Future Implications: Killing in video games

Regardless of your opinion on the subject, the line is being drawn and will continue to move towards an "alien-only" killing field.

In a recent blog entry posted here,, an African woman expressed anger and distaste for the alleged "depiction of Black people as inhuman savages, the killing of Black people by a white man in military clothing, and the fact that this video game is marketed to children and young adults. Start them young? fearing, hating, and destroying Black people." And while I understand where she is coming from (no one likes to see their own people being killed), it seems she is echoing an ever-increasing issue with video games: over-sensitivity.

Ever since graphics became the big thing in gaming, people have been aghast at the cold-blooded killing of digital characters. And whether it's a Mexican group of individuals who the gamer must kill or even people from Africa, it seems groups are coming out of the woodwork to protest. And while I understand their anger, why do they care so much?

Now before you start saying that this is an American video games issue where American developers create games that are aimed at killing other people, think again.

In a recent story from MSNBC, it was learned that an Iranian video game promoted the killing of Israelis and American soldiers during a mission to save a Nuclear Scientist deep into enemy territory: Israel.

The simple fact is video games are video games and nothing more. It shouldn't matter that we are "killing" Japanese soldiers in a Medal of Honor game or Germans in a Call of Duty game because it's not real life. And in case you missed it, previous Resident Evil games were based around the killing of Caucasian people as well.

Killing in video games is a touchy subject and many people share a variety of opinions on the subject. Some people believe we should only be killing aliens in games because, after all, who will protest when that happens? Even better, alien blood can be green or purple so a Mature rating can be all but eliminated. Still others believe killing in games should not be targeted at one group, but human killing is perfectly acceptable. And while I understand both arguments, I just can't seem to justify either viewpoint.

If I go into space in a first-person shooter, then I expect to kill ugly aliens with green blood and five eyes. If I go to North Dakota in a game, I expect to kill people in North Dakota. And if I go to France, I expect to kill people in France. Is that such a difficult theory to get our heads around? I want my games to be as logical as possible and I don't see the reason why people care so much. I don't hate people from North Dakota just because I have been tasked with the objective to eradicate the bad people in that state and I certainly don't hate France -- it's one of the places I have always wanted to go. But at what point should we draw the line?

Regardless of your opinion on the subject, the line is being drawn and will continue to move towards an "alien-only" killing field. I don't really have a problem with this as long as the gameplay is acceptable, but why? As far as I can tell, almost every group has been targeted in one game or another. I don't see this as promotion of killing one group or another, I just see it as an opportunity for a company to make a compelling gameplay experience without sacrificing realism.

Interestingly enough, most groups who attack video games for the killing of its people have no understanding of the game itself. For example, the blog entry mentioned above makes no mention of the fact that the people actually being killed are zombies and fit within the context of the plot. If there is a target on the backs of African people (and I don't believe there is), that target will be ten times larger on the backs of European people, as they have been the target of all of the previous Resident Evil games. Sad as it is, killing people in the Resident Evil series is not unique to just one group.

I often wonder why similar arguments are not made as frequently against movies or television shows. If you're a 24 fan, you know that Jack Bauer has single-handedly taken down people from a bunch of races and yet it's one of the most popular shows on TV.

I think that's how the video game industry will emerge from this issue; not with its tail between its legs, but carried on the backs of people from all races who understand that killing in video games is equal opportunity abusing. If one game targeted one group of individuals throughout the series, then I would understand the reservations and the outcry. But when an entire industry follows suit with other forms of entertainment and targets people of all races, creeds, gender and age, I have a hard time justifying the outcry.

Killing in video games is a touchy subject that none of us should take lightly. But if we look at it from an objective point of view, the truth easily shows itself: no one group of people is safe from your digital AK-47.

Every Thursday, Don picks a current-events topic and discusses how it will impact us. Check out more from Don's Future Implications series.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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