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Geoffrey Burrell
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I don't find it uncomfortable. I know that in real life that there is only one life that can't be reset by game over. So I have no problem separating gaming and reality.
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p55carroll
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Cynical wrote:
Patrick Carroll wrote:
It has never been a motivator for me .

that book wrote:
Wargames encourage players to start and win wars.


Uh... don't you play loads of wargames?

I do, but apparently I'm attracted to them for a different reason than many people. All my life I've been fascinated by concepts of strategy and tactics, and I've wanted to know how war works--how goals can be achieved even under the most trying conditions. I like to learn about how to survive when forces are out to destroy you, how to maintain order and discipline in the face of impending chaos. I like maps and solving complex spatial problems. A wargame, to me, is military chess. My fantasy is about being a brilliant strategist or tactician.

But I'm instantly turned off by detailed descriptions or graphic images of combat. I don't like war movies. The more realistic they are, the less I like them. I'd rather watch a documentary showing a map with shifting front lines. I didn't like the Total War game I tried, partly because tactical combat was too realistic-looking to me.

I like being an armchair general, studying war from a comfortable distance. I want to consult maps and issue orders and never have to witness or consider the bloody horror that my orders might cause. War, from a certain viewpoint, is a necessity, and death is part of the cycle of life. I'm interested in handling the necessity in an effective way, not in personally killing people or destroying things.

And outside the context of war, I don't get violence at all. Whether it's werewolves and vampires or just unscrupulous people using force to get what they want, I prefer to be someplace else. It's bad enough that violence is necessary sometimes--for survival, or to maintain a peaceful society; it's beyond me why someone would choose to be violent when it's not necessary. Or why anyone would choose to play a game where senseless violence is displayed. Or, worse yet, role-play a sadistic character.

I suppose the latter is something like being an actor and trying on a variety of roles. Somebody's got to play Macbeth or Hannibal Lecter, and I guess some actors are good at those roles and enjoy them.

Me, I don't like role-playing much at all. In all my years of wargaming, I've never thought of what I was doing as playing a role. I've heard others say they're playing at being commanders like Napoleon or Patton, but I've always seen myself just as a guy playing a game--like a student at West Point studying situations on an sand table. I'm always just me, asking myself how I'd handle such-and-such a military problem.

In short, every game I play is chess. Wargames are just more complex, thematic versions of chess. And the theme is almost irrelevant to me.
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I don’t like playing crooks, losers, lowlifes, or scumbags. Or engaging in in-game behaviors of the sort they traffic in.

I deal with enough of that crowd in my day job, so I have no desire to come home and unwind by pretending to be one of them.
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Yep. Even in games that expect that behavior. If it's gratuitous, I'm out.
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p55carroll
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lucky henry wrote:
Nope, not a bit. One example are the Civilization games. I could go ultimate peaceful and work toward never fighting or I could go full on war mode from the start.

I can too, but I don't see myself "participating in flagrantly immoral and/or cruel behavior" either way. I'm a world leader, or the guiding consciousness of a people, doing the best I can to ensure the survival and well-being of those in my charge. Or else I'm just a game player, playing this game as I'd play chess.

In practice, I almost always go the peaceful route, but that's just because I hate messiness. I'd rather build a nice, tidy empire--maybe have a continent all to myself--and war is certain to screw that up for me. So if I can avoid war, I do. And the later in the game it gets, the more I want to avoid it, because modern warfare is extremely messy and therefore terribly irritating to me.

But when war does break out, if I can I'll completely conquer all my enemies to make sure they never bother me again. My purpose isn't cruelty or revenge; it's ensuring against any threat to my eventual triumph.

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na, I'm far enough removed when I play. When I role play is less about me being a character and me wanting the main character to do X to see what happens.
To be clear I would wince if I played games like GTA and its torture part. I do tend to go positive or a cold calculated evil.
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dysjunct wrote:
I don’t like playing crooks, losers, lowlifes, or scumbags. Or engaging in in-game behaviors of the sort they traffic in.

I deal with enough of that crowd in my day job, so I have no desire to come home and unwind by pretending to be one of them.
Real estate agent?
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Jennifer Hanses
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Yes.

I won't say I'm a paragon of goodness in real life, but I try to be a good person.

I will probably never play God of War because of its take on the world. I understand that it has a wonderful story, but it's not for me.

I think part of it is that for me to be sucked into a game world, I have to believe in the reality of it. And if I believe in the reality of it, I can't kill innocent people. Intellectually, I know they're not real, but if I'm thinking about them not being real while I'm playing the game, I'm not actually playing.

I also have no interest in watching various splatter effects showing realistic viscera.

I also can't play a card game like Kittens in a Blender because I've worked with abused animals and ... just no. It's not even a remotely funny concept for a game to me.
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Simon Woodward
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The new God of War (2018) is a very thoughtful and worthwhile game, by the way.
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Luke Stirling
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Cynical wrote:
Leaving aside concerns of whether role-playing is another method of content-mining (or whether it's even playing the game at all, in the sometimes-professed case of "pretending you're that world leader" in Civilization), how exactly do you role-play in games outside of the narrowly-defined sub-sub-genre of Fallout-derived western cRPGs? How would one go about making decisions based on role-playing in, say, Devil May Cry, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Doom 2, Dark Souls, Tales of Zesteria, Ys SEVEN, Final Fantasy V, XCOM: UFO Defense, Metal Slug, Monster Hunter, Grand Theft Auto III, or Legend of Grimrock?

I can't speak to every example, but in the scenarios you mentioned in your earlier post, it's really just as simple as not caring about the outcome of a choice in terms of what advantage it may or may not give me in the game, but making choices based on either what I feel personally, or informed by the character arc of the protagonist as I interpret it. I get the idea of single player games as purely power fantasy, but I also don't feel like I get as much personal enjoyment of a game these days always playing that way.
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Simon Lundström
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Completely depends on the game setting. In Saints Row 2, and Just Cause 3, I have no problem whatsoever to randomly kill people just because.

In Saboteur I would feel exceedingly uncomfortable doing so.
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JohnRayJr wrote:
[stuff about God of War III]


I have never experienced a more efficient method of making me stay as far away as I can from any given copy of a game.

Cynical wrote:
The defining factor of the medium is that player choices are driven by two factors -- increasing probability of success in challenges and unlocking content. You romance a character in a Bioware RPG because you know there's a sweet set of armor and a cool skill or two waiting for them at the end of the storyline, or, if you're of a much softer persuasion, because you want to see the really bad cutscenes.


Hm. Not really. I find that I'm motivated by quite different things than that. I can romance a character in an RPG just because it feels correct out of the given context. I don't care if there is zero content or rewards on the other line.
In games where I can choose good or evil, I pick one that I fancy for the moment, and then go with that. I don't care to evaluate the possible pros and cons. My decisions are rarely to increase my power in the game. I simply don't find that as a good motivator.
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Krzysztof Zięba
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I'm not a fan of participating in cruel behaviour in any game, no matter what it is, because there's an underlying conflict there - I broadly agree with the statement that games should be entertaining first and foremost (your definition of what "entertaining" means might vary), and so if the game makes cruelty entertaining, than it largely normalizes it in the eyes of the player. This isn't something that's specific to games, necessarily, and I'm not in the "video games are corrupting children camp", never was, but as I grow older I realize that things mean stuff, dammit (deep, I know).

The Saints Row 2 example with the monster trucks was a huge deal for me. Up to that point, I played the game with a outlandishly dressed character, and had a lot of fun. But when that happened I felt so uncomfortable in that character's shoes, that I changed his entire look to that of the Joker (the Batman villain). If I were to continue playing as this character, I'd have to go all in on him being a ruthless psychopath, and Joker was the only way I could go on.

In Heavy Rain, there is a scene that made me quit, and that's when
Spoiler (click to reveal)
the game forces you, as the only female lead, to strip at gunpoint.
That was extremely f***ing uncomfortable, and I decided to not continue.

And while Uncharted is a pulpy adventure, the excessive body count that the charismatic rougish protagonist amasses is entirely ridiculous, no matter what the genre (both thematically and gameplay-wise) entails.

As with most other things in story writing and game design, you can get away with this if you don't blatantly point the player's attention to it. It's the Death Star plumber debacle from Clerks - the movie does not point to there being any civilians on the second Death Star, so unless you analyse the premise (the Death Star being under construction), its destruction is a huge victory for the Rebel Alliance, not an egregious act of terrorism. Nathan Drake's killing of hundreds isn't an issue as long as the game doesn't point out that it tries to be realistic - but when Drake is debilitated with a single bullet to the gut in a cutscene, Uncharted 2 breaks its escapist promise and focuses your attention on how it exists simultaneously as a pulpy adventure romp and a semi-serious narrative about a person. That person acts in heroic, foolhardy ways in cutscenes, but then he acts - with your direct imput - as a murder machine. The dissonance here is clear.

Another recent example is Division 2 trying to hold that it's not a political game, when it's opening intro clearly exemplifies its pro-gun rethoric and the whole game is about trying to restore a country in chaos. People balk at calling it political, because it's the type of nonsense narrative that movies in the 80s and 90s used all the time, and that over-the-top, high-stakes but zero engagement with its actual subject matter stories have been a part of our media diet for years. Those kinds of games are uninterested with having meaning, because that might offend somebody and make it sell less copies.

So yeah, I tend to notice this stuff and have a negative reaction to it the more I play games. If there's cruel or immoral behaviour in a game, it better have a freaking point. If it's intended as tittilation only, hard pass.
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Lord_Kristof wrote:
and so if the game makes cruelty entertaining, than it largely normalizes it in the eyes of the player.


I have to add here that it normalizes it in a game context. It doesn't mean it normalizes it in any other context. This is a very common misconception, that cruelty, or sexuality or gross-ness in fiction normalizes it for any other type of fiction, and that is not really so.

Because it's true that I've been normalized to violence in video games, and I care less than I did twenty years ago. My reaction to violence in real life has not changed. It's also true that being an anime fan, I'm very used to the sexualization of teen characters. I did care a bit twenty years ago, but these days I just shrug. My stance upon sexualizing kids in reality has not changed one inch. I also can laugh till my tummy aches in humour comic book scenes with shit and vomit, that would undoubtedly revolt me hugely if they happened in real life, but in these specific comics, it's just hugely funny.

I have my limits, of course. JohnRayJr's description of God of War III definitely puts me off the game. I didn't enjoy the morbid scenes in Saints Row 2, but I could look past them. But I have stopped caring if people laugh their eyes out over something in fiction that I find utterly gross and horrible. Sometimes I think the mere idea of joking about it is a defence mechanism so to say, to cope with the mere (horrible) idea.
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ghostpants wrote:
Certainly there is a line I don't want to cross, a point at which I would become too uncomfortable to take the cruel or immoral action presented to me, but (fortunately) I haven't experienced it yet. Hopefully I never do, as I imagine it would have to be particularly bad.


JohnRayJr wrote:
God of War III stuff


I think I found that line.
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Zimeon wrote:
Lord_Kristof wrote:
and so if the game makes cruelty entertaining, than it largely normalizes it in the eyes of the player.


I have to add here that it normalizes it in a game context. It doesn't mean it normalizes it in any other context. This is a very common misconception, that cruelty, or sexuality or gross-ness in fiction normalizes it for any other type of fiction, and that is not really so.

Because it's true that I've been normalized to violence in video games, and I care less than I did twenty years ago. My reaction to violence in real life has not changed. It's also true that being an anime fan, I'm very used to the sexualization of teen characters. I did care a bit twenty years ago, but these days I just shrug. My stance upon sexualizing kids in reality has not changed one inch. I also can laugh till my tummy aches in humour comic book scenes with shit and vomit, that would undoubtedly revolt me hugely if they happened in real life, but in these specific comics, it's just hugely funny.

I don't know if we actually know all that much about the feedback relationship between media and cultural norms. It's so hard to sort the signal from the noise, and it's going to vary from issue to issue. Not only that, but the format and reach of different media is constantly changing.

I think it's possible to take examples where the media does seem to go in advance of the changing cultural norms. Take for instance that shift in portrayal of gay characters in US television. That seemed to be ahead of the curve when you compare it to survey data of gay attitudes in the USA. That is merely a correlation, not a causation, but it circumstantially suggests that media could be a vehicle for cultural change. Arguably, the opposite is actually somewhat harder to argue, because of both the global spending on advertising, which would be utterly meaningless if it had no ability to influence people, and the tendency of repressive regimes to go to great efforts to control media within their spheres of influence. On the other hand, we know that there are limits to how far someone can be influenced by distant sources, such as the media they consume. Far more powerful are the norms established by those immediately around us. Therefore I think media can neither make us into monsters, or redeem us if we are complete arseholes. But I think it's entirely possible that it can have some effect, just not effects that we can easily measure, and thus it has to stand as an open question rather than a settled one.
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p55carroll
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paralipsis wrote:
I think media can neither make us into monsters, or redeem us if we are complete arseholes. But I think it's entirely possible that it can have some effect, just not effects that we can easily measure, and thus it has to stand as an open question rather than a settled one.

That rings true. Meanwhile, as individuals, we each choose what to invite into our consciousness and what to exclude from it. Sometimes it may be a mostly unconscious choice (subliminal "noise" in our environment that just seeps in), but often we can pay attention and make it a conscious choice.

Whatever the degree of effect, it's probably worth discriminating--asking oneself, "Is this the kind of thing I want affecting me at all?"
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paralipsis wrote:
I don't know if we actually know all that much about the feedback relationship between media and cultural norms.


Worth noting that what I am arguing for is stuff that is _obviously created_. There is a world of difference between an anime character being decapitated, and seeing a footage of a real decapitation in real life. It's this world of difference that I am addressing.

This gap between fiction and reality is of course not always as wide – it depends on both the medium (a cartoon vs live action drama show) and also what's conveyed (violence or norms). I have no doubts that a gay-friendly attitude in a seriously meant live-action drama TV series that's supposed to depict the now, affects the general opinion more than a gay-friendly attitude in a cartoon that's in a fantasy setting in outer space.

Of course messages in media have an effect (or commercials wouldn't be viable). But it depends on how it's sent. A media that only booms out that terrorists are everywhere, will make people afraid of terrorists, regardless of whether they are there or not, etc. But the "violence in video game make people accustomed to violence in real life" just isn't true, and it's important to recognize this gap. That violence in games, comics and cartoons do not make people violent in real life _is_ actually a settled question. We know this from pure statistics.
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Often I don't feel uncomfortable at all. I've done some truly atrocious things in games and I'm perfectly OK with it. But then, I am also often role-playing a specific type of character in games, and if they are following their nature, there is nothing wrong with that. It's not like I play games as myself!

But then, I also don't always agree to what is immoral in the society we live in. I can't say there is a black and white "this is bad, this is good" since there are so many times in real life where the lines are blurred.

Honestly, I'm more bothered by killing cats for their pelts in games than I am by ruthlessly torturing humans. Which does reflect a bit of my real cat-loving misanthropic nature.
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p55carroll
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Zimeon wrote:
That violence in games, comics and cartoons do not make people violent in real life _is_ actually a settled question. We know this from pure statistics.

Point well made. Of course, the question that remains is, What effect does this stuff have on gamers? Evidently it does not turn us into ruthless monsters. But we know it does affect us emotionally and perhaps also intellectually and even physically. If it didn't, we wouldn't bother playing games.

The fact that we do play shows that we feel we're getting something rewarding from it.

Might we also be getting something negative or harmful from it? Maybe something subtle, something we're barely aware of? I'd say those who are shunning games with "flagrantly immoral and/or cruel behavior" have decided there is (or would be) a negative effect on them.
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Zimeon wrote:


I have to add here that it normalizes it in a game context. It doesn't mean it normalizes it in any other context. This is a very common misconception, that cruelty, or sexuality or gross-ness in fiction normalizes it for any other type of fiction, and that is not really so.



Yes, that's what I meant. I don't think there is much bleed over between games and real life. What I do mean, is at some point you accept that as a video game hero you will kill hundreds if not thousands of people without any context other than "they are the bad guys". And that's kind of fucked up if you think about it.

If you think about movies or literature, the body counts mostly pale in comparison, even if you take a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie, or a pulpy fantasy novel into consideration. When a movie does that nowadays, you can often hear that it feels like a video game. There's a reason for that.

In video games, because armed conflict is our default modus operandi and has been standardized and refined over 30 years of video game development, we turn a blind eye to this. Without shooting, hacking and slashing etc. there would be less gameplay to fill out the expected 10+ hours of content.

I just feel that the world is pretty shitty and if my entertainment has me killing people, then it best give me a good - or reasonably outlandish reason. Aliens, zombies, demons, soldiers in a historical setting, fantasy creatures etc. are all fine, but I've grown tired of mercenary types, bandits, private armies etc. Give me a good reason to hate them (and no, "they're evil!" doesn't cut it), or give me a freaking break.

paralipsis wrote:
Therefore I think media can neither make us into monsters, or redeem us if we are complete arseholes. But I think it's entirely possible that it can have some effect, just not effects that we can easily measure, and thus it has to stand as an open question rather than a settled one.


Video games are art. Art influences people in subtle ways. Always. As a designer, you have to take responsibility for the message you're promoting, or go back to cowering behind PR bullshit. I know which one I'm gravitating to recently.
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adularia25 wrote:

But then, I also don't always agree to what is immoral in the society we live in.


I'm in the same boat, and I hesitated to use the word "flagrantly" in the question because, on the one hand, the worse it is, the more likely everyone will feel revulsion, but on the other hand, leaving it open to a broader spectrum of morality brings in a lot of disagreement about what is even immoral to begin with.

(pondering how not to sidetrack into RSP...)

For example, if we raised the subject of the PS2-era Grand Theft Auto games including prostitution, I imagine we might end up in a larger debate about sex work (and let's not do that lol). But if we raised the subject of that trilogy letting you pay for sex, have your health meter rejuvenated in-game, and then run over the prostitute with a car, several times back and forth, so that she dies and drops the money you paid her, the debate probably shifts back to if and why people are uncomfortable, with no disagreement about whether the actions themselves are reprehensible.
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I want to say yes, immoral or cruel behavior in games makes me uncomfortable. But I don’t think it does universally. Or at least, the discomfort doesn’t vary proportional to the immorality of the act. I can kill a bunch of nondescript “bad guys” in an FPS that don’t necessarily warrant killing with respect to real world moral norms and not really think of it. I can aggressively pursue war in a 4X game, killing millions, without batting an eye. But I feel at least a little uncomfortable about the prospect of punching an obnoxious journalist in Mass Effect.

I think my discomfort varies with the immediacy of the protagonist’s motivation to commit an immoral act. If it’s at a remove, like moving around fleets in a 4X game, it’s just part of a game. But if it feels… personal, or something like that, it makes me uncomfortable to the point where I just won't do it. It’s not the immorality of an act in the abstract, but cruelty (a specific intent) that bothers me. I’m generally not comfortable adopting the standpoint of a character that has a by my lights objectionable view of how to treat other people. I don’t want to take on that pretense, or to normalize that way of being towards others for myself even in a fictional context.
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Yes. I play games to have fun, and that sort of thing does not strike me as 'fun'. Of course, there is a lot of violence in games, but that can be depicted in a heroic way that is far less distasteful, and usually is.
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When I played San Andreas last year, I was more uncomfortable controlling an idiot that does anything anyone tells him to do than I was uncomfortable controlling a sociopath who kills with wanton abandon.
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