American “Gun Culture” & Video games:

13 04 2013

AR15-with-American-Flag

Let me first state that this is not a political piece aimed at either side of the hotly contested gun control debates on Capitol Hill. While I am very passionate about my 2nd Amendment rights, this is not what this is about.

Disclaimer: I am not writing this piece partial to either gender, when I say “him, he, his, man” it’s an all-inclusive statement covering men and women

Frequently, I see conversations and posts from people outside of the United States whom are bewildered by what is perceived as the American “Love Affair” with guns. The purpose of this brief post is to attempt (to the best of my ability and understanding) to try to explain why America is this way, why guns are important and pivotal to our society and culture. Then I will relate that to video games, especially heavily influenced Western video games. In order to attempt to appreciate this article, I ask that you set aside any cultural or personal biases (especially if you are not an American citizen) and try to view our culture outside of your own cultural lens you’ve acquired from whatever environment you were raised in.

 Washington Crossing the Delaware

That being said let us begin! So the elephant in the room, so to speak, “Why are Americans obsessed with guns?” No doubt many countries just view us as “cowboys” and a people that are in love with themselves. In order to understand us you must take a look at our history. America was colonized and founded mainly on the ideals of independence and “freedom”. Granted, there are some very dark patches in our past, but over the course of our history you will see a common element or theme. Our society has been about the individual and their independence. Take a guess at what’s been at the corner stone to all of that, the gun. The “gun” has always done something miraculous to the Western individual, in the American mind-set; it’s a transformative tool that allows a man, an ordinary man, to pick it up and change the world, his environment, or to do something greater. This has been the case from when pilgrims settled the West, to when we fought against ourselves in the Civil War, and so on.

CoB

Do most Americans truly believe that they will have to “rise” up one day and overthrow the government? Probably not, but the “gun” is so deeply rooted in our culture that it’s a part of who we are as a people. Just take a look at the stories we write, the movies we make, and most of the video games we tend to build. You will observe ordinary individuals confronted with an unconquerable conflict, you’ll observe them taking up arms and transforming not only their mental models but overcoming obstacles that were previously viewed as insurmountable.

battlefield-3_wallpaper

Conversely if you need an example of a polar opposite culture (for the sake of this anthropology discussion), take a look at Japanese culture and how they view the gun. Japanese culture is deeply rooted in both Shintoism and Buddhism which generally speaks of “balance”, “being attuned with nature”, and so on. When you view their creative works, you often see the “gun” as an extension of the self, instead of a transformative tool/object that changes who the individual was before they picked it up. It’s often also personified as channelling inner “chi” or energy, hence why many protagonists will “shoot” fireballs, have guns/cannons physically attached to them, versus being a separate object.

zero_epyon

akuma_air_fireball

I apologize for going off on a tangent about Japanese culture, but I believe it’s important to showcase another cultural example for anyone having issues setting aside their own cultural biases. Although, if you are not capable of doing that you will probably have quit reading by now!

In summary, I believe the “gun” will always be synonymous with American culture and especially video games. For people who are either not American, or are American and still don’t understand guns and how they relate to our society, try to view our culture objectively and really understand how it all relates. Inevitably, this is about to get comments asking about the “violence” in America. For my one truly political statement, I believe the statistics you see so casually thrown around are greatly misconstrued and abused by being taken out of context. Realistically, violence in American is at an all-time low, the reason you see so much of it is due to sensationalistic journalism and specific special interest groups and their agendas, but I digress.

I wanted to keep this really short, as a piece like this could get REALLY lengthy very quickly. This was not meant to be a dissertation, but a brief peak into American culture in the hopes to shed some new “light” and hopefully give people outside of the United States a chance to be objective without being automatically dismissive, perhaps I ask too much.

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