Friday, March 27, 2015

Sociopaths, Psycho-Killers, and Half-Life Levels

I know I'm the last one in the universe that should be talking about Reality Vs. Fantasy.  The person who thought himself a Transformer for many years of his life, who still makes a "transforming" noise when I get up off the ground, who, as Jimmy Fallon read off in his "hashtag" segment, waves his hand in front of automatic doors like a Jedi.  So, as you can see, I'm not the best person to talk about knowing the difference between fantasy and reality.

I can't help but think as I'm walking to the car in the cavernous parking lots of the Galleria, with the endless pathways of concrete, with stairs and elevators, how the makers of Half-Life would have loved to make this into a playground for the first-person shooter crowd.  Computer graphics and interaction has become so realistic that anything short of reality is considered "retro."  I've said many times that, when the game Zork came out for the Commodore 64, and it actually had sounds that somewhat sounded like English, I was amazed.  Now we live and communicate with people all over the world in 3-D universes with their own economies and cultures.

So in college, and mind you, this was in the 1990's, when Half-Life came out, the Internet at the time was able to host multiplayer maps of any design, as long as you learned the graphic interface.  Among the favorite maps made was that of a parking lot.  Snipers could find people on the lot below, trip-wires could be set in stairwells.  One day my brother and his roommate spent quite a bit of time setting trip-wires all up and down a stairwell, hoping that one of our friends would come along and set the whole thing off, blowing up that part of the map.  It was hilarious.  There doesn't come a time when I'm in a new building, a hotel, a parking garage, The Galleria Mall itself, when I don't think, "This could be a great Half-Life level!"  And of course, I know it's just a game, a world outside of this reality, a playground for a few hours of entertainment.  I wonder, though, how many people trained for their own lives playing Grand Theft Auto, and then tried to carry out those actions, to some extent, in real life?  The arguments oscillate on whether violence in video games affects the mentality of teenagers, or people in general.  I would say, "Of Course!!!" It's not a great leap to go from me pretending to be Lion-O on the playground to someone "pretending" to be a sniper or a Halo soldier.  And it's not a great leap, given internal circumstances, to go from "pretending" to actually doing it.

People have always told me that I couldn't differentiate between Fantasy and Reality, and I have to dispute that claim, especially now, because there are people out there who simply cannot do it.  We've seen many examples of this, and the end result is usually tragic.  We've communicated to people (Postman) that violence is okay, that extreme scenes of gore and brutality are perfectly okay to show on television, as long as they don't show a breast.  And since pictures are worth a thousand words, each image is internalized and reacted to with vehement emotion.  We strive for more, for images of grief and violence, as constantly pushing the boundaries of what we have seen will create ratings, talk, (and negative or positive attention are both good things in the Entertainment business.) Zombies eating people?? Sure!!  No problem!!  Psycho-Killers on a neighboring channel? Wonderful! 

I've recently watched episodes of Criminal Minds on the basic cable television channels I have, and I found it quite understandable why Mandy Patinkin left the show after two seasons because he was disturbed by the material presented to the American public each week.  Shortly after watching this, I went walking at the Harry Moss Park (as the dirt trails were still too muddy).  Seeing single female joggers in their sweatsuits and ipods and earplugs running past, I could only think, "Well, she's dead." Because any sociopath that wanted to drag her off into the woods could easily do it. Plenty of places to hide a body.  Now, this is not to say that I'm going to become some mass-murderer, but you can easily see how someone with a loose grip on reality, or with sociopathic tendencies already built in, if they watched these television shows, could learn quite a bit from just watching and then start acting it out in the real world.  And all this for the final objective of making money through advertisement.  It's quite disturbing, actually.  All in all, however, I believe the places I walk to be safe, and my relative mental health to be stable.  I'm just not sure about the rest of the city. 

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