Whenever it comes to video games being singled out as a medium as the root source of school violence, shoot-outs and what not, we as consumers have always had a hard time standing up for ourselves. Its really easy – throw in words and phrases like “moral fiber” and you’ve got a horde of angry parents leading the charge. Whom do we rally behind then?
Thankfully, in the light of the more recent accusations, a few big names hailing from prestigious companies such as Blizzard and Gearbox have started to voice out. It sparked a question in me; how should our developers defend their point?
With all of their “scientific proofs” and claims, let us, for the sake of discussion, stipulate that these points are all valid. Effectively shifting the burden of proof, or onus to us. It is now our job to assert the falsehood of the claim that video games causes violence. But how are we going to proof that video games do not cause violence? How are we going to prove a negative? If we fail to do so, our standpoint weakens – from that of “Video games do not cause violence” to “I don’t believe video games cause violence.”.
You might be reading this and expect an answer from me.
Lets take a look at Tomb Raider first – a game that claims the title of the most badass game in the genre of puzzle solving.
Some time after the start of the game, you’d be forced to kill other humans that were inhabiting the island you and your crew shipwrecked on. Note that although you are usually not given any choices to not kill these people, the game refuses to lionize your killing.
“We don’t have to do this.”
In game, Lara’s dialogues and sometimes monologues would suggest to the player that they shouldn’t be doing what they’ve just done. And later in game, Lara confides in Roth that she has been desensitized to murder and is distressed about her mental state. But as we play along, Lara is more and more efficient in disposing of her enemies.
In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something.
Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.
When all seemed lost, I found a truth.
And I knew what I must become.
-Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 2013
We watched as Lara quickly changed; from the sweet, young and studious girl to the Lara we know of. A survivalist does whatever it takes to survive, and acting on the basis of her own survival. We watched as Lara starting to view her murders as a morally verifiable act as long as she is doing it do either save herself or save her friends.
What does this mean?
Did you think that the developers should have been more “family-friendly” with the theme? Should they have Lara herself break the fourth wall and remind the kids that they should never kill in real life after every now and then? Should we replace bullets with tranquilation darts?
I wouldn’t consider this subtle, actually – it’s more on the nose than you’d think. Truly subtle things tend to be completely missed because we are so used to filtering out background noise. Lara’s responses to her surroundings have taken the narrative spotlight of the game. To be fair to players, developers cannot blatantly point out that:”Hey, you’re supposed to feel that Lara shouldn’t be doing this.”, they hint so. Because otherwise, it would be betraying the player.
I think players have the right to their own opinions and interpretations of the narrative, more specifically the dialogue. Some might opine that these words are just needless background noise, others find them to signal a degradation in morality, and so on.
There is not “right” way to interpret the game. It’s a story, and whichever perspective you choose to adopt is yours and yours alone.
It’s like finding your dad’s Playboys under the bed and then blaming Playboy.”
While we’re at it, why not say that its our human attraction towards violence that makes violent video games popular?
Or even go as far as to blame the human’s inquisitive nature that prompted us to explore such grounds?
This has been an article written by PP1MT.
I just had to get this out. Sorry for, once again, not being able to artfully articulate my point.
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Thanks for reading!