On Thursday the 12th of August, I started playing the outer worlds. I’m slow when it comes to gaming, and had planned on playing this since I saw a trailer for it around a week after it came out, but I wait until games are on sale and I have time; the pride sale at the beginning of summer was the perfect chance for a teacher to start!
I loved every minute of it, it was Fallout, in space, but fun!
After a good few hours, my partner got home so I stopped playing for the day. A couple of hours after that, just a few hundred metres away from where I was sat, the first major act of gun violence in the UK in the past decade happened.
Honestly, I’ve felt a bit numb since first hearing about it. My city has felt numb. And, at least for the time being, the way I’ve been looking at consuming media has changed.
Side note: at the time of writing, I’ve read nothing to suggest that the shooter, who I refuse to name, even played games, let alone was influenced by games. In spite of this, there is no denying that gaming culture has a huge affect on youth in our society, hence all the ridiculous Fortnite dances we all had to endure upon leaving the house pre-pandemic.
Also these are all my personal views, not those necessarily those of Robot Republic.
There’s always been an argument by people who obviously don’t play games that the violence seen in games will make youths more violent. A lot of it comes from Americans who would in the same breath argue that guns are the only way to fight gun violence and to try to take them away is unconstitutional. They’d probably also throw in something about Hilary Clinton being a vampire.
I’ve never agreed with that, and despite what the title of this article is, I still don’t agree with this.
Games are a form of escapism to me. I wouldn’t say that I really play realistic games; looking at my gaming history, the most realistic game I’ve played upon getting my PS4 is either Ghost of Tsushima or Arkham Knight.
When you play games within a fantastical setting, it becomes easier to mentally separate yourself from the fiction; If the game you’re playing has you wielding the buster sword, it’s very different from wielding a real world gun. We play sci-fi games and are taken into a world nothing like our own. In Wolfenstein you’re at least killing Nazis, so it’s all good.
Don’t get me wrong, realism isn’t all bad in gaming! A realistic F1 game is a form of escapism; very few of us are Lewis Hamilton. I recently experienced a VR underwater exploration, I managed to lose myself in it, so if it was more realistic I can only imagine how much it would have gotten my heart racing!
However realistic violence in video games will always come at no true cost. A set of pixels sprouting red pixels is still just pixels, and while a setting in an alternate version of earth, or hundreds of years ago, or thousands of years in the future gives us a buffer between ourselves and the game, can that truly happen if we are committing violence in the here and now, with weapons that exist.
And please don’t think I have an axe to grind with these games! I mentally try to give one of my favourite franchises - Grand Theft Auto - a pass, for being too ridiculous. But let’s look at this game series, and how even in these absolutely ludicrous situations, these games can add fuel to the fire.
When playing grand theft auto as a young teenager (pre-teen? My dad tried keeping it away from me for like 2 months, but I definitely wasn’t old), I remember people talking about how you could take a prostitute into your car, let it shake for a while to heal you / give you armour, then afterwards kill her to get your money back. In retrospect, and as an adult around 20 years later, it’s horrifying how this objectification was almost encouraged as something which was funny. As a result, should we be surprised that gamers are frequently linked with misogyny and incel culture?
Gaming needs to embrace, and I hate this term because of how it’s used against us, “woke” culture. There isn’t a realistic way to stop young people from playing, but imagine if instead of having situations stated above, in GTA6, we played as a female character trying to break through the patriarchy within organised crime. We can keep all of the GTA staples (but maybe not the murdering of sex workers for no reason. Let’s abandon that), but also give the right kind of influence to the kids today, the kids who have to deal with all of the horrible alt-right shit which floods this hellhole.
If you'd like to help the families of the victims of this recent shooting, there are a few fund raisers going. Including this one at JustGiving.
We at RR also want to include a link to studies showing no particular link in video game violence and real world violence. But do agree that moving away from some of the excessive content as mentioned above would be a decent thing to do.