I ought to start this by stating very clearly that I am not a violent person. I deplore physical, emotional and mental abuse when it’s real. However, I do play some more dubious computer games.
In reality, I rescue frogspawn in the garden in case it dries out, I worry about hedgehogs getting chilly and hold doors open for people. In virtual worlds I shoot people in the face. I throw innocent bystanders off cliffs after stealing their clothing. I eat things off the floor.
These virtual worlds have different rules and my moral compass starts to spin the minute I log in and it’s not just violence. I am a n00b.
Take for instance this evening. I took huge pleasure from throwing knives at people’s heads, or shooting them in the face then throwing their bodies over convenient ledges (a tip – when the lady says kill discreetly, she doesn’t mean throw the dead body into the garden and watch the guards freak out before walking through and shooting them all. Apparently, that’s not very discreet and it leads to re spawning earlier in the game).
Other nights, I choose to spend time throwing fire from my hands and shouting at things til they fall over. (Seriously, if you’re a teacher and your teenage, predominantly male class is being rowdy, try shouting FUS RO DAH! It has pretty much the same effect in and out of game). Not that I play this properly either… Technically, I could quest and get XP, or I could take the moral low ground and eat stuff off the floor and kill random villagers and hand their bodies over to their spouses having put on their clothes.
So do I play anything properly? Well, sort of. No. Actually, no. I joined World of Warcraft in 2006 as something to do in the evenings. I became a guild leader. It took me four years to reach a level cap. FOUR years! Why? Because I was busy organising hot tub parties outside the other faction’s main cities, running conga lines around the main city and getting married in Stormwind Cathedral (yeah, we did actually did this on our actual first wedding anniversary – our romance knows no bounds).
I was that moron who always tried to drive up the pit lane the wrong way, just to see if I could. Or ran off the path to see how far the scenery went. It turns out that my ability to get bored inside the confines of a game with specified outcomes, but the ability to not follow the storyline is immense, and I find random stuff to do. Skyrim lets me eat butterflies, WoW gave me real people to giggle with, hell! Second Life allowed me to buy genitals! (For no other reason than I could).
I am that player that the healer lets die because, well, it’s just kinder on the group to let them be dead for a while.
I’m not unpleasant, I don’t rage quit, it’s just that I don’t take it that seriously, because, well, it’s a game. And I’m a grown up.
(Note: whilst I do appreciate playing the odd violent game, I can do so because I am over the age of 18. Because of this, I can differentiate between reality and virtual and the moral differences between the two. Games have age ratings for a good reason and the sooner parents understand this, the better. Beanpole and TinyPants will have to stick to mariokart and just dance for now. If they want CoD, then they will have to settle for James Pond)