I am not comfortable with violent games.
I am not comfortable with violence, and gamification does not change much for me.
But I am also increasingly uncomfortable with declaring violent video games categorically evil. To do so I would need some consistent standard. Is it the depiction of blood which is a problem? Certainly not. How about violence as a whole? No… So maybe killing in particular? That can’t be.
It is even more difficult to make absolute statements because there is such variety among games, even in the clearly violent category. Halo 1 feels the same as playing paintball, but I know that other games exist that would make me want to destroy them all and send their creators’ straight to years of counseling.
My 5-year-old nephew wanted me to watch him play games this Christmas, so I got an up-close look at a first-person shooter game which made me cringe.
Later as I took pictures of him and Josh playing a different game, my nephew excitedly told me about how they were knocking out the bad guys so that the police could come get them.
A few hours later I watched them play outside. They chased each other around with sticks and alternated turns declaring that they had killed each other.
To me it is clear that there is everything right with them wrestling and running around outside killing each other. On the other extreme, I would not currently choose to allow my 5-year-old to play first-person shooter games at all. What’s up with that?
Part of my hesitance for judging video games categorically comes from the fact that I know that I do not know enough about them, and it is all too easy to judge that which we do not understand. Is it wrong to act as if killing is a game? Perhaps. But if that is the case, then it must also be wrong to act as if promiscuity is something to laugh off.
Hours after watching my nephew play his violent games, some of us watched my youngest teen sister-in-law play Just Dance. I spoke with another of Josh’s sisters about the fact that we never would have been allowed to play these games back in the day, they clearly promote promiscuity and materialism just as much as the other games promote violence. And yet I am quite comfortable laughing at how strict our parents were, because I am familiar with these dancing games, and I don’t think that they are going to make my young sister-in-law grow up to struggle with sex or princess greed.
So perhaps my discomfort with violent video games comes from the fact that they are strange to me more than any honest moral qualms.
It is also a factor that some of the best, most gentle men I know (including Josh) play games that I dislike.
I do not dismiss real ethical issues just because Josh thinks differently. If I know that something is wrong I will throw a good ol’ fit until it has been made right. And if people in your life are playing games that you know are harmful, then I suggest that you do what you need to do to correct the situation. Don’t whine to your friends, address the person with the problem!
But it remains that Josh and I are different people who experience entertainment differently, and I trust his judgement until there is real evidence that I need to question it. I am unwilling to declare that something is wrong, merely because I do not like it.
Perhaps someday we will have consistently strict standards for all games. Perhaps we will cut our children off from their cousins because we will not want them to be a part of that putrid world. I’m pretty good at the whole airs of superiority thing, so such a future seems possible (pun unintended, thanks Google for cluing me into gaming terms).
For now though, I just toss my hands in the air and admit that I do not know. Something is rotten in the state of Video Games, but I am not prepared to determine what is right and wrong about it because it is not my country. I have no idea how to communicate with the locals, and so I’ll have to let someone else figure it all out for me.
What do you think of violent video games?
Do you play video games such as Halo? Do you play paintball? Do you watch violent movies like The Hobbit?
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