Valorant is a very popular team-based first-person hero shooter free-to-play online game.

One of the game fav features is the Gun Buddy.

Gun buddies are a type of decorative cosmetic in Valorant, they are weapon key chains that come in cute colors and designs.


@ urnotjustin caught by compulsive buying explain how to purchase every little gunbuddies

I analyze how these accessories, irresistible collectible jewels, act as a decoration of violence.

Unlike war attacks, violence has no real life consequences in online play, which is why Gun Buddies can be considered as harmless as the lethality of bullets fired during a game session.

Yet, although I am far from believing that online gaming violence has a necessary direct influence on real life, in my research I study how the aestheticization of guns and online violence shouldn't be considered as a phenomenological event rather a perpetual reformulation of a consolidated historical process that returns and re-proposes itself in different shapes.

Femicides during the Weimar Republic, the 2003 Iraq bombing, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Plato, share a common element: all four have narrated and expressed the aestheticized representation of violence, but no contemporary has immediately grasped its disturbing intensity.

For Plato, tragedy and violence seen in theater is entirely connected to what is actually done in real life.

In the 18th century, Italian engraver Piranesi produced a series of etchings on the theme of Prisons. The human figures are depicted in a full aestheticization of violence and suffering.

Sociologist Luc Boltanksi in reference to the bombing during the 2003 Iraq attack reports that particular scenic elements leverage on "an aesthetic of horror", and on "disturbing beauty".

Giovanni Battista Piranesi -Detail of Carceri (1745)

[The shot of Baghdad fades away and fuses with the bright morning light
showing a highway with military convoy]
from BBC World taken from Lilie Chouliaraki
The Aestheticization of Suffering on Television

I believe Gun Buddy, despite its intangible and apparently harmless connotation, belongs to an indirect representative form of violence, which has a strong appeal to the imaginative strenght of decorative violence.

Decoration, in which it sees its maximum consumerist representation of standardized scope in Kawaii, is the common thread that unites the disturbing connection between aestheticization, violence and normalization.

Kawaii culture and online gaming sessions often share one overriding factor: the voracity of consumption.

In my research, therefore, the Gun Tomodachi (friend in Japanese) summarizes these above mentioned narrative aspects to ask itself if this cultural and visual normalization couldnt be considered a irresistibly cute mass-manifactured expedient to corroborate new expressive forms of violence.

Reference literature :

Margaret Bruden
Aestheticizing Violence or How To Do Things with Style

Lilie Chouliaraki
The Aestheticization of Suffering on Television

Lisa Dickson, Maryna Romanets

"Beauty Violence Representation"

Maria Tatar
"Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany"

Joel Black
"The Aesthetics of Murder"