Many people are familiar with the horror story that video games are an evil that teaches cruelty, zombies fragile minds and corrupts society. Although statistics and history clearly show that the relationship between computer entertainment and society is built a little differently. Moreover, we at Cybersport.ru believe that video games are great for raising humanism and empathy in people – and we are ready to prove it.
Games, like any kind of art, primarily reflect the state of things in the world, and do not determine it. It is not surprising that they really have violence and cruelty. However, they also have a place for the best manifestations of human nature – hope, friendship, compassion. In fact, many, even very bloodthirsty at first glance, titles teach us good. They do it very differently, and their methods can be divided into five groups.
Method One – Bans
Let’s start with the obvious: sometimes video games simply do not make it possible to use violence – even to protect friends, the highest good or a platinum trophy. Public organizations and control bodies are very fond of such titles, since there is no contentious content in them – many people think that such should be the entertainment for children.
These games show us what can be interesting without shooting and killing. These include all titles outside the “action” category – urban development strategies (Cities: Skylines), walking simulators (Firewatch), puzzles (Human Fall Flat) and others.
However, even though it is physically impossible to harm anyone in these games, they cannot be considered truly humanistic. After all, they limit us, and this does not fit well with education.
It is impossible to explain that violence is bad without showing it. It is impossible to teach a person to make the right choice without letting him choose. That is why, paradoxically, the value of life is better shown by those games that include violent scenes.
Method Two – Promotion
Games that use the second method try to reward for humane ways of passing and are punished for excessive bloodthirstiness. So they push even those who are used to walking on corpses to a more peaceful style.
In stealth games, the hero is usually too weak for an open battle, so he is forced to sneak in the shade. But this does not hinder the use of violence – misanthropy can be satisfied covertly. To combat this, developers introduce score tables in which they earn points for murders. Do you want to be the most-most – moderate bloodthirstiness.
It may seem that this restriction is as artificial as a complete ban on violence. But this is not so – a child can be fed vegetables through a tube, or you can encourage a cookie for the fact that he decided to eat them himself.
Some games explain the desire to minimize kills by ENT. For example, Agent 47 from the Hitman series cannot be called a great humanist – he is cold and indifferent to human lives. But he also teaches that only purpose deserves death. Extra killings are unprofessional, dangerous and pointless.
Motivation works similarly in cop games like SWAT 4, Battlefield Hardline and Rebel Cops. They are united by the mechanics of detention – law enforcement officers should try to arrest the criminals, and not shoot them on the spot. In case of violation of these rules, the player risks losing points or failing the task.
Method Three – Choice
The ability to influence plot development is an important element of most RPGs. In some games, such choices straightforwardly lead to conditionally good or bad endings; in others, cause-effect relationships are so confused that it’s very difficult to figure them out without a guide. The best RPGs give fans a lot of room for acting out: they will not encourage or reproachfully shake their heads – do as you know, but get ready to face the consequences of your decisions.
One would think that having received freedom, people will immediately begin to do various terrible things that they cannot do in real life. But no, statistics suggest otherwise. According to one of the creators of Mass Effect, 92% of the players in it have chosen the role of the hero – they politely communicated with the NPC and showed nobility in every possible way. Despite the fact that the developers did not reward this behavior.
In Detroit: Become Human, most also chose to save the innocent, solve problems peacefully, and kill only when absolutely necessary. User selection statistics can be viewed after passing. It shows that even in the most unobvious situations, the players sought to maintain humanity.
In many respects, the merits in the humane passage of games belong to the users themselves. After all, usually developers do not push in any way to good ways – however, sometimes this is not necessary – the narrative itself copes with the task.
For example, this happens in Red Dead Redemption 2. Her main character Arthur Morgan has never been a good person. He robbed, killed, and committed other evil deeds, but the events of the game made him begin to change and seek redemption. RDR 2 will not punish the user for selfish decisions, but it will go against the logic of the game – it turns out that the whole story did not affect Morgan in any way.
In other cases, gameplay mechanics stand up for humanism. Some games with wide freedom of action can be played in different ways – to kill everyone and everyone or to rely on stealth and completely renounce violence.
Maniacal passage may seem fun, but ultimately it will turn into a straightforward routine – the player will solve all problems in one way. The nondescript path of the pacifist, on the contrary, requires ingenuity – it makes you look for extraordinary approaches and use the full potential of the game.
Method Four – Challenge and Temptation
The path of the pacifist in RPG leads us to the fourth method of educating humanity. After all, everyone from school times knows that any lesson learned needs to be consolidated and verified.
Passing without kills is usually much more difficult than standard game paths and as a result offers almost no reward. For example, in The Outer Worlds, a pacifist player had to to remain practically without experience, since most of it can be obtained only in battle.
It turns out that The Outer Worlds literally resists excessive pacifism, although it provides for such a path of passage. She challenges game skills, agility and ingenuity. And that’s how it motivates! Yes, some will avoid killing just to test the game design for durability. But others will see that even in situations where violence cannot seem to be avoided, another way can be found.
However, sometimes developers go a little further in checking players – they do not just provide paths of varying difficulty, but openly push them to the most negative of them. They are tempted to do something terrible for the reward, although they actually expect the opposite from you.
One of the most famous cases of such verification was at BioShock. At some point, the game confronted the hero with a choice – to kill a little girl for a large portion of resources or spare her. Faced with the episode for the first time, the user cannot know that one day he will receive a bonus for his humanity. For him, this is a choice between the practical and tangible use of resources and … nothing – the disappearance of a pair of pixels from the screen.
During the release of BioShock, many were outraged that the developers allegedly encouraged the killing of children. Game designer Ken Levin even had to separately explain to reporters that this is only trick. She had to prove – games can appeal to conscience, a sense of duty and cause empathy towards lonely, innocent and defenseless creatures.
Just think about it. If a person refused to kill little sisters in spite of a cold calculation, then he is able to empathize with a fictional character. He is afraid to take life from someone who has never, in fact, had it. If this is not a victory for humanistic ideas and the educational work of video games, then what?
Method Five – Necessary Evil and Empathy
We have already found out that games teach us good – some literally instruct us, others want us to get to everything ourselves. But there remains one more category of games that seems to drop out. So can action games and shooters teach philanthropy?
I think so – even in them there are particles of humanism. In most action scenarios, the user takes on the role of a hero. It can be a soldier who defends his homeland, or a policeman fighting crime. With their hands we do evil, but we do it in the name of a good purpose.
Other games do not justify the protagonists. They call for killings, but at the same time make us feel at ease. Often this happens due to the “humanization” of the NPC – sometimes it takes notes or a couple of phrases that can remind you that we are not just a collection of polygons, but some kind of person with his own (albeit modest) story.
For example, during the passage of Dishonored 2, I read the note “Unsent letter to the family”, which lay near the sleeping soldier. It was addressed to “Emma, Philip and little Edgar,” and signed – “Father.” Its content was extremely ordinary, but suddenly in front of me was not a faceless opponent, but the head of the family. When in a minute I had to kill all the NPCs, for a moment I had the thought that I left the children orphans. After that, I tried a lot harder to go through the game without casualties.
Books can tell us about responsibility; cinema can show how to do good; music teaches to feel. But only video games give us the opportunity to apply all the lessons in practice, and that is why they are better than anyone else able to teach us the unshakable truths about compassion and humanity. Of course, this does not apply to all representatives of the genre. The most valuable and memorable lessons bring to the players only a few. However, quite a few contribute to the general process, consciously or not. Have you seen games that make you seriously think about the value of human life?