Violence, Psychology, and Toy Dolls

Gamasutra just published an article I wrote about violence, psychology, and video games. It’s called Kill Polygon, Kill. I opened the article with a description of a time I beat up my best friend in fourth grade because he wanted to take one of my Star Wars dolls.

I remember being especially disturbed after that happened. It was the last time I ever saw him, and he had wanted the doll as a keepsake of the short time we spent together. He had moved to Fresno only a year earlier and he was already leaving again.


I didn’t really understand what was happening with his leaving, trying to internalize the idea of another person just not being around anymore was hard for my young brain. It didn’t seem real. But seeing the plastic doll in his hand as he walked out was something I immediately understood and didn’t want to accept. There was still room to barter with the idea his being in another state. The distance was abstract. It felt like something a parent could have taken care of with a car or an adult conversation with some ticket salesman. I didn’t want to lose him, and I didn’t really think I was.

But when he took the doll, the idea of something being lost was urgent and I didn’t want it to happen. I didn’t know what else to do, and I didn’t have time to think anything through. So my ten year-old gut told me to fight. And to my shame, it was to fight my friend so that I could keep a plastic doll.

It’s hard for me to imagine that instinct came from exposure to Looney Tunes and Lethal Weapon. And it’s hard to imagine a culture that disallows creative expression where those angry and irrational fringes can be explored.


One thought on “Violence, Psychology, and Toy Dolls

  1. It’s interesting how violence can scar people in different ways.

    We can be scarred by having violence done to others we know and/or love. We can be scarred by violence done to ourselves, as the nightly news reveals. And we can be scarred by our violence toward others.

    The last is never really talked about, and yet I would be surprised if there is an individual alive who hasn’t had just that experience.

    Your story reminded me of a time many years ago, when for some petty reason that I cannot remember, I threw a rock that struck my cousin just over her eye. I remember the bleeding, the screaming, and the crying. And my cousin was not the only one doing the last two. I remember my profuse apologies, my heartfelt disgust at myself.

    I don’t know how it affects my cousin to this day. It’s not something I feel comfortable asking about, partially because I know how it affected me.

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