Forgive me, non-denominational-authoritarian-figure-individual-turned-to-for-support-and-absolution, for I have sinned…quite a lot, actually. What is my sin? Murder most foul. I have spent the last 24+ years of my life murdering all who stood in my way without a second thought or a hint of remorse. It started with grues and ghosts, then escalated drastically. From humble beginnings, I grew more calculating and precise in my murderous ways, moving from the grues and ghosts of my childhood to doomed marines and increasingly vicious foes. Robots, turtle-ducks, elves, zombies, Greek myths, aliens, pedestrians; all have felt the cold touch of death, brought on by my unforgiving machinations. The toll stands not at thousands, but hundreds of thousands, if not millions. My hands run red with the pixels of my dastardly deeds. Long story short: Genghis has nothing on me.
Today, I can play an incredibly beautiful game like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood that has me running around shanking the shit out of anyone who dares offend me, gets in my way, makes me stumble, etc. I go out of my way to assassinate random groups of guards for no reason other than the thrill of battle and application of skill. My knives slip gracefully into the bodies of my victims as I pounce, only to walk away seconds later. They have facial expressions, they speak, they have mannerisms, they are, for all intensive purposes, e-people. The fact that I’m e-murdering e-people who might have e-wives or e-husbands and e-children awaiting their returns after long, hard days of (at times) honest work just doesn’t seem to be relevant to me while I’m mid-murder. Shouldn’t the fact that I have, over the last two and a half decades (yes, yes, get off my lawn you damn kids and all that), destroyed hundreds of thousands or more e-lives, e-families, e-kingdoms, and e-worlds weigh on me even a little?
Nope. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
I suppose my first memory of murderous mayhem comes from my very early childhood. My parents had received an Atari 2600 as a wedding gift, but I got more use out of it than they ever did. I remember gobbling up ghosts in Pac-Man, destroying enemy tanks in Combat, and more. When my dad started bringing computers home, I started dispatching grues in Zork and tossing exploding bananas in Gorillas (yeah, I’m talking about a QBasic game, deal with it). The trend of violence and demise continued as my collection of consoles and computers grew, and at the time I never gave it a second thought; I was entertained and nobody got hurt. To be fair, between the style of the enemies I was generally dispatching and the graphics of the time, it seemed far less real than it can today; jumping on a turtle-duck and using its shell as a weapon is not exactly something one expects to be faced with in the real world, while the people I mowed down in Rise of the Triad looked more like somewhat-people-shaped blobs than people. There was an incontrovertible feeling of true freedom from consequence when playing these games, because there was a feeling of separation from reality.
As time progressed, technology progressed. The somewhat-people-shaped blobs of Rise of the Triad, DOOM, Heretic became a thing of the past, as character models were refined. This steady march of technological advancement in gaming lead to improved graphics (keeping in mind that there’s no accounting for taste, sometimes). These improved graphics let me kill more realistic looking people and destroy more realistic looking places, utilizing more realistic looking weapons while doing it all. I can play a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and choose to only kill civilians and non-combatants, while completing the game’s objectives non-lethally. But hey, you know what? It doesn’t matter. I’m a (relatively) sane individual, and I’m capable of understanding the difference between reality and video games. I’m capable of understanding the concept of entertainment.
There’s no moral to this story, no grand point to be made. I’m not going to sit here and talk about how video games are not responsible for every school shooting and crazed lunatic that makes the news (because they’re not). I’m not going to sit here and whine about how violence on television, movies, and gaming has desensitized the world to brutality (because I don’t think it has). I’m not going to sit here and fuss about how violence in gaming is far more prevalent than sex in gaming, but God forbid you show a titty (I believe they prefer to be called gazongas, but this is my article, so deal with it) in a game. I’m not going to go on about any of this because over the years I’m sure that you’ve heard all of the arguments and counter-arguments, points and counter-points, insults and counter-insults, and I don’t feel like adding more FUD to the fire. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear to everyone out there that I, at the very least, am a reasonably sane and well balanced individual (I’m sure there are those that would debate this), despite decades (I feel terribly old for being able to legitimately use ‘decades’ in this sentence) of violent gaming, etc.
I can’t wait to get home tonight.