What have we all been up to?
I recently helped out a friend who organised a 24 hour video game session to help raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support who offer advice and carers for people suffering from cancer. They made my Grandad’s last few months a little more bearable for both him and our family, so I know for a fact it’s a really worthy cause. A mother of a friend spent some time as a nurse for them and she is one of the kindest and most awesome people I know. If you have some spare cash lying around, please consider donating a little.
Anyway, the 24 hour gaming challenge. The rules were simple: people give money, and in exchange video games are played constantly for 24 hours, from 8am Saturday to 8am Sunday, and considering my Saturday night plans mostly consist of playing video games and being sad anyway I thought I might as well do it for charity.
God, I am so alone…….
As I was saying, everything from Assassin’s Creed to Lollipop Chainsaw, Rock Band to Tekken was played. Some fools were seriously humbled by a certain sexy blogger playing as Hwoarang (seriously, I will kick anyone’s arse as Hwoarang). People came and went throughout the session, lethal amounts of caffeine were consumed and for the final few hours there were just 3 very tired people with brains melting out of every orifice taking it turns to play Grand Theft Auto V.
It was a couple of hours from the end when I started having certain revelations about the GTA series and other games of it’s ilk such as Saint’s Row, Watch Dogs and fuck it let’s give Bully a shout out, that game never got enough recognition in it’s day.
You see, the “sandbox” game (named for it’s open world, lots of toys style of gameplay) are more or less designed to be the ultimate in dicking about experiences. You go where you want, do what you want and generally just kill a bit of time.
The GTA series in particular is infamous for being violent and spawning the crime sandbox subgenre and has been blamed for corrupting all the good little kiddywinkles in the land. Personally, I find this bull shit for a few reasons.
The first is that the game clearly has a mature rating. If kids are playing it it’s because someone bought it for them. Maybe if you’re worried about the fruit of your loins experiencing graphic content then you should keep an eye on what they’re doing.
The second is that I truly believe that video games can’t make someone violent. I and most of my friends have been avid gamers for years, even decades, and none of us are violent people. I don’t keep that kind of company. I think it can inspire this behaviour, but only if it already exists in the person’s mind.
But then this leads me into my big revelation of the evening- GTA does not actually force you to be violent.
The game puts you in a situation where you CAN commit mass murder, you CAN go off with a hooker and you CAN steal a car and run over every pedestrian you see, but it never makes you. In fact, the game full on punishes you for it by way of in game police appearing and attempting to arrest/kill the player, just like in real life. In reality, the game encourages the player to drive safe and obey the rules.
There are in-game missions that do encourage violence, I hear you say, arrogantly, but as stated GTA V is a game for dicking around, and these missions are optional and really only serve to give you new ways to dick around.
Thinking about the earlier examples, what really is stopping us from doing that in real life? My theory is that everybody at some point or another gets some kind of violent or wacky impulses but we don’t act on them for various reasons, be that reason fear of repercussions or some kind of moral code doesn’t really matter. But in the context of a video game, those repercussions don’t matter as you spring back to life almost instantly. The victims of our assaults aren’t real and feel no real pain.
So it is my opinion that GTA does not have the ability to make people violent, or to make people play the game violently. Rather, it provides a playground for each of us to unleash our already-existing inner psychopath in a consequence-free environment.
At one point I was walking around the streets of Los Santos randomly punching NPCs I didn’t like the look of. My friends went on similar rampages, utilising everything from hatchets to helicopters. These keen little insights into the human mind are both fascinating and frightening, a sneak peek of what someone can become on a very bad day.
All games feature some kind of simulation element, and most critics would have you believe that GTA is some kind of sociopath simulator that translates into real life violence. I put it to you, dear reader, that it is simply a life simulator, and any hints of sociopathy comes from the player’s input and need for wish fulfilment.
So what message do we take from this? What is the moral of this merry tale?
I’m not sure there is one, really. As I said, I believe these little fantasy sprees of mayhem do not lead to real life violence. If anything, it curbs it. I, for one, find video games to be a very relaxing hobby. Who’s to say that’s not because it gives me somewhere to channel my darker thoughts?
Or maybe I’m just a dork who needs a better hobby. Who knows?
As always, thank you for reading. Music this week comes from Coheed & Cambria with an extract from the wonderful Key Entity Extraction prog epic. That line, “Hang your secrets/hang them up, hang them up now”, really sticks with me for some reason. Hopefully it’ll give you something to think about too.
Until next time xx