We’ve all done it. We’ve all shot those innocent pedestrians in the face while roaming the streets of Los Santos. We’ve all slaughtered random defenseless NPCs simply out of boredom. Hell, even Need for Speed gave us the option to ram and total police vehicles. If you own any game where you can indulge in senseless violence, I guarantee you couldn’t stop yourself from enjoying a bit of carnage.
That being said, violence in video games raises the single biggest controversy plaguing the industry today. Across the globe concerned parents, teachers, and even governments condemn the virtual violence found in many games. Their arguments vary depending on the situation. While some parents may simply be trying to shield their young ones from the excessive blood and gore, others come up with ridiculous and sometimes hilarious accusations. Like, for example, when the International Committee of the Red Cross claimed war crimes by players in video games should be severely punished. Another example would be Anita Sarkeesian’s idiotic claim that video games promote violence against women.
It seems that for every reasonable argument (and there are very few of these) people come up with 20 accusations that are completely ludicrous. As an avid and passionate gamer, and as a proud defender of our constitutional right of free speech, I speak in support of games like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat. I have spent most of my high school and college years speaking and arguing in favor of video games in general, but it seems that no matter how many facts I present, or how many claims I debunk, I just can’t seem to reach an understanding.
This doesn’t mean I stand for or encourage violence in real life, and, with the exception of Grand Theft Auto, I do not particularly indulge in senseless virtual murder when I play video games as I usually play for the story. I do, however, support and defend the content of video games as an art in whole. If we tried to censor every small act of aggression, we might as well just close our eyes and never leave our rooms. So, in the spirit of free speech and senseless slaughter, let’s talk games, shall we?
The Color Red
Violence in video games is nothing new. In fact, one could say violence has always existed in video games. Take a look at the games that came from the late 80’s and early 90’s. This was a time when fat plumbers and speeding hedgehogs ruled the television screens. In these games the most graphic act of violence would be jumping on a turtles head and squishing it. There was no blood, but it could still be considered violence. So, why was there no outrage in then?
In those times, the primary depictions of blood and gore came from movies and not video games. It wasn’t until graphics evolved that people began to take notice of what was happening in our games. The pixilated blocks that represented NPCs were becoming more human like. They began to look more and more real. This meant that the idea of killing them became a bit more real as well. You weren’t just killing little colored blocks, now you were killing a “person,” all be it a fake virtual one.
At the same time there were more red effects added to our games. All of a sudden we could see blood spouting out from a headless body in Mortal Kombat. We were turning enemies into red blobs of flesh in DOOM. The addition of the color red on screen propelled video games into the spot light. It wasn’t just movies that were depicting blood anymore, it was video games as well.
This in itself was not so much what sparked the war against video games. Blood in movies was still more graphic and realistic that in video games at the time. So why were video games considered worse than movies? Many believed that the fact that one was interacting with the game and consciously “killing” by our own choice was what separated games from other forms of media. You weren’t just seeing “people” die, you were deliberately “murdering” them. It became more intimate than anything ever portrayed in the media. And so, after a few years and with the addition of some red pixels, the war on video games began.
Video Games as an Art Form
I am a firm believer that video games are art. From the beautiful worlds to the serine ambiance to the vivid and emotional stories, video games are probably the most personal form of art that exists. The idea that one can dive into the mesmerizing world of Journey, or explore the complex relationships between the characters from Final Fantasy dictates that video games are an evolved form of art.
So why, then, are video games being persecuted while other ridiculous forms of art are applauded? We live in a world where a woman dropping colored eggs from her vagina is admired, yet video games, a product that takes time, effort, knowledge, and true imagination, are looked down upon. To ban or to censor one form of art would mean that all forms of art should be censored. The very idea that only a select few forms of art should be cherished is hypocritical, and frankly it angers many gamers.
But going back to violence. Yes some games do push boundaries for some people. Take the infamous game Hatred, or the RPG, Agony. Even more familiar games like DOOM or Mortal Kombat may make some people cringe. I accept that the concept of some games may be disgusting or lazy, but these games are not forcing anyone to be or act violent in any way.
They say music can alter moods and talk to you.Well can it load a gun for you, and cock it too?
Of course, this is referring to music and the controversy behind some lyrics found in the rap genre, but it applies to everything.
Video games may make you feel a certain way, but they do not force you to act on those feelings. Countless studies do in fact suggest that violent video games induce some thoughts of aggression. These thoughts can last anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes and, according to the American Psychological Association, are directly linked to playing violent video games. However, there is no evidence that suggests that violent video games and aggression are “correlated with criminal violence or juvenile delinquency.”
As a matter of fact, another study concluded that while video games did cause aggressive thoughts in the people being studied, they in fact reduced the number of physiological problems later.
Children who played at least five hours of games a week had fewer psychological problems than students who didn’t play the games.
Furthermore, the aggressive thoughts that were causeed in the experiments were forgotten almost immediately.
With this information one can gather that yes, violent video games do cause aggressive behavior now, but actually reduce aggressive interactions later. So to censor video games simply because they make you feel aggressive, even though they do not cause you to act aggressive, is hypocritical. We are not banning books or music because they make you feel sad, even though they do not lead to depression. Video games in general, as an art, are supposed to make you feel something. That’s why we love them.
The truth, backed by studies, is that video games are not causing violent actions. That’s not to say that it doesn’t give the more mentally unhinged members of society ideas. However, this falls into a completely different category where mental illness is introduced. There for, blaming video games, and not identifying the real problem, is a dangerous and delicate situation, one that is best suited for another discussion.
Think About the Children
I don’t have kids, at least not that I know of, so I do not hold all the answers when it comes to video games and child behavior. I can, however, pinpoint wack jobs on the internet who claim to know the answers. Take this person, for example, Laura St. John. Mrs. John is a mother with her heart in the right place. Her brain, however, must have been misplaced somewhere and never found again. In her article, 8 Ways Violent Games Are Bad for Your Kids, Mrs. John address several topics on video games and children, starting with one I previously mentioned above.
To kids, virtual experiences feel very real, not only because the graphics today are so amazing, but because they are taking on a first-person role in the killing process. Rather than just passively watching a rated-R violent movie, when kids play a game, they are one of the main characters inside the adventure. The entire experience becomes a more meaningful — and deadly – in their brains, which are forming new connections every day.
Little kids have a hard time distinguishing the line between the real-world and the virtual gaming world, as young minds are still forming what is real and what is make-believe. I put it into perspective like this: If my kids believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny, then how could they possibly understand that these other bad guys in games, who look real, are not really real?
This is true, especially for very young children. During the younger ages (toddler to very early adolescence) the part of the brain that separates reality from imagination is still developing. This is why when children have nightmares, or when they claim to see a monster in the closet, they legitimately believe that what they see and feel is real. You can see the danger in this when a young child is exposed to extremely detailed and graphic violence on screen.
However… the real concern should be WHY THE F*** ARE S***BRAIN PARENTS LETTING THEIR YOUNG KINDS PLAY VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES?
There exists a magical system that can shield kids from content they are not allowed to see. This system is called the ESRB. With this system you, the parent, can see which games are allowed to be played by young children, and which are not. In other words, take responsibility and actually parent your kids. And, if little Timmy is playing Shadow of Mordor or The Witcher 3, it’s not the developer’s fault. Those games are for grown-ups, not for your little kids, and developers are too busy developing new games for me to be babysitting your kids for you!
Mrs. John also brings up violence against woman.
I am a pretty tough little chick: I live in a house filled with plenty of testosterone, and they all know not to mess with me. But majority of the ultra-violent games feature violence toward women. Now if some games can teach the habits of heroes, why would we ever harness the power of gaming to be mean toward me, or your girls — your daughters, my boys’ future girlfriends?
Really? What f***ing game or games are you referring to, Mrs. John? Call of Duty? Street Fighter? Minecraft? Where is your proof? What games are teaching your children to be violent against women?None, zero. With the exception (maybe) of GTA where you can f*** a prostitute and kill her to get your money back, I cannot think a single game that teaches or promotes violence against women.
Though Mrs. John has a valid concern, her arguments are stale and invalid. Lack of evidence for her accusations, or examples of games she is referring to, discredit her and many people like her. There for, despite her good intentions, I can only shake my head and toss her article with the other loony blogs. Her post is just one of thousands of articles, blogs, videos, and arguments circulating the internet today.
Many parents believe violent video games should disappear for the sake of their kids. “Think of the children!” They say. Well, I hate to be the one to break this to you (no I don’t) but it’s not the developers’ job to think about your kids. That’s you job, and if you can’t do your job maybe you shouldn’t be a parent.
So, there you have it, my own take on this video game controversy. To me, video games are just something to be enjoyed for a short amount of time as we unwind from the real world. That’s not to say some games push limits, such as Modern Warfare 2 with the infamous mission, “No Russian”. Other games feel disgustingly cheap, and seem to only exist for no other reason than to spite people, like Hatred. In both cases, the true intentions of the games are to entertain, not create violence. As I have shown with studies, creating violence from a virtual stimulation is impossible.
There are, of course, exceptions. These are very few, very rare, and often not even noticeable, but must be brought up when discussing the effects of violence in video games. Ethnic Cleansing, for example, is a disgusting game made by white nationalists to promote there message of hate and racism. This game is only one of very very few games that only exists to spread fear and hate, and has appropriately been pulled from many host sites, though one can still find it on the internet.
However, as many have already been told, the existence of one bad game does not justify a ban of all games that may make some people squeamish. In the end of the day, it’s up to the players to do the right thing and filter the imaginative from reality. As such, video games are not and will never be responsible for today’s violence in the world, people are. So, it’s up to us to change that.
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As always, I hope you enjoyed, and I hope you have a great day.