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Monday, November 22, 2004
Lee Harvey Oswald: the video game
Like Hollywood, over the years video games are recieved their fair share of criticism from the moral right. BMX XXX along with the Doom and Grand Theft Auto series have been flogged for their wanton depictions of sex and violence. Controversy over Night Trap and Mortal Combat in early '90s eventually led to the establishment of the ESRB game industry ratings system.
As gamers have grown up, titles have become increasingly more debauched to meet the grown-up tastes of their audience. While an argument could be made for the GTA series, JFK Reloaded, recently released online by a designer in Glasglow, could be above reproach. It was released today to coincide with the 41st anniversery of the Kennedy's assassination. A description, from the website:
"Pay just $9.99 to unlock control of LEE HARVEY OSWALD, perform the assassination, watch action replays from any angle, and explore a shot-by-shot anaylsis."
The game drew the attention of the Associated Press this morning and contempt from senator Ted Kennedy who called it "despicable." Managing director Kirk Ewing defended the game would "stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history." The game's site is equally unapologetic, offering screen shots while arguing the game's intent is to prove the validity of the Warren Commissions' findings.
But what about other games that use other bloody historical incidents as fodder? Players have been orchaestrating troops in the Battle of Gettysburg in various titles since as far back as the mid '80s. A title based on the movie Platoon was appeared on the NES system in 1988 and, more recently, EA Games released Battlefield Vietnam earlier this year. Desert Storm appeared in games almost immediately after the end of hostilties and one title, released in 2002 for the Playstation and Xbox, offered players the opportunity to assassinate Saddam Hussein.
Nevertheless, it's hard to defend a game that puts players in the shoes of one of the 20th century's greatest villians. Even more callous is the company's current contest, which offers $100,000 to the player that can most closely match up Oswald's bullets. Again, from the site:
"Entering is simple. After you have paid to unlock your copy of JFK Reloaded, you are given 10 Competition Entry Tokens, allowing you 10 attempts to match Lee Harvey Oswald’s shots. Within JFK Reloaded, click on the Enter Competition button, and you will be asked to confirm that you want to spend one of your Tokens. Once you have confirmed this, it’s like pushing a coin into a slot-machine: there’s no going back. Your competition-entry run will start, so concentrate, and think like a sniper!"
Could this become the video game equivalent of Janet's Boob? Since it's a minor release for PCs, probably not. There are far more grisly independently released games available on the internet ranging from a title devoted to clubbing baby seals to another based on a 1989 grade school massacre in Scotland (actually, that one could be an urban legend). This whole thing will probably be forgotten by tomorrow morning, provided no one tells Joseph Lieberman.