Whether you play video games or not, you've undoubtedly heard or read about the issue of violence in gaming. Most journalistic reports on the issue tend to focus in on a few genres, particularly first-person shooters and death-match style shooters. As one who plays video games frequently, how paltry these discussions seem. For the world of violent video gaming is in fact much more rich and nuanced than these accounts make out. There are games suited to every angry mood, from passing irritation to blathering outrage.
Just as most sane people refrain from working themselves into a lather over any slight, gamers don't necessarily turn to a virtual automatic weapon to express every violent fantasy. For example, if I've had a run-of-the-mill frustrating day at work, I might work out my aggressions with a few aggressive spin attacks and a couple of shots from a chicken-shooting gun in Muppet Monster Mania.
What about passive-aggressive anger? I was partially inspired to write this piece because of a new Japanese video game I read about in Electronic Gaming Monthly called Katamari Damashii, which seems to fit this category. You start out with a small ball that you roll around, and whatever you roll over, sticks. The interesting part is that almost anything can stick--candy wrappers, discarded newspaper, a small child, a policeman, a bike. It seems very contemplative in a way, and yet, when you roll over people, they scream.
I personally find the first-person shooter is best for an ugly mood. Say I'm feeling angry and suspicious because I believe that my country is being looted by those currently in power. Such righteous anger might properly inspire me to pick up Medal of Honor Underground, in which you, as a female resistance fighter, undertake various missions, most of which involve shooting Nazis with period weaponry. Very satisfying. And because there is an entire subgenre of Nazi shooters--ranging from quasi-historical games such as the "Medal of Honor" series to fantasy horror games where the Nazis double as vampires or zombies--I can fire on my enemies at will, knowing there will always be plenty more to take their place.
When I want to pull out all the stops, I'm inclined to turn to vehicular violence. It's a personal choice, of course--others may prefer swords, or pistols, or kung-fu. I try to save these games for extreme situations, so they lose none of their therapeutic power. Destruction Derby-style games are nice, but the king of the auto genre for me remains Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now, which has a less contained, more realistic setting. Basically, you get points for hitting, running over, or destroying things. I like to match it with a mood of long-simmering resentment that is about to boil over into rage.
The great thing about Carmageddon 2 is there is so much aural feedback. There is the tinkling sound of glass as you plow through a department store window. The rev of the engine as you speed up to smash another car. The distinctive sound of a fire starting behind you, or of pedestrians' crazed shouting as they frantically attempt to disperse. The game is completely over the top, and in the end, quite silly. I guess that's why the game works so well at defusing my anger: it makes me laugh.