Mortal Kombat: What Ratings Hath Wrought

People were decrying the influence of video games on popular culture way before Mortal Kombat came onto the scene. Arcades were time-(and money-)wasters. Tetris rotted your brain. Portable gaming systems destroyed kids’ patience (or tried that of their parents, really). If you’re a gamer who grew up in the ’80s, you know what I’m talking about.

These were just the typical portents of the doom of civilization through technology that proved to be almost entirely without base, and most people knew it. How dangerous could dumping block after block on top of one another really be? Were Mario Mario and his brother, Luigi Mario, really that much worse than the A-Team? Hadn’t people heard the same kind of arguments about film, television, and rock n’ roll? Despite a couple busts, video games got more and more popular every year with little-to-no outside intervention regarding their content.

… that is, until 1992, when a gamer could finally rip the still-beating heart out of an opponent’s chest. At that point, everything changed.

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Sorry, Duke: The Difference Between Adult and “Adult” Entertainment

It’s hard to put into words how titillating Duke Nukem 3D is to 13 year-old boys of all ages. I know; I speak from experience. There is an overabundance of violence, from blowing the brains out of an alien begging for mercy to gore exploding at the screen whenever a pipe bomb goes off. There were breasts – covered, pixilated, occasionally tasseled, and 2D – aplenty. The multiplayer feature was great (for its time), the weapons were fun, and the depth of the title (short enough in length so as not to be repetitious, but with enough extra features to encourage replay) made it super-appealing to those whose weekly allowances were measured in single-digits. To this day it features everything a hyper-hormonal young lad needs for a good time, save for a built-in box of Kleenex.

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My Take, For What It’s Worth

We are currently engaged in the adolescence of an art form. Not in that there has been a discovery of pornography or cars, no. What I mean to say is that video games are no longer in their childhood. They gross more than Hollywood’s theatre release, develop mainstream celebrities [insert your favorite/most attractive], have developed a studio-like system (for better or worse), and have begun to return to their indie-roots with direct-to-consumer distribution. This evolution implies that games are important both economically and aesthetically to a large number of people. Games are as significant to our cultural landscape as baseball and misguided wars in the Middle East. The conversation about whether they are “art” entirely misses the point.

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