The Daily Show Takes on Mortal Kombat


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Moral Kombat
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So, Jon Stewart over at “The Daily Show” decided to cover the Supreme Court’s recent pro-gamer ruling. Although at first, his tone seems friendly enough to our cause, I began to get the sense that he was quietly mocking us. And then, towards the end, he picked the worst fatality he could find in “Mortal Kombat” and showed it to everyone. And it was pretty bad. Even Ed Boon tweeted an “ouch” reaction. We, uh…we look like a bunch of sickos right now to everyone who watches “The Daily Show.” I mean, check it out for yourself. Then hit the jump, where I shall make a few points in our defense.

Okay yes, that particular “Mortal Kombat” fatality is gruesome, and yes, it’s made even worse because it’s being done to a woman (which is a little bogus, Sonya’s a combatant like everyone else). But if we’re being fair here–and I’m not saying “The Daily Show” has any reputation for that–I could easily choose a couple of clips from particularly graphic movies that would make that fatality blush. Anybody remember “I Spit On Your Grave?” How about “Ichi the Killer,” or “Audition?” I could go all day. Now a lot of people are going to look at that one clip and use it to swear off video games as base and vile, but it’s a total double-standard. Movies are even worse, and you still love “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” so there’s no reason to disregard “Portal 2″ or “Donkey Kong Country Returns” just because Ed Boon is and always has been a troubled man.

Jon hops around the most important part of this whole mess: double standards. He draws attention to the discrepancy between regulations against sexual content and violent content, but he seems to ignore that the California bill was going to treat video games in a different way than every other art form in existence. No sane person wants a 10 year old playing “Mortal Kombat,” but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to make it illegal when you don’t practice similar restraints anywhere else. If you want to make it a crime for a tween to sneak into “Bad Teacher,” then maybe we can talk. Or wait, no we can’t, because that would be stupid, just like it’s stupid to have even considered this bill. We all need to pay attention to what children are being exposed to, but if there’s no scientific evidence that games are any different than any other art form, then why should they be treated by the law like some kind of brain-destroying virus?

And let me just nip Stewart’s little “I don’t know if violent video games affect children” aside right in the bud: they don’t. They just don’t. The only scientific evidence that they do details effects which are identical in reading books, watching movies, or listening to music, and those effects are incredibly minimal. This is not an open question, people. Researchers have been trying to prove that “Doom” fans are going to shoot up their schools for decades, and even they have to admit they just can’t do it. Leaving it noncommittal like Stewart did is like keeping an open mind about whether gravity pulls you towards the sky or the ground. If you want to see if violent video games produce violent people, look at the millions of gamers in the world who play them. Are they violent? Do they rob banks? Shoot people? Steal cars? Are they even more likely to commit misdemeanors? The answer is “no.” You don’t need a study to tell you what is plainly observable. Gravity pulls you down, and gamers are not an army of killing machines, so I guess games don’t turn your children into monsters. Case closed.


i’m giving you gold here

  • Maul

    Oh, John, normally you are my homeboy, but we would have some words on this issue.

    We’ve been discussing this on the Game Show for years. As our listeners know, I love the ESRB, I love the fact that there’s an easily recognized and usable, parent friendly rating system out there, similar to the MPAA’s (despite what politics might be behind it, having a rating system IS a good idea). And I firmly support the Supreme Court’s decision that its up to parents to enforce those ratings, not the retailers in the stores.

    The debate will continue, but ultimately, it comes down to a large portion of our society refusing to accept accountability for what their children are up to. And its up to us, as individuals, to change that…

    By booting shitty parents in the head.

  • Andrew Allen

    THANK you. I think the ESRB does an exemplary job of not only fairly and accurately rating games, but making that information plainly visible for anyone who cares enough to turn the case over in their hands.

    The MPAA is shady at best, and their PG-13 system gets regularly juked by heavy lobbying. The ESRB almost always hits the nail right on the head, and makes the correct call.

  • Matthew Nyquist

    YES. I agree with the ESRB talk. How dumb do you have to be to not see M 17 and above and not realize what is going on. Not only that but it specifically tells you what kind of “naughty” content is on the back.

    Also, very disappointing is Jon’s handling of this subject. Every art form is attacked like this, and every art form has disturbing media like this. It is not fair to cherry pick Mortal Kombat and not compare it to similar media in other art forms.

    All the points have been made above regarding this, ready Andrew and Maul’s information, it has everything put eloquently. The only thing I would like to add is that there will always be moron/neglecting parents that don’t properly care for their kids. This goes OUTSIDE of the ever scary violent movies and games that talking heads parade around TV news. Case in point: Jared Lee Loughner was literally going crazy ( and his parents made no effort to help their son. All the warning signs were there; friends recognized it, the many places that fired him recognized it, his school recognized it… but his parents that he LIVED WITH? One has to be completely without a brain, or more likely, in denial. Their son CAN’T be going crazy; he’s just going through a phase.

    As someone that has a degree in psychology, I can tell you that Jared’s signs had become obvious. From the evidence we see, his YouTube videos for example, his speech had already begun the telltale signs of absolute incomprehensible “sentences” that only he could understand. There’s a thousand other things too… his anger problem… his weird obsessions…alienation. Again, though, our child can’t be crazy.

    This logic leads further to the idea that kids can be made bad if they play enough violent video games, movies, music, and comic books. My kid doesn’t have problems, its those games he plays that does! Sorry, that’s been proven wrong again and again and again. Look at any tragedy and the only things that are analyzed are the absolute easiest scapegoats. Not the real issue which is that the individual had problems and needed help, but sadly enough no one had their eyes on them long enough to realize it.

    Jon’s comments don’t make me angry because he attacked video games, they make me angry because he signed on to a bandwagon that so badly misses the point that it actually diverts attention from the real issue. And that, Jon, is much worse than ripping an imaginary girl (who is treated 100% equally I might add) in half.

  • Dr. Noh

    Video games can be used as an artistic medium, but Mortal Kombat has little to almost no artistic merit. This debate is not about art.

    • Andrew Allen

      I disagree. Video games are not necessarily or exclusively a narrative art form. Just because MK is lacking in coherent character or meaningful plot doesn’t preclude it from “art” status, in the same way that a song with no lyrics does not cease to be art simply because it has no “story.”

      Gaming is art on the basis of sustained, tactile world creation. It uses art, sculpture, architecture, sound design, music and computer code to erect worlds. These worlds are literally made of art, and so by necessity are art themselves. And more to the point, each is a unique statement on the natural world.

      For example, the world through the eyes of “Scott Pilgrim” video games is very distinct from the world as seen in “Gears of War.” Each is a representation of reality through a certain lens, and it is in this quality that gaming is principally art.

      Now some games have rich stories, and so narrative art is added on top of the pile. But gaming exists as an art form with or without story, and even if the story sucks.

  • Justin Shaikewitz

    I think the point of this bit was that our society is open to accepting violence in many forms but heaven forbid any sexual content be anywhere.

    I honestly don’t think he was supporting that stupid California bill or saying that video games should be censored.

    I also think your taking the Daily show too seriously. I love it but the only difference between it and other news shows is that the Daily Show admits to being a joke.

    • Andrew Allen

      In fairness, you are correct, Jon’s larger point was that extreme violence is tolerated far more than extreme sexuality.

      Nonetheless, he called Mortal Kombat a snuff film, I think there was a pretty hostile environment in there towards video games.

      Yeah, I mean I know the Daily Show is SUPPOSED to be a joke, but I think it’s morphed into basically an editorial news program. Studies have shown a lot of Daily Show viewers use the program as a primary source for news. We could claim Stewart is ignorant of that, or doesn’t play to it, but I have a hard time buying it.