I have murdered the innocent as a psychopathic killer, brought justice to corrupt officials as a vigilante, and left a swath of death and destruction miles wide as a one-man army.
I have successfully perpetrated genocide against whole species, assassinated militia leaders from miles away, and poisoned entire noble families as they celebrated around a dinner table. I have decided whether men live or die and held the fate of nations in my hand. I am a gamer. I have done all of this, turned off my computer or console, and gone to sleep in my own bed.
I play games for entertainment, to explore the breadth and depth of human emotion, and to consider situations from somebody else's point of view. I play games because physics engines can be abused with hilarious results and artificial intelligence can be exploited into absurdity. What I do is not monstrous, it does not corrupt me, and I have not been dehumanized. I am not a warmonger desensitized to violence waiting to go on a murderous rampage.
Games are a method of storytelling, the ancient act of passing down life's lessons and social values, with audience participation. Players become emotionally invested in the story, grow fond of characters, and learn that there are consequences to their actions. We become attached to the protagonist and, in cases of excellent storytelling, become sympathetic to their cause. We fight for survival, revenge, and glory. We fight against overwhelming odds for the challenge of walking away victorious. We fight to outsmart the game and solve the puzzle in ways the developers never imagined. We fight to bypass the restrictions imposed upon us.
Many people play games every day for many different reasons. It helps them relax after a stressful day, gives them the satisfaction of overcoming challenges, and lets them escape into a world where normal rules don't apply. They're not killing people, they are interacting with computer code executing within the scope of its parameters.
This is interactive art at its finest. Players can be as emotionally attached or distant as they choose, becoming engrossed in the story or pushing the game's programming and their own reaction time and coordination to its limits. These games are the Shakespearean classics and gladiatorial arenas of my generation.
We will play.
Eric Dahlgren lives in Jamestown.