Monday, December 14, 2009

On Video Game Violence

Christmas break – a full month of it, no less – has arrived for this anxious seminarian! That means, among other things, actually attending to the duties of blogmaster for once – an obligation I’m actually quite happy to have, actually, as it will doubtlessly keep me busy amidst the tedium that haunts Christmas vacation. As I wrote on my facebook status this morning: “It’s amazing how the luxury of free time can make one feel so despondent.” Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, which means that we have to, you know, do stuff now and then. In the words of the late and Great John Paul II:

"Work is a good thing for man – a good thing for his humanity – because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’."
Without turning this post into yet another episode of “Theology Amateur Hour,” let me just say that despite my numerous blog-vanishings, infrequent postings, and general ineptitude in maintaining this blog, I’m VERY thankful for the readership I have here, diminutive and infrequent as it may be. Blogging gives me a chance to do something, however menial, for the greater glory of God, and if any solitary reader gleans something worthwhile from what happens here, well, awesome!

*AHEM* Without further ado, then…

“Video game violence” has been something of a recurring theme here on CathVG throughout the duration of its existence, but it seems to me that the past few months in particular have brought the issue into a greater focus. This is evident both from my own individual postings and comments from this blog’s readership. My “review” of Soul Calibur IV, for example, defended the game’s violence as a sort of “icon” in which we one can see the “glory” of fighting – yes, even using lethal means, if necessary – for what the Psalmist calls “the cause of truth, goodness and right.”

Commenter j35u5fr34k expressed his reservation about anyone, let alone seminarians and priests, playing violent video games:

“You and these priests need to read what the Pope teaches about violence in video games. I also struggle with whether or not I should play video games that depict violence against humans. The Pope is outspoken against games that exhault violence.”

A fair point. Sadly, his and other commentators wishing to probe this issue further received no response from me, and thus any opportunity for intellectual and spiritual edification – the “fulfillment,” or at least a part of said fulfillment, that JPII talks about in the quote above – was ignored. No longer!

For me, the portrayal of “violence” in any given media context is justified based on, well, the context; the same applies for treatment of sexuality. I despise the brutality of movies like Watchmen; I likewise cringe at the gratuitous violence in games like Grand Theft Auto. At the same time, I’ve always been very sympathetic to those who claim that Halo and the like are basically this generation’s Cops and Robbers; a harmless role-playing/imaginative exercise. Everyone knows who the good guys and the bad guys are; the moral lines are drawn, and there’s no over-the-top brutality involved in anything that occurs in either situation.
Some games, however, not only blur the line between right and wrong, but seem to glorify in making the player feel as if they ARE engaging in actual acts of brutality. For an example of this peculiar game mechanic (I know of no better euphemism for this phenomenon), see the latest review of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 from none other than the National Catholic Register, a Catholic periodical worth reading if there ever was one. It mentions the problem with the now-infamous “Airport level” in the game, which, as the article describes, involves the player
“…A group of men enter an airport where civilians are peacefully waiting for their flights. The image on the screen is the perspective of your character, gun in hand.Calmly, slowly, methodically, the men walk through two entire levels of the airport mowing down civilians. They scream, run and drag their wounded bodies through smears of their own blood until someone, perhaps you, puts a bullet in their heads. Scores of unarmed people are mowed down. At the very end, your character is shot in the head, left staring lifelessly at the ceiling as blood pools around him.”

The article then asks the question: “Is the cold-blooded massacre of innocent civilians really an experience on the emotional spectrum that we need not only witness, but simulate?” I would answer in the negative, as I hope ANYBODY would. The question is, what makes this game so morally objectionable in contrast to the other parts of the game? How is MW2 worse than Halo or another shooter? Is it because of the violence itself? The intensity of the depiction of the violence in question? Is it the act or object of the violence, in which the player is involved in such a powerful way?

I still need to sort out my thoughts on the matter a bit more, but my rudimentary knowledge of Catholic moral theology makes me think it’s a combination of the three. As per the catechism:

“1750 The morality of human acts depends on:
- the object chosen;
- the end in view or the intention;
- the circumstances of the action.”
See: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a4.htm

Of course, there’s a such thing as an intrinsically evil act, too. Murder, needless to say, is such an action; is the virtual murder of civilians, then, tantamount to actual murder? It would seem so…moreover, does this carry into any act of murder in games? Is having a fragfest in Halo with friends also morally wrong (and, by extension, playing games like cops and robbers), too?
One of these things is not like the other. Trying to make a player feel accomplished for brutally killing civilians is certainly morally distinguishable from shooting a bald space marine who is also trying to kill you (lethal self-defense is also defended by Catholic doctrine). Yet, irrespective of how its depicted, it seems that there’s something wrong with killing people in any circumstance, regardless of how brutally its depicted. Is it really murder if it’s “just a game”? Where is the line drawn here?

Ok, enough of my ruminations. Readers, the ball is in your court. Fire away!

28 comments:

Dan Marcum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Marcum said...

"is the virtual murder of civilians, then, tantamount to actual murder? It would seem so…"

Um, no. Don't forget: for something to be a mortal sin, it needs to be (1) grave matter; (2) understood by the doer as such; (3) willfully committed.

Murdering pixels is not #1. (There is the loophole that it is also a grave thing to commit what is THOUGHT to be a mortal sin; but in this case, no one even THINKS of this as actual murdering. So the loophole is closed too, in this case.)

Even in the snippet of moral theology you quoted, the same conclusion stands. "The morality of human acts depends on:
- the object chosen;
- the end in view or the intention;
- the circumstances of the action."

The object is the pixel-figure, the intended end is a simulated murder, the circumstances are (at least in multiplayer): "I know this is simulated, but I establish a real camaraderie with my friends through the real cooperation in this simulated combat situation." I think a case could be made that this violent video games are only MORTAL sin for a person who goes home angry at someone, and plays in single-player mode wishing that he was killing a REAL person. That would be a mortal sin because it is wishing evil upon a real person.

Writing this, though, makes me realize that that very thing might be very common, and these games may be a medium for that. It probably does influence some people to associate images of murder with the release of frustration; if that's the case, violent games are, in a sense, making that particular sin (of wishing brutal death to someone) very easy, and hence very common. Your thoughts?

Andy Kirchoff said...

Dan,

I take it your contention, then, is that the murderous scenes in games such as MW2 are not "murders" per say, even though the intended end IS, as you say, "simulated murder"?

Doesn't that sound a bit...well, logically contradictory? "Yeah, it's murder, but it's simulated, so it's all ok." Sounds like a cop-out to me. If simulated illicit sex acts, for example, were the issue in question (trying not to be too graphic here), would we not be unanimously bemoaning the inclusion of such acts in a game? We wouldn't say, "well, sure, it's sex, but its simulated, so it's all ok."

Why doesn't the same thing apply for murder, torture, and other evil actions?

Dan Marcum said...

Simulated sex produces, and is intended to produce, the same feelings that actual sex does; whereas, regarding simulated murder, I could only think of one situation where it is intended to produce the same feeling that actual murder does, and I did conclude that in that case it would be mortal sin. That's no contradiction, it's consistency:

The sin in either simulated sex OR in simulated murder does not rest in the simulation, but in the actual feelings that the simulation is used to instill.

As for my "contradiction" that simulated sex is not really sex... well, that's just by definition. You wouldn't say that simulated evangelism (such games do indeed exist) actually fulfills the Great Commission; neither should you say that simulated sex/murder is the same thing as real sex/murder. To be clear though: I do say that they can be just as sinful, (and simulated sex CERTAINLY is,) whenever they are used to wish death upon someone (in the case of simulated murder) or to obtain the sexual stimulation that should be reserved for marriage (in the case of simulated sex).

Andy Kirchoff said...

"The sin in either simulated sex OR in simulated murder does not rest in the simulation, but in the actual feelings that the simulation is used to instill."

I'm not sure if this is the most precise way of saying it, but I think I understand the point you're trying to make. When I play Cops and Robbers, Call of Duty, or Mario Kart, I'm not actually engaging in the same kind of imaginative behavior that I would in the aforementioned situation of, oh..."sexual impropriety" (as good as euphemism as any, I suppose) which inherently involves lust. The "simulation" of these actions is really a distinction without a difference when lust is involved ("Whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart..."); with variant violent video games, as well as their playground role-playing equivalents (such as the aforementioned "Cops and Robbers"), the intent to kill, exact revenge, etc. isn't necessarily there in the game which simulates it, though as you mention quite rightly, it certainly CAN be.

What about the issue of engaging in the type of simulation mentioned in the Register's review of MW2? The designers deliberately try to draw the player into the experience of decapitating civilians, murdering soldiers, and many other unquestionably heinous actions. As Christians, I think our reaction should be like that of the reviewer, who recoils in disgust at the way this game presents such actions as morally neutral; I'm not sure if this means can play the game for other reasons, however (the multiplayer is still a blast, as it was in the first Modern Warfare game, and doesn't have the same moral improprieties described above, or at least not to the same extent)

Dan Marcum said...

"What about the issue of engaging in the type of simulation mentioned in the Register's review of MW2? ... I think our reaction should be like that of the reviewer, who recoils in disgust at the way this game presents such actions as morally neutral."

I agree.

"I'm not sure if this means can play the game for other reasons."

Try to apply this question to other things. Would you buy Playboy, for the articles?

Andy Kirchoff said...

"Would you read Playboy just for the articles?"

I certainly wouldn't BUY a magazine that is primarily pornographic just to read some article; ("the ends don't justify the means" being the operative maxim here), but ya know, if Playboy had an exclusive articles on a topic of interest to me, I would certainly try to find a way to obtain that article without putting myself in a near occasion of sin if I could. Not sure how I would do it, but I would try something of that sort if I knew the article was something I truly wished to read.

On a different note, it's important to note how violence, even particularly gratuitous violence, isn't the primary objection to the reviewer in question; it's the game's presentation of this action as morally nuetral. Anyone who has read Flanney O'Connor knows that grotesque writing can still be genuinely good writing, and not IN SPITE of the dark themes and subtext, but BECAUSE of it. It's a shame that games like MW2 relish in presenting such extreme violence in the politically correct, postmodern paradigm of relativism; the game could have been so much more than it is. Depicting torture, bloodlust, murder, etc as morally nuetral is hardly "innovative" or "interesting," on the contrary, it's squalid, sadistic, and downright reprehensible.

Still, you gotta admit Dan, the multiplayer IS pretty awesome :P

Dan Marcum said...

"Still, you gotta admit Dan, the multiplayer IS pretty awesome"

Blasphemous though it be, I actually like Halo 100x better.

"I would certainly try to find a way to obtain that article without putting myself in a near occasion of sin if I could."

THAT's the key: near occasion of sin. I think games that desensitize you to violence might be putting you in a near occasion of sin. If someone plays CODMW2, he might not think twice about wishing he was blowing THEM up instead of a pixelated person in his game. And that could very well be a mortal sin.

Aisling said...

I couldn't agree more with you. Both violence and sexuality, in video games or in any other medium, depends on the context; I feel upset when I see kids (or even adults) having fun with senseless killing in games. I know the "it's only a game" sentence is bound to be said, but I personally take my games very seriously, and I know that what you play mirrors, if only a bit, what you are. I've never met any person that likes violent or sexually explicit games who has commited a crime, but I've met plenty of friends that do and then speak of women as objects or are cruel to animals.
Sorry about any English mistakes.
:>

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Steve, Instructor

Andy Kirchoff said...

Aisling,

My experience mirrors your own. I even see it in my brother seminarians, who, being concupiscent just like any other human being, sometimes indulge in violent/sexually gratuitous video games, movies, etc...and, in many cases, I think, for all the wrong reasons. Now, I can't judge their souls, and it's certainly possible that they're simply "...trying to establish a real camaraderie with friends through the real cooperation in this simulated combat situation," as Dan said, but when they start making callous comments not befitting of any decent human being, let alone a Christian (not to mention a seminarian...), well, it's hard not to draw some conclusions about the spiritual decay these games/movies etc. are capable of producing (and ARE producing) in people. Far be it from me to say that I'm immune from these things myself, either. I'm sure that, given the chance, my brother seminarians, priests, my family, and my friends could all point to examples where I've made... "unbecoming" comments, amongst numerous other infractions. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thanks again for your comments, Aisling.

Anonymous said...

I think an important component of murder being a sin is the fact that there is a victim and that you are taking everything away from this victim (and their friends and family). There is no victim when you go on a shooting rampage in a video game.

I came across this website videogames.procon.org that discusses the link between violence and video games that you may find interesting.

Andy Kirchoff said...

Anonymous, thanks for the link. I'm adding it to the home page!

Pat said...

Andy, I got a chance to play through MW2's campaign, including the "No Russian" (airport) scene, and I wonder if there wasn't a grain of value in it after all. Only a grain, though.

I saw the level as a more extreme form of role play, where the game shoves the player into a situation in which he or she is uncomfortable, and makes him or her go along with it without attempting to change their minds about their morals (well, okay, Infinity Ward always gave us the option to skip, but I pushed through anyway). You know those people who play Sith characters in Star Wars games? This is Infinity Ward taking those people's argument to its logical conclusion. "You want to be a jerk?" IW says, "Alright, be a jerk, we DARE you."

I wish there was more to it than that, but at least I got that much.

As far as violent vs. sexual depictions in games, well, I think it's apples and oranges. I can play something violent and not feel like being violent afterward (just like most other players out there), but I'm always at risk for impurity when there are sexual depictions in games.

Then again, context matters a good deal too. There are some games, like MW2, that are bloody just because they are so (perhaps for the sake of "realism"), as opposed to games that are bloody because they want you to REVEL in it (I'm thinking of MadWorld here). I try to stay away from the latter.

By the way, you might have noticed, but I'm not writing for The Nerd's Soup anymore. I had to do my college thing...

:-Pat

Thomas McDonald said...

A very interesting conversation. My thinking is that sex and violence are not correlative in this case. The simulation of sex increases the sexual appetite, while the simulation of violence decreases the violent impulse, except in the case of disturbed individuals. It's a natural extension of play: kids play cops-n-robbers, not cops-n-hookers.

My problem with certain games is twofold: 1) the presentation of an immoral act as morally neutral; and 2) the increasing realism and intensity of the experience.

I object to games where the notion of good and evil is wholly rejected. You may be able to present a gamer with a morally complex choice, and that gamer may choose the immoral path, but it's usually clear by the context that this is "walking on the dark side."

It reminds me of something Alice Cooper said. In his stage show, "Alice" does all the evil things people are tempted to do, but he always pays the price at the end. (In the original shows, he was hanged.) There is a cathartic aspect to this.

When that paradigm is rejected, and good and evil are simply seen as false constructs or a matter of moral relativity, then games have led people into a place they should not go. The horrifying visuals in "No Russian" were bad enough, but more disturbing was the context, which implied that there was no a meaningful distinction between a civilian massacre and a military operation.

Simulation is far more powerful than passive viewing. The same scene in a movie would not, I think, be as morally problematic. Games, however, force identification with the killer: you ARE the killer, you are CHOOSING to kill. It's not passive (as in film), but active, and there is a profound difference between the two states.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone still looks at this blog because of how old the date is on it, but I have a question. It may seem silly, but I am being serious. What about killing zombies in video games. Yes, the content is very violent (what do you expect when it comes to zombies); however, zombies are evil, not human, and they want to kill you. Would it be okay to play a zombie survival game?

Dan Marcum said...

Anonymous said...
I don't know if anyone still looks at this blog because of how old the date is on it, but I have a question. It may seem silly, but I am being serious. What about killing zombies in video games. Yes, the content is very violent (what do you expect when it comes to zombies); however, zombies are evil, not human, and they want to kill you. Would it be okay to play a zombie survival game?


Thank you for bringing up this blog post again, Anonymous. Even though it is in blog form, I think it is an important and still-relevant essay.

As I pointed out earlier, the normal way a person plays a violent video game doesn't involve any real bloodlust. Serious sin requires three conditions: the act has to be (1) grave matter; (2) understood by the doer as such; (3) willfully committed. Shooting virtual zombies isn't grave matter and isn't understood by the doer as such, so it only meets one of the three necessary criteria -- therefore it's not (ordinarily) a sin.

That being said, virtual slaughter CAN be an occasion of sin, and it can give rise to a non-Christian mindset, especially if you play it to let your frustration out by simulating a bloody massacre. We shouldn't associate images of murder with the release of frustration. It sets a bad psychological precedent and thus it can lead to sin. I don't think we should exonerate violent video games when they are in the background of someone who commits a violent murder: simulating these acts has an effect. If you aren't able to put that violence in the right context, but it bleeds over into your mentality, that's a dangerous situation.

But again, in normal cases, that's not a problem, because that's not how people generally understand their video games. So I don't think you have a problem. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the quick response! That helps a lot!

Confused said...

Hi there! so I'm a young person trying to figure out the morality of violence in video games like I imagine many are who search for posts like this. So the Pope decried any media that "exalts" or "glorifies" violence; I'd like to ask for an explanation of that, if possible. You mention games like Halo being acceptable, but doesn't it include violence as its primary gameplay (Master Chief, the protagonist, is a supersoldier, after all)? Despite the role playing/imaginative experience, isn't situations like this still finding recreational pleasure in a violent subject matter?

Moreover, like it was said in other posts, video games intensify the experience and involve THE VIEWER'S DELIBERATION AND WILL to commit such acts, albeit virtually. Violence is only morally acceptable in real life in the interest of defense of self or neighbor or a just war, but even then as a last resort, and well within appropriate means and measure. Shouldn't we avoid violence whenever we can, especially for purposes of pleasure? Even if a video game character would be morally justified if his/her situation was real, should the player's participation in such acts really be entertainment?

I don't know. I know I don't have a flawless point, and I'm not trying to refute you; I'm just trying to find the truth. That said, if games like Halo or Zelda are not a "glorification" or "exaltation" of violence, could you please explain how so I can understand? Please and thank you, and God bless you for tackling this issue.

Confused said...

For instance: you said in regards to Soul Caliber that the "glory" of fighting for good and the heroism for righteous combat is something you've defended before. Isn't that a glorification of violence? I know it's for a just cause, but...

Is it because it's for the purpose of storytelling, as in a book or movie?

Oh, also: does it change things when your virtual opponents are not human? E.G. Halo, Lord of the Rings, the zombie genre, etc.

Confused said...

And another qualm: you said the context matters just as it does with sexuality. But even if sexuality is within the proper context, that doesn't mean we should watch it a movie, much less play it in a video game.

Other comments speak to the fact that the purposes of depicting violence and sex in media are very, very different... If you could tie that all together, that would be very helpful. thanks!

Confused said...

And another qualm: you said the context matters just as it does with sexuality. But even if sexuality is within the proper context, that doesn't mean we should watch it a movie, much less play it in a video game.

Other comments speak to the fact that the purposes of depicting violence and sex in media are very, very different... If you could tie that all together, that would be very helpful. thanks!

Dan Marcum said...

Confused :: Thanks for posting! As I said to the earlier poster, I'm glad you're bringing up this blog post, because even though it's old, it's still very relevant and has some good material in it. As to your questions:

Confused said...
So the Pope decried any media that "exalts" or "glorifies" violence; I'd like to ask for an explanation of that, if possible. You mention games like Halo being acceptable, but doesn't it include violence as its primary gameplay (Master Chief, the protagonist, is a supersoldier, after all)? ... [And], if games like Halo or Zelda are not a "glorification" or "exaltation" of violence, could you please explain how so I can understand?


The Holy Father's comments about not glorifying violence is an important point that I think needs to be stressed. The "No Russian" scene in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is the kind of thing that I think he is referring to: it involves deliberate consent of the will to what would be objectively unjustifiable actions if they were real, and in the process it desensitizes you to the moral crime that is being simulated. That's a serious problem, and I think that's what the pope is primarily referring to.

That said, a game like Halo or Zelda or the non-controversial scenes in COD are, in my opinion, a lot different, especially in multiplayer mode. I don't think that a combat simulation game is automatically a glorification of violence. If it was, then I think the childhood game Cops 'n' Robbers would have to be avoided too, not to mention every other game where kids blast each other with imaginary guns, nerf guns, or laser tag guns, because there you are using your imagination (and sometimes simulated weaponry) to engage in combat. There's really not much difference between laser tag and Halo, except that in laser tag you're actually moving around.

These games, whether on the tv or in real life, all involve simulated violence or shooting. But we intuitively don't think of them as glorifying violence. What's the reason? It's hard to pin down, but I think it has to do with several facts: for one, we deliberately categorize these games as fantasy, whereas the "No Russian" scene in COD (for example) is a deliberate attempt to push you into the mentality of a real unjust mass murder. (Not to mention that mass murder of unique characters with permanent in-game consequences is a lot different from blowing up your friend who quickly respawns, or a villain who is one-in-a-million and who often respawns as well.) Another thing that makes me think Halo isn't glorifying violence is because it's your friend you're blowing up. (This doesn't apply to Zelda, except Four Swords Adventures, but in Zelda the dime-a-dozen villains don't have a moral background, like the innocent characters in Call of Duty do, and we ought to take that into account.) For these reasons and probably several others that are harder to identify, I think it's justifiable to conclude that these games don't (normally) count as glorifying violence. And that seems to be our intuitive assumption about them anyway, except in cases like the No Russian scene in COD. [cont'd next]

Dan Marcum said...

[cont'd from last]

Confused said...
Shouldn't we avoid violence whenever we can, especially for purposes of pleasure?


Even for things like Cops 'n' Robbers? Or Laser Tag? Or Nerf battles? I honestly don't think we should have any scruples about thinking that those represent engaging in violence for pleasure. They are so fantasy oriented that I don't think they (normally) affect our moral senses. Video games have more of a desensitization affect, which I think needs to be taken into account, and moderated, but the same principle should normally apply in video games that applies in Nerf battles. (At least I think it should. If the Church ever rules otherwise, or if the Pope's comments were intended to do just that and I'm just not realizing it, then I defer my judgment to the Church's.)

Anyway I hope that helps, and if you ever have more questions, please feel free to post here again! God bless!
-Dan Marcum

Dan Marcum said...

Oh, and Confused :: regarding sexuality, I think that one's pretty cut-and-dry: if a video game or a movie is attempting to stimulate sexual arousal in the viewer, it doesn't matter if the characters are married, it still constitutes gravely sinful matter for the same reason that pornography does. Watching sex may not be the same thing as having sex, but it is still gravely sinful, and it induces lust and objectifies women. For those reasons, sex scenes should always be avoided. (Maybe, MAYBE you could somewhere in some way justify something sexual IF and ONLY IF it was like what is portrayed on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling -- where it is not arousing, unless you're really sick, but is for purposes of appreciating art. But if any video game maker tried to use that line, I think I would laugh at him and call him a bad liar. If I could do that charitably, somehow. Because naked women as an art form, with no intention of fan service, is, in a video game, ridiculously unlikely.)

Cantus said...

Hi Dan, I know it's been some time since someone posted on this, but you responded last time after a longer absence, so I hope you'll give me a hearing.

I've become much more sensitive to the violent parts of the games I play since reverting to a serious Catholicism, and I've been thinking about the differences between, say, COD and Dawn of War, which is a game I enjoy. Dawn of War (and the various Warhammer tabletop games that it is a spin-off from) are, of course, violent, being military simulations with a large dose of sci-fi and generally weird stuff. However, DoW and the games it is based on are different from, say, COD, for a number of reasons:

1. The participants involved are fantastical and otherworldly, with only two of the 10+ races being human, and only one of those being roughly comparable with "normal" human militaries.
2. All of the factions in said setting *could* have war justified against them, and in a few cases would *automatically* be justified, due to the particular nature and dispositions of said species (namely their uniform and universal belligerence).
3. Whether or not the games blur the distinction between good and evil is... complicated. On one hand, there is clear reverence given to virtues such as loyalty and courage (witness the contempt Imperial soldiers feel for traitors). On the other hand,the Imperium is very mixed itself, being essentially bereft of the truly Christian virtues (no mercy is shown to traitors, and it is not uncommon for planets to be bombed into lifeless deserts if they are overrun by cults (to be fair, though, this action is only taken in response to threats that have a severe risk of radiating outward and infecting other worlds, not just *any* loss of territory).

Ultimately, I guess I'm asking what you think of it. It bears mentioning that the tabletop version of the game is not only a good deal less visceral, but features elements of assembly, painting, and requiring you to actually-go-together-and-meet -other-people-in-real-life-so-you-can-play, which distinguishes it from a videogame.

Thanks

Cantus said...

ADDENDUM:

I wished to add that, in the cases where the games ask or require me to fight a battle that could not reasonably be justified (i.e, one optional mission (which I always avoid) involves cutting down an enemy who is not impeding your path and is in fact fleeing, and recommends that you destroy their means of escape to slow them down). I never play this mission for that reason.

Dan Marcum said...

Cantus said...
Hi Dan, I know it's been some time since someone posted on this, but you responded last time after a longer absence, so I hope you'll give me a hearing.


Yep! You're in luck. :)

Cantus said...
I've become much more sensitive to the violent parts of the games I play since reverting to a serious Catholicism, and I've been thinking about the differences between, say, COD and Dawn of War, which is a game I enjoy.


Unfortunately, I know very little about Dawn of War. I hope I can still find helpful things to say.

Cantus said...
Dawn of War (and the various Warhammer tabletop games that it is a spin-off from) are, of course, violent, being military simulations with a large dose of sci-fi and generally weird stuff. However, DoW and the games it is based on are different from, say, COD, for a number of reasons:

[[list of 3 reasons]]


From your description, it sounds like there's a real diversity of awful simulated scenarios. Let's look at them in a little bit of detail. Bear in mind that I think the central issue in this discussion is whether the game glorifies bad decisions.

Cantus said...
1. The participants involved are fantastical and otherworldly, with only two of the 10+ races being human, and only one of those being roughly comparable with "normal" human militaries.


To me, that's good. I think the more fantastical the gameplay is, the less likely people are to blur the lines between reality and the game. That helps because I think that makes it less likely that players will mentally transfer in-game combat to out-of-game violence.

Cantus said...
2. All of the factions in said setting *could* have war justified against them, and in a few cases would *automatically* be justified, due to the particular nature and dispositions of said species (namely their uniform and universal belligerence).


To me, this comment betrays something of a red-herring: if the game was reality, some of the wars could be justified, that's what you're going for, right? But I don't think that's the real issue. When kids play cops and robbers or other shoot-em-up games, I don't think their characters need to follow proper virtual morality. In the real world, the only good thing for the "robber" to do is turn himself in, but that makes for a boring game.

If video games are anything like that, I don't think we should expect all the wars to be justified or all the races to be holy or any of the in-game characters to follow the right moral code perfectly. The key is that we don't let the pretend carry over into reality, and don't use the pretend world as a cover to mentally do evil. I can shoot a guy in Halo without wanting to shoot him in real life. But when I shoot him in Halo [i]because[/i] I want to shoot him in real life, that's where I think there's a problem.

Cantus said...
I wished to add that, in the cases where the games ask or require me to fight a battle that could not reasonably be justified (i.e, one optional mission (which I always avoid) involves cutting down an enemy who is not impeding your path and is in fact fleeing, and recommends that you destroy their means of escape to slow them down). I never play this mission for that reason.


I think that's noble because those scenes sound like the No Russian scene and it sounds like you are trying to avoid putting yourself in a scenario like that. Good on you. I think scenes like that glorify violence and should be avoided. And, as always, if the Church ever says something to clarify these things in a more helpful way, listen to the Church, not to me.