Killing is bad.
Well, at least killing innocent people is bad. Murdering certain bad guys can be a good thing, but I don’t want to cover that ethical issue here. The essential thought is that ending someone’s life has also a negative effect on the offender.
Transferring the concept of killing to the medium video games, the same thoughts don’t apply anymore. Suddenly, killing is fun.
Of course, the main reason for not feeling guilty when you put someone to death ingame is that it’s not real. But the virtuality doesn’t explain why slashing has the contrary effect: it why does it make us happy?
One idea is that it’s because humans are originally bad and cruel. Only the rules, norms and laws being established when people live together countervail the bestial human behaviours. When playing video games, these rules are temporary invalid so that the player is able to show its inner beast and thus to enjoy killing.
Another approach is to consider the idea that killing someone bad might have another effect on the murderer as killing an innocent person. Thus you’ll get to another possible explanation. Playing the game makes you feel like you really save the country/the world/the galaxy/the universe. And I guess you get cheery when you’re the reason for the world’s continuity. This idea might apply at specific moments, like when you’re about to kill the final boss being responsible for the evil plans. Still, I don’t think that this is the reason why you enjoy games like ‘Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’ or ‘Diablo 3’. You don’t think about the effects an individual kill has; you just enjoy your expressed power at the particular second.
Regarding competitive video games, an analogy to athletic contests can be seen. The act of killing itself is no longer the origin of the joy. It’s the sportive thought of who kills more often/gets less often killed and therefore who is the better player that becomes important. This behaviour has always been a fundamental human one since it has always been important to be better than others to get the job, the girl or even to survive.
Killing virtual enemies works off stress. You can release all bottled-up frustration and sorrows. It reveals your abilities to you; it shows you that you capable of something or it makes you feel like it at least. The effect stays the same: you get happy, relaxed and confident. Then again, playing other games (e.g. racing games) or doing other stuff (sports) have the same effects.
Maybe the deciding factor when it comes to the joy of virtual slashing is that you’re able to shit on all those existing conventions. Maybe this exorbitant slaughter of virtual people enables us to stop researching our problems and above all duties as thinking humans and just enables us to have some fun.
So if you’re worried about a mistake you made, a lack of money, a disease or an upcoming exam, then take a break, smash some virtual heads and enjoy it! Afterwards there’ll be enough time and energy to fulfil your duties and to attack your problems. With this in mind; bye, I’m on my way to jump on some turtle heads!
A Gamer’s Panorama
So what is your favorite game to blow off some steam? Let me know in the comments!