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The Boston Globe



Video game killers for peace

Game designer Joe Houston wants to mix violence and conscience

In the wake of the mass shooting on Sept. 16 at the Washington Navy Yard, a familiar scapegoat popped up: violent video games. The accused gunman, Aaron Alexis, was reportedly a huge fan. Research has never offered a conclusive answer to whether games increase real-world violence, but given the meticulous realism of the experience—the weapons, the carefully rendered victims, the controllers reverberating in a player’s hands—it’s hard not to worry.

That worry has now started to percolate in an unlikely place: inside violent games themselves. Though it’s so far been ignored in mainstream discussion, gamers have noted that a handful of last year’s best-selling games incorporated distinct if subtle antiviolence messages. In “Spec Ops: The Line,” the soldier protagonist uses white phosphorous to incinerate a camp full of enemies—only to find later that he has accidentally murdered a large group of civilians. As last November’s “Far Cry 3” progresses, other characters start to tell the protagonist that his violence has made him a monster.

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