Five minutes into his half-hour interview with NoClip’s Danny O’Dwyer, Brendan Greene drops an pertinent piece of biographical information. In response to the query, “how does a kid from Ireland grow up with such an affinity for military simulators?”, the man better known to the gaming world as PlayerUnknown details a childhood as an “army brat,” raised on a military base by his soldier father. Isolated from other kids and his friends at school, he spent most of his downtime doing “obstacle courses and watched army people play with guns, which was great”; a little different from the experience of most Irish kids during the Troubles, it’s safe to say.
It’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday night and a man sat on the table next to me in the Manchester Piccadilly Starbucks is shooting people in the face. He’s playing a game on his iPad where you first select from a selection of rifles — hunting, military — and then aim them at medium-poly targets on what looks like an everyday city street. He drags his finger across the touch screen and pinches to zoom his scope at a target. He presses a button and the view switches, the camera follows the journey of the bullet through the air in slow motion. It sails across a road, over the tops of blocky parked cars rendered in simple polygons, and then tears through a man’s cheekbone. His jaw starts to fall off as a low-res cloud of gore blooms. WELL DONE! Says the game. ONE MORE CRIMINAL OFF THE STREETS! And I sip my cold cup of tea and wonder if there’s not something to this reactionary idea of video games deadening us to violence.