional wisdom goes, are 'technophiles'" (Bennett, Emmison, Frow, 1999: 58) who have always been "very eager to embrace the technological products of an urban capitalist economy"(Cunningham, 2000: 29). – "Atari says the local video games market is growing at an extraordinary rate of 100 to 150 per cent a year. The rapid adoption of video games by Australians seems to fit a traditional pattern. We have the second highest number per capita of fax machines in the world, and took to video cassette recorders faster than anyone else" (Sarno, 1991a: 5).
Arcades = "traps placed in the way of children going about their proper daily affairs" ( Melbourne Town Planning Appeals Tribunal quoted by van Moorst, 1981: 3). They were a "serious detriment to the younger members of the community" (ibid.) and caused "a great deal of trouble to the police and to the members of the community" (ibid.).
"Take the yo-yo. It was simple, cheap to use (…) Crikey, the yo-yo was fun (...) More than you can say for an ugly, expensive game of POWs and Blips which you've no chance of winning. Give all Space Invaders a devastating POW and let's have back a simple craze or two" (ibid.).
Foreign violence: "the unacceptable face of the silicon revolution" (Lusetich & Powell, 1986: 18).
Australian Violence: "A surge of green and gold patriotism is pulsing through my veins. Micro Forte, an all Australian company, has produced a computer game that is set to make a big splash in the international software market" (Campbell, 1987: 22).
Game Discourses in Australia: Early 1990s – Early 1990s –
Continuing concerns: – Moral Panic following the release of Night Trap – Introduction of a rating system – Perpetuation of familiar motives of escapism, addiction and violence
Not the same ramifications: A generational/ national conflict rather than a cultural conflict – Games as "foreign mindless matter" (the Senate Select Committee's report quoted by Larme, 2000: 45)
"Admit it: for all those nights spent rigid and dignified at the opera or ballet, or affecting cultural ennui at some new exhibition, real fun has always involved adrenaline, exuberance and noise. And killing your friends – or at least the illusion thereof" (Danielsen, 1993: 1).
"If you want me to stand up and deliver a monologue on why computer and video games are bad for kids, forget it. They're not – and bugger what Channel 10 news had to say the other night" (ibid.)
Fatal Fury: "Ridiculous, atrocious, laughable, risible, flawed and stupid; it is (for those under 17 or with room-temperature IQs), nonetheless, fantastic" (Camm, 1993b: 40).
"The only rule for home video games is to treat them for what they are: entertaining diversions not to be taken seriously. People who think otherwise really need their funny bones checked" (Camm, 1993a: 6).
Between mid-1996 and mid-2007 only 20 out of 7,334 digital games assessed by the OFLC were banned – 4 for violent content
Already in 1994/1995 19 per cent of females and 32.9 per cent of males were playing digital games (Bennett, Emmison, Frow, 1999: 45)
"Computer game play is now established as a major leisure activity of contemporary Australians. There is little reason to believe that the activity itself should be a cause for concern" (Aisbett & Durkin, 1999: 123).
Compared to 2007, software sales increased by 57 per cent while hardware sales surged by 43 per cent and accessory sales were up 68 per cent. "Sales figures for the past two years actually show that the industry has grown over 112 per cent since 2006" (Curry quoted by Hill, 23.07.2009).
"I think Australians just generally are more laid back. Across the board. So… I think that's just part of the Australian psyche and our nature. So… Yeah, I think it's just more a deep down sort of thing, you know our cultural background and past… Yeah, we're just not uptight people you know" (Deo. Interview, 2007).
Germany's Foundational Dynamics Kultur VS Zivilisation
Middle class intelligentsia of 18th century sought legitimation primarily in qualities which were opposed to the 'merely' civilised values of the nobility, namely intellectual, scientific or artistic accomplishments.
Ruling upper class inadequately imitated French courtly manners, which in the bourgeois sense 'accomplished' nothing – "distinctive behaviour was central to its self-image and self-justification" (Elias, 2000: 24).
"From their ranks essentially came the people on whose account Germany has been called the land of poets and thinkers. And from then concepts such as Bildung [education, formation, accumulation] and Kultur received their specifically German imprint and tenor" (ibid.: 15).
The concept of Kultur also mirrors the self-consciousness of a nation which had constantly to seek out and constitute its boundaries anew, in a political as well as spiritual sense, and again and again had to ask itself: 'What is really our identity?'" (ibid.: 7).
The source of pride of German nationalism lay beyond economics and politics but existed in "what was called precisely for this reason das rein Geistige (the purely spiritual), in books, scholarship, religion, art, philosophy, in the inner enrichment, the intellectual formation ( Bildung ) of the individual, primarily through the medium of books, in the personality" (Elias, 2000: 24).
Implied certain perception of aesthetics: "disgust for objects which impose enjoyment and a disgust for the crude, vulgar taste which reveals in this imposed enjoyment" (Bourdieu, 1984: 488).
Political liberalism, and the Enlightenment remained weak. Concept of the state remained authoritarian and illiberal: "The 'explosive potential of recent German social development' lay in the 'encounter and combination of rapid industrialisation and the inherited structures of the dynastic state of Prussia', an encounter that left little space for political and economic liberalism" (Herf, 1984: 6).
Kultur turned into an instrument of power used against other classes, letting it descend into an empty shell (Glaser, 2005: 28).
Bourdieu: culture = source of domination
Cultural, social, and symbolic resources serve to maintain and enhance position in social order.
These resources "become 'capital' when they function as 'a social relation of power',' that is, when they become objects of struggle as valued resources" (Swartz, 1997: 281).
High or 'restricted' culture as elements of social distinction because the instruments to decipher them are not commonly accessible.
The pieces of art which generate the greatest distinctive power are those which "most clearly attest the quality of the appropriation, and therefore to the quality of their owner" (Swartz, 1997: 281).
Cultural distinctions = social distinctions. Aversions to different lifestyles one of the strongest barriers between the classes.
Mass Culture on the other hand...
Australia's Foundational Dynamics Egalitarianisms
A distinctive national identity: a "'hard case', sceptical about the value of religion and of intellectual and cultural pursuits generally. He believes that Jack is not only as good as his master but, at least in principle, a good d eal better (...) He will stick to his mates through thick and thin" (Ward, 1966: 1-2).
Closely connected to the notion of the 'coming man', a reaction against the social snobbery the English middle-class exhibited against the colonials and amplified by Australia's foundation population
A "man of action, the 'Common Man', the adventurer ready to take up the burden of empire, the ordinary soldier at the outposts of empire, the settler civilising its fringes" (White, 1981: 78).
Flawed common-sense frame to make sense of one's national culture
An egalitarianism of manners – high standards of living = confident workers who found dignity and did not have to be humble before their 'betters' – "It is the way Australians blot out those differences when people meet face to face. They talk to each other as if they are equals and they will put down anyone claiming social superiority. It is the feel of Australian society that is so markedly egalitarian, not its social structure" (Hirst, 2002: 303). – White male workers were self-confident and there was no great difference in tastes and interests between working men and the rest of the male population.
Culture = Power?
A discourse of Australian nationhood which generally refused the kind of cultural panic associated with an anxiety of 'contamination' through the consumption of popular culture.
Mass cultures are "weakly differentiated, universal, ritually weak, and because nondifferentiated, relatively nonhierarchial" (DiMaggio in Bennett, Emmision, Frow, 1999: 259).
In Australia mass culture was embraced as a genuinely democratic and – thus specifically Australian – cultural practice: where it threatened German identity it confirmed Australian identity
Mass Culture in Germany Film Film
"In no other country of the world cinematography was so dramatically castigated as a 'danger to the people' and a symptom of a general demoralisation, then again [in no other country] well-meaning reformers and custodians of good taste thought so passionately about the taming and aesthetic elevation of the new medium following educated bourgeoisie principles as in Germany" (Kreimeier, 1992: 24).
"[I]f our age should not end as a saga of a hospitalised Kultur [we] tirelessly need to fight against any barbarism" (Pfemfert, 1978: 59). A "maelstrom of triviality threatens to swallow us" and our "soulless century (...) Nick Carter, the cinema and Berlin tenements: this trivial trinity belongs together. In view of these contemporary phenomena, it is difficult to dream of an advancement of Kultur " (ibid.: 59-61).
The "colossal spreading of the cinema" not only happened "on the expense of the theatre but also on the expense of literature. Visual pleasure, enhanced by the cinema, lowers the pleasures of reading" (Lux, 1978: 93).
"Art has nothing to do with pleasure. Art enriches the soul, pleasure merely glosses over its spiritual poverty" (Rathenau quoted by the Frankfurter Zeitung, 1978: 66).
"The masses are the natural enemy of thought" (Oesterheld, 1978: 99).
"While one, from the most diverse sides, either as mentor or as guardian, strove towards art for the public, it, by its own initiative, created a pleasure one can literally not interfere with. Anybody who antiseptically wants to sweep away this pest will find himself in smaller company everyday" (Heimann, 1978: 77).
"Should the people not really be mature enough yet, they need to be educated. A cause must never wallow in the simple instincts of the people – if it does, it becomes dangerous to public safety and needs to be fought" (Lemke quoted by Schorr, 1989: 65).
Autorenfilm: – The concept of the Autorenfilm first appeared in Wilhelmine film culture, as German cinema attempted to legitimise itself alongside other more established arts, in particular the theatre. – Important and profound break for the German film which helped to point out new perspectives for the medium and elevate it towards a national art – "The fact that the cinema used high literature to culturally legitimise itself demonstrates the idealistic quality of German Kultur " (Kaes, 1978: 11). – "It is as if in the films of the fantastic a taste elite had recognised itself in this art cinema with frisson, that very frisson then gave it the air of superiority to declare almost every other film to be banal, kitschy, and the result of opportunistic speculation" (Elsaesser, 2003: 66).
Mass Culture in Germany Radio Radio
"Broadcast was primarily understood as a cultural factor, as a bearer of the Kultur which emphatically rose above the banalities of politics and participated in something purely spiritual, almost religious" (Dussel, 2004: 51).
Radio became a "counter force to mass culture" (Maase, 197: 122).
Programme structure of all stations of the Weimar Republic: about 10 per cent informational presentations, in contrast to 30 per cent for entertainment and 60 per cent for educational broadcasts (Glaser & Koch, 2005: 50).
Structurally German broadcast was a state broadcast, financed by listeners' fees. Rejection of commercial influences – hardly any audience research, hardly any commercials
Mass Culture in Germany National Socialism National Socialism
Decisive break attributable to the promise of a 'cultural revolution' – Reactionay Modernism – Anti-Intellectualism – Redefinition of status
Mass Culture in Germany Television Television
Back to 'normal': "intellectual ethnocentrism" (Maase, 1997: 240), which rejected popular pleasures as barbarous and irrational, flourished once more.
"The new medium was to orientate itself strongly towards traditions of high-culture; an evening in front of the television was to be enjoyed like an evening at the theatre, the concert or even at the cinema" (Dussel, 2004: 247).
Television, it was feared, lead to a regression from spiritual man ( Geistesmensch ) to visual man ( Augenmensch ; Baier, 2007: 79); it was, after all, "a drug – a sedative of gigantic dimensions" (Kirst quoted by Mayer-Ebeling, 1999: 25).
"The bourgeois class (…) staged a resistance which dragged on a long time (…) The higher middle classes actually did not want television at all (or at least had to pretend to not want it)" (Seeßlen, 1999: 375).
"If one had to watch television, one always had to betray something: his family, his cultures, his ideals" (ibid.: 376).
Public groups opposing privately owned television: 'Citizens' Initiative Against Cable Commerce' staged demonstrations against the alleged antisocial effects of an increase in TV offerings. Until 1985 about 20 similar organisations formed all over Germany.
Mass Culture in Australia Film Film
Cinema "is of great significance in Australian culture" (Moran and Vieth, 2005: 29) and Australians embraced film with its founding moment.
"The nightly line of motor cars outside these theatres were seen as further proof of the hold the motion pictures had on the well-to-do classes in Australia: chief justices, parliamentarians, doctors, lawyers, mayors and merchants all enjoyed the superior attractions of an evening [at the cinema]" (Collins, 1995: 39).
1909: The world's largest cinema was built in Melbourne
The significance of the cinema in Australian life is attested to by the fact that one of the elements in determining the basic wage was the price of cinema attendance" (Moran & Vieth, 2005: 29).
Going to the movies "the single most popular form of entertainment, penetrating Australia very effectively given the high degree of urbanisation and the relatively high standard of living; in 1920 the average weekly attendance was one million; by 1928/9 it was 2¾ millions (in a population of 6½ millions)" (White, 1983: 115).
1906: The Story of the Kelly Gang – (arguably) the world's first feature film
Whereas the German industry "lagged years behind international developments" (Schorr, 1989: 17), the period from 1907 to 1913 "had seen the growth of Australian film production, distribution and exhibition on a scale that was revolutionary" (Adam & Shirley, 1983: 42).
90 fiction films were produced between 1910 and 1912 – Australia as the largest film-producing country in the world in the first decade of the twentieth century (Moran & Vieth, 2005: 32).
From 1906 to 1957 "not one Australian feature tried to be 'art'" (Routt, 2007: 38).
Mass Culture in Australia Radio Radio
Official radio transmission (in its final form) commenced in 1924
By the end of 1924 some 38,000 Australians held 'A' station licences, by mid-1926 the number went up to 130,000 and more than doubled to 270,000 until mid-1928. Within four years wireless was becoming part of everyday Australian life
Victoria had a higher proportion of registered listeners than any other place in the world where such figures were kept (Inglis, 1983: 9).
Content supplied by advertising agency duopoly of J. Walter Thompson and George Patterson
"The commercial stations, to cover mass markets adequately, are obliged to cater for what people want, regardless of quality" (McNair quoted by Inglis, 1983: 77).
Radio entertainment became little more than an extended commercial
The ABC: while the BBC was the product of a real distrust of the power of broadcasting to debase cultural standards, the basic premise of the ABC was first and foremost to ensure that the delights of broadcast were available to the whole country.
A certain adaptation of the BBC's policy to suit Australian conditions: "The lessons willingly learned from older wireless organisations in other parts of the world have had to be modified for application to this country" (First Annual Report of the ABC quoted by Robert, 1969: 94-95).
Keith Barry, Controller of Programmes, complained about too much sport on the air at the expense of more serious things, especially good music and lamented an "exorbitant amount of [horse] race programme material" (Inglis, 1983: 60).
Mass Culture in Australia Television Television
"Australians took to television as if they had been waiting for all their lives. It was greeted with enormous enthusiasm in Australia among the middle-classes as much as everyone; its rate of penetration was very high by world standards"(White, 1983: 119).
TV manufacturer Astor was selling its sets so quickly that people would pick them up from the factories back door, without bothering with a box or other packaging. In a highly symbolic act, shops offered deals where people could trade in a piano for a TV receiver (Place & Roberts, 2006: 12).
The Daily Telegraph: "[W]hole families made special car trips to the city to get their first view of television. Long lines of cars were parked outside some stores in streets normally deserted on Sunday nights'" (Arrow, 2009: 143).
Commercialism: – First ever show = first commercial (Luck, 2006: 30). – Corporate interests sponsored variety and quiz shows in which the host 'flogged their names to death' (Horgan, 2006: 238). "However, no-one seemed to mind" (ibid.). – Australia's high level of commercialisation = the largest advertising bases per capita in the world (after the US; Cunningham & Jacka, 1996: 56).
There has been "a healthy interaction between national and commercial sectors, without a public service elitism or worthiness that was subject to attack in Britain" (Cunningham, 2000: 23).
Content: cheap, commercially-orientated production practices, aesthetic populism
"But before anyone cries Yankee cultural imperialism, they should consider this: if the Americans nurtured the genre [tabloid television], Australians fathered it" (Lumby & O'Neil quoted by Cunningham & Jacka, 1996: 196).
Germany's foundational dynamics -> distinction threatened by mass culture
Australia's foundational dynamics -> distinction not threatened by mass culture