A Note on Violence in Video Games

Almost every fantasy-related cultural phenomenon of which I’ve been a participant has had to endure attacks from people who cast doubts on the ability of regular people to distinguish between fantasy and reality.  It’s that doubt that produces convenient cultural scapegoats, a list of which conveniently includes just about everything I’ve used to stimulate my imagination since I was a kid – rock music, roleplaying games, comic books, movies, television, novels, toys – video games are just one entry on a much larger list.  I don’t expect the culture warriors to stop attacking them anytime soon.

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The Room

Its roots are equal parts escape room, steampunk and Lovecraftian horror.  Visually, it’s one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played.  Narrative-wise, it’s like a blend of all your favorite 1930s-era pulp fantasy, horror and mystery stories. And its gameplay is like operating in a dreamscape, where you’re trying to reconstruct a crime scene, and somehow an old brass Stirling engine is involved in some odd way.

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Mr. Do!

There are certain game concepts that could come only from Japan.  For instance, “giant ape kidnaps plumber’s girlfriend and rolls barrels down a building at him as he attempts to save her” is something you’d expect out of Japanese game developers.

And then there are game concepts that can come only from Japanese game developers who have been locked in a room with Timothy Leary and a Dig Dug machine.  That’s where you get Mr. Do!

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Commodore 64

We separated into three factions.  While we had influence over which faction we joined, the decision was ultimately up to our parents, who were footing the bill, and who had our educations and future well-being in mind.  They were prepared to invest a lot of money in that future, often several thousand dollars, and the prospect of failing to make that investment threatened to leave their children behind in a rapidly-changing world.

No, this wasn’t the Hunger Games.  This was the computer platform wars of the early ‘80s.

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Simplicity, at times, has its own unique elegance.

Consider the rules for a childhood game of Tag, for instance.  I try to catch you.  If I do catch you, you now have to try to catch me.

Sure, there are a few mild extension rules one has to learn, such as the dynamics of “base,” the game’s boundaries and how to handle “tag-backs,” but at its core, Tag is about chasing one another.  And Tag’s replayability is among its more charming characteristics, one that’s counterintuitive given its simplicity.

That elegance of simplicity probably has its own word in German – or perhaps Japanese.  While simplicity was a defining characteristic of many of the early games that ushered in the arcade’s Golden Age, few captured that elegance quite as well as Pac-Man.

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