I’ve never been a hard gamer, but for a while I played “Call of Duty 2” obsessively. I used to even dream about the game, its images were so present in my mind that even when I closed my eyes they would still be there. Eventually I had to hide the game away so I wouldn’t play it anymore.
Now, the game made me lose a huge amount of time that I could use in other activities, but so did Facebook, Blogger, and the blogs I currently read. Did the game make me more violent? I don’t remember any urges to go out in a shooting spree. However, I can certainly understand how the game can desensitize you to violence, and also how it can be used as a sort of training ground for violent acts. It is a pretty good simulator.
The danger of violent films and videogames is not that they turn all people into violent criminals instantly, but that they have a general numbing effect on society. Also, that a small percentage of people who have more trouble distinguishing reality from fiction – the autistic, the socially awkward, the insane – are more affected by them than the general population and can eventually act out their fantasies.
Anthony Burgess once criticized both his book and the film version of “A Clockwork Orange”, believing that they could, yes, influence people negatively and make them act out sick fantasies. Today, of course, “A Clockwork Orange” seems like a Disney cartoon when contrasted with the gore and violence of contemporary cinema. Recent studies seem to show that playing violent video games for a long time might affect brain functions.
But what would be the solution? Censorship? A new Hollywood Code, instituting what can and what cannot be permitted? Perhaps, but it’s not certain. Modern society, and particularly Americans, love violence. They don’t seem to be able to get enough of it. The only way out would be a total change in attitudes and in the general culture, and I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not until a general collapse of civilization.
I never played Call of Duty again, but now I’ve become addicted to playing online Scrabble. I dream about long, uncommon words sometimes.