Making a Game of Killing
CURRENT AFFAIRS, 25 Jun 2012
The mass media are an important part of our educational system. Perhaps it is time to look more closely at the values that they are transmitting. In particular, we should perhaps look at computer games designed for young boys. They often give the strongest imaginable support to a culture of violence.
For example, a game entitled “Full Spectrum Warrior” was recently reviewed in a Danish newspaper. According to the reviewer, “…An almost perfect combination of graphics, sound, band design, and gameplay makes it seem exactly like the film Black Hawk Down – with the player as the main character. This is not just a coincidence, because the game is based on an army training program… Full Spectrum Warrior is an extremely intense experience, and despite the advanced possibilities, the controls are simple enough so that young children can play it… The player is completely drawn into the screen, and remains there until the end of the mission.” The reviewer gave the game six stars (the maximum).
Another genre of computer games has to do with building empires, ignoring the fact that imperialism is morally indefensible. For example, “Forge of Empires” is a browser-based strategy game. It is described as follows: “The game offers a single-player campaign for players to explore and conquer several provinces, gaining resources and new technology as they progress.” Conquering countries for the sake of gaining their resources is an all-too-familiar feature of the modern world. In the game “Forge of Empires”, our young people are indoctrinated with the ethos of resource wars.
During his trial, the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik described how he trained for his attack on young people on the Island of Utøya using the computer game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”. The court also heard how he took what he called a “sabatical” for a year between the summers of 2006 and 2007. During this year, he played a game called “World of Warcraft” full- time, in the bedroom of his mother’s Oslo flat, spending up to 16 hours a day using the game to distance himself from the human and moral significance of killing.
Is this not similar to the frame of mind of drone operators, sitting in comfort in their Nevada bunkers, distanced from the reality of killing? They are playing a computer game that kills targeted individuals and their families, in remote countries, by remote control. There is no need to look into the eyes of the victims. They are just abstract symbols in a computer game.
Suggestions for further reading
- L. Birkowitz, “Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences and Control”, McGraw-Hill, (1993).
- Helen Pidd, “Anders Breivik ‘trained’ for shooting attacks by playing Call of Duty”, The Guardian, 19 April, (2012).
- Media Benjamin, “Drone Warfare, Killing by Remote Control”, OR Books, (2012).
John Scales Avery, Ph.D. is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is “Crisis 21: Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.”
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Jun 2012.
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