Thank you, dear Tom McShea for sparking up the desire for me to beat a dead horse again. *keeps beating the dead horse until flesh, skin and hoves fly off in a red mist* HAHAHAHAHAHA! STUPID HORSE!!! *ahem*
So basically what his article is saying is to pause for a second before you go off and attack opponents of violent video games and try to see that there is some blame to be had. I think it's not the fact that we need to pause and look at the situation; it's that many of us are sick to death of looking at the situation. We looked at the situation when Mortal Kombat came out. We looked at the situation when Doom was used as an influencer in the Columbine shooting. We looked at the situation when it was said that Halo trained the DC snipers. We're tired of pondering and always coming up with the same conclusion from video game violence studies: inconclusive.
How many more times are we going to have to go through this? Apparently, 10 million dollars worth of times as Obama somehow thinks it's a good idea to give that much of our tax paying money to the Center for Disease Control to do more studies; the CDC of all places!
Ok, enough cynicism. Let's focus on violence in video games again. First, let's understand why it exists. In the early days, violence in video games was nothing more than a little ship shooting a block at other ships and having those ships explode in a bunch of boxes. Not really that offensive, but violent by definition. The thing is, would the game make any sense if it the ship was just shooting blocks into empty space? No. The reason why the ship is shooting at other ships is because those ships are the enemy. The goal of the game is to erradicate the enemy ships because, well, they're the enemy!
As technology has improved over the years, graphics have become more and more realistic, yet the goal remains the same: erradicate the enemy. It's just now instead of shooting blocks, you're shooting bullets, and instead of the enemy exploding into blocks, they have gaping exit wounds at the approximate location of their body, and use ragdoll physics to fall down properly. Yes, it's starting to become more offensive because our senses are relating it more to realism. But, that's where our most important sense comes in to play: the common one. We know it's just as fake as it ever was, no more as ludicrous as when politicans were trying to ban Death Race 2000.
Look at a game like Afro Samurai, which I just recently finished playing. We have a game that uses enourmous amounts of blood and gore to drive the action forward. But, Afro Samurai is not doing this killing senselessly. He's fulfilling a quest for vengeance, seeing his father killed before his very eyes. Since he's a samurai, his title and the game's effective era dictates that it will be a violent game. It would not make sense to make Afro Samurai be polite, going around asking the enemy, "Please lie down won't you, so that I may proceed through the game?" The ship didn't ask the invading aliens to stop invading its planet; no, it shot blocks at it.
Then there's Tom's example of God of War. Yes, the game is full of blood and guts and gore and carnage and savagery. Yes, it punctuates the violence again and again with every execution. There's no mistaking that Kratos is a very angry person, and he's set in a very bloody era. Should he be killing people? Yes, he should, as he's the GOD. OF. WAR. Not God of Tea Parties, not God of Picnics, not God of Corporate Functions (I lied, back to cynicism. It's what I do.), God of WAR. You betcha being a violent, bloody game is the only way to tell this narrative. There should be no need to excuse it.
Now, let's visit Grand Theft Auto for a spell. I'm currently reading a book called Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, by David Kushner, and it's a great read so far. It really helps to put into perspective why violence was needed in an entertainment medium that is not just continuously evolving, but also growing up. It also tells of Lemmings creator David Jones, who was making the next big game involving an open world that allowed for realistic freedom. The game was called Race 'n' Chase, and it played pretty much like Cops and Robbers. It allowed for an almost unprecendented amount of freedom as you could just drive anywhere around the city, but then someone pointed out something. It sucked. Why did it suck? It was too realistic. You had to stop at traffic lights. You couldn't run over people. You were still pretty much playing nothing more than a kid's game. Someone suggested, "What if you were the robber instead of the cop? There car is there, why can't I just yank the driver out and take it?" Suddently, the game sparked to life and it was renamed Grand Theft Auto.
The rest would be history, had it not been for the fact that the franchise is still making history. Arguably the most controversial video game franchise of all time, Grand Theft Auto became the sort of alpha scapegoat. Whatever went wrong with the world could be blamed on Grand Thef Auto. On the surface, it's easy to see why. You're basically a thug, yanking people out of their cars, picking up hookers in them, beating them up, taking their money, driving off somewhere while running over countless pedestrians only to get out in the middle of the intersection to pick off police with your sniper rifle. Heads popped off (oddly enough, Rockstar had to edit out code that allowed limbs to be shot off as well since the censors thought it was too "gorey") and blood sprayed everywhere. Is that senseless? Of course it is. It doesn't propel the story forward or help you in any way aside from some arbitrary high score. But everyone forgets that all that mayhem is optional. You don't have to play that way.
Rockstar had to keep reiterating that fact when defending their game in court. No one seemed to care that for every negative action you made, an equal reaction occured as the police would hunt you down. No one seemed to care that this video game was a narrative equivalent to highly acclaimed crime dramas like Scarface, Goodfellas and the Godfather. Everyone overlooked the fact that you could get in a police car and chase down real criminals, or get in a firetruck and fight fires, or do anything in the game that wasn't 100 percent criminal. Rockstar, constantly under pressure by the media, continued to push the envelope because they believed in something truly important: games aren't for kids anymore. Violence should be at the forefront of any M rated game, because it needs to be readily apparent to the parent that the game is not meant for their kids, just as Scarface wasn't meant for their kids, which I'm sure they themselves loved as adults.
So why is it that most of the time, movies and other forms of media are given a free pass while video games are painted as the only culprit? Participatory action. I love that phrase. By participating in the video game, you are essentially the killer. You are making the decision to pull that trigger. Fair enough, but aren't you participating in witnessing violence when you buy a ticket to Die Hard, to Aliens, to Friday the 13th? Please don't try to say you don't willingly enter the theatre, or pop in a DVD or Blu-Ray to watch a movie filled with violence. You are compelled to see it. You love the violence, otherwise you wouldn't be watching those films. Violent video games only let you create the violence yourself. There isn't that much difference. In games like Grand Theft Auto, you can choose to not participate in a lot of the violence, only doing what's required for the story. Or, you can choose not to participate entirely by not playing the game at all. If you choose to engage in wanton violence, that is a call you made based on free will. The game did not spur that moment of violence out of you.
Another thing that gets me is that it seems violence in the media is only a problem that exists in North America. Some of the most violent entertainment comes from our distant neighbors in the East: Japan. I just recently saw Battle Royale, and God, what a messed up movie that was! Kids killing kids for the sake of survival! Yet, it wasn't completely senseless. There was a lot of different emotional theme, such as survival, friendship, desperation, courage, etc. But you know what gets me? One of the most successful movies of recent times is The Hunger Games. Kids killing kids, in a franchise that is targetted towards young readers. The Hunger Games trilogy has been highly requested in my library for years, yet parents don't bat a brow. True, the violence may be tame in comparison to Battle Royale, but the themes are still exactly the same. Violence. Violence. Violence. Let's see the parents start caring when a Hunger Games game is made...
And Japan also makes some sickingly violent games themselves. Platinum Games is renowned for this, as anyone who's played MadWorld and Bayonetta can tell you, but do those games ever get brought up during a violent video game witch hunt? Well, that's easy. They don't get anywhere near the same exposure as an Activision or Rockstar game. And with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance nearly out, Platinum Games looks like they'll continue pumping out ridiculously over the top violent video games. But even then, maybe the people who took notice that these games were extremely violent instantly dismissed them because of the way their violence was portrayed. Maybe it was just so fantastical that it warranted no concern. The opponents of violent games are looking for something that's much more relatable, like people shooting people, or games that have Westernized characters chopping each other up. Japan's culture on violence is actually far different than ours, so maybe their society is more easily acceptable of violence in the media, while too many of us in the states still treat it as taboo.
The bottom line is this: the numbers don't add up. You cannot look me in the face and tell me with a straight face that violent games causes people to be violent. If that was the case, we would see hundreds, maybe even thousands more shootings a year. Since there are HUNDREDS of millions of gamers in the world, you might even say we'd be seeing hundreds of thousands, or even millions more shootings. We'd be seeing kids running out in the streets with swords pretending they're Dante or weilding their chainsaws thinking their Jack Cayman. We'd hear from mass shooters as they claimed they were Chris Redfield killing zombies, and even then, did anyohe take James Holmes seriously when he said he was the Joker? How come Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan aren't being lambasted to great length like our video games are? This guy flatout points his finger at a fictious character saying, "HE MADE ME DO IT!" Oh, but introduce the fact that he might have played a video game or two during his life and suddenly it's all the game's fault. Don't even get me started on the number of killers that would be created if movies even had a fraction of the percentage of influnce people say games have.
I'm writing this article to you, Tom McShea, and anyone here on GameSpot, in Politician Land and wherever else that thinks that everyone is having knee jerk reactions to when games receive the finger of blame. This is me, not replying as a gamer (although I'm inherently one, I excercise no bias in writing this editorial), but replying as a reasonable person viewing the situation from all angles. Viewing a situation that has been viewed by me over and over again, by others over and over again. Obama can waste 10 million dollars of our money, and the CDC will reach the same conclusion that researchers reached back in 1999 when trying to correlate the effects of violent games making violent people: inconclusive. Enough is enough. We aren't knee jerking. We are tired of seeing misdirected energy. We are going around in circles, and this is why gamers are becoming angry.
There you have it. My moment of reflection. Please don't make me reflect anymore. I have violent video games that need playing.
Lucas, great, great blog. You and I have had this discussion a million times so you know that I agree with you on all fronts. Enough already. And 10 million dollars? Really? He's talking about real money? That my friend is in it's simplest terms insane. I think you really nailed it with this one. I'm so sick of this particular topic of gamer conversation. It's just stupid.
Hope you are well. Things at my place have been very interesting. Go read my blog, your hair will stand up.
Personally, I've come to the conclusion that the America is the problem. American media and politics is so partisan and fundementalised that on one hand you have crazy right wing conservatives who say things like "Video games are the work of Satan and are turning our children into sadistic murderers! (Oh, and let me have a s**t load of guns though)". Which creates a reactive far 'left' group who says things like "I have a right to enjoy violence in all and any form. Any censorship of anything is ridiculous! Violent video games have zero influence on society and should be available to toddlers."
Wake up America, the truth is complex and somewhere in the middle. I think the rest of the world understands this, but because a vast amount of online media comes from America, everyone else gets caught up in this ridiculous argument of extremes.
Yes, violence in video games (along with ALL other media) has an affect on society. Yes, some things should be censored for the good of society. No, violent media doesn't turn everyone into murderers. No, you can't blame mass killings on video games, but in the same breath say that gun ownership has nothing to do with it. Yes, a very small percentage of people with existing psychological problems can be desensitized and inspired by extended exposure to extreme violence in media.
It's good to someone who has the same point of view about this situation. You did your research well :)
"We are going around in circles, and this is why gamers are becoming angry."
Will be waiting for the day when gamers get so angry that they just go on an all-out shooting spree, just to get the whole d@mn circle over already.
Just kidding. Great read.
Great article mate. Pretty much how I feel about the whole debacle. Although I'm sure the $10 million probably came from the NRA.
Geeze you guys. The only ones that are jerks about this stuff are those other guys. They're jerks. PS: I am mega rich.
Hit it on the head. I've always thought we have particular responsibilities, but I do enjoy the violence and sex and whatnot in films and video games, as a well rounded adult. I have a right to not support games that have certain subject matters purely for gratuity sake. They have misdirected the research for monetary reasons and that's messed up on their part and have found the obvious scapegoat. I do have issues with that.
Great article btw, you nailed it too. So sick of rehashing these tired arguments (but I can't resist them at the same time). Just all feels very phony and manufactured to me. It's great to see that some folks still have common sense though :)
What Tom's article does, is imply that gamers are mindless idiots, though I understand why he did it, he wants to look credible as a journalist. In this 24/7 news world, anything...literally anything, that anyone could perceive in any manner of ways is considered potential news. Sure, if this issue hadn't been completely beaten to death over the years, it would be a legitimate concern. News airing and writing articles are based off of what folks will watch or read the most, not legitimacy. So if blaming video games, or guns, or whatever else (personal responsibility is dead), helps folks sleep at night, "journalists" and media outlets have a duty to give the people what they want, even if it is crap I suppose.
Maybe I'm missing something, but you've referenced to Tom's article a few times in your blog and I'm not really sure why. Sure they both hit on the general topic about the connection between real violence and video game violence, but the main parts are quite different. His article doesn't support or go against yours (used out of context I guess it could). So I'm wondering what it's doing there in the first place?
Getting stuck in a slow-moving drive-thru while on my way to work (thus making me late) makes me more violent than any videogame...
Though I can't help but think there is a certain line that shouldn't be crossed with gore. Not the amount but how it's handled , it's one thing if it's God of War or the like where it advances the story or style. But when games like Mortal Kombat use ridiculously , near unrealistically gory effects as a gimmick it's like saying ''hey! Check out our new game , gorier and edgier than ever! Intestines will spill and veins will tear!'' it seems to be doing no good for proving games are a form of art when they need cheap gimmicks like gore to sell them.
@moviequest14 Well, Mortal Kombat's violence isn't even realistic. Sure, it's graphic and gory but far from something you'd ever witness in life. In that way, it's a parody of itself.
What really bugs me isn't that the masses are attacking games , it's HOW and WHY they are. Whenever a shooting happens or another massacre happens the public runs around worried like panicked ants that had their hill destroyed. After this initial reaction they go into mob mode , aiming to point a finger at anything or anyone that will stand still long enough ''those parents are to blame!'' ''They shouldn't have had a gun!'' ''It's those games and movies that are making them lust for violence!'' , it is beyond everyone's mind to comprehend that some people are born insane , born with mental problems as a mutation. Things are automatically better if they have something to attack in return. They mob up against things (games in this case) with no real knowledge about the source. Tell me how many of these politicians have actually played these games (or.. any games)? None. They continue to blindly attack. If they had a legitimate reason with actual evidence against whatever they attack I could at least respect them for that. But they go near animal instincts to blindly attack and violently and ignorantly so. Anyways , sorry for the rant , excellent post!
The industry just has to diversify is all, allow more complex independent ideas. Devs have a lot of stories with implied teachable moments they wanna tell. If we can move past CoD, even allow platform ideas more evolved than Catherine into the mainstream mix and we can say 'what problem with gaming?' 'look at all the different genres you can get it.'
Its the same prob Chris Rock mentioned with hip-hop in 'Never Scared'. We can't keep criticizing whats in the mainstream for being rather base. but it'd be nicer if the context within made the medium easier to defend, and promote folks who have more themes and ideas to contribute to the people.
Personally I can't see the appeal of violence, real or simulated. I avoid games like Dead Space and GTA and most violent films. I think the enormous amount of violence across our media is a sign of an unhealthy society. And I think that media as a whole, including, but not limited to, video games, forms part of a feedback loop in which a small proportion of individuals predisposed to violence are attracted to violent content, which both feeds and increases their appetite for violence, and so on. But I would never dream of forcing these views and preferences on anyone else.
Movies go much further in their violence than video games do. Even games like Postal 2 entertain with the ridiculousness of the carnage rather than genuine sadism. I think video games are picked on because people believe, for whatever reason, that things are getting worse, and blame that on the newer medium.
While no studies have found a connection between real world violence and video game violence some studies have found that there may be a connection between exposure to violence in the media and an increase in aggression and pro-violence attitudes in children. Exposure to realistic images of violence leads to desensitization because even if you know it's fake your brain subconsciously registers the images which look the same as real violence. All of these effects are greater the lower the age of the person, especially pre-teens and teens. One study actually found that the effect was greater in video games because of the interactive aspect of it and the rewards for committing the violence.
However, I don't think they should censure violence in video games because it's the parent's job to not buy their kids the games, and they really shouldn't. Also, even if playing violent video games lead to desensitization, a normal person still knows it's wrong to commit violence in the real world. Over the past ten or so years there has been an explosion of popularity for violent games and the truth is a ton of kids play them yet the numbers of mass shootings in the US has remained constant and there hasn't been an increase in violent crime.
Yes it's true. Films (Martyrs) and books (American Psycho) give us violence that surpasses every videogame that was ever made but they seem to get a pass. The two misconceptions that are to blame are that videogames cause violent behaviour and that all videogames are made for kids. The second is blatantly not true and they are age certified to prove it and the first creates a false causality when in truth it's violent people who are attracted to violent games. But why think about it too hard when there's some witch hunting to be done!
On a bit of a side note I think the Tom McShea article was more about trying to promote videogames as more than just about violence but I think there was a little troll-bait in there to get the waters nice and bloody!
It's amazing to me how badly you miss the point. No one is saying that everyone who plays FPS's goes out and murders people. However, is it that hard to imagine that some socially marginalized guy with mental issues plays a violent video game, thinks it's cool, and decides that maybe he wants to re-enact some of that in real life? And that maybe instead of when you kill someone in God of War, maybe blog doesn't have to fly in 30 different directions? Your take on the issue is completely binary. Pay attention to subtlety FFS.
@Shag84 Yes, it is that hard to imagine that someone would see something on a tv screen and go out and do it...because sane people, even the most dim witted know the difference between right and wrong. I enjoy bloody gory games, I make no apologies for it, why should people like me, who are law abiding citizens adjust our lifestyles, which we are perfectly happy with, because some crazy nut job is running loose unchecked in society? And where does it end? What if crazy people, even after all this proposed censorship, still act, *gasp*, crazy? Answer these questions for me please, I've heard the tired talking points over and over, everytime something like this happens, but no one can answer simple questions like mine :(
A. Video game sales of mature/adult games, especially FPS's, to people considered mentally unstable are restricted
B. Self-regulation by the gaming industry towards less gratuitously-violent games
I don't know if I agree with those proposals myself; it's not an easy problem to fix. I too would be pissed if someone came and took away my copy of GOW saga.
But to argue that it has *no* impact on ANYONE who is mentally unstable flies directly in the face of common sense. The arguments you make are exactly what a gun owner would say about their guns.
@Shag84 The thing is, should someone play a violent video game and thinks 'Gee, that looks like fun, I should try going out and murdering people', there is something wrong with that person. Period. It's not some subconscious trigger that pushing buttons to shoot pixels will cause. It's a problem in the person, obviously a vastly complex problem and not some single mental issue, but a problem in that person nonetheless. The fact that that mentally unhealthy (for lack of a better term) person can easily access actual firearms is a different matter, of course, but something far more important then trying to scapegoat the blame onto something else.
@commando199 I agree with you, for the most part, but this blog is far less nuanced than, say, Mc Shea's article. Posts like this do absolutely nothing to contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way. Outright denying that it is even a POSSIBILITY that game violence has a negative influence on our culture is simply ignorant.
No one is making the points the author is trying to refute; he is fighting a straw man (except for a few idiots in Congress maybe, but certainly not Mc Shea). Look, GOW 3 is one of my favorite games, and I play violent video games regularly, and I'm not some crazy murderer. However that does not mean that games should be as blatantly violent as they are and that it does not have a desensitizing effect on our society, and possibly pushes people on the fringes of our society towards some very dark paths.
@Shag84 Does it matter how much blood Kratos sheds at all, though? It's still violence. Being outrageously bloody is God of War's style. To say that they need to tone it down is essentially asking them to censor, which I'm not at all for. What would good that do people anyway?
I just recently bough Far Cry 3. I will NEVER be able to bring myself to kill one of those turtles. It is a choice I exercise.
Violence is a human capacity. I really wish it wasn't, but you can't change human nature. And that is the one thing that is never addressed. I am sick of all the finger pointing. If we all stepped back (like Tom McShea politely asked us to do) we would find the conclusion to the problem is that we are people. Yet we never really wonder what that means; what it means to be a person. We just take it for granted that we are. It means we are capable of violence. It also means we are capable of looking at our fellow people and caring for them. The choice is ours though.
@LogicSavanT But....who will we blame???? :( We have to blame someone! How will we sleep at night?? Surely there is something we can legislate...or censor, or take away from law abiding citizens so that we can bring a little peace to all this outrage...humnan nature? Nah, that's not as easy to get outraged about...I'll stick with video games and guns.
I keep hearing that chess is one of the oldest games in the world. For crying out loud, it's a game that simulates war. Nothing more or less.
@LogicSavanT I remember when I asked my Grandpappy what it was like to be in Okinawa during WW2. He said, "Grandson, have you ever played Chess?"
Its kinda like music too and how it invokes suicide, My Chemical Romance hailed for making a girl kill herself cause she wanted to join the black parade. News flash thats a story if your kid couldn't not tell the difference between fiction and reality than perhaps you failed as a parent. You can't blame media for what happens. Maybe Halo did train the DC Sniper, we know they use FPS games all the time in the military for combat training. It boils down to one simple thing, people do not want to take repsoniblity for there own actions therefore they point the blame somewhere else. Saying video games cause violence, the certainly don't help. I play violent video games yet I don't have a desire to go shoot somebody just because I did it in a game.
Ther are parents who are against the Hunger Games, i've met quite a few people against it. The books being more violent than the movies ever will be. They are ment for a much older younger adualt crowd. I've watched the film and read al the books being a fan of it myself, its story and characters is what makes it interesting. and how closely it reflets our own government. Your participatory action comment its true it is why its always targeted as the lead cause. Just like the guns despute They don't kill people peole kill people. Its the sampe principle behind a video game. There are perhaps some metnal people out there who shouldn't play them. I'm talking the Auroroa Colorado shooting. The guy dressed like Joker clearly there was something wrong with the dude in the first place it wans't The Dark Knighs fault. Kids should not play M rated video games until they are at least 15 but thats jus my opinion. THEY ARE RATED M FOR A REASON PEOPLE.
Great article as usual Lucas. I like your articles better than gamespots since you make more valid points and actually get down to the nitty gritty. Can't wait for the next one.
I'm with Tom on this one.
Not really about ingame violence per se, but more about ingame violence toward women:
Good post but for crying out loud KoushunTakami's Battle Royal came out nearly a decade before the hunger games and it was hugely controversial in Japan at the time. You think it's sickening because it's brutal and asks some very uncomfortable questions about humanity as it was meant to. Suzanne Collins' book bastardised the topic and turned it into your typical teenage power fantasy to appeal and sell to an immature audience.
already gave Tom kudos for that post - my only criticism is knowing the attention span of many GSers it could have been a little shorter
Most of what I hear coming from gamers seems defensive rather than logical. Many times, I hear them blaming guns. On the other hand, I go to firearm forums, and I hear them blaming games. So I have reached the conclusion that we are just a bunch of hopeless cocks in America who don't care whose rights get trampled, so long as it isn't one they hold dear, which I believe will cause them all to be.
I still cannot get a straight answer on how video games even came into this based on the Sandy Hook shooter, and Obama's own administration supplied illegal weapons to the drug cartels that got hundreds of people killed (many of them kids) and he has the balls to go on television and say (paraphrasing here) "we gotta keep guns out of the wrong hands."
Yeah, no fucking shit, Meathead. Why don't we start with your own administration?
@Shame-usBlackley Video games came into the Sandy Hook shooter situation because people who knew the family said that all the guy used to do was lock himself up in his room and play violent video games.
Politicians kill more people than gamers. How bout a CDC investigation onto the disastrous consequences of visiting the white house.
I have to wonder if there were politicians back in Homer's day who complained about how violent the Odyssey was.
God of Picnics sounds nice. I'd buy that game :>
Don't forget Super Mario. That game has violence in it.
@gba1989 Which is funny you mention that. My aunt didn't want me playing Super Mario Bros. back when it first game out. She didn't like the idea of me stomping on turtles.
@randomfakename @JustPlainLucas @gba1989 before there was video games violence was blamed on television and before that movies and before that violent radio and ...going back into the dawn of history the cave men probably blamed violence on teen agers watching too many violent cave paintings.
the reason has basically been the same throughout history.
and you know what Luke - I didn't know that Mario Brothers was the reason you were such a violent person!
I blame them on you becoming a MMA Librarian
This is the greatest article on violence in video games I have ever read and sums up everything I believe while bringing up a lot of other great points. Great Job!
I look forward to the next tom article. Not because of toms writing or anything else other than the fact you feel compelled to give a response that manages to sum up the situation perfectly. Thank you as always lucas.