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Saturday, July 24, 2010


Right now, I'm rather glad I didn't put anything up last night. See, my mother is, was, the owner of a very special animal that we had to put down today. What do you care? If you play video games, the kind of which I've described time and again on this blog, namely First Person Shooters, you've killed thousands and thousands of people. Virtual people, mind, but people nonetheless. Until about three hours ago, I had never once seen a real living being cease to be so, and become a lifeless shell of gas, flesh and bone. Bella, the horse's name (and this is relevant), was the last in a long line of animals to fail in some way. Never before, however, has my mother had to watch as an animal she saved twice, at enormous emotional and monetary expense, die despite all her best efforts. Keeping a straight face, even for an animal I had very little connection to, I found exceedingly difficult, given my mother's response to the finality of her decision. As Bella laid down and began to fade, I could not help but wonder at the sheer audacity and callousness we gamers feel towards killing when we play games. We think nothing of shooting a man in the head and watching him fall. "He'll respawn in 10 seconds," we say. "He isn't real," we tell ourselves. "This doesn't affect me," we lie. That's bull and we all know it. We become inured to death at a younger and younger age, or so we think. Until we actually see it, we cannot know. I can contest, at this very moment, with all my heart, that had I not played these games for as long as I have, I would have bawled and crumpled right along with my parents. That I kept my composure at all is testament to the hardening of my spirit in the face of death. This is a horrible thing.

So shooter games make us cold creatures with no sympathy, is that what I'm saying? No, it isn't, but they do adversely affect the way we view the world. Guns become less instruments of death, pain and misery and more means to an end. Chemicals that stop the heart are no less potent than a story device, albeit a powerful one. I watched today as a simple blue liquid, it could have easily been Kool-Aid, killed a 1200 pound animal with no pain or regret. I watched as she slowly drained of energy, and finally succumbed. I began to think, as I sat watching my YouTube videos, how awful death really is.

And we do not restrict it to humans either. Animals in games go through horrid things as well. A game called Red Dead Redemtion allows you to kill your horse in any variety of ways, and I've heard people talk about how cool it was to watch their character and the horse tumble down a cliff "spectacularly." Do these people have any idea what it really means to own a horse, let alone in the Old West? Do they understand the bond that forms between a horse and its rider, its owner, how the owner caters to the animal's every demand, seeks comfort from it when he/she feels down, how riding provides more than simple exercise but performs miracles? Google "therapeutic horseback riding" in your state and watch some videos of children who would otherwise never walk get on their feet and take steps for the first time in a decade or more. Watch as children ten years and older, who've never spoken a word in their life call out how much fun they are having. Watch as their parents burst into tears of joy at what wonders the horse can do, what it did for their child, what happiness it brought to their otherwise miserable lives. Go to the library and read about the love the cowboys held for their horses, how the Native Americans, nay, the Original Occupants of the Northern Western Hemisphere, cared and loved and cherished their horses. Go to a horse barn in your state or town or country and see the love that circulates between a horse and its owner, an owner who values the horse as a being and not a tool. Ask anyone who's put such a magnificent animal down what they felt as the last of life ebbed away. What did they feel? What level of pain did they go through? How much did they spend to keep their friend alive? Did they call for "Godspeed" as my mother did when the last breath left the body, tears streaming down their faces? I guarantee at least some of them did.

At the end of it all, I suppose what I ask is that, the next time you go about your business playing games filled with needless death, you ask yourself what you are really doing. Consider for just a moment the ramifications of war, the momentous sadness it causes. Think on the cruelty of the fantasy of video games. Do not simply shrug off with lies and rationalizations. Look to death in your own life, for there will be some if there has yet to be, and think, just for a moment, what that headshot really means.


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