It’s a cold Saturday morning and you are in your cozy room. Outside, snow is falling peacefully onto empty streets. Dim light floats through the window and onto your desk, where a warm cup of tea is waiting for you to drink. You feel like you’re in your own little bubble, playing a video game where the troubles of the world seem to disappear into the pixels.
Video games have long been something that people of all ages have turned to for a fun way to relieve stress and explore countless numbers of virtual universes. As someone that has played video games for well over 3000 hours of their life, I am no stranger to the joy that comes from hearing the crinkling sound of plastic as you tear it off a new game, or even the satisfaction you feel when something has been downloaded in Steam, just waiting to be opened.
However, as I recently began to make the transition from games like Pokémon and Kid Icarus: Uprising to others like Dark Souls 2 and Smite, I realized how some things are just wrong in regards to what people should be exposed to, particularly young people.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not for banning every violent game or anything like that, but sometimes I feel like enough is enough. The closest that I have ever gotten to playing a truly violent game was with Dark Souls 2, which is in a fantasy environment where the protagonist must fight their way through Drangleic to reclaim the throne from the evil queen.
The thing with violent games is that they have never been proven to contribute to aggressive behavior. It’s only been hinted at. Nevertheless, let’s look at the moral side of violent games. What I’m about to say applies less to “fake” games like Dark Souls 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and more to real-world first-person shooters like Tom Clancy’s The Division and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
Playing these types of games desensitizes people; it depicts human life to be far less valuable than it truly is, since one’s avatar is often able to reincarnate, only to kill numerous other bots/users. There are soldiers that put their life on the line everyday to protect our nation, and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after watching their friends die and killing enemies and civilians while following orders.
A fake version of the horrors of war is not something that the average person should be exposed to. We should be educating our people that it is absolutely terrifying to be on the front. If they die, then they’re done for good. If they watch somebody die, then it sticks with them for the rest of their life.
Now, onto the next issue. Many video games targeted towards teens and adults convey an enormous amount of unnecessary stereotypes that contribute to sexism in society.
Take, for example, Smite, which I’ve been playing since September. Smite is an MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) where players play as gods, goddesses, and various other legendary creatures from ancient mythology.
A perfect illustration of stereotypes in video games is Aphrodite in Smite. I get that she is supposed to be the goddess of beauty, but that shouldn’t give developers the excuse to use every stereotype of a “beautiful” women when creating her. Her model is a tall, slender white woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, virtually no muscles, and unrealistically large breasts. In addition to that, when she buys a defensive item she says, “As long as it doesn’t make me look fat!”
Of course, this is all meant to be comical, but I’m pretty sure that there is at least one teenage girl out there that has played Smite and saw Aphrodite, leaving with the impression that only women who resemble Aphrodite are desirable or beautiful.
Interestingly enough, in the same game, goddesses like Bellona and Skadi show players that women can be just as powerful and fierce as their male counterparts.
Video games are just the tip of the iceberg. The issues that I mentioned above are present in all types of media, which, over time, instill certain values in society, especially America’s youth. There must be a reason behind the decisions in other countries to censor or monitor the media more closely than we do. Where do we draw the line between free expression and potentially harmful content?