Rectify Gaming

Opinion: Where do we draw the line with video game violence?

Posted on June 4, 2018 by Sergio

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This past week, Valve removed Active Shooter, a game that takes place in a school setting in which either you take the role as the shooter, civilian, or SWAT. Needless to say, this drew condemnation from politicians and the survivors of the Parkland shooting massacre.
It’s obvious as to why people are upset: the recent mass school shootings in U.S. are still leaving people vulnerable, and it’s only a short amount of time (statistically speaking) before another one starts. But even if the game is seen as opportunistic and insensitive, this begs the question: where do we draw the line when it comes to the context of violence?
The controversy of video game violence is nothing new. In fact, it has been condemned (yet again) by the politicians and the NRA after the school shootings in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe, TX, despite no evidence of any connection between the two of them.
But with the short-lived release of Active Shooter, again one has to wonder where we draw the line in all of this? With games such as Mortal Kombat and DOOM, they are complete fantasy settings because no real person is powerful enough to rip someone’s spine out with his/her bare hands, and there are no demonic aliens from Hell to attack. With Active Shooter, on the other hand, the setting is not as make-believe with a school as the main setting for a shooter.
Is it the fact that this game is so close to reality that it has outraged even veteran gamers to the point of permanently shelving it? Or is it the fact that in Active Shooter, you can also take on the role of the villain which could “enable” some people to act out their fantasies like what is happening in real-life? What about WWII games such as Day of Defeat in which you can also play as Nazis? Does this mean that it also “training” people to become real Nazis, like the protestors in Charlottesville? Or what about the “No Russian” segment in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which you can shoot innocent civilians as a double agent (for the sake of precision, you don’t have to shoot them)? Are we “training” these players to be terrorists?
These are the questions we have to ask because with all this talk about violence in video games and censorship, a game like Active Shooter comes out and now we’re saying “it’s too real to be enjoyable”? Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying you should give this game a chance because it’s neither here nor there (literally now), but when you have games as Day of Defeat, Company of Heroes, and Age of Empires in which you can play as the bad guys no one bats an eye, yet in Active Shooter, all of a sudden we’re outraged?
Where do we draw the line?

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Currently attending Mt. SAC for a certificate in Video Game Design. Really enjoy old school games. "Part-time" writer, forever gamer.