I’ve just read an interesting article on, of all places, the Christian Science Monitor website. Unlike what you may be thinking, the author, Matthew Devereux, is not on a rant about “violence in games”.

Indeed, his take on that is refreshingly intelligent, and he describes the current outcries as “the sensational, trivial hysteria of the media”. That’s one for his side.

What he’s concerned about is the moral impact of continued gaming, which he views from two perspectives. One is the competitive aspect, and the other is lack of consequences.

Regarding competition, I consider him to be off-track. There is no reason to focus on video games, when almost every other type of game involves competition and has winners and losers. And in pro sports especially, the play can become rough.

When he mentions consequences, however, I think he has something. It’s a topic that has come up before, as in Moral Choice. We’ve discussed how players can be “evil” in games and nothing much comes of it.

There is no impact, other than the finale – and sometimes not even then – from performing acts that are cruel or malevolent. And we know that many complain if they are ever socked with a penalty for doing such actions.

The question is, does this spill over into real life? Does playing games without moral consequence make people less “human” in the real world? Deveraux seems to think so. And likely, for some, that may be true.

But those would be a tiny minority at best. I think a lot of gamers play “evil” just because they know that in the real world, there are consequences, while in games they can “get away with it”.

And as far as losing compassion goes, he seems to have overlooked the current mania over the Weighted Companion Cube from Portal. A non-sentient, non-living object, with a heart (or hearts) on it.

Yet players seem to want one. In fact, I just saw a blurb on another site that someone came up with knitting instructions to make a cube. That’s on top of any number who tried to finish the level without destroying it, and felt bad when they did.

I think Matthew is a little too worried about real-life moral consequences from gaming. But read the article and decide for yourself.

Moral Consequences on The Christian Science Monitor