ImRage: How Gaming Didn’t Turn Me Into A Violent Psychopath
The Story Of A Perfectly Sane Gamer
It’s been discussed to death over the last few years whether or not violent videogames can breed aggressive tendencies in children and, while I’m no expert, I don’t feel that either I or my brother are at severe risk of going on a rampage in a shopping centre with a chainsaw.
You hear about all sorts of behavioral studies on video games with some experts claiming that violent video games are going to turn the younglings of today into psycho killers and others claiming that it can be a harmless release of aggression and tension, much like sport. You also hear, of course, the most ridiculous stories on the radio where older people who’ve never even seen a video game, much less played one, claim that they’re destroying our youth… you know as opposed to drugs and our materialistic and womanising pop culture. And then of course you have politicians in Australia simply banning the entry of certain games into the country based on excessive violence.
However, despite the drastically different views all over the world, there seems to be no general consensus on whether or not hacking demons to pieces in Diablo is turning us into axe-wielding murderers or if it is just a harmless if gory pastime. Like I’ve said above, I don’t claim to be an expert by any measure; I’m not a psychologist of any kind or an expert on human behavior but I do write columns in my free time and, with the way the internet works nowadays, if you have connection to the interwebs and an opinion then you’re pretty much free to put it out there and be taken seriously (and be quoted out of context). However, I must stress going forward that all of this is purely my opinion and if you do disagree with me, then I’m perfectly open to it. I’m as eager to learn as the rest of you (although not from anyone who thinks Kinect Star Wars is a great game).
I suppose the best way to summarize my opinion is that violent video games don’t so much transform you, rather bring out what’s already there.
You hear some sick cases in the world such as the one where that guy went to school with a samurai sword and a slipknot mask on a drug high and attacked his fellow students and you can’t help but think that the kid must have been messed up for years and stoned out his mind to do something so bloody and drastic (click here for more). And then of course you hear more heartwarming ones like the one about that girl who saved her parents’ lives because of her knowledge of GTA and you smile; but you don’t pay it much heed other than that (click here for more).
Often I think to myself: “How much effect has violent video games actually had on my development growing up?” Some people have told me that games have desensitized me to violence and gore but I still find myself getting squeamish at the sight of blood. I can pull the heads off of gorgons no problem in God of War but honestly I don’t even have the stomach to watch the Hostel or the SAW movies (SAW I was good though). I’d even go as far as to say that the surgeries in House MD freak me out more. The other day I even scraped my knee and got freaked out by the sight of my own blood!
I can’t lie and say that I’ve never had aggressive tendencies. If you’re a man, then at some point or another in your life when someone’s really pissed you off, you’ve wanted nothing more than to kick their asses and I’m sure that most male readers of this column must have gotten into a physical confrontation (however childish) at some point or other in their lives. But if you think back to only 60 years ago during World War II where men in their twenties signed up for the army in droves with the intention to go out and kill other people from other countries then you have to sit and wonder: is our culture today really so much more violent than it used to be?
Wars have been fought since the beginning of man and, in our generation, us males have very few other outlets with which to vent our inherent male aggressions other than sports. If you believe what’s suggested in the movie Fight Club, then I’d almost go as far as to say that aggression is simply part of being a man. It doesn’t mean that we’re all just walking bombs and the moment you light our fuses we’re going to snap and pummel someone’s faces in, on the contrary, many men today are quite peaceful and passive. But on the other hand there must be a reason why more men play contact sports, like rugby and football, than women and it’s probably the same reason why more men play violent video games. On the plus side, at least we’re keeping it to games rather than shooting people who speak different languages to us.
Other than the violence, I do believe that video games can play an important role in our intellectual development growing up; or at least they did in mine. Games are very interactive and the core of nearly every single one is to give you challenges and then to give you some tools so that you can find a means with which to overcome those challenges. Every game from Devil May Cry (yes, I love Devil May Cry) to Dragon Age to Call of Duty has elements of skill, puzzle solving and decision making. If you fail a level more than once, then it already becomes a puzzle to decide which tools in your arsenal are required to progress and which strategy you need to apply. Games like Starcraft, DotA and Guild Wars are far more intellectually stimulating. Now you’re introducing elements such as resource management, interactions, awareness of the actions of other players and the need for both short term and long decision making. The more you play the better you get and I’d certainly say that it takes a reasonable degree of intelligence and logic to be proficient at any of them.
I suppose I always think back to my early years and I strongly believe that video games played a large role in my own intellectual development. I spent my years from Kindergarten to 3rd Grade playing the Jump Start and Magic School Bus educational games and without trying to blow my own trumpet, my reading, writing and arithmetic skills were leagues ahead than they should have been at that level. The first ‘violent’ video game that I ended up playing on a regular basis was Jazz Jackrabbit 2 and I don’t feel that role-playing as a green bunny and shooting a whole lot of turtles ‘damaged’ me psychologically in any significant way. On the contrary, I learned far more from games then I ever did from watching TV and while it would have been healthier for me to play more sports growing up, I don’t feel as though I’ve ended up unbalanced even if I did bend the age restrictions of movies and games from time to time. I suppose that whenever I do wonder about how violent video games have affected me, or if they even have affected me at all, I just thank God that I didn’t have to grow up listening to Justin Bieber…
I’m sure that you all have views of your own and you’re very welcome to share them… see you in two weeks…