The Case for Mindless Violence

The Case for Mindless Violence

Saints Row: The Third provides an interesting view on what it means to be violent.

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Quick correction: In SR2, you don't murder the skateboarders with a chainsaw in the Cops ripoff; you murder them with C4. You murder hippies with a chainsaw. Neat article though.

We're not just killing, we're avenging our slain wife, saving the townspeople from area monsters, or blasting through zombie hordes to reach the rescue helicopter.

Amen to that.

I don't just go off fighting things, killing them in Mass Effect 3 or in Skyrim just for the lols. No, there's a purpose for everything I do or otherwise I wouldn't be so drawn into the game in the first place. Saints Row the Third (which I have the game) is an acception because it's off the walls ridiculous as this article explains at the end and I give the writer props for including that.

I would not feel alright killing a mom who was strolling her baby in a video game because it seems uncalled for (and pretty messed up anyhow). Instead, replace that with a ninja who was tripping people while running away from me- then yeah that's going to make me fight him/her because I have been given a reason to now. If I were to recall Dead Island, you don't just go up to people bashing them in the face with a wooden plank for no reason- you're trying to survive against hordes of zombies while rescuing survivors.

Heck, even in Saints Row the Third .. there was reasons for our protagonist to do certain missions- in order to help her people out that belonged to the Saints. I remember one mission where I had to save prostitutes from a cargo ship and my character was disgusted with how poorly treated they were in those boxes. At the end of that mission, I get a call from one of the rival gangs that if I returned them, I would be paid for them. Or I could bring them into the Saints for work assisted by my friend Pimp. I chose to free them (well, not free but they'd be a lot happier then working for the other gang that abuses them in every way.) So yeah... despite how over the top and crazy Saints Row the Third is, they still have a purpose for what they do. Don't give me a shot gun and demand I kill some random person just because 'violence is fun, let yourself at it'. I'd only kill that person if he/she was an objective to the story or had done something as in say kidnapping my beloved daughter. Then it's time to play with no regrets, or least no questions till then.

good points in the article

SR3 is random blowing stuff up - simply because.. you can

Its hilarious to run around with a giant purple dong slapping hookers or STAG soldiers...

and you would never do that in real life. it is so absurd violence, yet entertaining, that you simply can't say that it teaches you to do these things in real life

Great article. There are already plenty of other mediums that have sections that glorify in violence for violence's sake: Just look at the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is basically a list of explosions with the barest of pretext. If I feel the need for some catharsis, I watch one of those, or I dig out Prototype and slice my way through a few military bases. It doesn't mean that I want to act on those urges in real life, or that Schindler's List or Journey are lesser for belonging to the same medium.

There's nothing wrong with admitting that we occasionally enjoy violent media. If people say that games are violent, they've got a point. We can't deny that they often are, just as they shouldn't deny that playing them does not automatically mean we want real-world violence. We need to rise above the name-calling and knee-jerk reactions, and support studies from everyone- video-game lobbyists, anti-video-game lobbyists, and everyone between- so we can find out how our favourite pastime is really effecting us.

While I agree with a lot said, it seems all that was achieved was the creation of another excuse to outsiders.

Violence is ok if:

1.(the old one) I necessary for the story and is part of narrative.
2.(the one suggested by this article) If it is unrealistic enough.

So what happens when someone makes an ultra realistic mass murder game? Where you stalk your victims, plan it out, drag them to your basement, bash their skull in as the scream in terror? AND there isn't a convincing story to back it up (Hard Rain minus the story basically).

What then?

Arguments 1 and 2 break down.

We need to move beyond making more excuses because there were always be exceptions to the rule brought up by opponents of the industry.

Instead we need to be able to sit down with these people and have an intelligent discussion that delves into emotion, empathy, desire, and the general human condition.

However, discussing things with these opponents is more like trying to play chess with a pigeon, you can make all the right expert moves, but in the end, the pigeon is just going to knock the pieces down, shit on the board, and then strut around like it won.

O well I guess....

Thunderous Cacophony:
Great article. There are already plenty of other mediums that have sections that glorify in violence for violence's sake: Just look at the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is basically a list of explosions with the barest of pretext. If I feel the need for some catharsis, I watch one of those, or I dig out Prototype and slice my way through a few military bases. It doesn't mean that I want to act on those urges in real life, or that Schindler's List or Journey are lesser for belonging to the same medium.

And all these things are just extensions of when we were infants and loved to both build tall towers of blocks, and knock them down.

I will never stop recommending this book, as it gives much-needed historical perspective on the matter. Just over a century ago our ancestors treated public executions as fun family outings. To say driving over digital ragdolls in a video game somehow makes our society worse is just ridiculous.

While I was one of the few that loved the Third, I did for the humor more than anything else. And I didn't engage in mindless murdersprees unless forced. If it was a gang, fair play. You knew the deal when you put on the colors. I'm just here to show you the cost of your actions and show how the Saints do it. If a random passerby got into a fight with me, I'd lay some fist to face and let him run away.

The problem I have with this game is the term 'freedom'. What if, instead of just pointing to a stronghold full of bulletsponges, I could engage in a negotiation quick time event? What if I saw the power of a harmonious take over of Stillwater? What if I wanted to pay off the cops, give them better armor, and eventually have them take out the other gangs while I could claim innocence while still collecting our shared revenue growth? When did Shaundi become such a hard ass?

... that last question didn't have anything to do with what I was talking about before, but I was seriously surprised. Really, what happened to her?

The game was over the top. I dove through an airplane. I was chased by Gimps pulling a Rickshaw in my own Rickshaw pulled by a pimp who lost his vocalcords... in a gimp outfit. I wrestled for control of a city. I shot zombies in the face because, hey, why not? That was fun. The other stuff, well... I like that I could choose not to do it.

... Other than Professor Genki's. Holy shit, that was awesome.

Captcha: hobby-horse. Seriously, Captcha? Just announce your plans for world domination so we can get a ragtag group to finally defeat you. These mind games are getting old.

Matthew Cline:
While I agree with a lot said, it seems all that was achieved was the creation of another excuse to outsiders.

Violence is ok if:

1.(the old one) I necessary for the story and is part of narrative.
2.(the one suggested by this article) If it is unrealistic enough.

So what happens when someone makes an ultra realistic mass murder game? Where you stalk your victims, plan it out, drag them to your basement, bash their skull in as the scream in terror? AND there isn't a convincing story to back it up (Hard Rain minus the story basically).

What then?

Arguments 1 and 2 break down.

That's a great point. I wonder if such a game would be successful. Would enough people enjoy context-free, ultra realistic violence? I suspect for the game to be "good" - critically or commercially - it would still require some context. We would have to get drawn into the process of stalking & planning, such that the murders themselves feel like the culmination of our obsessive care. We'd still need character motivation. If realistic murders were the whole game, and there's no narrative to make us care about (or be fascinated/horrified by) the main character, that sounds pretty repetitive and boring.

You're right that the article is aimed at how to argue with non-gamers who dismiss the whole medium. In particular, if you're always using argument (1), then all the non-gamer has to do is bring up a popular, successful game like Saints Row: The Third. Like you, I wish we didn't have to make excuses all the time, but gaming still has a serious PR issue. We're still in a position where we need to argue, sadly.

skimfu:

We'd still need character motivation. If realistic murders were the whole game, and there's no narrative to make us care about (or be fascinated/horrified by) the main character, that sounds pretty repetitive and boring.

Ah that may be a good argument as to why it isn't games that turn people violent.

You could argue that the lack of existence of a game such as I described lends you to believe that the segment of the population that enjoys these games aren't content in simply mindless violence. They need something else to draw them in.

Whereas IRL murders often have little context outside of the like killing because it makes them feel good, rarely is there a good story, a good reason, they simple did it because they wanted to.

(Of course there are any number of exceptions....but bear with me)

Maybe that is what this article was getting at.

That without it being part of the narrative, or without it being unrealistically comical we gamers don't care, because we gamers aren't homicidal maniacs.

But then what about games such as CoD or BF3 multiplayer? Both more realistic in terms of style of violence than SR3 but lacking complete narrative.

I personally think in that case it is the competition that is what draws people in.

Evidence being in how many people do you know that actually like to play vs. AI?

The biggest problem is simply that people have far too broad a concept of 'violence'. SR3 has cartoon Tom and Jerry violence, thus it is largely for people who want to indulge their slightly sick sense of humor. It hardly qualifies as catharsis. I'd submit that playing something with realistic violence and playing something with unrealistic violence probably result in two completely different kinds of psychological phenomena.

Falseprophet:
I will never stop recommending this book, as it gives much-needed historical perspective on the matter. Just over a century ago our ancestors treated public executions as fun family outings. To say driving over digital ragdolls in a video game somehow makes our society worse is just ridiculous.

I completely agree, but here's a counter recommendation, just so both sides are represented: http://www.amazon.com/On-Killing-Psychological-Learning-Society/dp/0316330116. This guy makes some interesting arguments, but I think his account ultimately fails. It becomes almost impossible to explain human history if violence is really that unnatural and damaging for humans.

If we engage in the (admittedly somewhat questionable) practice of evolutionary psychology, we can immediately see that there would be a strong selective pressure for violent tendencies towards people who aren't members of our in-groups (e.g. members of other tribes, clans, nations etc.) and a strong selective pressure against violent tendencies towards members of our in-groups.

Sociopaths are just dysfunctional. But frankly so is anyone who gets PTSD from killing an armed enemy who was trying to do the same to them. Empathy and guilt are two very different things, you can have empathy for your enemy but there's no need to feel guilty when it's either him or you. That's just the way life works. Uncontrollable sympathy and guilt are pathological, not virtuous.

There are also different kinds of pacifism. Delusional pacifism that tries to change a world that is inherently violent, and ascetic pacifism that accepts the world and merely reflects the will of the individual. Buddhist monks are a good example of the latter, they recognize that the world is violent, and though they exhort the individual to practice non-violence they also don't believe that they can change the world permanently. As a matter of my personal value system, I honor the latter and disdain the former. (Though one could argue that Buddhists are delusional in their beliefs about nirvana etc., at least they aren't as delusional as the irrational hippies that would feed lions tofu.)

webkilla:

SR3 is random blowing stuff up - simply because.. you can

Its hilarious to run around with a giant purple dong slapping hookers or STAG soldiers...

And that's the very reason I didn't enjoy SR3.
Yes in SR2 you were a maniac, killing people that got in your way, but at least there was the resemblance of a story, the resemblance of a reason for doing so.

SR3 turned into Jackass, violence and stupidity for no reason whatsoever!

To add to my previous post:

ReiverCorrupter:

If we engage in the (admittedly somewhat questionable) practice of evolutionary psychology, we can immediately see that there would be a strong selective pressure for violent tendencies towards people who aren't members of our in-groups (e.g. members of other tribes, clans, nations etc.) and a strong selective pressure against violent tendencies towards members of our in-groups.

I think this is pretty well represented in human behavior. You could say that most forms of violence are also forms of chauvinism of some sort. But once again it is a question of context. The sad fact of the matter is that, in spite of what your kindergarten teacher used to say, violence sometimes is the only answer. Look at what's happening in Syria: the more we allow Assad to delay the UN with the farcical possibility of a diplomatic solution, the more Syrians we are allowing to die.

There are two fundamental and destructive philosophical presuppositions that, when combined, cause these delusions. The first is objective moral realism that includes the idea that all human beings are objectively an end unto themselves, the second is rational agency. The idea is that there is an objective moral truth that all people can arrive at because people are inherently rational at their core, and that when they reach this truth all people will be compelled to respect one another.

I won't bother trying to show rigorously how these presuppositions are incorrect. What should be obvious is that no one is so rational as to be compelled solely by an argument about the meaning of the terms 'right' and 'wrong'. We are driven by our emotions and baser instincts, and we really only use reason to better serve these drives. Given that this is the case, it becomes obvious that there are certain situations where the interests of the different parties are simply too contradictory for there to be any compromise.

While we usually try to preserve the rights of those who disagree with us in our own society, we largely do this because these people are contributing members of our society, and we benefit from having them in our society, even though we may disagree with their beliefs. For example, although I am not a Christian I will fight to preserve Christians' religious freedom, because: (1) those Christians pay their taxes, which help support programs that I enjoy, such as being protected by a world class military; and (2) Because if I allow them to be persecuted then I also open myself up to persecution.

Now one may believe in fundamental human rights, and that's grand. But when you're dealing with someone who doesn't recognize those rights you have to have something better to convince them than metaphysical arguments about the supposed existence of those rights as some set of abstract/non-spatiotemporal entities that exist over and above the individual psychological proclivities of human beings such that they are absolute and must be accepted by everyone. That just doesn't work because there is no objectively accessible evidence to suggest that these entities exist aside from the moral intuitions of those who argue for them. And unfortunately moral intuitions, by their very nature, are really nothing more than psychological dispositions, especially when you're arguing against someone who doesn't share them.

While the two reasons that I have supplied above are often sufficient reasons for respecting the rights of fellow citizens, they are hardly absolute. At some point, the positive gain you get from having people who disagree with you in your society will be outweighed by the negatives. For instance, we definitely wouldn't allow a religion that has child sacrifice, just as we do not allow honor killings in the Islamic community. But those are perhaps shoddy examples because there may be strong arguments (from a purely prudential standpoint) that the right to religious freedom is subservient to the right to life, etc.

Genetic engineering and human enhancement in general may (unfortunately) turn out to be a better example. Hard-core human enhancement may turn out to be so unpalatable to the religious right that America could very well Balkanize.

The point is that violence is quite often unavoidable, and the only way it could be completely eliminated is if everyone always had the same interests. I don't really see how you could accomplish that without destroying human individuality.

This article rings fundamentally true. We love the spectacle of extreme violence lobbed against things we apply dehumanized context to. Gladiator matches, public executions, witch burnings, stonings, jousts, even things like kickboxing, rugby, hockey, and football, so some extent. The more brutal and visceral the event, the more we are enraptured. We yearn for it. We want it. These are not heroes, valiantly fighting against an opposing ideology, these are creatures who's best quality is that they might live, to kill again. We would cheer for the lion, and we would cheer for the man who would slay the lion.

Of course, some of us contend that not all of us yearn for this, and it's possible we don't. Most of us want it, however. To see acts so terrible they almost couldn't be happening, or at the least, probably wouldn't happen to us or by our hand. But videogames provide an outlet for aggression that both does and does not already exist--it's in there, raging as the Id, suppressed by the superego, but it's there. And that there is suddenly a way to realize it in an environment that literally hurts no one makes it manifest in ways we could never bring to bear in life.

putowtin:

webkilla:

SR3 is random blowing stuff up - simply because.. you can

Its hilarious to run around with a giant purple dong slapping hookers or STAG soldiers...

And that's the very reason I didn't enjoy SR3.
Yes in SR2 you were a maniac, killing people that got in your way, but at least there was the resemblance of a story, the resemblance of a reason for doing so.

SR3 turned into Jackass, violence and stupidity for no reason whatsoever!

I don't know how you played SR2, but the protagonist was already a jackass by the point the bandages came off of his ridiculous looking face, and while certainly violent, definitely not stupid, at least not when it came to turning the tide of a gang from barely there to owning an entire city. He would taunt his enemies with all kinds of atrocious outfits, and perform ludicrous stunts in public to spread the name of the Saints, then counter the silliness with a truly terrifying feat--burying a man alive because he interrupted the funeral of a friend, or sending out the biggest "Don't fuck with us" to all potential rivals when he permanently seared the face of one of his biggest aggressor with toxic waste that was presumed to be tattoo ink by the person in question. These acts don't really depict a sane and balanced person, but a psychopath with far too much power.

This is why Burnout is so much fun and is almost never brought into discussions in regards to game violence. It satirizes the acts to such an extreme that any simulated realism loses all meaning. I'm in agreement - games like these do deserve their own genre.

BehattedWanderer:
This article rings fundamentally true. We love the spectacle of extreme violence lobbed against things we apply dehumanized context to. Gladiator matches, public executions, witch burnings, stonings, jousts, even things like kickboxing, rugby, hockey, and football, so some extent. The more brutal and visceral the event, the more we are enraptured. We yearn for it. We want it. These are not heroes, valiantly fighting against an opposing ideology, these are creatures who's best quality is that they might live, to kill again. We would cheer for the lion, and we would cheer for the man who would slay the lion.

Of course, some of us contend that not all of us yearn for this, and it's possible we don't. Most of us want it, however. To see acts so terrible they almost couldn't be happening, or at the least, probably wouldn't happen to us or by our hand. But videogames provide an outlet for aggression that both does and does not already exist--it's in there, raging as the Id, suppressed by the superego, but it's there. And that there is suddenly a way to realize it in an environment that literally hurts no one makes it manifest in ways we could never bring to bear in life.

putowtin:

webkilla:

SR3 is random blowing stuff up - simply because.. you can

I've only played SR3 - none of the previous games, so I can't really say which is best, but IIRC from early reviews then the SR series was always praised for being more sandboxy and open to player chucklefuckery than the more linear GTA series. So I don't think the difference from SR2 to 3 is that big.

I mean, in SR3 you establish dominance by raiding a national guard depot - then blowing up a mob-owned skyscraper. not subtle, but I got the idea of the over the top cartoonish gang/mob violence
Its hilarious to run around with a giant purple dong slapping hookers or STAG soldiers...

And that's the very reason I didn't enjoy SR3.
Yes in SR2 you were a maniac, killing people that got in your way, but at least there was the resemblance of a story, the resemblance of a reason for doing so.

SR3 turned into Jackass, violence and stupidity for no reason whatsoever!

I don't know how you played SR2, but the protagonist was already a jackass by the point the bandages came off of his ridiculous looking face, and while certainly violent, definitely not stupid, at least not when it came to turning the tide of a gang from barely there to owning an entire city. He would taunt his enemies with all kinds of atrocious outfits, and perform ludicrous stunts in public to spread the name of the Saints, then counter the silliness with a truly terrifying feat--burying a man alive because he interrupted the funeral of a friend, or sending out the biggest "Don't fuck with us" to all potential rivals when he permanently seared the face of one of his biggest aggressor with toxic waste that was presumed to be tattoo ink by the person in question. These acts don't really depict a sane and balanced person, but a psychopath with far too much power.

Brilliant article. Personally, I'm not always in control of my temper, and worse, I know that when I completely lose it, I'm capable of truly terrible things, more so than the average person. I'm sick, and I damn well know it. Games are my medicine. I can take things out safely there. Honestly, there's probably a fair few people who wouldn't be alive today if I didn't have that.

Always remember, buddhists sometimes practice martial arts not so that they can hurt people, but so that it becomes easier not to.

 

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