So the new HBO series West World based on the cult classic Sci-Fi movie has been released to rave reviews, on of course there are already discussions regarding the sex and nudity in the show. From the usual suspects, of course, those being The Mary Sue. But I am not here to discuss whatever shitty article they decide to post. Rather I am here to discuss what Jonathan Nolan producer of this new series had to say about video game immersion during an interview and how it ties in with the overall theme of the show. For those who are unfamiliar with the premise of the show, you can watch the trailer over here. The basic premise of the show boils down to a virtual wild west world that is filled with robots, where people can escape to and indulge in whatever fantasy they might have without any real word repercussions.
He made a comment during an interview that stuck with me. So I will be addressing it here: “When people play Grand Theft Auto, they don’t think about the moral repercussions of what they’re doing.” Gamers like myself play games for escapism. I believe I am a well-balanced adult, who is reasonably well adjusted. I am neither racist, sexist or violent. When it comes to playing video games I want to explore aspects of my personality the law and common sense would not allow me to do in real life. Like playing a Hitman, a murderous thug on a killing spree or a scurvy pirate riding the high seas. These are virtual characters so, of course, we don’t feel bad about killing them. That is the entire appeal of video games and why people enjoy playing them.
And this ties in nicely with the moral police telling us what we can and cannot enjoy. Of course, it would be totally different if it was a real life situation. Human’s, in general, don’t think about the moral repercussions of say killing a cockroach or a fly either. But it starts becoming a significant issue once the thing being killed has the ability for higher cognitive functions and have the ability for emotions and abstract thinking, like say mammals. Hence we place more importance and value on the lives of fellow human beings than any other creature on the planet. And I don’t think we have reached that point in our virtual entertainment just yet where we would possibly start questioning our moral choices in video games.
Of course video games and writers can trick us into caring for a virtual character on screen and make us question or choices and judgments while playing some companies and people like Telltale Games and David Cage has perfected this into an art form. But it is still a far cry from an actual human being of blood and flesh that can feel emotions like pain, love, and happiness. While the recent leaps forward in virtual reality make the experience more interactive it still has a certain disconnect when it comes to killing in a video game versus killing in the real world. Which is why I always laugh when the media tries and paint us gamers and video games as the main cause for what is wrong with society today. When almost all of us can distinguish between what is reality and what is fantasy.
[Editorial Note:] I can only imagine this being the case for many years to come till we start mixing our virtual reality world with what happens out in the real world. But that sounds more like the plot if a badly written B-movie that Hollywood loves to produce.