In a cut-scene from Company of Heroes last night I watched a frenzied young machine gunner mow down dozens of retreating German soldiers. The scene was meant to be gritty rather than glorious and an officer halts the slaughter with the command to "stop wasting bullets". Nevertheless it caught my attention and made me think. Was it wrong for me to enjoy a game that portrays the infliction of suffering and death?
Almost every game I enjoy is based on violence. Company of Heroes is perhaps one of the starkest examples because it offers a photo-realistic portrayal of a conflict that still remains in living memory. Real people died in the battles of Carentin, boys and men with mothers and families who mourned them. Is there something immoral about my enjoyment of a simulated re-enactment of their conflict? Would it make a difference if the setting was fictional or if the victims of my simulated violence were not human?
I know that there has been yet another call to ban violent video games in Germany but I am not really qualified to talk about the issues it raises. I am not asking about possible links between video game violence and real life violence. I have no evidence of such links from my own personal gaming experience. Despite my love of violent gaming I am in truth a fairly gentle man in real life. No I am not asking about such links, instead I am asking at a more fundamental, moral level: Is it wrong to use simulated violence for entertainment?
The very fact I am writing this piece indicates that I do have some moral qualms about the issue but I am not going to stop any time soon. Indeed if I think about it it may well be that the simulated violence of gaming provides a safe outlet for my normal male aggression.