VG boundaries 4

Headshots, Twitch Responses and the Desensitization of Performed Violence

“Twitch responses” according to Amanda Phillips are the result of the growing emphasis and encouragement of headshots in video game culture. Headshots, and the process of building a Kill to Death ratio (K/D) has reinforced a racist culture that rewards responses made from fear that derive from stereotypical assumptions of people of color. Counter to real life, where military soldiers are trained to aim for the heart as the main target for instant kill, video games have sensationalized the headshot as a more powerful feeling of ending one’s identity since life cannot be literally taken within a game. This ultimate act of eliminating one’s being symbolized through the head is a sensational act that Phillips sights as closely related to lynching propaganda and other cinematic and political influences that reinforce the idea of the headshot as a spectacle and ending to one’s personhood.

In Stauffer’s article the usage of drones against the people of Pakistan is noted to  symbolize the “unacknowledged xenophobia underlying our collective indifference towards people..” in particular towards indigenous people who were previously erased from the land and cultural perception of colonial history. To Stauffer, video games have the power to re-imagine worlds that shifts what he describes as “settler common sense” or the common association to the American colonial story from the perspective of white colonists seeking political freedom. Indifference is a key term in understanding the process of American mentality of disassociating themselves from more painful aspects of history over time and through drone technology. Video games as an interactive medium offers a counter technological tool to re-sensitize Americans to the erasure of people of color. While differing in intent and message, both of these articles articulate the almost infectious quality video games have in interpreting a current culture and perspective in society. Whether that be negative in reinforcing violence based on stereotypes or in the more empowering way games such as Invaders can utilize video games as a way to preserve historical truth and experience: technology as an interactive medium calls for us as a society to decide how it’s usage can either desensitize or re-sensitize us to other’s perspectives.

I was also thinking about “ragdoll” physics and how video games might desensitize gamers to violence, and specifically death, so I looked more in detail at Phillips’s passage. Ragdoll physics, as Phillips says, simulates the moment of death and allow for the deceased character to be animated and manipulated to provide “a theoretically endless supply of unique death animations” (4). This animation changes the way we kill in video games, so that it becomes less about simply killing the target and fulfilling some goal of the game, and more about the entertainment of killing another character or creature. The deceased character loses any agency over its body and is subject to the ragdoll physics of the game world, which often means the body can be manipulated by forces of the game or other players. This creates a shocking disparity between the game world and the real world. While it would be highly offensive and disrespectful to manipulate a real-life body, in the game world it is not only possible but encouraged, like practices such as “teabagging” that Phillips mentions.

When Phillips mentioned ragdoll physics, I immediately thought of the game Goat Simulator, which was a game that became very popular online because of its ragdoll physics, in that the goat you play as could be thrown around the map and manipulated countless ways. This was the appeal of the game, but that would certainly not hold true if transferred to reality. There seems to be a large disconnect between the game world and the actual world, and it begs the question of whether gamers can make sure their game actions don’t negatively impact their real-life decision making, and if game designers have a responsibility to keep a limit on what you can do inside a game universe. Ragdoll physics brings attention to just another way in which our experience inside a game does not, and should not, match up with our expectations and actions in the real world, and makes me wonder if gamers can keep the two realms reasonably separate, or if they are being desensitized to violence.


Amanda Phillips “Shooting to Kill..”

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2018 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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