Videogames, Aesthetics, Culture/Violence by Design
For the first half of class on Thursday, our class merged with the class down the hall, Violence by Design, to partake in a discussion that I found truly productive and enlightening about violence and culture. Overtly, the two classes could not be more different in the application of violence to class material. Even though we study a brutal medium in Videogames, we try to avoid the topic of violence in gaming. Yes, there is violence in videogames, but that does not mean that a gamer will go out and shoot somebody; there are plenty of other social and mental reasons why that might occur. Too often society blames videogames. On the other hand, Violence by Design confronts problem of violence everyday in class.
The class began with a discussion of Gus Van Sant’s film Elephant, which both classes had watched. Elephant provided a great baseline for a discussion about the presence of violence in many forms of media. It was very interesting to compare the reaction of the Videogame class to Violence class. After playing over a dozen games in the past two weeks it would be impossible to overlook how the camera placement in the film mimics the perspectives in gaming. However, the most members of Violence class watched the film unaware of the distinctive point of view and focused on the characters.
But the discussion quickly extended beyond an examination of the film. From there, the we naturally flowed to topics that have been present in both classrooms. We considered the relationship between drone warfare and videogames, lack of physical consequences, and most interestingly mediation. From my understanding, Violence by Design, a Dance/Drama class taught by Marie Davis-Green, uses meditation as a class exercise to attempt to find a peace within oneself away from violence and technology. When Marie brought this concept up, one girl in the class began to argue that vidoegames can be a form of meditation. Especially after taking this class, I never would have drawn a parallel between the two outlets. However, the more she discussed her expereince with meditation the more I realized how similar videogames and mediation might be. The student maintained that the focus necessary for videogames is also necessary to meditate: your mind needs to be centered on one, specific task. I have always considered mediation as a form of stress-relief, and my personal experience with videogames has been anything but. When I offered this opinion, the girl countered with the fact that mediation can be very stressful, especially when you begin the practice. These two activities carry such conflicting social connotations, but in actuality they share many characteristics. Not everyone in the class agreed with this opinion, but I found it incredibly enlightening to draw similarities between activities I regard as so different.
An impromptu and totally voluntary discussion about the merging of the two classes immediately commenced after Violence by Design left our classroom. Some people, like myself, throughly enjoyed the conjunction of the classes. Others thought that it had a distinctly anti-videogame vibe, which some found alienating. Marie was critical of violence represented in videogames, yes, but she was critical of violence in culture as a whole. What I think what was most significant about the convergence of the classes was not the positions that individuals or teahcers took, but that the fact that it fostered discussions that extended beyond class time.