Modern Warfare 2: Digging that “Murder Simulator”

If you’re not part of the multi-billion dollar video game world, and you’ve never played one of those “first-person shooter” games in which you take the POV of a killer, this Slate magazine article may leave you baffled, as it does me.

And you may have the same question I do:  Is it really possible that people can devote countless hours to this kind of virtual mayhem–and not have their real-world minds and hearts affected in any way by it?

Key quote from the author, Chris Suellentrop, who is a real, grownup journalist, not a nipple-pierced wack living in his parents’ basement:

As part of a group of four men with guns, you walk toward a security line full of civilians at a Russian airport. And then you kill them.

I’ll admit it—I pulled the trigger. The game had instructed me to follow the lead of my fellow terrorists, and I had been told that preserving my undercover status was important for the country. But after an introductory gun burst, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was the most powerful emotional experience any video game has ever given me. I don’t know that I cried, but I was knocked off balance by emotions that I thought I had tucked away. As the travelers screamed and fled from the indiscriminate slaughter, I strolled through the airport. I didn’t fire my weapon anymore, but I watched the three Russian terrorists kill. One of the men shot a passenger as he crawled along the blood-streaked floor and pleaded for his life.

This is a game, remember. Suellentrop has a fairly complex reaction, describing a kind of tug-of-war between the kick of killing and the regrets brought on by the game’s amoral plotting. In his case, revulsion over the slaughter seems to win out–barely.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And some of them, dark and strange indeed, seem to make  a ton of money.


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