Have you heard? NPR and “Bioshock” are teaming up to destroy all that is good and true about America. A blogger disclaims:

Before your read this story keep in mind that the killer at Sandy Hook was addicted to violent video games.  So of course NPR decides that violent first-person shooter video games are great art.  Well …. this one is because it’s irresistible to the NPR producers.
NPR broadcast an article today about a developer of a violent video game in which the bad guys were Christians who revered the Constitution and were blatant racists.  Of course with a theme like that it’s obviously comparable to one of the great tragedies of literature.

Instapundit picked it up, and Jeff Goldstein takes the opportunity to rhapsodize:

It’s out in the open now.  There’s no longer any real pretense of objectivity. Each time the progressive media “report” favorably on something they characterize like this (fairly or not) — and no switch comes down to sting their hands — they grow ever more emboldened.  In the Oval Office they know they have someone who believes the very same things as they do, someone  steeped in the very same academic indoctrination, someone who was taught to hate the country he now leads.  Just like they were taught to hate it — and to self hate — convinced that to do so was liberating, the mark of having been trulyeducated, of seeing beyond the patriotic mythology into the cold black soul of a racist country whose successes came at the expense others it had dominated.  And they are protected as a result of that ideological kinship.  Free to express that hatred.  They are on the side of power — unbridled power that has revealed itself to them in ways subtle and direct.  They are the ones they’ve been waiting for, they were told.  And it invigorates them.  It gives them a sense of purpose and momentum.  Because through the heart of every leftist runs the blood of totalitarianism, of confirmation bias, of rank bigotry and a mob’s lust for violence, for punishment, for blood, for inflicting suffering on those who dare oppose their designs.

The certitude that it takes to say, without irony, that the game is “Exactly aimed at the “low information” voter,” strikes me as particularly unhinged. It’s a video game, for heaven sakes!

What’s so funny about this is that neither of them actually identify the game, “Bioshock Infinite,” which is the latest installment in a wildly popular and critically-regarded series. To anyone familiar with the game, dystopian alternate histories, religious cults, and provocative historical echoes are nothing new—there are clear references to Ayn Rand in the first two games. This blind spot seems especially unforgivable in Goldstein’s case, who apparently has some critical training. Quite a bit, in fact. Their hysteria doesn’t put them in good company.

Fortunately, there’s a younger generation of conservative writers with a more even keel. Mytheos Holt at The Blaze notes that Levine even toned down the anti-religious elements of the game, and points out that the Vox Populi—the game’s leftist movement—isn’t exactly portrayed in a flattering way. He writes:

So is Bioshock Infinite anti-Tea Party? No. If anything, given that it takes place in 1912, it’s much more an attack on the sort of jingoistic sentiments that motivated Americans at the turn of the 20th century, and that caused writers such as Sinclair Lewis to openly fret about America itself going fascist. Its Christian and Founders-oriented iconography is not meant to reflect the evils of Christianity or the founders, but rather how easily the concepts advanced by Christianity and the Founders can be perverted in the service of authoritarianism.

With that said, the game does arguably skew slightly liberal early on in the story in that the motivation of the Vox Populi for their form of brutality is clearly a reaction against the brutality of the Founders, whereas the Founders’ cruelty is not really explained  except with reference to the evil of their leader, Comstock. In other words, the Leftist mass movement could come off mildly more sympathetic, though not much.

What I find off-putting about the NPR report is not its alleged anti-Americanism or the high-handed evocations of Aristotle but how credulously they take Levine’s assertion that “Bioshock” is “art.” It’s an undeniably beautiful-looking game, and if the story in “Bioshock: Infinite” is as good as the last two, it’s got that going for it too.

But the critical vocabulary that would allow one to make a judgment one way or the other about video games is still in its infancy. My TMT colleague Sean Brady explored some of these issues in a fantastic series of essays for The405 recently:

… to understand and answer the question, “Are video games art?,” we must also ask “Do gamers understand art?”. The very people who tend to answer the former question, as noted, are gamers themselves, so they must be tested with the latter. Rarely do you see a media or art critic, or a non-gamer artist or musician or thespian, defend video games. Now, their understanding of art on a personal level may be different, but on a general level their definition of art is mostly in line with society’s view of the concept. In other words, art may be something different to each person, but people know what art means. This important difference in terminology is something that gamers often fail to consider in their contributions to the former debate. As such, they tend to define art differently from society’s view, often to encompass video games in a way that validates its existence whole. This leads to problematic interpretations and leaps in logic…