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Oh, the (in)humanity!

I don’t usually read the news too much anymore. First and foremost, the bias that is on every single major media outlet’s website is blatantly clear. Second, I find some of the topics their writers choose to be weak, at best, and other times simply a cry for attention from sympathetic readers.

Omar Gallaga fell into both categories today when I took a moment to scan CNN.com. His article, Why I can’t Get behind ‘Dead Island’, was basically a whine-fest about the video game trailer that has been getting rave reviews from bloggers and gamers alike. The reason Gallaga can’t throw his support behind the game? Well, there’s violence happening to a child. If you haven’t seen the trailer, then check it out. In a nut shell, a little girl is trying to get away from zombies in the video, running as fast as her little legs will carry her. She doesn’t make it, getting chewed up by a hotel bellhop and a bikini-clad, blood-soaked former sunbather. Her dad, presumably, leaps into the hallway from their hotel room and kills one zombie, chops off the arm of another and then grabs his daughter, pulls her away from the feasting horde and then tries to defend her and her mother. It doesn’t work, especially when his sweet darling turns into a zombie herself, leaps onto his back and starts chewing on him. As the dad reacts, twisting in agonizing pain, the little girl is thrown off him and dies when she smashes through a window and plummets to her doom.

Gallaga, who is a self-professed gamer, finds this all very alarming.

As a gamer and as a parent of two little girls, I can say that as much as I admire the craft of putting such a game trailer together, it’s not one that I can enjoy. The game itself may turn out to be fantastic, but the cinematic preview strikes me as exploitative and cynical, a successful marketing ploy meant to evoke shock and pity.

The “Dead Island” trailer wouldn’t bother me so much if it didn’t feel like part of a growing, disturbing trend in video games.

Gallaga then goes in to bemoan titles such as Heavy Rain, Dead Space 2 and Bioshock. All of these games, you see, have some sort of child being hurt, which bothers him.

Out of those three titles, only Heavy Rain actually has realistic children being hurt. In Bioshock, the little sisters aren’t human. Just take a look at them. In Dead Space 2, the little necromorphs are so mutated that there is no way to even feel that connection with them. Infected space monsters they be.

I’m not saying that violence against kids is OK. But I can’t advocate taking it as far in the other direction as Gallaga, either.

I wonder if our tolerance for virtual gore and bloodshed in games has numbed us to the mutilation and torture of children because they’re virtual characters, no more real than the barrel-chested Nazis in “Wolfenstein 3D” or the turtles in “Super Mario Bros.”

Or, more disturbingly, maybe we’ve become so used to hearing about violence directed at kids that its depiction in video games is just another reflection of our culture. Perhaps developers, many of whom have kids of their own, are exploring their own fears as they build complex, dark game narratives, fully aware that once there’s an “M for Mature” label on the package, there’ll be little outcry.

Perhaps there are some people who like the queasy feeling of taking down kid-sized zombies and space monsters in their video game entertainment.

If that’s the case, then the “Dead Island” trailer has done its job. It’s horrified me and has left me feeling haunted and sad.

You did read that right, by the way. This writer thinks that there is a possibility of people being numb to children being hurt, the same way we are apparently numb to killing Nazis and turtles, which I don’t believe is the case. I believe that most people would reject the idea of actually having to kill anything, let alone a child.

Gallaga apparently believes that the killing of a computer-generated child in a video game trailer is worse than entire cities being blown up or destroyed in others (kids live there, too), or entire planets in some. What’s worse is that he’s crucifying a video game trailer where a kid gets killed but doesn’t even know if its a possible outcome in the game play itself. This game could be like Fallout 3, where killing kids cannot happen unless you’ve modded it on your PC. You can kill everything else in that game, just not kids.

There are games were you can actively choose to kill a child. Fallout and Fallout 2, Slaughterhouse 2, Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell, Silent Hill, as well as Jagged Alliance and Deus Ex allow this horror to happen. In The Sims, you can create a kid, then a swimming pool, have the kid go into said pool and then delete the steps out of the pool so the kid drowns, or starve one to death in a windowless, doorless room.

Those games aren’t new, they’ve been on the market for over a decade (Fallout released in 1997), and there wasn’t a run of gamers going out and numbly killing the kid across the street.

Frankly, to sit back and say that killing kids in a trailer is bad (though Gallaga says he played Hard Rain, Bioshock and Dead Space 2 and “enjoyed” them) but to play games where kids, in the author’s opinion, are being killed seems a bit hypocritical to me.

I also think that it’s worth pointing out that it’s not the guy next door that came into the game trailer, kicked down the door and killed the little girl, but rather a host of undead zombies. So, to answer Gallaga’s question, I’d have to say no, we’re not numb to the idea of going out and killing children. We still find it shocking. We still find it agonizing. We still want to get revenge. Hence why, most likely, we’ll be able to kill a ton of zombies in Dead Island.

I guess I won’t be surprised when a website like CNN’s or another media mogul decides to print a story about how we are starting to become just a little too numb to the idea of killing zombies. Hey, they’re (undead) people, too.

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