The news today is, lamentably, flooded with stories of violent crime in America. For some convoluted reason, the video game industry has come under fire as somehow being responsible for subliminally influencing people to kill. This is very disappointing, especially when the blame comes from the mouth of the NRA leadership (in reference to the Sandy Hook Shooting). This kind of finger pointing creates an unnecessary spotlight on a harmless entertainment medium.
Joystick Warriors, I thought, offered a very interesting look at the prevalence of violent videogames in our culture and particularly with young people. Specifically, I was intrigued by the part of the documentary that talked about videogames as just one factor in a much larger sphere of potentially harmful influences that could lead to violent actions in the real world. It can certainly be assumed that violent games don’t to much to prevent violent thoughts but their ability to cultivate actual violent action in played is trivial at best compared to the rest of the external factors.
Furthermore, I enjoyed how Joystick Warriors looked at violence in the broader context of today’s popular culture market. I think that violence should be considered less of a problem and instead be looked at as a trend in the media market. For instance, look at Call of Duty, mentioned countless times in the documentary, the game is one non-stop shooting frenzy. However, it is a non-stop shooting frenzy that consistently tops the annual media sales charts. In this sense, I think that it is unfair to judge the morality of entire industry based solely on a single title.
The final point that I would like to make about Joystick Warriors is in regards to the way in which the montage reels of videogame violence were implemented. I have played a lot of violent videogames and the montages made me feel borderline nauseous. I feel that those montages were a gross misrepresentation of how videogames use violence. First of all, no games mash up so many variations of gore into such an intense visual sequence, rather the gory cutscenes or QTE’s (quick time events) serve a quick purpose sparingly throughout the game. The montages in Joystick Warriors ostensibly take all of the goriest scenes from the goriest games and use them to totally manipulate the image of the industry and the culture. Take for instance, the use of Mortal Combat’s Fatalities, these are some of the goriest scenes in media as a whole but they are far from abundant in the game. Just to simply complete the move, players have to correctly execute lengthy button combinations that take effort to find and complete. I felt that portraying videogames as universally and unapologetically gory somewhat undermined the integrity of an otherwise relatively balanced film.
I consider myself an active member of the gaming community and accusations that the violent videogames that I enjoy (i.e. Mortal Kombat and Gears of War) are subliminally encouraging people to commit acts of violence is sad. As Joystick Warriors explained, there is evidence of a longstanding tradition of humans being fascinated by violent confrontation; for instance look at the depiction of war in ancient Greek literature or the spectacle of gladiator fights in the Coliseum. Videogames are nothing short of a cultural phenomenon in today’s day and age and if interactive entertainment suffers from censorship based on a few isolated, and likely unrelated, tragedies then I think we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to the industry.