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Can Games Become 'Virtual Murder?'


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Opinion: Can Games Become 'Virtual Murder?'

by Benj Edwards

You know, I used to laugh at the term "murder simulator" when it was bandied about by knee-jerk opponents of video game violence some years ago. Preposterous, I said: video games are video games -- easily distinguishable from reality, and reasonable people know the difference between fantasy and reality. That was in the Mortal Kombat and Doom era, where the violence seemed cartoonish. And I love those games.

Then I played BioShock. For the first time, hell started to freeze over, and I found myself beginning to understand the critics' point of view. As real-time computer graphics inch ever closer to absolute photorealism (which some industry professionals believe to be no more than 10-15 years away), violent video game critics' arguments are slowly beginning to look more sane. And yes, you're reading this from a life-long video game fan who staunchly opposes institutional artistic censorship.

But censorship is peanuts compared to the conundrums we'll be facing in the future with our favorite hobby. Once our computer simulations of the real world (still called, somewhat quaintly, "video games") begin to effectively duplicate reality, the issue of video game violence won't be a matter of artistic merit or censorship anymore. It will quickly become a matter of morality, ethics, and law.

The coming storm is inevitable: turn one way, and you'll see ever-more realistic portrayals of graphic, gratuitous human violence in games like BioShock, Grand Theft Auto 4, and Fallout 3. Then turn the other and observe the exponential explosion of computing power and graphics rendering potential driven my Moore's law. Put two and two together, and you've got quite a mess brewing.

Welcome to the Slippery Slope

Within the next 10-20 years, your virtual victims in Grand Theft Auto 6 could look, sound, and behave exactly like a real human would if you stabbed him in the neck or shot him in the gut. There'd be plenty of blood, screaming, and carnage to go around. You could watch as they bleed to death in agony.

The funny thing is -- and I'm just guessing -- you wouldn't want to do that in real life to a real human, so why would you want to do that in a video game? The violent scenario above seems silly now, but the stunningly realistic, PS3-era violent games we play today would have seemed unthinkably graphic just fifteen years ago.

At the moment, we rationalize our simulated violence with statements like: "It's just a game. It's not real. The people don't suffer." All this is true (at the moment); but as the experience of virtual murder becomes ever more realistic, I believe that we as players will begin to suffer emotionally every time we cause realistic suffering to any virtual person, just as if we caused suffering to real living creatures.

With each act of violence, a piece of us grows cold, calloused, and uncaring towards the well being of others. Repeat that, and we become slowly desensitized to pain and suffering.

As gamers, we've already begun desensitizing ourselves to simulated murder, or else we wouldn't be able to play the violent games we have now. Games featuring endless killing for points are nearly as old as video games themselves, with Space Invaders, (1978) probably being the most influential. Back in 1992, Wolfenstein 3D was the most graphically realistic simulation of murder you could find in a video game. It shocked people (including the author) at first.

But as the body count racked up, each Nazi became easier to kill until we no longer had a second thought about the act. The same desensitizing effect stretches back to every violent video game that pushed the limits of realism -- all the way back the early arcade title Death Race (1976), where players mowed down human-like "gremlins" with a car.

Today, we see older violent games like Wolfenstein 3D as primitive and cartoonish, but technology didn't stop there. As the years went by, graphical realism in violent games continued to ratchet up as each generation of software took advantage of the increased computing power available to it.

As violent graphics have grown more convincing, we as a gaming populace continued to de-sensitize in tandem. Despite leaps and bounds in graphical rendering power, Death Race's kill-everything gameplay stayed the same. We're still killing those gremlins and Nazis, but today they look a lot more like people you'd find on the street.

In fact, due to our continued cultural desensitization toward violence in video games, certain game developers kept pushing the limits culturally thematically with ever more violent, gory, and shocking gameplay than before -- what was once forbidden was forbidden no longer, so it took a greater controversy to get attention. Thankfully, this quest for controversial violence is not a universal goal of the industry, but there are always the standouts who effectively "push culture forward" by testing the boundaries of what we consider acceptable.

So, for the moment, we're ok, right? Photorealistic graphics aren't here yet, and we continue to justify our violent entertainment by saying "it's not real." But if we're not careful, we'll be justifying our consumption of violent games all the way to, say, 2030 when, thanks to photorealistic graphics and improved mind-machine interfaces, the experience of virtual murder may be nigh-but-indistinguishable from reality.

As technology improves, the well-defined boundary between reality and fantasy provided by a TV set and hand controller might evaporate, making the gaming experience less like a game console and more like Star Trek's holodeck. (And we needn't wait two decades for that boundary to start blurring: with Microsoft's Project Natal -- a camera that captures motion with no other peripherals required -- the line between real and virtual is already disappearing.)

If, in this hypothetical future, we're capable of stripping away our empathy and compassion to murder a 99% realistic virtual human (and maybe even enjoy it), will we be psychologically any different from people who actually murder those of flesh and blood? Having perhaps unintentionally trained ourselves to become cold-blooded killers through systematic desensitization, will we be emotionally capable of doing the same thing in waking life?

With that kind of realism, we're not talking Pac-Man blip-bloop video games any more: to give you an idea of what we're really in for, imagine walking up to someone on the street outside your house and shooting them in the head. By 2030, the video game experience of murder could be exactly that realistic -- if we choose to make it that way.

As Common as Murder

In our modern western society, death is a relatively rare event. One can live 50 years and know only of a handful of personal friends or family members dying. Those deaths usually result from an illness that strikes in the later years of life, or occasionally from accident or suicide. But how many murders have you personally witnessed in your lifetime? How many people have you killed?

When someone kills one real live human, it's a terrible tragedy that makes the local news. They usually go to prison for life. When a crazed gunman shoots down eight of his coworkers, it's called a massacre, and it stays in the national headlines for months.

Last year, a grand total of 31 real live humans were murdered in Raleigh, NC, my city of 380,000 people. But that figure is chump change for a video game: just the other day, I murdered 40 virtual people in one BioShock session. If eight is massacre, then what's 40? Wholesale slaughter? Systematic genocide?

Every real murder has far-reaching effects that ripple through the fabric of society, tearing apart the lives of both the murderer himself and the victim's friends and family. Each murder influences the practice of law and law enforcement and compels people to feel a little less safe and a little more paranoid about their neighbors. But we simulate the act all the time. For fun.

Speaking of BioShock, it's not like murder is incidental to the main premise of the game. The developers have specifically created a virtual world where you are forced to kill realistic humans to succeed. The fact that you're inflicting suffering and death upon very realistic humans is a key game mechanic. That's a very large part of why it's supposed to be fun. Take away that, and you take away the game.

These BioShock victims aren't like cartoonish Doom monsters anymore. They're definitely humans, and they look very real. They talk and rummage about, then run at me and attack. If I bludgeon them with my wrench, they scream in agony and blood gushes forth until his/her limp body falls to the ground like a rag doll.

To maintain the persistence of reality, that bloody, lifeless body stays where it is on the floor, able to be trampled, pushed, and even bludgeoned further if so desired. BioShock's designers have put a lot of thought into making the experience as realistic as is practical on today's hardware. And they should be commended for this technical feat -- BioShock is an incredible work of art. But dagnabbit, it really is one of those once-mythical "murder simulators" we've been hearing about for years.

This sort of interactive death-as-entertainment is very mainstream (BioShocksold over three million copies, including one to me) -- but only in the video game world. Show BioShock to a non-gamer -- someone who hasn't been desensitized to killing virtual people -- and watch their reaction. Show them how you bludgeon people to death with a pipe wrench. If they don't wince and express some form of shock at what's taking place on the screen, they're either seriously disturbed or they're a seasoned gamer.

Industry Ethics

Ethics and morals vary by region. They vary by culture and religion, and they vary from person to person. Dare I say it, but ethics and morals can be downright arbitrary. Despite this fact, and despite the wide spectrum of opinion on what is right and wrong, there's one moral I think most of us can agree with: killing humans is usually bad. World legal systems made that judgement long ago and codified it in law. In spite of this, if many popular mainstream video games were your guide, killing humans is also incredibly fun.

Then again, many video games are fun because they let us do many things that are impossible and/or illegal in real life. But the fact that murder has become a ho-hum event in mainstream video games is something that should make us re-evaluate our hobby.

As a card-carrying member of the human race (one of those things you're pretending to kill), I can't help but feel that such a profound and tragic event as human murder or even "justified" human killing should be a rare and powerful statement in games, not a common theme. With the ever-increasing power developers have in their hands to rip apart virtual lives, I think it's time to re-examine the use of death and killing as a core game mechanic.

Perhaps the public is already beginning to tire of wantonly violent gameplay with its enthusiastic embrace of both casual games and the Nintendo Wii's lighter fare. Many players are flocking to innovative, less intense games that make the "hardcore" (read: "mostly violent and/or realistic") gaming world shudder.

If the video and computer game industry doesn't begin to show concern over widespread and flippant depictions of realistic human violence, game publishers will soon be asking players to regularly murder scores of astoundingly realistic virtual people, enjoy it, and defend the practice from critics of the art form. (Actually, they already do, but I digress.)

But the industry shouldn't be asking this of its loyal fans and customers. This is not just a financial issue between publishers and their wallets; it's an ethical issue that will increasingly affect our laws, culture, and society on a deep level.

But make no mistake: not all violence in video games is bad. After all, I love Doom, and Monolith's Blood (1997) is one of my favorite games. I alone have been responsible for the deaths of countless thousands of residents of the Mushroom Kingdom over the past two decades.

Despite this, I am reasonably confident in saying that my violent video game escapades have left no lasting damage on my psyche. Nor do I feel that any violent game play necessarily hurts any of us at this moment. But if things get as realistic as what I've mentioned above, they very well might harm us in the future. My concern centers solely on gratuitous and graphic violence against ultra-realistic virtual humans -- the kind you'll be seeing more and more of in video games over the next decade.

Some violence will always be necessary in games that portray the human condition. There are many times when very decent people in our real world have been forced to kill to survive. It would be a disservice for the exquisite and singular art form that is video games to restrict portrayals of violence or human suffering outright.

If handled properly and sensitively, violence and even murder can be a powerful political, ethical, or artistic statement. But the use of gratuitous, gory violence against realistic humans as the main point of any game needs reconsideration.

We should start rethinking these issues now before we all slide down the slope together and can't pull ourselves back up again. Or, even worse, before governments step in and dictate what can and can't be depicted or simulated in video games via legislation. But then again, if things get as realistic as I'm predicting, there might not be anything we can do about it.

A Legal Quagmire

All this brings us to the question of what we can do -- or what we'll have to do -- as a society about this fast-approaching issue. If, as I have postulated, certain video games eventually become so realistic that they convincingly mimic reality, then no self-imposed rating system like the ESRB will cure the problem (i.e. It doesn't matter if it's an "adults only" game -- even adults shouldn't murder realistic virtual people).

In 2040, the only difference between killing a virtual human and a real one might be whether you're linked to a computer when you do it. And the virtual humans you kill might very well be representations of real people in a massively multiplayer online world like Second Life, leading to all kinds of confusion between what's "real" and not. And we're not even scratching the surface when it comes to AI that could be close to human-level sentience by then.

As a result, governments might have no choice but to step in and define a legal ethical limit to virtual killing and simulated suffering, opening up a can of worms that will only be untangled through years of difficult deliberation and hand-wringing.

If we come to that, should it be illegal to simulate player imposed suffering of photorealistic humans in video games? If so, where do we draw the line with regards to realism? For example, BioShock is "OK" now, but how much more realistic will the virtual human's appearance and behavior have to get before virtual murder is considered genuinely and irreversibly harmful for the player?

Will it matter if it's done "by hand and knife" in a holodeck-style brain-machine interface, or if it's executed through a 10-button game controller? Will it matter if it's a quick death or a slow, drawn-out one? Will it matter if the human-killing enacted by the player fits the legal definition of murder or if it is done in self-defense?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that they won't come easy, especially if the game industry fights back against government regulation. As we grow ever closer to 100% graphical and situational realism in games, hopefully game publishers will decline to encourage the stunningly accurate simulation of gratuitous human suffering.

My concern is not that these violent simulations described will happen; they probably will at some point. I'm concerned that we as an audience will continue to consider gratuitous virtual murder a form of mainstream entertainment. The kind of violence I'm describing should be relegated to the bottom, back-corner shelf of any game store -- not by law or punishment, but by consumer demand.

Forget the Kids

Contemporary opponents of video game violence inevitably mention "the children" and how we need to shield them from evil media like video games. Yes, 100% photorealistic violent video games of the future would have a profound impact on children. But you know what? It's not the kids I'm worried about. It's the adults.

After all, reasonable parents can protect their children from exposure to harmful media, as they (ahem) have been doing for decades with movies and TV. But when adults -- the supposedly responsible people of our world -- find it morally acceptable to enjoy the realistic suffering of others as mainstream entertainment, we have a real problem on our hands.

Obviously, what makes an acceptable game play experience for each player is a personal choice that should be judged on a person-by-person basis (or on a parent to child basis), and I believe it should stay that way. As for me, I'm already drawing the line at BioShock -- I can barely stomach the game as it is.

Sure, I could play it more and desensitize myself, but I don't want to. And that's just me. It's up to you and a million other adult gamers to decide what's best for yourselves and to draw the line on virtual violence where you feel most comfortable. And it's up to the video game industry to recognize exactly where they're taking us, because quite frankly, it isn't looking good.

The next time you load up your latest, greatest super-gory shooter, stop and think about what you're doing. If you weren't already steeped in the video game culture of thematic violence that stretches back to the 1970s, would realistic simulations of human murder like BioShock seem acceptable?

In case you've forgotten how a non-gamer thinks, show these violent games to your grandparents, or better yet, a WWII veteran. You'll get a better look at the moral compass of people born before the video game generation, and it might make you take a second look at that long, steep slope you're already sliding down. Because, honestly, we don't know how deep it goes.

The guy raises a good point, my GF's uncle lets his 14yr old son play GTA IV, and when discussing this he used the point that I played the original GTA at a similar age and turned out ok to counter my argument that it wasn't a terribly good idea. The idea that back then it was a little sprite that could barely be described as human-esq and that now its a good representation of a human that lays on the floor screaming when you pop it in the stomach didn't seem to impress him.

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An excellent topic!

If it's a valid argument, that would make me and many others homocidal maniacs.

Just think about the amount of detachment we feel when gunning down thousands of people in FPS games and the like.

I mean just the other day a friend of mine got hold of a demo for Red Faction guerilla for xbox360 and I spent the entire round hunting and killing the civilian population the instead of the "bad guys".

This sounds kinda sick, right?...but is it?....i didn't hurt anyone. the characters weren't real.

I just deviated a hell of a lot from the games objective.

Does this make me a weirdo?

How many ppl have come across that "weirdo" at lan parties who spends more time killing everyone including his team mates than pursuing the main objectives?

Just a few points...nice topic VaKo

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I would say that no matter how realistic the graphics get, virtual murder will never have the impact of real murder on your psyche because there is little to no loss involved, and you don't feel the physical sweat of doing the manual work yourself.

But in the end it's all about loss. You only have one life, and if you committed a real murder, your empathy for the impact of that situation would lend the gravity of morality that the situation needs.

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People tend to forget that it isn't always about the external but sometimes it's about the internal. Ansichild's response is dead on for reasonable people but completely off for the mentally ill. That empathy reaction just doesn't kick in. This is the place where danger dwells and makes this topic such a terrible paradox. Do we ban hoping that the less perceptive/empathic/sociopathic aren't triggered or do we take away a healthy/fun/normal expression of creation and intelligence from everyone else?

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I totally agree that there has to be some point in which hyper violence needs to be stopped, does anyone remember the game from a few years ago postal 2? It included such great plot devices as knocking off peoples heads with a shovel, urinating on people, and Gary Coleman (seriously.)

At a point people vote with their money, the game did not do very well at all, and I don't think they made it to postal 3.

I think the article raises two points that I really disagree with. One is the concept of any "slippery slope," that's a text book logical fallacy, and should set off red flags when every you see it.

The other issue I take is the games he's using as examples. Bioshock was cinematic by definition, and I think was a great illustration of the dark path humanity could turn down when it's left with no boundaries (ironic, given the article states that we may need some boundaries.) Fallout 3 was a great game as well, certainly VERY violent when you get a head shot in slo-mo, but again, this was an illustration of a world where there is no central law. GTA 4 is... well, GTA 4. I can't really defend that one, because a lot of the killing can be gratuitous, with no benefit except for maybe a weapon and a few piles of money. But did anyone else feel that GTA 4 was that realistic? The fact that it's third person makes it a game about a guy killing people, not a game about YOU killing people.

Anyway, my point is this: the theory of having games based on killing for no reason some point in the future is a scary one. However, given the evidence we have now, I don't think we're there yet, and I don't think we're on the way. Bioshock and Fallout 3 seem to say that we're heading towards a more cinematic experience when we pick up these games, but I don't know that it's a more violent experience.

In Wolfenstine 3D, you picked up a gun, and fired until the target died.

Are the games we have now THAT much different?

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Violence in games should not come to a stop. Violence only needs to be controlled by age so that children don't develop thoughts or actions thinking its okay to do those things in real life. However, we have to realize that games is a "Fantasy/virtual world" if you will for one to escape real life or do something that is impossible. Individual action comes from ones consciousness to do right or wrong.

Killing people in a game and real life is completely two different things. As I said before that "Yes" violence needs to be controlled by age, that is what game ratings are for. The real ones responsible for monitoring this is parents! Adults after they develop can tell the difference between right and wrong, but children do not because they have not been thought or understand the difference between games, right and wrong.

In the end just remember its a game, and not real life! Games is a statement of imagination, creation, and freedom of expression and just plain old fun!

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The point keeps being made that its not the same killing someone in a game as killing someone in real life. But what if the lines are blurred? COD4 had the scene where you were in an AC130H providing CAS as the character were just playing the role of tries to escape. To me that looked very much like the footage we see from actual AC130 missions. The CROWS fitted to HMMWV's in current wars is controlled via a device that was designed to work like a game pad. UAV's flown from miles away by people sat in front of PC's regularly drop live ordnance on people. If the experience of playing a video game is indistinguishable from the experience of modern warfare, then how can you say one is just entertainment and the other is not? Where does your conciseness fit in here? Will we be in a situation, life so many science fiction novels, where the training part is no different from the real part?

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The point keeps being made that its not the same killing someone in a game as killing someone in real life. But what if the lines are blurred? COD4 had the scene where you were in an AC130H providing CAS as the character were just playing the role of tries to escape. To me that looked very much like the footage we see from actual AC130 missions. The CROWS fitted to HMMWV's in current wars is controlled via a device that was designed to work like a game pad. UAV's flown from miles away by people sat in front of PC's regularly drop live ordnance on people. If the experience of playing a video game is indistinguishable from the experience of modern warfare, then how can you say one is just entertainment and the other is not? Where does your conciseness fit in here? Will we be in a situation, life so many science fiction novels, where the training part is no different from the real part?

Sure you can control robots, etc. Iv seen the UAV's control system with the monitors and what not but the "Real" defining difference is that you can really hurt people in real life! That is completely different than killing a person/"megabyte" lol. Yes you can use video games to train people and learn from them, but then again I don't have access to a UAV. But lets say there is a game where it teaches me how to shoot and take apart a M4A1. So, now that I know how to use it that doesn't mean I'm going to go out and kill people with it or do harm to mankind. But then again I am a adult. I know the difference between right and wrong and I have a sane mind... Thats why I stress not to let children under a certain age to be able to play such violent games until they develop.

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Ya know, I am the person who is always on the gamer side of the fence, telling everyone nothing should be sensored but...

I have to admit, it's getting mighty photo-realistic. sure you can pitch the idea that it's not real.. But I don't even think that was the writers point in this article.

It was about how far foreward you can push the sensors. This is a problem. I found it quite disturbing you can rape women and then kill them in certain games *and as such, i do not play them*. Now to me, for the sake of telling a story, there can be great accomplishments in games where-by seeing through the role of the PROTAGONIST, and feeling the same feelings he/she does, and go through what they go through (ala Silent Hill 1, 3, and 4 *my favorite series*) -btw, SH2 you were in the Antagonist's shoes. You just never knew it till the end..

But lets face it. Back then it was just pulling out cartoony looking spinal cords and funny looking blood, today its raping women *but not really visually*, who is to say 7 years from now, there wont be games in which you partake in a full on rape with realistic graphics and have to do movements to complete that task (god i hope that never happens)

But it's the point of this my friends. We are all already desensitized enough. What will happen then in moral society later if we keep this up?

Here is a prime example of what could happen, and this shit happens everyday... A murder trial. Just because some people think 'well maybe it wasnt his fault' or 'maybe he didnt mean to do it' get's the guy off the hook. Some ideas in the minds of the jury might have been 'well, this seems just like in gta... man i didnt mean to kill that guy, he could have made me some money.... maybe that's how this guy feels, but this is life... well maybe i should throw him a bone'..

You may laugh, but there are A LOT of messed up people in this world. Most of us in one way or another are in fact messed up.. Maybe not messed up but have our big weaknesses.

To top this all off, it seems to be a growing trend to NOT play the protagonist in the story anymore. It's all about the antagonist side of things, which seem more of a 'lets see how you would feel in his shoes' type of thing.. Bottom line. I don't kill, I don't put up with that shit, and I damn sure don't wanna know how it feels to be on the 'other side' of the fence.

This phasing upshift has to stop, or else the future is looking alot like far cry 2...

Now for the most part, there are a lot of games that do put a no-no type of ending to the story (like far cry 2, AND Bioshock) whereby you are basically shown the negative side of your actions, but seems these days that is rejected... I even reject it.

*dont read for spoilers @ this point*..

@ the end of FC2, whereby basically your called a 'disease' and everything with it has to be stopped, mixed with the emotion that everything you have strived to do to get to the end to see a happy ending out of it pretty well pissed me off. But then I thought why? In the game I killed TONS of people, innocent and not, even when I did'nt HAVE to kill them, but I wanted to... Scary thing. So the bottom line was, why should you get a happy ending when you did nothing good? The only person in the entire story that was a protagonist were the people trying to get drugs into the country to heal people with *not for getting high* and the journalist who, in the end was the only person who really got out of the path of destruction....

@ the same time though, I rarely get into FPS anyways, besides some mindless CTF on Sauerbraten, but that's not photo-realistic, nor at all realistic. but mainly I get my rocks off on playing some really fun racing games *also prefer non-realistic* such as Burnout :D

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Sure you can control robots, etc. Iv seen the UAV's control system with the monitors and what not but the "Real" defining difference is that you can really hurt people in real life! That is completely different than killing a person/"megabyte" lol. Yes you can use video games to train people and learn from them, but then again I don't have access to a UAV. But lets say there is a game where it teaches me how to shoot and take apart a M4A1. So, now that I know how to use it that doesn't mean I'm going to go out and kill people with it or do harm to mankind. But then again I am a adult. I know the difference between right and wrong and I have a sane mind... Thats why I stress not to let children under a certain age to be able to play such violent games until they develop.

But what if the only difference between reality and fantasy is your awareness of that difference? If you lack that, then there is no real difference between killing for fun and killing someone for real.

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But what if the only difference between reality and fantasy is your awareness of that difference? If you lack that, then there is no real difference between killing for fun and killing someone for real.

I still don't know if I buy that...

Even if video games are photo realistic, even if you could import your likeness as the main character, and your city as the surroundings, you still have to say to yourself "I'm going to play a game," and then proceed to do so.

Unless in the future we have video games that start immediately when you wake up, containing exactly the world around you, there will always be a conscious separation between game time and life time.

And, that's still begging the question of if people want to play video games that resemble their daily lives? I don't know if any research has been done, but I'm pretty sure people play video games to do fun things in different environments.

If it is as you predict, i agree that that would be a very sticky subject, but I think we could also sit around and debate the malignancy of the rule of our future dragon overloads. Sure, it would be horrible if space dragons came to earth and enslaved the human race... but I don't think that's reality, and trying to amend our actions now to avoid it isn't worthwhile.

... Space dragons :).

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Even if video games are photo realistic, even if you could import your likeness as the main character, and your city as the surroundings, you still have to say to yourself "I'm going to play a game," and then proceed to do so.

Your missing the point, its not a case of playing games, its a case that at some point there will be no difference to you between being in a situation and being in a simulated situation. You literally would not be able to tell one from the other. Once the simulation reaches that point, and it will, then what is the difference psychologically between someone who likes to rape little girls in a simulation, and someone who actually does it? Right now there are rape games (thanks Japan...), and the defense of people who play them is that it isn't real. But if it is impossible to tell reality from a simulation you can't use that defense. Because as far as your brain can tell it is the same thing.

I don't think you can really say this isn't worth the debate because it is, its our generations grandkids who will have to deal with this.

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damn japan... first it was canada, now JAPAN!!! (sry, just joking)..

Wow, i didnt know there were actual 'rape games' that is scary.

Hey john, so what game did you buy @ gamestop today? Oh I bought Teens in skirts with knives at their throats... What?!

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I don't think I said that debating the issue is not worth while, quite on the contrary, however, given the evidence, I don't foresee things happening as predicted.

I just don't think video games are going to get to the point that we can't tell the difference, I think we're vastly underestimating the human mind. I will be able to determine the difference between a person getting shot in the room, as opposed to a video of a person being shot, and that's about as photo realistic as it gets.

I think the rape games analogy is a bit of a red herring, I don't think rape games create rapists, but I'll bet most rapists would love to play that game. The game doesn't beget rapists, possibly it's the other way around.

Never say never, but for us to have a game that truly blurs the lines of reality, it will have to 1) create a full environment, stimulating all 5 senses (the taste of the air, the smell of the gunpowder, etc), 2) have no "start" point, at which you mentally put yourself in a state to play a game, 3) filter out any distractions, as in a battle field there are rarely ringing telephones or doorbells.

And possibly more, I think our mind is a lot more adept at compartmentalizing our experiences then to believe any projected image deserves the same level of priority as something "real."

Plus, we have to keep in mind anything that is using this new technology is going to try and be FUN. The first console to use life like movements has turned out to be totally tame to it's controllered brethren, perhaps THAT'S the direction games are going.

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I've not said that the rape games make people into rapists, what I am saying is that as games get more realistic, it raises questions about what type of person enjoys them, and that the same can be applied to violent games.

You can tell the difference between a video and an experience, but can you tell the difference between an experience and a simulated experience. On of the most interesting things to come from neuro-psychological research is the idea that the reality we experience is simulated by our brains. We don't actually see the computer screen, our brains take this information coming from our eyes and uses it to build a virtual model of what we perceive that we are seeing. You can see this happening when you see a person out of the corner of your eye and turn to see its a bush or similar. Our brains contain software that heavily filters what we see, and cheats in places. The effect is even more pronounced when you take LSD or similar, your brain cannot process the information correctly and what you believe to be real manifests itself as hallucinations.

Given that, I don't think it will take that long before we have the technology to bypass the 5 senses and directly interface with the brain to produce a fully virtual environment that our brains cannot distinguish from reality without a direct awareness of the environment. Give it 50 years or so, so really not a long time.

But ultimately, what type of person do we think we are when violence, in ever more increasingly realistic presentations is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment?

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But ultimately, what type of person do we think we are when violence, in ever more increasingly realistic presentations is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment?

Exactly.

That is probably the bigger question, as games are made to be fun. I would hope that eventually people will say "Jesus, another shooting game? Lets play Mario Cart."

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Well, one final point that I think we can all agree with. If simulations got to the point of 'simulating' all the senses... think about it. No one wants to go from their comfortable couch in a house that smells decent, to a rotten smelling, rat infested place to run around killing people cause people do not feel like doing that. I mean that physically. I mean think about it. yeah it's great in a game to run around in a car looking for people to kill, but for me...

I believe once it get's to that point, we will all just be screwing simulated women.... Hell would'nt you?

Actually I think that there is a little truth to the idea that the violent game's niche will take a turn, because you could do SOOO much more if you were in a simulation. I believe it would turn to a niche market personally because you could do so much more than being a mass murderer.

I'm not going to lie.. here is what I would do... Tour the country.. screw... go sailing/skiing/climb mountains/maybe even play basketball (hah! if there is a handicap involved anyway :P) oh yeah and screw some more :D

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  • 1 month later...

This is about a month and a half old. But damn, I can't not comment on this. Wish I'd seen this earlier.

I must admit, this does scare me senseless. That article raises many valid points. If games are pushing and pushing towards photo-realism, where does it stop? At which point can't you tell between real life and a game?

I must admit. This scares me personally too. I'm schitzophrenic - haven't been diagnosed, but when you start freaking out, not feeling real, feeling controlled, and depressed, you know something is wrong.

I totally agree with Vako's point that our brains are building the world around us from the information being sent to our brains from our eyes, nose, ears and nerves in our hands and legs. Just like our vision - due to the lens in our eyes, everything is being sent to your retina upside-down. Your brain turns it the right way round for you. Whats great is that you can wear another set of inverting lenses infront of your eyes, so that you see everything upside down. Everything will only be upside down for a while though, until your brain clocks that everythings upside down. It then inverts that image again, so that even with this set of extra lenses, everything is okay. The scary part is when you remove those lenses, leaving only your eyes. Everything is upside down again!

Anyway, this scares me witless and shitless. It's bad enough that there are really horrible people on this earth, capable of murder, rape and genocide. But the fact that maybe, quite soon, there will be a way for people to wear a headset, step into this reality, perform some really sick act, then take off the headset and be free of guilt, shame and moral decay is pretty sickening, and something that I hope will never happen.

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I used to be an extremly violent person. Took me 3 times to go to jail before I realized it wasn't the way. I am extremely angry person but I use it to my advantage, you wouldn't even be able to tell. I always thought there was a possibility contributed to video games but I've thrown that aside. I've been in situations these days where any rational person would have beat the shit out of the person that robbed them 2 grand worth of electronics and was at your friends party (yup, it happened) people asked me what I wanted to do to him. I was furious at first but I said with a smile on my face "I came here to drink and have fun, fuck him"

Considering everybody had my back and he should have got jumped for what he did to me I think I handled it pretty well for a person who's beaten more fps' and murder simulators than he can count.

As to realism and speaking for everybody else. Idk, I see it as a personal choice of being intelligent and self-aware. Movies like saw are way more graphic and contain real actors, the difference is obviously interactivity but even songs like helter skelter made a certain family do some pretty nasty stuff, and books like the catcher and the rye inspired someone to murder a certain "Beatle" AND the attempt of an assassination of one of our presidents

When it comes to entertainment. The topic is always a redundant non ending battle. I simply put it to you like this, Pick your poison

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