Have you ever seen a real street fight? The sound of fists hitting flesh is eerily muted. You are immediately struck by how its nothing like in a video game or a film. Have you ever been present when some one dies? Have you ever been in the same room as a relative who just passed away? You may have waded your way through mountains of rag-dolled bodies in games, but It wont have prepared you one bit.
Again and again we are being told that video games are murder simulators that make us desensitized and unable to distinguish fictional violence from real violence. Then why is the first thing that hits you when you are confronted with real violence how different it is from video games? No matter how many games you play, you can tell the difference, its not something you even have to think about, its an immediate physical and emotional reaction. So should we discard the violence in videogames debate out right? No, I don't think so, but for a very different reason.
How many evil people have you meet? How about how many badguys do you know? How many people have you meet who you think deserves to die? Its an awkward question isn't it? You have probably met some jackass in a bar, maybe you have an annoying relative with a drinking problem, and everyone remembers that boy or girl you grew up with who was just mean. We all know people we don't like, or who behave antisocially, but its a long way from calling them evil. Even if they are incredibly destructive, you know they are very troubled people, and when you get over the initial anger, you feel sorry for them, because their inability to interact with others is sad.
Now if I ask if there are bad people in the world worth fighting, its a very different thing. People start naming terrorist groups, dictators and criminals that should be delt with. The emotional response is gone, people don't feel awkward or sad, its just something that should deal with as a matter of fact. Clean out the world, Eliminate the Cancer, Burn the trash. Why is that? Why do so many respond so differently to people they have had no contact with? If you have never meet anyone you think should deserve to die, why would you be so sure there are people you don't know who does? If you think its right to shoot people over there, why don't you go around shooting people you don't like where you live? What has perpetuated the idea that there are bad people who deserves violence out there when we have no evidence of it around us?
Maybe the problems with fictionalized violence, isn't that we cant tell the difference, but that we can. The further from our reality they go, the more they convince us they are depicting some other reality somewhere distant, far away from any of the people we know. By so clearly being different they can convince us that in their reality our laws of decency doesn't apply, and by extension they convince us that there are other places where our normal moral rules do not apply.
I think that you have to have severe mental problems to not see the difference between real and videogame violence. But lets not talk about crazy people, lets talk about normal people. Would normal people accept military force as a solution if the only contact they have ever had with violence was that jackass in the bar or some drunk uncle? Would people really think that engaging in a street fight of global proportions was a good idea worth voting for? I'm not so sure. The only way of accepting it, is to clearly separate it from all our real life experiences of violence, and create a separate fiction of violence.
We kling to arbitrary rules to clearly separate the violence we accept, from the one we know from real life. Bomb strapped to chest are bad while bomb strapped to a plane is good, unless the plane is be bomb of course. Dieing in uniform is dignified, while being alive and naked in Abu Ghraib is not. The loss and pain of 9/11 justifies violence, but the many many 9/11s in terms of civilians lost in Iraq or Afghanistan or Gaza has experienced does not justify resistance. As a society we tell ourselves that as long as we stick to theses rules of decency the morals of the world are that of a video game. Fiction has propagated the Idea that violence is a great solution, and even if we have never seen it proven in real life, we believe it because we can claim that if you go far enough away, all your arguments against it will be overruled by different circumstances.
I like shooters, I even make a shooter. To me an action game is escapism, because even if I'm against voilence, I wish things where as simple as they are in a video game. I wish that burly men with chainsaws attached to their guns was the solution to all things bad, but they are not. Maybe we can some day make a game that simulates the real impact of voilence. A game with parrents mourning their dead children and sons growing up to avenge their dead parrents, but would we want to play such a game? Probably not, it is not a comfortable experience.
We find comfort in the idea that police and soldiers are good men fighting the Locust Horde, the flood, Helghast, or Cyber daemons. We want them to be heroes with clear contains who protect us all. We feel safe, because they stand guard against whatever is out there. We don't care to know if the threat is like the fiction of a video game or just plane fiction, just as long as we don't have to think of what really happens, because we rather think that over there, it all a game.