Avid gamer Jeremy Norman was at Virginia Tech when the massacre happened there. It unnerved him, and made him uncomfortable playing violent video games. The line between taking pleasure blowing people away inside a game, and seeing up close and personal what happens when someone does it in real life, seemed to Norman distressingly thin.
And then, Newtown. Excerpt:
Not this time. Everything’s different.
First of all, I’m 33, and the time I have to game has been drastically cut in recent years. Suddenly, the thought of staying up for some online exploits in Call of Duty falls a distant second to getting some much-needed sleep.
But second, and most importantly, is my almost-two-year-old son. The children killed inNewtown were only a few years older than him. 20 little kids, no different than my own, are gone. All because some very disturbed individual was doing his own, real life perversion of what we do online every day.
What those parents must have been feeling as they slowly realized their child would never be coming home paralyzes me with sadness. To think that could have been my son…
I don’t want to explain to my son why daddy is shooting the guys on the television. Why that’s okay, but when it happens in real life, people cry.
I have never played a violent game in front of him, but he already sees and hears and imitates more than I could ever realize (including, to my chagrin, some of my saltier language), so I don’t want to have that conversation. Not yet.
Black Ops II has already been traded in. Assassin’s Creed III will follow. Sniper Elite 2, which I have been itching to play since picking it up on Black Friday, interests me no longer.
No longer does a game provide an entertaining release. Instead it simply opens old wounds.
I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to disassociate myself, saying it’s just a game. I imagine that Cho disassociated himself from the horror he was committing just as we disassociate ourselves when we play “No Russian” on Call of Duty. Thankfully, most of us see the difference, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable.
I’ve never been a gamer, but this reminds me of a decision I made many years ago to quit watching graphically violent or pornographic/semi-pornographic movies. In part, of course, it was because I had begun to take the Christianity I professed seriously. But it was also that I didn’t want to be the sort of person that saw depictions of people doing these things as entertainment. I didn’t want that stuff in my head. To be honest, I felt more strongly about the violence than the sex.
It’s not that I wish to deny that sex and violence are part of life, and certainly not that they can be part of art. It’s that films that dwell on the sensationalism in sex and/or violence devalue it, and desensitize me to the fact that these are powerful forces that ought to be respected. The most chilling moment I ever spent inside a movie theater was in the early 1990s, at the Union Station cinema in Washington, DC, watching “Menace II Society” — an extremely gritty but good film in every sense, in my judgment. DC was in the middle of a wave of gun violence, all of it perpetrated by young black men, mostly against other black people. This film, made by the Hughes Brothers (who are black), spared nothing in pointing out the pointlessness of the gangbangers’ slaughter, and the savage cult of machismo among inner-city black males. In one quick cut, a severed head bobbles down a street. It’s a moment of true horror.
A group of teenage black boys sitting behind me in the theater roared with laughter, and went on about how cool that was. That reaction shook me up more than anything on screen. This film was trying to show these kids where it all leads to … and they thought it was mere entertainment.
I didn’t want to be that guy — which, in my case, would mean being the white urban or suburban aesthete who takes special pleasure in the transgressive for its own sake (Tarantino, basically). Please understand me: it’s not that I believe sex and violence are off-limits for the movies, or any other art. It’s that I wanted to protect my own senses and sensibility, so that when I encountered sex or violence in art, I could see it for what it was. If you spend your time staring at the sun, you go blind. That’s what I was after, from both a moral and an aesthetic point of view: preserving my ability to see.
It is reported that Adam Lanza spent hours upon hours bunkered away in his basement, shooting virtual people in Call Of Duty. One way or another, what goes into the mind and the heart comes out, and not just for dementors like Adam Lanza.