Necessarily Disturbing

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Interesting point brought up by my readings for class: the chapter titled “Disinterest” from How To Do Things With Video Games by Ian Bogost. Maybe these violent games, and movies, books, and music too if you want to look at all forms of violence for entertainment, are intended to incite the kind of disgust that they are so often met with. What if being reviled is the point? What if their intent is to show us just why we are to be disgusted by these scenes of violence? Modern Warfare 2 allowed you to skip the level where you had to play as a terrorist (really you were an undercover Interpol agent) but was still met with a lot of controversy for it. But isn’t that the point? To remind you why these people have to be stopped? In a society as seemingly ADD riddled as America we sure seem to have forgotten why we really went to war (whether you think we went for oil or not, we went under the pretext of stopping terrorism). So in a sense, this controversial scene serves to justify the very emotions it incites, anger and disgust, for such actions. Maybe Gears of Wars, the Grand Theft Autos and Manhunts, the Saws and the Hostels and Human Centipedes, the Marilyn Mansons and Alice Coopers, the American Psychos are all created to show us such inhuman forms of human objectification for the purpose of keeping us from being desensitized to it. Violence is all around us. It is our reality. We are used to it. And sometimes, sadly enough, it takes one of these highly controversial, ultra-violent pieces of entertainment to remind us why it is wrong, like a reality check for our emotions and sensibilities.

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To build on that, it is often stated that violent video games incite violent actions, but if we are too look at it the way that was just presented, would it not stand to reason that the video game just served as a last, misunderstood straw by the individual? One whom likely is so far gone, so desensitized and so riddled with mental issues that it was no one thing that made them this way, but a culmination of all forms of violence and overall immoral events in their lives that drove them to that one point and action. No sane person, no-one in their right mind, does these things based on one interaction with a video game, song, book, movie etc. It takes a lot more than that. Have they contributed? Of course, but that is a statement on our state of mind regarding all violence and our so willing and eager acceptance of it as “entertainment” in our lives.

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It is certainly a new way of looking at all the violence, which, in a sense was more “damaging” to the psyche when it is interactive in a “game”. It also certainly isn’t one I have ever seen media outlets use when approaching violence in any medium. It is one of the first that I have heard that recognizes violence as not only a good thing, but a necessity and an unavoidable factor of human nature. And isn’t it about time we stopped acting like we are these overtly peaceful beings? It’s quite the fallacy to pretend we are all flowers and rainbows on the inside. To fully understand the human mind and sense of being we have to appreciate all aspects of it and not belittle the lesser welcomed side just to satisfy some predisposition-ed idea of morality. Whether this is correct way to view on violence and these violent games and other media objects I’m not sure. But it should be considered. I mean, when Dead Space 2 promotes that “your mother will hate this game”, maybe there is a reason.

  4 comments for “Necessarily Disturbing

  1. mburns25
    February 13, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Reading this post made me go back and reread the “Disinterest” chapter in Bogost’s “How To Do Things With Videogames” and re-evaluate my own views on violence in videogames. You brought up a great point, in terms of how the media never bothers to use this viewpoint when discussing the so-called “damaging” effect of violent video games on those who play them. In every instance I can recall, they only tell their viewers about the detrimental effects of violent videogames because they allow the player to commit the violent acts.

    You didn’t really bring up Bogost’s points about the effect of weaponry on players in videogames versus real life, but I think that it is also very relevant to your post. Guns in videogames are quick and easy to use, while in real life, to those who have no experience, guns can be confusing and somewhat difficult to use. You can’t just press (insert button here) to reload and this trigger to shoot; you actually have to load the gun, pull the slide back to load a bullet in the chamber, turn the safety off, and then finally pull the trigger in order to shoot. The translation from videogame to real life probably deters many gamers who gain an interest in weaponry due to having played war-related first person shooters. FPS games generally give gamers a false sense of confidence when discussing rifles and pistols that only after experimenting with real guns will they realize that videogames are simply a simulation.

  2. February 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I have to agree with mburns25 about the points brought up in the Bogost article. Violent media can serve as a reminder of an important, harsh reality, and in the best scenarios it will motivate people to change for the better. However, these games can only ever serve as a simulation crafted by a (possibly biased) designer. A gun is simpler to use in real life. Terrorists are real people, not just black-and-white agents of discord. And, as pointed out by Huizinga, real life is not ludic.

    Also, as much as I agree that real people aren’t “all flowers and rainbows,” intense violence in videogames should serve a point. Making a game violent just to show off how violent people can be isn’t always the way to go. Violent imagery isn’t always about severity; the most powerful violence should have depth. Which moment resonates with the player more: Scorpion disemboweling Sub-Zero, or Sephiroth stabbing Aerith? This isn’t to say that I think players should be shielded from controversial material, but by presenting it in a heavy-handed or tactless manner, developers might be alienating potential fans.

  3. eng1
    February 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I agree with the top comments on this one. In the best cases, violent media can be used to snap us out of our glorified views of reality but the game itself is always biased in some way. From what I’ve seen, violent video games never really explain what caused the violence to begin with. There is an assumption that one side is bad because of previous actions but the game never provides other options in stopping the battles besides adding more violence. The additional violence just slowly creates desensitization and human beings are very, very impressionable, so that plus the desensitization of violence might just cause players to forget the harshness of reality even more. But of course correlation does not imply causation; I just feel that violence in video games does not translate over to reality very well.

  4. V
    February 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I really don’t think there should be any sort of censorship in video games. I think it’s a shame when developers are forced to mollify content or risk being slapped with an Adults Only rating which translates to minimal sales. While I don’t believe that all video games meet the traditional standards for art, it is still a form of expression and disturbing or not – censorship is wrong. It is not the responsibility of the artist or producer to control who is exposed to the content regardless of whether or not the work is considered “obscene” or “disturbing.” It doesn’t matter. Developers should have complete freedom to express their ideas.

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