By Sweep 6 Comments
It's fairly transparent at this point that, as one of the biggest entertainment products in history, Grand Theft Auto 5 is going to attract it's share of negative media attention. "Violent videogames are corrupting our youth!" and all that jazz - I'm not going to reignite this discussion because, yawn, we did this dance already. If you're using a site like Giant Bomb then, hey, you're part of the choir and I'm not going to waste my time preaching to you. The mainstream press will jump on any opportunity to slap GTAV or Call Of Duty in a headline because they are pretty much guaranteeing themselves a sizable pissed off audience.
Unfortunately the most damaging aspect is that the people getting frustrated with aforementioned bandwagoning are often unable to articulately or constructively counter it. I always feel uncomfortable when someone says "If videogames are influencing my behavior, why am I not jumping on mushrooms and trying to save princesses from castles!" because it's such an obtuse and ridiculous argument that it's actually counter-productive. One experience does not excuse the other, and to suggest the entire medium can be sub-headed under the blanket term "videogames" when such controversy rears it's ugly head serves only to take one giant social step backwards, vindicating the dismissals of society, that videogames as just that; games. For children.
The second worst form of the argument is an attempt to find precedence in other media:
There's violent films, and violence on TV, and violent books, and art, and music - why should videogames be any different, and why should they be persecuted individually? In this we find ourself clumsily attempting to wield a double-edged sword; the interactivity which defines our medium, giving it life and creating the vital empathy which allows us to immerse ourselves in these virtual worlds, is just as much an argument against violent videogames as it is for them. Let's be honest - when you're controlling a virtual avatar and you smash a virtual prostitute with a virtual baseball bat, the rush that comes from that is one of liberation, of transgression without social consequence, or shame, or punishment - that empathy exists, and it is manipulating us and how we play - that's what defines these experiences at their core, and that's why we enjoy them. One might argue, however, that empathy with a sociopath is less than desirable.
Videogames have the potential to be damaging and it would be childish or naive to deny that. But, like almost anything else, only when taken to excess. Seems to me, the best argument for videogames as a viable and healthy entertainment medium is; I'm not insane. We are not insane. We grew up in arcades, in basements, in our bedrooms - surrounded, immersed, hypnotised - and we turned out OK.
Great job, everyone.
Thanks for reading,