I've just read an article about how a small Connecticut town has set up a voluntary video game return program, seemingly aimed at collecting violent games. On the surface this seems like a dumb, reactionary response to a recent atrocity... but considering that the School superintendant behind the idea is quoted as saying
'We're suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We're asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child's gaming habits), we're comfortable.'
ignoring the fact that the donated games are likely to be burnt, it doesn't actually seem too bad. It does seem to imply that many people see a link between video games and real-life crazy and violent people though. So i've had a little think about how games with an emphasis on violence affected my development.
And the truth is that i have always found that games with really visceral and involved combat often leave me looking for less bloody ways through a quest.
Like in Dragon Age: Origins. I firmly believe that in order to get the most out of any RPG you need to play on a difficulty level that is slightly outside of your comfort zone, because this makes certain choices far more harrowing and important. Like in DA, when you have the option of sacrificing some elven slaves in order to receive a big buff to your health. On easy, it's barely a decision. If i'm playing as a good guy, i don't do it. But on Nightmare, because combat is that much more difficult, even though i was playing as a good guy, i had to consider it. The Wardens say to do whatever is necessary to battle the Blight, after all.
Anyway, there are some really combat-intensive parts of the game, such as in Orzammar and the Deep Roads. Because of this, i ended up letting a lot of petty criminals flee with their lives.
Of course the Darkspawn scum can never be given that option, but i can honestly say that a lot of violent games leave me looking for more peaceful means to resolve an issue. You need to pick your battles and be more discerning when it comes to deciding who really needs to die or be beaten to within an inch of their lives.
To that end, video games echo and enforce real life realities.
When i was at school, unbelievably other children would sometimes make fun of me. I knew that fighting was hard and mana potions were scarce, so wasn't about to engage every hoodlum that mocked me.
I saved my stamina for the big issues, like when some bastard-child nicked my yo-yo. And even then, i knew it was best to not get my hands dirty and instead paid the Cannon brothers two weeks worth of pocket money to beat him up and get it back for me.
After my associates were done with the young rapscallion, he was laying on the grass crying and i was presented with an opportunity to kick him in the head. But i didn't. I not only taught him a lesson about not taking things that don't belong to you, but i also taught him a lesson about mercy. Because as games told me, often you need to take the paragon/light side/way of the open palm path if you want to unlock the best ending.
It really is like games taught me. There is always a better way to solve an issue than with your own fists. And i am happy to report that games like Dragon Age are teaching my 13 year old brother similar lessons.
Also, as there have been a lot of 'top games of 2012 lists' i'd just like to add that my absolute favourite game of the year was Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which just did an amazing job of bringing back the G1 characteristics of my favourite robots. Risen 2 and Mass Effect 3 run it close.