It’s Hard To Believe That This Is Anyone’s Fantasy
The modern video game allows us to play God, and not a very nice one at that.
The title of this article is exactly how I replied to a promoted tweet, an ad for a video game that consists of nothing but more and more efficient and effective methods of killing off zombies. Never mind that each zombie was once a human being with a life, dreams, friends, and family. This is something that I have never been attracted to, these games that allow one to pursue destruction on such a scale. Even if it is makebelieve, I think it still has an effect on one’s mind, a very negative effect.
I feel the same way about all the first-person shooter games like Doom. I remember Doom way back when it was just a PC game. Shooting and killing monsters of any kind give us no empathy for the monster. Even if we feel that we’re right to kill the monster within the plot of the game, what does that say about us?
Maybe I’m wrong to read so much into monsters and what their life was like before their untimely death. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe I shouldn’t have empathy for creatures created by video game artists. But I can’t stop thinking of Frankenstein, the Mary Shelley patchwork of a man. He was brought back into the world against his will, only to be called a monster and killed again. Yeah, that.
Maybe the mass shooting epidemic in America can be explained in part by the games that people play. They play games like Left For Dead, Half-Life, and Call Of Duty. It’s all a fantasy, sure. But people who play those games must spend time imagining how to get better at shooting “other beings” in those games.
Now I’m not saying that everyone who plays those games is a psychopath, or becomes one, but I have to wonder what the brain does with those experiences. The brain has a very difficult time seeing the difference between dreams and reality. That might have something to do with the fact that 1/3 of the brain is devoted to vision, to recreating reality to make sense of its surroundings. And when we imagine something, like a personal goal, the brain tends to create the conditions that would make that goal a reality. This is the thing that concerns me about games that feature violence.
So I make a point to not play video games. I might play minesweeper in a pinch of boredom. Or maybe a game of solitaire or chess. But I stay away from the action games. I’m particularly wary of any games that simulate civilization and reality like The Sims or Civilization. Those games are for playing god, and I’d rather not get sucked in.
And I’d rather leave those games to other people more qualified. I’m sure that there are people who think they can live a normal life with their video games. I didn’t really grow up with the kinds of games that we have now. I grew up with the Atari 2600 and the video arcade. They held a charm for me for a while, but life was always calling to me to do something else with my time.
I also went through a lost weekend with Golf Clash, the most beautiful golf game I’ve ever seen. I loved the way the ball flies and rolls. I enjoyed the strategy. I got to be pretty good at it, too. But I have a family. I have kids. I have bills to pay. And I really like writing. I made some comparisons and found writing to be far more entertaining than playing a video game. I still have some fond memories of Golf Clash, but that’s all they are, just memories.
And I know that if I played violent video games, that would have an effect on my brain that I’m not willing to endure. Even if it did not, I’d rather not risk it. I don’t ever want to feel normal killing things, even if they're virtual things in a video game. I think that killing things in video games, no matter what they are, normalizes killing. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I don't see anything particularly beneficial or even cathartic about using imaginary weapons to kill imaginary beings by the hundreds or thousands.
If I have anger issues, I can think of better things to do than to play video games with mindless killing. For me, the best way to deal with anger is to write. I’ve had days where I was very unhappy and instead of trying to take it out on someone, virtual or otherwise, I’d find a quiet place and just write until I was empty. Writing is cathartic. And writing makes me examine my thinking. Writing makes me think about what I’m going to do before I do it. Writing helps me to exhaust the tension from anger. And when the anger is gone, I tend to make better decisions in response to difficult people, or when people are being difficult.
Then there is that God thing. I can’t help but look at video games as a fantasy of playing god. In video games, I have most if not all of the power. If I don’t like the results of the gameplay, I can always buy more armor, weapons, or some other power. If after making those investments, my skills are still not up to the task, I can buy handicaps that improve my odds of winning against other people. I’m still playing god here, but playing god is expensive.
So I won’t be playing video games. I won’t pretend that I’m God. I won’t pretend that I have the power or the right to kill an imaginary being in a video game. I know that I can always come here, to the word processor, to have a better time than I could have in a video game where I have to worry about zombies. I can think of at least a hundred other things to do that will provide a better outcome than playing a video game. I’ve set a pretty low bar for myself.