Violent Videogames - Argument

    Since the dawn of human creativity, a drive has existed to re-mold the world in front of them, and even fabricate new worlds separate from the immediate reality. Cave paintings in
Lascaux, France are highly regarded for their attempt to envelop the viewer and cause the illusion of displacement. The paintings surround nearly three-quarters of a chamber, and depict an expansive field portraying numerous animals. The way the paint contours to the rock give it a surprisingly lifelike quality (Kushner). Many paintings during the Renaissance showcased perspective for the purpose of creating depth, and therefore immersion in the painting. Through the 20th century, advances in video technology have constantly been vying to create a totally immersive environment, popularized into science-fiction with Star Treck’s holodeck. The development of the first-person-shooter genre of games has brought this kind of reality displacement to a new level, and one that has become prominent in public awareness.

    However, the violence showcased in games such as Doom and Quake has come under inaccurate criticisms, causing the public perspective to become skewed. Since the shootings at Columbine, violent media has been a popular scapegoat for critisism, with Doom being cited as a primary cause for the teens' violent acts. Recently, the Buckner's violent outbursts were attributed to them wishing to “act out their favorite video game, Grand Theft Auto”. Without looking through these media outcries into the deeper topics of view towards the status quo, creative freedom, and symbolism that these games present, we run the risk of letting corporate interests guide us even more.


In H.P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction of the 1920’s, Lovecraft presents a world that is apathetic to the existence of humankind. Deities and god exist, but humans are so far below their attention that they appear inimical to those aware of them. These works were written at a time when Einstein was shifting the perspective of the universe, and the developments in mechanics inspired many writers to express concerns of an increasingly impersonal world (Houellebecq). Do these concerns apply today? How are they reflected? 

    First-person-shooters present a very simple world; bleak, hostile, and alienating. Because of the immersive, first-person-perspective, these games have the ability to invoke strong reactions and emotional responses. In a society where children are expected to absorb information and grow up to become a cog in a corporation, it’s not difficult to see where these views can persist in the human psyche. The difference that first-person-shooters make, however, is that they give you a gun; a method by which you may alter your setting. Lovecraft offers his protagonists no chance for normality; they are powerless against the cosmos. 

    In contrast, characters such as Robert E. Howard’s Conan assert a high level of control over their reality. If a problem arises, it is quickly dealt with by the sword. Rather than explicitly instilling violence, it instead possesses a quality of going against the status quo, and drifting wherever society dictates. Will Wright, a longtime non-violent game creator, states “But the gamers’ mindset – the fact that they are learning in a totally new way – means they’ll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption” (Wired). Beyond the immediate answers of heightened awareness and motor skills, it calls into light the deeper aspect of questioning reality and not accepting face value. While these games portray these attitudes through violence, it proves to be a reflection of society, and one that can not be ignored. 

    Granted, there are examples of such games that portray an alarming amount of violent behaviour in real-world settings (such as Grand Theft Auto). Even while these may not have a notable level of creative taste, they are still entitled to be examined in the light of how they affect society. The creators have made a popular product capitalizing on the consumers desire for violence. Public media states that these games are to blame for apparent increases in crime. Instead, it would be preferable to determine why the market exists for this violence in the first place.


    Admittedly, the outward appearance of these violent realities can be unsettling, and the question often appears: “Why not have a game that involves personal interaction, as opposed to shooting?” Indeed, there is a place for this kind of relational interaction, but human-human responses are extremely complex. The goal of first-person games is to immerse the player in the presented environment. Inaccurate and unsatisfactory simulations of human interaction jar the player away from this purpose (Carmack). Instead, the environments presented abide by the creators worlds; the player brings no assumptions or expectations into it, and the experience is totally independent of any previous ideas. By this method, the virtual reality is perfect and immersive. Falling short of perfect human simulation falls short of suspension of disbelief. Although taste is a factor, that it is more often than not decided by the user, and not by outside perspectives. 

    However, it would be wise to consider that the ability to portray alternate realities with a high degree of immersiveness carries with it a responsibility to use this ability reverently.


    As Wright expressed, creativity is a skill that is being usurped for an implied “do what you’re told” attitude in public education. Violent games are an act of rebellion against society, and there is little hiding that. This rebellion, however, is not against establishment, but against the lack of creative freedom being instilled into new generations. Wright states in Wired magazine:

Just watch a kid with a new videogame. The last thing they do is read the manual. Instead, they pick up the controller and start mashing buttons to see what happens. This isn't a random process; it's the essence of the scientific method. Through trial and error, players build a model of the underlying game based on empirical evidence collected through play. As the players refine this model, they begin to master the game world. It's rapid cycle of hypothesis, experiment, and analysis. And it's a fundamentally different take on problem-solving than the linear, read-the-manual-first approach of their parents.

    This also nurtures a global attitude of learning how to see the world as someplace that each individual can affect. In contrast to television, users act directly in the simulation, and the effects are immediate. During a time of corporate supremacy, it’s becoming more difficult for a child to define himself as significant. These immersions can and do develop this confidence.


As responsibility comes with the ability to portray alternate realities so convincingly, and taste must be an important factor, the real perspectives and philosophies behind the gore should not be skewed by the media and corporate outcry of being a direct cause of real-life violence. Singularities of aberrant behavior, such as the Columbine massacre, do occur, and by no means should they be taken lightly. However, unwillingness to look into the causes of such violence past the immediate evidence can do much more damage in the long run than good.