FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, March 17, 2005

More Video Games Featuring Drug Use

Back when Mario and Luigi began "powering up" by eating magic mushrooms, who knew that they were on the cutting edge of what has become a staple of video games: drug use. Many of today's hottest games feature illegal drugs as a common element... yet the way they handle them is sometimes surprising.

In the game Narc, the latest version of which will be released next week, players can use drugs to "power up" or disable their enemies, not unlike in Super Mario. Drug use is also treated as morally neutral, as even cops can use drugs in the game. But drug use also carries consequences, from hallucinations to arrest. Upcoming games that will feature drug use prominently are Snow and a game based on the movie Scarface.

Game developers insist that, as the story lines of games become deeper and more complex, portraying drug use is as necessary an evil as portraying violence. "If you can blow someone's head off, I don't see why you can't have drugs, as long as it fits the context," said Doug Walker, game designer for the Dutch developer Guerrilla Games. Developers also cite the fact that half of video game players are adults (the generation that grew up on Pac Man and Donkey Kong) as justification for expanding their artistic license.

Of the 40 games labeled for drug content, more than half were released in the last three years. This includes last year's top seller, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes before a member of Congress begins to rail against this trend, or studies appear that show the effect of game-portrayed drug use on kids.

Source: The New York Times