A Bloody Torso, Video Game Violence and Responsibility

People who really love videogames are no strangers to shame. In fact, they’ve probably dealt with it in some capacity throughout the entirety of their lives, and hide their hobby in the closet. They know what’s said about the activity, i.e., it’s a childish waste of time. But those who look earnestly to videogames for deeper meaning and artistry sometimes deal with shame on a whole other level.

[See bottom of the page for relevant image – just be warned that it is horrific and grotesque and triggering and just the worst]

This bloody torso is being released as something of a trophy that comes with the “Zombie Bait” edition of the game Dead Island. It’s a summation of all that is shameful about the videogame industry wrapped up in one distasteful piece of pop culture vulgarity. To be fair, the trophy is being released for a game that is essentially about bikinis and zombies. But whatever amount of artistic license you want to give the developers, that still doesn’t erase the image in my head of someone actually having one of these things sitting proudly on their living room mantle.

In recent years — and in particular, recent months — the role of videogames in the deterioration of America’s cultural values seems to have been discussed by just about every special interest group out there. One of the most interesting “discussions” occurred when the NRA got in on the action, hoping to pass responsibility for our disturbingly violent culture to almost anyone but themselves. I watched as the videogame industry reacted on Twitter, mocking the NRA President’s lack of choice words.

One clever tweeter said this: “BREAKING: Following NRA’s path, alcohol industry now blaming drunk driving on ‘too much Mario Kart'”. Here is another: “There’d be less videogame violence if all videogame characters had guns” and yet another: “Man, the NRA is really shooting itself in the foot. But what if that foot had a gun? MAN VS. FOOT”.

However, as the jokes, insults, and play-on-words came rolling in, it all began to feel more and more like a nervous tic. The videogame industry was orienting itself in pretty much the same shameful posture as the gun industry. Let the blame fall somewhere else, anywhere else.

So how do we begin to move forward?

For starters, let’s begin to take some serious responsibility for the culture we live in. We are all part of the problem here, and that certainly includes the culture of violent videogames that exists. Maybe it’s also time we own up to the fact that we live in a culture that has embraced violence on pretty much every level, from the decisions made in the Pentagon down to the things we do in our homes. Videogames and all other forms of art or entertainment are merely a reflection of our culture — and on a deeper level, a reflection of our hearts. If we are to start changing things, it has got to start there.

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