What is it about violent video games that make them so fun? Is there some sort of hidden nefarious nature of mine that is expressed through the digital destruction of others? This is not a question that I typically ask. “Violent video games is bad for society” is usually the dogmatic declaration of, stereotypically, old folk who seem to be preoccupied with pointing out “what is wrong with our generation.” I, on the other hand, am usually content to quell the video game cynicism by noting that I have yet to commit a violent crime and I have no desire to.
This post, however, can be an occasion to question that inference. It is an opportunity to detect potentially numinously noxious fumes. Jesus’ prophetic words questioned the air the people breathed, i.e., they questioned the things that had become so entrenched in their thinking that no one thought about it anymore.
(A parenthetical paradox: It’s interesting that the more integral something becomes to our thinking about the world, the less we actually think about how the particular way we think may be problematic or virtuous.)
Let’s not get too far ahead here. Is it even the case that I particularly enjoy violent video games? They are, after all, the only type that I play. Let’s broaden the focus here a bit. There is also something particularly satisfying about violent movies. There’s this visceral, “Hell ya!” whenever some dude gets wrecked. The same thing happens with certain sports.
What is this thing inside of me that enjoys violence? Is it a divine impulse? Is it a not-so-divine impulse? Is it somewhere in between? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to hone in on exactly what type of violence is socially accepted. Is there a reason for the distinction society makes?
It can’t be said that I (or most of society) enjoys violence without qualification, of course. Witnessing a murderer shoot his victim in the head is probably not something I (or most of society) would enjoy. This is odd considering that we often witness increasingly realistic representations of something very similar to a murderer attacking a victim, and with applause too. I don’t enjoy watching some innocent individual who’s been dealt a fatal blow, but the heroic revenge on the perpetrator is always entertaining.
Perhaps, then, the joy of violence is some sort of joy in “swift justice.”
This isn’t the whole story, though. There is something else to be said about the violent impulse inside of me, which makes me realize that this complex question isn’t going to be answered with a simple, “oh, it’s this thing that causes that thing.” There’s likely a multitude of stuff that contributes to my enjoyment of digital (and sometimes actual) destruction.
Is there anything divine about violence? According to Crossan in his book God and Empire, the bible is ambiguous on this matter. The only instance of the Divinity and violence sharing the same sphere seems to be in the realm of retributive justice, but this kind of justice seems to “earthly” to be a hallmark of the Divine. If this is the case, then perhaps Divinity has nothing to do with violence, and insofar as I am attempting to imitate the Divine, I should cease from enjoying my violent videogames, videos, and sports.
Dang…that would suck. I’m even quite attached to all of these things. I can also foresee odd reactions to this potential decision of mine. I’m tempted look at the matter with a consequentialist lens and say something like, “if it does not affect my ‘walk with God,’ then no big deal.” However, it’s possible that there’s something bigger going on here. Is there something that is “not right” about enjoying violence? Is it not right simply in the sense that it is not in accordance with the Divine?
Ugh! I’m not liking where this is leading. Indeed, as I said before, I’m rather attached to my current lifestyle that is steeped in enjoying violence. Perhaps this is one of those aspects of life that I must shed even if it looks like doing so will rob me of some asepct of my life.