ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar! LarryNocella.com

29Oct/07Off

World Peace Through Violent Video Games

Many thanks to Harper's magazine for having the good taste to print my letter to the editor. in Letters, Harper's November 2007 page 6. (Click to view it in a new window.) It's truly an honor to be printed in such a respectable magazine. The letter was in response to an interesting editorial (Flies in Amber, Harper's Sept. 2007 page 8) where Lewis H. Lapham made some great points about how war is celebrated only by childish idiots, how war itself is a tool of the moron. He mentioned that war as a method to resolve differences is out of date, everyone knows it doesn't work, etc. He concluded with a comparison of the way that modern arm chair generals view real people and real lives as nothing more important than a video game.

I couldn't agree more. Video games are a great place to store aggression, and if only the world "leaders" were like aged gamers like myself: willing to send pretend armies into battle, but not real ones, the world would be a better place.

So in keeping with this week's pro-video game theme, I'm bringing back an old blog entry that is actually new to this blog, since the entry was lost during software shenanigans.

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I have had many teachers in my life, and I've learned from many sources. I think author James Baldwin was the one who said something like this: being a writer is being able to squeeze every bit out of an experience. I would add that being able to squeeze everything out of experience is to be fully alive. Two people can have the same experience and yet one can be shallow and move on, and one can learn a lifetime's lessons from it. This is why I believe there are some people who are world-travelers yet they are completely shallow, and other people who have never left their hometowns are wise to the world.

For me, I extract a lot from video games. Yes, video games. They are a wonderful educational experience for me, and now that they have progressed to the age of the internet, where you can recognize names, make friends and talk with those you like and dislike, they've become even more instructive.

As with any competition of any sort, I extract several lessons from games: the value of determination, the value of teamwork, the value of practice. These are values I carry with me everywhere.

Waaaaah! But video games are so violent!

I remember reading (it may have been Gandhi) who advised keeping an anger journal, wherein you would write all your violent thoughts to release the tension from your being. This practice enables you to be a kind person in real life, where it matters. I believe video games are an update to the anger journal.

In my fantasy world of Halo (different software can track the statistics) I've killed over 26,000 people. In other words, I'm on my way to killing about as many fake people as George Bush and his war-profiteering cartel have killed real Iraqi civilians. I'm right up there with the most prolific of serial murderers except for one crucial difference: my killing isn't real.

That makes ALL the difference. Games are violent. Before them, movies were violent. Before them, books were violent. Before them, stories told around the campfire were violent. Before them, cave-drawings were violent. However, these things are NOT REAL. That's right, not real.

I should also point out that there have been plenty of wars before video games even came about. It's been said before, but let's review: There's a primal animal inside us all and if you don't let it out to play, it keeps rattling the cage, and one day, it will break out. Video games allow me to release that primal spirit into a world that isn't real. So in real life, I am as peaceful as I can be; there's no repression of instinct.

Maybe if games were MORE violent, and everyone played them, there be world peace! Is it that simple?

I'm afraid not. Remember the shallow world-travelers I mentioned earlier? Some people who play video games are violent assholes in real life, and some are not. Some who don't play video games are violent assholes and some are not. There's no simple connection. I suspect that's why video games are a common target for charlatan religious and political leaders: because they offer a simple answer and therefore, can acquire followers who are just too tired of all this damn thinking.

As for me, I'm going to keep killing the crap out of innocent and not-so-innocent people, in a world where none of it really matters. I'm going to keep up my electronic anger journal, so when in real-life someone cuts me off and gives me the finger, I can shrug and let it pass.

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Larry Nocella is the award-winning author of the novel Where Did This Come From? available at Amazon and Xlibris and other fine online book stores. Where Did This Come From? is also available as an eBook. For more info, visit Larry Nocella's website at http://www.larrynocella.com/.

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