You’re an illegal immigrant from an East European country who’s recently set foot in America. You’re poor and you definitely don’t have the money to buy a car. You see a shiny sports car on the road. You want it. You need it. You slowly make your way to the car and with a press of a button yank its driver outside. He resists. You punch the daylights out of him leaving him battered and bruised on the road. You’re about to sit in your car but something doesn’t feel right. He’s crawling away from you. You proceed to kick him a few times till he’s motionless and bloody in the middle of the road. You then make your way to your newly acquired sports car.
You’re cruising down the road at breakneck speed. Your phone rings. You get distracted for a minute. BAM! You hear a crunching thump. You look up and see a pedestrian flying through the air, his blood splattered all over your hood. You carry on like nothing’s happened.
For many of you this is your typical day in Liberty City or any other free roaming game. For your mother this could be horrific. In a way I don’t blame her because today’s media has desensitised all of us. Movies and video games have continued to pummel us with over-the-top violence to the point that we not only enjoy it but crave it too. I mean, how many of you would have enjoyed God of War III if not for the all that gratuitous head ripping?
The other side of the screen
But while I, like the next guy on the street, enjoy my games thoroughly, I know where to draw a line in real life. No matter how much I loathe the traffic in the city I know I can’t afford to run people over. I know that there are consequences in real life. There’s no get-out-of-jail free card over here.
Video games may have desensitised us to violence but it doesn’t make us the next Ted Bundy. Just because a murderer happens to own a copy of GTA IV doesn’t mean that Rockstar’s game threw him over the edge. Why make the video game a scapegoat here?
Society is quick to judge video games but we need to understand that the problem is not with games but with humanity as a whole. If anything, video games act as a cathartic release to all the stress you carry around in real life. Pissed off with your boss? Blow some heads off in slow motion with your shotgun. Traffic getting you down? Unleash your road rage with a game of Burnout.
I also understand that video games do have material that may be disturbing for kids. I’m sure watching a character run around with his organs falling out may give kids nightmares but it’s up to parents to make sure their kids don’t get their hands on such games. Retailers should start age verification processes before selling games. Parents should also monitor their child’s use of the Internet. Read up a bit on the game they want for their birthday. But don’t blame Kratos if your kid becomes the next Manson (and I’m not talking about the singer here).
Avinash is the channel editor of gaming for www.tech2.com