Saturday, 23 April 2016

Commentary about War and Violence in Games

I was put across this interesting article the other day about the Call of Duty series titled How can a first-person shooter have a victim complex? and it got me thinking about games and war and violence and how these things interact. I've watched a few video essays on the topic and just wanted to collect them all together.

First we have to get something out of the way, that 'Call of Duty' and 'Modern Warfare' and all of the rest of the war FP (First-Person) shooters are all necessarily misrepresentations of war. And not in the sense of their graphical fidelity, it's just boring as all hell to do the actual combat things. Snipers might sit for days in the same spot waiting for a mark to pass by.

Most FPS (First-Person Shooter) games, especially war games, allow for a certain kind of hero/power-fantasy that's enjoyable in it's own way but as the article talks about, after a point you need to justify all the senseless violence and then that gets into troublesome territory.

Violence in Games

There's another question that comes up which is why violence is such a big theme in video games. I mean computers make it possible to render pretty much anything onto a screen and yet we overwhelmingly end up making super violent stuff where we run around in spaces and shoot people.

One perspective is that as computers evolved to be able to support gaming, the way that computers think about things makes it easier to make spatial simulation games which then makes a certain kind of violence just the path of least resistance.

Another perspective emphasizes the human element in the sense that killing is just something that appeals to something deep within our pschology.

Shooters around the world


Interestingly, even a single genre of games like the FPS has drastically different takes depending on which culture it comes from. And that could stem from way a Western perspective views a gun compared to a more Eastern conceptualization.

What makes all of this more complex is that all of the people involved with making and selling the games all have their own agendas and aims that they're trying to further.

The military uses video games as recruiting tools but then that feedback loop wraps back around and now our public expectation of what war is like is shaped by those very games themselves.

Alternative War-Games


One that I found was a game called 'This War of Mine'. Super interesting, check out the first video as a brief introduction.

Slightly more spoiler-y, this is more of a review than a recommendation video.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

"Being Good" is weirdly difficult

Angel and Devil on Shoulder by Hamera

Generally, I think, we're all trying to do the best we can and navigate complex social webs to try to do the most reasonable, decent thing at any point in time. That can get tough sometimes and it's something that requires constant thought and care and even after all of that there are times when I screw up and end up doing or saying something dumb or hurtful. That's just life, and I'm not complaining, but in contrast to the complexities of daily life I sometimes feel a little talked-down-to by the tone of religions that are like "Be Good!" and that's the end of it.

So here's my problem, and here's what I'm trying to figure out...

Being Good is mostly described as a set of virtuous actions

Take the 'The Sermon on the Mount' (Matthew Chapter 5, specifically) for example. It's actually one of the better examples I've found of real deep, meaningful commentary that you can really get into. It's full of actual, tangible directives that you can then sit and meaningfully discuss and weigh out and bounce ideas against to see what sticks.

There's a bunch of directives toward the end about 'If someone hits you, turn the other cheek', and 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you...' that I'm having specific trouble with, in that they paint a certain image of "Goodness" that revolves around certain actions. But the actions themselves are meaningless on their own because depending on your intention they could have vastly different impacts; they could even be weaponized into some passive-aggressive tactic in skilled-enough hands. For example if someone hits you and then you turn the other cheek but with enough of a glare in your eye the attacker might very well realize that you've now marked him for a lifelong grudge... it might've been kinder (to both of you) to just hit him back in that moment and be done with the whole thing instead of it turning into a blood feud.

Obviously that previous bit is a contrived example but what I mean is that the injunction to "Be Good" is troublesome in the way that "Be Modest" or "Be Humble" is troublesome. In the sense that as soon as you say "I'm a humble person." out loud, you are by definition not humble. Similarly, trying to be good is already self-defeating in the sense that it's a sort of a pretense... and this becomes troublesome because (to bring it back to a religious context) you're told to actually be good or it's pointless, God isn't particularly of the "Fake it till you make it" self-help mentality.

So it might seem that "Being Good" is an impossible task but there's plenty of benefits to being a good person, which mainly revolve around the fact that...

People generally like Nice people.

Clearly you'd be a fool to not be a good person if you could. Good people are generally more loved and respected, and being nice to a person who's being an asshole to you might actually be a disarming move that gets them to leave you alone. Or at the very least it might draw allies to your side against this other person who's specifically casting himself as the villain. At a larger level, companies as well are now finding that doing the right thing is more profitable.

But again, the contradiction stares you right back in the face: people who do nice things because it's beneficial are called psychopaths and shunned and that's seen as the worst possible kind of manipulation. Similarly if companies do something nice but that seems like a PR stunt it can backfire terribly. It seems we recognize that there's a high value in genuineness and put a high premium on it but we have no idea how to be genuinely good. In other words...

We need to try to be good, but not try too much... I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So think about walking for a moment... infact, think about how much you don't need to think about walking. When you need to go somewhere, you just move your legs and walk there; that's how amazing we are at it. And hence it'd be ridiculous to think overmuch about proper walking technique, it's one of the few things we're really physically built for as humans. (Unless you have a physical issue that needs treatment or surgery, but I mean generally speaking). 

I want to be as good at Being Good as I am at walking, basically... that would be a sort of "Natural Goodness" and that would be genuine and nice and I wouldn't have to worry that maybe my motivations were possibly suspect and that I was possibly deluding even myself.

But in the meantime all I can do is try... to... not try to be good? Lol lemme know if you figure this one out. (-.-)'