Shooting Let’s Play: Shooting: Episode #1: Half-Life

As you may have seen a while back, I started a new video series “post” Let’s Play: Permadeath: Speedrun (I may go back to that) called Let’s Play: Shooting. It’s a fairly straightforward idea in which I get hold of a game that involves shooting, find one of the enemies in the game, and then repeatedly shoot them with every round that one of the guns in the game can have loaded into it. I’ve only made one of these, which involved repeatedly shooting one of the red-beret military types you run into in Half-Life.

The project is a pretty direct look at videogame violence, I’m not trying to be subtle with it – I hope it’s strangely difficult to watch, essentially.

However, the actual process of making the videos is interesting too, for other (or perhaps for connected) reasons. I totally cheat in order to get the guns and ammo elements in place as I don’t see much point in the act pictured in the video being “authentically generated” in the sense of playing the game properly. It’s interesting, though, to think about how that cheating “non-playing” of the game to reach the point of the video could be said to colour the moral tone a little. After all, if you legitimately reach that place in the game there’s maybe some sense in which the killing is “more justified”? It was a “fair fight”, they tried to kill you first, etc. etc. But I’m not sure that holds too much water here – the videos are more about presenting a particular visual/auditory/interactive possibility the game affords, not necessarily about engaging at a narrative level.

Except that it’s impossible not to engage at the narrative/representational level – there are all kinds of decisions involved. Shooting the guy in the head is a particular decision, choosing to use the pistol is a particular decision, choosing to feature the shooting of a military human enemy rather than a zombie is a particular decision. All these things carry weight and have particular connotations in the context of the video.

So there are things to think about here, and I intend to think about them. I started making a second video with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and have been running into a bunch of kind of fascinating mechanical issues, as well as very clear issues of the representation of gun violence that are making me feel pretty uneasy about how (and whether) to make these videos.

Which is a good thing.

26 December 2016
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