The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
Alright, so I recently read an absolutely fantastic blog
from GIO newcomer LittleBigDaddy (points for a clever name, by the way). In it, which you can and should read here, he described how one statistic made
him stop and rethink violence in video games. An online service kept track of
his kills in Halo for a year. The total number ended up somewhere over 16,000.
Over the course of
almost a year of Halo, three months of which I lacked an Internet connection, I
have killed 16, 291 representations of a living being. I have killed the entire
population of high school...seven times and then some. I have personally ended
the lives of almost a fifth of my hometown. In other words, I have killed a lot
of people in that video game, and there's probably another two thousand
unaccounted for. This made me take pause for a moment, reflecting on the
industry I love so much in contrast to the thousands of virtual avatars whose
lives I have ended so happy.
That's a lot of people. Most gamers don't keep track of how many
people they've killed over their time with a controller, but you have to wonder
just how high the number climbs. Would it be higher for someone who plays Grand
Theft Auto or Call of Duty? What about Battlefield or Uncharted? How many
bodies have hit the floor before the credits roll?
Now, let me back up a little. I'm not saying violent video
games are bad. Remember, I'm the one who watches Sin City and plays Grand Theft Auto. I'm pretty sure whatever
remained of my right to a moral high ground was lost when I dropped a live hand
grenade into Liberty City rush hour traffic just for the fun of it. I enjoy
violent video games.
One of the reasons I like playing such gory games is because
they don't bother me in the slightest. Whether it's a good thing to be that
desensitized... well, that's an issue for another day. However, the more I
thought about it the more I felt like there was a greater reason why violence
in video games and movies didn't bother me. It's not just desensitization
(although that's part of it), there's a deeper factor at play.
To understand that deeper factor at play, you have to
understand how I play video games. Call me too literal, but I have never been
able to truly "lose myself" in a video game. True immersion has always been
tantalizingly out of reach for me. Certain games come close (Mass Effect and
Red Dead Redemption come to mind), but I have never consciously bought into a
game's fiction. In some corner of my mind, there's always that secure knowledge
that the game is above all not real.
By logical extension, that means that the people in video
games aren't real. Obvious, but you'd be surprised how easily people lose track
of that simple fact. Players become attached to certain characters and feel a
deep connection to them as if that character was a real person. They're not. No
one in a video game is real.
If this thing was real, I wouldn't leave the house. Ever.
That's why I'm so unfazed by the buckets of gore that cover
some games. There's always that comforting knowledge in the back of my mind
that the people I'm slaughtering are not real. They are simply moving targets,
bits of pixels programmed to pull the trigger when they see you.
Reality is completely different. In the real world, killing
a person is completely unacceptable. That person has hopes, dreams, fears,
personal quirks, a family, and a history. Think about that. To kill a real
person is to commit the gravest of crimes because you're not just shooting a
target; you're ripping a hole in the lives of everyone connected to them.
After attending more funerals than I'd ever care to, I can
personally attest that the people there feel that hole all too painfully. No
matter how great the reasons for killing someone sound in theory, they are
worth less than nothing when you see the victim's parents standing over their
coffin. Killing a real person is completely, totally, and utterly inhuman. I know that's a little dark, but it's true.
I think the best example of the "real-unreal" dichotomy is
exemplified by my attitude toward Grand Theft Auto IV and the television show 1000 Ways to Die. GTA needs no
introduction; it's a really fun open-world crime epic. It's also an incredibly
bloody game that lets you go on killing sprees against random pedestrians and
the police. It's violent, offensive, and revels in hilarious deaths. It's a lot of fun.
1000 Ways to Die
is a Spike TV show that relates the various gruesome ways in which people have
died. And while most (read: all) of the deaths seem exaggerated, they are still
meant to be portrayed as darkly humorous or ironic. Basically, people's deaths
are packaged for your entertainment.
I have to say, I can't stand 1000 Ways to Die. It's just too morbid and graphic. Coming from the
guy who plays Grand Theft Auto for fun, that probably sounds hypocritical. However, I
just can't force myself to enjoy a television show about the deaths of real people. Even
if that death is patently exaggerated or partially untrue, the fact remains
that there's a real person out there who really died. You can bet that their
parents don't think their kid's death is funny.
Grand Theft Auto, on the other hand, killed nobody during its development. Thousands of virtual bits of pixels may have been ended under Niko Bellic's bullets, but not a single real person got shot. No real people were hurt, so it's OK to blow up cars with a rocket launcher for fun. It's like shooting dummies.
I guess that's a good thing. Means I'm still sane and can
tell the difference between reality and video games, a very important skill.
That's why even though I play GTA every day, I still obey all the traffic laws
and refrain from starting interstate police chases. I know life isn't a video
game. That distinction makes all the difference.
What do you think? Do violent video games bother you at all?
Have you felt them affecting your behavior at all? Please tell me you all
aren't fans of 1000 Ways to Die either.