It wasn’t that long ago that video games were the devil. Just like heavy metal or comic books before them, there was a period of time when a kid in school displayed anti-social or violent behaviour, video games were immediately named as the cause. This angry boy lashed out at a teacher but wrap it up, we’re done here. No need to look into the child’s life or parenting or bullying or economic circumstances. He played a violent video game? There’s your answer. Case closed.
In 1999, two teenagers in Colorado brought semi-automatic weapons into their high-school and murdered over a dozen people. It will be forever remembered as the Columbine massacre but the majority of people who remember the event still don’t know why those kids did what they did. At the time, most of the blame was placed at the door of Marilyn Manson and DOOM. A notion so ridiculous in this day and age that it seems so quaint to say that music and games are the cause of mass-murder. But in the late 90’s, it was accepted in the court of public opinion that this somehow made sense.
Then the world went insane.
We now live in a pre-dystopian time where we’re slightly surprised if we don’t wake up to a shockingly horrible news story. Did you know that a factory employee in Florida was fired this week, came back to his workplace and shot dead five of his co-workers? No? Of course not. Because there’s an unstoppable locomotive of shuddering insanity that trundles through world affairs so hard these days that we barely have time to understand which disaster we have to prepare ourselves for. Global war? Politicians denying climate change? The rise and rise of real-life modern-day Nazis? Even ten years ago, a gunman killing his employees would have been a slightly bigger deal.
Along with a perspective that was a little more stable, the late 90’s were a time that also came with a caveat – a quiet feeling of guilt for enjoying video game violence. Despite countless studies debunking the link between headshotting CyberDemons and school shootings, it still wasn’t the most comfortable space for someone to jump from their couch and openly celebrate virtual murder. The kind that generates relief as you overcome a challenge or conveys the emotional impact that a well-written story has been building towards for 40 hours. Violence with weight. Violence with anger, despair, revenge and personal jubilation. Violence that contains a release for your own mental well-being.
None of those societal shackles exist anymore. Wading knee-deep into virtual carnage is no longer something that seems controversial. It didn’t happen overnight but there was definitely a moment when this concept stopped being harmful and started to be healthy.
So I put the word out. I asked the internet what violence left the most impact, conveyed the most emotion and tapped into the vein that convinced you to be a lord atop a mountain of your bloody accomplishment. People were more than happy to share.
Breaking the bones of a group of War Boys in Mad Max. Executing orcs in Shadow Of Mordor. Making a bandit pay for their interference in The Last Of Us. In 2017, all of these emotions hold a new value that we never could have predicted.
The state of the world feels like it’s spiraling out of control more every day. Beyond the voting process and small electoral victories, we don’t have much say in what laws get passed and what laws get taken away.
In addition to this general uneasy feeling of helplessness, it’s becoming more difficult to imagine just how we as a society will return to, for lack of a better word, normal. A time when every hour another terrifying event or lack of empathy doesn’t scroll up in our news feeds and into our exhausted, despair-ridden minds. Very few of us have the answer to the question of how will we ever get back to a time when lunatics weren’t running the global asylum. It’s not clear and that fact might be the scariest thing of all.
In the meantime, enjoy the healthiest video game violence you can get your hands on. Because like never before, it makes perfect sense.