A new Nintendo strategy game, soon to be released is made of common motifs: a somewhat real background, a series of activities to build your position – and behaviors that are unacceptable in the real world. Like many other such games, “Diamond Trust of London” builds on and preserves existing stereotypes. Unlike most other such games, this one is hurting a few specific real people and damaging their reputation. Last week, when first reporting on the game, in which bribing UN diamond inspectors is one of a number of activities required to succeed in the game, I didn’t know there were only two such inspectors in pre-KP Angola, where the game is set.
Angola at the time was a mess. A number of companies, including the one referred to as “Diamond Trust of London” were active in the country, buying or mining diamonds on the front lines of the civil war.
Christine Gordon, one of the two inspectors, is concerned that the game’s fictitious characters and apparently real-world setting, may reflect badly on the real-life UN diamond “inspectors.”
The game raises a number of important social questions. Some of the most popular computer games of the past 20 years have included mass killings, violence, car theft and other unacceptable social behaviors.
Some research claims that these types of games, as well as TV programs and movies, encourage violence. Conventional wisdom holds that this is true only on the fringes of society, where a pre-existing tendency towards violence already exists.
This comes in addition to the more refined question of taste. Should we allow such games to be out there in the name of freedom of expression (or entertainment), yet reject them on the grounds of different views of what is appropriate behavior?
Most people know the difference between shooting a person in a game in the name of pastime fun, and shooting someone in real life. I have done plenty of the first and none of the second.
Gordon worked in Angola during the civil war. She did not run away from Angola because she felt it was her duty to face down the dangers. She stayed there, representing us – global humanity-at-large. Indirectly, representing the diamond community. We are in debt to her and her colleagues for sticking it out, in the name of a greater cause.
Gordon wrote in an email to me saying that, “My reputation is the basis of my business and hence of value to me.” That is why the game is possibly harmful for her. She speaks for all of us.
The diamond community’s reputation is the basis of its business and hence of value. Great value. There is a saying in Judaism – “A good name is better than good oil,” meaning a reputation is more important then valuable possessions.
Gordon is entitled to more than our gratitude; although my impression of her is that she is humble and is not seeking our thanks. She is entitled to our protection. We don’t need to demand that the game not be released. The shield she needs is that we voice our disdain for the glorification of acts that hurt real people who acted bravely and honestly on our behalf.