Gaming Made Me: Nathan Grayson’s Violence

By Nathan Grayson on January 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

I don’t think violence is necessarily bad. But I do think – especially in gaming – that it’s highly misunderstood, and I argued as much quite recently. But what can we do about that? As ever, I’m erring on the side of reflection and transparency. So here we are. I’m Nathan Grayson, and I was made by violence.

Walking down an unfamiliar San Francisco street one night, I passed some people. I didn’t feel overly threatened or anything. They were just other humans meandering down a junked-up road, and it was dark.

But then I started fantasizing about what would happen if one of them attacked me. Details gushed out of my brain as though from some enraged thought-volcano.

First, I’d knock the guy unconscious. Knee/knee. Up against a wall, face/mid-section, one/two. Crack, crack, crack, crack. Knees and clinches offer control. Basic self-defense. Doing what’s necessary. But that’s not where my mind stopped.

Eventually, he’d wake up. It probably wouldn’t take long. Maybe I’d break an arm while he was out. Or stomp a hand into a tangled mess. Perhaps something more drastic. My next thought was teeth. One by one. Crack, crack, crack, crack. Because maybe this hypothetical assailant had hurt other people before. Badly. Maybe he deserved to suffer.

As my fantasy faded and I saw the eerily empty street in front of me again, a crystallizing moment provided two epiphanies. One: That is fucked up.  Two: In my head, the vision had been of a stylized videogame action sequence. The camera angles, the satisfying heft of each strike, every crunchy splat of sound, each whistling note of blood. Even the role I’d placed myself in – that of some twisted arbiter of relentless, necessary justice – was one I find myself drawn to in games and other media.

The thing that struck me most, though, was that it all rushed in so quickly. So automatically.

—-

One day in elementary school, a teacher pulled me aside from a couple friends I’d been chatting with. I grew up scared to death of disapproval, so I desperately avoided stepping out of line whenever possible. This, then, was terrifyingly atypical.

“You talk about death and killing a lot,” he said. “You really shouldn’t do that so much.”

—-

I was one of those kids. Games – many of them quite violent – were a part of my life from the word “go.” I actually had a conversation with my mother about it very recently. I don’t think she really knew what I got my hungry little hands on back in my single digit age, but I don’t really blame her for it. My young life hardly revolved around games or other potentially violent media. I was always expected to achieve good grades in school, get involved in various extracurricular activities, be reasonably social, engage in a constant ideological war with “You must be this tall to ride…” signs.

Games. I couldn’t see the ones and zeroes yet – the thin, easily twisted puppet strings and smoke-and-mirror hallways that held each illusion together – so it all felt so real. No, no, not in the “Pikachu tells me to kill” way out-of-touch politicians dream about, but I thought I was gazing through some rainbow lightning technomagical window into another world.

Around the ripe old age of seven, I became obsessed with Warcraft II. Obsessed in the strictest sense of the term – in that unfaltering, unquestioning childlike fashion we all wish we could recapture and hurl in the general direction of our wildest hopes and dreams, resulting in a froth-and-spittle enthusiasm explosion. I spent months playing and replaying the campaign, making my own maps, imagining new scenarios, wishing I was a badass ogre mage, poring over official art, and – perhaps most impressively – making my own. These were full-blown artistic endeavors, too. My Sistine Chapel was a series of me-sized paper recreations of pretty much every unit in Warcraft II. To be clear, I mean that they were my height. Gleaming, glorious, blood-soaked warriors of suitably imposing stature. My paper dolls were not to be trifled with.

I embarked on similar projects with the likes of Diablo, Goldeneye 64, and Doom – all before I was even ten. I drew pictures of men being shot in the head (and, naturally, given my still-maturing comedic repertoire, the groin as well), people losing limbs, weapons caked in rust and blood, and many other things of that nature. I thought it was all so damn cool. But I also don’t think violence was necessarily the core of the appeal. Sure, it might have been the hook, but I was ultimately reeled in by a desire to bring these places and characters and sights and sounds to life. I so badly wanted to make them real that, well, I tried. And in doing so, I made them my own.

—-

Veins throbbed in the teacher’s neck like worms crammed in a can. He was purple, bellowing anger. One of my classmates wouldn’t stop talking. He hurled a marker in the student’s general direction and then stormed out of the room.

Later, I found out he went on to have another, similar episode, only it ended with a steel chair instead of a marker. Thank goodness chairs don’t fly very far.

—-

Christmas Eve, I am thirteen. I receive the then brand new Dragonball Z: Budokai as a gift, and rush up the tinsel-and-ornament-strewn stairs to play it. After cruising through the story mode’s early bits, I confront the series anti-hero Vegeta. And I die. 29 times.

I know this because I started keeping count, and I remember the exact number to this day because I got so angry. I shouted, kicked, hurled the controller, bit the controller until my teeth hurt, went on extended diatribes about how stupid my character was, ranted at the game for being unfair, and just generally, well, lost it.

I’ve always had a temper. Over the years, I’ve become better at controlling it, but games have a way of bringing it screaming to the surface. Sometimes, I cool down quickly. Other times, my mood’s ruined for hours. There’s just something about constant, repetitive, out-of-my-control failure that presses my buttons far beyond any sort of breaking point. I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. So it makes me act violently – at least, in the moment, anyway.

But there’s a certain absurdity about it, you know? I mean, it’s just a game. And when I pull back and examine what I’m doing, I feel like I’m watching someone succumb to ridiculous road rage in highway traffic. It’s not fun, but worse things have happened. So it just looks… silly.

For me, though, gaming rage and road rage really are two sides of the same coin. Futility is the root of those temper tantrums – not the inherent aggression of shooting a man or (gasp) turning a wheel. I think the maddest I’ve ever been at a game was Mario Party. Because seriously, fuck random star handouts and sudden, impossible come-from-behind comebacks and everything Luigi loves and stands for. When I hold a controller, I want control. If that expectation is denied – whether I’m behind a keyboard-and-mouse or a steering wheel – I don’t take it well.

Are my reactions problematic? I’m not entirely sure. But I’ll take hitting a controller over a person (or, er, a car) any day of the week.

—-

I remember walking into the locker room and being shocked at just how much blood there was. Granted, the near-blinding white tile made it stand out all the more, but still: could a human head really hold all that blood?

There’d been a fight. At my tiny private elementary school in suburban Texas, those never happened. Well, almost never. I don’t remember being disturbed by it, though. Just curious.

—-

I’ve never gotten into a fight. Not a real one, anyway. But I love hitting. It may very well be one of my absolute favorite things in this world.

Like many starry eyed nerdlings, I was first attracted to martial arts because Ryu, Ken, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and all of their furious-fisted ilk wailed on my imagination until the brain damage was molded in their image. Basically, I wanted to punch and kick and produce whaling harpoons from my wrists. (Incidentally, I was Scorpion for Halloween one year.)

In middle school, I clumsily fumbled my way into a gi and tried my feet at Taekwondo. I was never a particularly athletic child, but martial arts just stuck. I loved the purity of it all. I didn’t need to worry about complicated rules, having crappy aim, or getting screamed at by umpires or vampires or however baseball works. It was just me and one other person. And we’d hit and hit and hit, and whoever hit better won.

Granted, there was a bit more to it than that, but it was all so satisfying and immediate. It felt amazing – my brain basting in a stew of its own chemicals and each blow rattling off cheekbones and rib cages – in between getting punched in the nose all the time. And training was just like Everquest, only a million times better. Each day, I’d grind until I cried blood and sweat tears, but progress – though slow – was obvious. Tangible. Addictive. Little by little, I was becoming strong.

But I wasn’t just hitting bodies. My training partners became my community. My family. We’d train for hours each day, and then we’d go out and watch UFC cards together or descend upon smoothie stores like some kind of protein-powder-lusting plague. I had friends, I had an outlet for my feelings, I had a work ethic.

I had a home.

—-

“The new kid’s slacking,” one of my seniors at my Taekwondo gym whispered to me. “Spar him extra hard.”

I did. I hurt him so badly that he had to sit out for the rest of the session. And it was fun.

—-

He looked so surprised. Shocked, even. Zone of the Enders 2 on PS2: the main character had just been shot. An alleged ally stabbed him in the back, and he just sort of floated there, baby planetoids of his own blood orbiting around him in a space station’s low gravity. His face was a mask of fear and pain. Eyes wide. Helpless. Scared. Dying.

It was the holiday season, and my mom, my sister, and I went out to lunch with my grandparents later that day. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That face. That scene. I had no appetite. Months later, thinking of that scene produced the same effect.

I still haven’t finished Zone of the Enders 2.

I’m glad. If growing up with games had desensitized me to the ramifications of violence, pain, and death, experiencing that scene from an M-rated game suddenly put it all in perspective. Was I too young for Zone of the Enders 2 when it first came out? Absolutely. But, in retrospect, I think I needed it. For a lot of reasons.

—-

Recently, I was talking with a friend about life and perspectives and extremely well-informed (and attractive) viewpoints on early modern philosophy. Eventually, that brought us to the topic of humor and how it manifests in different people.

“Yeah, I’m pretty whimsical,” I offered. “You know, prone to winding, ridiculous flights of fancy and all that stuff.”

“Hm?” he grunted back, chewing on my statement for a moment. “I don’t know. I always thought your jokes were pretty morbid, all things considered.”

—-

I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Usually, it’s cancer. Everything’s cancer. Last year, I nearly missed my best friend’s college graduation because I was certain I’d found something in my chest. I wanted to cancel my flight and go home. I spent the night before wide awake and sick to my stomach. I was so, so, so scared. I cried a bunch. I called my mom at 4am and she talked me down a bit. But I was so sure I was dying. This was the end. I was going to waste away into an empty husk of dead skin and mulched bones, and my precious consciousness would fade into nothing. Forever.

I’ve never been more terrified in my entire life.

The world’s a horrifying place. To hear some people tell it, everything’s out to kill us, and death’s primed – coiled, snake-like – to strike at any given second. In many ways, my life hasn’t really gone out of its way to disprove that point of view, either. I’ve had a fairly pampered existence in the grand scheme of things, but even then, I grew up in a world of easily enraged authority figures and peers, constant fear that “the terrorists will win,” pain, disease, shootings, paranoia, sadness, and war. Meanwhile, the unending information barrage of the modern era ensures I never have a chance to forget about those things. Don’t get me wrong: I love living in these times. I love life. I’m happy. But I’m also afraid, because let’s face it: there’s so much to be afraid of.

I think I seek out violence because I’m so scared of death. I crack jokes about killing and death, I laugh in the face of over-the-top murdersplosion action movies, I listen to all kinds of exceedingly angry music, I’m addicted to fight training, I have all these empowering, in some cases sick fantasies. I surround myself with violence. Because when I do it that way, I’m in control. I can explore it. It’s mine. I own it.

And, as ever, in the game.

—-

In spite of the ups and downs of my relationship with it, I personally enjoy violence. I really do. It’s empowering. It’s intoxicating. It’s fun. But it’s also one of the scariest things in the entire world, and what’s even scarier is that – if I lost control, if my temper beat the teeth right out of my conscience – I could inflict it on someone else. I’ve done it in my head a thousand times. It’s not even hard. I’m human. On some level, it’s natural.

When I walk down those dark, nearly naked streets, I’m most afraid of my fantasies. Afraid of myself.

But there’s a voice, a whisper, a lingering tickle between my ears that tells me to stay in control. I mean, duh. I have to. That’s the way it’s always been. Over the years, games have told me a lot of things. They’ve told me that violence looks cool – some without even attempting to demonstrate potential consequences. Others have beaten it into my brain that death is an awful, awful thing to be feared above all else. But most of all, games have taught me that – at the end of the day – I’m accountable. If things go horribly awry, it’s probably because I – the player, the human being – fucked up. I can’t blame the situation or the heat of the moment or someone else, and I certainly can’t blame videogames.

Violence is natural, but so is control. To conveniently write off or forget either one of those facts would be a horrible abomination of a folly. No matter how constricting the situation, my actions are ultimately my own. Sometimes, I take pride in that. Other times, I dread it. And when I’m walking alone at night? I’d say it’s probably a mix of both.

I think that’s how it should be.

__________________

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168 Comments »

  1. All is Well says:

    Here we go….

    EDIT: To my surprise, the comments weren’t at all as disappointing as they usually are whenever RPS deals with more sensitive subjects. Thanks everyone.

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  2. Mike says:

    Wow. I wasn’t sure where it was going when it started, but you really told a rounded story. It all wrapped together really well.

    Interesting what you mentioned about dying 29 times and being made miserable. I wonder if Steam Box’s biometric controllers might one day let us put in safeguards to that. Check a box that says “If I start to get pissed off, just make the game easier for me.”

    I think I could do with that every now and again…

    • sinister agent says:

      That would just piss me off even more. Now the fucking thing’s INSULTING ME GRAGRGAGH

      • Guvornator says:

        Rayman Origin does this, in a seriously patronizing fashion too. I’m the pacifist son of a Buddhist, but when that flying green bastard comes around with his “whoa, this area is really dangerous” I want to stomp him into a bloody smear on the ground. If that’s what the campaigners mean by video games inspiring violent thoughts, they may be onto something…

        • Syra says:

          I used to play games on the highest difficulty all the way through after I finished them once on normal, mostly to prove I could, but of course this meant dying A LOT. I didn’t mind, my friends at uni would walk into my room and watch me die over and over and call me crazy, even though I’d completed the same game before.

          Then, in modern warfare, there was a section with dogs on normal and I died maybe 3 times in a row trying to figure out what I was actually meant to do about it. After a couple more deaths, I wasn’t mad at all but then the game removed the dogs. They just weren’t there anymore. It skipped me past the challenge and never gave me the opportunity to beat it. THAT made me horribly super infuriated. Only time I’ve ever raged at a game, sitting there, playing by myself. Such an egregious insult to my ability. I shall never forgive it.

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        That’s what the biometrics are for. They can do it without ever letting you know.

        That’s either awesome or will ruin every game for you ever, depending on whether you’re likely to dwell on the question “did I just beat that properly?”

        • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

          I just look forward to the biometrics misreading things. Oh, you’re sweating and your pulse is up? Must be tense and frustrated. Or it’s just hot in the apartment.

  3. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Wow… you’re a… er… complex person.

    • frightlever says:

      I actually identified with pretty much all his points. I don’t think it’s that unusual. I have been in plenty of fights though.

      • All is Well says:

        I agree, these experiences seem to be fairly standard experiences for a male-who-likes-videogames, at least as far as I know. I can relate to pretty much everything, except maybe his finding real-life violence exhilarating.

        • phoenixdk says:

          I hate to do this to myself, but I’m gonna be “that girl”

          “these experiences seem to be fairly standard experiences for a male-who-likes-videogames”

          I too, relate to pretty much everything in this article (except I was too lazy to get into martial arts, but someone give me bonus points for my also- Halloween Scorpion costume) so don’t slap a “males only” sticker on violent fantasies just yet.

          I’d actually suggest that as a female gamer, I have just as many day dreams when I’m walking down the street thinking “if that arsehole comes over and starts hassling me…”

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            No need to worry about being that “that girl”, was an important point and made well. Shouldn’t be an issue for people to be shy about.

          • All is Well says:

            It wasn’t my intention at all to suggest that these experiences are exclusive to male gamers, so I’m sorry if it came across as such.

            What I meant was that the experiences, or at least most of them, seem fairly normal from what I have experienced. However, my experiences are distinctly male since I myself am male and all gamers that I have known well are too. This, coupled with the fact that violence in most, if not all, existing cultures is identified as a decidedly male activity (by which I mean that men/boys are more commonly allowed/encouraged to engage in violent behavior and are exposed to much more non-sexual violence, both in real life and culturally) made me hesitant to make any claims about female gamers’ experiences.

            I was trying to avoid making universal claims based exclusively on male experiences, not claim certain experiences are exlusively male.

            edited for readability

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            I can understand the intent, although I believe when it comes to games there’s little that’s distinct to one gender or another that makes the experiences worth separating. They’re functionally the same regardless of which chromasomes are holding the controller. So if you feel comfortable asserting something for all gamers of one gender there’s not much reason not to assume it’s true for the other too.

            There’s a case to be made for the cultural biases outside of games influencing what parts of games resonate the strongest with players. But why mention games if they’re the one constant between the genders and it’s other factors that lead to a difference in experiences?

            That said, I’ve convinced myself maybe gender it is a valid point in this particular context since Nathan’s article draws so much from outside games too and I wouldn’t say it’s a nonissue in society as a whole. Even though I may have a slightly different view on the extent to which violence is actually encouraged solely based on gender in current societies, especially the ones that likely make up the bulk of the RPS demographic.

          • All is Well says:

            Well, it would seem that we are pretty much in agreement then, since I was referring to Nathan’s experiences in general and not just his experiences with games.
            Regarding the last point though, I find your disagreement intriguing. Don’t you find that men, more commonly than women, are encouraged to use violence? Take, for instance, conflict resolution. Wouldn’t you agree that there are situations, such as being the target of bullying, which a man would be expected to resolve with the use of force (beating up the bully) whereas a woman would be expected to resolve the situation in some other, non-violent way, such as notifying authorities or through dialogue? Or were you being very literal when you said “slightly different view”?

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            There’s a bias still, and I’m in no position to quantify it but it seems more shades of grey than the black and white you depict. It’s just feels like the time has passed when the majority, male or female, are encouraged to solve real situations with violence. And in the certain instances where violence is still permissable, it’s at most gender biased rather than gender exclusive.

            Taking that bullying example, boys aren’t encouraged to beat up their tormentors as first choice by most of western society any more, they’re encouraged to go through non-violent routes just like girls. Violence is largely tolerated as a response in that context but not actively encouraged any more. What’s more it’s not a taboo response for girls either, it’s still tolerated albeit not by as many as violence from boys. That’s in children where poor impulse control is more readily overlooked. Move on to adulthood and anyone who solves workplace conflicts with violence will be quickly ostracised in most places, gender not withstanding.

            Likewise in areas where violence is expected, in sports for example, for all the male footballers/martialartists/whatevers being told to tackle/spar harder, there’s a number of female players being encouraged the same within their group. The proportions might not be equal to the male players but it’s not zero. Enough that there’s probably more female martial artists being encouraged to be violent than there are male mathmaticians, so context plays a bigger role than gender in modern society. Similarly there’s a number of female “badass” characters in pop culture mediums that glamorise female violence as much as their male counterparts, again the proportions aren’t equal but it still shows how culturally violence in women isn’t disallowed, just not equally represented.

            This is exclusively violence I’m talking about, aggressive behaviour without violence is still encouraged in a lot more contexts and an even more complex issue.

          • b972984 says:

            Cheers for the words Nathan. If we ever meet in person i’ll come at you with a half speed elbow strike & fully expect you to counter it.
            http://www.rpgwatch.com/files/Files/00-0208/Torment_Vision_Statement

      • Pop says:

        I’m same. I wonder what’s the relationship between gamers and martial artists? I’ve certainly tried Karate and Ju-jitsu.

        Personally I want to get rid of the lust for violence in my life. I think at its core it does involve blinding yourself to the consequences of violence, which in turn is a blinding yourself to the nature of the world we live in. It is something I think that games, movies and all media can be guilty of. They often pander to the darker, selfish parts of us, but do not deal with the consequences of those actions.

        Maybe fantasy is like alcohol: a little should pass without comment, too much and you really need to ask yourself what’s at the root of the consumption.

        There’s famous puritan saying: “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you”. If having these violent thoughts and indulging them is a problem, then you do need to be proactive against it. I don’t think it’s enough to just discuss or think about it.

        On another thought David Foster Wallace spoke about things “that eat us alive”. Things that we worship like success, money, power etc. Perhaps a secular approach might be to ask ourselves “what’s eating me alive that these thoughts of violence spring up so quickly?”

        Lastly, there was great Sam Peckinpah interview from 1971 where he discussed violence in movies. Does anyone have it? It seemed pertinent.

        • Snargelfargen says:

          Gaming and martial arts (or just about any competitive sport, really) both make a clear distinction between “play” and real life.

          • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

            Play is a part of real life.

          • Snargelfargen says:

            I was trying to point out that gamers and martial artists both have to learn to distinguish between being at play, and not.

            Not really interested in discussing the semantics although I suppose it couldeven be argued that all of life is play in some form. It all boils down to learning acceptable behaviour for different environments, a skill which people need to function in society. The dichotomy between play and rest is just particularly obvious.

          • thaquoth says:

            “Not really interested in discussing the semantics although I suppose it couldeven be argued that all of life is play in some form. ”

            Funny thing is; Yeah, it’s really simplified being put that way, but it is essentially true. I suggest reading up on play theory. It’s really interesting.

          • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

            Genuinely not arguing semantics, though I was pressed for time so my comment was a bit glib, sorry.

            It’s pretty accepted now by those who work with kids at any sort of research-influenced level that children at play are often engaged in fairly serious work. Play is where they build and negotiate understandings of the world, prepare themselves to take part in it, and work through a lot of the bullshit that adults half-consciously put on them. Mental connections are made through play, both figuratively and literally speaking. Play might not have such a central role in the lives of adults — at least until recently — but we still do a lot of preparation through visualization and role-playing.

            I don’t think we should ban violent games or anything. But the way we think and talk about their influence should probably be stepped up.

    • ElvisNeedsBoats says:

      There is no dialog or lesson here. Pretentious, internet tough guy, drivel. Done here.

      • Terragot says:

        I ‘reckon I could take nathan.

        Come at me, bro.

        • Skeletor68 says:

          Do you even trane UFC bro?

          • Terragot says:

            Bro, I tren calypso style. Mo fo’s called me the ice man cus of my cool yet furity moves. Nathan best simmer the fuck down lest that pretty boy wanna dance.

            This one guy I was sparring with tried to go extra hard at me. Coach must have been embarressed by him cus he was a lil outa shape and loved video games, so told him to give as best he could. I let him get a few hits on me, for showmanship like, then faked an injury so I wouldn’t have to end the poor kid in front of all my adoring fans. Kid was so chuffed I half expected him to write about his personal success on the internet or something, but that would be embarrissingly egocentric.

      • Toberoth says:

        Tbh it sounds like Nathan is a pretty tough guy IRL, too, if his training is anything to go by. Anyway, it’s a bit of a cop-out to say there’s no dialogue–isn’t that what the comments section is for? Create a dialogue by assembling counterpoints, don’t just dismiss it in that horribly blasé, internet way.

      • sinister agent says:

        Sigh. He’s not threatening anyone, so it’s not “internet tough guy”. He’s simply stating facts that are relevant to his upbringing. And I don’t see what the pretence could be, exactly, unless you’re suggesting that he’s never played Dragonball and is just faking it.

        Why don’t you try a little experiment next time you don’t like something: acknowledge that you simply don’t like it, and leave it at that. It’s really not that difficult, and as a bonus, it doesn’t make you look like a sneering contrarian.

        • Eddy9000 says:

          I’d like to suggest that before any of that he actually reads the article again before posting so that at least his trolling is in some small way actually connected at all to the article.

        • lhzr says:

          you don’t need to threaten someone to be a internet tough guy, bragging about how violent you are does it just as well.

          also i think you misread elvis’ post. lemme rephrase it.

          >all the author does is to show off (i could break a guy if i wanted to, thank god i’m so good at controlling my violent impulses!). it was probably not the author’s intention to do this, but it came out like that anyway.

          >while showing off, the author also lets the world know that in school he was this guy(like a lot of kids, not a problem) and that he didn’t manage to overcome that kid-afraid-of-bullying-and-fantasizing-about-violence state of mind. i don’t see why i should care about the author’s personal hangups and/or fantasies, therefore the whole thing was just drivel to me.

          also the pretense might come in where the post tries to pass itself off as some meditation/essay/whatever you want to called it about violence and gaming, but ends up not saying very much and being mostly a collection of personal anecdotes more related to the author having tantrums and worrying about them, than anything else.

          not saying i agree with elvis, since i found the article an entertaining enough read, but there’s not much relevant info or insights pertaining to the relationship between gaming and violence, is there?

          • AmateurScience says:

            ‘ being mostly a collection of personal anecdotes’

            You are familiar with the whole ‘gaming made me’ thing right? It’s kind of the whole point.

          • Syra says:

            “i don’t see why i should care about the author’s personal hangups and/or fantasies, therefore the whole thing was just drivel to me.”

            So you read it all the way through. Then you ranted about it. Then you cared so much you had to justify yourself. To the internet.

            Just so we have that clear. Okay then.

          • lhzr says:

            @amateurscience: ok, yeah, the article was probably more of a rant than an essay on gaming/violence, as i initially perceived its intention. taken like that i guess it’s fine.

            @syra: firstly, i didn’t think this was “drivel”, just that it was a bit pointless. and secondly, i used that word because the two paragraphs starting with a ‘>’ were meant to rephrase/elaborate what elvis said, since he had a point i partially agreed with, for sinister agent, who seemed to misunderstand.

      • PoulWrist says:

        Really? I guess maybe he should’ve ended the text with a series of questions for debate on the class, then.

  4. frightlever says:

    “Around the ripe old age of seven, I became obsessed with Warcraft II”

    You must be about my nephew’s age. He drove me nuts playing Warcraft II around that age – mainly he drove me nuts because I wanted to be playing it.

    Violence is everywhere. Games are a non-issue as far as the influence on actual violence goes. It’s a well-intentioned article but I’m not buying it. The rest of the media, TV and film in particular are more graphic and more pervasive. We don’t need to defend violence in games, just make violent games with better stories, IMO.

  5. Gassalasca says:

    Well… I certainly find you scarier than before. But also a more rounded, deeper character, not a cardboard cutout, which every new writer inevitably is, at least for a while.

  6. McDan says:

    Wow, I know someone else already started off like that but really. Wow, and I understand most of it as well, I can agree with this stuff. Well done for saying all that stuff Nathan, sounds like it might have been hard.

  7. IGetPwnedOften says:

    I think you just wrote my biography.

    That’s a bit creepy actually, but at the same time almost comforting in an odd way.

  8. Tom De Roeck says:

    how very nonbritish of you to be so candid, sir!

    Either way, I liked it, it sounds very personal, and I think everyone finds his relation to violence, themselves.

  9. Stevostin says:

    “Around the ripe old age of seven, I became obsessed with Warcraft II”

    I feel so old.

    • Dozer says:

      WHERE IS THE STARING EYES TAG

    • Dozer says:

      Whoops. That should have gone at root level. My reply to you was this:

      “Oldmen, running the world. A new age!”

    • reyn78 says:

      Funny when I read this story I had exact the same thought… I went to internet to check dates on when Warcraft II was out and felt even older

  10. Binary77 says:

    I’m constantly astounded at how many of the contributors on this site manage to reflect my own thoughts & feelings. It’s really quite heart warming at times, to know that people who’ve grown up like me are out there too.

    Cheers for the words Nathan. If we ever meet in person i’ll come at you with a half speed elbow strike & fully expect you to counter it.

  11. Skeletor68 says:

    Thanks for that Nathan. I think I experience some of the same things you do. Fantasising about fights is a fairly natural male thing to do (I think) and amping your aggression and readiness when in a situation that could be dangerous is normal. Fortunately I don’t think my anger goes to the same levels of frustration that yours do, at least not as overtly.

    P.S. I’m into MMA too, are you on the UG?

  12. Belsameth says:

    An amazing article, thank you.

  13. Stevostin says:

    Well, that was an interesting read. Thx Nathan.

  14. Hodge says:

    Cheers for writing this. A little unsettling, but a great read.

  15. SRSavior says:

    Two sides of the same coin:

    First, the more a person acts out on their violent impulses (ie, temper trantrums, hitting a pillow, whatever), the more prone they are to -more- violent impulses.

    Second, a part of Japanese culture believes that having violent, deviant (read: hentai) games actually helps their society, because their idea is that it allows people to live out those fantasies without resorting to real-world implications.

    They’re both kind of antithetical to each other, but I don’t think the answer is to suppress violent or deviant impulses; it’s to do what you did, and learn to make them a part of yourself so that you can control them.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, I don’t know to what extent games increase violent acts by people already predisposed to violence. I’m not a violent person at all, but I play violent games all the time and I still get a rush from killing stuff onscreen. I don’t think it’s ever really translated to violent impulses in real life. But my own experiences also relate to how the prosthetic reality of games can have a powerful influence on your development.

  16. Toberoth says:

    I’d love to see this turn into a series of articles featuring other RPS writers discussing their takes on videogame violence and how it does or doesn’t shape their attitudes to real-life violence, or how it mediates violent fantasies.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’m writing something, too.

      • Toberoth says:

        Sweet!

      • Mad Hamish says:

        Ask Walker to describe one of his beating someone up power fantasies. That I gotta read.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I imagine he doesn’t actually hurt people, he just stands by cruelly with a first aid kit as they bleed to death, refusing to heal them.

      • Hodge says:

        I hear that Walker tries to beat someone up every day, only his punches come out as cuddles.

        • sinister agent says:

          He inflicts lethal violence on our hearts.

        • Mad Hamish says:

          Maybe he has them in reverse. Upon finding a badly hurt, bleeding from multiple wounds in his face man, he proceeds to punch the teeth back into his mouth and the heal the gash on his forehead by bashing it off the curb

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            All those jokes about him being a really bad healer suddenly make sense now…

      • Gnoupi says:

        “How living with an unstable Internet awoke my primal aggression”

    • sinister agent says:

      I feel this can only end in a massive punch-up. And let’s not kid ourselves by saying we wouldn’t watch that.

      • Terragot says:

        My money is on Alec, good reach, nimble, like a stretched sloth.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          Expect the Gillen to come running in from outside to great consternation and going all folding chair on everyone.

    • newprince says:

      Agreed. Glad it’s happening!

  17. Maldomel says:

    I can relate to this. I’ve often imagine those fights where I kick the crap out of everyone (and breaking an arm would probably be my choice in a real fight to neutralize an opponent), I’ve seen some violence, both real and in my games for most of my life and I know it made a part of what I am today (among other happier things).
    Also, I too would totally put gaming tantrums and road rage in the same basket, along with raging at strangers on the internet and being bitter towards people cause they did better than you. It’s silly, and when you get that and correct, life truly gets better (it did for me at least).

    • PoulWrist says:

      Quite. I have kind of the exact same thing. Videogames can get me into a total frenzy if I don’t keep check. In general just multiplayer games these days, though. But I have gotten rather a lot better at keeping it under control.
      After multiple destroyed desks and punching the door off my linnencloset, and a countless number of drinking glasses, and in a couple cases a bit of pain infliction on self, as punishment for sucking so bad, I now try to just laugh it off. Still, being fragged 50 times in a row and not really getting my foot down at all can still totally ruin my mood.

      As for violence fantasies, then those are around, but I haven’t been in a fight in 16 years. And that was a kid’s fight. I hate violence in reality. I don’t want to fight, and I’ve run away from or talked my way out of many a challenge or provocation to a drunken brawl. Now a days, especially. I have no idea how I would do in a fight, probably sucky and get beat up, because I don’t want to hurt anyone. Think of the consequences! I compete in powerlifting, I channel my aggression into feats of strength, I’m quite strong, I could break a guy’s arm or dislocate it badly, or otherwise badly maim someone if I got angry and lost control… I don’t want that to happen, it could go all kinds of bad for me and for the other person. Better to just walk away and keep the violence in my head, where it belongs.

    • f1x says:

      I have similar fantasies but its never mindless violence, not saying violence can be justified or makes it any better,
      but those fantasies where I’m hitting people is always because of protecting someone or because I dream of being a hero helping someone out, I think the mind chooses to display fighting because is sort of a cultural thing, the typical movie hero and all

      in real life, I’m a coward and I avoid violence as much as I can, to the point thats sometimes I’m ashamed because of being so damn of a coward :(

  18. NathanH says:

    I always thought the talk of violence and video games was a waste of time, but if this article is typical of gamers then I am disturbed.

    • Donjo says:

      Disturbed by what? The idea that the potential for violence and violent fantasies exist? Violence in general? The idea that people must learn control and restraint in order not to inflict pain on others?

      • NathanH says:

        I think what I find disturbing is best shown in the following excerpt.

        “Maybe I’d break an arm while he was out. Or stomp a hand into a tangled mess. Perhaps something more drastic. My next thought was teeth. One by one. Crack, crack, crack, crack. Because maybe this hypothetical assailant had hurt other people before. Badly. Maybe he deserved to suffer.”

        This, to me, is something rather beyond what I would consider a fight fantasy. I sometimes fantasize about fighting people, and it wouldn’t disturb me to learn that it’s normal to do this, but when I do it the details are very vague, and they don’t really involve lasting injuries or stuff like that. There’s no gore, no cracks of bones, no glorying in pain and damage inflicted. I mean, the end of that excerpt isn’t a fight fantasy any more, it’s approaching a torture fantasy.

        Now, it doesn’t disturb me much to know that Mr Grayson exists and has these fantasies, I don’t think that’s a big deal. I have fantasies that some people would find disturbing and some that I find disturbing. I don’t worry too much about this, because I think they’re quite unusual and most people won’t have them, so it isn’t a problem for society and all I have to do is keep my fantasies from being reality, which in practice is not hard. But if I thought that most people shared them, or most video gamers shared them, then I would become worried.

        If there are not too many gamers with Mr Grayson’s visceral violent fantasies, then I would not be disturbed because there are all sorts in the world, and they’re probably harmless. But if most gamers shared these fantasies down to the level of detail and the revelling in the causing of damage (rather than just demonstrating your superiority) then that would be more troubling. It would either mean that humans are in general rather more dangerous than I imagined, or it means that there’s something more solid between these people and video games. The first possibility is distressing, and the second would nullify a lot of pro-video-game arguments that I thought were sound and start making me worry about video games a bit more.

        • Reefpirate says:

          Nathan is a gamer, but that is among many other things. He’s a martial artist as well. Training for years in most martial arts probably makes these sorts of fantasies more vivid because you’ve spent quite some time studying the potential outcomes of fights.

          I’ve often considered what to do if I manage to incapacitate an assailant, and breaking the arm is pretty good insurance he won’t get up and try anything else before you can call the cops or something.

          For most people, I think this is a good thing about martial arts: You learn what the consequences of violence are because you get an in depth analysis on outcomes. If you’re a mature and reasonable person, I think this makes you come out wanting to avoid violence even more than you would if you were more ignorant.

          The knocking the teeth out part isn’t something I can say I’ve thought about, but different strokes for different folks I guess. The imagination is full of violent imagery, and I don’t know why he would have thought of such things… But to say it’s because he’s a gamer who has enjoyed violent videos games is a bit of an over-simplification I guess. People are complicated.

    • PoulWrist says:

      It’s pretty typical of men, in general. Nothing to be disturbed by. Only psychotic lunatics will actually live out their mad fantasies.

      Just a question, who do you think comes up with all the violent fantasies that we all consume so voraciously, and why do you think we do that?

    • Misnomer says:

      I think it is disturbing too just in the sense of how limited it is as a way of thinking. I hope more people like this poster feel free to comment. It was not Nathan’s experiences with violence, but the way he felt they played into his life…like some overwrought martial arts movie….that bothered me. And really, it wasn’t that Nathan had those experiences that was bothersome at all, it was once again that disconnect I feel where I totally don’t understand what the majority of “gamers” on this site think like.

      This article does very little to take away from that stereotype of games being for young men with power fantasies.

      Now maybe we all have those fight fantasies in some way, but I would never write about them like Nathan just did and it is disturbing to me the number of people here who said they would. For me, games aren’t some deep fantasy any more than movies are. I don’t think they are real, I think they are either engaging as entertainment (toys if you must) or engaging as art (meaning thought and emotion provoking)…

      I play a good number of shooters, but I play lots of non-violent games too. Not because they are violent or non-violent, because I enjoy them. I play Wii Sports Resort table tennis way too much, but I know for a fact that it doesn’t make me any better at real table tennis and don’t see my fantasies of being able to make an amazing table tennis shot as having any bearing on reality.

      I don’t think my attitude should be the only one in gaming, I just hope that more people who really love video games might also find very little relatable in this article. The table tennis world rankings aren’t any safer because I only play table tennis on the wii, so I don’t worry immensely about the state of the world because of violent video games. Nevertheless, I do find it bothersome how many more people on this site are likely to commiserate with Nathan’s tale of how violence made his life than would compare notes on a Wii game.

      It does certainly increase the stereotype to have comments empathizing with this article.

      • PoulWrist says:

        Who says they are real to them anywhere? The fascination with violence is natural to us all, and to you as well it seems. You would never write about having violent fantasies, but you do have them?
        Isn’t it rather strange, even disturbing, that you would rather suppress a natural part of you, than own up to it, face it and conquer it, like we read in Nathan’s story that he has?

        Doesn’t that make you quite a lot more dangerous sounding than the “rest of us”?

      • JFS says:

        I’m with you, Misnomer.

      • f1x says:

        Well, I had similar feelings when reading what Nathan wrote,

        For example, the part where he speaks about drawing gore/ultra violent things when he was just a kid,
        I made the same sort of drawings but never had any fantasies about translating that to “real life”, the drawings were the fantasy already and as good as that, if you get my point, my mind didnt need to duplicate the fantasy again outside the drawing, it already fullfilled its purpose as a catharsis
        (I can see that now, of course, as an adult, as a child I was just experimenting it)
        So when I read that part from Nathan’s article, I got the feeling that the process was extended and repeated, like a sort of obsession, he is getting the fantasy or violence, doing a drawing out of that, then picturing the drawing again in real life, sort of a cicle,
        so what for me was an act that started and ended creating a sensation of energy liberated for him is sort of a never ending circle
        thats just my impression tho

        Thats one point that surprised me, I’m reading a personal experience from another human being and seeing its extremely similar to my own experience but then the output or the way it affected that person its totally different to how it affected me, that is somehow fascinating even if I should know we are different people in different cultures

    • kael13 says:

      I wouldn’t say I pay so much attention to the violence of a game when I play.. For me, it becomes more a mechanic for a means to achieve a goal. I don’t go through fantasies of chopping off limbs after a session of Chivalry, if that’s what you’re implying.

      • Misnomer says:

        That’s roughly what I am saying Kael. I think there are many of us who don’t “role play” our games but are still interested in them on more than just a casual basis. I think this violence discussion highlights that for me.

        Perhaps it is the same reason Alyx’s flirting with Gordon in HL2 made me more uncomfortable than Mass Effect love stories. HL2 felt like the game was trying to convince you that the character in the game liked “you” (meaning the person behind the keyboard) while ME seemed to be about responding to what you were making “the character of Shepard” do as a part of the game. I have no problem with silent protagonists, but “I” am not the protagonist just because a designer makes him or her silent any more than I am a space marine because I can chose my dialogue options. I feel pretty much the same way about violence in videogames.

      • Tasloi says:

        This is pretty much the way I feel aswell and not just when it comes to videogame violence. When I think of the violent fantasies i’ve had literally every single one was framed in a sort of “hero” context where you’re swooping in to save the day so to speak. The violence becomes a necessary evil, used reluctantly, a clinical tool almost. One could probably argue that has some issues on it’s own but ok. Ultimately it’s not really about the violence at all.

        As such I didn’t identify with the author’s views on it nor his views on death or control for that matter. Especially the control one felt alien to me. I can see it when already engaged in violent acts but prior to it? Can’t say i’ve felt that way.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      The article isn’t typical, period. Everybody has violent or morbid thoughts to some degree, but discussing them is taboo. Most children have at least a brief fascination with death and violence, just as they do with gender and sex. We’re taught that it isn’t proper to speak about such things out loud because it can (rightly so) be distubing to others.

      Nathan’s elementary school teacher probably wouldn’t mind this article so much. Some personal introspection is a good thing in light of the debate about violence.

      • RagingLion says:

        I do think the voicing of these thoughts and experiences has been and is really positive though. It’s brought a lot of things up and allowed people to either see someone having similar experiences and thoughts or ones that are completely alien for them. This stuff does go on in at least some minds and possibly in many more minds but within limited contexts and I think it’s better for people to know about this rather than being oblivious to what people are really thinking sometimes.

        Where someone is able to be really honest and find the words to clearly explain self-reflections that is a rare and precious thing – it doesn’t mean everything shared will be objectively good but that can be a starting point for either writer or reader to be steered to a better way of thinking and acting.

  19. zachforrest says:

    ‘When I walk down those dark, nearly naked streets, I’m most afraid of my fantasies. Afraid of myself’

    Oh good grief.

    violence is is a cominbation of the act and intentionality. i scarcely think sparring kung fu nerds constitutes violence.

    • sinister agent says:

      Right, because punching someone in the face isn’t violence if the person doing it likes videogames.

      • zachforrest says:

        punching someone in the face isn’t violent if you’re sparring, or maybe even competing. The purpose of a violent act is to maim someone, pyhsically or psychologically.

        • sinister agent says:

          So which is it when a riot cop shoots you in the stomach with a beanbag? Not violent because he was just trying to calm you down?

          Violence is violence, whatever its intent. You might only want a campfire, but that wood is still burning.

          • JackShandy says:

            Zachforrest is saying that consensual fighting is not violence. A beanbag shot isn’t a violent act if you tell the cop “I’m totally fine with you shooting a beanbag in my mouth right now”.

          • zachforrest says:

            yes obviously it’s not cut and dry. Im just syaing violence as a concept is pretty nuanced, and intentionality is a big part of it.

          • sinister agent says:

            Fair enough, I am perhaps just being a little pedantic here.

        • Gorf says:

          Playing rugby or any other fullcontact sport is violent tho. Players want to hurt the other team, we see the results of that all the time. So even consensual sport is violent.

          • Guvornator says:

            Well, violence is in the intent. So one could play rugby without intending to hurt anyone, as many do (and indeed, many don’t) – you can tackle people without meaning or desiring to harm them and there’s nothing in the rules encouraging you to do so. With boxing or martial arts, however, violence is woven in their nature.

    • Gap Gen says:

      NAKED streets? Think of the children!

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Pretty sure he’s not afraid that he’ll spontaneously start sparring with someone. Sounds like he’s afraid of getting into an actual fight and hurting somebody. Which is a reasonable thing to fear, regardless of the strength of one’s kung fu.

      • TCM says:

        Definitely this.

        I am a pretty big guy. I don’t work out, I’ve never learned any martial arts, and I generally think of myself as weak, but I have hurt people in the past as a consequence of getting in a fight with them.

      • zachforrest says:

        i only mentioned the ‘scared of myself’ thing because it was so cringey. my point about the intent required for violence should have been a bit more seperated.

  20. serotonin says:

    thx nathan, that is one of the most authentic and interesting articles about gaming i ever read. kudos mr ;)

    well in fact i must say, my feelings towards media violence is another one. in fact as a child i have been the opposite of you, i guess. for example i will never forget one day in may life: i was about 6 and for any reason i do not understand today i had fun in playing chess. my grandfather knew that and showed me battle chess on his 2/86 pc. in our family he was something like a pioneer with it-hardware. so he put me in front of the computer and left me with the game. it was absolutely terrifying for me. i didnt not want to see this violence on the screen, i held my eyes and even the death-screaming out of the systen-speakers almost made me cry. we are talking about a 1988 video game, 8bit sounds and pixels as big as lego-bricks :/

    another game that gave me nightmares was barbarian (aka death sword) that i saw at my neighbour’s. well it seems, i have been a wimp as a child. more interesting, my neighbour (the guy with barbarian) grew up totally different. he was about my age and his favourite movie was rambo. when we played he always was the violent type. for example i got bow and arrow for birthday, so his idea was it, to build arrows out of nails and swamp grass to shoot them at a bird. thank god we did not hit anything, but i will always remember how bad i felt for even trying it. noteable about this guy was, that his parents did absolutely not care, what games he played, what movies he watched and what he did in his sparetime. my parents always have been the complete different, i cried about a year before i got a gameboy in 1990 and even then they wouldnt allow me to play games like mystic quest because of the – in their eyes – brutal tv-commercials.

    what im trying to say: i always felt, that kids are strongly affected by their enviroment and how their enviroment reacts on events in their surroundings. media violence has always been a part in my neighbour’s life and he for sure was a violent guy. but i would not blame the media violence itself for this. the problem were his parents and his surroundings, surely a 6year old should not own barbarian on his amiga. in fact it is a legit question to ask, if a 6year old in 1988 should own an amiga at all.

    today i am 30, and i guess i share the same joy in video games than a lot of boys and girls too. well in fact if i watch my media library there is only a little number of games movies and music, that contains no violence. i like shooters, i like horror games, horror movies, the zombie-apocalypse and death metal. but still there is a line that i wont cross. i didnt not say “i dont want to play battle chess!” when i was a child, but today i know what things i dont want to see and dont want to play. manhunt for example. i guess thats the difference between now and then: today i can decide. i dont know what would have happened to me, if i would have been in my neighbour’s position in my childhood, when i could not decide.

    €dit: oh one thing we have in common: i am a road-rager too. not in a risky-driving way, but in a cursing-and-shouting-at-other-drivers-way. and i think what you say is totally true, that is because i have a feeling of totally losing the control and giving my life in the hands of others and their responsibility. im from germany and i feel that the most on the autobahn at high speed.

  21. Cara Ellison says:

    I’d like to throw in my two cents and say that I don’t think that Nathan’s experiences are exclusively ‘male’. There are so many times I’ve walked down a dark street and fantasized about knocking the shit out of assailants in the same manner: I too have trained in martial arts. I think it’s very natural to have these thoughts.

    I think there is definitely something about people who are drawn to games having issues of control. In my case, I think I am obsessed with being and staying in control – for example, when out with friends drinking, I am terrified of going over that limit where I feel woozy or out of control. I usually try not to go over that limit (I guess unless RPSers feed me sambuca, which has happened).

    • sinister agent says:

      It’s been years since I read it, so I can’t say whether it’s as good as I remember, but there’s a bit in Glenn Duncan’s I, Lucifer where he (Lucifer, obv) talks about fantasies like that by opening with a person thinking vividly about how to kill a crying baby, fantasising about it quite explicitly, and then revealing that the person doing it is the baby’s mother, and that this isn’t a sign that she’s evil or unsual, but just that this is what humans are like. It’s not a judgement he makes either way that imagining things is common to everyone and that many of these things would be terrible if real. It simply is.

      • spongthe1st says:

        This is interesting to me because I was diagnosed with a form of OCD off the back of worrying too much about random unpleasant thoughts which would then induce a panic spiral of even more of them – along the lines of ‘don’t think of a white elephant’ and that’s then all you’ll be able to think about.

        OCD is commonly thought of as people who need to wash their hands a million times for fear of germs, or flicking light switches a set number of times over anxiety that if they don’t ‘bad things will happen.’

        I was led to understand that although these are indeed forms of OCD they’re far less common than the form I had, which is essentially good-hearted people freaking out about random inappropriate ‘intrusive thoughts’.

        Anyone who drives will be familiar with the ‘I could swerve into oncoming traffic’ thought phenomenon – people with OCD are the ones who think that and then freak rather than simply dismissing it.

        In fact because they’re worried about it they’re far less likely to flip. As they say, crazy people don’t think they’re crazy – a true psycho would not consider their impulses worrying or unusual

    • Binary77 says:

      I think we can conclude that any would-be assailants attempting to violently disrupt an RPS meet would be met with a truly frightening display of elaborate arse-whooping.

      “One of them knocked me out with a door!”

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Not exclusively, but I think the roles that men are socialised into facilitate and permit violence more than those of women.

    • PoulWrist says:

      I can relate that as someone who does not practise any fighting sport, but one that does involve quite a lot of channelled aggression (powerlifting) that such fantasies do come with the territory of knowing that you are powerful… living them out is of course a whole nother matter. I walk away from any fight, I hate the casual violence that happens every weekend when people get drunk, and I walk away from any challenge or provocation, scared at what could happen if I did accept one.

    • Dilapinated says:

      I agree, and come from a similar background/perspective.

    • Reefpirate says:

      I agree in that I get a kick out of games that offer high levels of control (turn-based strategies are super cool).

      I disagree in that I frequently enjoy losing control while boozing.

  22. The Enchanting Wizard Of Rhythm says:

    Jeepers. I’ve occasionally thought about nutting a chap who was actively getting all up in my grill, but nothing quite so detailed or unprovoked. And I thought martial arts were for sports losers and I loved Street Fighter. I did play Mario and Sonic far more than Doom or whatever (sorry RPS), but so did my brother and he reduced most of our controllers into chew toys. He seems fine nowadays, probably more balanced and definitely more sociable than I.

    Whatever the effect of media on us at a young age, it’s probably a little too complex a relationship, too entwined with a time in our lives when we were the least self-reflective we will ever be and too dependent on individual personalities to draw hugely meaningful conclusions. Interesting to think about, though.

  23. dE says:

    I do not have those violent fantasies, I don’t thrive on it and it doesn’t spark sudden ideas of how I’d defend from this or that attacker. The article certainly helps in understanding some side effects of the internet though. And not least of all why I’m often the odd one out in those discussions.

    I’m wondering if it’s a side effect of being exposed to death quite early. I do not fear death, as ridiculous as it may seem. It’s not even tough guy talk, I just don’t fear it. Whenever I look at death, it’s never with a “oh my god no, this can’t be happening” but instead “yeah, alright, do your thing then”. Ironically, death has always spared me, despite countless risky, downright idiotic and almost suicidal situations (in an accidental kind of way, not brought upon intentionally). I’ve often thought that I don’t deserve to live, while others have to die. I’m living a good life, a happy one with barely any clouds whatsoever. I don’t dread tomorrow nor age not illness. Maybe because so many folks valuable to me died and some at a quite early age. At age 12 my best friend had suicided because of her abusive father, at age 12 I lost another valuable friend – my dog. At 14, a fellow pupil whom I had known died to actual cancer. 16… well you get the idea.

    Some time back, I had a small argument with a friend over a scene in Supernatural (Very minor Spoiler, it’s not story relevant in any way or shape). It’s a scene where Death, as a character, walks the streets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1EzU9sLQ6I

    My friend kept argueing that it was a power fantasy. A person dies, simply because he bumped into Death and acted an ass because of it. A kind of karmic justice taken to the extreme. I had the biggest trouble seeing it as that. To me, the scene was about the inevitability of death and how people often die around you. But after reading the article, I think I can see the violent side of it a bit clearer. It’s similiar to the scenes described in the article itself.
    Now though, why do I play violent videogames, why do I also laugh at the most ridiculous of scenes in games? I honestly don’t know. Especially since I consider violence in movies and books to be rather ridiculous and repulsive. Watching a man, covered in blood, go on a vigilante spree is about as engaging and entertaining as watching a plant grow. Perhaps the plant growing is a bit more interesting.On the other hand I love experimentation and perhaps that explains my interest in video games – to see how ridiculous I can make them look within their own set of rules. So in the end, it’s power and control again, perhaps. But not in the fearing death way but in a curious one – that button electrocuted me, I wonder if it’ll happen again. Alright, it does. Can I break it? Can I use it to do something else?
    And the violent part? Well, violent videogames are those with the quickest feedback towards an action. You act, the game reacts. Not like other games where you click, stuff happens, other stuff happens and then the game reacts, filtered through a myriad of other decisions.

  24. Colonel Mustard says:

    Really enjoy these Gamaing Made Me articles, thanks

  25. newprince says:

    I think it’s great we’re discussing this matter without prefacing it with political assertions or ‘analysis’. Just people telling stories. As an American, I really can’t stand how YESTERDAY, on CNN there was about 30 minutes straight on the Aurora shooting. You heard right, the Aurora shooting that took place when the last Batman movie was in theaters last summer. Like those new details are stuff I need?

    It’s interesting. I’m a bit older than the author (30), but I remember the NES days and being 7 or 8 playing Punisher (the sidescrolling shmup one) and tons of other violent games, and it didn’t seep into my life like described in this article. I guess deep down I abhor violence, even though I engage in virtual forms of it a lot? On the other hand, it’s easy to see that the old NES games were pretty abstract compared to like a 7 year old playing Call of Duty today.

    Instead of being a hypochondriac, though, I have a different anxiety disorder. So I could relate to this story a whole lot, and I thank you for your honesty.

  26. Benkyo says:

    Nope, can’t relate to anything in this article at all, but I suppose that’s not an entirely unlikely state of affairs, given that I am not Nathan and vice versa.

    Here’s hoping I’m not in a minority though.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      What you’ve never had any kind of violent power fantasy? You’ve never been the hero or the saviour or any of that? Not even as a teen? I’d say you’re in the minority, it’s perfectly normal. In the fantasies the victim of the violence always deserves it, that’s the fantasy. Though I’ve never gone into the detail of crushing hands and knocking out all the teeth.

    • phuzz says:

      I’ve had violent power fantasies, but they’re just that, fantasies, they dissolve in the face of the real world. The rest, of the article is nothing like what goes on in my head, but then I’m a bit weird.

  27. Ricc says:

    Holy crap, staring eye in the middle of the post!

    And, yeah… That was a really interesting article. Thank you.

    • Dozer says:

      UNTAGGED Staring Eye in the middle of a post.

      • ocelotwildly says:

        If it’s in the middle of a post, then it doesn’t get the Staring Eyes tag. Only pictures at the top warrant such an honour – That way clicking the tag takes you to page after page after page of piercing, staring eyes that look into the very depths of your soul. It is your judgement in front of the great, throbbing RPS hivemind.

  28. evs says:

    I’ve rarely read an article on any site which felt so alien to me. I cannot empathise with this kind of enjoyment of violence whatsoever. Real violence is sickening, period.

    In games, I don’t enjoy violence, but I do enjoy destruction (e.g. of the inorganic environment) and I enjoy the “duel” that can play out in a “violent” confrontation. (E.g. Counter strike match) But the actual violence? Violence that throws up, spotlights and (can) glorify actual violence against other sentient beings? No.

    I can only hope the majority of humanity feel the way I do. Not the way Nathan feels. I would say “each to their own,” of course; but violence being something which so obviously affects others, I can’t quite do it with a clean conscience.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      ‘I’ve rarely read an article on any site which felt so alien to me. I cannot empathise with this kind of enjoyment of violence whatsoever. Real violence is sickening, period.’

      Do you class fighting in sports as real violence too though? When it is a consensual competition between two trained athletes competing with discipline, heart, technique or art then I don’t see the problem. These same feelings extend into real life fantasies outside of the sporting world and are just part of our instinctual behaviours I imagine. As long as you’re not roughing up defenseless strangers then where is the harm?

      I’ve done very limited MMA and kickboxing training and am not an outwardly aggressive person at all, but I think being able to distance yourself from the act of violence and physical competition is important as you will generally be friends with training partners you were struggling with a few moments before.

      • JFS says:

        It’s still violence. Hitting someone in the face doesn’t become non-violent simply because there’s rules. It’s not the same as other kinds of physical competition.

      • evs says:

        Martial Arts are a special case but not for the reasons Skeletor suggests. The rules don’t justify the violence, the consent of the other participants does. Critically, however, that consent is only given, ceteris paribus within the context of the rules. So if I go to Taekwondo, I consent to have violence done to me by my training partners within the limits set out clearly by the rules and by the instructors, and I reserve the right to withdraw my consent at any point. This, critically, is not what Nathan seems to be talking about:

        ““The new kid’s slacking,” one of my seniors at my Taekwondo gym whispered to me. “Spar him extra hard.”

        I did. I hurt him so badly that he had to sit out for the rest of the session. And it was fun.”

        I cannot imagine for a moment that “the new kid” had come to Taekwondo to be hit so badly during a spar that he could not continue with the rest of the session. Of course accidents happen, but the problem here is that Nathan wilfully acted to breach the reasonably expectable consent of his sparring partner.

        What compounds the whole issue is that Nathan found this (i.e. gratuitous infliction of pain on another without their consent) to be enjoyable. Now, I am not judging sadism here per se; but I am saying that sadism without consent is just plain wrong. One must have the (clear and indubitable) consent of the person you inflict pain on. And even then there are all kinds of caveats. (Just look up the history of criminal cases against sadists in the United Kingdom.) We do not permit people to engage in torture of their pets precisely because the animal cannot give its consent to having the violence inflicted upon it.

        So what I found alien was the way that Nathan seems at least ambivalent as to his enjoyment of and fantasising about violent acts perpertrated on others. Yes, he finds it disturbing, but he stops short of outright criticising whatever “natural instincts” he draws pleasure from. That’s what, I think, makes the piece feel truly alien to me. That these instincts or natural inclinations are, on some level, merely and simply accepted.

        • Cara Ellison says:

          I think it’s clear in the next section after he mentions the kid at Taekwondo that games have taught him his limits, and have actually instilled in him a fear of death and killing which changed the way he functioned. He wrote about the kid to show you that his real life violence needed tamed, which in the next section he addresses. Which is what the Gaming Made Me is about: about how violence has changed and shaped him through the years. How he has grown into a responsible adult able to control himself.

  29. tobias says:

    What a brave, unusual article. Spent most of my time reading it doing a mental head-nod. Thanks Nathan and RPS, looking forward to the next in this series…

  30. Buttless Boy says:

    For those sickened and confused, I don’t think Nathan’s saying he enjoys hurting people or likes to imagine torturing puppies for kicks or whatever. I think he’s saying that the adrenaline rush of martial arts and violent video games is enjoyable, and that’s not a good or a bad thing by itself; rather that it’s better to be aware of and control one’s capacity for violence and enjoyment of violence than to ignore it.

    It sounds like I was a similar kid to Nathan (except I got in a LOT of fights), and because of my own experiences I’m constantly aware of the need to restrain myself, and games have definitely helped me with that. If some people don’t have to worry about that kind of thing, that’s great, I wish more people were like that. But some of us do worry, and it’s wonderful to see such a thoughtful article on the subject and how it relates to the violence and control in our games.

  31. Reapy says:

    I think most males are inherently violent and prone to control/competition. I have never been in a fight but certainly there is an appeal or delight in an intense situation when all norms have been thrown out. I’ve had my own bouts of violent fantasies, esp when I was much younger working at walmart for a time, I can’t tell you how many times in my head I’ve lept the counter, drop kicking dumb ass customers into the ground.

    Honestly though, this all sounds pretty normal. People all deal with it differently, some give in, go out to the bar, get drunk, look for a fight, put some poor guy in the hospital, then go out and do it again. Some people just push it back or ignore it or channel it.

    You want to know what REALLY messes a guy up and desensitize them to life and violence… joining the police, armed forces or ER teams. Just watch a person change as they join any of those professions, where they are exposed to actual violence and human pain frequently, and they change. Not saying it makes people bad, just, they change, it affects them, its pretty hard to deny.

    Put a kid in front of an XBOX and and maybe he got frustrated at a boss or excited because his adrenaline is pumping, but it certainly isn’t going to deeply affect him the way real violence will.

  32. Koozer says:

    To summarise my own psyche: I enjoy running people over with tanks and slicing Orks into little pieces, but slow-motion headshots making people’s heads explode in ME3 make me cringe.

  33. TCM says:

    Funny, I was just talking with a friend the other day about whether or not violence can ever be ‘good’, with me taking the position it could be, and him taking the position that it is, at best, a ‘necessary evil’.

    Nathan’s thoughts are much more relatable to me than his.

  34. JFS says:

    From the anecdotal evidence gathered here, it seems as though violent media amplify violent thoughts and fantasies (that might well be natural, but maybe not as strong). This is in line with research, I think.

    Let’s just hope no one here loses control. Especially if it’s all about control to them. I wouldn’t wanna meet Nathan when he just somehow got thrust into an uncontrollable situation.

  35. rasatouche says:

    I rarely read something I relate to so well that it makes me want to comment, but man, I related to that a fair bit. Obsessive love of games, doing martial arts since I was around 7, got my first dan in ashihara karate & later kito ryu jujitsu. I’ve been lucky that I’ve only had one real altercation in my adult life, a guy swung a pool cue at my body, I kicked it mid swing and broke it in two (felt SO badass at the time!, never mind how it’s given me an awesome anecdote for life), clenched him, put him to the ground, figure four armbar, he squealed for a bit, bouncers finally arrived, I let him go & he was escorted out. All autopilot over 5 or 6 seconds. I’d shudder to think of what I would do if I lost my cool, or worse, actively wanted to hurt someone. I guess that’s the thing about martial arts, they teach you to keep your cool. I mean, all the nice, slow & deep breathing down to your hara, you can’t be angry when you’re breathing that deeply. Not to mention the discipline needed, I mean in an age of instant gratification, With a decent martial arts school you’re looking at at least 3 years, more like 5 – 6 to get a black belt.

    But I really do worry sometimes about what would happen if I lost my cool, sure I may be a harmless, meek ‘kung fu nerd’, but with 15 years of training i’ve learnt how to main, paralyze and murder people using nothing but my bare hands. Sure, you may know how to punch a pillow, but I can punch through half a dozen wooden boards.

    But even down to the fantasizing, when I’m walking around on a night out, I sometimes think if that guy tried to stab me with a knife, sidestep, close the distance, lock his arm, twist, he drops the knife, i put him to the ground and lever my bodyweight on his shoulder so his arm agonisingly pops out of it’s socket. It’s all automatic, probably partially due to the years of training so that these simple mechanical actions become a reflex action, so you don’t have to think. I’d say this is more a side effect of the years of martial arts than the gaming. I mean, if you’re thinking ‘what do I do with this knife that is coming at me’, you will get stabbed. So you think and train and train and train, until one day, it’s automatic, a reflex response. It lays there dormant in your subconscious until you need to use it. And besides, self defence isn’t ‘violence’, it’s controlling the situation. To the naysayers and aboslute minded pacifists, who wouldn’t dare learn martial arts because ‘it’s so violent’, should it ever happen, unlikely as a stabbing usually is, enjoy your time in hospital, or in the morgue while I on the other hand, walk away unharmed.

    I do love the violent videogames though, I keep going back to hotline miami lately. I remember the first night with that game, getting frustrated, cursing the mouse, trying to take out guys one at a time, until it ‘clicked’, then the levels became empowering joyrides of mass murder. I went from being weak and powerless, to a vengeful sprite of doom, carefully laying out a route, racking up that glorious 9x combo, nothing could stop me now. The sheer thrill of going from the hunted to becoming the hunter, the visceral ,joy of laying bloodied waste to all those gentlemen in nice white suits. The sheer bloodlust I feel playing that game is really something else. The music, the pulsating flashes everytime you kill someone, it’s just so much fun!

    But it’s a game, and violence is the backdrop to make you feel empowered and dominant. Sure you can come first in a racing game, and you feel like you competed and won, but violence makes you feel dominant, ergo powerful, and seeing as the basic idea of most games are ‘the player is the hero, let’s empower them’, it works well. It’s a pity there aren’t more Bioshocks, Spec Ops & even hotline miami later on, that really turn the notion on it’s head. Games that use violence to make you feel horrific rather than empowered. Not to mention i’m a pretty mellow guy in my day to day life, I don’t get angry with people, I don’t even raise my voice to others, I’m the epitome of cool, calm & collected. Games give me an outlet, a release for that pent up anger & the like. I’m a nice guy, but I do love some good virtual bloodshed, with a slick feedback loop to make me feel like a badass. Then I make some tea and go to bed.

    As for violence itself, violence of the uncontrolled kind, fueled by rage & other emotions, is destructive. It ruins lives and leaves dead & broken people in it’s wake. Controlled violence, of the self defence, heck, call it non-initiative violence, is good & necessary. Sure, it’s technically also ‘violence’, but it’s violence of the kind akin to heroic sacrifice, like the police who put themselves in harms way to keep you safe. It’s using violence to stop violence, and sure we’d like to solve every problem in a nice and happy way, but often the circumstances don’t allow for that, and violence to subdue someone is often necessary, and as long as it is used with restraint (you know, unlike some of those police videos that you see from america with a guy lying face down on the ground, meanwhile 15 police officers take turns whacking him with their nightsticks), it’s a force of good. It defuses the situation, and ideally leaves everyone alive & unharmed. Or something. God I ramble too much. Bleh.

  36. sonson says:

    Just to point out that the title of the series is “Gaming Made Me” not “All Gamers are the same” or “All gamers are like this.” It should be fairly obvious that this is an intensley subjective opinion piece I would have thought. And excellent it is too. Thank you Nathan, especially for your candour and honesty.

  37. Arathain says:

    Nathan, thank you for writing. You always have to bleed some to write the really good stuff, huh?

    It’s fascinating reading the comments and seeing the mix of people who feel a strong connection to Nathan’s experiences and those who feel none, and often feel some abhorrence.

    For what it’s worth, I am the least violent person I know. I’ve never been in a fight. I’ve studied a little bit of fencing, but no other martial art. I despise violence in real life in all its forms, and I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with how casually we treat pain and the ending of lives in our games. But the thing where you’re walking the streets at night, passing a stranger, and you rehearse a fight in your head? Yep, I do that. Heck, I at work the other day I got a phone call asking for help in the lab, and my brain constructed a somewhat elaborate fantasy involving the call being a pretext for an ambush as I went through the door. Cue more mental fight rehearsals.

    I have to accept that, pacifist as I am, violence is an aspect of my self, albeit one that is comfortably buried by a peaceful life and my personality. To be comfortable in my skin I have to accept and be comfortable with that, even if (I hope) I never act on it.

  38. zbmott says:

    I got into WarCraft II when I was small, too. I used to try to imagine myself as a death knight, but the closest I could get in my head to those reanimated ram things on which death knights mount themselves was a bicycle.

    The image stuck with me: A WarCraft II death knight, decked out in full death knight regalia, meandering a bicycle down a quiet suburban street, with the spokes going click-click-click.

  39. cptgone says:

    when i was a kid, i wasn’t allowed to have toy guns, or war novels.

    today, i’m still obsessed with WWII, and i keep a loaded gun in my bedroom (a supersoaker gun i use for peacekeeping purposes hehe).

    also, GTA gives me road rage (in-game only, so far) :)

  40. AmateurScience says:

    Really interesting piece. Very honest.

  41. mpk says:

    I’ve always enjoyed this series of articles but this is the first that I’ve personally and directly identified with.

    Nathan, you’ve put in words something that I’ve long felt, and for that I can only thank you.

    I went through a lot of bullying at primary and secondary schools, and games were an escape for me. I don’t know that I’ve ever had revenge-fantasies featuring my bulliers, but I do, even to this day, have violent attack-fantasies similiar to the one you described. I’ve never in my life committed a violent act towards another human being, but I quite often wish I could.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve stopped playing games where the main or only purpose is to kill ‘realistic’ depictions of humans (ie CoD, AssCreed, military shooters etc, although I have no issue with games such as Borderlands), or games where the violence is graphic for the sake of it (the neck stabbing trailer for Dishonoured sickened me).

    So. Yeah. I think I know how you feel.

  42. Hoaxfish says:

    Eh, I saw a 9 year old texturing a Saw-themed 3D model yersterday… you know, Saw, the torture-porn series of horror films.

  43. Bluerps says:

    What is interesting to me about this is, that even though my own relation to violence is completely different (in short, thoughts about committing violence just do not occur to me, at all), I could still relate with some parts of the story. Especially the utter frustration felt when repeatedly losing a game (I remember completely destroying an SNES controller as a child, after losing a race in Mario Kart). I still often feel this way today, though I control it much better.

    Anyway – it’s another great Gaming Made Me, so thanks for that.

  44. ScorpionWasp says:

    I’m a person who fucking LOVES ultra-violence in games/movies, but who in all likelihood would become a vegetarian if forced to kill his own food himself. In my brain, fictional and real violence are completely different things, and I can’t see how one could affect the other.

    • Lambchops says:

      Same here (apart from becoming a vegetarian!).

      I don’t get squeamish with gore in movies and games but struggle to watch any hospital based TV show featuring surgery because it’s, well. actually happening (my Mum always recalls seeing me white as a sheet coming in after leaving me watching an episode of Tomorrow’s World featuring some sort of medical procedure).. I’ll cause mayhem in something like GTA without much of a thought but be rather disturbed watching an average day on the 10 o’clock news.

      As such I didn’t really relate to the article that much but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

  45. P.Funk says:

    I find it funny to read all the people here who insist that there is no correlation between the things you experience in media and how it affects your personality. What a small simple view of the world people must have to think that everyone’s personality exists in a vacuum. How can people, experiences, and traumas have profound influences on the development of a personality if the things you spend much of your time digesting have absolutely none.

    Like the article’s author states, he (and myself for that matter) doesn’t believe that violence in gaming create violence in people, but its absurd to contend that it has absolutely no effect on a person, however small or inconsequential. I mean honestly, we’re internet people, you can’t tell me that you never saw something in porn that generated a desire to perhaps experience something with a real life partner, or experienced something in a game that created a fantasy or a growth of a fascination with something, violent or not.

    I’ve had a long history of taking something more profound out of many games I’ve played. Many of the realistic and sim like games I’ve played have lead me to become interested and even completely consumed by a particular historical context or period of human history, like the way Silent Hunter 3 made me become fascinated with U-boats in WW2 and has affected much of my understanding of WW2 in general. If all that can happen from a game how can experiencing violent content not change you in SOME WAY?

    I think its pretty sad how little people think about their own behavior and how facile their understanding of the world really is. Human psychology is an old study by now, but apparently most people don’t seem to appreciate some of the basic principles of behavioral science.

    • Lambchops says:

      I think you’re being a tad harsh.

      I think when people mention “no effect” it’s pretty much a short hand for “other factors have a more important effect and thus any effect from violence in gaming is small and inconsequential.”

      Then again maybe I’m making the same mistake as you and trying to project opinions onto people! Hence the use of “I think.”

      • cpt_freakout says:

        I still think that to classify the things you do in that way leads you to a pretty reductive account about yourself as a person. The thing about P. Funk’s comment and Nathan’s article is that it provokes the question ‘why?’ when it comes to understanding yourself, as one, which is to say in the way it’s the same guy or woman that recoils in disgust at the violence displayed in the news while being perfectly at ease running over hookers in GTA. The argument of the latter not ‘being real’ is indicative of one of those polemic things about our digital age, in the sense that yes, it’s not happening to an actual person, but the principle of whatever violence is in play is enacted, represented, and all things abstract begin and end with the concrete. Everything you experience or have experienced is making you the person you are right now, which is why you can’t really order or classify all of it as neatly as if you were making a list of your favorite books. Both the comment and the article are posing the question to you: why would you be so at ease with digital violence and not with ‘physical’ one? Saying one doesn’t matter and the other does is only a way of evading the implications of the question, but it’s also something I don’t think one can just go ahead and answer in one go at the thought.

        So, yeah, Teletubbies.

        • Lambchops says:

          I have thought about “why?” in the past and I’ve never come up with a satisfying answer. It’s not just the “real” vs “actual” violence issue that I haven’t resolved there are other side issues to it to.

          Such as why are some violent games appealing and others not (for me GTA, say against Hotline Miami)? Obviously the main factor isn’t the violence and is down to the mechanics, aesthetic and other such things but all of these are intrinsically linked with the violence of the game, so maybe it is to do with violence after all. At which point I just start making confusing circular arguments and realise that I’ve probably got other things to do than get to the bottom of this.

          I think one of the things I’ve taken away from pursuing a career in the sciences is that personally there comes a point where I have to accept a simplified view of things. I learn a simplified concept, I told things are more complicated, I relearn the concept and so on. Quite often I get to a point where I know whatever the concept is I will never fully understand it. I have to accept that it’s vastly complicated and I wont get my head round it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the simplified concept is necessarily useless, particularly if it works in a practical sense (think something like Newton’s laws of motion being a practical non relativistic case of special relativity).

          None of this means that people can’t search for more complicated answers themselves. And if someone puts across those answers in a way that makes sense to me then, well, I’ll have learned something new. If I still find it too complicated then that doesn’t mean I necessarily think they’re wrong, more that I don’t understand them and still want to hold to a practical, if simplified, view that feels useful to me. Such as me seeing a difference between “real violence” and “play violence” even if I can’t fully explain why this difference exists.

          I guess the other factor here (that I was trying to make clear earlier but probably didn’t articulate) is that I was explaining my specific perspective, in the same way that Nathan was explaining his. Perhaps it came across as if I was looking to shut down questioning and debate but I can assure you that was not my intention. Which I think was part of what I was trying to say in the rambling above, it’s a bit stream of consciousness I’m afraid, but now I’ve typed it I’m too lazy to edit it!

          So yeah, TInky Winky, DIpsy, La La, Po!

          • Lambchops says:

            @ Myself

            So reading a bit back the other thing I was meaning to get across but perhaps wasn’t succinct about was:.PFunk and cpt_Freakout, keep on trying to get people to question things, maybe some people will respond, maybe they wont, maybe they’ll be angry, maybe they’ll come to some new conclusions. It’s always worth encouraging people to question things.

            Y’know I think the line that irked me in the initial post was “Human psychology is an old study by now, but apparently most people don’t seem to appreciate some of the basic principles of behavioral science.” I think it just, seemed a bit of a sweeping generalisation of the posters in the thread and wanted to make me leap to people’s defence somewhat. I think when your encouraging people to think about something declarations of ignorance (even if there is truth in them – hello evolution deniers!) isn’t perhaps the best place to start.

  46. colorlessness says:

    I think this is the piece you should have written the first time, instead of the ‘we need to have a talk’ piece, because it reads like this is the piece you wanted to write.

    Anyway, this was nice, thanks.

  47. LennyLeonardo says:

    This is a really great article, and one which I can relate to in more ways than one.

    You’re not the only one who has/had those sorts of fantasies, Nathan. They can be frightening and disturbing and also an excellent way of understanding and reestablishing social boundaries, whilst also being a nice exercise for your imagination, and simultaneously a hideous reminder of what a horrible person you are and concurrently not really all that much to worry about, though perhaps at the same time a reason to take stock of your life, but just a bit of idle nonsense, though nonetheless… etc.

    I believe the same range of reactions is appropriate to violence in media as well, and that we need to understand that violence can be right/wrong/other, not just right or wrong.

  48. Grey Ganado says:

    I am now a little bit scared.

  49. Decimator says:

    Is the bloodstain supposed to look like a Mandelbrot set, subtly emphasizing the simplistic beauty you find in violence, or am I an over-analyzing nerd?

  50. Consumatopia says:

    I remember playing with some kind of building toy set as a kid (probably Construx) and my mother observed that everything I was building then had guns on it or was otherwise some kind of weapon, and that this didn’t used to be the case. I could see that she was correct, but I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.

    I don’t play so many violent video games as I used to, but I do still have violent fantasies, if not as detailed as other people’s here.

    My guess is that these fantasies don’t make me more violent, they make me less open–I’m more likely to see a stranger as a possible adversary than a possible friend. I’m not more likely to destroy things, I’m less likely to create things (then I would be without these fantasies).