Violence, Part 1: Glorification

3hQadN4I am very happy that we seem to be having a bit of a cultural awakening when it comes to the portrayal of women in video games. In general, the degree to which the “Bikini Warrior” character design is met with disgust is rising, and it will continue to rise in the coming years.

I think while we continue to work on that, another frontier is the problem of violence glorification, something which plagues all of our media, but perhaps video games and movies worst of all.

This article is not about game design, and in fact, I will be using several examples from outside of games because I think these examples highlight the issue best, and the problem is culture-wide and not specific to interactive entertainment. This article does, however, address a common problem in the themes and settings of games and other media and how it affects the wider culture. In Part 2, I will address a separate problem with violence in games and how it negatively impacts game design.

I should say that I am strongly against the idea of any kind of censorship and am not advocating for that. Instead, I am hoping to convince others that a social and cultural change on this topic is in our best interests.

 

Dissonance On Violence

Actual violence is not cool. It’s never glamorous, and it’s never fun. If there exist situations wherein it becomes necessary, those situations are all tragedies – displays of weakness, and cowardice; a wasteful failure of humanity.

Until recently, I don’t know if I completely internalized this fact. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always known that real-life violence was ugly, and I’ve always been vocally anti-violence. I’ve never been in a fight, and I recall feeling profoundly embarrassed for those involved when I’d see a fight break out in high school.

But there’s a difference between thinking an idea and feeling it. You can consciously, intellectually know that violence is horrible and ugly, and at the same time subconsciously either “not mind” violence, or even relish it. In my case, I would say that I’ve had a bit of this dissonance for my entire life, and I don’t think I’m alone.

There’s always been this dissonance surrounding the topic. I don’t like violence and I’m not a violent person, but being a male who’s growing up in our society, I of course always liked action movies, video games, comic books, and all kinds of violence-heavy media.

The given explanation for this has always been that there’s a strict dividing line between fantasy and reality, and so a completely non-violent person can enjoy violent media. On the face of it, this is true. Just as it’s true that most people who play Bikini Warrior Game do not hold sexist views – in fact, many of them would probably describe themselves as feminists.

At the same time, though, all media, no matter what it is, communicates cultural values. The subtext of most action movie fight scenes is something like, “look at how great this character is for solving this problem by using violence”, or “it’s heroic to use violence”, or sometimes just: “violence is glamorous/cool”.

big10_shootout9

The dissonance is seen somewhat clearly with action films that are borderline satirical, such as Robocop, The Expendables, or the Rambo sequels. In these cases, the author is setting up an “excuse” for you to enjoy the violence. It’s a bit like one of those websites that has a “Top 20 Most Offensive Skimpy Outfits from Videogames” article – they’re actually cashing in on the thing they claim to be offended by.

I think the glorification of violence is something that people – particularly males – are taught to value. I don’t think it’s something we would otherwise naturally value. There may even be historical/evolutionary reasons why this Men Are Violent meme appeared in the first place. My guess is that glorification of violence was a useful tool to us throughout most of history, which took place in a vastly more violent world than the one we know today.

We’ve made a ton of progress on this front, and perhaps one difference between the status quo on violence and the status quo on sexism is that we’ve simply made more progress overall on the former. However, I would argue that even if we are doing fantastically on developing an anti-violent culture, we need to do even better. The stakes are just too high.

 

Examples

I recently watched the first couple episodes of The Walking Dead. I had been very hesitant to watch it, because I’ve been skeptical of the “zombie apocalypse” premise for reasons which weren’t completely clear to me until recently. Regardless, it’s such a cultural centerpiece these days that I figured I should at least check it out.

Watch the following clip, which compiles “kill shots” from the first few seasons. (NSFW)

Like any of the other ugliest parts of our culture, violence-glorification knows how to wear a disguise, but in this clip, the disguise is thin. When I was much younger, I would have said that it was legitimately cool. In my 20s, I might have said that it was “funny” or perhaps “dramatic”. But now, this bothers me. I actually find it to be extremely distasteful, incorrect, stupid, and just straight up bad writing.

The reason that the “zombie apocalypse” setting is so offensive to me is that it’s the author manufacturing a scenario under which violence could be not only justifiable, but so clearly justifiable that we can even glorify it. It’s going to great lengths to manufacture such a scenario. In other words, the starting point is “I want to portray violence”. From there, we come up with a rationalization – some bizarre, weird scenario under which horrendous violence is our only option. “Uh… well, what if every human in the world got taken over by some curse which made them just want to rip me apart alive!? THEN could I shoot them point blank in the face with a shotgun with a grin on my face?”

The “superhero” and “lone badass action hero” tropes are also great examples of this. You have a guy – and it’s almost always a guy – who has to, for whatever reason, gun down dozens of faceless, nameless “thugs” who “have it coming”. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few others quickly come to mind as people who embody this trope, and who tend to embody the concept of manliness for generations of little boys.

die_hard_4_th

The portrayal of our hero just wantonly killing nearby “thugs” might even be getting worse. “Thugs” have to have done less and less to deserve being murdered in films and video games. Early on, they had to at least shoot at our hero, or threaten him somehow. Now, they just have to be associated with some “bad” organization and be standing around at HQ, and this merits their death. This appears even in more “comic” movies one might consider benign, like the recent Guardians of the Galaxy.

A counter-argument I’ve heard is that actually, the primary values of these movies and games are about “good defeating evil”. My counter to that counter-argument is: “good defeating evil” is just another way of phrasing the same problem. In both cases, the problem is reducing human beings to “objects that need killing”.

Here’s another example, this time from Far Cry 4 (Should probably be NSFW, but disturbingly, I kinda think it might actually be SFW…)

I think we’ve gotten a bit de-sensitized to what it is we’re looking at with things like this. The above is, among other things, a human killing simulator. They’re bad guys though, don’t worry.

A writer could write about a billion different things, but the fact that they are choosing to create a scenario wherein violence is so obviously the only reasonable choice reveals a lot about their values.

 

When Violence Is Good

I am not saying “never portray violence in media”. Violence is horrible, but to pretend that it doesn’t exist is also absurd. When we portray violence, we should portray it as it really is: ugly. Weak. Disgusting. Not disgusting as in “blood-and-guts yucky” disgusting, but disgusting as in the feeling you get when you read public rape threats, hear a KKK leader speak, or accidentally scroll down to the comment section on a YouTube video.

My favorite work of fiction is Breaking Bad, which portrays violence often. However, most of the violence in the show is portrayed in an extremely negative light, particularly when our main characters commit the acts. It’s almost never supposed to be cool (the one possible exception being the Mexican brothers in Season 3, which is probably the worst part of the show).

(Spoilers ahead, so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet and (erroneously) believe in spoilers.) That first scene, with Crazy-Eight and the pipe, is a depiction of violence that I really like. Between a tear gliding down his face as he begins the struggle, and the repeated whispering of “I’m sorry” after the act is done, Walter’s tremendous sense of remorse for having done this is thoroughly apparent. Not to mention the episode-long struggle that Walter experienced trying to find some way of avoiding having to do this. What has just happened is not remotely cool, and that is a value that I strongly agree with.

By the way: that video has a kill counter on it. Let’s take a moment and imagine if there was something else just as horrible with a “counter”. Perhaps if there’s some crime show that has more than one rape scene, we could have compilation video with a “rape counter”? Does that seem tasteful? While there might be small disagreements, I think for the most part we’d generally agree that killing is at least roughly as horrible as raping (here‘s a good lengthy discussion on that topic).

Breaking Bad‘s portrayal of violence actually advances our society; it does the opposite of what glorified violence does. Violence is bad, so portraying it as such is illuminating. Portraying it as glorious is regressive.

 

Why It Matters

Experiencing works that glorify violence allow you to flex your Anti-Compassion muscles. Humans are naturally compassionate for one another; we really have to learn to drop that compassion and see our enemy as “other” in order to actually want to kill them.

Now, I think I could play violent video games for eight hours a day, every day, and never hurt a fly for as long as I live. In fact, I sort of did that for about half of my years on this planet. I’m not convinced that there is a direct connection between experiencing violent media and being a violent person (although I should mention that there exists a good amount of research on this subject suggesting that there is such a connection).

What I do think is that there is a direct connection between one’s cultural values and being a violent person, and films, games, music and everything else absolutely is a part of what builds our cultural values.

These cultural values then go on to not only influence us on a personal level, but also are likely to influence us politically. Was it morally correct to assassinate Osama Bin Laden? I don’t know – partially because we never even had the conversation. Most people just accepted that of course it was correct, he’s a freakin’ BAD GUY!

There are times when we’re faced with a question about whether we should go to war with some country. The anti-compassion muscles that let us see the bad guy as “other” in Guardians of the Galaxy are the same ones that we flex when we say, “just go in there and bomb the hell out of them!”

Obviously, the world is not full of good guys and bad guys. Even the bad guys of the day, ISIS, are certainly not all deserving of a gruesome murder, right? There are women, children, and probably a bunch of dudes who just don’t want to cause trouble that are technically members or affiliates of ISIS (certainly all of them would be “justifiably” murdered by a marauding Bruce Willis). It’s so easy to just say we should completely wipe them out. Part of what makes this so easy, I think, is that we’re used to flexing our Anti-Compassion muscles.

I personally advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, and I’ve had a number of debates with people who are in favor of it. Inevitably, the conversation leads down a path that leads to some super-extreme scenario that would either literally never happen, or is so incredibly rare as to be useless when discussing policy. Hypotheticals such as the following appear in our conversation:

“Okay, well… what if you have a guy, and he like, raped and murdered like five little girls, and we KNOW with 100% certainty that he did it, and he admits it, and he’s not sorry at all.”

You see how there’s this strange effort to try and find a situation wherein killing might be acceptable. There’s some part of our culture that is looking for something to kill.

Really, though, we should expect that – especially from males. Boys are given two distinct messages as they grow up. They are verbally instructed, of course, to never be violent. However, media sends the message that yeah but actually you know that when it comes down to it, you gotta be a man and fucking KILL THE SHIT out of some bad guys. It sounds silly, but I really think that’s the messaging we get.

By the way: men are significantly more likely to support the death penalty than women are.

 

Conclusion

Progress means fine-tuning our moral compass. Part of doing that means being more critical of the messages and values being put forward in the media we intake. It’s not enough to write off violence glorification as just a meaningless skin on top of a “fun thrill ride”. We need to reject these kinds of works and demand that creators come up to our moral level. It may be uncomfortable, but change always is.

Part 2 of this article discusses how violence as a theme/setting negatively affects game design.

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You can also read this article over at Gamasutra, where it has been re-printed.

 

 

  • darji8114

    So now we try the same thing with violence? As long people like it WE do not reject it. You can reject it. But that’s it. This is getting really stupid here. Sorry…

  • Sam

    If I think about it, I guess I agree that I don’t like glorified violence, in media or in real life. But one issue I can think of is how can you know in advance what is glorifying and what isn’t?

    I’m reminded of the story I’ve heard of D-Day where two soldiers threw themselves on barbed wire so that their fellow soldiers could pass by. Isn’t this glorifying violence? Should that tale be cut out of textbooks and documentaries?

    Many movies show the kind of violence you seem to OK with — violence that is reprehensible. Universally so. Schindler’s List. Michael Haneke’s films. Even the Coen Brothers, as artful as their films are, depict violence to show how despicable it is. One scene that comes to mind is the scene where Anton Chigurh kills a cop with a pair of handcuffs.

    However, many movies also show the kind of violence you want to do away with — the Sin Citys of the world. 300. Most Bruce Willis films. Etc. Horror films. Some of which I like, some I don’t. I wanted to walk out of Inglourious Basterds because I thought it was so childish. But I would never make a blanket dismissal of Tarantino or films of his predilection.

    Do we really need to have realistic violence in order to “learn” violence against others is wrong? Of course not. You and I are living examples on it. As you say, we’ve been “taught” to be conquerors, and yet I’ve conquered nothing, and the most violent thing I’ve done is boil a lobster — and I shook the whole time. Hardly befitting a man whose education has been the very media you decry here.

    You do our species a bit of a disservice to act as though most of us can’t distinguish between realistically depicted violence, where we see its awfulness, and cartoonish violence, where it’s kind of fun. It is entertaining, and yes, mostly for men. This is for reasons of biology and less to do with culture. Culture can either, it seems to me, reinforce or diminish what Mother Nature gave us. It can appeal to our better nature, or our more debased one. After all, if it were strictly cultural, as you seem to buy into, we would find a culture where men are not more aggressive. Such a culture does not exist.

    Some commentor on the gamasutra page made a dismissive remark about evolutionary biology, and just as important, evolutionary psychology. This is unfortunate. I think the studying the evolution of our minds and bodies can explain more about human nature, past and present, than any unscientific theory, which is what we have presented here. You mention studies linking media violence to real world violence. I would like to see them. As far as I know, none exist. You may as well, as the media has tried for years, to blame abhorrent behavior on rock and roll, or rap, or movies, tv, or just a decline in please and thank yous. Ted Bundy blamed his actions on viewing pornography. No. Ted Bundy’s problem was being born Ted Bundy.

    Your line about making demands of game creators, I just can’t disagree more. While of course we can voice an opinion as to what an artist has made, I would never presume to tell him or her what can and cannot be done. That smacks of censorship. Plenty of art has no appeal to me. Who am I, however, to tell the artist what they should do next? Do you want a taste czar? Fully government sanctioned? To whom would you give this task of telling artists what they can and can’t do?

    In the US, you can release your film or game without a rating, or with an NC-17 or an Adults Only rating. In other countries, the powers that be tell you “you cannot release this game as it is. You must make changes that we demand. And if you screen your movie or show your game, we will imprison you.” I find that more abhorrent than any filmed or drawn depiction of violence.

  • Tim

    The context of the violence matters. I don’t have a problem with violence when it is the only option – for instance when someone is attacking you / someone else. I do have a problem with games that allow you (or even worse encourage you) to commit violence against innocent people / animals / people of a specific ethic or social group or games that glorify war.
    e.g. GTA, Saints Row, Kane & Lynch, Manhunt, Postal, Hunting Sims, Military Shooters (with the possible exception of WW2 shooters – I have no problem killing Nazis in games).

    I also have a problem with TV/Movies that glorify violence/crime. That is the reason I have not watched Breaking Bad. The fact that the main character is a criminal is enough to glorify him and his actions. Look at all the people who regard him as a hero on the Internet.

    Perhaps you find the graphic nature of the violence in The Walking Dead disturbing and think that it glorifies violence. In my opinion it is far worse to show violence without consequences/blood. In your game Auro (which I like by the way) you push cute characters (most are not much of a danger to you and can be avoided) into water to drown or get eaten by squids. I think that is worse than a game where you violently kill dangerous enemies that threaten your life.

  • John K

    “I have no problem killing Nazis in games”… and yet they are people too, just ones that got caught up in a wave of nationalism. Most German soldiers were just fighting for their country, doing there “patriotic duty”. The atrocities like the concentration camps didn’t come out till later and even the UK was uncertain whether to involve itself with the war. It’s only 70 years later that the morality seems black and white. (Do I need to clarify that I’m not trying to justify what happened? It’s just not “automatic and gleefully administered death sentences for all Germans” bad.)

  • Tim, I have an entire section titled “When Violence Is Good”. Did you miss that? I also talk about Breaking Bad and how the show explicitly DOES NOT glorify his actions.

    It’s weird that you are saying “the context of the violence matters”, as though I had just said “violence is bad regardless of context”. I actually said that the glorification of violence is bad. Anti-glorification of violence, as you see in Breaking Bad, is good.

  • >I’m reminded of the story I’ve heard of D-Day where two soldiers
    threw themselves on barbed wire so that their fellow soldiers could pass
    by. Isn’t this glorifying violence? Should that tale be cut out of
    textbooks and documentaries?

    How is it glorifying violence at all? I don’t see that. Also I don’t think a “literal list of events that happened” could ever be, on their own, glorifying or shaming violence. It’s all about HOW it’s told. So if there’s some painting of these heroic bad-asses doing that, with a low camera angle and dramatic lighting and american flags everywhere, then yeah, maybe that would be glorifying it. But just telling people what happened is not glorifying it.

    >You mention studies linking media violence to real world violence. I would like to see them. As far as I know, none exist.

    Google it for two seconds and you absolutely will find them. Just google “studies link media violence” something like that.

    >I would never presume to tell him or her what can and cannot be done.

    It’s not telling them that they *can’t* make a violence-glorifying-game. It’s telling them that you don’t WANT them to. Big difference.

    Again, I’m against any form of censorship.

  • This article was an attempt to persuade you to *not* like it. If I have failed to do that, that’s fine. No need to get rude.

  • darji8114

    This is not being rude. This is harsh. The problem in all of this is your conclusion. “WE need to reject it” WE as a part of our society. This is a call for censorship. “We need to reject these kinds of works” IS a call for censorship.

    “It maybe uncomfortable” means you think you are on higher ground and elitist which is absurd. You and some others may think you which is totally fine. But YOU and these others are not the society you are a minimal part of it.

    That is whats so great. If you do not like it do not buy it or make it. But NEVER try to tell people what they need to do. Because this is Censorship.

    I Live in Germany a Country which is censoring violence a lot in video games as soon as it has to do with glorification and humans. Even Zombies. The problem you create with this is hurting the industry because A they will buy it were it is not censored or B they just pirate it because they can not get it otherwise.

    And when this censorship like you wanted starts already on this scale it will become a much bigger problem. Especially in America and Thank god for that. Sadly America is also prude so this sexism bullshit works great there. But it is still a call for censorship.

    As I said on twitter. Go look at Japanese Media not the society and you will see the most open most diverse characters in games, but also Manga/Anime TV music etc you have ever seen. Because they do not care about moral standards in Media at all. Everything is fair game and while this also results in some really sick shit it also results in a diverse set of stories, characters, and audience. In Japan the market actually decides what is good or bad not the developers.

    PS: Here is a great documentary about Violence in our society. You should watch it and think really really hard about it.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xp0xvx_hjernevask-brainwashing-english-part-4-violence_news

  • Even if you can’t see the difference, most people who aren’t you can tell the difference between:

    A. We need to culturally reject works that portray this, and
    B. We need to outlaw works that portray this

    If you can’t see the difference, ok. I think explaining that difference to you would be too big of a project for me to undertake at the moment.

  • darji8114

    Sure That is totally not elitist , This is the whole problem you are trying to alk to people like they are children. If you actually would stop this and talk to opposing people like human beings on the same level you maybe could understand something. See you are not dumb you are just pretty resistant to actual facts that could change your believe. You love your own created Ivory tower that no opposing word can penetrate this tower.

    Again have you watched the documentary about Violence in our Society and their origins?

  • Sam

    Just one quibble — it’s not true knowledge of the concentration camps weren’t known until later, like post-war. Prior to the end of the war even the U.S. knew, but did nothing specific to address it. I learned that from the documentary Shoah. Not to mention the many German civilians who knew of this systematic genocide and who did almost nothing but complain of the smell. And there is a difference between “fighting for one’s country” and sending civilians to the gas chambers. I’m not suggesting it would have been easy for these men to have raised a moral objection, but almost none did. And some carried out their duties happily.

  • Sam

    Thanks for responding.

    About the D-Day story, of course that’s glorifying violence — glorifying suicide to be specific. Just like the Christ myth. You and I may feel it touching (or not) these men laid down their lives for a greater good, but it’s glorification nonetheless. You argue that the context matters — storytelling matters — of course it does, which is why it’s difficult to judge before a film or game is made, and even after, if something is glorifying violence or not.

    And I contend movies like Sin City do no harm. We know it’s supposed to be dark and visceral. Cartoonish. John Woo’s movies glorify violence. He makes them artful. He himself is, as one must suppose, completely against real world violence.

    In fact, I googled the exact phrase you gave me “studies link media violence.” All of the top hits cast doubt on any studies or belief that violence in media has a causal link to real world behavior. The lone exception is one guy named Craig A. Anderson, who believes there is a small to moderate link.

    I should put in a qualification here — glorified violence does not harm most of us. Undoubtedly some people are more susceptible to the increase in adrenaline or whatever reaction the brain and body have to games. This is specific to them, and not inherent to violence games. It’s the same reason I can drink and gamble responsibly, and others are unable. Those same things wreck their lives.

    I’d also like to know what, if any, other forms of entertainment is correlated violence/aggression. Sports? Even sports like golf or tennis? MMA? Should we advocate taking the punching and kicking out of MMA? No more tackling in football?

    But we can also have this conversation without sex and violence, since we are just talking about human behavior. Have you ever met a liar? A thief? A jerk? Where did those traits come from? Do people who lie, cheat and are rude do so because they saw it on TV? Or, as I contend with violent people, is there something inherent in their biology, their specific DNA, that makes them behave as they do?

    You say you are against censorship, but write “We need to reject these kinds of works and demand that creators come up to our moral level.” That is such a dangerous line of thinking. What you find moral, others may find immoral. The reverse is true. Who is the final arbiter of what is right or wrong?

    And your use of the word “moral” shows you think it is more than taste, which I think it is. Name for me a game that is immoral. What is your proof that it is immoral? How can cartoon violence and sex be immoral? It may be distasteful, it may be off-putting, but I think “immoral” is a stretch.

    Even if it were, so what? You don’t have to play it. You don’t have to like it. I will defend those people who make hentai games. I have never played one myself. I never will. No interest. In fact, based on what I know of these games, I think it’s repugnant. But they have a right to express themselves, and their clients have a right to entertain themselves. Who is hurt in this? What eternal morality has been broken?

    I’ve just read an account of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses. It was blocked for the very reasons you proffer here. It’s salacious. It will corrupt people. It’s vile and a decent, moral society should not allow it to be published. You say, I suppose, publish it, but only so we can shout it down.

    I see no difference between the bluenoses of 100 years ago trying to block Joyce’s masterpiece and the bluenoses of today wagging a collective finger at violent games, caustic rap music, sexist TV, and what ever other piece of media that is current, forgetting (or neglecting) the fact that our species has been violent and prone to other objectionable acts for at least 100,000 years before the advent of any of those things.

  • Tim

    I read the first two paragraphs but skipped the rest because of spoilers just in case I eventually do watch Breaking Bad (I hate spoilers).

    I am trying to understand your point of view. Is it that violence in TV/Movies is only good when shown in a “negative light” – someone hurting someone for immoral reasons. But using violence to defend yourself / others is bad. Should the “good guy” not use violence when attacked (be a pacifist and let the bad guy kill them).

    Or is it just how the violence is presented? What constitutes glorifying violence?

  • Tim

    Not all Germans were Nazis, of course I don’t think all Germans should be put to death. I was talking about killing Nazis in Games. “Doing there “patriotic duty” is not an excuse. There are/were good Germans – like ones in the movie Valkyrie who tried to kill Hitler, or the ones who hid Jews from the Nazis.

  • Simply listing the events of what actually happened at D-Day is not the same as glorifying it.

    >Who is the final arbiter of what is right or wrong?

    We all are. But part of how we advance our collective understanding is through people – like myself and yourself – putting our thoughts and ideas out there.

  • Tim

    Damn, you cant edit posts. I copy pasted your quote “Doing there patriotic duty” without correcting there to their.

  • Sam

    I’m sorry to have to clarify the D-Day thing again — and this will be my last point. Both times I’ve heard the story (and I don’t even know if it’s true), it has been told to me with a reverential intonation of voice and a rising lump in the throat. The point being their sacrifice was honorable, or glorious, if you like. Worthy of praise and emulation. But yes, I agree that is different than had it appeared in a text book as part of a list of things that happened on a beach in the south of France.

  • Tim

    Since you didn’t reply I am going to assume you would say something like: glorifying violence is when you make it look cool/glamorous/fun. In my opinion when the violence is heroic and justified this is not as much of a problem as immoral violence like that seen in Breaking Bad/GTA etc.

    Heroic violence, while tragic and something that probably should not be celebrated, is a heroic act that should be looked up to and is a good thing. For example a cop that shoots a madman on a shooting rampage.

  • P Mort

    I did not feel like I was talked to like a child. Challenging someone’s preconceived assumptions and biases is not talking to them like a child.

  • Sebastian Rasch

    Very biased article and clearly against violence in media – even the chapter “When violence is good” only sheds bad light on violence in whatever medium. Can’t take this writing seriously. I for one absolutely enjoyed the Walking Dead kill shot video. And I’m 36.

  • Vegedus

    While violent video games are both numerous, prolific and succesful, it seems to me they don’t quite embody the “heart” of the hobby as such. The platformer perhaps the most historically important genre in video games, and continuous indie darling, may feature violence, but it is rarely central to the game. I would figure super meat boy wouldn’t even count as a violent game in this context, despite lots of violent imagery (chainsaws and what not), as all the violence, with the exception of some bosses, is inflicted on the player avatar and a loss state, thus portrayed in a negative light. In something like Mario you certainly do kill goombas, but it’s tangential to the winning the game and they can be bypassed easily by other means most of the time.
    Likewise, minecraft, the most selling non-bundled game of all time has combat, but it’s a very minor part of the game. Creative mode simply doesn’t have it and an implicit goal of survival is simply to avoid fighting by lessening monster spawns, which is fairly easy to do by experienced players.

    I’m not quite sure what conclusion I’m building towards, other than that there is evidence to suggest violence is in no way intrinsic, or even that entrenched, in the hobby. There’s hope yet for us to lessen it’s impact.

  • Link

    There are two problems with your article. Problem one: You write, “If there exist situations wherein (violence) becomes necessary, those situations
    are all tragedies – displays of weakness, and cowardice; a wasteful
    failure of humanity.”

    I disagree. If you’re being assaulted and you defend yourself, violence is not a weakness, cowardice or some sort of failure on your part. You are under duress to defend yourself, or suffer. You have a dilemma. There are times when self-defense is absolutely necessary. You seem to think or feel that wielding self-defense should evoke feelings of guilt, shame or remorse. Why? If your understanding of morality leads you to believe that you have an obligation to suffer at the hands of an assailant or oppressor, I’d suggest you should reconsider your moral theory.

    Your article mentions that you’ve never been in a fight. That means you’ve never been attacked. Trust me, if you ever find yourself being attacked, your fight response will go off. It won’t be like the movies… You’ll be driven by fear. Regardless, you won’t feel embarrassed, or guilty, or feel that hurting the other person is a tragedy.

    The second problem with your article involves morality itself. Is it sufficient to say that morality is “not cool”? Morality is a complex issue. What criteria are you appealing to, in claiming that violence is “wrong”? God’s commands? Natural rights? Compassion? If you don’t stipulate your criteria for what constitutes a valid moral claim, you aren’t providing any useful information. If you study ethics, about a third of all academics specializing in meta-ethics are skeptical as to whether morality even exists. What if there is no morality, in terms of some abstract obligation hovering in the aether?

    Moral issues aside, suppose one were to argue that most people are compassionate. We don’t like watching other people suffer, in the real world. If you’re appealing to compassion, the only reason to refrain from celebrating violence, would be if there is evidence to suggest that fictional violence causes real life violence. Does it? If you’re going to make the claim, you have to provide evidence that can be verified.

    I love horror movies, violent sci-fi movies, action movies and the occasional cheesy super hero movie, all of which celebrate violence in every way imaginable. I’m also a nihilist; I don’t believe that morality exists. Still, my compassion prevents me from wanting to hurt people… Even after watching a horror movie marathon, where I laugh at the hyperbolic deaths of idiotic teenagers, I have no desire to actually hurt anyone. Is there a threshold, where at some point these movies will alter my behavior? I doubt it.

    Likewise, do you think that movies, books or video games would ever brainwash you, so that you’ll have an uncontrollable urge to assault, rape or murder people? I doubt that, as well. I’ve met a lot of people who enjoy violent media. I’ve never met a psychopath. Not one. I know they exist, because I’ve read about them. However, I doubt media was responsible for their extreme, unusual behavior.

  • Link

    Typo: should read, “is it sufficient to say that VIOLENCE (not “morality”) is ‘not cool’ “. Freudian slip…

  • Link

    On a side note, I should mention why I enjoy watching violence, as a self-proclaimed compassionate person. Simple: It’s cathartic. Everyone has a fight response, that triggers violent thoughts at times. We have violent thoughts when stuck in traffic, when confronted by inconsiderate people, when watching atrocities on the news… It’s a biological function that we’ve inherited. Many new mothers have fleeting, unpleasant thoughts about smothering their crying children…

    There are several ways to deal with these unpleasant thoughts, as compassionate people. You can try to repress them, but in order to do so you’ll likely become quite passive and mailable, emotionally. You can become riddled with guilt and anxiety over your violent thoughts, like someone with OCD who constantly worries they’ll act on them… I find that these two approaches are common among religious people. They repress their feelings, and become riddled with guilt and shame. One need only look at the disproportionate number of priests who molest children, to understand what happens when you repress impulses for too long. The Freudian school of psychology believed that the ID was something that needs to be repressed, as we are all violent Neanderthals raging under a thin veneer of civility.

    Fortunately, Freud is no longer taken as seriously. The stoic approach to human emotion is considered unhealthy. The healthier approach is acceptance; to get in touch with your feelings. Accept the fact that people have violent thoughts. We all do. Violent media is a healthy, harmless form of catharsis, where we can accept these impulses and enjoy them, without acting on them.

    Ever dream of killing your boss? You can fantasize about it all you want. It’s fun! And hilarious! Hate that guy cutting you off in traffic? You can imagine blowing up his vehicle with a rocket launcher. Fantasize about an anvil dropping from the sky, and landing on top of him… It’s all harmless fun, so long as no one is actually assaulted. Repressing it, on the other hand, will cause you to become riddled with anxiety. You’ll suffer.

    Violent movies and video games are hilarious, because they’re the manifestation of impulses we’d never allow ourselves to act on. It’s not just fun, it’s healthy.

    You could make a stronger argument that moralism inspires violence. How many repressed, confused people were motivated to kill others, because of a false sense of righteousness? Sounds a lot more accurate, if you ask me.

  • I said that it’s a failure of humanity. You’re right that the person simply defending themselves shouldn’t get blame, but the fact is that they are in a position where they have to harm someone. That is a tragic situation, and I think if you had to kill someone to defend yourself it would probably haunt you (and not just because your own life was in danger, but because you *killed someone*). Hurting anyone is always a tragedy, even if it’s necessary. It’s not something to be celebrated.

    I have been attacked. I don’t consider being attacked the same as being “in a fight”.

    There definitely is no morality in terms of “abstract obligation hovering in the aether”. My view of morality is very similar to that of Sam Harris. Basically, I’m a consequentialist, but I’d refer to two-level consequentialism, probably: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism#Two-level_consequentialism

    It’s unlikely that watching violence-glorifying media will alter your behavior in terms of making you more violent (although it’s possible). I would say much more likely is that the dehumanizing aspect of this violence will make you a less compassionate person, and this will be reflected in various places in your life. The example I give are things like support for war or the death penalty.

  • It being cathartic does not mean it’s what we should be pushing for if we want to make the world a better place. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean we should embrace it.

    There is another approach to dealing with those thoughts that you did not mention, and that’s *understanding* them. If you are able to understand that those violent desires are not only not in your own self interest, but also that they’re quite ugly, you can train yourself to have less and less of it.

    I never dream about killing my boss, because I have realized that that’s actually disgusting. I would just as soon dream about torturing my best friend. It is possible to become more aware of people’s humanity, to the point where you would never dream about killing, or even punching, anyone.

    To enjoy violent movies and videogames, you have to forget, if just for a moment, that these people are human, just like you. And I don’t think there’s anything healthy about that.

    http://www.polygon.com/2015/6/24/8834027/video-game-violence-dehumanization

  • Link

    Consequentialism is a form of moralism. From the page you provided:

    “The two-level approach involves engaging in critical reasoning and
    considering all the possible ramifications of one’s actions before
    making an ethical decision, but reverting to generally reliable moral
    rules when one is not in a position to stand back and examine the
    dilemma as a whole.”

    You beg the question. How do you arrive at moral criteria in determining what constitutes a morally preferable outcome? You’ve described a process, not a criteria.

    For example, if I don’t regard animals as having moral value, I can call myself a “consequentialist” in ensuring that my actions only hurt animals, not people. However, this says nothing about how I arrive at my criteria in determining what constitutes moral worth. You still aren’t saying anything.

    There is no morality, because there is no obligation. Only subjective values.

    As for your characterization of “fighting”, it’s still problematic. You seem to define fighting as being consensual. If one party isn’t giving consent, it’s assault, but not a fight? Well then, why is fighting immoral? You say it’s a “failure of humanity”, but you give no evidence.

    I could say the same of coercion, from a libertarian perspective. I could say that your moralism pertaining to fighting is indicative of a “failure of humanity” in that you’d claim two consenting adults have an obligation to refrain from consentually doing whatever they please. Who is right? The libertarian, or the moralist? How do you prove it?

    I’d say neither are right, because there is no such thing as “right”. There are only conditional oughts. If you want to refrain from hurting people, you shouldn’t fight with them. If you value freedom, you should refrain from telling people what to do. If you have conflicting values, you need to prioritize… but it’s all subjective.

    This is the problem with SJW’s… They have an inflated sense of entitlement and an absurd, righteous indignation stemming from moral principles that have no basis in reality.

  • Link

    Another way of looking at it: If someone assaults me, and I put them in the hospital because I have to defend myself, is it really tragic? Why? Why is the well being of an assailant of intrinsic value? You seem to have some sort of Kantian understanding that people are of worth, a priori. Why? What makes people have intrinsic worth? What makes assailants have intrinsic worth, so that hurting them in self defense is tragic?

    You’ve made assumptions about value, with no evidence. You have a burden of proof, whenever you make a claim about the world, including value claims. Otherwise, skepticism should be the default position.

    As it stands, I don’t see any reason to value the well being of someone when they assault me. If I hurt someone in self defense, I don’t feel bad. Why would I?

  • Link

    You’re arguing a straw man. I didn’t argue that we “should” be embracing catharsis because it’s natural. That would be a normative statement. I clearly stated that I’m a nihilist. There are no objective “oughts”, beyond conditional statements that involve cause and effect.

    I don’t have a burden of proof, in establishing that morality DOESN’T exist, because reason doesn’t work that way. If you may a claim about the world, you have a burden of proof. Skepticism is the default position. You don’t believe in flying spaghetti monsters, unless you have reason to believe they exist. You’re claiming that morality exists. Prove it.

    As for my argument, I made a conditional statement, based on verifiable, empirical fact:

    1. The repression of violent impulses causes suffering.
    2. You view the infliction of suffering as being “a failure of humanity”
    Therefore,
    3. Repression is not a valid solution, in light of your values.

    In other words, if you value the well being of other people, you should refrain from urging them to suppress their violent urges. Otherwise, they’ll suffer and they might snap, hurting others. All of these things are conditional statements, that have no relevance to morality whatsoever.

    Separately, I question whether morality exists. As a compassionate person, you should care about this, too… If there is no reason to believe morality exists, you should refrain from believing in it. There are practical consequences to nihilism, even if you’re compassionate. For example, if there is no obligation to do anything, compassionate people should refrain from shaming people, which presumes obligation. They should refrain from referring to actions conflicting with their values as being “failure”. Most importantly, they should accept that they’ll have to use positive and negative re-enforcement to alter behavior: the carrot and the stick. Otherwise, compassionate people languish idly in their moralism, as if giving people an “F” grade in light of principles that don’t exist, constitutes some sort of progressive action in light of their values. It doesn’t.

    Furthermore, what constitutes making the world a “better place”? If values are subjective, what I consider to be “better” could be (and likely is) radically different from what you deem to be “better”.

    Consider how every political ideology is justified in terms of compassion. If compassion was an adequate compass for “moral” or “ethical” action, wouldn’t it lead to reliable results? As it stands, libertarians, socialists, anarchists, weird zeitgeist movement followers and conspiracy theorists all have a different understanding of what constitutes “better”.

    At which point, how do you know that “better” exists? Again, you have a burden of proof. “Better” certainly isn’t intuitive. Otherwise, there’d be agreement. I’m not suggesting that there is no truth because of disagreement, which would be an argument fallacy. However, intuition would lead to agreement, or it isn’t intuitive.

    In the absence of intuition, you need evidence. Good ol’ logic and reason. I see no evidence to suggest that social contract theory is true, because there is no such thing as “enlightened self-interest”. I don’t see how socialism is “true”, because I have no obligation to participate within a single, over-arching mode of production that will subjugate me, and frankly, I don’t perceive it as “better”. I’m not an anarchist, because I see no reason to refrain from subjugating myself, if I feel that it’s in my subjective self-interest to obey someone else… All of these things depend on my subjective values, that are quite irrelevant to anything that resembles “truth”.

    You could argue that “free association” is “better” for everyone, so that can meet their own subjective needs. However, I doubt many wealthy people would prefer free association; they would probably prefer their current standard of living, thanks to all the wage slavery.

    At which point, if you’re a wage slave why would you care about what is “better” for property owners? If you’re a libertarian, why would you care about the whims of socialists, who want to subordinate you to a single mode of production? Why would socialists value the freedom of exploitative libertarians? None of it has any truth value whatsoever.

    My point is that well-being is connected to subjective values, because our subjective needs and impulses cause suffering. If you care about suffering, you have to admit that subjectivity is relevant to compassion. At which point, how do you implement a strategy?

    You can’t, because there is no moral or normative truth, beyond conditional statements. If you value X, do Y. That’s it. Or at least, that’s all I can prove.

    You say, “To enjoy violent movies and videogames, you have to forget, if just for a
    moment, that these people are human, just like you. And I don’t think
    there’s anything healthy about that.”

    What’s wrong with forgetting, just for a moment, that we live in a world filled with suffering? You have the disposition of a puritan, self-flagellating moralist, who believes they have to suffer some sort of cognitive penance perpetually in order to be a “good person”. Why do I have to regard other people’s suffering, for every moment of every day? Why am I not allowed to shut off my brain for a moment? Why am I not allowed to laugh at the absurdity of the human condition, for a moment? No gallow’s humor?

    You have a very monistic understanding of human consciousness. I don’t have to forget about compassion, to find humor in the suffering of others. I can do both simultaneously, as can most people. Ever tell a funny anecdote at a funeral? Ever laugh at a funny anecdote at a funeral? Did your lack of solemnity entail that you didn’t care about the corpse in the room? Why are you expecting people to be perpetually solemn.

    I’m not trolling you; I’m doing you a favor. You should check out this video by John Cleese, on solemnity:

    You don’t have to be “serious” in order to take things seriously. In fact, if you want to eliminate harm, abandoning solemnity is the best thing for you.

  • Link

    One last thing. You write, “I never dream about killing my boss, because I have realized that that’s
    actually disgusting. I would just as soon dream about torturing my best
    friend. It is possible to become more aware of people’s humanity, to
    the point where you would never dream about killing, or even punching,
    anyone.”

    Why is it disgusting to imagine killing someone, for fun? If I’m not hurting anyone, I don’t see why I should feel the need to refrain from doing it. Meanwhile, EVERYONE has violent thoughts, including you. Human physiology involves cortisol spikes that trigger violent thoughts, when you’re angry. They happen. Sure, I could try to repress them, but why should I? Your only argument is a value assumption, with no basis in verifiable fact.

    Meanwhile, telling people that they have an obligation to refrain from having certain thoughts, is Orwellian, akin to “thought crime”. Many thoughts are automatic, especially violent ones. Why should I feel guilty about them, if I’m not hurting anyone?

    From a compassionate perspective, your moralist opinion of subjective, harlmess impulses is frankly, disgusting. It’s been scientifically proven, over and over and over again that repression causes harm. You’re harming people, by telling them to repress their feelings. Stop it.

  • Link

    Sam Harris couldn’t argue his way out of a wet paper bag. He believes that you can scientifically arrive at an understanding of objective moral truths, taking “moral intuition” for granted. It’s bad metaphysics. There is no such thing as moral intuition; compassion is a feeling, like hunger. It guides our values, but it doesn’t provide a blueprint regarding how we should behave.

  • Link

    Supplement the above video, with George Carlin’s take on why he’s amused by entropy:

    You can’t get any more nihilistic than this. However, do you honestly think George lacks compassion?

  • waterd

    Are you a forum user from the site? If not, is there a way I can contact you privately?

  • By “the site”, waterd means Dinofarm Games, a different site:

    http://www.dinofarmgames.com/forum/i

  • Almost everything you said here is wrong, mis-guided, or off-topic. I don’t know where to even begin.

    Saying morality doesn’t exist is like saying the concept of “good nutrition” doesn’t exist. It’s like I’m putting forward some thing about how we really shouldn’t eat too much sugar, or something, and you’re coming back with “but who is to say what good nutrition is?! Maybe I *WANT* to get diabetes!”

    What I’m saying is simple. Few people *disagree* that we should strive to have a less violent world. People who say “no, we should have a more violent world” are on a level with those who say we need more diabetes.

    All I’m saying is, one way to reduce violence is to increase compassion and sensitivity to suffering. Spending our free time in murder simulators probably isn’t the best way to do that.

  • Link

    Sure. E-mail me at bodanlink at gmail.com.

  • Link

    Nope. I can prove that without proper nutrition, I`ll get sick and/or die. There is tangible scientific evidence to suggest that X causes Y. The scientific method provide proof that is tangible and falsifiable.

    Appealing to consensus is an argument fallacy. At one point, few people disagreed that the earth was a sphere. They thought that if you traveled too far east or west, you’d fall from a ledge. Were they right?

    Your exact words were that violence is a “failure of humanity”. You made a moral argument, and now you’re trying to avoid burden of proof. Religious people do the same thing, when arguing for God. Seeing as you’re a fan of Sam Harris, that should bother you.

    You argued that violence in video games desensitizes people, so that they’re no longer compassionate. You didn’t just argue for preference; you made a moral argument using the words “failure” and “disgusting”. That’s moralism.

    Meanwhile, there’s no reason to suggest that celebrating violent thoughts or fantasies as a fun and hilarious past time results in a lack of compassion. Even children realize that you can pretend to shoot your friends, but you shouldn’t actually shoot them in real life.

    Also, you claim to value compassion. My argument is relevant, because telling people that they should avoid thoughts that are automatic and harmless actually harms people. You’ve failed to make a single coherent argument, in every regard.

  • Link

    Sorry, should read that few people “agreed” the earth was a sphere… Ha.

  • Link

    Ok, one last reply, then I’ll let you get the last word in.

    All of that stuff I wrote about morality and political philosophy is relevant. Like you said, you subscribe to a moral view similar to Sam Harris, where you perceive compassion as being a moral compass that can lead to empirically proven, obligatory moral behavior.

    I’ve been trying to demonstrate that morality does not exist. Sam Harris is wrong, and so are you. Compassion does not provide an adequate compass for behavior, in the same sense that hunger doesn’t provide obligatory norms, regarding when to eat. If you’re hungry, that doesn’t always mean you should eat. Likewise, compassion can, and sometimes should be ignored.

    Every moralist thinks that THEIR compassion is an accurate compass. Then they attempt to account for moral obligation, and find that everyone else’s compassion seems to lead somewhere else. Compassion is not a precise mechanism.

    You claim the world would be “better” if it were less violent. You also claim that self-defense is a tragedy. Many people would disagree with you; they feel that sometimes, you have to defend yourself, because subjugation is worse than war. Ghandi and Orwell are both compassionate, but very different in how they’d apply their compassion to the world. Who is right? Should a slave peacefully obey his master? Should a rape victim feel sorry for the rapist, before shooting him? Once you delve into the minutia of what constitutes “better” or “moral”, you’ll find that compassion doesn’t really tell us much of anything, beyond “don’t hurt people”.

    The problem is that “hurt” results from something different for everyone. There’s no overarching blue print, or one-size-fits-all solution. There are also times when, for many of us, “don’t hurt people” no longer applies; usually in self-defense.

    So I think moralism is silly. You might disagree, but I was hoping to inspire a critical discussion.

  • Link

    I tried signing on, but it didn’t e-mail me confirmation. I’m assuming admin take a while. If they get back to me tomorrow, I’ll post on the Morality forum. Sorry again for being so long-winded.

  • Ben Bolton

    Violence is a part of the natural world. Tragic or not, every predator in nature survives by the use of violence. And most prey animals in the natural world die violently.

    Humans are a part of the natural world. We don’t need media to teach us that violence solves problems. It’s a core part of our evolved thought process. As far back as human history stretches we find evidence of war and destruction.

    Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian famously opens with this epigraph, illustrating the same point:

    “Clark, who led last year’s expedition to the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, and UC Berkeley colleague Tim D. White, also said that a re-examination of a 300,000-year-old fossil skull found in the same region earlier showed evidence of having been scalped” –The Yuma Daily Sun, June 13, 1982

    Humans are empathetic and mutually supportive only as far as our in-groups, our tribes. We are not some enlightened and separate aspect of nature that is born pacifistic and must be taught violence by a media. It’s the other way around. The media reflects our most base interests and fascinations, and shows us the things we are born interested in: sex, violence, conflict, drama. It takes something much stronger than media to keep us from harming each other – a system of enforceable laws, a nationalism that unites disparate communities in common purpose, an infrastructure that keeps people employed creating value instead of poaching it from others.

    Media informs culture, and culture plays a role in how we act. But it’s not a one-way causal relationship. People create media; people collectively create a culture. Does media really teach us to use violence? Or does it hold a mirror up to our own built-in interests, and provide a healthy, cathartic way to enjoy violence without real-world consequences. I find the latter much more persuasive.

    Big fan of your work on design, Keith – just couldn’t agree here.

  • This is what’s called an “appeal to nature”, and it’s fallacious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_nature

    You could make this same argument against almost any advances that the human race has made. Here are some other things which aren’t “natural”:

    – Medicine

    – Not being racist

    – Government

    – Computers

    – Flight

    Your whole thing about “supportive only as far as our in-groups” thing, again, another appeal to nature. Yes, that’s true, but the “in-groups” have been getting bigger and bigger and it is in our interest to fight this negative aspect of humanity whenever possible.

    I do agree with you that violence is natural, but less violence is a good thing and that is the direction we’re heading. It’s only a matter of the rate of violence reduction, not whether there will be violence reduction.

    > Does media really teach us to use violence? Or does it hold a mirror up
    to our own built-in interests, and provide a healthy, cathartic way to
    enjoy violence without real-world consequences. I find the latter much
    more persuasive.

    It tells us “your natural inclination towards violence is kinda cool and you should feel positively about it, and not see it as the abhorrent (even if NATURAL) thing that it is”.

  • Ben Bolton

    I understand the desire to seek by-the-book fallacies in a person’s argument, as they let you dismiss the argument quickly. But a description of nature is not an appeal to it. I’m not saying that violence is a good thing because it’s natural.

    I’m sure we agree that less real violence between people is a good thing. But real violence existing as a natural element indicates that it is not caused by the media. We bring it into the media we create because we already have it in us.

    You wrote that violence is something males are taught to value – I’m saying no, we value it intrinsically. We create and enjoy violent media as a way to indulge those interests in a safe environment. Whether the violence is glamorized, like in the Matrix, or sickeningly realistic, like in August Underground, doesn’t make much difference – it’s just virtual representations of things that we find inherently interesting.

    We don’t automatically soak up the surface-level values of the entertainment we consume. People don’t watch Robocop and then come out thinking fascism is good. I know you don’t advocate censorship, but if you really believe these values are so contagious, maybe you should.

  • >You wrote that violence is something males are taught to value – I’m saying no, we value it intrinsically.

    Both can be true. We can intrinsically have a propensity for violence, and culture can kind of “nudge” us in a slightly-more or slightly-less violence-loving direction. Not all cultures have been equally violent.

    All I’m saying is that the media has a non-zero amount of impact on how people see the world. You are right that people don’t just soak up and adopt the values of entertainment, but when there are patterns to how something is portrayed, I do think that that has *some* effect.

  • Crimson Mask

    Generally speaking, Ben is right. And you are wrong. If violent media is having a “non-zero effect” on real world behavior the empirical evidence of the last twenty-five years, werein violent game and film imagery has been more and more prevalent, suggests that impact has been counteractive. In every society exposed to these violent games and movies the rate of violent crime, particularly among juveniles, has decreased. Starkly! And while correlation may not equal causation, this correlation still shoots your assertion that violent media results in real-world violent behavior completely out of the water.

  • Cody

    Hey Jack Thompson. It’s been such a long time.

    By the way, please learn to distinguish heroic violence, and malevolent violence. They are distinctly different and it will help you look like less of a repulsive, cowardly little crybaby in the future. In fact, maybe you should stick to talking about girl power stuff, although being a man you don’t understand that either. Talking about violence yet never having been in a fight is like talking about sex while being a virgin.

  • Jack Thompson wanted legislation banning certain materials. I am just aiming to convince people that violence-glorifying materials are not desirable.

    “Talking about violence yet never having been in a fight” is an absurd line of argument; basically, it’s an argument from authority. “People can’t talk about the criminal justice system without having been to prison”, or “they can’t talk about politics without having been a government employee” are similarly absurd.

    Despite your abusive tone, I would be happy to hear you out on what you mean by the difference between heroic and malevolent violence. My expectation, though, is that this is really just a black-and-white good-guy/bad-guy way of looking at the world which is exactly the kind of dehumanization that I’ve been complaining about.

  • Maria Qadi

    I agree with almost everything you said except these three things:

    1) Breaking Bad is a good portrayal of violence

    No it’s not. The creators intention when they made him was to make a character that’s simultaneously “loathsome and sympathetic”. They made this scenario, this “excuse” to why it’s OK for Walter to be selling meth, when there’s no excuse to do immoral things. Apparently their intention was to make Walter less sympathetic and more of a monster as the series progressed. But than why do so many people still think he’s sympathetic and as someone in the comments mentioned “a hero” right till the end? Because of the portrayal. It was portrayed like it was cool to be in Walter’s shoes, the cancer was just an excuse so the creators could portray Walter doing “cool” things. Why do so many people try to excuse his actions? Why is that so common? Why do people “sympathize” with him? If he was a good portrayal of violence they shouldn’t. The portrayal of this character was trash. A lot of people self-insert or wish they were in Walter’s position so they can be badass and cool. I”ll give you an even better portrayal of violence – almost every single villain. It’s far more unlikely for people to watch villains and “sympathize” with their violence. While the concept of a villain itself is garbage, the portrayal of their violent actions not being condoned is good. Violence can be portrayed in stories so long as it’s purpose is to teach the viewer that this is wrong and is portrayed as such. The creators shouldn’t include any unnecessary gore, only what’s needed to send the message across and should under no circumstance get a kick out of violence they’re portraying.

    2) I don’t see the point of posting these violent pictures or the clips, they’re just a distorted portrayal of violence that’s trying to brainwash the viewer that this is cool every time they see it and for the smarter ones who know this is wrong it’s just disgusting to look at.

    3) Violence is natural
    You didn’t really let on this belief in your articles but in the comments you seem to think that violence is natural and we should repress it. Violence is not natural. It’s stimulated by all these violent media people consume. If they were more thoughtful with what they viewed and avoided any glorification of violence, you will find they become less violent and will eventually have no violent tendencies. They will also become less numb to violence and have more compassion. As you said violence only brings tragedy, it’s not a very beneficial thing, so it doesn’t make sense for it to be natural. You were right though, humans are naturally compassionate people. They have to forcefully go against this in order to do horrible things and try to justify themselves every step of the way. If morals didn’t exist why do bad people try so hard to twist logic to pretend they’re good. They seem to loathe the idea that they’re an awful person.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your concluding statement. This awful portrayal of violence in media will only get better when we are critical about the messages and values that’s being sent in the media we consume.

  • Approve Keith Burgun | Lead Designer at Dinofarm Games
    Author of Game Design Theory

  • Hi! Awesome comment, thank you. This article is about two years old, and by now I totally agree with you about points 1 and 3. Point 2, my answer is, I think it is important to show an example of what I’m talking about. I also think that when you take these clips out of the context of their show, it becomes way more obvious how grotesque they are.