There has been much discussion lately on psychologists Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan’s book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do About It. The book identifies two big culprits in this supposed demise of young men–pornography and videogames. I want to be the first to say that videogames are not a force of categorical good in society. Although it is not a medically recognized addiction, I do think that videogames can be very addicting in very unhealthy ways and all who play them would do well to fight addiction.
However, this study and many articles that followed suite posit the notion that videogame violence is a thoroughly negative influence. While I would certainly agree that the way games handle violence is often trivial, I think that a categorical dismissal of violence in videogames is unwise. Younger gamers would do well to avoid the trap of playing overly violent games, however for the mature gamer, there are games that speak truthfully about violence in our world. While I have written extensively on the subject of videogame violence, I thought instead of writing a proper rebuttal, I would share perhaps the most memorable lesson I learned from a violent videogame. The following article is a narrative of that experience:
I am driving a rusty jeep through an African jungle, I have ventured off the dirt road I had been following because I can see a small militia outpost ahead and I want to avoid them. I have information regarding militia supply route that I am trying to deliver to a friend. A previous skirmish with this same militia, which I barely survived, has left me ill equipped for another. I can’t afford another fight so I make plans to take the long way through the jungle so as to avoid these soldiers en route to my friend.
I begin making a long arc around the settlement keeping plenty of distance between me and the militia outpost. I drive about a quarter mile. Its a precarious route and I am constantly swerving to avoid trees and rocks in my path and am getting more and more disoriented. I begin to worry that perhaps I am going the wrong way or I may have driven too close the militia outpost. I have to look at my map. I begin slowing my jeep to a stop when I hear the turn of an engine in the distance. Did someone at the militia outpost see or hear me? I can’t stop now, I will have to check my map while driving.
As I look at the map I realize that I am only slightly off course but the moment I put the map down I realize that a zebra has run across my path forcing me to turn the steering wheel violently. The jeep swerves sharply and the next thing I know my jeep is in the air and the hood of my jeep slams into a large bolder at the bottom of a creek bed. Smoke rises from the hood of my jeep, I hear another engine crank, I try to back my jeep up but the engine is dead. I hear a gun shot, then another and another this time I can actually hear this one cut through the air near my head. I jump out of the jeep, crouch down and hide behind my jeep. Bullet after bullet is tearing through my jeep, I peer around the side to see a militia jeep with a mounted machine gun reigning down terror on my position. I pull a grenade from my belt and blindly lob it in their general direction. The quick explosion of my grenade is followed by bigger one that tells me my grenade succeeded.
I peer over my now inoperable jeep to assess the situation. The fallout from the explosion of the militia jeep has started a grass fire that is rapidly spreading nearer and nearer toward my jeep which is already in bad shape. I have to move but I know the second militia jeep is closing in as I can hear one of the mercs shouting out my position. I run out from behind my broken-down jeep and up the creek bed and pull another grenade from my belt and turn quickly in the general direction of the second jeep and lob the grenade. I hear only one explosion and turn to see that I missed and the jeep is closing in on me. This jeep is too aggressive though and they careen into the creek bed. I think to throw another grenade but I realize my most recent toss was my last. I pull out my assault rifle. I haven’t used this gun before and I am not used to the kick-back of the rifle and so when I start unloading my clip on the second jeep I shoot well over the heads of the mercs as they are scrambling out of their jeep.
It is at this moment that my vision begins to blur and I cannot steady my hands to fire my rifle. I have malaria. As the convulsions begin, I realize that my only hope now is to run and hide. Between convulsions I can barely make out a group of boulders about 50 yards to the left. The mercenaries are shouting at each other and appear to be confused as to my position. Now is my chance–I sprint as best I can toward the boulders fighting convulsions along the way. I fall to my knees trying to catch my breath and begin searching my pockets for my medicine. I find my pills and quickly pop one into my mouth. I hear another gun shot, not far off. The mercs are on me, I grab my rifle and peer from behind the boulders to see a merc only a few yards away but I am too nervous to shoot straight and my shots miss him by several feet. I frantically try to reload only to realize that rifle has jammed. I reach for the pistol holstered at my belt but the merc fires back and connects with his rifle. Once, twice–I am hit. I don’t know how many times but I am hit and I start to black out.
The next thing I know my friend is standing over me firing at the mercenaries and shouting at me to dress a wound in my leg. I won’t tell you what I did to remove the bullet from my leg; you don’t want to know, but I am somewhat mobile now. I pull out my pistol and manage to take down the last mercenary as he peers out from behind the creek bed. The mercs are gone, and with the help of my friend, I have survived.
Of course you know this is just a story. All of this happened to me in a videogame called Far Cry 2, but I will never forget it because there was nothing particularly stylish about it–it was frantic and awful. Far Cry 2 places you in a hellish and chaotic world and says–”try to survive this.” You spend the rest of the game doing whatever it takes to do just that. As I play I have hope that what I am doing in this country is going to help free it from the violent civil war that is plaguing it but instances like this change you. After a few hours playing, even though it’s just a game, you stop thinking about saving the day and only want to make it out alive. Whatever you manage to do in FC2, its clear that the carnage you cause isn’t making the world a better place. In this sense, FC2 is the most honest videogame I have ever played.
This article was originally published at C&PC