Violence in Computer Games

I’ve played computer and video games all my life. Their role in my life has changed over time, but for better or for worse they’ve been a part of life ever since I was 4 years old or so. My first computer was a Commodore 64, then Amiga 500. Both machines, especially Amiga 500 contain so much nostalgia for me that can never be surpassed. That’s why I wouldn’t really wanna play with them in order to not ruin my memories. I also a Gameboy at some point, Amiga CD32 and Sega Megadrive. Then a Playstation, Playstation 2. I have a Wii, but nowadays I mostly play PC games.

I’ve learned many things from games, for example computer games played an integral part in learning the English language. However computer games are also a big waste of time, very annoying at times, and a form of escapism. At small doses escapism is good, but not when it begins to rule over your life. I couldn’t really care to try to weigh whether they’ve helped me or hindered me more.

As an elementary school kid computer games were the best thing in existence. As I got a bit older they began to lose some of their magic. They became more of an escape from an unpleasant reality. Eventually I realized it, and thought I shouldn’t be too attached to them, yet I was afraid I could never do it. After I woke up, I wasn’t so much attached to them. I didn’t see the point in playing games anymore on an intellectual level, yet on an emotional level I was still attached to them somewhat. Now I figure “It’s just a ride” as Bill Hicks used to say. Playing a few games every once in a while is a fine part of the ride as long as they’re not the majority of it. I much prefer doing other things, like stuff with real people. I can’t imagine myself saying stuff like: “Sorry I can’t go out tonight because I have to play ______.” Some people who play World of Warcraft are like that. Nowadays I seem to be drawn to games mostly at times when I feel stress about schoolwork or other boring “society stuff”. Games are diversion, sometimes pleasant, other times annoying.

The topic is supposed to be violence in games so let’s get to the point. I’ve almost always liked violent computer games. (When I was really young, less than 9-10 years old I probably didn’t.) They’ve symbolized freedom of expression to me. Some “moral guardians” wanted to censor games even though they’d never played them. Violent games was one way of fighting against censorship. In the early nineties games like Syndicate and Cannon Fodder were amazing partly for the violence. I was smart enough to recognize even as a kid that a game is a game. Killing someone, especially in a bloody way, is not real. Rather it is sort of an silent, non-intrusive way of rebelling against the social order. I’ve always been rather peaceful. Games can make me angry, and other people angry, even aggressive but whether the game is violent or not has little to do with it. If a game annoys you, it can make you pissed off. It has more to do with bad controls, unfair level design or something like that, a deeper aspect of the game than a superficial theme like violence or lack of it.

Recently I’ve realized there’s another way of looking at why I and probably some others like violent games. There’s a new shooting game called Hotline Miami which is really old school nineties style game. It also has lots of blood, violence and a sick nihilistic sense of humour. The music if good too. In other words I love it. Playing it made me realize it’s one way of confronting the violence that the modern society is based on. There is a veneer of decency, civility and politeness in society, but in fact it is founded on exploitation and suffering of others. We know the colourful adverts, the smiling people high in social hierarchy and the modern metropolis hide the fact of hundreds of years of genocide, oppression and violence; physical, emotional and intellectual. Living in this society is it not easy to clearly recognize how contradictory and violent the society really is because of all the diversions that tell you otherwise. Yet, deep down we all know what the story is. By playing violent computer we recognize the violence inherent in society and relive it in a non-harmful way. It brings our inner antipathy toward society from the subconscious to the surface. We long for the violence, the same as our society. When the society no longer yearns for violence, then we can cease to do it too.

That being said, when I was a kid there were no online multiplayer FPS war simulators like Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and all that stuff. I’ve never played them because I’m not really interested. It could be that those are deliberately, or accidentally, used to brainwash children, or adults. I really cannot say since I have no experience. I can just comment on my own experiences on violent games. They can be liberating. Killing a bunch of people in GTA is fun. Still, it doesn’t mean I only like violent games. Violence is simply one aspects among dozens that I like. As do a lot of my friends. As long as you’re not fucked up in the head you can enjoy any sort of fiction, be it a game, movie or book, if you enjoy it.

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