Videogame Violence Is Wrong
Posted on Monday, September 1 2008 @ 10:20:29 Eastern
Firstly, I'd like to profoundly apologise for the following. Instead of justifying my (quite radical and unorthodox) views with firm facts and figures from Ambiguous University #136, I'm instead going to cite purely anecdotal stories of why we simply shouldn't encourage violence through videogames; after all, I'm sure we're all sick to death of politicians and senior lawyers acting like they know something about our culture simply because they saw some big percentage from an acclaimed 'expert' stating that videogame violence is a bad thing. Plus, I do enjoy playing Devil's advocate:
(Although my love for Keanu Reeves is dwindling at the moment)
This came about when I was touring Facebook, and I saw a (rather popular) group called 'When Someone In Front Of Me Walks Slowly, I Feel Like I Want To Punch Them In The Back Of The Head' (or something to that extent). Now, at the time I felt like this was a rather... random thing to do. Why can't you simply walk around the said slower person? Hell, if you have the urge to punch them, then logic should also suggest that you can easily avoid them. What spurs that sort of need for violence? Is it TV? Videogames? Frustration? Yeah, probably. Supposedly, we're an advanced species, so why should we feel the need to carry out spontaneous acts of violence on those who bore and annoy us, instead of finding an alternate solution to the problem?
The step-up from this, I guess, is a recent thread over at The Escapist entitled 'Fighting'. The poster questions, 'Have you ever wish that you could involve yourself in a fight that you could see play [out] in front of you? Have you ever simply been sitting down at your computer, listening to a song you love and imagining yourself fighting for your life against a group of people with a sense of glee?'
'Mel, this doesn't prove anything!' I hear you cry. 'Just because some idiot things random acts of violence are his form of entertainment, then you can't argue that that's a reason for videogames to quit including violence!' Well STFU, Little Timmy! Did you hear what the replies in the thread said?
'Yeah, it´s probably one of the reasons violence is so popular in every medium, because people want to have their urge to fight satisfied without suffering the consequences.' writes the first bloody post. Personally (although I may sound like a dirty liberal) I have other ways of releasing stress instead of beating up some poor strange bloke; like listening to Bruce Springsteen's new album. Plus, this doesn't prove anything. In many videogames, people carry out acts of violence to initiate the consequences. Check out GTA: What's more fun, simply beating people up or running away from the cops because you beat someone up? Next!
'I've never actually been in a fight myself, but I know what you mean, and agree with you.
I imagine it's something to do with human empathy, or the likes. But seeing a fight gives you a shot of adrenaline, probably because of basic instincts of 'oh crap, I may have to fight in a min..' so that's probably why you feel that way. But yeah, I get it too.'
This is where the sense begins to trickle in. Sure, we fight because of the adrenaline, but really, causing hurt to other people is the opposite of empathy, beloved fellow poster!
This Otaku delivers the final blow, saying: 'Most times when I watch anime I can imagine myself as a ninja. or something there abouts.'
See, people play videogames for that element of escapism, right? I completely agree, because I do it too. But when threads like these spring up (even from an apparently respectable forum) then you must begin to wonder where we draw the line. Certainly, these urges have existed for thousands of years in humans and our friends in the animal kingdom, but are games beginning to rollback society? It seems some people (and to a greater extent than what I originally suggested in 'Defence of the Gamers') believe that just because they can have the reflexes of a grasshopper on cocaine in a game means that they can act and fight like that in real life. Moreover, they believe such a state of mind is acceptable and are gaining justification for it from their equally deranged peers.
'So what, Mel?' Oh, so you're back Little Timmy. 'Yeah. I mean, if these people feel this way, then they're just going to get beaten up anyway if they take action on such thoughts.'
Beloved reader base, how many of you have seen a real fight? With a boxing match, watching them practice fight alone is something to behold; half the time is really animalistic, but really you realise that they're in a controlled situation and, after all, they have training in what they do. The competitors step out of the ring and, usually, they're the greatest of friends. Kinda like what happens when playing a game; there is usually no real long-term repercussions.
In a real fight, there is no element of control there. Instead, you've got wild participants who (usually down to drunkenness or something which has sent them into a sober rage; something I find even more terrifying) have no restraints except for their mates trying to hold them back. I've never been in a one-on-one fight before, but I've certainly observed a few and been involved in enough to really appreciate the amount of pure emotion that goes into the flailing fists. Its scary.
Fighting sporadically is not an 'art'. If anything, its undignified and can really, really show an ugly side of the nicest of people. That sort of pure emotion is both tragic and unnerving to behold, especially first-hand.
(Its outside a football match, not a strange LARP event)
Imagine this, then: You've never seen a fight in your life. In fact, all you've done is stay at home and kick the **** out of people on your PS3 for the past three years. It is easy, therefore, for people to build up this exceedingly inaccurate image of what real combat is. If you are constantly bombarded with images of how acceptable it is to go out and start random acts of violence from what you play and your peers (which is what happens at said football matches anyway) without any 'anti' imagery, then it is obvious people are going to be drawn into carrying out these incredibly indecent, animalistic things.
'Mel, why are you arguing that videogames are the worst form of media for this, then?'
TV violence is shown all the time. Then you have it being written about in everything from fantasy tales to history books. What makes videogames different? What causes gamers to tick any more than their couch-loving parallels?
For two reasons, really. The first is the typical FOX News excuse: That gamers have control. That they experience, first-hand, the simulated thrill you get from beating a young gentleman up on the street. Furthermore, there are little consequences, other than dying and respawning (heck, it would be a crap game if you just got knocked out and had to play six months in hospital). Plus, some games ('Iya Manhunt!) graphically portray murder and violence in such a way that, if you were committed, you could easily learn from them and attempt to apply it to real life.
The second reason, is because gamers who play these gamers are losers (that may hit a little too close to home for some of you, but hold fire for a second!). Your average TV-watching denizen will watch an episode of Gossip Girl or LOST and then hit the town with their friends. Heck, they may stay in all day and watch the said series, but (usually) due to the huge demographic which pick TV over videogames, they'll have an active social life aside from watching TV. Can the same be said of the gamer base? Of course it can. Still, we do get these exceptions where people stay home and prefer to play a CS: S match over going clubbing. Nine times out of ten, however, you'll find that most gamers have a healthy balance of their hobby, social life and work or school.
TV watchers can, of course, stay at home and watch TV, but there's always a mix there; always some dodgy cooking programme during the day followed by some cheesy drama or action movie at night. Due to the absence of the first factor (control) on top of this, combined with the innocence of the watershed and daytime TV, makes me believe that TV has a lot less influence even over the greatest of addicts.
What am I getting at, then?
Well, look at the combination of factors: Gaming gives more control over the ability to carry out violence, glorifies it and shows little consequences. Plus, there are whole communities around these violent games. More often than not, these communities are full of underaged kids who still think violence is 'cool' and, due to the fact they probably won't be involved in - or see - a fight for another five years or so, they are slowly brainwashed into thinking that violence is easy, and isn't something we need to be concerned with.
Fortunately, us older and wizened folks tend to be more smarter. We see the problems arising here; that random violence is usually a terrible thing to behold, and there are far superior alternatives to solving conflict. Seeing people thinking 'oh lol hittin ppl is cool coz they r thick lol!' makes us feel slightly sick and causes us to lose faith in the Human Race.
If games insist on being violent to keep up the availability of 'escapism', then we either do two things: Regulate them (as the media keeps crying out that we do) or simply show a better representation of actual violence. I'm not saying that you have to go and get drunk before starting a fight with someone in the game, but more horrendous outcomes would be preferred. Sure, this will just turn the sadists on even more, but at least we'll come that little bit closer to helping a new generation understand the pointlessness in idiotic acts.
So, that's my argument. I'd like to hear your opinions. Do you agree that violent videogames are having a noticeable impact on today's youth? Is it bad? Should we show videos of people fighting 'fo real'? Are videogames directly causing more violence on the street because kids are doing it 'for kicks'?
Melaisis is a freelance writer for anything from The Escapist to PC Gamer UK. He helps run a daily blog over at The Three Rs - which deals with all sorts of cultural issues, from the idiocy of men's hair dye to the futility in robbing a bar full of bikers.