September 16, 2016

What We Believe: Violence (KVR Mondays)

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new short series by KVR Gaming: What We Believe. In order to fully understand our new direction, we want to take an introspective look and show you our beliefs on certain kinds of content in video games.

The first part of this series will focus on the most prominent area of content in all video games: Violence. Now, there's been much talk in the past about video games causing violence. As we've covered this before, I won't go into too much detail, but let's just say that's something entirely different from the topic at hand.

This post is more about our own personal views as Christians about violence in gaming, and what's acceptable to play and not to play from our own personal perspective.

As such, this is not going to be a study with complete bar graphs and statistics. This is going to be from a merely anecdotal viewpoint.

The inspiration for the current format of the blog didn't come from a need to scare people away from certain games. Rather, it came from an experience I had playing Modern Warfare 2. And no, the scene I'm referring to is not the infamous No Russian mission. (Viewer discretion advised on the video.) 

While playing another mission rather late in the game, the player and his companion rappel down a cliff, taking a couple of enemy troops by surprise. The game urges the player to use a knife in order to kill a foe, and not doing so will result in an immediate game over.

Your character grabs the troop and plunges his knife deep into his chest, observing his eyes as the soldier struggles and dies. What sets this scene apart from the rest of the game is the intimacy: You watch the soldier die. And not in an unrealistic way.

When I first played it, I was so upset that I nearly stopped playing the game. Something about it went beyond the line of what was necessary in terms of the game's violence. It made you feel like you really killed someone.

The previous mission was all over the news. Forums were in flames about how "controversial" it was and pushed the boundaries of good taste. Yet, in that mission, never once does the player actual witness pain and agony on the faces of the people. Everything is disconnected. Whereas, the latter scene is up close and (literally) personal.

Nobody told me about the scene and its potential to upset. As such, I became highly precise and descriptive in my summary of game content, hoping to let people know of any potential triggers in advance, and help them decide whether or not to play a certain game.

Scenes like these go a bit beyond what I view as necessary in a video game. I'm not sensitive at all when it comes to violence. I frequently watch movies and TV shows with high gore content and don't think much of it. But there's a certain kind of violence which I have to draw the line at: Cruelty.

Whenever a person is killed in a way which makes them resemble a child being hurt, it triggers me. Let me explain: Most violence shows a person grunting or yelling in pain, usually angry at what's happening to them, without focusing too much on the actual misery they're feeling.

However, when a person is clearly shown to be deeply hurting, like a child upset over the death of a pet for example, it strikes a chord. What it comes down to is the victim appearing innocent in the act of violence, not deserving what's happening to them at all and feeling intense pain at their treatment.

Difficult to explain, I know, but psychological triggers are unique to all people. What upsets me might not bother another person. That's why, it's important to have all the information possible at your disposal, so that you can protect yourself mentally.          

Dead Space is a great example of what might trigger a person. The multiple deaths of Isaac, the protagonist, show obvious cruelty. As the game is a horror game, this is to be expected, so some players might be disgusted or reviled at the graphic deaths, but mentally prepared for them nonetheless.

Manhunt 2 is an example of a game getting a little too real. While the protagonist only kills the lowest of lowlifes, it doesn't hesitate to show how human they are in their final moments. Nobody goes out looking strong, all of them try to fend for their lives as they die, crying and screaming in pain. 

I'll leave this post with a question: What do you allow yourself to witness? Remember, video games don't cause violence. They also aren't the cause of aggression in the population. However, when a person has psychological issues, the violence you witness might trigger them on some level you're not aware of.

Please, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that video games cause violence. Not in the least bit. What I'm merely trying to express is that we should be careful of what we set before our eyes, because certain scenes of violence might get under your skin in a way you don't know, causing you to be more emotional and depressed, due to flashing back to past traumas or having your boundaries crossed, psychologically speaking.

Once again, it's a question I'll leave for you to answer. Only the Holy Spirit can guide our decisions when it comes to these things. Because on the flipside, the most violent of games may contain the most uplifting or edifying of messages, making it worth pushing through the gore to get to it.

It's still a major grey area, however, and one only you and the Lord can sort out.    

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