Yesterday, Bruce Gorton, a columnist for the South African news organization Times LIVE, penned a piece called "What Our Games Tell Us About How We See Violence and Sex." In it, he argues that there's a type of cultural schizophrenia when it comes to sex and violence in entertainment.
Sex, which most of us would probably argue is a healthy urge, has been relegated to the dankest of corners in the entertainment industry. But violence, which is almost always problematic in real life, is elevated to blockbuster status at every available opportunity. Gorton argues that the success of video games is a response to cultural pressures, not the other way around like so many American journalists seem to think.
I've already written about how silly it is to blame societal violence on video games, but Gorton's point is a good one. There's no evidence that video games cause violence, but humans are a particularly violent animal. So, it’s reasonable to assume that the popularity of violent video games stems from a cultural interest. The question we really need to answer is whether or not it's a problem that needs fixing, and what role gaming can play in the solution.
Gorton believes that the violence in movies and video games should be treated with the same kind of disfavor that pornography receives, but I'm not sure that I agree. Most video games aren't built for children anymore. The average gamer is 33 years old and probably doesn't need to be told that violence is problematic.
Plus, video games are an art form, and art is often an expression of the artist's perception of the world. Humanity has been subject to violence for thousands of years, so it shouldn't be surpassing that violence shows up in our entertainment. In fact, I've often wondered if a wider acceptance of sexual themes in gaming might be the ticket to better, more adult storytelling.
Plus, the moment that we start censoring storytelling, we loose the freedom of expression that is the basis for much of our art. As we become more educated, we adopt less violent behavior, but this doesn't mean the tendencies that have been programmed by thousands of years of evolution can just disappear. And video games are probably the healthiest outlet I can think of for those urges.