Cyberpunk 2077: Dystopian Visions Now Video Games We Play, Not Novels We Read

 

George Orwell’s dystopic novel “1984” turned seventy years old in 2019. The book centers on the outcome of the absolute control of government through ubiquitous surveillance and zero tolerance of resistance. In addition to an entertaining read, the Orwellian depiction of the future offers readers a warning. But today’s dystopias are video games where the audience can participate in the chaos. 

I watch a fair amount of news, often through the streaming CBS News app. That’s where I first learned of the new video game “Cyberpunk 2077” which is rated “M” for mature, due to language, blood, gore, and intense violence. Actor Keanu Reeves is a featured personality in both the advertising and in the game itself, playing the role of Johnny Silverhand. “In 2077, what makes someone a criminal?” Silverhand asks in the commercial for the game, to which he answers, “Getting caught.”

Video games are often cited as influencing violent acts among adolescents. However, research is unclear about whether or not this is the case. For example, an article at Harvard University’s Health Publishing Site, outlines the differing perspectives:

Given how common these games are, it is small wonder that mental health clinicians often find themselves fielding questions from parents who are worried about the impact of violent video games on their children. The view endorsed by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is that exposure to violent media (including video games) can contribute to real-life violent behavior and harm children in other ways. But other researchers have questioned the validity or applicability of much of the research supporting this view. They argue that most youths are not affected by violent video games.

Even if we can’t demonstrate that violent video games contribute to societal problems, one thing is clear: they are not part of the solution. Should your teenager ask for this game, I cannot strongly enough encourage you to not only decline the request, but to use the situation to talk about a biblical vision of humanity. What might digitally slaughtering other characters do to your child’s imagination?

The Harvard article I quoted from earlier, encourages parents to talk to their kids about their games, make playing games take place in a public part of the home and not a bedroom, and even suggests that parents play the games with their kids to better understand the content of the games. These are all helpful guidelines for parents to consider. While we cannot keep our children from all negative influences, we certainly don’t want to purchase and promote the violent world of Cyberpunk 2077.

Call me old fashioned, I think if we are to consider a dystopic future, it would be better read as a warning than played as a game.