Are You More Sensitive About Video Game Violence The Older You Get?
I’ve never enjoyed gratuitous violence either on film or in video games. In fact, I remember insisting on my late mum returning the video of Silence Of The Lambs to me before she had a chance to watch it out of fear she would have nightmares, especially since she lived alone. But context is important when telling a story, for example, the horrors of world wars, and Saving Private Ryan is a good example. Spielberg’s depiction of the Normandy beach landings couldn’t be anything other than as realistic as he could possibly portray. On the other hand, one does feel mawkish seeing soldiers’ bodies dismembered on the beaches, all made for our entertainment. But it’s different in video games which are proactive and you have choices that may affect the course and ultimate trajectory of the game.
This is my favourite video game genre, but as I get older I find myself becoming more sensitive, not only at what I see on screen but also by my actions. For example, many sniper games such as Sniper Elite and Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts allow an x-ray view of bullets entering the human body and the damage they do to the internal organs as they are ripped apart. One glimpse of that horror was enough for me to switch off that option, but it doesn’t hide the full horror of a bullet entering and exiting someone’s head. Many games have the option to turn off gore completely and I welcome that, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the game immersion. Let’s face it, when you shoot someone in a game, you would expect to see blood, without which it would simply play out as a game of tag.
But it also depends on who I’m shooting. Innocent bystanders and kids are a no-no unless you’re a sadist. Many games, however, penalise you for killing non-combatant NPCs and of course blue on blue. But zombies and other fantasy enemies are easy prey and I have no qualms in mowing them down with extreme prejudice, as the saying goes.
If you see one of these chasing after you, it’s either you or
him it, and I’d happily blow them to pieces just to survive.
Grand Theft Auto V is a notoriously violent game in which practically anything goes, including shooting police officers and anyone else that gets in your way. But there are consequences, so within seconds, you’ll find yourself being chased by a posse of police cars and they will kill you when caught. Additionally, I have an aversion to running over or killing motorcyclists in particular because I’m one myself. So sometimes it’s a fine line between reality and fantasy in video games, with that line becoming narrower as games become more realistic every year.
Kill Or Be Killed?
Take this picture for example. As you can see, there are four armed men guarding the boat, an explosive barrel (very tempting), and a minefield nearby. I know this because I can watch the scene through the scope on my sniper rifle as I lie hidden in the bushes. Naturally, being a sniper game I need to pick them off, allowing me to sneak into their camp and steal documents, rescue hostages, or whatever the mission demands. It’s odd because this is where the moral compass comes into play and you tell yourself that these men will have mothers, fathers, and probably children and wives. Clearly, it doesn’t change much in your own real life if you shoot them dead because it’s just a video game isn’t it? On the other hand, as I get older the morals creep into video games even more. Certainly not enough to make me hang up my mouse, but enough to bring questions to the fore, shall we say.
It’s only with humans though and more particularly in cold-blooded killings, such as sniping. In other games where waves of enemies come at you from all directions, or you simply have to take out enemies in a balanced fight, it’s not really an issue. Zombies, unearthly creatures, demons, and the like are fun to take out, but when the human element creeps in, it’s another story.
If you play shooters, what are your thoughts?