(Originally published on ScrewAttack approximately two years ago. Enjoy!)
Ahh, the mid-to-late 90’s. This was a great era to be a gamer, as the console wars were in full effect and developers continued to push the limits of accepted convention. This meant beefier graphics, soul-shredding soundtracks, and….blood, lots of BLOOD! Arcade titles have already been experimenting with these new risque formulas earlier in the decade, with titles such as Mortal Kombat and Time Killers. So by consequence, it was only a question of time before home consoles would become the new host of pixelated brutality!
In 1996, Human Entertainment released THE game that ushered me onwards towards my dark crusade: Clock Tower for the PS1! Yes, the lengthy and text-heavy Prologue scared away many gamers due to its questionable delivery, but I was determined to find out the story behind the scary guy with the bloody scissors on the cover!
Onward I pushed, even though I completely forgot whether I talked to Harris twice in the hallway, or whether or not I asked him to show the statue to Rick later on. After some more dragging text and popping in to visit random NPCs at various locales, I began my quest as Jennifer, who appears to be walking alone down a seedy street outside of a University at night. After making a break for the University (somebody was following her *eye roll), Jennifer is greeted by a friendly security guard. At least she’s safe now…
Holy shit! Nothing could have prepared me for that! After getting cornered a couple of times, I eventually learned that mashing the action button can help you in a pinch, but only if you have the life for it! I did eventually learn that hiding is the best way to get Scissorman off your tail. I was able to escape the University after a few untimely deaths, but I did learn in the 2nd scenario that hiding doesn’t always work!
That sealed it for me! This was a completely different experience than jumping on Goombas or shooting innocent ducks out of the sky. This was interactive murder; the absolute unholy, unprovoked ending of an innocent person’s life. My earlier years of being groomed by movie franchises such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween couldn’t have prepared me for what I was currently experiencing! The key difference: this was interactive, personal and miles away from watching a movie! I literally held these people’s lives in my hands, it was up to me to decide their fate, and I was utterly fascinated! So what did my biological parents think of these new games?
Oh boy! They were pissed, but just like any other rebellious gaming tweenager, i decided to keep playing and looking for more horrific titles to play. After being steeped in the blood of my many lost protagonists in Clock Tower, I branched out to other titles being played during that time, such as Project Overkill and Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. Even though my parents would go to great lengths to try and stop me from playing these games, it only got worse once I got a PC, fully loaded with Windows 95…and Doom!
Yup…it was over. I was completely hooked on these games, and here’s the best part: I didn’t know why! Even funnier: I still don’t! As time wore on, I went on to play titles such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil. Just like with my favorite movie franchises, I was completely taken in with these cerebral and violent video games. However, in stark contrast to what my parents may have thought, they weren’t raising a little Gacy or Dahmer. I was gifted with a healthy dose of human empathy during childhood, which would later morph me into a full-blown empath as an adult. And further, said empathy was not negatively impacted by my choice of media! That’s right: ZERO impact!
Take this into consideration: as a parent, would you leave a “firebug” kid alone with a book of matches? Would you allow your self-abusing “cutter” child to sharpen your knives? And finally, would you, as a discerning parent, allow your child, who struggles with concepts like human empathy, to be left unsupervised in a home where guns are left out unsecured? In the end, it all comes down to the parent’s discretion, i.e. informed decision. That’s right: the parents need to be paying attention to their child and their behavior for this to work.
To give you a little background into my own story, my dad gave no shits about letting me watch HBO After Midnight with him, regardless if it was a school night or not. Boobies, blood and murder were a big part of my childhood, and could be credited for my current and ongoing love of all things horror…and boobies. My stepfather, similarly, had no bones about showing my brother and me the new games he had on his computer: Doom and Wolfenstein 3-D. But that left me with the burning question: why me?
I’ll be the first to admit that my relationship with my parents has been rocky throughout history. However, they knew one key factor about my personality: I WAS CAPABLE OF EMPATHY! Yup! No dead cats in my backpack or unexplained missing hookers from the Interstate! Further, they also knew of my fascination with all things macabre, and that it wasn’t an outlet for any alleged deep-held dark desires! Go figure!
So what about the media’s endless attacks on the video game industry? Well, because it generates headlines, of course! If someone were to place the average pleb in a room, and give them a choice of what show to watch, would the average “sheep” person pick an uplifting and informative program, or a juicy, ragey episode of The Maury Show? They’d pick The Maury Show, of course, but why is that? We, as humans, have an unending fascination with the darker side of ourselves, which includes emotions such as jealousy, rage and lust, all of which are embodied in said daytime swill!
However, this doesn’t mean that the people who watch these types of shows are horrible people; they simply enjoy viewing the darker side of human nature. The same can be alluded to when looking at a Coroner or criminal profiler; they are fascinated (on some level) by the darker side of humanity and want to explore the “why” behind it. I will admit that I’ve logged some time into The Maury Show, but I can only handle it in limited doses these days. Way too much screaming…
So what about the kid playing what’s perceived to be a horrific video game made just for them? Will he go on to be the next Adam Lanza, Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold? Perhaps, but it would not be the game’s fault! There has even been findings to suggest that a lack of empathy in a child can be attributed to depression that the mother suffered prior to birth! That’s right: it all comes back to empathy and perhaps factors that are outside of our control!
Parents: if your child shows a lack of human empathy, I would admonish you to try and help them build that up and not expose them to the darker side of humanity (this includes violent video games) until they are ready for it, if ever. If they ask about a specific game, read a ton of reviews, watch some gameplay and make an informed decision based on your child’s behavior. Be an active part of your child’s life, check their browsing history, or try this…ask them! You just may be surprised by what you learn! You have no one to blame but yourself if you fail to give them the level of love and discretion that they deserve.
Children (and grown-up babies): Listen to your parents. If you feel strongly about something (such as playing the new GTA title), have a calm discussion with them and state your points. If they say “no”, wait a little bit and try again. However, if you feel at any point that you are having dark thoughts about hurting either yourself or others in real life, get help! Even if your parents are not available for whatever reason, there’s always a sympathetic ear that you can reach out to!
So What Happened to Me?
I grew up to become a thirty-something who had a few scrapes with the law (speeding tickets, rolling stops, etc.), but get this: ZERO MURDERS! Despite my clowny personality, occassional dark thoughts and love for everything bloody and terrifying, I’ve racked up ZERO MURDERS during my time on this watery rock, nor am I currently planning any! I have a healthy sense of equality, and despise injustice of any kind! I work a real job, pay my taxes, and buy local food! And here’s a bonus bit of info for all you profilers out there: I grew up in a broken home rife with verbal, mental and physical abuse who later became a double divorcee and single father!
My final words will be this: if you like the macabre, there’s no need to hide in the shadows. If you giggle like a schoolgirl when you watch a bloody horror flick and someone gets murked, don’t be afraid to show it! I’ve met a ton of cool folks on the horror scene who are some of the nicest (albeit mischevious) people you will ever meet! If you think I’m playing, just watch this interview of Robert Englund in character as Freddy Krueger! So are they actually “bad” people? HELL NO! And I don’t believe you are either! Bask in the blood and be happy with who you are, because I know I AM!
Thanks for reading, and Lumpz the Clown OUT!
Clowny links below!