I’ve been thinking about that age-old question: do violent video games make us violent, or do we make these violent video games because we’re a violent species? Well, I say it’s an age-old question. It’s a pretty new question, really. My history’s not perfect, but I don’t think they debated it during the Hundred Years War.
‘What chance ‘av we got strategising against ze English when zey play so much facking Spess Invaders?’
To be honest, I think even Pong’s arrival was too soon to be debating the issue:
‘I want this horrid, bad influence of a game banned immediately. My son’s been playing it all week and he’s just nailed himself to a plank of wood with roller skates on it and now he’s sliding up the wall flinging cricket balls at people!’
I’ve been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Vice City on the PS2 recently. I know, I know. Viva das zeitgeist. Finger on the pulse and all that. Maybe I’ll watch some Quatermass on Betamax as I’m playing it, while phoning you on a shoe-box-sized mobile phone to tell you all about it.
GTA doesn’t half make me aggressive – which is strange. Third world debt doesn’t make me angry. Starving kids don’t make me angry. Job losses in my home town don’t make me angry. But running out of time on a virtual mission to kill as many prostitutes as possible using only a flame-thrower? FUCK YOU, WORLD. FUCK YOU ALL THE WAY UP YOUR HOT MOLTEN CORE!! Only the accidental snapping off of the pissy little key on a tin of corned beef can even bring me close to such heights of rage.
It’s surely not normal that a game can make me think to myself, calmly and rationally: ‘I’m pretty bloody annoyed I failed that tricky mission. I think I’ll just go butcher some police officers until I calm down a bit.’
Because in the real world my arse jitters like a hedgehog in a cement-mixer when I drive past a cop car, even when I’m obeying the law and have nothing to hide. Cultural conditioning, I suppose. And human decency. And perhaps even a certain pussy-assedness. But in the virtual world, I’m chasing them down the street with machetes and rocket launchers, shouting quotes from Scarface.
This is surely unprecedented in humanity. Never before have tiny little pretend people – non-living avatars composed of motes of electrical magic in a make-believe world – been subjected to such florid and disgusting abuse: ‘GET OUT OF MY WAY OR I’LL KILL YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY YOU FUCKING COMPUTERISED CUNT!’ Shakespeare should watch me play and take notes for his next sonnet.
I’m a reasonably placid person in ‘real life’, so I’ve been wondering why GTA has had this effect on me. I’ve concluded that:
- I don’t like losing at silly little games because I’m a big fucking baby.
- I’ve no sense of perspective.
- Aggressive competition and disgraceful violence is wired into my pathetic, throwback monkey brain.
More musings on this topic in the next few days.