The Video Game Rule

People v. Goetz, 73 N.Y.2d 751 (Nov 22, 1988): Goetz entered a NYC subway car and sat down next to four young men. One of them said to Goetz, “Give me five dollars.” After the second request for money, Goetz rose from his seat and fired five shots. All four men survived, though one was permanently paralyzed and suffered brain damage.

Goetz confessed to the shooting but argued that his actions fell within the New York self-defense statute. Under Section 35.15, “A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person…unless…He reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit [one of certain enumerated predicate offenses, including robbery].

The court held that Goetz’s actual belief that he was in imminent danger was not dispositive because the standard is not purely subjective. Rather, the self-defense justification of deadly force requires an objectively reasonable belief that an imminent threat exists. That is, considering all the circumstances, a “reasonable person” in Goetz’s place would have believed he or she was in danger.

Was this a fair standard? Consider Goetz’s background:

After being mugged once in the mid 1970s while with friends returning to a Harlem subway station, Goetz was mugged yet again in 1981 by three men and sustained injuries from the assault. It was this second violent mugging that prompted Goetz to begin carrying a gun. Goetz had brandished his pistol on two occasions prior to the attack on the subway in order to frighten away would-be robbers.

A purely objective standard doesn’t consider individual circumstances. However, a purely subjective standard would let any reprehensible act go unpunished, provided it’s subjectively justified.

Due process of law requires courts to apply a consistent standard; jumping between objective and subjective standards on a case by case basis would be unconstitutional. Is there a well-defined middle ground between objectiveness and subjectiveness that courts can regularly apply?

The New York State legal standard for the self defense justification use of deadly force shifted after rulings in the case. New York jurors are now told to consider a defendant’s background and to consider whether a reasonable person would feel imperiled if that reasonable person was the defendant.

The question is no longer the objective Would a reasonable person shoot, nor is it the subjective Did Goetz believe it was reasonable to shoot. The question is now Would a reasonable person shoot if he’d been previously been mugged, injured, and successfully used a gun to fend off criminals. This approach strives to reach an objective conclusion while considering a subjective background – just like The Video Game Rule. (That lead-in was about 10 paragraphs longer than I’d originally planned. I apologize. You’ll never get verbose philosophical bullshit from me ever again. To prove I’m sorry, I threw in some ShizNat and highlighted all the key phrases for your reading convenience.)

As stated in EF – A Tale of Lesbians, the Video Game Rule weights my standard of criticism based on the show’s original medium. My current criticism ranking, starting with the strictest:

  1. Anime remake
  2. Manga
  3. Movie
  4. Light novel
  5. Original concept
  6. Novel
  7. Visual Novel
  8. Video game

Why treat an anime based off a video game any differently than an anime remake? Because it’s a hell of a lot harder to pull off. An anime remake is like taking a test, receiving line-by-line feedback, and then getting paid twice as much to take the test again. A cakewalk like that deserves close scrutiny, unlike video game adaptations. If you stick too closely to the game, you won’t have a watchable product.

However, if the show is even remotely divorced from the game, the fans will revolt.

It’s the same with novels. The Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings assholes keep bitching about every subtle difference between the book and the movie. Get over it.

How does The Video Game Rule affect my rating system? There’s no better example than Shakugan no Shana.

Shana as a Video Game adaptation: A-

Shana as a Light Novel adaptation: B

It wasn’t until halfway through the second season that I found out Shana was based off a series of light novels instead of a video game. Question: If other fans knew that Shana wasn’t based off a video game, how is the show so popular? I brainstormed four plausible explanations:

1. We can relate to the main characters

Yuji is a mild-mannered scrub, just like 99% of all otaku. Japanese girls can relate to Shana:

  • Black hair
  • Brown eyes
  • Short
  • Flat
  • Terrible English pronunciation

Both of these fan favorites come out on top:

  • Yuji gets magical powers and a gigantic sword
  • Shana defeats her taller, bustier, lighter-haired rivals in both love and war

2. Lesbian Potential

The real star of Shana II is Wilhelmina, or as they say in Japan, Uiruherumina. I love the name, but creating lame character nicknames adds a personal touch that strengthens blogger-reader rapport, so I came up with one for Wilhelmina: Groundskeeper Willie. (If you don’t get it, you’re not alone)

Groundskeeper Willie is the focal point from which several Yuri dimensions emerge: Willie x Pheles, Chigusa, Bel Peol, Shana (if you’re a pedophile), and my personal favorite, Groundskeeper Willie x Marge.

But Marge isn’t ready for that kind of relationship…

3. Good Music

Everyone loves Kotoko, though I must admit my favorite Shana theme is the first ending. It even has a fade-in – always a plus.


4. Dinosaurs

15 people love sucking up to me

  1. I was initially alienated at how somber and sober your post sounded. The case made me think more than the explication regarding Shana ever did. Regarding that, I simply believe that the law is something subjective made objective by its placement into something written and agreed upon by a representative number of people. Was Goetz exonerated? I think he
    has, judging from the law’s modification.

    Good post. I was just surprised, however. 🙂

  2. @Michael: So Mr. Thought-Provoking wasn’t blown away by my carefully reasoned dinosaurs and lesbians argument? Yeah, I got carried away with the Goetz case and kind of overshadowed the rest of my post. I promise it won’t happen again. No more philosophy from Baka-Raptor. Ever.

    When it was all over, Goetz was only convicted of Criminal Possession of Handgun, and that was because he never had a permit (he’d earlier applied for one and was denied). He pretty much got off because two of the four men didn’t testify out of fear of being charged with robbery, and one of them:

    “blew his stack under questioning, cursed the judge, took off his shoe, was restrained from throwing it at Goetz’s lawyer, and wound up with six contempt charges, which he said he didn’t mind, inasmuch as he’s already doing eight to 25 years for raping and sodomizing a pregnant woman on a Bronx rooftop”

  3. I’m inclined to agree with the fact that anime based on video games should probably be analyzed and criticized to a lesser extent than anime based on other mediums. However, it’s no excuse if a video game-based anime sucks, regardless of whether it sticks closely to the source material or not. Some things may not translate well to anime, most specifically video games and visual novels.

  4. @IcyStorm: If there’s a questionable aspect of the show that can reasonably be tied to the fact that it was adapted from a game, then I’m lenient. If an aspect of the show sucks with no legitimate excuse, or if the show just plain sucks overall, you can throw the book at it.

  5. I’m not sure anyone’s figured out how to adapt video games to anything yet. Either that or projects never get a proper budget and clever writers (they get Uwe Boll instead). It’s so rare to see a good game adaption into another medium, which is a shame. Also, lol @ Shana defeating ‘her taller, bustier, lighter-haired rivals’.

    Visual novels are quite a different kettle of shallow-wish-fulfilment-fish, however, given the success of Cute-oh’s Key adaptions.

  6. I haven’t read the entirety of the case (I’ve no intention of being a lawyer), but I think that was a good verdict towards Goetz. I’m sure that he has had a difficulty with having been robbed before, and so I believe it was perfectly justifiable that he did those things because he felt threatened. I’d feel threatened too.

    Anyway, yeah, this totally sidetracked your post, but I was just surprised with the amount of awesome thought-provoking stuff you just wrote (notwithstanding the dinosaurs and lesbians).

    Going back, I really thought I should have laughed at the succeeding paragraphs, but like a spectre the case percolated in my thoughts more than the actual post itself. I’m not saying that’s bad, mind you. 🙂

  7. “The Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings assholes keep bitching about every subtle difference between the book and the movie.”

    Aww, I’m one of them … but I don’t diss the Lord of the Rings because I think the movie is great — Well done Peter Jackson!

  8. Your ‘verbose philosophical bullshit’ was quite possibly the best part of this whole post. It was very educational and informative. I will no longer hesitate to brandish my revolver and shoot at random strangers while on the subway, ever again.

  9. I rather found your delving into journalistic territories refreshing and insightful. You shouldn’t be afraid of alienating people now and then for the sake of self-expression, especially when you don’t yet have a small legeion that would commit mass-suicide if you did, unlike Maddox.

  10. How dare you speak such blasphemy!! All… 2? 3? citizens of the Dominion of Baka Raptor (heretoforth referred to as DOBAR) would gladly ingest a lethal coctail of barbiturates, succinate, and potassium pills at the very whim of the overlord, should he so desire it!

  11. Baka-Raptor’s holy name has to be sent to the moon!

    Some people at NASA are putting all the names that people insert there to a chip and placing it to some spacecraft thats going to collect some data to the moon. This is totally an unique opportunity to let the holy name of Baka-Raptor fly to the moon!

  12. And then there’s people like me who have no connection to the videogame/light novel industry in relation to anime. So maybe I can look at anime more “objectively”? Maybe I can

    Oh, and that’s the ED? I thought that was the OP, I’m talking about the song, well at least I like “Hishoku no Sora” a lot. A lot a lot.

  13. “how is the show so popular?”

    You came up with four very well thought-out reasons (mainly that one about the dinosaurs. A brilliant deduction), but I think the rather obvious reason for Shana’s popularity is that people are terrible at recognizing when something is complete shit. Though I guess that’s being a bit harsh, as Shana does have some things going for it, but in the face of awful writing, bland characters, and poor animation, it doesn’t mean much.

  14. First Shana ending is the only thing I still care about from the show (having dropped it early into season 2 out of sheer unequivocal rage). The hymn at the beginning and then the brilliant multi-singer soul intro is perfect. I usually stop listening at that point just so that the weird 80s techno doesn’t ruin my awesome soul intro.

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