*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file-names.
The following is a personal article focused on my (Nelson’s) experiences with Max Payne, violence in video games and finding comfort in Romans 16:19.
I’m a hardboiled ex-cop with nothing left to lose. Wearing a black leather jacket and an expression somewhere between a cynical smirk and extreme constipation, I stop just outside the smooth, heavy pair of wooden doors and wait. On the other side a drug deal is being conducted–the same blood-soaked business that tore my wife and infant child out of my life and reduced them to a couple of carcasses staining the ragged carpet of our New York home.
I shouldn’t even be here–the dozens of bodies left in my wake are a testament to that fact–but these men…They murdered my family.
Their business just became mine.
I break the door like it was a piece of flimsy cardboard, firing twin Berettas faster than should be humanly possible. Before I can take out a single man, one of the thugs keeping watch steps out of the shadows and fills my face with buckshot.
I equip a sawed-off shotgun, taking out two thugs in quick succession, watching their bodies ragdoll across the table before another goon fills my face with hot lead.
I dive through the doors, time slowing to a crawl. I still “die,” but at least I feel the satisfaction of reducing one of the thugs heads into a neat blood spatter. I continue firing into his corpse before I turn into one myself.
I don’t care about “winning” anymore.
I’m not angry at the game. At least, not anymore.
I’m angry at myself.
Why does every headshot, every victory, every body blown 6 feet in the air with every roar of my shotgun fill me with…guilt?
I knew Max Payne (noir third-person shooter classic, released in 2001) by reputation. It’s often hailed as an example of the “good old days” of gaming, where the “entertainment” of the player is the priority above all else. My first encounter with it certainly matches this description.
Shots travel in slow-motion, shattering plaster around my head as I dive across the hallway, guns blazing. The unique thrill of a room cleared in a cacophony of bullets while remaining unscathed…For the first time in my gaming experience I participated in pure, unadulterated, artfully-rendered violence–and it felt good.
And then, in the calm after the gunfire, in the midst of the bodies left behind…In the unguarded moments after the hail of bloodshed, my thoughts began to race.
“Why have I never felt this way mowing down armies of faceless soldiers in Call of Duty or Battlefield?”
“I’m going through a time of stress and uncertainty in my life–this is supposed to be cathartic, right?”
“Then why–why does this ‘pleasure’ make me feel…sick?”
“I have liberty, I spent good money, I need to just play.”
“This is wrong. It feels…wrong.”
“This is double-minded.”
“THIS is a classic.”
I race into the next room, attempting to drown out the noise of my uneasy condemnation in a rain of falling shells.
Certain titles from gaming’s past are seen as essential stepping stones to the games made today–Deus Ex, Doom, Max Payne, etc. There is an expectation as a gamer that you NEED to play these titles to not only appreciate our past, but the industry today as well. It’s easy to feel left out, even looked down upon if you don’t buy into the “hype” cycle–either for gaming classics or the latest blockbuster (such as Far Cry 4).
Romans 16:19 says:
“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
“For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
My time with Max Payne gave me comfort in these verses. The comfort that, just because a game is celebrated, it does not make you less than if choosing not to play it.
No one should have to violate their beliefs to be a gamer.