Saturday, December 8, 2012

The secret, sneaky message hidden in computer games

By playing such games as Dishonored and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I have learned a thing or two about sneaking. One of these things is that it is of vital importance to know the terrain before you try to be stealthy in it. After all, no amount of stealth in the world helps you when you suddenly find yourself in a brightly spotlighted alleyway surrounded by hostile people with very loaded guns.

I've also learned that the best way to gain information about the terrain is a five-step method that looks like this:

1. Arrive at a place where sneakiness is required.
2. Save the game.
3. Kill any and all enemies in the place, in any way. Do not be stealthy about it.
4. Gain information about the terrain. Be sure to take note of any helpful features.
5. Load the game. Use you newly acquired information about the terrain to great advantage.

I have this nagging suspicion that this might not be the best way to go about being sneaky in the real world. And, moreover, that this might not be the only computer game strategy that works wonders in a game setting while being utterly dysfunctional in any kind of real setting.

If you are worried about kids becoming violent, don't fret about the computer games. What they learn from them is that you want a save point before you do anything important, and that it is precisely those moments that don't have a save point where you have to be the most careful. And that if you are not careful, all is lost.

Stop and think. Gather information first, but be safe about it. Then act.

What you should be worried about is the rest of the world that the kids are inhabiting. For one thing, it does not include the option to save the current state of affairs. For another, it does include a whole range of situations that actively tries to teach them that violence is indeed the answer to problems. And - as is the case with the war on terror - that violence is indeed THE answer to the problem at hand.

Leave the computer games out of this. They are positively pacifistic, in comparison.


  1. My kids play computer games a lot and I do agree that they're not harmful. But my rule always was that if someone came to the door or invited them somewhere, they had to go interact in real life, the game would be there when they got back. I think balance is what's important.

    1. Very much so. I never play games when there are other people around - it's rude, for one thing. And while one may get away with being rude in games, in the more social world it's not generally a good thing.

      It is as you say. The games don't go anywhere, but people do. And if they invite you along, it's a good thing to know how to say yes.

      Losing a game is managable. Losing a friend - not so much.