Violence Prevents Violence: The Right in Virtual Wrongs

Violence prevents violence

Emotionally affective games are becoming an increasingly popular topic of discussion as of late. From the more mainstream titles like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to lesser-known (and decidedly less high tech) indie games like Passage and Gravitation, developers and players alike are seeing past the buzzphrase “games as art,” and really noticing games’ potential as tools to evoke emotion.

Which emotions, though? Are games limited to the tried-and-true feelings of happiness, sadness, love, sympathy, anger, fear…? Can they also make their players feel… disgusted? Shameful? Regretful? Guilty? I think they can, and I think that may be a very good thing.

As I mentioned last week, I felt a bit uneasy while playing Manhunt 2 on the Wii, as if I was doing something wrong, or was somehow a worse person for my actions. To elicit those sorts of emotions is an incredible accomplishment for a video game, simply because not a great deal of them have explored the concept yet. In that regard, Manhunt 2 was a great success.

To be 100 percent truthful, I have never felt that way while playing a video game before, partly because no video game has ever been able to so viscerally connect its audience to the violence displayed on screen.

Games that can do this (and the Wii remote is an incredible aid) have the potential to be very strong deterrents to real-world violence. Introducing players to that emotional response – that feeling of shameful self-disgust – in the safety of their own homes allows them to understand the remorse associated with violent crimes without ever deciding to ‘try it out’ in the flesh.  This goes beyond simple catharsis.

Consider this: what is the percentage of “rampagers” who ultimately take their own lives after their deed is all said and done? I don’t have an exact statistic to cite, but anyone paying attention to media coverage of these crimes would have to assume that the number is fairly high.

The question I have to ask is, why do these killers kill themselves? Is it possible that they initially mean to commit their crime and walk away, but undergo some profound change of conscience in the midst of the act? Do they find there is no turning back from the unforgivable horrors they have wrought, and then decide that they are unfit to live, or that they can’t live with the knowledge of their own evil deeds?

Is it an intensified version of the same feelings that arise during executions in Manhunt 2 that cause real killers to end their own lives, making it impossible to ever repeat their actions?

If that is the case – that people don’t want to feel those feelings after the initial experience – then violent video games such as Manhunt 2 could very weel be an emotional tool that prevents, not begets, violence in the real world.

Of course there are those who want to die – who PLAN to die – and use their massacre as a means to achieve that goal. There may also be individuals who find gutting someone to be a fun pastime. They might even derive real pleasure out of killing. These sorts of people are psychos to begin with; not even video games can save them.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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