Blog of Aestheticized Violence.
Cornell University, Classes: One Girl in All the World and American Flow
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Watching vs Committing Violence
For my essay on a moment of violence that has stuck with me, I wrote about the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 level No Russian. Gamers are a demographic that are already well acquainted with gruesome acts of violence. Lots of games try to specifically target their audience by making their games as edgy and gory as possible. At this point, games which allow or require you to murder opponents or innocents, even torture them, are no longer even notable. However, the level No Russian is a step beyond even that. In the level, an undercover US agent assists a Russian terrorist group in stalking through a densely packed airport while shooting anything that moves. The game features realistic guns and blood, and while the civilians do little to resist you, they do crawl around while injured and scream for help.The game allows you to skip this level at any time if you feel uncomfortable, which is perhaps the only time I have seen this option in a video game. When I first bought the game, before I had reached it, I decided to take a look at No Russian before playing it. It is freely accessible on Youtube, which sort of raises some questions on why it's okay to host detailed simulated violence on Youtube, but videos of real murders are removed. Anyway, take a few minutes to watch the gameplay:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqC4DIG4FwM&feature=related Now, after watching that video, I decided to just skip the level. It's not very challenging gameplay, I understood the plot elements, and I didn't feel very comfortable playing through a massacre. That was a few years ago. When I wrote my essay, I watched the level on Youtube once again. Again, I felt uncomfortable watching it. However, thanks to a repaired Xbox, I started my game up again afterwards, and played through the level for the first time. When I sat down to actually play it, I ended up not feeling bad at all. Whether through cognitive dissonance, or the feeling of being in control instead of watching others commit violence, or even just the tactile feeling of playing a game instead of merely perceiving realistic violence, I felt totally okay with the level. I guess there might be an automatic gamer instinct which shields us when actually playing a game, whereas watching others do the same actions forces us to try to comprehend their motivations. On the other hand, it may simply be that watching violence is more disturbing than committing violence, which is a rather disturbing conclusion.