As far back as I can remember into my childhood, videogames have always been violent murder simulators, training children to be efficient killers who have no ounce of compassion or regard for human life. Mario, my first videogame icon, stomped defenseless animals to death under his mighty plumber boots, fountains of blood and brains spurting from the mashed remains of a Goomba who was only minding his own business, bringing milk and eggs home to a now widowed wife and fatherless child. Super Mario Bros. chose to keep these deep family connections hidden from the player, tricking children and adults alike into thinking this was just a game about a man saving a damsel in distress; when, in reality, the calculating Nintendo was attempting to raise a generation of children to be unfeeling robots, not even giving our 5-year-old minds the CHANCE to question our motives. I had gotten my first taste of blood, was already becoming a die-hard Nintendo fanboy, and I was hungry for more. Nintendo knew it had its hooks in me, and was eager to shape me into a cold-hearted killer.
Above: the very definition of violent depravity
The year was 1991, and Nintendo would not let up on their campaign to turn me into a monster. Enter Super Mario World, a game where one of the very first choices you make is to either leave a cute little dinosaur scarred for life and in perpetual pain as a squished, now blinded version of itself, or to take it out completely and have it leave this mortal coil. Yoshi the green dinosaur made his first appearance as a wild animal who had to be subdued and controlled by you, the player. Indeed, Yoshi would sprint around manically like a beheaded chicken, running off ledges into certain death if you did not mount him and show him you were the boss. Mario would use Yoshi to smite his enemies at his own discretion, violently bopping him on the head to force him to ingest foes whole. And if you missed a jump and were plummeting to your death? You could always do this:
Mario teaches us that lives are expendable as long as we save our own skin
Jesus, and I haven't even gotten to Bowser's children, some of whom Mario drops into molten lava to be BURNED ALIVE. That whole talk back in the day about Nintendo being too kiddy and childish? Please; I was ready to smear turtle/lizard/dinosaur blood on my face should I ever decide to become a plumber and venture into an ancient world of make-believe to rescue a princess who was kidnapped by a spiky Godzilla-type thing. Parents and guardians that raise you and teach you the difference between reality and fantasy; what are those?
Is Fox aiming at the enemy, or slowly moving his cursor to target the ever-loquacious Slippy?
Nintendo brought us new hardware, and with it, more realistic gameplay. They were smart, crafty; what better way to train us for reality now that we were close to adulthood? Star Fox 64 was made to prepare me for a career in dangerous, dog-fighting space flight with anthropomorphic wing men at my side. These animals, nay, BROTHERS IN ARMS, were so real, I could hear them speaking to me through my television. "DO A BARREL ROLL," said the wise, sagely bunny rabbit; words that have helped shape me into the man I am today. Moral choices were presented to me before I had to tackle them in real life: do I keep a wise-ass bird alive to show me a hidden exit, or do I shoot him down for running his mouth and insulting me early on? My blood lust was not sated; in fact, it had grown over time, nurtured by the devious Nintendo. Games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark taught me that blocky soldiers deserved to be shot in the butt and groin; it's not like actual human interaction, education, religion, and common sense ever taught me that killing is wrong and that human life should be valued. It's such a shame we don't live in a world with an established ratings system that is honored by decent retail employees that don't sell games to underage kids or tell parents what each rating means and what content is included in each game they buy for their children; otherwise, my life could have been salvaged.
Clearly the face of a man with a lot of blood on his hands
Let my story be a warning to all those who think videogames are just harmless forms of entertainment: they are nothing more than violent bloodbaths of carnage and gore. They can never touch on important themes like love and loss, where a girl and her friends can rescue someone she truly cares for from certain doom by swapping in a clone of said someone at a certain point in the past and she can express such a deep caring and love for this person when he is saved from the brink of death in a 16-bit game with no voice acting that will certainly NOT bring a tear to your eye. They can never be heart-wrenching and tell a story about a woman who saves a baby whose species she hunted relentlessly, who views her as its own mother, who sacrifices itself to save her life in an ending so touching that it stays with you forever. No, games are just gruesome, and can make you feel no emotions whatsoever. It is too late for me; if only Nintendo had made emotionally-charged games that elevated the medium as a whole, had made games that got us to think, to laugh, and to cry.
If only.view gallery