Reality, realism and simulation

When do computer games actually become dangerous??

Nor are the opponents, who are fought against in killer games with all possible available means, actors controlled by other players or characters who act on the basis of a pre-programmed behavioral repertoire. In such scenarios, the graphical representation of humans or human-like beings is realistic at best. But the virtual actors should also become more human-like in their behavior – for example, in order to rehearse crisis and war operations in realistic simulations.

After the school massacres, there is a debate in Germany about whether killer games train players, especially children and young people, to be violent and thus facilitate or demand the spilling over of actions from virtual reality into reality through imitation, desensitization and familiarization with skills and behavioral models. Gamers themselves object that it is more about skill, i.e. a competition, which remains playful, because the killing of the characters visible in the game – it can also be their own representative in the game – is not understood as the killing of a real living being or even a human being. It is claimed that the separation of fiction. also Brutal Games(r)?).

This seems to be a similar view, at least in the American military, which is why, for example, the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office is funding a project to make the computer-generated characters more realistic with the help of social scientists, in order to obtain a better transferability of what is learned in the simulation to action in real situations. The scientist leading the project, computer scientist Barry Silverman from the University of Pennsylvania, has been working on it for several years.

"There is growing recognition that more realistic training simulations lead to better skill acquisition by trainees, but existing training games are more focused on flashy graphics than on modeling real human behavior. Our goal is to integrate factors such as fatigue, stress, personal values, feelings and cultural influences."

In the end, it seems to be about the fact that the virtual enemy also looks back – and still has to be shot. Interesting is also the reason Silverman gives for the necessity of the new behavioral realism, through which the virtual killing could get a different character. Life-like characters and situations are important for military simulation games, because U.S. troops are increasingly deployed in conflicts all over the world and also have to deal with mobs or terrorists during peacekeeping missions. In the U.S., too, protesters have been able to upset those who want to keep order.

The virtual opponents should be similar to real people, even in their behavior

Before their real deployment, the soldiers should get to know the different opponents virtually, but as true to life as possible, for example, women and children throwing stones, armies of cold-blooded youths tormenting minorities, or protesters who can at most be made to stop by airplanes flying over their heads. One of the problems seems to be that "even" Decisions must be made in the presence of media. The simulation is praiseworthy in that it teaches soldiers not to resort to behaviors that are believed to incite aggression in response to agitated crowds.

This gentle reaction in critical situations, which is only mentioned in the press release, may naturally be less in demand when it comes to virtual training of such opponents as the "Iraqi Republican Guard, a Hamas-like suicide bomber or secretly operating Bin Ladin fighters". Appropriate models of the various terrorist organizations will be used to characterize the actions of the individuals. With the help of game theory, one ames, for example, a rational agent who, according to utilitarian considerations, wants to maximize the goals of action in certain situations with certain means and at certain locations. In the case of a terrorist, according to the model, this is the achievement of the grossest possible psychological effect. Given the type of organization and the world in which its members are to act, the program should automatically create a "realistic" planning and execution.

The general goal is to obtain virtual actors that act and react in a somewhat lifelike way, that think, feel, perceive, move in different groups and play different roles, have a memory, learn, make decisions, show emotions and start motor actions, in short and technically audacious: that are as complex and irrational as human beings. Not only the cognitive system has to be modeled, but also the physical and emotional subsystems "subsystems" with their states, which determine actions such as energy demand, tiredness, pain, panic, because depending on the mood or physical condition, actions are different or the performance differs.

The imagination can turn everything into pump guns

This is all still gray theory, but it is possible to get closer to the simulation of human-like, personal behavior of virtual agents, against whom one plays, step by step and not only graphically. Of course, it is interesting to ask when the point will be reached, when the human player at least will not be able to reject the impression of having not only an intelligent, but also a feeling opponent, who will of course act in such a way, that he fights for his survival, but also has qualities, which make him appear not only to be evil. If one was trained in the simulation to deport or otherwise maltreat such virtual beings, then the step from the simulation to reality would not be far and a desensitization would certainly occur, even if it is still not a human being, but only a restartable program on a computer.

Many of those who are now calling for a ban on killer games, in which you don’t play pawns or queens as in chess or other more or less human figures in other games, but moving, graphically human-like characters, using your own virtual life, ame that for some players here reality and simulation can no longer be distinguishable. This could not really be determined by graphic realism alone, because there is a transition from game to seriousness in other games as well. Imagination helps a lot here – and part of the upbringing or experience that a child goes through is just to play games in which he or she can see for themselves "interactive" real or virtual, and to distinguish representations such as theater performances or films from reality, which can vary greatly depending on culture, milieu and person. Dealing with violence and aggression is a basic part of the child’s world, just as it is in real life. Brutal tales or stories can make as strong and lasting an impression on children as films, real-life experiences or news and documentaries. People don’t necessarily have to see directly what is horrible or cruel in order not to be able to guess or imagine it. Whoever wants to let a child grow up without it being able to see or experience possible role models of violence, must cut it off from the world like Kasper Hauser, and in doing so has already committed a crime itself.

Nevertheless, the question remains how far a society should expose the next generation to violence in reality, in illusion and now in virtuality and how this should be done. If you look at § 131 in German law on the depiction of violence, a line is drawn here that is very questionable. When violence "glorified" or "trivialized" or "the cruelty or inhumanity of the operation in a way that violates human dignity" is represented, then this is to be forbidden. Except for this – because otherwise, of course, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of information about fees was restricted and even the perception of reality and reflection on it was restricted -, "if the plot serves the purpose of reporting on events of the time or history". Reading this to the letter, for example, a film showing the torture or killing of a human being could be legitimate, but not a feature film, where one can always ask whether it is trivializing or glorifying something here – or providing a foil for imitation or. an experience for desensitization.

What’s more dangerous: first-person shooters, man-against-man, news or shoving??

Lately there were again and again references to this § 131, which one should implement nevertheless once really and not only laxly handle. But actually it twists the perspective, if we were allowed to watch more or less justified the murder of real people, but it was forbidden to kill computer generated characters "dead". Of course, it would be absurd not to show children and all people the violence in the world that happens every day in a way that violates human dignity. Only if we know – and we know it emotionally – we can do something against it (at best), on the other hand, we can become numb to the fact that every day thousands of people die or suffer painfully because of accidents, catastrophes, crimes or wars. The news is full of it.

Are computer games like first-person shooters more alarming than read or imagined stories, "Don’t worry about it", games with guns (bam, bam), fictional movies or news?? The new element of computer games compared to traditional media is the interactive component, which is also present in theatrical games with peers. Do children who shoot here with a banging gun or even just with their fingers and bang-bang believe that they are really killing another human being, who then sinks down in real or virtual terms and rises up again straight away? Should such killer games also be banned – irrespective of age, as Beckstein also demands?? And would it be right to cleanse war actions, as governments would like to have it, from pictures showing that people – opponents as well as "civilians" – die and suffer? Do we want the "clean" war?

Simulations undoubtedly have a tendency to become more and more realistic. The graphic or visual level is only the beginning. Who would reasonably want to prohibit law enforcement agencies or the military from preparing for operations as realistically as possible in order to minimize their own casualties or collateral damage? "collateral damage" collateral damage? But just as soldiers could certainly train their reaction skills with computer games like Doom or Counterstrike, a more realistic portrayal of the virtual actors would certainly lower the deadlock.

Whoever now shoots down a virtual terrorist in Counterstrike is usually not thinking of a real person, unless the imagination can help – and it can do more than just computer games "augment". And just when the character you see is being directed by another computer player, who is visibly hit only in the game, but not really, the desensitization was allowed to stay within the framework of man-against-man, which could also be interpreted as a guide to aggression. Moreover, the excitement of such interactive games comes less from pushing others off than from not getting hit, which simply means getting kicked out of the game. However, as soon as the opponent actually becomes human, which goes far beyond the graphic level, then the differences really start to blur – or they have to be redrawn on a new, previously unfamiliar level.

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