Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bing Gordon's Wish Meets Reality

I continue to be haunted by the only opportunity I ever had to hear Bing Gordon address an audience. The setting was a convention on the topic of media "convergence," that had apparently been organized (and probably financed) by Comcast at a time when opportunities for viewing video on any platform other than broadcast television were still pretty clunky. At the time Gordon was Chief Creative Officer for Electronic Arts (EA); and he advocated a convergence of technology through which EA customers would be able to play their games on their own mobile devices. In an attempt to be witty, he envisaged a future of playing an EA game on a mobile phone as one of being able to "reach out and kill someone." Yes, those were his words, taken down in my handwritten notes and transferred to one of the PowerPoint slides I used in delivering my trip report.

Gordon has moved on from EA since then, but his legacy remains. Indeed, in the wake of Newtown, we are beginning to appreciate the intimacy of the connection between first-person-shooter games and reality. This morning BBC News ran a story about EA and the removal of hyperlinks to "real-world" weapons manufacturers on the Web site for their Medal of Honor game. Note the specificity of the content. Violence is the bread-and-butter of the catalog of EA products; and the story made no mention of other links between EA and weapons businesses. Thus, there is every reason to believe that today's announcement is merely a symbolic gesture to calm an outraged public, which can easily be undone once the current surge of outrage has passed. For EA, as for any other enterprise, the conduct of business depends on sustaining business-as-usual.

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