An Antidote to Violence and Vitriol

The idea that video games are a direct cause of violence has been in the news a lot recently. Some of this news has come from a certain president who decided to focus on video games as a cause of gun violence, rather than addressing the bigger picture. I don’t feel qualified to write an essay on the realities of this, but what it did remind me of is that no matter what the facts of video game related violence, games are still undoubtedly responsible for many positive things in our lives, and the article that follows is aiming to show just that.

I said in my introduction that I did not feel adequately knowledgeable to write a response to the accusations levelled against video games. However, another reason I’m not doing that here is because other people have already written intelligent, measured pieces on the subject. If you want to read an insightful article on this, please check out this piece written by Daniel from Home Button Gaming. It really tackles the issues very sensibly indeed.

As the title of this article says, I want to provide an antidote to violence and vitriol. This isn’t solely about the recent turmoil, but also about other hateful aspects of gaming from both within the culture itself and from the outside. I’m not dissecting these things here as I don’t like writing about things I don’t fully understand, but instead, I’m trying to point out the array of positives which exist alongside.

You don’t have to look that hard to find proof that a lot of people consider games to be a positive and worthwhile medium. Just look at the work that the charity Special Effect do in helping people with disabilities to be able to access and enjoy video games. They aren’t just doing this for the hell of it, they are, in their own words “levelling the playing field… bringing families and friends together and having a profoundly positive impact on therapy, confidence and rehabilitation”. If you want to know more and are interested in supporting the work of Special Effect,  why not go check out the fabulous Later Levels, who are running a 24-hour streaming fest on the 7th-8th April to raise money for the cause!

Another example of the positive potential of gaming, is the use of virtual reality games in physical therapy and rehabilitation for many different medical conditions, from burns to strokes. The idea of putting a burn victim in a VR headset and asking them to play a game set in a freezing cold environment in order to help them handle their pain is an absolutely mind-blowing idea to me! It has even been argued that playing video games could actively help to prevent Alzheimer’s, although don’t quote me on that, I don’t know the science behind the claim.

As well as having uses in rehabilitation & medicine, gaming has also been used in education, whether that be Minecraft being used as a teaching aid in the classroom, or surgeons learning in VR thanks to software developed by games developers. Education isn’t just something that takes place in a classroom either, and inspiring people’s imaginations is a great kind of education in itself. Video games are definitely responsible for inspiring a lot of people’s imaginations – just take a look at this lovely example of imagination at work in a game shop as witnessed and written by The Gaming Diaries.

Apart from these amazing things, games can have positive impacts on the people who play them, whether it is as an everyday pursuit or an occasional hobby.

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Proven to give you ‘Experience of working in a team environment’

My first example of this is that games teach us how to work with other people. Co-operative multiplayer gaming, either local or online is a great example of this. Take for example Splatoon, Nintendo’s paint-splattered squid shooter. You compete in teams and there is a great deal of strategy and communication involved (er, well at least if you can get the Nintendo app thing working). You can play with your friends or make new friends who’ll join your team, and by playing you get to know them and learn about their play styles. Obviously online gaming can be a horrible & vitriolic place, but people need to be aware that when reasonable people play together, they can develop their communication skills and learn to work together to overcome difficulties.

Even in single player games though, we are often shown stories of people who have to learn to work alongside others. Perhaps a weird choice, but one example I want to use to illustrate this are the two pairs of characters from Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Claire and Moira, and Barry and Natalia. Claire has to guide the inexperienced Moira in how to handle herself, and Moira has to address her darkest fears in order to survive. Barry on the other hand has to lead Natalia, a young girl, through all kinds of hell to get to safety (erm, yeah, that’s kind of what happens in the story I guess…?), and she has to learn to trust him and work with him to survive. Now kids, I know you shouldn’t talk to strangers, but when stranded on zombie island you really have to get your head in gear fast and learn who to trust!

Another example which illustrates this point is from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (*minor spoilers ahead*). There is lots of positive relationship-forming in this game, but I particularly like the relationship between Yashiro and Itsuki, as the former is at first unwilling to work with others, preferring his own methods to achieve his goals, and he is quite rightly viewed with suspicion by the others. Slowly though, a mutual trust is achieved, enabling the team to work together to save the world – something which would not have been possible if they hadn’t learned to work together and trust each other. Yashiro even becomes good friends with Itsuki (and they spend lots of time eating strawberry cheesecake together ♥).

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…and in response Itsuki takes Yashiro out for cheesecake and they go on to save the world!

So learning to work with others can lead to friendships and this is exactly where I’m going with my next point. Gaming shows us the importance of the bonds of friendship and family. We can make new friends through gaming (and game-related blogging, just check out this outpouring of blogging friendship that Adventure Rules put together),  and share gaming stories and multiplayer goodness with existing friends and family. As with my first point, the bonds of friendship and family are often strong parts of video game stories. However, showing the importance of these bonds does not mean they have to be wholly positive stories. We don’t all get a long with our families, and there is no real reason why we should. I find the family relationships in Final Fantasy XII to be a particularly interesting example (*minor spoilers ahead*). On the one hand we have the strained relationship between Balthier and his father Cid. We see from both sides how the relationship deteriorated, with Cid becoming increasingly obsessed with his work and Balthier wanting a life outside the nobility, away from his father. Suffice to say their relationship was pretty irreparable. On the other hand we have Basch (“I’m captain Basch!”) and his brother Noah, who spent most of their lives estranged having picked opposite sides in a war, only to make peace with each other just too late.

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Yuri and Flynn forget their differences to fight side by side against evil

Likewise with friendships it isn’t always plain sailing, and I feel this is really well portrayed in Tales of Vesperia when it looks at the friendship between Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo who are best friends torn apart by differing ideals, even though they ultimately have the same goals. Real life is full of positive and negative emotions and relationships and I feel these games do a really important job in highlighting some of the difficulties we can face.

The next thing I’d like to look at is the idea of self-improvement and the old adage that practice makes perfect. As you know if you read my blog regularly, I don’t consider myself to be very good at video games. You might say that I’m putting myself down or exaggerating, but to me, I’m not very good at them. So when I pick up a game and find it difficult, I am often tempted to just hand the controller to my partner and say “hey, you do it”.  Sometimes though I put the time in, I learn things, and I overcome difficulty. I’ve spoken before about picking up Devil May Cry for the first time, and how proud I was to finish what is considered to be a difficult game. The fact that I can do this in games means I can do it in other situations too. So if you’re ever doubting yourself, just think about your best gaming achievements and what made them possible, and you’ll know you can take on the task in front of you.

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Practice makes perfect!

The levelling systems employed in many types of games are an obvious example of games showing you how to better yourself. You (and your character) want and need to gain levels in order to be able to beat the big bad boss thing who is making life hard for others. It isn’t difficult to see how this message can be shown in a positive light – showing that if you work hard you can achieve things that you never thought possible. These things include small, trivial matters like SAVING THE WORLD and DEFEATING EVIL. No matter who you start out as, you can make a difference.

Just simply bettering yourself isn’t the only way that games can help you though. Since I started blogging I’ve read many personal accounts from people whose lives were effected positively by specific games. I think there are probably people who say the same things about films and books, but it is very important that this aspect of gaming is highlighted, not least because unlike reading a book or watching a film, playing a game requires you to actively participate and make decisions. If you don’t know anyone who has felt this way and want a better insight, please go and check out the Well-Red Mage’s community Final Fantasy project The Crystal Compendium, where many of the bloggers tell extremely personal stories about how video games have affected them. Jay Borenstein’s article on the Nerd Speaker blog about Final Fantasy VII and Lightning Ellen’s piece on Final Fantasy XIII are excellent examples of what I’m referring to here.

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A force for good!

Finally, and without delving too far into the ‘are video games art?’ discussion, video games highlight and give an outlet to the creative skills of their creators. I will never work in game development. I don’t think the long hours and stress would be a good match for my personality. I’m also not particularly creative, however, there are tons of people who have amazing combinations of creative skills, and video games are a great outlet for honing and displaying these skills, as well as being a way for us to discover new inspiration. Whether that be in the form of a piece of music, a story or a character. For a great example of this type of inspiration, go check out OverThinker Y’s piece on how the music from Final Fantasy X inspired him to take up the Piano. Games can even inspire unlikely talents and hobbies, such as cooking! If you don’t believe me, just check out any post by the talented cook and blogger The Sheikah Plate and you never know, you might just learn a few tricks!

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Yep, Link can EVEN teach you to cook! Maybe.

OK, so I hope you are feeling inspired and full of enthusiasm right now! I’d love to hear your comments on how video games have had a positive impact on your life, and if you feel you’ve been directly effected by the goodness of gaming!

Thanks for reading –  and remember, the fact that you read this far has had a positive effect on my life!

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Happiness is…

20 thoughts on “An Antidote to Violence and Vitriol

Add yours

  1. I love your approach here, and thank you for linking to my piece.

    What frustrated me the most about the video they showed at that completely pointless meeting with the President, was that they were completely ignoring a huge chunk of video games; not to mention they were showing all the most violent parts of the most violent games, with no story context at all.

    If you took a chunk of movies, and only showed people Human Centipede or Hills Have Eyes, you might think that all movies are like that, especially if you are ignorant to the majority of it. I don’t know why I’m surprised, preying on the ignorance of his base has been Trump’s MO since the beginning, but it is incredibly frustrating none the less.

    Where are the beautiful shots of Journey, that describe the joy of connecting to another human being? How about videos of Little Big Planet, where I was able to leverage video games to teach my son the alphabet at a young age? What about watching my daughter playing Super Mario Kart 8 with me, joyfully squealing at the colorful graphics?

    Your examples are so good in showing what games can mean. Have a ripped heads of enemies as Kratos? Yes, of course I have, but I’ve also experienced deep emotional feelings from games. Recently I played Rime not long after the death of my father. It helped me to contextualize my grief in a way nothing had prior.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Once again politicians I feel like to go after something they know absolutely nothing about. Video games have more an impact on people positively than they do negatively. I like the approach you make in this article. Very well written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you and you are most welcome! There is so much beauty in games, even in violent ones we can find really positive messages (hence why I included RE: Revelations!). The idea that games can help people understand their own emotions is something really precious, as are the connections they build between parents and kids, but I don’t think these things are widely acknowledged or understood except by gamers themselves. Thank you for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much! I find writing responses to the kind of ignorant negativity you find in some parts of the press & politics too hard, so I really wanted to just put something out that says that games are good – please stop dissing them!

    Like

  5. I love this, there are so many good things about video games and can positively impact people. I also like your timing (International Day of Happiness) as it seems so appropriate for this post. Also thanks for the link to my post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gaming is a wonderful medium that has helped and continues to help a lot of people. The stigma that video games cause violence I’m afraid will never go away. 😦

    On a happier note, Kingdom Hearts helped me get through some tough times when I was a kid. It’s one of the many reasons why I love the Kingdom Hearts series.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re right, it will never go away, I don’t think it is the only stigma around gaming either, but it is great to know that so many other people find it a positive thing to do. It is great to hear about specific games that have helped people overcome problems, thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fantastic post! There is so much negativity in most gaming communities… it’s always nice to read about the positive things! Games are a fun escape for me, and they will continue to be that for as long as I can hold a controller!:)

    Thank you kindly for the shout-out! I always want to yell: “I AM the MOOGLE QUEEN!!” whenever I see that outfit from Lightning Returns 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you and you are very deserving of a shout-out! I wanted to show examples of the positive things I was talking about in practice, and I found I didn’t have to look too hard to find them – the wonderful peeps round here did all the hard work for me by writing about them in the first place!

    That dress…It truly is a thing to behold. I had a conversation about it a while back (because I like talking about the important things in life), about how you would need a good strong back and posture to be able to pull it off. I mean, Moogles must be heavy right? Certainly ‘Moogle Queen’ would be a good addition to Lightning’s list of roles!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey there, just wanted to say thanks for following my blog! I really appreciate it! I am following you back as well 🙂

    Great post by the way! Back when I was in college the second time around, I majored in psychology and I actually wrote a paper on the positive effects of video games. I figured there was enough negativity going around, and I wanted to highlight some good things about my favorite hobby!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you so much for the follow! Twitter can be a n awful place sometimes but it’s a great way to find excellent bloggers! Love the sound of your psychology paper – wish my uni projects had been that interesting! Looking forward to reading more of your posts soon 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a great post, thanks for sharing! I enjoyed reading it. You point to so much of the great potential of gaming that can get overlooked when people scapegoat gaming.

    Did you know that gaming is also being used as a research platform? I play a charming little app game that is used to efficiently and inexpensively provide data for Alzheimer research!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for reading I’m glad you liked it 🙂 That app sounds really interesting, I love the idea that information can be collected so easily through things people enjoy in order to carry out scientific research that could lead to medical breakthroughs. Games really are amazing things!

    Liked by 1 person

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