There was a point in my life where I realised that all the sexism and violence that I had seen in computer games were actually having little or no effect on the actual tendency to commit violence in the person I was most worried for – my son.
He played Tomb Raider and I had real problems with this partly because a hypersexualised mannequin was the heroine. That was the game he chose to show me to prove that games weren’t sexist – it has a female in the lead! I knew in the back of my mind that the others he played were probably much more questionable but I never asked and he never told.
Yet he grew into an OK bloke, who is not sexist or racist or homophobic.
I knew also that my partner was a gamer too, and I could see he was playing violent games as well, but he was the mildest and most reasonable person I know. Now here’s a thought – maybe I ought to try violent games as a substitute for real violence to help me get rid of my anger? That wasn’t my reasoning then, nor now, but is worth thinking about.
There was a point where I grew interested in what my beloved was doing in these games. I suppose my first game where I actually killed something would have been Doom. We started off by Beloved trying to show me how atmospheric it was to have headphones on and be running through corridors. So I had a go, and that led me to play for quite a while, and yes, I did actually enjoy killing the aliens. But you see, that was the point, as long as it was aliens it was OK. It didn’t mean that I would be killing the next door neighbour. I still have this fear of de-humanising real people – I know it is the first step in creating a real enemy, and I don’t want any part of that. And then there were people in Doom and that shook me a little, but I figured that they were aliens too, so that was all right.
I went back to Transport Tycoon and other sims in my virtual world and ignored the games paraphernalia that came into the house – the driving wheel, the joysticks, the flight game controllers, with names like thrustmaster. I knew that they were never for me.
I think Bioshock was the first game I actually wanted to play but I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to. The platform games I had tried in the past led me to decide that fps games and I wouldn’t mix. I am dyslexic and have very poor hand to eye coordination as well as very little patience with anything or anyone that I don’t teach. Put me in a classroom and I never lose patience with a learner, anywhere else and I will lose my rag very quickly. But Bioshock was lovely; beautiful and I wanted to wander round that world. I tried it and struggled but then there was Portal.
Now around this time my Beloved decided that what would bring us closer would be if we could game together. Portal 2 had just come out and he wanted to play it anyway and this collaborative game would be ideal to allow us to play together. So I tried to play Portal.
Oh at last! A game designed for me. I think that was the very first game I ever completed (with one bit of help on a bit that was a too difficult – where you had to jump and I couldn’t get it). I cried at the ending, I really did and only partly because it was the first game I had finished (apart from sims). Now I was ready for Portal2 and gaming with another person.