Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vice, Video Games, and Chicago Violence (Link Round-Up 9/19/12)

I wrote an article for Gapers Block about how Vice used a two-part documentary it produced about Chicago violence prevention group CeaseFire/Cure Violence to help sell a video game about revenge killing:
To be clear, I'm not condemning Dishonored itself for being violent. After all, one of the game's features is that it will be possible to beat it without killing anyone. However, considering that the Dishonored ad campaign emphasizes the killing parts, and considering that one of the goals of CeaseFire is to prevent retaliation murders in the city's complex web of gang-related violence, it's shocking that Vice would even send a film crew to Chicago to follow violence interrupters knowing that the footage was just going to be used to promote the very idea the interrupters risk their lives fighting against every day.
To get an idea of what the interrupters and Chicago police are up against, look at the statistics. More than 300 people were killed in Chicago between January and July 2012, a nearly 30 percent increase over last year. As of last week, that number is up to 374. A dozen people died from gun violence during a 72-hour span on Memorial Day Weekend alone, and one person has already been charged in what the Chicago Tribune described as a revenge killing. The spate of revenge killings in Chicago is so bad that Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy uses "gang audits" to figure out information like who gang members are and where they fight in order to prevent future casualties. Revenge, be it gang-related or personally-driven, is the driving factor in Chicago's cycle of violence. Nobody seeking to stop the bloodshed takes it lightly.
I'll be on's The Morning Amp tomorrow at 8:30 tomorrow morning to talk about Vice, video games, and Chicago violence.

In the meantime...

Eye For An Eye: Vice and Bethesda Softworks' joint "revenge content" platform to promote Dishonored

MetaFilter (which I frequently steal links for this blog from) had an interesting discussion about the article.
Is it actually in poor taste, or only if you know where the funding for it came from?

Well, to start with, to watch the documentary, you have to sit through a commercial for Dishonored, and to find the documentary in the first place, you have to look through Dishonored's promo materials. The actual documentary seems to be okay, but I don't think you can divorce the funding clearly from the work.
Game Informer's detailed preview of Dishonored
It’s an assassination game that reacts to how violent you are. An unusual “chaos” system tracks how much collateral damage you cause, and the game world changes as a result of your actions. Unlike a light/dark side meter, though, it’s a behind-the-scenes element that affects story decisions without punishing the player or pushing them to play one way or another.
The Dishonored gameplay trailer

A Kickstarter campaign saves D.C. Homicide Watch website
To appreciate how well they're doing it, compare the Homicide Watch website with RedEye's "tracking homicides in Chicago" site. Homicide Watch is vastly more coherent, informative, and useful. But while RedEye can bring to its task the resources of a Tribune Company daily newspaper, Homicide Watch is two people: Laura and Chris Amico. They launched their site two years ago with the following pledge: "Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case."

"Their work is in tradition of Miami Herald homicide reporter Edna Buchanan (whom most of us learned about from Calvin Trillin)," Sandlin wrote me. "They are her heirs in nimble smartness and in the belief that every life is a story. But now it is powered by data and connectivity. Where a traditional reporter might call a 'source,' they will search Twitter for 'OMG Joe' or 'RIP' and often beat them to the story."
Vice's reivew of Chief Keef's first show in NYC
He also raps about specific locations and specific gangs and stuff in Chicago, but the only people for which that’s genuinely important are nerds and people who are actually from Chicago; otherwise, he might as well be rapping about In-N-Out Burgers on Neptune.

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