The Ventriloquist

An online publication at and outside the boundary of evangelical Christianity.

Sunday

15

May 2011

The Pornography of Violence

by Stephanie Petersen, on May 2011, Violence

Since my freshperson year at Cedarville, I have been fascinated by the cultural limitations, stigma, and arbitration that seem to surround some of the university rules, regulations, and institutional preferences. I am so glad that I remained a student at Cedarville despite my personal conflicts with some of the codes of conduct; but as a graduating senior, I remain deeply disturbed by one aspect of Cedarville culture that defies my understanding: the acceptance and wide enjoyment of video or computer games in which the player(s) inhabit a character that wields weapons, whether towards enemy combatants that resemble humans, aliens, or locations in which human persons are assumed to live (bombing terrorist targets, etc). I am completely aware that the University openly prohibits the ownership or play of games that earn a “Mature” rating (M) from the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). However, that leaves “Teen (T)” rated games such as Tom Clancy’s Endwar, Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.K, Dungeon Siege III, Trenches: Generals, and World in Conflict: Soviet Assault, and Mount and Blade with Fire and Sword-all of which focus on players inhabiting a role which involves killing enemy combatants with everything from swords to machine gun and missile-firing combat planes. Secondary to this is the commonly known truth (sources include residential students and resident assistants) that playing popular “M” rated games such as Call of Duty, Halo I and Halo II in large groups of students on university property is commonplace and often uncondemned.

There is nothing the institution can do to stop such play-but as is often the case in Christian institutions, I posit that the popularity of violent, first-player video and computer games is a result of poor thinking by us as Christian students, not an institutional error.

"Ugh”, shout the hundreds of students who play these games casually. “How can anyone confuse reality from the truth? I KNOW I’m not actually killing anybody, and a bunch of studies have shown that violent video games don’t cause people to shoot anybody in real life.”

Granted.

However, the passage referenced above calls me and every other hypocritical, sin-laden Christian to pause and ask--although no pure evil or ill will is evident in my game-playing, wherein lies the good-the proclamation of Gospel truth, or the realization of God’s goodness? Some would claim that these games are realistic, often depicting or reenacting actual war scenes or international areas of conflict. These supporters claim that the strategic finesse and fine motor skills derived from these games make them worthwhile activities for recreation, releasing stress, or creating a social atmosphere among children to adults.

I posit that all of these skills are as well earned through a game of Jenga or Risk-as well as the added bonus of costing less than $300. But along with the lack of compelling evidence as to their benefit, the subject material demands serious review. In a very real world where children are drugged and made into soldiers, women are shot when they fail to perform for sex-crazed clientele, rogue nations threaten massacre and violence against their minority populations, government agents perform violent interrogations, civilians are wrongly imprisoned for years and nuclear weapons are viable for stable and closed nations alike, it seems more than minutely trivializing to glorify these acts into a virtual, competitive format. What insight do we gain into our groaning world when we cheer over points gained from a “hit”-meaning, points gained from the successful identification, targeting and annihilation of a human or intelligent being.

Before you decide to kick back with some buddies by shooting aliens, ask yourself-what is pure, lovely, excellent and noble about this activity? I would argue not much. Let us join together in a movement towards authentic fellowship and recreation that celebrates the good, beautiful and true things about our world and mourns its atrocities with reverence rather than revelry. As we nobly focus our efforts on the desensitization of graphic sexuality and vulgarity, let us not forget the pornography of violence that can seep into our lives through technology and competition.