I've been doing my level best not to get involved in the various arguments about how games do or do not train the human mind to [violence|murder|killing|mayhem]; to me, it's old news. I lived through this in the 80s, when mass-hysteria's designated whuppin' boy were (evil) the (Satanic) role-playing (Hissss!) games that I enjoyed in my youth. Perhaps I'll ramble about that another time -- growing up in the middle of a country town, where no one really had anything to do except peer into each other's lives, I have plenty of tales to tell of needless discrimination and fear based on recreational choices -- but for now, I'd like to finally break my silence and ramble on the nature of the beast. Please revive that Puritan lady in the back... the beast of which I speak is that of Video Games.
No, on second thought, better leave her fainted. This could get ugly.
I'm not going to talk about what violent games do to you in the psychological sense; better men than me have wrassled with that gater, and I'm fairly sure I wouldn't live to tell the tale later. So, to begin my ramblings I'm going to embark upon a one-hundred eighty degree tangent to even begin to make my point
One of my favorite books from my university years is
Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey, which is one of the first drug book on record for those of you keeping score. It was written in a time when Turks were not the best loved of people (I'm praying that I get the facts right... it's been a few years since I've reread the book), and in the midst of this political climate, there is a passage where a Turk comes knocking on the protagonist's door. After the encounter, our 'hero' hands the Turk enough opium to kill a man thrice over,dividing the dose into three, which the Turk takes and bolts whole. Now. The Turk was stated as having known what Opium was and recognizing it on sight. We have accepted him as a knowledgeable user of this drug, and so he must know what this kind of a dosage would do to him, mm? And yet, in accepting this, we as the reader ignore that he was given
three doses of the drug, each of which was enough to kill him. We become complicit in the Turk's death by acceptance and by failing to resist the subtle political movement of the text, in which the protagonist kills an enemy (who had done him good) with a soft poison.
So what the HELL does that have to do with FPSs, Cartman?
Video games from the very beginning have been an exercise in degrees of catharsis and culpability. Let's start from the very top -- the First Person Shooter. When you put yourself behind the cross-hairs of your Strogg, Merc, Doomguy, Nazi-Hunter or what-have-you, you are doing more than simply changing your perspective of game-play -- you are accepting that role onto yourself. Every time you point your cross-hairs and fire at someone, you are directly culpable for that on-screen death. There's no layer of abstraction between act and action -- you, not a marine and not a Demon-Hunter and not a heart-crushing ninja are destroying... whatever it is you're trying to destroy.
Let's move up a level, to what I call the Second-Person shooters. The best examples I can think of are games like MDK, or any flight sim where you're taking a chase-plane perspective. In these games you're now a degree apart from your on-screen avatar... you command and he acts. You are not the one destroying what is seen; he is, and by his hand does destruction rain down upon the rasterized foe.
Then we have the third type... the Starcrafts and the Myths and the Warcrafts and other such third-person games (yes, these divisions are horribly artificial. I'm making a point, rather than trying to create cohesive categories to last through the ages and beyond like a neo-Platonic configuration). In these, you are only guiding your thralls towards the enemy... you take very little direct responsibility for their actions once they've reached their foe. It is their lot in life to kill and act as their instincts dictate and it's your sad role to keep those virtual peons alive, at the cost of their enemies' lives.
And yet, even in third person games, are we not culpable for all of the destruction which our on-screen puppets wreck? We enter into the game knowing the purpose and the point; it was not thrust upon us, but rather, we accept our position willingly by installing and running the games which we play. And without saying 'one game is good, one is bad', because this is meaningless -- if you haven't figured out that I"m talking about culpability and not morality, please join the lady fainted on the floor and don't bother getting back up -- I will say that First Person Shooters are the most honest of these games, as we accept that we are slaying and looting and pillaging (up and down the coast!) and perform these actions
directly, rather than hiding behind layers of protection which shield us from our actions.
Enough philosophy. Back to trying to murder Diedrianna. Or sorry, no. Having my mercenaries attempt to sanction her. Isn't it nicer when it's all wrapped up in a pretty package?
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