All this is to say that while uninformed anti-game sensationalism may be unproductive, gamers’ reflexive defensiveness is worse. It’s prevented us from having a meaningful conversation about an industry that is emotionally and morally stunted, where per-title revenue can dwarf even the most successful films of all time but which seems immune from discussions of taste and artistic merit. A higher-up at one of the largest game publishers in the world once confided in me that when his bosses showed him early footage from a popular first-person shooter produced by another studio in the company, he couldn’t bring himself to watch to the end.

It’s not crazy to feel uneasy that young men’s most influential entertainment products, the cultural touchstones they do and will reminisce about in adulthood, are built around the premise of empathizing with a man with a gun in his hand, who kills not in the crudely symmetrical and grim manner of war but gleefully commits mass slaughter. These games become more like action movies with each passing technological generation, approaching photorealism and pulling players into actual, active theaters of war. These are first-person games with first-person narratives, differentiated from films only by a lack of distinction between viewer and protagonist.