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Violent video games and real cruelty

2 september, 22:45

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Cruelty and violence are two words that can easily describe the world out of a person’s comfort zone. These concepts are often associated with bloodshed, violent death, mutilation. This controversial topic worth examining: whether these are really the only embodiments of atrocity in the surrounding reality. After each terroristic act, both officials and ordinary people try to explore the reason for it, attributing a harmful effect on everything that moves and doesn’t move. Let’s try to figure out which proportion of the accusations accounts for video games.

The ability of video games with elements of violence to motivate the inhuman behavior of gamers in the real world is a topic  that raises its head from time to time in heated debates between computer entertainment supporters and their opponents. While there are no conclusive, coherent pieces of evidence of the game’s impact on their consumer behavior, this “issue” is even raised by high-profile officials.

America’s current president, Donald Trump, called this type of entertainment disgusting and accused it of possibly having contributed its role to the massacres that happened last year.

Considering video games from this perspective after every tragic violent event only betrays the collective opinion of the huge part of mankind that people are focusing on the wrong paths, thereby relegating more important issues to the background. Essentially, it is important to know how fans of cruel games actually behave themselves, as well as whether there is any other potential harm from video games besides instilling the bloodlust to its fans.

After another one school massacre, Trump said that video games can steer the forming thinking of young people in the wrong direction. But the research has shown the opposite: it’s not their gameplay that influences their behavior; it’s their behavior that influences the gameplay. Moreover, the following graph can become a counter-argument which shows that the level of criminality has nothing in common with the rising popularity of video games.

There is an opportunity to get a closer look at the topic of heated discussions using the example of the hated by Jack Thompson game – Grand Theft Auto. The forth part of it he compared to the polio epidemic. For those who are unfamiliar with this person: Jack Thompson is an American activist who advocates for the “interests” of ordinary people by campaigning against the depiction of violent elements and / or eroticism in games. (There is a link for everybody who wants to dive dipper into this theme: https://gta.fandom.com/wiki/Jack_Thompson)

In the much-criticized virtual world of Grand Theft Auto, players can feel themselves bank robbers, they have the ability to  knock down pedestrians or blow up a car. But beyond that, it is possible to do quite legitimate things: to visit hairdressers for getting a cool haircut, to admire the city from a high Ferris wheel, or to find themselves a little extra work in a taxi to save money for a trendy tattoo or new clothes.

Observing some young people at play showed that their pro-social behavior was not the embodiment of aggressiveness. Rather, it manifested itself in the borders of social structures work; patient waiting for the green light on intersections was much more common than acts of aggression. When gamers wanted to experience something that wasn’t available for them in real life, it wasn’t an act of violence, but a glimpse of interest.

It seemed that lust for violence had nothing to do with the gamers’ desire to dive deeper into the virtual world. Rather, they were guided with usual willingness of people working in a capitalist society: owning a nice car, a beautiful large house, stylish clothes, etc.

The real problems

The complete entourage of the game is created by the details borrowed from the outside world.

✔The health insurance system in Grand Theft Auto is similar to the one currently in force in the United States. Moreover, in case of arrest, gamers can post bail to get out of the detention cell. In some areas of the game city, there is an opportunity to feel out of place because of the skin color, and in some wealthy regions players can become outcasts in case of establishing a huge metal gate in front of their house and put security near it.

✔The game is considered brutal because of the apparent bloodshed and the possibility of killing almost all people who are not to the liking. These elements are pretty good in provoking criticism of different experts. However, few of them focus their attention to the fact that murders, even in a brutal game like GTA, are encouraged if it was done by a police officer. Punishing bad guys with murder is presumed to be politically correct enough not to be judged in the real world.

✔Although there are female characters in the game, they cannot be used by gamers but it is easy to mock them and harm them. As for the characters in general – sometimes one can play as a white entrepreneur Michael, and sometimes as a black street crime named Franklin.

✔Michael’s house is hidden behind a chic fence in one of the magnificent neighborhoods, while Franklin’s is located in the grayest and most depressing part of the city. There are also tangible differences in the gameplay between these two characters: Michael’s figure is easy to play – he and his family are authoritative in this reality, while Franklin is a handyman who runs Michael’s random assignments in exchange for access to his linkage.

This world is a projection of our reality – everything is here: social stratification, stereotypical ethnic division of the population, financial discrimination, and disillusionment with material existence.

Cruelty is unrealistic

In fact, playing the Grand Theft Auto with young people, the researchers were well aware that the bloody mess had little to do with real-life scenes and looked more like a tomfoolery. The shooting of people with machine guns was so implausible that no one took it any seriously. At the same time, the venue where the action took place – the unfair competitive capitalist system – was taken for granted. None of the participants had the idea of the possible consequences that might spill out from the created atmosphere.

Criticized for realistic brutality video games are the most thriving franchise of all times. However, it is not yet clear whether critics are paying attention to the proper “cruelty”. Often, games borrow its ideas from the real world, including not only the violence but also the whole atmosphere that reflects acute social trends from a humans-being life.

According to this, it is easy to say that prejudice about the elements of cruelty in computer entertainment is just a manifestation of double standards. If the review is given monolithically, then the reasoning of the reviewers should go beyond simplistic causal arguments towards exposing the cultural and social flaws that are embodied in the games themselves.

Based on all of the above, the question should arise: “Do video games inspire their fans for acts of violence, or does the real world inspire the game atmosphere?” … But this question will remain open for a long time.

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