Once again I bring you a Wednesday of video games because I love video games and because being a physicist I also love trying to understand how things work. I write this a bit late today because for some unknown reason my firefox browser has been crashing randomly all day greatly slowing my work.
Now since the beginning of video games people have worried about the violence contained in some of them. Usually the concerns are centered about children who play them and the (in my opinion) irresponsible parents how let them play those games. But there is an issue that is usually ignored and that I find more interesting. Why most gamers as the normal people they are enjoy violent games. Why some games even seems to make our inner psycho appear?
There could be several reasons as there are different games with different themes, so lets just concentrate in those cases of violence and destruction without any reason. Probably the best example and most known is the game series Grand Thief Auto. Where usually the player takes the role of a criminal doing all sorts of things, most of the time really bad things. And the best example of violent behavior in this games is that usually players in this games engages in killing sprees of senseless destruction killing hundreds of innocent virtual pixelated characters. Usually the response is simple, it doesn't care because is not real is just a game. While this is true the core subject remains, why normal people engages in this behavior?
In my opinion is all about consequences or more specific the lack of them, but even more deeper we have entropy. For those who don't know, entropy is a concept in physics that describe a single law of the universe, it can be write in several ways and the technicalities are a bit complex, but the concept itself is simple. Entropy is the preference for things to happen in some preferred way and not in the other. As an example breaking a sheet of paper is easy, trying to put it together again not so much. If you let some wet clothes alone they will dry but clothes don't spontaneously get wet.
Entropy also means that some things are irreversible, we may never hear the concept but everyone understands it. That anything can be damaged beyond repair and we all fear the ultimate victory for entropy, death. It is said that even the universe itself will find it demise at the hands of the entropy. Just look for "Entropic death of the universe" for the most depressing end of the world.
But probably that's what make destruction in video games entertaining, things can be undone. In a video game you destroy, kill and do anything you want and then just load a saved file and booom... is like nothing have ever happened. Maybe that's why if you search in YouTube videos of Grand thief auto, skyrim and similar games you will see a lot of destruction without rime or reason. It's not just the lack of consequences also that they are totally reversible.
Now, can entropy be programmed in a game to see it's effect? Believe it or not such a game exists and it is Dark Souls. The game saves constantly and you don't have control over it effectively making your actions irreversible. In consequence one of the main complains about the game is that if you make a mistake, if you kill an important character, if you lose that important item you needed, it can't be undone. Because of this with Dark souks you don't see people randomly killing computer controlled characters even I saw a lot of people that had to restart the whole game from the beginning because they have accidentally killed an important character. Ironically the only senseless violence you see is among players where permanent consequences are lacking.
So this could explain why is so easy to engage in violent destructive behavior in games, there are no consequences and the ones that exist are easily reversed. But a question remains, why we find this destruction funny and entertaining in the first place?
Usually in TV the answer given is that we see violence and we learn to enjoy and seek more of it, but for me is not a compelling answer because is incomplete, it doesn't explain why given different rules we act different. I must say here I'm entering more in the speculative terrain and clearly outside my area of study.
But as I final example about all this, if you take a little kid who we suppose has had little contact with the violence in movies, TV, etc. and you build in front of him a tower pieces being cards legos, jenga, etc. the kid almost instinctively would try to tear it down (and finding great satisfaction in it by the way), the bigger and more unstable the better. Also there are not a lot of kids that love to build cities with their toys and then playing Godzila just to destroy it. If I'm the only who have noticed this behavior please just let me know.
So to finish this, being a tower of legos or a video game maybe we don't find destruction entertaining because some learned crave for violence or even because we are inherently violent (even though this could be the case). But maybe knowing that in so many cases entropy wins and damage done is irreversible. Maybe that makes those rare instances were we can break something without permanent consequences entertaining, maybe as a way to challenge that unbeatable force called entropy and win (at least momentarily).