Halo violence and anomie

| Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Remember that kid who shot his parents because they took away Halo 3? While bored at work I thought of a new way of explaining why he did what he did. Note that explain and justify are completely different. Just because the wind blows one way doesn't mean you have to go rolling along like tumbleweed.

Let's start off with anomie. This term was created by Émile Durkheim. It is the loss of direction felt by individuals when social controls are waning. They lose direction and purpose. It often arises during social transformation.

So what are the transformations? Well as has been claimed ever since people had a concept of family, families are falling apart. I don't care about this for now, though it should be noted that the structure of families has been changing for a long time and varies significantly across cultures. There isn't a one proper way to have a family, instead there is whatever structure we expect to use to create and socialize the next generation. Moving on.

Depending on how much one plays, video games have the potential to create an alternate reality of equal or greater importance to the individual than the real reality which we all are so prone to believe in. People immerse themselves in realities to varying degrees and so place different importance on each. Refer back to my idea of devs as politicians, and then imagine how they also influence the society. Games create societies in themselves along with their own rules. They are their own reality to which a player must adapt. As a minor connection, failing to adapt leads to virtual suicide: quitting.

Halo 3 has its own rules. When these rules change dramatically, those in the world are disturbed by the shift. Now imagine if the rules went away altogether: the game was taken away. Think about if you ceased to be in the real world, or even WoW. What do you do? None of the expected rules exist. How do you act? How do you even exist? The laws of physics may be different. Anomie might not be the proper situation here because it doesn't even begin to describe the change.

It's disturbing to imagine that video games aren't just worlds to play in, they're worlds to live in. All social ties and entertainment can come from games. When this happens the real world is little more than an inconvenience, a dull place which steals away parts of life.

The solution to the extremely rare problem of violence caused by video games (Or is that even certain? Perhaps they are only the trigger) is not o ban them or for parents to force their kids to go cold turkey. That only activates the disorientation. Instead excessive gamers should be drawn back into the world. How? Well start off by finding other gamers to hang out with. No, it won't make them more attached, well it might, but it will also forge real world connections and allow for a transition into reality. It doesn't have to be a complete transition, but enough that they understand the existence of multiple realities and can exist in any of them, especially the real.

I realize I just spent a lot of typing assuming the existence of a real world which we all share. Please set aside the facts of different perceptions and the ideas of philosophy of whether reality even exists and just go with it.


Christian said...

If I remember correctly, some folks in the Netherlands built a clinic to help addicted gamers transition back into the real world. They brought the gamers together and let them play with each other, but then also made them do real things with each other. The gamer groups were able to bond and help each other as well as provide incentives for individuals to do things other than video games.

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