Media Project Part 3: I Have Killed.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3

I have killed, and I have been killed.

I have led countless lives over countless battlefields.

I have fought on the beaches of Normandy, in the far reaches of space, across the Russian steppe and on US soil.

I have commanded Paratroopers assaulting German SS positions on the Cotentin peninsular, led valiant Space Marines in battle against vile aliens and been at the vanguard of battles that hold the stake of humanities survival in their very hand.

I am a soldier. I am a saviour. I am a killer.

I am a gamer.

Over the virtual fields of battle every week I see countless casualties, brave men and women all. All of who willingly give their virtual lives in the name of whatever flag, country, team and race they represent. Often sent into the hell of battle with nary an understanding of their coming hardships.

To them it is a great adventure.  To some it’s a pastime, a hobby. And for others it is their life and their reason for being. I’m a little of all three.

I’ve been playing computer games since 1987.  Back then, the height of amazing game play and graphical fidelity was being able to jump on the head of a bizarre looking mutant turtle and allowing a small pixilated mustachioed plumber from Brooklyn to grow larger through the consumption of what I can only imagine was a psychedelic mushroom. If you were good at the game and made it to the end of the level and ransacked the house of the tyrannical Thunder Lizard going by the name of Bowser who ran the joint, you’d be informed by an equally odd looking piece of possible fungus that the Princess was in another castle.

Mario VS Super Luigi - Image via Flickr user JD Hancock -

Mario VS Super Luigi – Image via Flickr user JD Hancock –

At that age I don’t quite recall knowing the story for Mario brothers, or even if there was one. It was just part of my childhood, yet another thread in the tapestry of my younger years. When I finished the level, the Princess was in another castle. That’s just the way it was. I was cock-blocked by a talking Agaricus Bisporus.

If you weren’t a Nintendo kid, then you were a Sega kid and instead of Mario and his faucet fixing ways you had an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog named Sonic. Sonic ran, fast. He controlled like he was ice-skating, even when he was just plotting his way through The Green Hill Zone. For reasons also beyond my childlike comprehension (both then and now) Sonic collects rings. Lots of them. These rings are crammed into every animal, flat area and likely arc of possible spring aided flight. Seriously rings are everything to this guy. Why he collects them was never really explained, or I never understood.

Sonic’s nemesis/whipping boy was a corpulent mad scientist with the creative handle of Dr Robotnik, who for reasons best kept to himself, was trying to take over the world while enslaving small woodland animals. Sonic was having none of it. And so they fought. Often. Robotnik has been beaten so many times by Sonic that I’ve often thought he should get some kind of restraining order. If I was the fat guy I’d pack it in, grow a beard and get a job as a shopping centre Santa.  It’] would be slightly less embarrassing than getting your ass kicked by a blue mammal wearing Reeboks.

For all the innocence that I often feel towards those early steps in gaming, the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve noticed the often violent undertones associated with them.

In Super Mario Brothers you’re hurling flaming rocks at creatures, and when they hit, the poor bastards have X’s for eyes, stick their tongues out and in one final death spasm hurl themselves of the bottom of the screen. In Sonic, when you carve a cybernetically enhanced bee in half with your razor sharp back spines (how does he sleep?) the things explodes in a shower of golden rings. Stuff dies in these games! Even in Mario; Bowser, as you get to the end of each castle where the Princess is sure to be this time, has a drawbridge pulled out from underneath him and plummets INTO LAVA.

That’s stone cold. Mario is so obsessed with rescuing a chick that he hardly knows that he straight out murders his way through the game, only to find out that she is never where he thinks she is. Either he is the worlds worst map reader, Bowser is trying to use the old misdirection technique and is luring him to the wrong place each time, or The Princess is pretty sick and likes making her man jump through hoops.

And Sonic isn’t any better.  When he isn’t chasing golden rings like some kind of smack fiend he’s destroying all the poor “upgraded” creatures that are only

trying to stop him on the orders of the fiendish Dr Robotnik. Surely there must be a way that he could have saved the poor terminator-esque creatures form that didn’t involve slicing them in two.

The point in all this, dear reader, is that we gamers haven’t suddenly become reprogrammable murder machines because we can play first person shooters that carry with them some degree of realism. We’ve been killing stuff virtually for years.

So why all the fuss now? I don’t recall anyone kicking down my door in 1988 and slapping the controller out of my hand when I played Duck Hunt on the NES because it might turn me into a sniper one day. And that game let me use a peripheral that was shaped enough like a gun that not long after it was brought out in the US, the government required them to be painted orange so that the usually so cool, calm and reluctant to draw their firearm US law enforcement officials didn’t ventilate some poor bastard because he was standing in his living room shooting hilarious looking ducks.

I do recall somewhat of a furor over Doom, the id Software developed sci-fi/horror first person shooter that took the world and my Year 8 Maths class by storm. But that had more to do with the content (satanic themes AND violence? How could 13 years old me not find that interesting… In fact how could ANYONE not find that interesting?), (rather) than it’s prospective use as some kind of genocide training manual.

Many people point towards the infamous airport massacre in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and pretty much everything in Grand Theft Auto as evidence that games are all that is wrong with the world, that they are being used as nothing but mured simulators and that a generation of children are being brought up as soulless killing machines.

I’m here to tell you that from the very beginning games have been about defeating your enemy. It doesn’t matter if that enemy is an alien, a fellow soldier, a psychological demon, fear, the hordes of hell or the Whermacht. From their outset, to “win” in a computer game has meant that you’ve more often than not had to kill the other guy. Even in games as innocent and fun loving as Mario Brothers and the Sonic series, as I’ve just demonstrated.

Games are escapism. Be it in the form of sports games, flight simulators, real time strategy games, RPG’s and everything else.

Of those listed above, and which came of the top of my head, I would hazard that only one of those genres doesn’t have death in it as a staple part of it’s make up.

I’ve never once thought about how to use my 99 hours of game time in Battlefield 3 to plot some kind of intricate and deadly attack on those who have wronged me. In fact I spend more time in Battlefield 3 healing my squad mates and ripping them away from Death’s cold grip than I do actually shooting at the enemy. I’ve never considered using the tactics that I learnt in Company of Heroes to use a Fire and Movement tactic to suppress and envelope the police when they respond. I wouldn’t know how in either instance.

Company of Heroes.

Company of Heroes.

The blame for societies ills often have to fall somewhere, and it’s a shame that gaming seems to be in the publics crosshairs. Conservative media organizations who have no understanding, or will to understand, both a younger generation and an entertainment form they don’t understand certainly contribute, as does the usual case of generational misunderstanding, and issue as old as Cain and Abel.

The case that the interactivity of gaming makes it all the more damaging seems more than a reach too. The fact that you press a button and make something on the screen happen is all too easy for those who don’t understand to translate as far more cause and effect than it actually is. Clicking a mouse button doesn’t actually fire a gun. If you tried to fire a gun in real life by clicking a button you’re either flying drones for the US Airforce (far more of an issue than what we are discussing here) or you’re from the future and I bid you hello.

I’m aware that each of these have been treated as the next great threat to humanity at one stage or another and that of them, gaming is the youngest. And as the youngest of them, gaming is going to get bullied by it’s older siblings.

But gaming is entertainment. Entertainment that is just as valid as any other medium, be it movies, literature or music.

In fact it could be argued (and it currently is being argued by me I suppose) that gaming is the only form of entertainment to take all the best parts of those and make one great big whole from it.

The saying “the sum of our parts is greater than our pieces” has never been truer.

People tell me I am a soldier. People tell me I am a saviour. People tell me I am a killer.

I am a gamer.

6 Responses to “Media Project Part 3: I Have Killed.”
  1. Emma Marshall says:

    Dude, awesome!

    I love this kind of emotive style of writing from you, the passion comes through, the critical thought is there (though I’d like to see more of it, for this style of writing I think the level is probably appropriate) and you’re bringing yourself into the story, not just through experience but through your words.

    Obviously, there’s parts that I would disagree with and others I completely agree with and the urge to discuss them all here is strong. That’s the sign of some good writing. You should be really proud of this piece.

  2. “But gaming is entertainment. Entertainment that is just as valid as any other medium, be it movies, literature or music.”

    I’m glad I’ve met another individual who shares the same philosophy! This was a really in depth piece about gaming! I’m really glad I read it.

    This is going to sound really sappy, but gaming will always hold a special place in my heart. At times, it was my sanctuary when I was going through things. I’d use my imagination and pretend I was somewhere else, embarking on a journey to rescue a princess, defeat a villain who stole the fabled Triforce, etc. And most times, it was just about having fun with friend and family.

    I still play video game to this day, but to me, the games that will always be the best and brilliant are the ones which were released in the 1990s.

  3. What a great concept – setting the start up like that made me think of those US Army recruiting ads and really sucked me in to the concept.
    I was a Sega guy, and before that on the Game & Watches, and as you so rightly point out, it’s all about conflict of some sort, striving for a goal.
    Your valiant healing of team mates was interesting to read – I like to rush on in – and frankly rely on someone like you to heal me, as you would rely on me to cover you or get to the next objective.
    And that in itself is creating an idea of community, showing it’s not just about everyone getting involved in a bloodbath.

    Great points well illustrated without being self indulgent, and a great selection of pictures – not too heavy, not too light!

    Again, great concept – in the words of the Dark Lord; “Impressive, most impressive”.

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