Poindexter: Video games far from real life

I peer around a dark corner into a vast stone courtyard. Supplied with plenty of ammunition, I aim my AK-47 and cautiously proceed. Entering the courtyard I hear gunfire, and I search frantically for the source. A few seconds later I’m collapsed on the ground, not quite yet dead, when I see a pair of boots running away from my body.

Then I pause Call of Duty 4 to go get something to eat.

Violent video games appeal to a significant portion of the gaming community. Though I prefer other genres, such as puzzle and racing games, to first-person shooters, I like playing any well-made game. As such, I enjoy discussing the reasons people play different kinds of games, including violent ones. Wednesday’s article “Probing the morality of video games” (April 1) was so uninformed that it completely misrepresented what it means to play a video game.

Where do morality and video games collide? One has to consider the idea of consequence. Wednesday’s article quoted Professor Rae Langston as saying, “Even if you are playing these games on a desert island, there is still the question of whether people should spend their time imagining and doing violent things.” This statement glosses over the difference between the two activities: imagining and doing.

An immoral act is one that causes unjustified harm to other people. What, then, is an “immoral thought”? If such harm is not actually inflicted, can the idea alone be immoral in nature?

If so, I fail to see how video games differ from other media, which expose us to violence every day. I know I’m not the only one who enjoys watching John McClane beat up adversaries in the “Die Hard” movies. Games may be interactive, whereas television and movies involve only passive attention from the audience. But “interactive” does not mean “real.”

When I play a game, I am the agent. My actions directly cause events to happen on-screen. But the tactile experience of pressing buttons (or in some Wii games, performing gestures) falls short of replicating anything close to a real experience. Sure, realistic visuals and audio present a believable scenario, but actual experiences are much more complex.

A World War II shooter may capture the action correctly, but it fails to deliver the physical and emotional experience of a real battlefield. Though I’ve never been on one myself, I’m sure that darting in and out of buildings, feeling the kickback of a rifle when it fires and hearing gunfire alongside the shouts of nearby combatants differs from sitting on my living-room couch, controller in hand, staring at a 42-inch TV screen connected to Dolby Surround Sound.

Gamers know the difference between what’s real and what isn’t. And it’s not simply the lack of smell or taste in games that causes that difference, as Wednesday’s article ridiculously suggested. Because of this I fail to see any aspect of immorality in games. The thoughts people have while playing video games do not carry over to real life, because games presents a much less vivid and accurate portrayal of similar scenarios. Thus, in the way that real violence does not occur in games, people’s real emotions and real conceptions of morality are not at stake.

That is precisely the power of video games. They allow us to do things we could never do in real life without facing consequences. We can save comrades, solve confusing puzzles and simulate real-life situations by using deductive reasoning and the strategy of competition. They stimulate the logical left side of our brains so the creative right side can process the emotional intricacies of that last riveting episode of “Heroes.” Rather than regurgitating shallow stereotypes about gamers, I prefer to observe people’s diverse responses to games, a much more worthwhile pursuit.

Jeremy Poindexter is a sophomore in Saybrook