|Cooper Lawrence Gets InformedPublished by wes213 on Monday, January 28, 2008
Bound by global message boards, blogs, chat rooms and of course the games themselves, gamers are perhaps the single most intense subculture on the Internet — fiercely protective of their pastime and at ease with the byways of cyberspace.
So the game world has been ablaze with indignation since the Fox News program “The Live Desk With Martha MacCallum” said on Monday that Mass Effect, one of the most critically praised games of 2007, contains frontal nudity and explicit depictions of sexual activity. The assertions of virtual lasciviousness first appeared earlier this month among conservative bloggers incensed by brief YouTube clips excerpted from the 30- to 40-hour game.
Mass Effect, a science fiction game, includes a complicated romantic subplot that is no more risqué in its plot or graphic in its depiction than evening network television.
To exact their revenge, gamers have turned their vitriol on Cooper Lawrence, an author who appeared to mischaracterize the game when she said: “Here’s how they’re seeing women: They’re seeing them as these objects of desire, as these, you know, hot bodies. They don’t show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality. And it’s a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with.”
In fact Mass Effect allows users to play as either a man or a woman, and the few suggestions of intimate contact occur in the context of a detailed interpersonal story line. Asked on the air by Geoff Keighley of Spike TV whether she had ever played the game, Ms. Lawrence laughed and said, “No.”
Irate gamers have flooded the page on Amazon.com selling Ms. Lawrence’s most recent book, “The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace With Your Inner Overachiever,” sending its user-generated rating into oblivion.
By Friday afternoon 412 of the book’s 472 user reviews were the lowest possible rating, one star. Another 48 ratings were for two stars. Only 12 of the ratings were for three stars or higher. In addition, 929 Amazon users had tagged the book with the keyword “ignorant.” Tied for second place with 744 tags were “garbage” and “hypocrisy,” while “hack” and “hypocrite” tied for fourth place with 710 votes. Gamers have also attacked the book on the Barnes & Noble Web site.
Many of the reviewers admit that they have not read Ms. Lawrence’s book.
As one Amazon user put it: “I know all about this book but have never fully read it. Why? Due to the overwhelming backlash, I have no choice but to agree with the 1 star ratings. The rumors are rampant that this book was poorly written and poorly researched. So without verifying the contents myself — I give it a 1 star. Good thing video games aren’t judged in this manner — whew!!!”
On Friday “The Cult of Perfection” was ranked the 346,106th best-selling book on Amazon. Mass Effect, by contrast, has been a hit, selling more than 1.6 million copies since November. An Amazon spokeswoman said the site would soon begin to remove reviews written by users who had clearly not read the book.
In an interview on Friday, Ms. Lawrence said that since the controversy over her remarks erupted she had watched someone play the game for about two and a half hours. “I recognize that I misspoke,” she said. “I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.
“Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography,” she added. “But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”
Electronic Arts, the giant publisher that owns Mass Effect, has asked Fox News for a correction. A Fox News spokesman would say only that Electronic Arts had been offered a chance to appear on the channel. An Electronic Arts spokesman said the company had not yet decided whether to accept the offer.
By telephone from Edmonton, Alberta, Ray Muzyka, the medical doctor who is chief executive of BioWare, the Electronic Arts studio that made Mass Effect, said: “We’re hurt. We believe in video games as an art form, and on behalf of the 120 people who poured their blood and tears into this game over three years, we’re just really hurt that someone would misrepresent the game without even playing it. All we can hope for is that people who actually play our games will see the truth.”
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