Video games wield significant influence. Therefore, I contend that video game developers and publishers have great responsibility in how they deliver their content--especially violent content.
Since childhood they've encouraged me to read more. Games have often asked me to consider a perspective or a philosophy different from my own. Games have also portrayed real-life events, placing me at their center, such that I could understand these situations and empathize with the participants virtually as one of them. Many games have also helped me temporarily escape my reality when its burdens overwhelmed me. In some small way, video games have had a hand in shaping the man I am today. I'm no psychologist. I'm not an analyst or a researcher. I'm writing to you today as an observer; a participant; a fan. In other words, I'm not trying to pass off the following observation as empirical evidence for some asinine case for or against game violence. These are merely my beliefs based on what I've observed in my life and the lives of those around me.
Video games wield significant influence. Therefore, I contend that video game developers and publishers have great responsibility in how they deliver their content--especially violent content. We're no longer playing pong (well some people probably are). Games now allow us to experience virtual representations of things we experience in real life. While we know that these experiences are rooted in fiction, games, like no other medium, allow us to see, hear and feel the action along with the emotions that follow decisions we've made. I also believe that games, along with movies and other entertainment, can introduce us to situations that will shape how we deal with them in real life. For example, when I saw Robocop, the scene where villains murdered Alex Murphy troubled me quite a bit. I was a kid and It was the first movie I'd seen with such detailed violence. I look back on it now, and it's almost laughable. It would seem that as we are exposed to a particular situation - violence in this case - over time, we become more familiar or comfortable with it. By the time I saw real combat, I had already seen so many virtual representations of its violence. So much so, that many of the horrible things I saw didn't phase me as much as I felt they could have.
Let me pause to say that I'm not attemping to make a case against violence in video games. I know that's a popular, if tired argument right now. From my perspective, violence and struggle have driven our world for centuries. It makes sense that our entertainment mirrors what we experience over time. However, I'm very directly saying that the creators of our beloved games must consider how they deliver their content to us, and the narrative - whether implicit or explicit - that surrounds it. This responsibility should not be exclusive to violent video games, but should be more heavily considered when a given game does center on violence or other tragedy.
The first time I held a .45 caliber pistol, I was 11yrs old. My father used to keep one in a case on the desk in his bedroom. One day, I asked him if I could hold it. Surprisingly, he said yes. As he pulled the weapon out of its case, he paused before handing it to me and said, "This weapon is made for killing." Dad when on to say, "You are never to point it at yourself, your friends or any member of this family. If you ever do raise this weapon, or any other weapon to point it at somebody, you do so with the intent to kill." I didn't fully understand it at the time, but what my dad was instilling in me was a sense of purpose. Pops helped me understand that this handgun was not a toy. It was not something to be handled lightly. He taught me how to hold it, how to clean it and how to take care of it so that it would never fail if I ever did need to use it to protect myself or those I care about. He taught me that carrying a weapon carried with it tremendous responsibility.
I carried that mentality with me into adulthood both as a soldier and now as a civilian. As soldiers we were called upon to harm and even kill others, but I never escaped that sense of responsibility for our actions. To this day I pray for the families of the fallen onboth sides of the battlefield. Unfortunately, many of the video games I've played that center on violence don't do enough to convey a significant purpose for said violence. I've played and even reviewed games I felt did a poor job of giving me a reason to kill or injure the bad guys. That's not to say that games have not attempted to take responsibility. I honestly believe that many developers just don't know how to address it. How many developers have actually killed people or had to order other men to kill people? How many of them have had to live with the scars that come from ending someone's life? I think they don't know how to properly address it because they don't have the perspective.
With that said, developers can't just stop making violent games because there is too much money to be lost. I would caution developers as we push forward to the next generation of gaming. Violent games - and games that deal with other serious issues - are only going to become more immersive and engaging thanks to the constant evolution of our gaming tech. I contend that developers must take responsibility and help the gamer perceive the weight and responsibility that comes with dealing with these issues. Take Far Cry 3 for example. Many of you know I didn't care for this game much, but let me applaud the developers for at least trying to develop Jason's (the main protagonist) character around the violence he commits throughout the game. I argued that they didn't do a great job of it, but again, at least they tried to address it the best way they knew how. More developers need to take this bold step and by nature of experience, get better at it by practice.
To wrap up, let me also say that I'm in no way advocating a future blanket ban of games who's developers don't consider and embrace the responsibility I've laid out here. In the end, it's truly up to us (the consumers) to ensure that we and our children consume entertainment that meets our standards. I'm not looking to the government or any other established organization to keep suggestive material out of the hands of my kids. It's my job to ensure they are playing games, watching shows and listening to music that does not breach the morals I'm working to instill in them. Much like may father did for me, I'll make sure my kids grow up understanding the weight violence and other serious matters carry with them. However, I think the games industry could make some serious progress in getting the government and others off their back if they could show evidence of a more deliberate approach to add more weight and purpose to game violence that goes beyond this tired 'good guys versus bad guys' standard we've grossly overused. Video game developers wield far too much influence to ignore this responsibility. I can only hope Far Cry 3 and games like it influence even more developers to look at how they handle violence in our games.