Human beings enjoy video games for the same reason they enjoy any other form of media: Escapism. While a player is playing a video game, he or she is controlling a protagonist that may have awesome powers, an exotic lifestyle, or a compelling history. The environments involved are lush, detailed, expansive worlds entirely set within realms of fantasy or alternate versions of history. The challenges are fun, the soundtracks are professional, and every gameplay element has been tweaked to provide the maximum enjoyment possible.
But with immersive escapism and total interaction in an entire virtual universe comes intriguing possibilities, including those things you should feel bad about doing in video games. As players experience more and more freedom within their available actions and choices to make, so too will opportunities for mischief increase as well.
This example is most often and vividly evident in role-playing games that incorporate town-exploring as part of their gameplay. In many of these titles, the player can control a character or entire party that can freely enter houses, whether they are occupied or not, and go through the occupants’ belongings and take anything found without any real penalty. One moment you are having a touching conversation with an elderly couple in a modest village doomed to be overrun by monsters, and a minute later you are ransacking their bedroom, throwing open their drawers and searching under their bed for their clothes and spare change. Perhaps the biggest reason that this is one of the things you should feel bad about doing in video games is that experienced players know that these houses rarely have any items of lasting value, yet many keep stealing anyway.
Our next entry on this humble list of things you should feel bad about doing in video games was actually made controversial on a more visible scale by the lightning-rod title Grand Theft Auto, in which you could walk up to someone on the street and beat them to death if you wanted. In reality though, wanton manslaughter has been around since the days of 8-bit gaming on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with such examples as people-eating on Rampage or the necessity of beating the life out of literally everyone in sight in classic horizontally scrolling beat-’em-up titles like the Double Dragon series.
When your character has access to firearms, explosives, superpowers, magic, and other means of generally destroying anything you want to, it may come as inevitable, then, that some collateral damage will occur. In some games, this is even encouraged, while others do strive to make an earnest attempt to discourage blowing up entire neighborhoods or bringing down friendly little office buildings. Whether in movie-inspired licensed titles or military-themed battle adventures, property destruction stands as one of the things you should feel bad about doing in video games that will probably persist as long as video gaming does.
Which may be a significantly lengthy timeframe indeed, considering the worldwide popularity of video gaming, a popularity that is only growing without any sign of slowing down. As long as people are willing to pick up a controller and interact with realms outside of reality, so too will they be willing to participate in acts they should probably feel bad about.