Attention Whore

Attention Whore
by Andrew Russell

It turns out that my last post was indeed convenient!

Video Game Blog Kotaku has recently revealed (via http://www.kotaku.com.au/2009/11/atkinson-to-appeal-modern-warfare-2-ma15-classification/) that South Australian Attorney General and arch nemesis to all video game lovers in Australia, Michael Atkinson (member for Croydon) is going to appeal the MA15+ rating for the video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and attempt to ‘persuade’ the OFLC to refuse the game classification; essentially asking for the game to be banned.

I am not interested in Modern Warfare 2, however I believe several things about this game make Atkinson’s move rather significant.

  1. Modern Warfare 2 is an extremely critically acclaimed game which many video game fans have been anticipating for a long time.
  2. The game has had an extraordinary amount of advertising and media coverage; on the first day of the game’s release the game made US$310 million in the US and UK alone. This makes Modern Warfare 2 the largest entertainment launch in history.
  3. The game was released on November 10. The game cleared the OFLC’s procedures and bureaucracy a rather long time ago.

Thus, Atkinson is attacking a game which has already been released and had spent a very significant amount of time being classified. He could have checked out this game’s content (and then go to the press to launch a moral panic) when it was being ran through the OFLC. Doing this is well within his powers.

But he didn’t.

Why?

Why did he wait until after the game was released? Why wasn’t he being a vigilant protector of the children and monitoring what the OFLC was doing? In the interview Kotaku quotes, Atkinson states on several occasions that he does not trust the OFLC to apply the standards consistently. So why wasn’t he watching them when he (can be expected to have) had knowledge that a very high-profile game with potentially very offensive content and realistic violence was in the process of being classified by the allegedly untrustworthy OFLC?

I think this can be explained with reference to my previous post; “The Preposterous Posturing of Platonic Piffle,” which argued that moral panics and demands for censorship are fundamentally a product of a Narrative of Cultural Degeneration which asserts that our children are becoming morally depraved at a rate and to an extent unprecedented in history. Or in short, “what’s the matter with today’s kids?!? Why couldn’t they be perfect, docile and compliant just like we were?!?”

Quoting from “The PPPP”;
So why do people still buy into this Narrative of Cultural Degeneracy? Possibly they are so enslaved to nostalgic reminiscence that they actually believe it to be true. But there are other possible reasons.

Just imagine that this is an absolutely watershed moment in the history of civilization. A threat to all that is true and good and beautiful has emerged. And you have the ability to stand up against this threat, a chance to become a savior of civilization, hopefully to be fondly remembered as a great man that saved our children. Perhaps, maybe divine powers are summoning you to be a champion of light against darkness? Perhaps, maybe your actions would avert another Holocaust?

Perhaps you are suffering delusions of grandeur and are prepared to sacrifice human liberty for the sake of getting your name mentioned in the paper adoringly?

Yep. I am alleging that Atkinson is doing this for the attention and little else. It is purely about him indulging his delusions of grandeur where, to quote the song “Blame Canada” from the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,” “Times have changed! Our kids are getting worse! They won’t obey us parents, they just want to fart and curse!” and that the only force standing in the way of the downfall of civilization is Attorney General Michael Atkinson. That only he can be the savior of good wholesome Australian values from us gamer hordes that are swarming at the gates! That, quite possibly, forces such as ‘providence’ or ‘fate’ or ‘the divine’ have ‘annointed’ him to lead us on a quest towards the virtues he embodies.

Quoting again from “The PPPP”;
He does seem to attach a lot of significance to himself, doesn’t he?

This little theory of mine, which I am going to snark-tastically entitle The Narrative of Attention Whore Atkinson (TNAWA from here onwards), conveniently explains several things about his current actions. For one, Modern Warfare 2 is the first game which Atkinson has ever appealed the classification of after its release date. Why?

Many more games are significantly more gruesome and violent. “Clive Barker’s Jericho” makes Modern Warfare 2 look like Sesame Street; Jericho has pretty much every wall coated in blood, pools of blood and vomit and faeces all over the place, people in the game world being graphically tortured right before the very eyes of the player, and adult themes that are disturbing even to me, and Atkinson did not challenge this game’s classification at all.

But Clive Barker’s Jericho was not the biggest entertainment release in history. It was not a critically beloved darling with an immense publicity budget. It was not a blockbuster game that set tongues wagging.

Additionally, Atkinson’s late crashing of the Modern Warfare 2 party comes at precisely the time when the media, including the blogosphere,  are going utterly gaga over the game that he is preaching moral panic over.

I believe the above (timing, profile and relative lack of extreme content) grant significant evidence to the proposition that Atkinson picked his target and time of attack on the basis of an attempt to maximize the amount of media coverage he gets out of making this attack. In short, he did it for the publicity; so he could indulge his fantasy of being a popularly lauded force for social virtue and wholesome childhood innocence. He is doing this to build an image of himself in the popular media.

He could have targeted a much more violent game like Clive Barker’s Jericho. But no; the man on the street has not heard of this game and nor has this game been purchased by obscenely large numbers of gamers. And as we all know, no threat is more feared than the insidious and disguised threats lurking below the surface.

And fear generates attention. Attention towards the oh-so-noble human being that first exposed the demons in our midst and promptly hauled them to be burned at the stake.

So, in conclusion, I believe Michael Atkinson’s behavior is an utterly textbook case of the pattern I outlined in “The PPPP” and that this Narrative of Cultural Degeneracy appeals to him because he is a self-aggrandizing deluded fool that so wants to see himself (and be seen as) as a Savior of The Children that he will do anything to cultivate this image. His recent attack on Modern Warfare 2 is a calculated attempt to get additional publicity by targeting a wildly successful and well-known game at the height of media frenzy over it.

The man is sacrificing liberty on the altar of his delusions.

5 thoughts on “Attention Whore

  1. The repitition of fallacies throughout the ages is common and fascinating.

    I just read this article http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/printable/7723/ documenting the “Malthusians” throughout the ages ie: those who believe population grows faster than resources. It reminded me of your idenitfication of those who throughout history have used government force to combat their imagined fears about the “moral degeneracy that has infected the youth”.

  2. Well, I won’t comment either way on the censorship. I know this is a libertarian blog but I don’t really have much of an opinion either way.

    I did buy this game the day it came out, not knowing much about the content. Graphically and stylistically, it is very similar to the first modern warfare game, which is a pretty standard Counter Strike-esque first person military shooter. Indeed, there are games far more gruesome so far as the ability to hack limbs and blow off heads goes.

    However I must admit to be somewhat shocked by a level where you are undercover in a terrorist group that shoots up a civilian airport. The level itself and gameplay is realistically constructed, and your ‘targets’ act as you would expect them.

  3. Pingback: Michael Atkinson’s censorship crusade continues. « Tim R

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