My goodness it’s fun bludgeoning people to death. I know I’ve written scathingly in the past about so-called ultraviolent video games, but that’s before I discovered Postal 2 and began to appreciate the nihilistic abandon of chasing a fat bird down the street, tasing her from behind and then lopping off her head with a shovel. Mea maxima culpa.
Business Insider‘s James Cook has an admirably even-handed report this morning with the details of the latest hoo-hah: you can now have first-person sex with prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto V, before—you guessed it—killing them to get your money back. In the past, your modesty was protected by a car door and the camera angle, but now players have full control over how they see the sex. And the murder afterwards.
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this all a bit sick? Isn’t there something a bit… wrong with men and women who sit at home acting out violent fantasies? As I say, I used to think so too. But the research says there’s absolutely no evidence that violence in games, or depictions of sexy women, make players any more violent, or misogynistic, in real life.
In fact, at least one university professor, Matthew Grizzard at the University at Buffalo, believes that video games make players more ethical, by increasing their sensitivity to, and awareness of, moral issues. “Violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity,” says Grizzard. “This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others.”
He continues: “Our findings suggest that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations upon which human beings make moral judgments. This is particularly relevant for video-game play, where habitual engagement with that media is the norm for a small, but considerably important group of users.”
That certainly rings true when you consider the delicate moral sensibilities of the GamerGate movement, which, although unfairly painted by prudes and the offence brigade as a misogynistic movement, is principally concerned with the disproportionate airtime pseudo-academic feminist critics are awarded by the lazy, morally compromised games press, which mainly consists of spoilt West Coast brats having tantrums about perceived sexism.
GamerGate supporters are genuinely appalled by ethical failures in journalism. And, although I haven’t done a straw poll, I’d be willing to bet their views on murder and rape aren’t that positive either—perhaps because they, far better than the games journalists and games critics who, when all’s said and done, don’t really like video games all that much, understand the difference between the real and virtual worlds. That’s why I can’t get too upset about all this ho-slaying, theft, murder and other general depravity.
And, you know, the sort of people who get upset about these games are the sort of people who, frankly, deserve to be permanently pissed off. The family values moral panic brigade and the feminist outrage factory on Twitter are, although they wouldn’t like the comparison, basically the same kinds of people. And they’re both wrong: wrong about the research, wrong about the societal effect of these video games, and definitely very wrong to want to censor them.
So carry on shagging, slugging and slaughtering whores, GTA fans. If for no other reason than the fact it makes the right people furious. Because—I don’t mind admitting it—sending those frothing, censorious bores into apoplectic fits of rage is one of the most rewarding games on the internet.