A Very Biased View on Violence, Video Games and Being Human

I read a comment the other day which was attached to an article about a murder. The impression I had of the person commenting was that they thought they were very intelligent, savvy about the world and its workings. There was a hint of tired superiority in their attitude, as though they tutted so much at the folly of other people that they had used up most of their energy being outraged, disapproving and disappointed that they could not enjoy their sense of being better than everyone else. Or perhaps it was due to the oxygen being very thin way up high on their pedestal.

There were other comments around this one, all huddling together like a small clan, bemoaning the state of the world, shivering with fear, and pointing the blame here and there and everywhere except with themselves. They felt powerless against what they viewed as increasingly senseless violence, random acts of mayhem, and others being crazy. Yet they also felt very righteous about being good, honourable, and sane, powerfully intelligent in a dumbass world.

I find perusing the comments under articles very interesting, often more so than reading the article, because the author of the piece has usually thought things through, read and reread, editing and smoothing out rough edges until there is very little left of the person’s own voice in their words. Whereas in the comments people tend to express their personal voice spontaneously and loudly.

Some people use comments as a way to express everything which they hold back in their RL, some to vent their shadow side, some to become an alter ego which can only live in the alternate and anonymous universe which is the internet. Reading comments is a way to gage the temperature of society, and can reveal what is going on underneath the polite smiles and greetings we see on the surface.

I was idly scrolling when one sentence caught my eye. It was a short and certain statement, not dissimilar to words spoken by a judge. Videos games were to blame for the violence of the youth of today.

My mind skidded to a halt, and my eyes popped out of their sockets. REALLY!?! This again! Do these people not have access to history books? The answer is yes, because they consider themselves to be intelligent and knowledgable, so I imagine they not only have access to history books, but they have read them. Therefore they should realise that humans have always been violent, and humans have always placed the blame for their violence on some thing, a book, a cause, a belief, which really only serves as a justification and excuse for a natural tendency.

We act and then we have to find a reason for why we acted a certain way. Pass the buck of blame. Quell the fears our act inspired in others by giving them an explanation which may help them sleep at night. Just don’t admit that you have no idea why you did what you did, you just did it. Shit happens.

People do not like it when shit happens especially when it makes them uncomfortable. If you’re going to do something horrifically selfish, at least give a good excuse for it, blame a video game, a song, a book, a parent or society who ignored you and would only notice you were alive when you were very very bad, because then they could use you to feel self important by punishing you and you could finally feel that you actually meant something to someone, even if it was as a representative of evil.

Punishment was a solution offered in those comments as a way to stop violence. That parenting should backtrack from the lax standards of today to the poisonous pedagogy of yesteryear. Not abusive parenting of course, just the tough love under which those commenting grew up. Because that worked out well! No one who grew up under the thumb of a strict parent ever went on to perpetrate violence, right? There were no wars, no murders, no mayhem, no rioting, no rebellions or any violence at all when these people were children. People left their doors unlocked, everyone loved each other and lived without knowing what fear was. The end of the world was not nigh in those days. Things were simple and safe.

For people so conscious of the things which cause violence, they seemed a bit oblivious to the violence of their words, to the anger which was palpable, anger caused by their violent reaction to the fear which the article had aroused within them, and they did not seem to be aware of the violent reaction which their comments could incite in eyes which read them.

Emotion expressed tends to inspire an emotional reaction.

I suppose those commenting would say that they have a right to express their views and if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to read it. Fair point. They might also claim that words, such as those used to voice their opinion and their emotions, have no power in them other than the power which the person reading them gives them. Another fair point. And to ask them not to voice their opinion would be censorship, which is suppression, oppression, and which would probably lead them to violently oppose it, even if their opposition was only violent in a verbal manner.

So, basically blaming video games for inciting violence would be similar to… say my blaming those comments for inciting me to write this post. They made me do it, I have no personal responsibility, no choice in the matter, no ability to think for myself. I was influenced to act completely out of character.

I am biased. I enjoy playing video games. I find them particularly useful for releasing aggression which I can’t release in RL. Which I don’t want to release in RL, but which I would like to release somewhere safe, which harms no one, so I can be a better person in RL.

I just started playing the new Saints Row (which is more like Crackdown at the moment), and in one of the very first parts of gameplay, the main character, who happens to be the president of the US, has to choose between passing a bill to cure cancer or feed the hungry. No point in curing cancer if there is not enough food to feed all the extra mouths. Those extra hungry mouths will become needy and angry mouths if not fed, and then that will lead to a revolt… which could eventually, hypothetically, lead to cannibalism. Which is quite a violent thing. But we do tend to be very violent when overcome by hunger because it violently assaults our insides so we lash out, frantically trying to appease our primal instincts.

There are a lot more people on this planet at this time than in previous times, because we are more peaceful than we have ever been before in history. If you doubt that it is more peaceful now… just think about how much time we have to spend on the internet, reading articles and commenting on them, then reading the comments and writing posts about what we thought about them, and posting those on our blog.

Our ancestors would not know what to make of us. They might consider us very lucky, having benefited from their sacrifices, or they might think we were lazy, spoiled and rather whiny, not appreciating the rewards which they helped us reap. Many of the concerns we have in modern society are quite embarrassing when you consider some of the concerns of those who came before us. Will our tweet get stars, will our post be ‘Liked’, does our bum look big in this, should we get Botox to make our face seem younger, are we trendy and popular enough, can I eat this thing even though it is a day past its expiry date or should I throw it away and order take out, and so on. All things which momentarily obsess us and seem vitally important.

There are people in modern times who face similar challenges to those of our ancestors. Will I be able to feed and put a roof over the head of my family, will I be able survive this bombing, will I ever be considered an equal to other humans or will I be judged and maybe killed for being different or part of a group which for some illogical, though logical to them, reason others want to exterminate. But this only affects us when it affects us directly. That is part of being human, and part of our survival instinct which adapts to whatever situation we are in. When things are good, we adapt to it. When things are bad, we adapt to it. How we adapt depends on us. Or do we blame someone or something else for that too?

No, we only need to find someone or something to blame when we feel bad, when we feel good we accept all responsibility for it. Our success was all due to our efforts and our brilliance. Our failure… that’s not ours!

Sure there is violence in our times, quite a lot of it at the moment, but there are also more humans taking up more and more space, demanding more and more things, so there is more pressure, and pressure builds until it erupts.

Wherever humans exist there is violence, we are all violent. Not all of us express it physically, but we all have it in us and we do express it. We can be very creative about how we do it. And very subtle too. Passive, yet still the aggression lurks. A latent ability which could suddenly be activated under the right or wrong circumstances. Only babies are without violence, but unfortunately they are not exempt from experiencing it at the hands of another. And the act of birth is not exactly free of violence. Nothing, I suppose, is truly free from violence… as our very universe was created by a violent explosion (unless you don’t believe that version of events), and the planet on which we live is naturally violent. Natural disasters do not care what we believe or feel or think, or not.

Perhaps I should spend more time playing video games, and less time on the internet. Perhaps I should consider how lucky I am to have the luxury of such a choice, but I’m human, so I’ll probably whinge about having to make that kind of a decision. Still… luck can always run out and shit happens.

I’ll probably regret posting this, and I’ll probably regret asking you what you think… what do you think?