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Opinion: Violence in Gaming >= Violence in real life?

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One of the major arguments against an R18+ rating for games in Australia (and video games in general) is that they are dirty, violent things which create dirty, violent people. Now obviously fellow gamers would argue this isn’t the case, and I’m inclined to agree. But before I do, I thought I’d examine our opponents logic and see if there is at least some merit to it.

Now I’ll start by saying that I’m not a violent person. I’ve been in maybe three or four fights in my life time, maybe one or two in which I threw a punch. The others were just me getting punched. So considering that I play video games for virtually all of my free time, it would seem that they haven’t created a bloodlust-fuelled demon/bieber monster out of me yet – but maybe I’m looking at things the wrong way.

If it’s aggression within gaming, can anyone honestly say that video games haven’t instilled some form of a virtual need to kill in you? I mean, as a long term WoW player, I have often taken joy in killing those less skilled, less experienced or just lower level than I am. But was it because it was fun? Because it was expected of me? Or for the joy of the hunt and the meaty pleasure of the kill?

Let’s look at another example. When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was released, it quickly attracted a lot of press for a level in which you are an undercover agent posing as a Russian terrorist. The terrorists, and you, seize an airport full of civilians. Then they start massacring them, the unarmed tourists and travellers gunned down mercilessly. And the player is left with an unasked question: “Should I be joining in to preserve my cover? Or should I hold my fire, and not participate in these atrocities?” Now if you asked a parent, a nun or a member of the ACL I’m sure they would tell you this is a no-brainer, only someone who was completely morally bankrupt or abused as a child would think killing civilians, especially as part of a terrorist group, was acceptable in any form of media.

But if you asked me? Well I was knee-deep in dead civilians before I even remembered I was an undercover agent. There were no twinges of guilt, after all I have been programmed to destroy pixellated foes from a young age – everyone knows that NPC’s (non-player characters) lives don’t really count.

Later I would learn that the military adviser to Activision when they created Modern Warfare 2 said something along the lines of “Anyone who would get involved in that massacre obviously has some mental issues to deal with” (not a direct quote), boy were my cheeks red. But my point is, from the early days of killing the civilians in Counter Strike just so that the other team didn’t rescue them (who cares about the tiny amount of money you lose?) I have been trained to kill in games, quickly, efficiently and without mercy.

And this aggression isn’t located only in first person shooters. I was known for my “game rage” as a WoW player and even now if I am having a good game of Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 (great fighter, incredibly long title) there will probably be several threats to the other players life (only my girlfriend witnesses them, and she’ll never tell… I’ll make sure of that) that are thrown around before I finally beat him.

So while personally I believe that real-life aggression isn’t stimulated by in-game aggressive actions (please nobody bring up Jared Loughner, that guy didn’t need videogames to make him crazy – just check his youtube channel), in-game aggression has definitely been on an upward slope in recent years. I still remember being shocked, and delighted, when I first chain-sawed an enemy in half in the original Gears of War and saw his blood spurt all over my screen. Similarly, I never knew that I wanted to personally guide a sniper bullet deep into somebody’s eye socket until I played Bulletstorm. Who knows, maybe I’ll never know how fun it is to play as a suicide bomber until they make 9/11: The Reckoning – Obama’s Justice Edition (no, it’s not real). Oh wait, I already know how fun it is. I’ve played Goblin Techies in DotA.

At the end of the day I still disagree. Most of the violent gamers I know actually don’t play games that often, and are quite charming when they do play games. I’ve personally never felt like getting into a fight after a game of Tekken, or running down some prostitutes after playing some Grand Theft Auto. But the fact that my appetite for more and more violent games only being matched by the increasing amount of violence in games created is somewhat concerning.

Must we doom ourselves to become exactly what groups like the ACL keep telling people we are? A vocal group of blood crazed masochists who constantly need an offering of greater violence (simulated or otherwise) in order to be appeased?

I’m not saying “Say No to Violent Games” but nor am I saying “For Gears of War 3, if I can’t eat a guys throbbing heart while his wife and kids watch then I am getting a refund”.

What I am saying is that if we want to convince people that video games don’t create violent people, then maybe we shouldn’t be creating gamers who subsist on violence.

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