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Doing Away with Video Game Violence


In the past week, I’ve heard people talk about how they like First-Person Shooters while, days later, grieve the loss of a friend upon hearing of their passing. I’m not quite sure what to do with that. Do we promote death or do we disdain it?

What is it about the taking of another’s life that makes it easy when we objectify it? The video game industry makes extreme profits when they create a game that includes the ability of the player to take away life.  There are games out there such as Halo, Modern Warfare, Battlefield, and Gears of War that set precisely the example that I speak of. These are games that sell millions of copies worldwide.

But it’s not just the first-person shooters that give the player the thrill of the kill; check out RPGs (role-playing games to the laity). Games such as Skyrim, Final Fantasy, even Zelda from way back in the day. It’s not a new trend that has just been discovered in the industry, it’s been around since way back. Think of Galaga. Hell, think of chess.

What is it about killing that gives us such pleasure?

The last era of video games in my life (that is, the last time I would say that video games made its way into regularity in my life was back when Final Fantasy II came out in the States. Yeah. That was way back in 1988. It was sometime back then when I decided that I could no longer play video games and live a productive life. One of them had to go. I hope I made the right decision.  The truth is I love video games. Love ‘em. If I had my druthers I would just set aside days (not hours or short periods between other things – no, days) to play them. That’s how much I get into them.

Just recently I was house-sitting for some friends of mine.  Their house is one huge gaming fun zone, and they were gone for a month. Let’s just say it will be a lull of productivity in my life. Not it a bad way, because I actually made it to Level 20 Argonian in Skyrim, but dammit did I want to play more.  While I was playing, I was killing a whole lot of things (bandits, beasts, dragons, undead, Nords, wolves, skeletons, and yes, old ladies) and I loved it.  I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to keep beating people down and showing them how bad-ass I was and how they shouldn’t f*&# with me because I had an orcish bow and could raise the dead. There was something about seeing my character pull an arrow out of his quiver, hear the sound of him drawing it back to full tension and sending it straight into the head of some guard, caught completely unaware… and then earning +2 to Sneak Attack.

In the game I’m this hot lizard chick who rides around on a warhorse, kills folk, and earns levels, but in reality, I’m an unshaven bald dude who’s sitting in a sofa, ankles deep in fudge.  WTF?

What is it about killing that keeps us so engaged.  I wholeheartedly believe that creates adverse affects in our brains – adverse meaning bad.  I’m no doctor, but I’ve heard what I’ve heard and read what I’ve read. On the whole, I’m going to with Deepak Chopra (2pac’s Indian brother) and say that it’s taking us away from developing ourselves to our fullest capacity as human beings.  We can do so much with this wonderful tool (the human body) that we have in this life, yet many times, we just don’t want to put forth effort. And why would I go the gym when I can sell this Scorching Warhammer and learn its enchantment?

<<sigh>>

I’m opposed to killing. I told this to my friend and he said, “Yeah, but you’re not killing human beings.”  Is that how the industry tries to get around it? By somehow claiming it’s not really “killing”?  Hmm, the action of taking life is the same universally, I would say. I am conflicted. I am opposed to killing, yet find some games out there immensely entertaining. I can’t help but wonder how we can go about holding the attention of the masses and remove the hints of death in what we are watching. It’s everywhere, isn’t it – television, magazines, books, movies, comics, games…everywhere. Yet sex (the physical act of love) is something that we can’t talk about. Don’t get it.

I would say we need to tweak our value systems – find something other than death to get excited about. I’m thinking of the festival in Buñol, Spain (La Tomatina) the last Wednesday of August in which there is one massive tomato fight. Tomatoes take flight, smash into walls, windows, cars and other people. Tomatoes get smushed, smashed and splattered all over  –  EVERYTHING.

Maybe we should start there.  It would at least be healthier than the fudge.

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