It is widely known that art, especially in form of cinema and literature, can change someone’s life and a person’s ethics. We all know someone that says this movie changed my life or after reading this piece of literature work I see things differently. Literature and cinema have lived and grown for more than a hundred years. Telling a story is the common ground in movies, literature works, and some video games. But can a video game also change the life course of a person? Can video games have an impact on a person’s ethics?
Video games have come a long way so people would take them seriously. The only time they would take them seriously was when they tried to ban them for many reasons like violence. Unfortunately, the media is bolding the news about video games glorifying violence and encouraging young teenagers to use violence. As much is it possible that a person would become more violent because of video games, a person might become more righteous because of video games as well.
Before I explain how video games, especially games that were made and published in the last 10 years, can change a person’s point of view, let’s take a look at why people and media are saying video games are glorifying violence and are they right or wrong.
The Grand Theft Auto series is one the most controversial franchises of all time. One of the things that made it controversial is that a person can kill innocent people in the street in various and brutal ways. The thing that caused havoc was the fact that people enjoyed killing all those innocent NPCs. This behavior ruined the reputation of gamers and some people even called them “sadists”.
If you look shallowly at this idea, it seems right. If a person enjoys killing and causing suffering for other people, then he is a sadist; even if it is only in his mind and does not take action. But this idea has one major problem. In video games, especially the old ones, there are not many consequences. In a game like GTA, if you kill hundreds of innocent people in the street, the world won’t change, therefore we don’t see the consequences of killing a person. But in real life, if we even hurt a person, the consequences are major.
Now that I’ve proved that any idea about video games glorifying violence and gamers being sadists is wrong, let’s see if a game can change a persons’ ethics. For explaining this I’ll use The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Last of Us Part II, and Red Dead Redemption II.
The Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption II have dynamic worlds that react to whatever you do and say. In either of these two games, if you do a good or bad deed, you will see the result in the near or far future. In The Witcher 3 or any other good RPG, your deeds have a direct impact on the ending. But apart from the good or bad endings, the player’s smallest action can change the course of the game.
Should I help this poor fella fighting the wolves alone? Should I give this beggar a coin from my stack? Should I do this? Should I do that? Since every action you take in Witcher 3 or RDR 2 or any RPG game has an impact on the future, you think before doing a deed. Since we all want good things to happen to us, we mostly treat a person politely unless they do something wrong. We help as much as we can because we know this help will be rewarded. The consequences of actions change how you play video games.
But how can a video game like The Last of Us Part II, which is not an RPG, impact the ethics of a person? The Last of Us Part II had this system in which every NPC was related to another in some ways. So when you kill a person you can hear his or her friend sobbing while searching for you. After a while, you won’t see these characters as NPCs, but as a person who lives in the world of The Last of Us. This simple yet complex mechanism changed how a person plays the game. I personally don’t like stealth but in TLOU Part 2, I tried my best to do stealth because I couldn’t handle the guilt of killing the brother, sister, or friend of a person; even though he is my enemy and tries to kill me.
These kinds of systems in video games help the player, the human behind the controller to see the consequences of a persons’ words and actions much faster than in real life. Adding the consequences makes the video game real. Henceforth the player will experience being rejected for help, gaining extra money for being polite, failing in a quest because you said something wrong. These experiences will have an impact on a person’s subconscious and one day will affect the person’s judgment. Therefore the person who knows every action has an impact on his or her and another person’s life will think twice before saying or doing anything.
Since video games, unlike books and movies, have interactive storytelling, the impact is much deeper. Watching a movie or reading a book is all about giving time. In video games, for the sake of progress, you have to take matters into your hands. It doesn’t matter if the game is an RPG or not, at the end of the day you use the pronoun of “I” instead of him or her. This means you are responsible for the deed you do, whether it is good or bad. As the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre once said: “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
What do you think? Do you believe a video game can change a person’s ethics and point of view? Do you have any personal experience that changed how you approach life? Tell us in the comments.