31/31 Day 1100: Violence: Why We Enjoy It - Will Sora Layton Blog - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

31/31 Day 1100: Violence: Why We Enjoy It

Violence. If you're a gamer, you probably witness, or think about, some form of violence every day, whether it be bullets ripping through a zombie to Mario being boiled in lava. Regardless of the level, violence is abundant in video games, sometimes controlled by the player, sometimes not. It's the most controversial part of video games, and it's constantly questioned by outsiders on whether or not this violence makes us complicit with it. However, I'm not going to look at that right now-I'm going deeper, more into the human psyche.

The violence...the violence...

I very recently bought the indie title Hotline Miami at the recommendation of fellow blogger Xl9, and sat down and played straight through over half the game in a couple sittings with a couple small breaks, and mostly enjoyed it. The trial-and-error gameplay is very strategic and puzzle like, and despite my frustrations, the story of the game is very intriguing, so I almost want to keep playing instead of write this. However, I got to a bad level, and decided to hang up the towel for the night. What's so engrossing about this game, though? The gore, the satisfaction I get of ridding an entire floor of goons, ripping their throats out, blasting them with shotguns, and knifing them. 

I've thought about video game violence before, but after playing this game, I've finally been spurred to give my two cents (or, well, considering how long this will be, a dollar. :P) about the subject. No, I'm not going to do what others do, I'm going deep, into WHY we, as people, enjoy the violence we see on screen, and why some forms are more enjoyable than others. Also, I want to say one thing: I am NOT speaking only of we as gamers-I think that what I say applies to most people, save some individuals who just, well, are wired differently than others. In any case, what I'm writing is not some holy truth, but it's what I've come up with knowing the history of humanity, and knowing what satisfies us in video games.

To start off, let's go back a little bit. Awhile ago, I wrote a blog about my thoughts on the Console Wars, and in that blog, I discussed how it was the goal of the human mind to feel dominance compared to others. That's just simply something we desire-perhaps, not to be better than others, but at least comparable and awesome in others' views. That just satisfies us as humans, I feel. Now, let's couple this with a lesson in human history and psychology.

What is the goal, though?

Let's think about what's the ultimate goal of life. What's your first answer? Happiness? Prosperity? While I think we do want those, there's something that fits more overall: the goal of survival. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors thought in simpler terms, and worked towards survival in their day-to-day lives. As we as a species have evolved (oh, uh, sorry for anyone against the theory of evolution-uh, that's not a discussion for here, nevermind.), we have grown more and more complex in our societies, We've developed better weapons, and these weapons helped certain people to survive, by fighting, and defeating their weaker enemies. 

As we've moved to more modern standards, survival has become about economic prosperity, with a good, paying job satisfying our need for survival. However, we still also retain some sort of "primal" idea of what survival is. That idea is a reason I think that we enjoy violent video games so much. What has happened is that the games we play are satisfying out desire for survival, and that's where the violence comes in.

Human history is splattered with blood. Countless wars and battles have been fought, and numerous atrocities just further paint the pages red. I don't think it's wrong to say that that amount of violence has built up over time, and has just become something we're distant with. Migration patterns and other things have built up for entire species, so why couldn't violence have become ingrained in out minds over time? Even though we aren't naturally violent, we're still attracted to it. Popular movies, television shows, and video games all employ forms of violence, and that's what stimulates part of us, deep inside our psyche. 

Let's look at some of the most popular video games today: first, first-person shooters in general. When you play a first-person shooter competitively, you are acting as though competing for survival against other people, or virtual beings. When you get more kills than deaths in a match, that points to your odds of survival, and part of your psyche is either satisfied or dissatisfied with how you performed. In any case, this same idea can be attributed to many other genres. Another popular one is fighting games: the same basic principle applies-it's a struggle for survival. We enjoy (well, I don't, but most people do) these games because winning means we survived. 

I'm satisfied I did this...I survived, after all...

Now, where does violence come into this? Well, think back a bit: human history, is, well, entirely violent. Those that survived participated in violent acts of war in order to survive, and that stayed with them. Over time, the idea of violence became associated with survival. Sure, not ALL violence makes us feel good, especially outside of video games, but when looking specifically at video games, it's more understandable there. In a game, violence is done by the protagonist, and is almost always against some evil being that we know is evil, and would hurt us if it could. So, by attacking it with violence, we as a gamer think we are surviving an ordeal, and thus, we enjoy the experience.

That's my basic though with violence in games: it helps us feel as though we are surviving. Of course, there are varying levels: surviving in a Mario level isn't going to be as stimulating as defeating an adversary in a realistic setting, because human history was done in a real setting, so getting closer to that would most likely make satisfaction higher.

Well, that's all for today, and my thoughts...I hope you guys enjoyed this little philosophical trip with me...if you have any thoughts or comments, sound off below...

comments