Friday, April 19, 2013

Suffering, and the Video Game effect

Today a frustrating concept came to mind, considering the suffering and pain in this world – specifically, that wrought by one human upon another. The Boston Marathon bomber was found rather fast, and his demographic was sadly what I was expecting: nineteen, white. Several images flashed to mind, most of them of the way violence is portrayed in the media. Then I hit a roadblock; surely CNN and Fox news do not portray violence in a good light. Thus, I cut out a great portion of people from my search; most people's perusal of the media ends with the big news outlets. Let's say 25% of America only sees violence in a negative light – the elderly, executives, and more sensible of the population (of which I don't count myself part of).

I then further delineated the sources of “positive” violence – comic humor is often slapstick (though the sickening violence portrayed often is dulled by the artist's brush), video game action gets more and more graphic with every new generation of gaming, and practically every major television pundit has humor many would deem unwise to display on their network.

Another clarification was then needed; what separated me and the roughly 330 million Americans from the small amount of horrifying monsters we call murderers? All of the examples I brought up are engaged with by millions of people an hour. So, I further narrowed the reasons for this violence – certain media outlets are far more edgy than others – some I don't even know about. Now we're getting closer to a source of this.

I recalled back in 2009 a game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I didn't enjoy the series, so I didn't buy it. I hard stories of a certain, unrelated part of the game (fully passable, no achievements or glory for finishing it) which had you go through an airport murdering everyone. I saw a friend play it, and was pretty well mortified for the first thirty seconds. The scene begins with you and six of your allies walking into a pretty well-crowded checking area; twenty or so people were between you and the metal detectors, all in a jumbled mess, with no real order. As your weapons become visible, and for the instant before your allies open fire, the game silences everything, and everyone's face has a conglomeration of horror and confusion. Then the slugs start burying themselves in the first few people, piercing through into the next people behind them. As the screams erupt, I noticed a child falling to the ground with blood spurting into the air. The next minute and a half my friend walked through the airport, destroying hundreds of people. The music was intense, and your allies were hurrying you on, talking about a deadline to make.

I couldn't keep watching it. My friend kept playing, and I was horrified. I asked him how, and he responded, “it's just a game... this isn't real”. And it hit me: for 330 million people, it's just a game. Most of this world can separate the game from reality. But that game sold over 10 million copies. The way people share games, I’d say this game has been played by over seventy-five million people in America. I bite my nails in concern over the five or thirty people who cannot see the divide between game and reality – whose lives, effected solely by their willing isolation and indoctrination by a media unaware of its effect, find no divide in their only experience with the world (violence and immortality of the player) and the real world which the media mocks.

“But JHBlancs, you're being a parent. Video games don't make people violent, there are other factors! Leave video games alone, man.” (read: let me be comfortable in my denial.)

My friend, You are probably alright. I'd guess the demographic that reads my blog would be the demographic which would not commit an act of violence. I'm not even saying that video games are the only source of this condoning; it is in the jokes between people, in the humor over this world. Violence, when the catch is made that “nobody is harmed permanently”, is hilarious in this day and age. This generation finds a thrill in the escapism of the game and the humor. It is when the very few decide to enact that humor in real life that people back up, look at each other, and call him a monster.

And that is the crux of the matter. It is the small bit of monster in all of us, the once-in-a-blue-moon monstrous behavior that finds its way through the darker channels of the internet and media to these potential murderers. It is the cold shoulder we give to that one random person, and 99% of the time goes nowhere. But that 1% of the time, the rejection sticks with the person.

So where to go from here? A bomb seems to have set this country askew; a spray of bullets did the same thing last December. Through all of this, this world seems to be coming less stable; as if the violence perpetrated in our own lives sinks into the soil. Iran suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake; China just got hit with a 6.6 magnitude an hour ago. The vegetation recedes as deserts grow. The life of this planet seems to be choked out by the inevitability of climate and the stubborn advance of humanity.

In this darkness, oh could there shine a hero?

Yes. You. Me. We cannot change the Earth's attitude, though we can change the people's. We can show that a bullet will not change this world, nor will a bomb. An Earthquake will not shatter the soul, though it may break the bone and body. So how do we effect change?

In a word, grace. Do not let the evil push you to apathy. Do not let the hatred in this world bring you to nihilism. Stand firm against a wave of hate, meet rage with open arms and kindness. Find the broken, and show them a firm foundation. Be the change you want to see. You don't even have to be Christian, just be humane. Don't honk the horn when you're angry; don't ignore an angry face; do not leave debts unsettled; do not ignore a person going through hardships; do not be apathetic.

Just because we're broken does not mean that two or three people cannot operate together to become a force for good. With a God behind us, we can change the world. Or, if you wish to do this without one, then go with a group of friends and show kindness to strangers. Either way, the challenge of our generation is to shine kindness in a world of dark hatred. 

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