Teaching with Contemporary Art

Creative Killing?

Einstein courtesy of hetemeel.com

Einstein courtesy of hetemeel.com

Recently I was on the subway and looked over the shoulder of a teenager playing a video game on his iPhone. The objective, at least it seemed, was to shoot at people on the street from a rooftop in order to score points. Sort of like a “sniper” video game. At one point in the video it looked as though a family was crossing the street and without flinching the teenager simply picked them off one at a time to rack up more points.

I played video games where I shot things as a child, but those things were never, ever people. People aren’t things. I was most often aiming at space aliens or fuzzy pixilated rockets being launched in my direction. My Mom didn’t even want me pointing a toy gun at someone, never mind playing a video game where I piled on the points by shooting people down.

So here’s what I don’t understand…

While writers such as Christopher J Ferguson assert there isn’t enough evidence to link video games to societal violence and violent crime (and believe me, he makes a good case) do we really need proof that these kinds of games influence aggressive behavior in order to begin taking a stand against graphic violence towards fellow human beings as “entertainment”? Do art educators need proof before we begin deconstructing these games with our students and really get into what they’re about? While killing people on a screen isn’t actually killing, do we need to wait for something in particular to question why we want to send Junior into his room to kill people on the tv?? Manufacturers of video games roll these things out like there is no tomorrow. Some of the more graphic series include:

  • Manhunt
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Modern Warfare
  • Resident Evil Zero
  • Postal
  • Splatterhouse

The list goes on. All involve violent killing and often players actually get extra points for “creative” kills.

But what exactly is creative about killing?

While the NRA is quick to blame video games for violent behavior because they would much rather talk about something else besides banning assault weapons and ammunition (thank you, Governor Cuomo), I think that organizations like the International Game Developers Association could have a dramatic impact on the future of video games worldwide if the “creative” end of gaming wasn’t so consistently connected to killing people on a video screen.



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