Like everyone else, I was watching the news and reading the headlines all day last Saturday. The horrifying events in Charlottesville (and subsequent events) were shocking and heartbreaking and left me feeling bewildered and lost. By the end of the day, the events seemed to be over and there was nothing more to do, and – as I often do – I escaped into video games. It was an odd coincidence that I was playing through Wolfenstein at the time, a game in which Nazis have taken over the world and you lead a violent resistance against them. I was escaping a prison with some comrades and as I drove out I had to drive through a phalanx of Nazi guards. It was poor timing; even though they were Nazis, I wasn’t in the mood to use a car as a weapon that day and I haven’t wanted to ever since. It may not be today, but I think we’re getting close to the day when we’ll need to stop using cars as weapons in video games.
When I was growing up, there was always a great amount of attention paid to violent video games. Everyone seemed confident that playing violent video games would lead to more violent children. Nevermind how ridiculous the violence was or how terrible the games were, every news reporter and Congressional representative seemed convinced that these games would lead to a more violent society. That debate seems to be largely academic now but, as a gamer, I’m starting to feel argument reversing itself. Rather than trying to keep the violence in games outside of the real world, I find myself wanting to keep the violence of the real world out of my video games.
I’m not asking for games full of invincible pedestrians and I think there are smart ways to make hitting pedestrians hard or impossible to do. Games to be doing this already. Tom Clancy’s Wildlands is a game that allows you to engage in all kinds of violence but running people over is thankfully somewhat difficult (citizens dive out of the way). Arkham Knight famously prevented you from being able to kill with the Batmobile even though it seems designed explicitly for that purpose. I think Watch Dogs 2 does this as well if I remember correctly. Maybe this means we’re starting to see games with a little most maturity. Maybe game designers are starting to feel the same thing I’m feeling. All I know is that we’re a long ways from the days of Carmaggedon, from the days in which using cars as weapons was so preposterous that the game’s violence seemed ridiculous. Not any more. Today that violence seems to be the weapon of choice for spreading terror.
As I’m writing this, I’m seeing reading reports about the Barcelona attack in which a van has been used to kill at least thirteen people. That’s twice in less than a week that terrorists have used vehicles in to kill innocent people, and I don’t want any part of that. To be clear, I’m not saying that I think running people over in video games has anything to do with inspiring the use of cars as weapons that we’ve being seeing lately. I’m saying that if ISIS is doing this and Nazis are doing this, then I don’t want to play a game in which I have to do the same thing. We wouldn’t play a game in which we were asked to fly airplanes into skyscrapers, and it may be time to stop making games in which we run people over. I certainly don’t feel like playing them, at least not today.