There Are Reasons I Don't Talk About Video Game Violence MuchPatricia Hernandez12/24/12 2:00pmFiled to: ViolenceThe Bleed PixelsHotline MiamiMultiplayerGamecubepower rangersTop2152EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalink As a writer, it's my job to put things together, to construct a narrative out of disparate pieces. As human beings who try to make sense of the world, we all do that unconsciously: when everything is a story, the world makes sense.AdvertisementThe stories don't help sometimes. Hell, the stories go away sometimes. In their place comes a void, a puncture in our ability to reason and understand why things happen the way they do. You might notice this phenomenon after a death, after a tragedy—they all seem kind of senseless when put under scrutiny, huh? The Columbines, the Virginia Techs, the Sandy Hooks.AdvertisementSo right now, I have only pieces. Memories of things I'm afraid to talk about—maybe the timing isn't right, or maybe it would make me sound unhinged.They're recollections of things, sometimes games I know for certain go together somehow, amount to a small piece of some puzzle that's supposed to help me understand where violence and death fit in my life. *** Sponsored"No more Power Ranger games. No more video games, period," my mother lamented."They're not good for you."The SNES and the accompanying Power Ranger game had been a Christmas present when I was about six. But one night I pulled a butter knife on my mother, demanding whatever it is a child demands at that age. Who knows? And just like that, the console went away as easily as it had appeared.AdvertisementThinking back, I couldn't have meant to hurt her. I couldn't have. That would be ridiculous. Games don't have that effect on people.Right?I couldn't have meant to hurt her. I couldn't have.Advertisement *** Well, if we want to be technical, that SNES was my first console. But if asked, if prompted to talk about my early gaming days, I don't mention it. It didn't exist.My first console was the Gamecube. Wholesome little thing, adorable handle and everything. I wanted to be Mario. Mario defeats things, he doesn't kill them. It's good, clean fun.AdvertisementAdvertisementI agonized over that Gamecube, in the way a kid that finally learns the value of money does. I spent over a year saving up for the console, saving up every last nickel I could. *** With my family, violence is there even when it's not there—maybe at a party I make out the lyrics to a popular song that goes: "hit your woman with a club, put her in her place," booming overhead. I'll try to ignore it, only to notice the dancing—my sister, my cousin, my mother all in tune—and I'll need to excuse myself before I get angry.AdvertisementSometimes it's there as a historical record, something for everyone else to see. The women in my family tend to have a number of visible scars across their bodies, scars we never talk about.Maybe it's noticing a belt starting to unbuckle from the corner of my eye.Sometimes it'll be a threat—maybe you should settle down before I make you settle down sort of thing. Maybe it's noticing a belt starting to unbuckle from the corner of my eye.AdvertisementAdvertisementThen the women stop the shenanigans. But sometimes this looming thing finally arrives, finally finds a release. One of the moments that refuses to leave my head is one that happened over a decade ago. *** I am laying in bed with my eyes closed, pretending to be asleep. This is what you do when my stepfather is drunk, you try to get out of the way. We try to avoid this situation as much as possible, my mother and I, by making sure we never stay too long at a social event and that he's not around alcohol much. But every so often, he'll pull a fast one and get drunk anyway.AdvertisementWhen he's drunk, something snaps. Something goes wrong. The meekness and niceties fade away, and are replaced by anger, sometimes by rampage. Nothing in the house is safe.From under the covers, I can see that he's playing my Gamecube. But he can't stop losing his matches in Mortal Kombat. That's the game he turns to when he feels agitated. His favorite parts are the fatalities, they go farther than other fighting games dare to.As the night goes on, he's getting more and more visibly frustrated, until eventually he stands up. Then I notice he's not playing anymore.AdvertisementAdvertisementHe makes his way to the Gamecube, rips it off the TV, and sets it down on the table. I hear him fumble through his power tools, trying to pick out the best one for the job.I know what he's about to do. I know what he's about to do but I can't move and I don't dare open my eyes. I just hope that he can't hear me crying.He always apologizes after things like these the next day, always tries to make things right by repurchasing whatever he destroyed. But I never played the new Gamecube he bought. The new one wasn't mine and I felt sick looking at it.Advertisement *** A few years later I'd stop with all the wholesomeness and Nintendo, instead opting to purchase a 360. It's on this 360 that I learned how to play shooters—I started out with the ridiculous ones like Gears of War, but eventually moved my way to 'realistic' shooters like Battlefield.I adored them. They tapped into something that I couldn't explain, couldn't name. What I did know was that I wanted to share this interest with my significant other, in the way you want to share everything with someone you love. But he wasn't having it.AdvertisementAdvertisement"I fucking hate it when you play that thing," my then-boyfriend once growled. "But it's so good! Look at how realistic it is." "... realistic. Right." "Yes—like, listen to the way I play. Listen! I'm giving out orders and moving like I'm a squad. It's all very—" "What, fun? You think this is fun?" "—tactical." "I just can't stand the sound of bullets. I can't stand all the shooting. I don't understand how you like that shit."Was there something wrong with him or was there something wrong with me?Sure, we were in conflict with some of the countries in the games, and sure, maybe with games like Medal of Honor, there was the possibility we were playing as the type of groups highlighted in Wikileaks for committing war crimes, but I still thought he was being completely absurd. A well-rounded human being should be able to understand when something is just entertainment. Jesus christ, come on!AdvertisementThinking back on it now, it seems stupid to imply that someone being sensitive about this stuff is in the wrong—like the only way to live is with cynical fortitude. Rationality dictates these things are obviously divorced, our entertainment and our reality, so can we stop talking about it already?Like we shouldn't be phased by something that's supposed to be uncomfortable. Even now, I keep going back to it: was there something wrong with him or was there something wrong with me?It stuck with me, that conversation. It got under my skin. After we had it, I noticed how games were often hours and hours and hours of killing endless mobs of men that often looked exactly the same. Why does every room and level have a bunch of shit to kill no matter what it is I'm playing? And why can't I just turn my brain off like I used to; what's wrong? Why can't I just aim and shoot?AdvertisementAdvertisementGames became exasperating for a long time after that. *** The girl in indie platformer They Bleed Pixels starts off looking so innocent. Just a precious little kid, you know? All it took to change that was one book; one evil, corrupting book and suddenly she's transformed into this terrifying creature with claws for hands.AdvertisementMuch of the game focuses on what you can do with those claws. You juggle your enemies with them, you throw them into spikes and gears and chain combos where you lacerate them into pieces.You do this because if you don't, then the game is much harder. Every kill, every combo fills a meter that lets you put down a checkpoint. The game is basically the Dark Souls of platformers, and my being awful at video games, I need those checkpoints. I don't want my inevitable death to catapult me back to the start of the game. I need to be creative in how I kill for my benefit.It's ugly. Stylized and therefore detached, but ugly if you really think about it. And it feels so, so good to play.I hate how often this is true no matter what I'm playing. And now we've got the situation of having games become self-aware about it, kind of going 'you like this, don't you, you sick bastard'—there is Hotline Miami, Bulletstorm, a few others.