For my fellow corrupted youth
Subject: Video Games
Summary: This is my way of playing Devil's Advocate; why video games are in fact not the cause of school violence, and why including graphic violence in video games can, in some cases, make a game that much better because of it.
Since their conception, violent video games have been blamed for the problems of the kids who play them. However, violent games alone do not inspire violent acts, and the violence often actually enhances the quality of the games rather than deters from it.
When used efficiently, violence can be used to fulfill a specific purpose. For example, shooters usually follow a single man fighting against an onslaught of either dangerous monsters or other armed men. By immersing the player into the game, they feel tension, even fear, specifically from the danger of being killed.
Stealth games instill in the player a fear of being spotted by the enemy; unlike typical shooters, killing enemies isn't the objective, as the primary goal is to remain undetected. However, as with typical shooters, the player still feels tension from the danger of being killed.
In horror games, violence and gore is often part of the setting, and is usually used to disturb, horrify, or shock players.
Though all three genres involve violence, they are highly unlikely to inspire violent acts simply because they are all survival games at their core; in most shooter, stealth, and horror games, the player is greatly outnumbered by their enemies and is very much vulnerable to attack, sometimes flat-out weak. Thus, players are automatically put onto the defensive, and defensive situations by nature do not encourage the player to go into crazed, trigger-happy frenzies.
On the other hand, there are the games in which you are encouraged to go into violent rampages. Action games, for instance, feature overpowered protagonists with overpowered weapons, where the goal is simply to kill and look cool while doing it.
Then there's the infamous Grand Theft Auto series, which is essentially about becoming a crime boss and generally creating havoc.
Because of the graphic violence, critics most often look to action games, especially GTA, for proof that video games are corrupting the world's youth. However, GTA and the vast majority of action games in general do not reside in the realm of reality and in no way encourage real-life violence. In GTA, you can bring down two helicopters, steal a tank, kill countless people, then get out of jail just by paying a few thousand bucks. San Andreas may be a real location, but the game is obviously not based on the real world. People who don't realize this and seriously attempt to emulate the game's events are not in touch with reality in the first place, and this lapse is certainly not the fault of the game itself.
When a game about a neglected and socially repressed teenager stealing his father's gun, killing his parents, and shooting up his school is brought over to America, then yeah, it's a cause for concern. But a game that's so ridiculous that you can go to a nearby mall and find a katana in the backroom of a Starbucks isn't something to lose sleep over.
In the end, the question that most non-gamers ask themselves is, why include violence in video games in the first place? After all, there are plenty of great sports games, platformers, and RPGs that have little to no graphic violence present. So why not get rid of all violent games? Or at the very least, tone down the games that are violent?
The situation with video games is comparable to films. Like video games, there are plenty of movies filled with stupid, senseless violence--movies society could very well do without. But at the same time we'd be deprived of films such as The Godfather, The Lord of the Rings, and Silence of the Lambs, where the violence is very much a part of the work itself, and part of what makes those movies so memorable. And video games are much of the same. Where would Devil May Cry be without its over-the-top, Matrix-style action? Or Medal of Honor without the violent, but realistic warfare?
And by toning down the violence in such games, something in the work would inevitably be lost. Case in point, when I first started playing Resident Evil 4, I remember feeling sick from how brutal some of the cutscenes were, but I've grown to appreciate them in a strange sort of way. Sure, it's not entirely necessary, but seeing a headless body slowly walking towards me gives a much-welcomed dose of horror in a game so action-oriented in gameplay.
So if you ever find yourself cringing over the gory scenes in the latest Mature-rated game, give it a chance before you write it off completely. It could very well end up as one of your favorites in spite of or even in part because of that cringe-worthy gore.