Column: Video game violence isn’t real violence

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File photo, The Campus Ledger

Connor Heaton

Staff reporter

cheaton@jccc.edu

I am a killer. I wouldn’t be surprised if over 1,000,000 lives have been snuffed out by my hand alone.

I am a psychopath. I’ve seen droves of people scurry like lemmings in a straight line directly into my fire with no regard for their own safety.

I am a terrorist. I’ve driven a rainbow-painted car into a pile of explosives, and jumped out with zero harm to myself, the burning bodies crumpling to the ground without so much as a yelp.

I am desensitized. I’ve seen dozens of bodies piled up, phasing into each other, contorting and flickering in and out of existence.

I am a gamer and these are my many atrocities.

I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, from 8-bit Atari to the newest “Far Cry 5,” and killed many, many a digital denizen. Any person in their right mind would think to lock me up and throw away the key, a crazy person like me is a detriment to society.

Sorry to burst your collective bubble, but none of it is real.

Sure it looks real, sounds real and from an outsider’s perspective, it’s all pretty convincing and at times disturbing, but there’s a key difference. Pulling the trigger on a controller and deleting some code isn’t the same as me pulling a trigger on an automatic assault rifle and deleting a human life.

Yes, there is indeed a small link between video games and heightened aggression, but that’s like the link between higher shark attacks per ice cream sales.

Correlation does not equal causation.

Is it something to be aware of? Yes, but we shouldn’t all run to the shallows every time the ice cream truck rolls around.

Games are becoming more realistic, this is true, but never will they become so real that they make the player feel as though they’ve actually killed somebody — if they did, players wouldn’t play. In many cases, video games are a form of escape, a way to get out of the real world and experience the unimaginable.

Accurate, terrifying shooting simulators don’t exist for the same reason there aren’t accounting and regional market statistics simulators.

They are almost too real and gamers want virtual reality, not actual reality.

The violence we find fun isn’t real violence, it’s the head popping, ultra-insane bonkers violence found in Tarantino movies.

For a startling example, I call to example the suicide of Budd Dwyer, a former Pennsylvania State Treasurer who when faced with prosecution, killed himself live on air.

The video of this exists on YouTube and it’s every bit as unnerving to the average gamer as it is to everybody else. I’ve seen the video before and I shudder now even thinking about watching it again.

This is because in real-world violence, there is no head popping, famous last words or even a satisfying “bang” — just a man pulling a pistol out of a bag, putting it in his mouth, pulling the trigger and dropping to the ground, lifeless.

Compare this to killing in most video games where each victim is simply a deleted line of code. There is no fear, no emotion, none of the subtleties of intimate human versus human interaction that ending a life entails. Often times in a game, it’s stilted and awkward as the physics engine has to deal with a rag-doll body, as their knees buckle instantly and they fall to the floor with a stoic non-expression on their faces.

This is because death, as with everything in the virtual world, is code.

Code is ones and zeroes, yes and no, black and white. There is no 1.5, no in between, no grey, and no realism.

Perhaps what is scariest isn’t these “virtual bootcamps” and the media frenzy surrounding them, but the fact that this publication not only negatively stigmatizes an entire creative industry but distracts from its many other faults, each more pressing and concerning than virtual violence.

For instance, video game addiction is a real issue, but one can’t be stamped out through iron fists and disapproving parental faces. There are virtual casinos like “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” and “Destiny” disguising themselves as full-fledged releases when their true motives are to simply turn “players” into “payers”.

These are the real faults we need to be fighting or at least aware of and prepared to treat its victims with honesty, compassion and objectivity, instead of railing against this ridiculous, misguided non-issue.

But what do I know, I’m just a killer.

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