Sense of Shame

There are so many ways for me to take this topic I’m surprised I didn’t try it earlier.  Forgive me for continuing so fast but I need to get this out of my mind.

The biggest problem the game industry has in terms of narrative is that it has bred a consumer without shame.  Want evidence?  Go onto xbox Live.  I remember when I played Quake 2 at the local internet café.  I was probably around eight years old, and it was the only thing I’d ever do while I was there.  Then one day I took out my axe and attacked a dog.  I don’t know if I had never used an axe on a dog before, or if I had just noticed it then, but when a dog was hit it would cry.  If the dog died, it cried all the way.  I felt sorry for the dog, and then I felt dirty.  I didn’t play the game anymore after I realized I was killing virtual dogs in cold blood, and had no choice but to.

Now this may sound stupid, but honestly, that’s what games should be going for (well, short of the whole never playing again thing).  All people have a degree of masochism.  As the song goes it “hurts so good.”  Why else watch the Saw Franchise?  We want to feel the revulsion.  It feels good to be purged, though not instantly.  Anything truly meaningful must bring about a degree of pain, meaning shatters.  When the human mind is augmented, something’s gotta give.  

Besides, people have been complaining for years about how the only two emotions in video games are fear and fun.  I think this partially has to do with a lack of shame.  There’s no revulsion at jabbing yourself with a needle that just came out of a vending machine, or in killing a dog, or hundreds of people (with their virtual families!), or poor animals in a forest (and only to become stronger!?)

Killing is so commonplace.  In a tragedy the killings are at the beginning, the middle, and end.  In between there is the shock and the running about and the trying to make things better.  That’s lacking in games.  The most important part of a tragic work is that it has to FEEL tragic.  And when the death of hundreds in a game is taken for granted, there’s not much to do.

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2 Responses to Sense of Shame

  1. The Disenfranchised Voice of He Who Once Walked Among Us says:

    It’s just how people have been conditioned to feel towards it, with how much death goes on in the world in just a day, not to mention all around us, what better way would people have to cope with it than to get used to it?

    I’m sure at 8 you viewed things differently than you do now, and if by chance you had lost a family pet that would have affected you even more so. The dog crying out in pain as you hit it is not an unexpected reaction, but it’s actually hearing it and knowing that you caused it is what causes the shame. Most people don’t care to make the connection simply because they may not want to feel that way.

    And developers don’t want to make their customers feel that way either, you don’t want to sell someone something that’s going to make them hate themselves, do you? Fear on the other hand, is easier to live with and easier to instill, while less harmful in the doses supplied in most video games. At least, I would think or hope that developers are considering the mental health affected by their games.

    Back to the start, people play these games and do these things in them mostly because they can’t in real life, because they feel the need to out of frustration or stress, and can take it out on a line of code meant to yield specific results. It’s not a matter of feeling shame, because like you said, shame among video game play is mostly unheard of, and only those who have a real world attachment to something going on will feel said shame.

    Not to mention it’s easier to extinguish a hundred lives when it’s a race of aliens coming to eat your brains than it is to hammer some babys into a garbage truck rolling downhill towards a frozen lake, because there’s more attachment to something that even has the slightest liking to reality, like children or dogs. Why do you think GTA doesn’t have children or dogs or any other animals and just other people roughly the same age as the playable character? Because it’s easier to push out of the player’s mind, and makes it easier for them to keep playing.

  2. Keljeck says:

    There’s a huge difference between the knowledge of death and the taking of a life. To wit, it’s different to know that JFK died than it would be to have been the killer. Being a witness lies somewhere between those lines. If you told me Janet Leigh dies halfway through the movie Psycho, I would have a different reaction than witnessing the shower scene myself.

    In any event we have been conditioned in video games. That condition leads us to kill without much thought. I don’t believe that this conditioning leads to murderers or a desenatication (sp?) to REAL violence. But it becomes an issue to anyone who wants to turn “video games” into “art.”

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