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A video posted on YouTube titled Moral Kombat is set to become a controversial forum topic - a trailer for the first full-length film documentary to tackle the videogame violence debate head-on, featuring none other than game-obsessed lawyer Jack Thompson, among others.
According to the film's maker, Spencer Halpin (quoted on the Apple Pro/Video website), his aim is to show that "consumers need access to information about the content of games so they can make their own decisions about what to buy."
It seems like a non-starter, given that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board already exists to do just that. But there have been rising waves of concern on blogs such as Gamepolitics that many parents either don't understand ratings or ignore them outright, so maybe a movie is what's needed to clue them in.
The trailer looks a bit alarmist, with one memorable sequence suggesting - as numerous mainstream news outlets did in 2001 - that videogames were in some way to blame for the World Trade Center attack. How? The pilots learned how to fly the planes by 'playing' a flight simulator, obviously. As you might expect, background footage is a roll call of famous game scapegoats including Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto and Hitman.
However, given that the filmmaker is the brother of Hal Halpin, founder of the pro-game Entertainment Consumers Association advocacy group (and before that, the Interactive Entertainment Merchant's Association), we expect Moral Kombat to at least take a balanced look at videogame culture. Along with several notable anti-game critics, the film will also include interviews with industry advocates such as game designer American McGee, M.I.T. professor Henry Jenkins and San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi.
Despite its high production values and promise of fairness, we can't imagine any major movie studios will want to sign up Halpin's film, given their close relations with videogame film and TV licenses, many of which contain violent content. Good thing, then, that Halpin has made the film without profit in mind. Instead, he plans to donate any money he makes from it to a kidney research foundation.
January 4, 2007