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Today’s post will be a somber one. So if you’re in the mood for some cheerful reading you can head on over somewhere else.

Earlier in the day, when I was doing my morning web-browsing I saw a news report about the war in Iraq. More specifically the report detailed the murder of a number of civilians by an american Apache helicopter. I didn’t take much note of it, thinking to myself simply “goddamned hacks” and went about my business. Some time later during the day I decided to watch the clip.

It all begins from the perspective of the gunner cam of the helicopter. This being very familiar to anyone who has played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Just as the war criminal was about to open fire I thought to myself; “Don’t shirk away, it’s probably pretty graphic, but it happens everyday.”. Seeing the civilians being gunned down didn’t even leave me with a note of remorse. I simply thought that the gung ho bravado the Air Force gunner displayed as he was commenting the murders was retarded. Even if they had been armed, one would hope that a soldier at least shows a modicum of respect for the fact that he’s just made sure someone’s family will never see their father, son or brother again.

So, at first I was simply not feeling anything, and after a while I felt rather sick about myself for not feeling anything. “Have I really become this jaded?” was the thought that popped into my head. Steeled by the gaming industry I watched on. And I must admit, what i saw from there made me feel awful. It turns out I’m not completely fucked in the head. Not even the black and white of the gunner cam could filter out the tragedy of the whole event. Rather than being a sudden pang of sadness for the fact that things like this happen, it crept up on me the more I watched. For those that don’t feel like watching the clip that can be found on Youtube, the summary is something like this:

Wounded man tries to crawl away. Gunner rants about how he wants him to pick up a gun so he can shoot him. Van comes to pick up wounded man. Fire at will is granted. Van and men trying to save the man is destroyed. Troops arrive. Two children are found wounded in the van.

There is no radio chatter from the chopper when the marines arrive, but I wonder what the gunner thought to himself when he sees the ground-team running the children to the medivac.

As horrible as this whole event is, it got me thinking about violence in games. The best of games can have you crying because a character dies. For me FFVII comes to mind. But however well the story delivers the impact of the death, I don’t think we ever compute the event as being anything related to the real thing. Death is never final in games. With Aeries all I have to do is start the game over again, and I can relive those happy moments for Cloud. There’s no such thing for real life, no quickload button to remove that bullet from your head.

Are we really becoming jaded about violence and death? I doubt it. Seeing a news reel showing off corpses and mayhem somewhere is likely to give little cause to raise your eyebrows. But when you face the real thing, in all its somber glory, I don’t think it matters how many civilians you shot in Moder Warfare 2. So, somehow I think the critics of violence in video games are missing the mark. We’re not really becoming jaded. We’re just playing, over and over again, bits and snippets of every day happenings around the world. Whether it be shooting “insurgents” or stabbing a man in the chest, it’s happening somewhere in the world. Maybe they should put their efforts there first.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve seen that video. They were primarily armed individuals. If you look at still shots (and if you have experience in weapons identification) you would notice that they were in fact heavily armed. Wiki leaks did a wonderful job of biasing the video, by stating such obvious errors as claiming that the items in question, were news equipment. As one who has had experience in weapons identification, I can verify that these were in no way civilians, been a while since I’ve seen the video but as I recall there were 2 rpg launchers, and 3 individuals armed with what appeared to be Ak-47s or similar makes; then separate of these armed individuals were the news reporters, who showed no visible signs of distress, or any identification that they had been taken hostage. In contrast they displayed body language as if in the company of friends, or good acquaintances. I’m all for protecting those who take it upon themselves to report in dangerous areas, but these people were either suicidal, idiots or perhaps even affiliated with the armed individuals. So I would have to argue that they had only themselves to blame for entering the line of fire.

    I agree with your point that our nation needs to stop trivializing, violence, war and anything else that is shocking; but provides a “quick buck.” I find it rather distasteful and negligent, then again considering I’m extremely “jaded,” as most of the violence or death displayed on TV or even on shock sites does not compare to witnessing such things in person, I simply ignore it.

  2. You may indeed be right about the weapons. It’s not so much the fact that he fires that I in hindsight find to be the problem. It’s just that the gunner seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that he’s killing people. And well, I’m sure you have to find ways to cope with violence in war, but that in itself is in my eyes problematic if it leads to what really is the behaviour of psychopaths. Well, war is ugly as they say.

    Either way it was really only the connection to video games that I found interesting.


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