When I was six years old I got my very first Nintendo. It was the original Nintendo, with the square controller, Super Mario Bros., and Duck Hunt. I’ve been a fairly serious video game player ever since then, and it’s my own little way to escape the world from time to time and immerse myself in a story. I love getting sucked into these massive worlds and living out the lives of these wild and different characters.
Having that passion I, along with so many others, have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Red Dead Redemption 2 ever since it was first announced a few years back. I pre-ordered the game and had it downloaded and ready to go the day it came out and it has more than lived up to my expectations. It’s an absolutely amazing game that is set in the year 1899 and is full of beautiful scenery, amazing gameplay, hours upon hours of various side missions to partake in, and an engaging (though maybe not entirely original) storyline.
It’s also incredibly violent.
Now, I personally don’t really have much of a problem with video game violence. I think that 99.9% of human beings are able to distinguish between video games and reality and are in no way influenced towards real-world violence by playing a game.
This game, however, does offer some situations that can really push the boundaries of video game violence
This game, however, does offer some situations that can really push the boundaries of video game violence. For example, as I was roaming the vast world of Red Dead Redemption 2 one night I stumbled across a small gathering of some KKK members. They were in the middle of introducing some new members to their little hate group and, in honor of the event, decided to burn a cross to celebrate. Well, with these men being total idiots, a couple of them managed to light themselves on fire. I honestly felt a little sense of justice as I stood there and did nothing while watching the two men panic and scramble around, their robes engulfed in flames as they went, until they finally succumbed to the fire, their little digital lives of lynching minorities now at an end. The rest of the idiots (Rockstar purposefully made the men dullards, and good on them) had scrambled away, leaving only the leader of the group there to face justice.
The point of that anecdote is that there are some silly little moments in the game that are there for a chuckle, but which also contain just enough truth in them that they elicit an actual emotional response from the player. For me, it was that sense of justice at seeing these men, people who I would despise if I saw them in real life, getting some video game karma served to them. Of course, I wouldn’t wish for the real-life counterparts to be burned to death, or any serious harm to come to them at all. But I certainly wouldn’t feel any love towards them.
On the flip side of the KKK group, however, we come to the subject of this article. In the game there also exists groups of women who are out diligently fighting for universal suffrage. In select parts of the game the player, through the main character, is able to attack these women if they so choose. One YouTuber playing the game decided to do just that. He made a video of himself playing where he not only attacked one of these feminist women but ultimately tortured her in multiple ways before killing the character by throwing her down a well. The YouTuber in question claimed that it was supposed to be a joke, and that honestly might have been his sole intention. He may not have meant any harm by it at all.
The video, however, soon became a hit. It began racking up hundreds of thousands of views, and the comments on it reportedly got real dark, real fast. Comment after comment of men coming out and saying that all feminists should be treated like that in real life. That feminists deserved to be beaten and killed. A lot of hate speech quickly filled the comments section, and YouTube thankfully took notice of it. They quickly pulled the video, then followed that up by suspending the YouTuber’s entire account. (After a review, however, they did reinstate the user’s account and all of his videos, minus the one in question.)
Take, for example, any Call of Duty game. The entire point of the game is to shoot other people. There is really nothing else to it. You go out and try to kill the other player before they kill you.
For anybody who doesn’t know, people playing video games is a massive part of YouTube, generating millions of views and earning some of the biggest names of the genre millions of dollars per year. Along with that is the fact that a lot of video games are violent. Take, for example, any Call of Duty game. The entire point of the game is to shoot other people. There is really nothing else to it. You go out and try to kill the other player before they kill you. It is pure violence. And there are countless videos on the platform of people playing the many versions of that game.
In an interview with Motherboard, the YouTuber in question asked what the difference was between the violence in his banned video and the violence seen in so many other video game videos on the site?
I’ll actually take it a step further; why do I, as well as many others, feel it’s okay to be amused watching the KKK members burn alive, but get upset at the thought of somebody torturing a women’s suffrage activist? Isn’t all violence bad? Should it all be treated the same?
In short… no.
(It’s at this point of my argument when people on the extremes start calling me names and letting me know just how stupid I am. And that’s because people on the extremes, on both sides of the aisle, only see the world in black and white. They don’t understand the concept of a gray area, and that there are variables to nearly every issue in life that need to be considered. They don’t want to bother looking at the complexity of issues, but instead only take a surface glance, decide to be offended somehow, and start making personal insults. Please… don’t be an extremist. Anyways…)
In Call of Duty type games, the real-life players aren’t trying to kill each other out of hatred. They don’t have a moralistic or cultural hatred for one another. While such things might occasionally pop up between people who are playing, it’s not a common occurrence and certainly not one that the creators of the game ever intended. Call of Duty, and other first-person shooters like it, are basically glorified games of tag that you can play while sitting down and not actually moving. It’s just a game, and nobody is ultimately trying to degrade or dehumanize anybody else.
As for the KKK members in Red Dead, they are quite obviously put in there as a joke. Nobody likes white supremacists, and the designers of the game made them out to be bumbling idiots on purpose just to be amusing. In a violent game, it was meant as little more than a bit of slapstick humor.
And that is where the divide happens. That is where historical and cultural context has to come into the conversation. Because there are still a LOT of men out there who hate women.
Now, there are some videos online of people torturing the KKK members as well, and those instances do get a little closer towards the realm of not being okay. It absolutely becomes not okay if the video was posted and the comments section quickly filled up with a bunch of people saying, in all seriousness, that all white men deserved to be killed because they’re all terrible human beings.
And that’s where the divide happens. That’s where historical and cultural context, as well as a touch of common sense, has to come into the conversation. Because there are still a LOT of men out there who hate women. There are a lot of men who honestly believe that feminists are threatening their way of life and destroying the world. They watched this video and they didn’t think it was a joke to laugh away. No, for many of them it was a fantasy that they would love to be able to play out in real life. That right there is what sets this video apart from the others.
Women were treated as less than human for the vast majority of history by nearly every single culture across the globe, but certainly by Western Civilization. There are still lingering wounds there, and the type of behavior shown in the video, and most especially the response to it, need to be looked at through the lens of history and understood as not acceptable in modern society. Anybody who tries to say otherwise is either being purposefully obtuse or is an extremist, and they are certainly the kind of person who drives in the left lane on the highway. Once again… don’t be an extremist and understand that all things are not equal and need to be taken in context.
YouTube made the right call here. There is a massive and glaring difference between violence for the sake of violence (or violence meant to be amusing), and violence that incites hate. I know the difference, and I truly hope that you know the difference as well.