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



  • Hmm

    "They allow us to do things we could never do in real life without facing consequences."

    A full accounting of the things you're doing without consequences in these games(especially in the GTA franchise; hot coffee, anyone?)--and an explanation of why you're motivated to do them--would make for a more introspective essay.

    I'll add, not reproachfully, that as one who has a different history with guns and gun violence than I suspect you do, the fun you describe having in the shooter game doesn't sound especially appealing to me, at all. What do you suppose is at stake in the fact that it is your distance from the realities upon which the game plays that permits you to derive pleasure from it?

  • Anonymous

    'What do you suppose is at stake in the fact that it is your distance from the realities upon which the game plays that permits you to derive pleasure from it?'

    I'm pretty sure killing a guy in a video game is different from killing a guy in real life. The pleasure you might derive from killing a guy in a video game, even if he were innocent does not even come close to what an average person feels when taking a life, even if it is a guilty one. So please, don't think that you can take the moral high ground because you've handled a weapon once and shot at a cardboard box and missed.

  • Not from yale

    I have a huge issue with people complaining about content in anything. Seriously? Just look at art and writing. The Illiad was full of gore and violence. Even as a writer you can do something reprehensible to a character and yet it's acceptable. Think about any Tarantino movie. We are all inherently violent people. There has to have been a time where each person has had a desire to strike someone. Finally morallity and ethics are all completely situational. People commonly explore ethics through situations(the obsesively obligatory example of the tracks). I am certain I would not shoot nonvirtual forms of my friends.

  • #1 made me happy

    #1, i hope you get a chance to write a response to these two articles. User Hmm hit the nail on the head, discussion is over until he/she decides to pick it up again. Serious!

  • Ali G

    "Me has seen Star Trek, but that does not mean me is going to get on a spaceship and go up into space"

  • Anonymous

    All I have to say is that the perfect synchrony of a kid named Poindexter writing an article about Video Games is so profound and moving that it singularly proves the existence of a higher being.

  • Fellow College Student

    All I have to say is that the fact that someone would bother to irrelevantly and stereotypically point out the author's last name relating to video games is so idiotic that it singularly proves that discussions cannot occur without a shallow human being's intrusion.

    In all seriousness, I believe that video game violence is no more harmful than the real life person who is playing the game. The right side of the brain is still emotionally processing what goes on in any video game, but most people are balanced enough to be able to separate reality from a confined virtual space. There are surely those who are not as mentally stable and may be encouraged by virtual acts of violence to commit such actions in the real world, but let's not fall into the tired trap of judging a large population by the minuscule (but not negligible) exceptions.