As a gamer I have never shied away from violent video games. Doom, the ground-breaking "first person shooter" of the early nineties had me running around on a Mars science station, blasting the hell out of demons escaped from a portal to Hell.
More recently, I spent hours in a compelling WWII drama (Brothers-in-Arms) that was so rich in storytelling and character development that it could have been turned into a heartbreaking film about loyalty and retaining one's humanity in the midst of the insanity that is war. I know some will raise their eyebrows, but the game was that good.
And now? Now I've just played through a scenario in a game which is guaranteed to be under Christmas trees across the country this year. A game that parents will benevolently bestow upon their children: Modern Warfare II. Don't get me wrong, I love the game and will play it to death, but I have to ask the creators why they decided to include this scene in the game. Essentially, as a deep undercover operative you follow a handful of Russian terrorists into a crowded airport and watch as they gun down over a hundred people. If you want, you can probably join them in the fun --- I was too appalled to fire at the innocents. On the other hand, I did try and shoot the terrorists and was in turn shot by them. If you want to see this scene, you can click on the embedded video. You'll notice the person playing this segment enthusiastically joins in the killing of civilians.
Some people will argue that to drive home the horror of terrorism that a person should be unflinchingly exposed to its brutality. Perhaps that would hold on a news show, but in a video game?
I'm not going to follow the argument that video games desensitize people and therefore contribute to violence in the community, but I think this sort of use of violent imagery should give us pause. Some would argue that the it's part of real life and therefore the game is really a reflection of that. Really? Really? So should we then have a game where a person plays a child abuser? Or a serial killer who goes into a school in Colorado and blows away a dozen children?
Another person will point out that buying a game is a voluntary process and that parents don't have to buy this for their kids. The idiocy of that statement is that people won't know about the violence of this game and even if they know, they will be beaten down by a teenager who wants to play what every other kid is playing on the internet.
I'm not suggesting that children will watch this and run out zombie-like to gun down a group of innocents. I'm just expressing some thoughts on the matter and wondering about whether or not a line may have been crossed, or if indeed, whether or not a line can be crossed any more.
My next post: "Writerly Responsibility" (it sort of a companion piece to this one)