Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's Just a Game Folks... Just a Game

Greetings everyone! Tonight I will be looking at a bit of a different topic, but bear with me here cause there is a point to what I'm about to say. Tonight's blog will be focusing in on sharks.... and video games. In the past I've gone out and blogged about Shark Week and shark movies and other things regarding sharks in the media, but never video games. As a type little descriptions about these games keep in mind what the point of these games are... Then I'll get to the point sort to speak.


Jaws is obviously named after the hit movie with the same name and was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. The point of this game was to navigate your boat around the ocean while occasionally controlling a scuba diver to combat sea life with a spear gun. Eventually Jaws would appear and you would try to kill him by driving your boat through him after zapping him. So your main objective here is to kill the shark.

In more modern times video games have greatly changed their tune. If a game like Jaws from 1987 came out today, chances are it would flop. No what people want nowadays is not to play the hero, but play the monster. Jaws Revenge was released on the Itunes App Store back in 2011 and continues to be updated today. The objective of this game is simple. You control Jaws and eat everything and anything in your path. Leaping out of the water to snag helicopters out of midair, catching water skiers, and combating military are just a few of the things that you can do as you play. Oh and there is plenty of blood and screaming to go around.

In 2006 Jaws Unleashed was released on Sony's Playstation 2 as well as Microsoft's Xbox and PC. The game was a dream come true for anyone who wanted a crack at being a monster shark and literally be able to tear people limb from limb. As Jaws, here are some of the things that you could do in this game. Drown people, tear people's limbs off, eat people, make people somehow explode by slapping them with your tail, sink boats, cause boats to explode by landing on them, kill an orca, eat dolphins, blow up an offshore oil drilling operation,.. The list goes on... More often than not, the water you swim in will be red and you die via getting too hungry...

Alright I'll stop there with my nerdy video game things. So why did I bring these three in particular up (There are PLENTY more, but I'll spare you all that for now at least)? There is a common trend here. The first Jaws game on the Nintendo was somewhat based on the movies, but the key was when it was released. The terror of Jaws was very real and very alive and well during that time period. People were, and still are petrified to go into the water for fear of that monster shark getting them. While we look at this really silly game today as well... silly... people still had a fear of sharks and here was something to take that fear a bit farther. Now though I don't think anyone can find this even remotely intimidating on a TV screen...

Jaws Revenge is on the Itunes store for free. That means a lot of people have played it and not all audiences that have played it probably should have. I'm talking not about people with a fear of sharks, but children in particular. Here's a game of hungry hungry hippos where the shark is the hippo and humans are the little balls. That idea that sharks eat people is drilled into the head of kids so much already that believe it or not, I've personally had kids ask me if sharks do what they do on this game. It's kinda scary to me that that is even a question, but for a child who knows nothing about sharks, it's a legit question to ask. Of all the shark games that can be found on the Itunes store, this is probably the one that a lot of people (myself included)  have tried out largely thanks to it's title.

Jaws Unleashed is another beast entirely. It is flat out brutal in terms of the image of sharks. Obviously there would be no game without the big killer shark and if you were the little diver against the shark, it'd probably be a terrible gaming experience. As I said before, things in gaming have changed so much and there is now a want to be the monster and not the hero. Well in this game you are the monster and a mindless eating machine. Nothing more to say there...

The point I would like to get across here is this. Video games are just that. Video games. They (in most cases) do not depict real life. However, in the case of shark video games, there are people that will take these games, play them, and think that what they are seeing and doing are what sharks actually do. I've had kids ask me about Jaws Revenge stuff and I've had kids ask me if a shark could jump onto a beach, struggle up the sand, grab someone and take them back into the water. I've also had people ask me if a shark has the ability to think and fight it's way out of an aquarium setting (one of the first things you do in Jaws Unleashed). It's scary that some people take these games as real life. The name Jaws to this day continues to strike fear into the hearts of countless people and continues to draw the attention of countless others. Attaching that name to a shark game brings in so many more people who really do not know what these animals are and takes it for real life.

From a business standpoint, that is a splendid move. From a conservation standpoint, it is a nightmare. Here we are fighting to save these animals yet we wind up having to deal with things such as shark reputations thanks to how they are put out in movies and videogames. As I have said with Shark Week. Remember folks, it's just media and in this case, it's just a game. Nothing more. Nothing less!

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