Whenever an idea comes into my head I never think to write it down, but luckily today my laptop was already on and ready to go. So my idea or rather my question which I will now attempt to answer is certainly an intriguing one indeed. Recently I have been writing articles on games, their genres and games themselves, but I haven’t delved into the prospect of why some particular features appeal to us as gamers. For example Grand Theft Auto, even the older overhead styled titles have you running around city environments stealing cars, murdering people with a variety of methods, committing fraud, stealing, burglary, transporting drugs and so on. But why, oh why does this appeal to us? In real life I wouldn’t drive my car down a path and run over every pedestrian in site would I? Nor would I rob a bank, magically fly a Harrier jump jet or an Apache helicopter. I wouldn’t walk around armed with a visible Ak-47 or rocket launcher, or even run red lights or knock lampposts over.

So why do we think it’s hilarious to cause utter mayhem and destruction in these fabricated worlds? Even in games as tame as SimCity, you still have the option to rein fire and brimstone upon your citizens, or initiate a volcano eruption or tornado. We humans thrive on chaos, dismay and destruction for some reason. We enjoy causing pain and being in positions of power and authority as somewhere in our brains we have a reward system that gives us that gooey feeling when we achieve great feats. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas for example has you taking back “turf” in the city as well as developing various businesses such as a garage and a casino. You’re already a criminal so why not develop your business empire with brute force and horrific violence?

We enjoy playing our friends online, games like Call of Duty have friends attempting to kill each other, and sometimes with strange methods. The most famous example of this of course is trying to drop a care package on some bodies head. But what about RTS games, sending soldiers to their deaths, sending hundreds of grunts to take down a defensive tower that has the power to electrocute or disintegrate its targets? Even the old Sims games you could drown or starve your virtual people to death.

I believe that we as humans enjoy the prospect of being cruel and sadistic without consequence, as real life doesn’t have a reset button does it?  In our virtual environments we can do what we want and how we want, when we want. Even some of the in game features and cheats have a sinister motive. Thinking back to some of the GTA titles, one cheat could arm all civilians with serious fire power, the next cheat could cause them to become randomly violent, creating a scene of chaos and genocide on once peaceful virtual street.

Thinking further into our favourite games, just try to comprehend what the developers were thinking when they decided that a giant purple dildo would become a weapon in Saints Row the Third. Try to imagine someone running around your street with a chainsaw, a guided missile launcher, an orbital strike satellite uplink display, or an actual mini gun! What about a tank with its turret constantly firing to the rear so it can build up more speed, or other military styled vehicles rolling around your neighbourhood.

Violence in gaming has always been a controversial subject, and has been argued and protested around the globe for as long as I can remember. However there is one particular game that pushed everyone including horror fans to the very boundaries of gore and chaos. Manhunt was released on the Playstation 2 a few years ago and was very nearly banned for its brutality. Manhunt featured a death row prisoner injected with a fake lethal injection only to wake up a few hours later to the director’s voice. The director instructs the protagonist that he must murder, torture and maim gang targets through a variety of environments to earn his freedom, whilst being filmed for a reality murder series. Armed with weapons such as a plastic bag, baseball bat, crowbar, and other blunt objects you must sneak up on gang members and execute them as quickly and as brutally as you can. Holding down the execute button for longer means a more brutal kill. At the end of each “scene” as remember you are being filmed by the director, you receive a star rating based the ferocity and frequency of your murders. Sometimes you find yourself placed “on purpose” in fist fights or have various missions such as turning the power back on to open the next area, all whilst dodging “hunters”.

Manhunt had you skulking in the shadows taking down enemies with sickles, hammers, and various guns later in the game. My point is of course is that we humans have a evil side, we enjoy dismembering, cutting, shooting, burning, and blowing up as an integral feature in our purchased titles. We almost expect to power our console on, and then in five minutes of loading were placed under fire or other dangerous situations. Maybe this is down to our need to experience excitement, perhaps even unrealistic situations, or maybe it’s our release or our escape from our realities. Writing about this almost makes me understand the concept of the film Total Recall, paying for a exciting life experience, placing yourself in a confusing but amazing position.