Monday, October 18, 2010

Kill Me Now!

This posting's title is just one of the many phrases heard in the Postal video game.  Like Doom and the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Postal came ready-made with controversy. 

The game was pretty simple: Kill people.  Shoot them.  Blow them up.  Use a flame thrower.  Whatever you had at your disposal.  Kill enough and exit the level.  Start again.

I played my copy (which I still have) on the Mac.  Getting to the final level, which was a school, if I recall, gave me a feeling of revulsion.  Things, however, weren't as they appeared, which helped me feel better about the game.  It was the first time I can ever remember thinking that maybe a game had gone too far.  (If you've played it, you know what I mean.)

I didn't play this game for the challenge or some great storyline.  I played it as tension relief.  Bad day at work?  Shoot a few civilians in the safety of a game.  It beat doing it for real, and that's what I think a lot of people missed.

Games like this are a great way to get the stress out in a way that isn't harmful to anyone.  Little kids play war, and then they grow up and do this.  It has nothing to do with real violence, and little to do with anti-social feelings, either.  It is, first and foremost, a game.

The clerk who sold it to me (I was over 18) was hesitant.  He said something about not being sure he should even be selling it.  I didn't need his social commentary, but politely reminded him that it was just a game.  He did not, it should be noted, refuse to take my cash.

Every time a politician or parent group gets up in arms about a video game, I think back to this one.  I think of how some people will never understand it, and maybe they aren't meant to.  Games like this should raise questions and cause debate, but they shouldn't be banned.  The real problem, something that is never discussed in these debates, is not that the games are violent, but that we live in a society that is so stressful that these games exist as stress relief.  That is something that is never looked at in the arguments, but is essential nonetheless.  Perhaps if we lived in a saner world, there would be no need for these games.  Until that day comes, though, I'll happily blow things up in pixel and polygon form instead of steel and concrete.

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