A game is a game, separate from reality. The notion of games glorifying and encouraging violence is no different from the way film and music have done. Escapism is a huge part of the gaming concept, whether you actively seek it or whether you just enjoy it. But are we seeking escapism and being delivered something more sinister, are we actually being fed propaganda in modern shooters?
No, absolutely not. Don’t be foolish, to say that modern military shooters are created to make us believe in an ideal could be applied to almost anything. Does shooting Covenant and Prometheans in Halo mean we are being conditioned to act negatively against an alien race? Could it all be a metaphor for extreme xenophobia? Would you believe that we are being encouraged to selflessly volunteer ourselves as the soldiers of tomorrow, unaware that death is final?
That is not to say that these shooters get away with everything though. Whilst military games are not modern day propaganda, they do play with the notion of war in an avant-garde way. There is a valid argument that bringing current conflict and war scenarios in to the games desensitises us from what is happening in our current world.
To a lot of the gaming community, the levels in Medal of Honor: Warfighter were simply a list of levels. Many claimed these levels to be boring and uninspired. Yet these were based on real situations that have happened in the past decade. Real soldiers experienced similar situations with fear, they had to use their wits to stay alive and to them this was anything but boring.
It obvious that through experiencing the levels in your home where you know you are safe can blur the feelings you get from these scenarios in a massive way. If you experienced a life threatening situation that others shrugged off because it wasn’t interesting to them, would you consider that reaction normal?
The other issue at hand is; where is the line drawn? When have we gone too far? We have played through levels involving the slaughter of civilians and voluntary acts of friendly fire. We’ve seen games try to play on our hearts by depicting child casualties and the effects that losing a loved one in the military can have. Is this a realistic, necessary part of the game? Or simply a ploy to make it seem more real, a detail to be added in to encourage you to want to fight on.
These aspects should be allowed in our games, like they are in our other media. My question would be if they are being added for the right reasons. It would seem that we are being sold an action game on the premise of fighting off a terrible evil, and to convince us that the evil is real, we are being shown and made to do things that are simply exploited to provoke a reaction. The death of thousands of innocent people should not be a gameplay tactic to create a reason to fight on. Especially when the consequences are never properly dealt with, the game carries on, and we forget all about the massacre that we just witnessed.
That is where my main issue lies; the loss of life is a tragic event. No matter in what scenario, yet there never seems to be any consequence to it. I understand that it is difficult to create a game where if the player dies that is it, but I feel the constant disregard for gunning down hundreds of people without it taking its toll on the soldier a little too left out.
There is nothing that really connects the consequence to the action. Real soldiers are trained to deal with the situation I know, but there are some that still struggle with the concept. I’m not saying everything needs to be all “I’m a terrible person, I’ve taken a life”, but some emotional effect showing on a character or those around them should be apparent at times. It isn’t often that we see soldiers feeling anything in these games. That makes it all too easy to forget that they are humans.
The question we must ask ourselves is not “are videogames encouraging violence” but rather “are we seeing the true consequences of actions carried out in a game”. That question need not only apply to military shooters either. This is an important question that needs answering, not only to see delicate situations handled correctly. But also to maybe enhance the experience we receive when we pick up these titles.
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