Deviancy in Video Games: A Testimonial

Screenshot by author

I would like to talk about a controversial subject: the “bad things” that can be done in video games. I’m talking about drugs, excessive drinking, thievery, intimidation, violence, and other taboo activities that can be done in real life, but that bring with them negative consequences that are often unescapable. For decades critics have bemoaned the presence of such activities in video games. They decree that being able to do these things in games encourages players to do such activities in real life, and therefore their presence in video games is abhorrent. No good can come of this, and so these activities should be removed from video games. With that said, allow me to play devil’s advocate.

A few years ago I was going through a difficult time in my life. After a particularly trying day at the office I wanted nothing more than to go out and drink a lot. The toxic environment of my workplace, low self-esteem, strained relationships, anxiety; I wanted to forget it all. But it was a Wednesday, and I knew that if I indulged in these urges I would not be able to perform my best at work the next day. So I did the next best thing: I made a new character in Skyrim, an Orc named Virag Gra-Doner. Virag was the virtual embodiment of the cocktail of turmoil I was feeling, and via her I did the things that would have gotten me into trouble in real life. Virag drank to excess, did all the drugs, served fresh sass to her employer, and did pretty much anything else that would fall under the category of “questionable life choices.” The experience of role-playing as Virag was so relieving that I continued playing as her for several more weeks.  During this time something interesting happened: Virag began to get her life together. I would start playing with the intention of getting drunk and into trouble, but would be drawn to bask in the beauty of the game world over escaping from a dreary prison cell. Instead of insulting an NPC yet again, I was curious what their reaction would be if I was nice. Virag had evolved from her original purpose as a vessel for my angst; she had become a way for me to see how choices influence our experience of the world.

I do not speak for all gamers nor do I claim that my experiences are representative of everyone who has ever done questionable activities in video games. That said, I do not believe that I am alone in utilizing video games in the manner described above. Games can allow us to do things that are not possible in real life. Sometimes these things take the form of defeating great evils, forming formidable civilizations, or amassing vast fortunes. While these are pleasant opportunities, sometimes it is more cathartic and insightful to vent then to run through a field of daises.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Game Studios, 2011. Video Game.

Bipartisanism through Digital Media

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the equally exciting and terrifying experience of meeting my significant other’s parents for the first time. While these emotions are typical for this type of encounter, mine were compounded by the fact that I had been forewarned his dad and I were not on the same end of the political spectrum. Thankfully things did not descend into clashing chaos due in part to a shared interest: digital media.

During the course of the visit we discussed various technology related topics. We debated the pros and cons of GitHub. He shared coding projects he had done for his job and I talked about the scripting languages I had been learning. We also shared stories about interesting things that have been found commented into scripts (let’s just say it’s important to remove profanities in final versions of all work-related writing, whether that it be written in English or C+). It was not just code related topics that served as common ground. Both my significant other, his dad, his brother, and myself are gamers, so we all had a chuckle when I made a joke about their hometown being their a “spawn point”.

This whole experience made me reflect upon a part of digital culture that I feel is currently underutilized: it’s unbiased nature. Take discussing coding for example. Just like how not all people have the same writing “voice”, everyone’s coding style is a little different. Unlike in literary writing, a person’s technical writing style does not give an indication as to their political leanings (unless they explicitly typed something like “MAGA” in the comments or were designing a politically biased program). The politically neutral nature of coding means it lends itself well to civilly bringing together people of differing ideologies. Granted, this revelation is unlikely to salvage the toxic political environment the United States currently finds itself in. Yet as our society becomes more technology focused and interest grows in the field of digital media, perhaps using this shared passion to find common ground amongst animosity can become more widely employed.

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