Virtual World Violence
In the high definition world of video games today, a relatively recent trend has taken hold of younger people. The rise in popularity of the First Person Shooter (FPS) game has become very evident among teens and college students. This genre of game involves the player controlling a character in the first person perspective. The character being controlled usually wields one or multiple firearms in order to defeat enemies. Most of the popular FPS games provide very realistic situations, while others put you in an alien environment. Most FPS games even offer a choice between two game modes: single-player or multiplayer. The difference between these game modes is that single-player mode offers the opposition of computer-controlled enemies, while multiplayer pits you against other online gamers in the ultimate competition.
Why are these games so popular, and how do they interact with our culture? The ways in which first person shooters interact with our culture are very convoluted in the fact that most of their effects on us are not observed. It appears to the average adult that teens play these shooting games simply to waste time and have fun. It is much deeper than that. First of all, the popular belief that these violent games increase aggression outside of the game is false. Say you are playing an FPS game and your character keeps getting killed and you can’t do anything to stop the other players; you’re not going to go out and physically strike someone or commit a fatal shooting. What you are going to do is log back in to the game and try to get “virtual” revenge or play a novice level opponent to get your confidence back up. The reasons why I believe these games are played among the male youth are as follows: 1) These violent video games are used to escape reality, and gamers are not bringing aggression back into real life. Players are taking out aggressive feelings in a non-destructive setting and are also using teamwork strategies with other online comrades. 2) The level of competition in the multiplayer mode is very enticing to young males full of testosterone and ego; they can kill and be killed without actually experiencing these dangerous situations in real life. 3) Players are attracted to the capitalistic, consumerist, dog-eat-dog mentality that is underlying theme in the games. The backbone of first person shooting games is the interaction between online gamers; this networking is a common theme in media today.
The interaction between players includes cooperating with teammates, and using strategy to defeat opposing teams. This interaction between players has become increasingly active with the recent addition of headsets that are used to talk to other players. This feeling of support among your team makes the experience that much more valuable for you. Another big magnet that pulls gamers in is the capitalistic gameplay. Players are fighting for higher ranks or new weapons: rewards for victory. It’s a dog-eat-dog world; you must be the best in order to have the best equipment and ranking. When I would play the bestselling game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 with my buddies I would get an almost “high” from the intense competition between teams and the cooperation between teammates. This interaction, when added to the element of the virtual, non-destructive setting, creates an experience that is similar to nothing else. In addition to the interaction between friends and foe, there is another aspect of these games that drive gamers to log in. Do these players want to get away from their normal, everyday lives? This was true for me when I was a normal high school kid going through the motions of life. Everyday after I got home from school, a virtual world was waiting for me: a place where my skills had been honed and where I could dominate.
I could never have this power in my “real” life. I strongly believe this is the same reason that so many other teens play these games. Mark Purcell analyzes the theory of escaping reality in his online article titled “The Popularity of Violence in Video Games.” Purcell writes that maybe these games are becoming so popular because “most of us do not live violent lives. Most of us have never been a soldier, detective, or a knight.” This is absolutely why people would escape their reality to play these games; they want what they can’t have, or what they have never experienced before. This parallels my point that people can use these games to kill and be killed without physically experiencing it., they can experience the rush of battle without the danger. Purcell goes on to provide a great counterexample of a potentially disliked video game; he says “I doubt most people would want to buy a game that allows you to be a barista where the gameplay revolves around you pulling espresso shots and steaming milk. That isn’t very imaginative.” That would be the absolute most boring game ever created. I would much rather prefer to be Master Chief in battle against the Covenant aliens in the world of Halo.
Now what impact do these games have on today’s culture? Are these first person shooting games promoting violence outside of the gaming world? The answer is no. Video games are not creating bullies or mentally unstable people that feel inclined to shoot other people just from their insecurity and aggression. Christopher Ferguson provides a very good explanation for a possible connection between video games and violence. He states, “Although video game violence appears to be of relatively little concern for most individuals, it still may be worth examining whether there are special populations for whom video game violence may pose a particular risk. Specifically, individuals already at risk for violent behavior may respond more negatively to violent games than the majority of individuals. Although violent games are not likely a cause of violent behavior in such individuals, it may be possible that violent games may moderate existing violence predilections. (315)” I adamantly agree with Ferguson’s statement. If video games play any role in violence outside of the game, then that role is very insignificant. These games are merely a successful trend that teens enjoy, whether the gamers are escaping reality or connecting with other players on a competition oriented platform.
Ferguson, Christopher John. “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta-analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games.” Psychiatric Quarterly 78.4 (2007): 309+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.
Purcell, Mark. “The Popularity of Violence in Video Games.” VentureBeat. VentureBeat, 23 May 2012. Web. 21 Oct. 2012