Why Aren’t We Discussing Videogame Violence?

By Nathan Grayson on December 28th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Everyone? We need to talk.

I didn’t feel right playing Far Cry 3 the day after the awful, disgusting, utterly tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. I didn’t at all.

I think that says something. I know that says something. But what? That’s the important question, and I’m disheartened to see that very few people are discussing it.

But I know why we’re not discussing it. That’s the easy part. It’s because that’s the sort of thing the enemy talks about. “Videogames cause violence,” they hoot and holler, pitchforks aloft atop their dusty dinosaur steeds. “The medium just belches out puerile filth that teaches our children how to kill. All games should be banned forever. Period end.”

The most recent last straw in a string of straws that have broken the camel’s back a million times over came when the US’ National Rifle Association primarily blamed violent media – games, Hollywood, etc (but especially Bulletstorm and 1989 beat-‘em-up Splatterhouse for some reason) – for the recent school shootings. To say that the NRA’s stance was rooted in horrifyingly willful ignorance is the understatement of the century, but the fact is, they said it. On a national stage. And the NRA has some pretty serious lobbying power to boot. So what happened next? The same thing that always happens: everyone got super pissed off.

The NRA has quite an affinity for fireworks, and boy did it ever get them. And honestly, it deserved them. It deserved to be publicly denounced by longtime supporters and verbally tarred and feathered for what was frankly a disgusting, opportunistic display in light of such a terrible tragedy. But suddenly, the attention was on them and how completely, incontrovertibly wrong they were. Because that’s what always happens: opponents of the gaming industry fly off the handle and end up in Cuckoo Land on the goddamn moon. Whether it was politicians denouncing Mortal Kombat back in the day, Jack Thompson a few years ago, or the NRA now, there’s rarely any logic or reason backing their claims. Just loud, knee-jerking agendas and spittle-soaked shouting. They may go on and on and on about how they despise games and all they stand for, but their favorite game of all time is clear as day: the blame game.

So naturally, we take up our tower shields and defend gaming’s honor. I mean, I know I do. I love this medium. It’s provided some of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. Of course I’m going to speak up when it can’t speak for itself. Unfortunately, in this scenario, there’s rarely room for compromise. If gaming’s detractors say one thing, we say the opposite. Gaming causes violence? No. There is absolutely no problem with the fact that most big-budget games spill enough blood to make the Red Sea’s name literal. None whatsoever.

But can we just drop the fever-pitch finger-pointing and be honest with ourselves for a second? Forget the nutty politicians. Forget the “studies” that have been tailored to say whatever people want them to say. Just breathe, count to ten, and look inward. We take tremendous joy in virtual violence. We squeal with glee when life-giving liquid squirts out of men’s necks. Does that cause violence? Probably not. I don’t have any concrete reason to believe so, anyway. But it gives violence an active, constant role in our day-to-day lives. We can’t just ignore that. We shouldn’t ignore that. It’d be outright irresponsible to do so.

And really, that’s what this comes down to: responsibility – whether you’re a game-maker or a simply a player. Again, I don’t think gaming causes violence, but it would be impossible for frequent immersion in violent scenarios – fictional or not – to not have some kind of effect on us. We’re humans. We’re molded by our environment. Between games and movies and TV and commercials and billboards and everything else, Western (and especially American) culture treats violence like it’s perfectly normal. It’s just… there. All the time. For me personally, there’s still certainly a line between fiction and fact (I could hardly even move after I heard about the shootings in Newtown; I just sort of stared at a wall for a while), but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected people in other ways.

What I’m suggesting, then, is that it’s up to us to be aware. Examine yourself. Understand the effect – if any – that violence has had on you and those you care about. Don’t let your judgement be clouded by the fact that dumb people believe games to be the new rock ‘n’ roll comic book devil as heralded by literate people who – gasp – weren’t landed gentry. That’s not the point, and this certainly isn’t conceding defeat or anything like that. But gaming’s still a young medium. Heck, the modern world’s still young as, well, a thing that exists. It may move at a million miles per hour, but that’s no reason to avoid slowing down and taking the time to understand it.

This is something the industry stands to benefit hugely from, too. For one, big-budget gaming’s in a thematic gutter. Relentless manshooting gives even the best creators a pretty limited pallet to work with, so we just see the same strokes over and over again. Lo and behold, things finally get interesting when games examine themselves in a truly critical light (see: Spec Ops, etc) or do something new entirely. This is important. This is healthy. This is how an art form grows.

But also, knowing violence’s place in gaming and what it really does to us can help us turn these sudden outbursts against the industry from wars of words into semi-level-headed discussions. Yes, the tide of public perception is turning in gaming’s favor, but organizations like the NRA still have a lot of pull. And who knows? Maybe they’re too far gone. Maybe we can’t convince them of anything, and they’ll cut a swathe through portions of civilized society in some horrible, backward way. But it’d be utterly – and here’s that word again – irresponsible of us not to try. Reasoning with people (especially fundamentally unreasonable ones) doesn’t always work, but it’s incredibly depressing how often people opt to skip that step altogether.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. And that’s why I’m going to start at square one. Within the next couple of days, I’ll be publishing a followup piece to this one in which I’ll take a very close look at the places where games and violence have intersected with my life. From blissful, naive childhood all the way up to right now. Sure, the whole exercise will be inherently biased, but is there any other way to do it? And if I end up being completely full of shit, please – by all means – tell me. I want to start a discussion. Whether that means you end up contributing your own anecdotes, tearing mine to shreds, or doing something else entirely, that’s great! Regardless, I think it’s high-time we talk about this topic in an open, frank manner. So, right then. Pause your games of Far Cry 3. Let’s get to it.

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700 Comments »

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  1. Flavioli says:

    When I was little, my mom would be absolutely horrified to watch me play the original Mario Bros for NES because she found it terrifying when Mario would fall into pits. As a kid, I never quite understood why this was such a big deal. Now, as an adult, I look back and notice that I was, even as a kid, desensitized from this kind of violence. Not that something as mild as falling into a pit compares to some of the violence that we see nowadays in games, but it comes to show how differently we react to a situation once it becomes the status quo. With that in mind, once can easily conceive why people who did not grow up with video games think so negatively about videogame violence.

    That said, this effect is largely detached from giving one the motivation to be violent. There’s a world of difference between being desensitized from violence and wanting to do to real people what the virtual character does to the virtual baddies. To add to that, I’m still often shaken up when it comes to real-life violence… I do think our minds are sophisticated enough to differentiate from videogame violence and real-life violence. From my own experience, all videogame violence does is desensitize you from videogame violence.

  2. Nethlem says:

    RPS.. i am disappoint…
    Seriously i expected Kotaku to do their usual thing and as expected they have pieces over there where people tell us how they quit “violent games” after being a journalist on a school shooting scene.

    Kotaku can do this kind of shit, it’s why i go there in the first place. But why does RPS does have to jump on this bandwagon of artificial dismay? You looked at a wall in shock when you heard about the school shooting? Wow that’s some hard stuff right there, good thing you obviously never check news outside of the western world. Or you would spent the rest of your life staring at a wall, considering that in other parts of the world children and their parents are raped, mutilated, tortured and god knows what else on a regular basis and on a genocide scale.

    Strangely enough when these kinds of things happen in Africa or some other third world country nobody sheds a tear. But oh watch out when some nutjob burns his fuses and does the same thing in an western country. Than it’s time for everybody everywhere to be in shock, demand answers and solutions, demand reasons as to why and how something like this could happen and there is always pointing fingers at some thing or another. Like it matters, like we need to do something right now or else all civilization will be lost and hell on earth will break lose.

    I’m getting tired of it, as German i’m in the exact opposite situation. Over here nobody labels critics of “violent videogames” as lunatics, it’s quite the opposite: They get labeled as “experts” while they spread obvious lies. Lies like Counter Strike being about shooting teachers and children in schools, lies like labeling World of Warcraft an violent FPS game or Starcraft 2 an “super violent” game. And on comes the next political debate about what should be banned or stronger regulated next. They tell stories about the “industrial military complex” that’s so involved with the developers of videogames, how Doom got developed for the US Military as an tool to desynthesize their Soldier for killing. And people believe them, people buy into this crap.

    What nobody believes is that we are right now living in the most peaceful times of human history. That might sound insane, but it’s the actual truth (Google Steven Pinker and The better Angels of our Nature). But for some people nothing is ever enough and they will only rest when nobody dies or gets hurt ever, a planet of invincible undying humans where everybody is always happy…

    And even as a Gamer, is it really that difficult to acknowledge that we have moved away from the “ultra violence” theme? How many Kill Thrills or Mad Worlds have we seen in recent history? How many developers still bother to add different hitzones to enemies including visible effects? Violence has become so clean stylized that it’s more of an caricature than anything that shocks people evoking an emotional reaction that forces them to think about their action. That’s the real problem here…

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      lurkalisk says:

      I don’t think “western” is really the right word. Regardless, the uniquely terrible part about the Sandy Hook shooting, to me, is that it could so easily have been averted, unlike much of the violence in less stable parts of the world.

      • Harkkum says:

        And here I think that you are coming back to the reasons which is much more of a problem than the violence itself. If prevention is the way to increase security we are making the extraordinary ordinary just to maintain our sense of security. It is a very Foucauldian theme and one explored e.g. by Frankenberg in his delightfully witty Staatstechnik where he underlines this normalisation of state of emergency (he speaks of terrorism and the present financial crisis in the Euro-zone).

        To prevent all schools shootings would effectively mean that we would concede that there is something normal in the actions of those perpetuating these slaughters, normal that needs to be embedded in the systems of control. I am not entirely convinced that we should even try to control such anomalies. Certainly if the means to “prevent” would include something other than gun control and closer inspections and monitoring, we might be closer to a solution.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          Said with much more authority than I could ever muster; thanks for that.

          To put things in perspective, a quick Google search turns up a tally of 1,545 child fatalities in the USA due to abuse or neglect in 2011 (data found in a report at Childwelfare.gov).

          It is understandable that a high profile violent act will catch our attention and bring out all sorts of emotions in us. Emotions are good and proper. But the sheer improbability of such events is reason enough for us to maintain perspective, and let critical investigation guide our reactions.

          I don’t think we need to have shut down the conversation entirely, by any means. But: Perspective, please.

  3. Zwebbie says:

    We don’t need to talk, we need to act.

    C’mon, RPS, this is a great line of thought — carry it through and boycott irresponsible games. Dare to sacrifice your fun for an ideal. Say “I’m sorry mr. Levine, but your game asks me to murder people — come back when you’ve grown up and when you’ve grown a heart, then we’ll play what you’ll make.”

    100% serious here. I, for one, am deciding not to play any violent video games in 2013. You can hold me to it.

  4. Harkkum says:

    All of this discussion about violence in games always makes me think of Zizek’s take on violence where more important than the apparent manifestations of violence are the silent things. I would venture and say that this much holds also for the games: it is not really the fact that all living things in the games are mere cannon fodder which makes games violent but the very ethos of gaming in and of itself.

    It seems that violence is omnipresent in the structure of modern games, regardless of the genre. I can play happy-go-lucky platformer and kill, a grand strategy and kill, a RTSsy clickfest and kill, minecraft and kill, lego and kill and, finally, FPS and kill. I think that the “little killing” in, say, LEGO-kind-of-games is much more paradigmatic of the relationship of violence that games have than what we see in latest FPS-BLOPSDCG.

    And I guess that here is where I converge back to the topics dealt with in the article itself: is there really any introspection in the industry concerning this silly relationship with killing and violence. When choosing peaceful means in the games signifies dullness for hours (I am talking of you, cultural victory in Civ V), as opposed to enthralling decision-laden moments it is moot to argue that there is the other way ™. There is not, not if you want to enjoy from the games. And if you are playing for punishment you might just as well read Joyce.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      ” I think that the “little killing” in, say, LEGO-kind-of-games is much more paradigmatic of the relationship of violence that games have than what we see in latest FPS-BLOPSDCG.”

      Ideology in the smallest of places, you are a true Zizek fan (as am I)!
      I would love Zizek to write a piece on how ideology is reflected in videogame toilets:

      ” Asch we can shee in thisk toilet from Deus Ex, tthhche clean lines and steel construcskun denotes a neo-futuristichk dischtopian ethick”

      was meant to see him in London but he cancelled through illness :(

  5. MDefender says:

    The Far Cry 3/Ubisoft approach to violence is almost worth discussing in terms of general critique, but on this particular subject there is simply nothing to be said. Launch your demeaning, self-conscious rant on how you thought getting that headshot made your trip to the corner store more surreal if you want, maybe even talk more about that hypothetical counterstudy you’d support if anyone actually cared when it came around. But I’m not going to read it.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      But please don’t let not reading an article stop you from commenting on it.

  6. enderwiggum says:

    Don’t forget about comedy. We need to take a long hard look at games and the impact their comedy has on society. If we don’t, soon there may be comedy in the streets. I ask you, how do our children know the difference between real life and choppy, badly animated life?

  7. Daza says:

    There is a saying that i remember that is fitting, and that is “Guns don’t kill, people do”.

    There is other types of violence that perhaps has been missed here, and that being such as bullying where there is implied or threat of violence or just verbal abuse. The difference between the temptation to ridicule the weak being similar to enjoying destroying things in video games, even like griefing in Minecraft, to destroy someones labor of love. Although you can argue no one really gets hurt, you are shooting polygons after all. A bully isn’t a killer in the sense of spilling blood, but perhaps one of the soul. Even some victims of bullying out in the world have taken their lives. Bullying has always been part of the school life and even in the workforce, but in today’s society in some cases it has lead to suicide (i wonder if that has always been the case or of more recent times).
    How many have people step in and stood up to bullies? or don’t want to look sheepish in front of their friends or they fear the bully. The bully may be a victim at home, but that has only fueled his desire to tear down others.

    But what about a game like Dayz? Just as for those who bully find it more fun to tear down a person than build them up. Showing pity or sympathy in todays western culture is often looked upon as a sign of weakness, unless its something that warrants it. You may feel sympathy
    but fear showing it least what others may think of you. What im trying to say here is that, people who need help in the world are ignored and the few slip off into the deep end and become national news.

    In Dayz where in the beginning there were more players helping out other players, until over time more and more would get killed by other players for their food and loot, saving the killer time looking for it themselves. Whether it be lone wolves or groups of players would do this.
    It got to the point of, if you came across another player and they looked like they were about to shoot you, you had to shoot first. After many players ended up being unfairly killed or in a sense murdered by other players. Where they had to start over again, all the gear they had painstakingly collected is lost. So they then vowed they’d rather shoot a stranger they come across than go through being the one shot. So it got to a point where this was the norm.
    That you couldn’t trust another player, they either would shoot first fearing you are a bandit or be killed by one.

    It came to be a game of trust, when the chat system was in the game, asking other players if they were friendly kind of worked etc. Sometimes you could be accepted into a group, by saying you are friendly. But that just became another ruse for bandits to join up and shoot players in the back.

    For me it was more fun playing with other players and working together. But for a lot of others it was more thrilling to hunt other players and see what cool loot they can get for their efforts. It doesn’t matter if in doing so you are ruining someone else’s game, that some might decide to uninstall the game all together after surviving for a long time and collecting rare items only to be murdered. Even in a game, the desire to take and destroy seems too irresistible to most, more so if the loser is another player.
    Only if they did that in the real world the consequences would be too much, so they don’t. Except maybe those who like to put down others for sport.
    But my point is, in their heart they have a joy in taking away, destroying.
    You might argue if it were real life they wouldn’t kill or destroy buildings etc. But i beg to differ, in that in the right circumstances maybe they would?

    See a Black Friday example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O6IMYSSs7c
    They might argue that its not their fault that is the way it is, and its too late to change it, you have to adapt to get what you want. I guess this example is mob behavior. And not all of them were fighting but being in the middle of it all.

    A good question might be, how did a society get to a point of behaving like children, like zombies at
    a mall because there is a big sale on? There was no guns or shooting present true, maybe one day there will be. But im talking about if people are the problem and not guns, then where to from here?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Even so, that argument always conveniently glosses over the fact that firearms do make it a lot easier to kill people. Because it’s what they were designed to do.

      Consider your DayZ example: if players would never be able to get guns, it would be harder to kill other players. There would be no sniping from afar, for instance.

      I pose that raising a barrier for people to do violence is possible through rules and changes in society.

      This can be done via various ways: By having regulation (police, the justice system), by banning guns and other dangerous weaponry or making sure people can use such responsibly. Consider that when the law enforcement was gone in New Orleans during the disaster crime when up dramatically.

      It can also help by trying to make sure people don’t consider owning a weapon lightly. Being an owner of such a weapon gives people the responsibility to be able to use a weapon with care and without needlessly endangering fellow citizens.

  8. Dinovash says:

    First of all, English is not my native language so my spelling might not be perfect.

    Maybe it is time to pause that game of Far Cry 3 or Black Ops 2 and think hard and long and have a nice discussion about this subject.

    But what good will this do (if any) ?

    The fact is, yes, there is violence in videogames.
    But is there more violence in videogames than say, in movies?
    Is there more violence in videogames than in books or comicbooks?
    How many people do you think get killed in your favorite action movie?

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that, even a tiny little bit of violence can trigger something in a very mentally unstable mind, and if you throw firearms into the mix, well there is no need to tell you what happens then.

    So should be do something about all the violence that people get subjected to?
    If so, should we take it back a notch in videogames or other media as well, like movies and reality TV? I mean, you can`t just reduce the amount of violence in videogames and leave the other media alone… because that wont work.

    And even if you would remove all the violence in video games, and turn them all in Hello Kitty Adventure Island, and remove all the violence from movies and turn them in boring presidential debates… theres still some pretty violent music out there!

    So, to ban violence… one should ban all media, because violence occurs on more places than just videogames or Die Hard movies.

    So then, how much violence is allowed before it gets to a level that there`s too much of it? I mean, I know people who say World of Warcraft has violence. And you know what, they`re right! What`s more violent than beating piggies and bears to death with a stick? And we`re not talking about just a few, we`re talking about thousands that get beaten to death every single day.

    And what about comic books?
    Why does Batman feel the need to bash in the skulls of the bad guys?
    Why can´t he just… I don`t know… give them advice on how to better their lives?

    Another good example… Spike and Suzy.
    Why does Jethro always resorts to violence? Kicking the bad guy so hard in the face he ends up in a low orbit around the planet? Isn`t this violence?
    How many young children read these kinds of comic books?

    Do young children end up shooting each other in school just because The Joker shot someone in the face in a comic book ? Because Aunt Sidonia kicks Ambrose in the face after he calls her a broom or makes a joke about her shoe size ?

    You see… just saying that violence in videogames is bad because it causes people to murder each other in public is not good enough. You need to look further than just videogames…

    Now I am going to be honest here… it seems that many people all around the world can handle playing violent videogames just fine, almost no people get murdered after playing a violent game… except in the U.S.

    Why is that ?

    Maybe its not just because the violence in videogames but because theres violence EVERYWHERE we go. Radio, TV, Books & Comic Books, Games & Music… everywhere. Combine that with a country where you can find a gunshop on almost every corner and you got problems.

    How come everyone in the world can see this, yet 80% of the American people (mostly the ones owning firearms) don`t for some reason.

    Well, I just wanted to throw this into the discussion… hopefully I did not offend anyone :)

    • zal says:

      The fact is, yes, there is violence in videogames.
      But is there more violence in videogames than say, in movies?
      Yup, Tons more
      download 20 random video games off of steam, and rent 20 movies….
      play games for same amount of time as watch movies. count bodies. be unsurprised.

      Is there more violence in videogames than in books or comicbooks?
      OH yea! same example as above but buy 20 random comic books.. even 1 CoD game and you’ve instantly won in body count and violence.

      How many people do you think get killed in your favorite action movie?
      Still less than most video games.. most action movies I’ve seen still drop in under a couple of hundred people directly shown dying. Try counting yourself if you dont’ believe me.

      But what about books! books are violent…
      Spend several hours reading the “dark gritty violent:” game of thrones series, count the number of people directly described as killed (IE not in the background or as exposition)…
      Now play “dark gritty violent” Witcher 2 through, and count it up.
      Be unsurprised.

      Video games are an exceptionally violent form by and large. If you haven’t noticed that, you’re not paying attention.

      We’re practically trained to it too…
      I read an article about how Dishonored forces you to either play as a serial killer or a save scummer…. because if you didn’t choke/dart everyone out perfectly you’d wind up killing them or reloading. It never even occured to this person to disengage I guess. you have sprint slide stealth right from the start. teleport within a couple of hours of gameplay. slow time and double jump within the first half of the game if you want it. And yet there he was talking about being forced into a course of action. FORCED.. “woe is me, my time-stopping-teleporting-sprint-double-jumping-building-scaling-super-stealth abilities can’t possibly extricate me from 3 retarded thugs with swords and the occasional pistol. Nope bullheaded violence or constant reloading, no other choices.

    • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

      Batman doesn’t kill. And he doesn’t use guns. That’s kind of a big thing with Batman.

  9. Bleiz says:

    Do video games make you violent? I know DOTA2 does. Doesn’t take much for people to start inciting you to commit suicide, wish that you die in a flaming building or of cancer, or say that they raped or will rape your mom, and pretty much anything that involves extreme suffering or anguish.
    That’s just DOTA. Apparently the COD community on consoles is utterly insane, with people even tracking down players to actually beat em up.

  10. Bellicose says:

    It sounds very similar to the way people felt about music in the States post 9/11.

    Lots and lots of people said they couldn’t enjoy music after witnessing the towers collapsing, and many even said they felt that music didn’t have a place in the world after that.

    But that’s ridiculous. What happened was that they weren’t comfortable enjoying themselves after having an event like that affect them emotionally. It didn’t have anything to do with music. Just like this doesn’t have anything to do with games. People feel bad for laughing at something unrelated after someone they know has died. It’s just human.

    This may feel more reasoned given the fact that society connects game violence with real violence, but it’s only that there is the perceived connection that strengthens your distaste for finding yourself doing something you might enjoy when you “should be feeling x”.

    In time, everyone finds themselves enjoying music again, everyone laughs again, and the sane will still be able to separate reality from fantasy and enjoy games again.

  11. Totally heterosexual says:

    This is way too many comments.

    • Sarkhan Lol says:

      Still, it’s reassuring to know that mass murder remains almost as provocative as feminism.

      • Uthred says:

        They just need to work in racism and something about rape and the comments section would literally explode

  12. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    It seems like insanity to plead, as the NRA has, that there should be more guns present at schools. Guns are tools meant to efficiently hurt or kill. If the only way you can protect your children is by having guns everywhere you’re in a pretty bad spot.

    Moreso, apparently gun-related violence happens far more often outside of schools.

    Now, from my dutch point of view I find the notion that it is so easy to get a gun and ammunition for it without anything much to prove you’re capable enough to handle it wisely is frankly absurd. But if (as I hear quite a few citizens of the USA do) you value your right to bear arms so greatly even then, why would you want just about anybody to have one (if they so choose)? I have a hunch stable, peaceful folk are far less likely to get or possess a firearm than people who are less so. And this especially with rather expensive and harmful (semi-)automatic weaponry. Do people really realistically consider they may want to use such a thing for defensive purposes moreso than a non-automatic firearm?

    I think these may be bought for the feeling of safety, sure. Or by the serious firearm afficionadoes. I would argue that if my suppositions above are indeed correct, it may be best to ban such weapons and to make people test/train so they learn how to properly and safely handle firearms. Even so, any person can get angry. In a bout of rage, even. And if a fireweapon happens to be in the vicinity one can imagine the risk of a deadly result is far greater than without a firearm present.

    Another thing to consider is that it may not even be the laws which can restrict or encourage firearm use and ownership, but rather a certain culture and belief. The NRA may sometimes seem like a devil in disguise to us here, but it’s certainly possible that they truly believe in guns. That they are so used to firearms and expect, nay, even feel they need them that this affects their views. They could say the reverse of me, of course, but I doubt they are very much open to reconsidering their points of view in this as much as I try to be.

  13. Lethys says:

    Human beings are violent inherently. We have ways of dealing with it and channeling it. Sports, for example, have replaced wars that would be fought strictly for nationalism, like in the 1600s. We exercise, have adrenaline, fight or flight responses, and we now live in a society where physicality and strength are obsolete except in attracting the opposite sex. We have retained our animal instincts.

    Add that to a superior, complicated intellect that directs us but can also become confused and altered. One that might have faulty wiring in different ways. Many serial killers, for example, are missing parts of their brain, as I’d bet a lot of money the Newtown shooter does. We live in a culture of widespread panic, where every six months the end of the world is upon us, where the word crisis and breaking news and panic and threat levels are shoved in our faces, causing people to go crazy. A new age of information in which people take in so much, more than ever before. Higher expectations, new weapons we don’t understand, numbers that are too big for us to grasp.

    And we expect this to be blamed on video games? Video games are beneficial in my opinion. They simulate the aggression so we get it out of us. I’d be willing to bet that video games are actually a benefit to these types of people. It satiates our violent tendencies as humans. During Pax Romana, the period in which Rome reigned and there was about 200 years of peace, the most brutal violence in sports ever, the gladiator games, was created. This is not a coincidence. The lack of war required our animal instinct to be satiated. We crave violence and it’s unfortunate that we haven’t evolved.

    Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto and all these other violent games have made me into a much calmer person. I had a situation in my life which causes a staggering number of the victims to become alcoholics, drug addicts, and criminals. I played video games to get my anger out while I was young and my problem was being neglected, and did well in school despite many social problems. These games really helped me out in a way that most don’t need. I really hate that the NRA and the media have ignored to turn the blame on themselves for poor media portrayals (which FBI profilers repeatedly cite as a reason people commit these blaze of glory crimes) and the insane types of guns available to people.

    And furthermore, I don’t see a difference between violence in movies and violence in games except that Hollywood is filled with lawyers and nerdy game developers don’t have them. Even EA and Activision couldn’t defend against the onslaught that Hollywood could withstand. The rules aren’t the same for everyone. I love violent films, and I’m not blaming them. I’m saying if we were being honest, we’d go after everything violent. And I think the responses to bullying are just as much bullying as the bullying incidents are in the first place.

  14. Tams80 says:

    I’m sure in the 10 pages of comments before this has been mentioned, but here goes anyway:

    I think violence is often in video games because many people play video games in order to do things they can’t do in real life.

    Companies do produce games that have violence as previous games with violence have sold well, but those games sell and thus the customers are just as much to “blame”.

    Why violence and not rape etc. though? I think that’s because historically the human race has been violent and that violence has often been celebrated or seen as neutral. Violence isn’t necessarily considered bad either, as the reason for it can been seen as good. For rape etc. this is far less common and thus are generally not accepted in video games.

    When comparing games to other media, perhaps the subjects broached do need to be more carefully thought through, as video games are interactive. That said, for violence, as a whole I don’t think it being present in video games has been a major cause of tragedies.

    • Ruffian says:

      Well, violence is often a means to an end (unless you get off on it) and can be used to achieve “good” things. Whereas rape is using violence to achieve one specific end, a selfish one, and thus bad. “Apples and Oranges”, as they say – or rather “apples and one specific shitty rotten apple with a worm in it that makes you puke”.

  15. IneptFromRussia says:

    Well it is always a possibility that gaming CAN in fact nudge a potential murderer to commit a crime. Just like a book, a movie or even a music track can do. You can’t work backwards from this logic though, because no matter how many terrible people out there, they are still a small percentage of all population, and you can’t spoil lives of majority to fix a problem of the few.

  16. Premium User Badge

    jrodman says:

    I dunno what’s with violence in games, but I wish they’d stop putting so much in. It’s distasteful and boring and I play other games.

  17. LifeSuport says:

    One day people will just be honest and drop the hypocrisy.

    The life IS two things death and sex; black and white, yin and yang. We are all fuckers and killers.

    That school shooting, all the school shootings were learned from watching what daddy and mommy do

    Over there, over there,
    Send the word, send the word over there
    That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
    The drums rum-tumming everywhere.
    So prepare, say a prayer,
    Send the word, send the word to beware –
    We’ll be over, we’re coming over,
    And we won’t come back till it’s over, over there.

    Sex and the Military Industrial Complex are THE two industries. Talks of sexual objectivity in games and violence is just a way to not talk about the real issue… who benefits from this indoctrination and why are we slaves to it and why is it fun?

  18. Narnold48 says:

    I whole heatedly agree with this article, as an NRA member I was angered top say the least at their attack on violent video games. This argument blaming video for such tragedies is no more logical than blaming the firearms which were used. In the end, a few crazy people will always want to “leave their mark” and they themselves must be held directly accountable, with an overall examination of contributing factors.

    Let’s not think these tragedies are in any way simple, that is the first flaw in what inevitable becomes a politically motivated “blame game.” I just wanted to put in my two cents, there are many younger Americans who are actively involved in both video games and firearm culture. A final aside, just as we as gamer’s are frustrated when our passion is blamed from those who do not understand what we love, so too are millions of firearms owners who are constantly blamed for the actions of others. If you can, try to make it to a range and experience responsible firearm use before expressing your opinion, just as you would like reviewers to play a game before writing a review.

    I know much of this this may be a little off topic, hopefully it may be a constructive part of the conversation.

  19. Ruffian says:

    Look, the bottom line is this – we, as a species, as we go along and grow older, like to think that we’re extremely evolved and advanced, modern. We like to think that we’re nothing like we were hundreds of years ago – that we’re forever marching resolutely ahead, under a glittering banner of progress into a glass-domed sparkling white clean techno-future of renewable resources and humanity and tolerance.

    But the simple truth of the matter is that we’re not. We might be making cooler things at a faster rate, but we’re still essentially the same man/apes that we were starting out. We still have animal instincts and desires (which we deny at every turn, or take the risk of being ousted from society), and one of those desires is the desire to compete, to kill, to destroy the competition. These desires, of course, need an outlet. It used to be the Colosseum, or weird crazy torture/punitive displays, or big crazy, dangerous adventures, or flat out conquest, then we started making up sports and plays where we could simulate violence, which eventaully led to the movies and tv, and then games.

    Now, of course I’m not saying that all our modern media evolved specifically to give mankind it’s fix of violence , just that this attitude that we seem to have today that witnessing any form of simulated violence somehow causes the watcher to commit real violence is a bit…illogical. It’s like implying that jacking off, somehow turns you into a rapist.

  20. JenniferSimpson22 says:

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  21. Xzi says:

    Meh? I’m not sure what there is to talk about, really. Violent games are popular, but they’re still just a small portion of gaming, and usually contained to only a couple genres. I mean, what are we going to suggest, that these games shouldn’t exist at all? They have their place. As long as there is such a huge demand for them, big publishers will keep green-lighting these projects.

    And that’s all it ultimately comes down to: gaming won’t stop worshiping violence until our culture (meaning the US) stops worshiping violence. And changing a culture is a lot harder and takes a lot more time. It starts with dismantling our military industrial complex, and good luck with that.

    • Premium User Badge

      SpakAttack says:

      I disagree – violence is a predominant theme in computer games (to varying degrees of abstraction). There are some games that turn away from it, but they are by far the minority.

      • Premium User Badge

        elderman says:

        It will depend on what you mean by “violent”, the time frame you look at, and what games you count.

        Is Mario violent? Are JRPGs violent?

        Then keep in mind the decades long history of games, are you talking about games published this year or all games currently available.

        Then think of the recent proliferation of mobile games, and the many clones of card games. There are student games and games written in other languages. There are tons of flash games and online gambling shops.

        Are most computer games violent? You’d have to limit this question pretty severely to even come up with a way of trying to answer it it and you’d mostly likely come away with exactly the answer you were looking for.

    • dftaylor says:

      That’s an incredible thing to suggest – violent games are a “small” proportion of games? What games do you play? I can take a look at the current issues of Edge and Games TM and nearly all of them focus on violent games.

      All the big games to look forward to? Nearly all violent.

  22. Robomonk says:

    Violence – specifically speaking – violence in games – I’ll do my best not to discuss about the direct cause and effect of game violence in relation to the actual violence.

    Some have stated that our society in general consists conflict and/or competition. Even when we co-operate there may still be conflict. Then there is the idea that we have outlets such as sports. Some even indirectly compared that to the ancients inflicting destruction in the name of entertainment.

    Sports may have conflict and competition, but it’s not something that contains the macabre. Sure, there are sport people that become violent. There are punch ups. There are even other types of sports specifically designed for physical violence.

    But, in some computer/video games – we have high definition, high resolution, colour coordinated, blood splattering gore.

    Again, I’m not questioning whether this can lead to real life violence.
    But I like to ask the questions:
    Do we really need that level of graphic violent detail in our simulated world?

    Do we need to eviscerate, chop, hack, stab, charcoaled, explode, implode, (you get the idea)… digital characters and in such great detail?

    Some have said “This is us – we are human – this is what we used to do, but the things done in games are not real. It’s all fake. See it as a release of sorts. We can’t deny that. And of course it sells and makes a lot of money.”

    Just because some may have these desires, does it mean we need to constantly rely; act (virtually); and capitalise on these desires?

    Are there alternatives that would allow that sort of release?

    Do we have the responsibility as consumers/developers/publishers/people to seek for something else in our entertainment (with levels of success equal or greater than what is seen in fighting related games)?

    I like to clarify by saying that the things I’ve said isn’t exactly about against or for violent games or finding a way that would magically make everyone less violent. It’s more about exploring other outlets/avenues and asking questions, even when there might not be any answers.

    This is a very difficult discussion, filled with contradictions and paradoxes. There is definitely no easy answers. But, you know what? It’s okay, the act of the discussion can open unexpected doors and new insight. Or at least allow for different perspectives.

  23. Mario Figueiredo says:

    When the use of alcohol becomes restricted (within common sense boundaries) in an effective and clear message against violence, I’m ready to turn my attention to games and discuss in a serious manner and with an open unbiased mind, whether they can cause violence and what can be done about it.

  24. CppThis says:

    As a number of commenters have said, violence in entertainment is nothing new. The Romans got gladiators to fight it out with real swords in the arena; many of them were volunteers. In Shakespeare’s time they filled bladders with copious amounts of animal blood so when Laertes buys the farm it’s suitably spectactular. Several American Civil War battles are best remembered for having a large number of spectators. Humans are violent creatures, we can debate the merits all we want but it is what it is and all these various attempts to ‘make us nice’ will do is embolden the really rotten ones who see law and morality as matters of convenience.

    Likewise guns aren’t new either, though the lack of conscription suggests that far fewer people are properly trained in their use than in previous eras. What is new, and what people should be asking about, is why there’s so much malignant nihilism flying around that a significant number of people decide that killing a bunch of random strangers and then themselves sounds like a great idea. While this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon–the worst US school attack was a 1927 bombing in Bath, Michigan–it seems to be a lot more common. Of course, nobody’s asking the more salient questions because they’re inconvenient.

  25. JuJuCam says:

    Why did this conversation so quickly become concerned with the issue of censorship, when this was never the point of the article?

    Nobody here has called for censorship or boycotting of violence in video games. I don’t think anyone here wants that at all. Unfortunately, as long as people are waving banners saying “FUCK OFF, DON’T BAN OUR GAMES RA RA RA” this conversation that is so necessary will not happen.

    Anyway I want to share an anecdote or two.

    When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I wanted to breathe fire. I got the idea that I might be able to breathe fire from Street Fighter, having seen Dhalsim accomplish such a thing in that game. So for a lunchtime at school, I made an earnest attempt to mimic Dhalsim. How did I go about such a thing? Well, the same way that he did, of course. I bobbed down, and then lunged forward while standing up. You see, I knew the game well enough to know the required input to produce the fire breathing attack, and that’s how I went about my own attempts. I did a real life quarter circle forward.

    Obviously I never breathed fire – I was doing it wrong; I forgot to punch at the end.

    The second anecdote is much more recent. Here in Melbourne, there’s a new company that’s just started up called IRLShooter (if you can’t guess what they do, feel free to google it). Their first project is the zombie themed Patient 0. Anyway I went through the ‘Grey Area’ a few weeks ago, and it was a wickedly fun time. I went through at night, though, and it’s a fairly long drive home. On the drive back I saw a few stragglers walking the streets. I guess you can see where I’m going with this. After spending an hour in a zombified laser tag thrill ride, anyone you see walking alone at night seems… well… like a zombie.

    To be fair that’s a live action experience, but it shares enough with games to be considered in the same or a similar category. And, indeed, I likened the thought to the way in which after a fair session of Tony Hawk I couldn’t help but see grind lines and combo opportunities everywhere I looked.

    So really, to me, the idea that a video game cannot have an impact on the way I see the world if not how I behave is kind of laughable. Like, of course they can. I’m not at all saying that this makes violent games dangerous. What I’m saying is that they do something. Good, bad or ugly, there’s an impact there. And that’s what this discussion should focus on.

    • Jim Dandy says:

      Hey JuJu, while I absolutely agree with you that it’s a bit stupid to think that vicariously shooting/stabbing/’sploding thousands of people has no effect on the psyche, I thought the article was about something else entirely.

      I’ve probably missed some posts here, but I can’t help feeling a lot of people have missed the point. Or maybe I have…

      There’s a weightlessness to violence in gaming. The medium often categorises death in the same way it categorises picking up gold coins or fruit.

      No one could argue that the 2008 Rambo movie wasn’t hyper-violent exploitative trash (even if you liked it), but consider how much more vile it would have been if the film-makers had included a bombastic voiceover yelling ‘killstreak!’ and ‘headshot!’ whenever Sly landed a shot. Why is tasteless crap not tasteless crap when it’s in a game?

      PS – I live in Melbs too, is Patient Zero as cool as it sounds?

      • NathanH says:

        Well, tasteless crap is something of a matter of taste.

      • JuJuCam says:

        Absolutely right about the article, I guess I myself got caught up in the whole controversy angle.

        With regard to Patient Zero, it was well worth my time and money, and a lot of work had gone into making it almost as cool an experience as it could be. Almost. For reasons that are clear when you’ve been through it, it’s more akin to a haunted mansion rail ride at a theme park than a video game, and judged against other theme park rides that I’ve been through, it’s a lot better (although it should be noted that I haven’t been to many, and none of what would be considered world class ie Disneyland). In terms of video gamey concepts like level design and mechanics, it could be a lot better, but as I’ve said they’ve definitely put a lot of work into it and for that reason it’s well worth doing.

        Unfortunately, I’ve heard it’s booked out solid till the end of it’s first Melbourne run. After that they’re committed to taking it to all the capitals, and then I hope they come back to Melbourne with a more refined product. It’s also possible they find a permanent home in Sydney or Brisbane, I guess.

        • Jim Dandy says:

          Thanks JuJu. Guess I’ll have to wait and see if Patient 0 returns. Meanwhile I’ll get my live-action zombie fix walking around Brunswick late at night…

  26. larch says:

    Trying to stay level-headed during the discussion is tough. I feel the need to say: screw the mainstream media; screw them for twisting the truth in an attempt to sell a few extra copies of their publication. It’s utterly unfair that media are exploiting the trauma people are dealing with, whereby they glorify the “supposed” effect of violent videogames on society. It simply boils down to media twisting the truth to make money out of horrible events. It’s actually questionable as to whether their actions are on equal footing to what’s happening?

    http://g33kp0rn.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/games-are-not-to-blame-for-connecticut-massacre/

  27. judge_za says:

    I can just imagine someone reading this article out aloud with a really gay voice…….

  28. ghoststalker194 says:

    Whenever this discussion comes up, I usually post this:
    http://i642.photobucket.com/albums/uu143/SWCcomics/videogamesgunner.jpg

    Thing is if you’re not used to something, it’ll scare you a lot easier. As much as I love games, It’s important to try and see someone else’s perspective. Now I’ve been a gamer all my life, and because of that, movies and Tv never really interested me. The result is that sometimes when movies get too violent, I can’t watch them. Stuff like SAW frustrates me to my bones, but I know I can’t knee jerk and blame the movie industrie for everything, because I know there’s people who feel the exact same about video games.

    I think it differs per person, and just shouting your opinion loudly isn’t going to help anyone.

  29. Johanz says:

    “I didn’t feel right playing Far Cry 3 the day after the awful, disgusting, utterly tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. I didn’t at all.”

    Of course, because a real event with real violence had a real impact on you, and witnessing same sort of violence in other mediums just brings the experience to closer and creates this sort of emotional connection and it makes you think. That’s why you didn’t feel good.
    It’s not the violence in the game that is doing this per se, but you experiencing events and seeing similar stuff in games.

    I guess it’s the same thing that when I saw some real war documentary with pretty graphic footage, and later watched some sort of war movie, it really drove home the violence of it all. More so than it would have if I just had watched movie, because I had real experiences (albeit, not ones that I had experienced first hand) to reference to.

    I think that’s mostly it. Violence in games is pretty graphic and it can be digusting. But then let it be disgusting and don’t play it. There are gore movies I do not watch because I simply can’t take the overly violent nature of them. But I do not think that they should stop making them, but it is up to every individual to make that choice, wheter or not to consume a product or just leave it.

    Games are really good at making violence fun, because if you dip into too much realism, you just feel bad and disgusted by the stuff on screen. A sorta good example is probably the opening cutscene in Max Payne 3 where you have this dismembered dude just crawling and unable to speak. It hits you without warning and it is pretty awful to look at.

    Although, one thing that really grabbed me, and this was probably just me, was Adam Jensen in Deus Ex 3. In the very prologue of the game there is a cutscene where Jensen gets pretty beat up and almost dies. His movement and his wounds just shocked me, it looked very belivable and felt very real. The violence in that cutscene just hit me because it felt real and it made me react in a strong way. That made me happy too since I knew then I wasn’t numb to violence.

    Violence can be fun and it can be horrible. It depends on how you angle it. You can do it Monty Python style or like Peter Jacksons early movies Brain Dead, Bad Taste and so on. Or you can go for a sort of Saving Private Ryan route. Games mostly take the former because it is easier to digest, distance yourself from and have a laugh at. Bulletstorm is probably the prime example of this taken to the extreme.

    So in short, reacting strongly to violence in games more has to do with your own personal experiences and thoughts more than the violence itself. Even if the violence can be downplayed and made as a humorous element like Bulletstorm.

    Atleast that’s what I think.

  30. ScorpionWasp says:

    Look… every day, every where, there will be people dying and suffering from a variety of causes; there’ll be people starving, getting cancer, getting shot, getting stabbed, getting bombed by american cluster bombs, drowning, burning, dying in car crashes, dying in work-related accidents, dying, dying, dying , dying and dying. That’s just how the world is. Are you seriously going to get all depressed and introspective and forlorn whenever that happens (which is 24 hours a day, seven days a week)? Or just when it’s a bunch of americans, victimized by yet another bullied kid who just couldn’t take it anymore? One whose pleas you made a point to ignore (or worse, ridicule). It would be just fine if he didn’t have guns, that way he could just languish and die alone, like most of them do, right? The guns are the problem here. Or if we’re feeling even lazier, it must be fictional depictions of violence on a screen. Yes, that’s what makes people snap. Not daily psychological abuse and torture, nope.

    Why don’t we just cut this entire charade? The truth is, we don’t give two shits about any of this. The chance that you or anyone you care about will die in a school shooting is negligible. Excuse me, I’m going back to shooting fictional zombies.

  31. olybenjamin says:

    Animals are violent by their very nature. Look at the history of entertainment, from the gladiator games to current day sports, American football, soccer, hockey, all violent contact sports. Violence drives us, excites us and motivates us. I say its better that violence be done in a virtual way, without anyone actually getting hurt than having that played out in real life.

  32. Bob says:

    I think the “Video Games Cause Violence” crowd have it arse about. A person with violent tendencies is more likely to cause violence than an average human whether they play games or not. I’m a very placid person as a rule but I love shooting, stabbing, and exploding enemies in games. It’s a diversion and not some indication I’m about to go on a killing spree in my neighbourhood.

    It’s a sign people care when a tragedy gives them pause. I believe caring more for your fellow humans would lead to a lessening of tragedy rather than making games less violent.

  33. ScatheZombie says:

    Why aren’t we talking about it? Because there is nothing to talk about. In fact, I’m actually glad more and more people have stopped talking about both the shooting and video game violence; mainly because most of the people in such discussions are either *fucking* ignorant (the emphasis for the magnitude of their ignorance) or biased to the point of ignorance.

    Here’s the thing, and this is pretty much unanimously agreed upon by the top psychologists in the world …

    Violence in media (be it games, movies, books) will NOT make a non-violent person suddenly become violent. However, if a person is *already violent* the escapist nature of violent media reinforces their violent tendencies and then end up in a cycle of violence – their violent nature propels them toward violent media which perpetuates their violent nature. And this only happens to an extremely small percentage of people. So, no, they aren’t to blame, but they are a factor in a scenario that leads to this sort of behavior.

    That said; media violence isn’t nowhere near the biggest factor. The biggest factor is actually …. the news media! The very people pushing the blame onto violent media and the availability of guns shoulder more blame for this scenario than either of those things *combined*. The biggest reason a person goes from … just a violent asshole who enjoys violent media … to a psychopathic murderer … is because after every one of these mass killings the news media runs a 24/7 circuit detailing everything about the shooter, making them a celebrity through infamy. And that’s what these type of people latch on to and use as a rallying point eventually leading them to shooting up a school or a theater or a college campus.

    But it’s obviously more convenient to blame guns, mental illness, and violent media than it is to acknowledge that you are part of the problem.

    Side rant: Guns are not to blame either. However, I do agree that more gun *regulation* is needed. I think it’s pretty ridiculous that it’s easier to acquire and legally own a gun than it is to get a driver’s license and legally own a car. Both are merely tools that, if used improperly, can easily result in the death of myself or others. So, I really don’t have a problem with gun regulations increasing; especially in terms of mandatory safety tests and weapon registration.

    • Premium User Badge

      elderman says:

      “Here’s the thing, and this is pretty much unanimously agreed upon by the top psychologists in the world … “

      Where are you finding this? I’d be grateful for any scholarly surveys of the relevant literature you can point me toward. Inspired by this post and thread, I’ve undertaken project to look at a representative section of scholarly articles about gaming and violent behaviour. I’ve found one recent full write up and references to three others in addition to the more than two dozen articles I’ve cued-up to look at.

      Up to this point, one thing I have not found is unanimity.

  34. Sugoi says:

    In my mind the issue isn’t violence per se, but rather when it is portrayed as the only possible solution to all problems. It might just be my interests showing, but I vastly prefer to resolve things peacefully whenever possible, even though I also enjoy ye olde manshoot from time to time as well.

    When you have the option to be non-lethal, and being lethal is an overt decision, it carries much more weight. When I play Deus Ex or Dishonored, every death is a tragedy. When I play Skyrim, they are utterly without meaning.

    It really all comes down to balance. Too many of our games these days seem to be of the military FPS variety, and they occupy an overly large proportion of our mindshare, along with that of the public. Such games have their place, but asking whether we have too many of them, and whether they should be a bit more self-aware (I love you, Spec Ops) is both fair and reasonable.

  35. Citrus says:

    lol

  36. 28977136 says:

    I am of the opinion that video games contribute to an undesirable culture and that society would be better off with less gaming.

    I’m going to be open and honest, and tell you how I personally feel about them: it would be dishonest to hide how my own biased experience has contributed to the construction of my current perspective. When I was a teenager I played games (almost always violent, but not that gory) for hours on end to kill time when I had finished my homework. I vehemently denied that games could have an effect on behaviour, partly because I was going through an individualistic phase (Ayn Rand and Nietzsche) during which the idea of cultural determinism seemed abhorrent to me, but mostly because I was insecure and closed to criticism.
    Today I have a masters degree in social sciences, I cannot continue to ignore collective, discursive and cultural phenomena that regulate our behaviour and ways of thinking. I occasionally read RPS, hoping we get another Cartlife, Pathologic or molleindustria (despite their numerous flaws), but otherwise enjoying the very very vast majority of video games would require me to shut off most parts of my brain. I am too critical and learned to ignore that Outcast is revoltingly colonial, The Void is no doubt misogynistic, Anna Anthropy’s fetishism for sexual violence is traitorous, To the Moon is laughably corny and childish, Hotline Miami celebrates sociopathy, Deus Ex has a ridiculous plot where the violent efforts of one individual correct governmental structures and most of humanity’s problems, Oblivion features bizzare racial thinking, science-fiction games like X3 and Mass Effect project American liberal capitalist culture as the future of humanity (and even the aliens invented in parallel similar specific structures such as stock exchanges), and, obviously ArmA is military propaganda. As a feminist, anti-colonial, non-liberal socialist, I cannot in clear conscience collaborate with this discursive system.

    Even those who do not share my ideologies cannot deny that video games have nearly nothing to say, and when they do, their message is deeply flawed by their medium. Game developers don’t want to talk about it: the people who penned Far Cry 3 pretend exaggeration of negative themes is self-awareness, and they leave it at that. The worst examples are Saints Row 3 or Postal 2, where people who are critical of violent culture are transformed into caricatures and later comically murdered. The people who made these games are like the troubled child in elementary school who draws pictures of people he doesn’t like getting murdered. “You don’t like what I do? In my imaginary world I can stab you and set you on fire” : that’s the sort of dialogue we have been getting through video games that are mostly about gunning people down.

    Some people here whine that video games should be taken more seriously as a part of our culture, but when they are, there is rarely anything positive to be said, and gamers inevitably fall back on the idea that our ethical behaviour isn’t determined by cultural products, but by interpersonal relations, by utilitarian logic, universal reasoning, or even worse, “human nature”. I’m sure there is at least a hundred of comments here that talk about human nature (one of the top comments is some chump who thinks games are a way to satisfy our natural bloodthirsty urges without committing real acts of violence). What they ignore is that human nature is a flawed concept that has changed from one epoch and culture to the other, and even if some scientists can occasionally discover a common element of human behaviour, anyone who has taken an anthropology class, or heck, anyone who reads about history and different societies knows there are tremendous differences between behaviours. Human nature doesn’t explain why a 20 year old boy decided to shoot a kindergarten class, and it sure as HELL doesn’t explain current trends in video game design. “Human nature” is a subversive discourse that universalizes the status quo of the dominant culture, and the fact that gamers are obsessed with it shows how deeply they have internalized it.

    Seriously, HOW THE FUCK can anyone say that video games don’t propagate violent and negative attitudes when so many gamers think DAYZ is a realistic representation of “human nature”. Everything video games represent is PERFORMATIVE. Cultural products do not only respond to the wants and needs of the public, they CREATE them, they construct the audience. Adorno and Horkheimer knew this. Their work is half a century old and yet still relevant, as we live in the age of consumerism where most of our efforts work towards fulfilling our pointless, constructed needs that allow ideological and material dominance.

    Conservative right-wing video game critics, who approve of hegemonic American structures, are arguing on an individual causal basis, where culture sets symbols and priorities that encourage vulnerable people to commit terrible acts. It is a doubtful psychologism, but not without certain merits. What I am mostly worried about are the attitudes and the ideologies that perceive the acts and not the acts themselves. Rape culture (a field I am not very familiar with) is a good comparison and proof that cultural products can convey poisonous attitudes. It’s not so much about whether cultural products directly incite rape (which is hard to demonstrate) as it is about the way people will percieve the act and treat the victims, which is different from one culture to the other (like the U.S compared to India, for example). Likewise, while video games may or may not encourage violence, they convey a form of acceptance of it : it is why we’re getting so many comments who say that violence in all its forms is part of human nature, that it is a core principle of civilization and that nothing can really be done about it. Violent culture has made people, jaded, cynical and helpless about acts of violence despite the obvious fact that some cultures have less violence than others. In the U.S., the near majority of the population is willing to consider rampages as an inevitable part of their society so they can have the “liberty” to own military rifles. THAT, and not only the shootings, is violent culture.

    I occasionally hear mindless, ignorant gamers say something along the lines of “relax, it’s not real actual people dying on the screen”. This shows how self-destructive liberal culture has become permissive of fantasies, since, regardless of their moral content, they do not harm other individuals. This is why we are tolerant of BDSM subculture, in which bored and morally disoriented middle-class couples lock themselves in their bedrooms and recreate scenarios inspired by Abu Ghraib, the holocaust, and other real-world acts of violence that they apparently cannot take seriously. Fantasy is not harmless, nor is it purely personal, it is seeped in culture and it reproduces it.
    If you have seen FPSRUSSIA’s videos and still don’t think there is a link between violent video game power fantasies and fetishization/banalization of real-world violence, you are an idiot. FPSRussia is a disgusting, putrid, abhorrent mother fucker who leeches off video games culture to sell REAL weapons by displaying (and I’m willing to bet his audience mostly consists of teenage boys who crave power fantasies) their awe-striking effects and similarity to video games, while hiding the fact that they were designed to murder, maim, dismember and burn real people in atrocious ways that have NOTHING to do with self-defense (long-ranged weapons, flamethrowers, mortars, etc.).
    There is no reason to violent culture. REAL policy is based on FANTASIES and unlikely scenarios put forward by works of fiction. Fantasies like the ones Adam Lanza’s mother had when she decided it was a good idea to keep military weapons around her unstable son. Fantasies many americans have about the end of the world, the collapse of civilization etc. I can’t prove that without video games these murders wouldn’t have happened, but it is absolutely clear to me that they are part of a dominant ideology that keep us from taking action, and that twist our perception of “human nature” and society to force us to accept these events.

    Quite frankly, I am exhausted of having to argue that video games have a negative influence in the face of video game apologists who too often put forward the bizzare idea that we are not products of our environment, or that completely ignore the composition and effects of culture beyond individual behaviour. They do not have the burden of proof : “games are profitable” is a good enough argument for them. They might disprove arguments about video games being bad, but they sure as hell haven’t proven that video games were good. If video game creators cannot find any meaningful messages to convey, then I’m not afraid to say they are just another element of hegemonic western culture that I wish to see eliminated.

    • Ich Will says:

      I’m sorry, can you explain how “Anna Anthropy’s fetishism for sexual violence” [SIC] is betraying America?

      Also isn’t the story of Outcast decidedly anti colonial – three humans travel through the gate (forgive my memory, it’s been what, 15 years?) and the first one through sets up rule over the species he finds there, you overthrow his colonial rule. Isn’t that sending out a very strong anti-colonial vibe?

      Isn’t half the story of Oblivion supposed to be how unpleasant the racial relations are, how is that a criticism. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a criticism, but that was how you presented it.

      How is ARMA propaganda. If I took one message from that game it was that when people start shooting at each other, people die easily. It certainly did not seem to contain a message of propaganda, quite the opposite. Of course it is a game made for people who think tanks and guns are cool, but let’s face it, they are to a lot of people.

      “As a feminist, anti-colonial, non-liberal socialist, I cannot in clear conscience collaborate with this discursive system.” Jesus… I… Really…. I mean, just like that…. What were you thinking?

      “Even those who do not share my ideologies cannot deny that video games have nearly nothing to say, and when they do, their message is deeply flawed by their medium”

      I agree. I also level the same criticism at movies, books, art, painting, sculpture etc etc. No one in games wants to talk about it particularly because almost no-one in games is trying to make a deep and meaningful statement, just make a fun toy for people to play with. Guess what, I bought my son a Tomy my first keyboard for Christmas, that didn’t tell a deep and meaningful message either. Doesn’t make his playing with it any kind of issue.

      “Seriously, HOW THE FUCK can anyone say that video games don’t propagate violent and negative attitudes when so many gamers think DAYZ is a realistic representation of “human nature”.”

      Got a source for that “fact”? Nope. That’s because gamers DON’T believe DayZ is a realistic representation of human behaviour. It’s a movie response, people are recreating their favourite parts of zombie movies, a genre which revolves entirely around the Day of the Triffids concept that the bad guys aren’t the mindless predictable protagonists who have destroyed society by a roll of fate, but the bad guys are other survivors because in this genre, people are nearly always dicks to each other and the friendships formed in such an environment are both more special and more tense. Which makes for a fun game.

      “most of our efforts work towards fulfilling our pointless, constructed needs”

      Speak for yourself, don’t taint us with your guilt. Not everyone is like that, you can’t see it because you are.

      “It is a doubtful psychologism, but not without certain merits” There is no evidence, none which says it has merits. none at all, not that has passed peer review anyway. There are plenty of peer reviewed studies which demonstrate that playing a racing or driving game encourages bad behaviour on the roads for 10-20 minutes after playing the game, but those same well respected researchers find that playing violent video games does not encourage violence, infact after playing a violent video game, peoples flight reaction seems more dominant for 10-20 minutes. Perhaps the beginnings of evidence that violent video games discourage “fight” and encourage “flight” – that they reduce a persons willingness to commit violence?

      “Fantasy is not harmless, nor is it purely personal, it is seeped in culture and it reproduces it.”

      I would argue to you that examining only the extremes has given you a skewed view of fantasy which is not relevant to the audience you are addressing. Your idea’s seem to revolve around the idea that we are becoming as a species more and more violent, when the opposite is true. Ask any archaeologist.

      “There is no reason to violent culture”

      There is no reason to any culture, no-one sat in a meeting room with 11 selected other individuals and decided what culture is. Culture evolved based on what people did and why they did it

      Bored of you now!

      • 28977136 says:

        I was worried no one would respond (especially not so quickly), and althoguh you haven’t really criticized the main idea of my comment, you’ve given me a lot of expand on. The first three topics you mentioned are fairly independant of my main idea, but whatever.

        1) “I’m sorry” [SIC], but I never said Anna Anthropy was “betraying America”, how did you come up with that? I never even said the word “America” in that admittedly poorly constructed sentence. I would never even use the term “betraying America”, I’m not an American nationalist. Anyway, I didn’t actually explain what I meant at all with my inflammatory comment, so I’m glad you asked. I meant the LGBT community. Look, I like Auntie Pixelante more than most developers: I liked Dys4ia, I liked her book, I like what she brings to the field of video game design, I liked Savagery, I like that she’s trying to say something, I liked Police Bear, her participation in the Occupy movement and I think she should keep making games regardless of how I feel about them. However, there are numerous flaws, amons them 1) rhetorical execution: If you’ve followed the general idea of my original post, you should know that I do not believe cultural forms can easily be “isolated”. This applies to her use of irony and exaggeration, which is often confusing. Anna Anthropy is like someone who says “literally” when she means “figuratively”. Snippet: “It would be hilarious to portray the female characters realistically. If you chose the female character in your FPS she would have to move very slowly, dragging the gun around.” Is the exaggeration meant to ridicule people who don’t think women should be in the army or is it honest or is it a way to use video game conventions to convey an honest message? It could easily be misinterpreted.
        What I am mostly concerned about, however, is her sometimes flawed and misguided message (not unlike molleindustria’s game on queer theory that unwittingly ends up being about raping your opponent). BDSM, which is portrayed in many of Anna’s games and posts (and she makes sure it isn’t just a bedroom thing), betrays the struggle of the LGBT community by recreating and celebrating exploitative patriarchal dominant relations. Instead of the breadwinning man and the homemaker woman, we get the dom and the sub, the top and the bottom, and these power relations (that permeate the relationship as well as culture and are not limited to bedroom activities) are supposedly contractual, and empowering for both participants in some sort of inverted liberal world where reproduction of sadistic and exploitative forms and pornographic representations are meant to be transgression. Play Anna’s game “Encyclopedia Fuckme” and you’ll see what I mean: it’s not really a game, just a text that describes a violent and murderous queer relationship. It’s not transgressive, it makes light of domestic violence, and turns it into a personal fetish. It ‘s just unhelpful considering all the violence transgender people have to deal with. Anyway, this is all highly debatable, and your question wasn’t about the LGBT community or BDSM, so I’ll leave it at that, with a quote from Melissa Farley that sums up how I feel about it : “Sadomasochist dykes play-act power and prestige in a world that crushes any attempt to organize for real power. The play-acting helps us to forget how much we are hated and hurt. And forgetting that is the real danger.”

        Come to think of it, that sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it?

        2) Ohhhh man. Outcast. Ohhh boy. You were NOT paying attention when you played it. It’s the “Tintin in the Congo” of video games. I don’t know where to begin. The game is PACKED with colonial stereotypes and orientalism (“Many moons ago”). Most cultures on that planet are unacceptable caricatures of colonized peoples, the “riss cultivars” are like east asians, and there are the persian-like people who live in a desert, and at one point you can come across and even more “primitive” species that had sacrificial altars and blowdarts (you could just kill them on sight).
        But that’s not the worst part. Almost everything in it is borrowed from the colonial genre (think Tintin, Lawrence of Arabia, Honoré de Balzac and more), it’s like the writers were doing it on purpose. Of course, it’s science fiction, but nonetheless it belongs to a genre that should have died long ago. Here’s why:
        -The white man is their mythical “chosen one” and prophecised messiah. Like Lawrence of Arabia (or Avatar), this is your typical and unoriginal story about how a white man “goes native” and teaches the mostly lazy natives how to fend for themselves.
        -The fact that the main villain is an exploitative human does NOT make it less colonial. The explicit idea of the plot might be resistance, but the undertones are not. In fact, it is very common in colonial stories for the bad guy (always with a “native collaborator”) to also be a white man. For the writers of these stories, indigenous characters just weren’t credible bad guys for the intended audience. Likewise, Outcast’s plot had to do with pieces of human technology, an issue that was beyond the aliens.
        -Human technology was worshipped as “sacred objects”.
        -The primitive culture mistreats the “females” (in Outcast they were all locked away on an island or something). Colonial discourse often portrays (this was the case in Algeria) the colonized as being sexist, often hypocritically (and it still does, the right-wing in Europe, which isn’t particularly feminist, will often talk about misogyny when it tries to stigmatize muslim immigrants (When they made a referendum to ban minarets in Switzerland, one of the right-wingers’ arguments (and it wasn’t always implicit) was that they were a symbol of women’s oppression.))
        -You can argue that these elements all find their place in the plot and setting one way or another in a non-colonial way, but it is clear to me that they are all borrowed from the big book of European colonialism. In case you had any doubts about whether they were truly and effectively colonial, I would like to remind you of KAZAR. Remember? The scientist (who is actually a good guy), along with Xue (renamed Fae Rahn when he turned evil) travelled to the alien planet, made himself some sort of divine prophet, and _MADE ENGLISH THE DOMINANT LANGUAGE_. The fact that the writers could uncritically include such a plot device displays a clear colonial mentality, and I do not believe you will be able to convince me otherwise. As a member of a struggling linguistic minority, the casual inclusion of attempted ethnocide in a video game really upset me. How the FUCK could Belgian developers present planet-wide language acculturation as something that would not create any tensions, or any ethical challenges at all?

        3) There was something pretty damn off about the “races” in The Elder Scrolls. As I said, there is often tension between the message the writers try to convey (which did try to talk about prejudice, racism, cultural resistance) and the way gameplay conventions are presented. In the end, however, gameplay prevails : the plot has to be shaped around the player’s protagonist who is an outsider, a privileged overman, and a tourist, so we always fall back on the same plot where the prophecised outsider learns about the native culture and saves the day. The occasional anti-racist message was undermined by the presence of gameplay conventions : the races are not social constructs but genuinely existing, objective, quantitative differences between Nords, Bretons Imperials and Redguards. And guess what? The dark-skinned humans had less intelligence points in Oblivion than any of the other races. Not okay…

        4) Bohemia Interactive is a company that makes military training software for NATO countries and their buddies. ArmA is the watered down version for the amateurs. It’s not a direct recruitement tool, like America’s Army, but it glorifies war and American intervention nonetheless. I refuse to give my money to the military-entertainment complex that supports American imperialism. “A game made for people who think tanks and guns are cool”. This is a problem. I would rather live in a society where people do not feel that way.

        No doubt I raised more questions than I answered, and I have really strayed from the original message of my post. I’m sorry I pooped on beloved games instead of targeting obvious and easy examples like Call of Duty and Duke Nuk’em Forever. I mean, you’re right, ArmA’s message (and it’s unapologetically difficult gameplay that makes war seem dangerous and unenjoyable) is a lot better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter’s bullshit. If I had to I would rather buy ArmA than CoD for my kids (because they wouldn’t play it much). All those games I mentioned are or were among my favourites, but, god damn, if we want to set the bar higher, we have to criticize the games we can love. I continue to follow Ice-Pick Lodge, Anna Anthropy, Cardboard Computer molleindustria and the likes because I hope that something better can be made out of this medium.

        Moving on. I’m going to break up the sequence of your comment a bit:

        5) “I mean, just like that…. What were you thinking?” You must try harder to convey your idea. It is not as obvious as you think. Do you have a problem with me identifying as a “feminist, anti-colonial, non-liberal socialist”? Do I frighten you? I can understand that you would not share these ideologies, but I am a bit surprised (well, not really, considering how narrow-minded gaming culture can be) that you would be so shocked by the simple fact that I would decide to openly identify with these fairly unremarkable labels. I’m not sure what you meant.

        6) “just make a fun toy for people to play with. Guess what, I bought my son…”
        I am not your son. I am not a child.
        I do not like to see all these adults work their mind-numbing nine to five jobs and kill their time watching TV, playing video games and generally teaching their kids how to do the same when they have so much to discover, so much to read about, to see around us. I know, it’s a corny thing to say, but I generally wished people were more active, more knowledgeable, more critical. Video games try to infantilize me: they would rather exploit the enjoyable element of gameplay (moving a crosshair over an object, pressing buttons rhythmically etc.) rather than stimulate me intellectually. I am not opposed to enjoyment, unless it sucks up too much time, and if it is not only mindless, but also mind-numbing, insulting my intellect by trying to make me care about plots that come off as though they were written by a committee of16 year old boys.
        You bring up a good point, however: some things are just meant to be toys. The instrumental music I listen to doesn’t really have an inherent message (although zealous music lovers would disagree) : since I spend so much time reading political theory, I don’t feel the need to listen to songs with a political message, which are shallow agitation by comparison. The truth is that most video games are not pure “toys” (few of them only feature completely abstract objects). If you think Medal of Honor: Warfighter is just a toy, you have a dangerously sheepish way of thinking.

        There is a message.
        Toys have a message. You bought your son a Tomy My First Keyboard. Is the toy truly meaningless? Is the act of buying, and giving your son a toy meaningless? Your love for your son is not meaningless. Christmas has a message. Did you notice if the toy store was gendered? The layout of stores has a message. Their existence conveys a message. A message made you buy a Tomy My First Keyboard. Video games have a message. Their medium is a message. Can you be impassible to discourse? You are not God, you are not a savage.

        8) “Not everyone is like that, you can’t see it because you are”. I am? Did I say that? No, I strive to live a fairly ascetic life (I do not plan on buying another gaming-capable PC when this one breaks down) : I was using the plural to describe western society as a whole. I am very critical of consumerism, not only because it is “materialistic”, but because of it’s dialectic form (supply/demand) where, through control of marketing (control of desire, demand) and material supply, both ends can be occupied and ideologies can very easily be imposed on societies. Video games need us, they make us need video games.

        7) Be more careful with your use of quotation marks (I too tend to use quotation marks when italics would be more appropriate): I did not use the word “fact”, nor did I refer to “gamers” in general. Anyway, no, I don’t have a source, and if that automatically means I am wrong, then so be it, I’m not going to defend this idea with much vigor, I can’t really find a single source for a general idea that was being said on multiple DayZ forum messages (I remember there was a big circle jerk about human nature during the second month, I’m sure you can find it). I’m fairly certain I remember, at some point, Dean Hall bragging about how his game reflected human nature, and the idea was echoed on many blogs and favourable reviews. Whatever, I can’t quantitatively demonstrate how widespread this idea is: analysis of cultural content is valid regardless of its’ influence : I don’t need to know Twilight sold tens of millions of copies to be able to see that it is sexist. It does not affect the validity of my argument: we are in the presence of a negative attitude constructed by cultural products. Now, your reply to this is that it is a “movie response” and not a broader cultural attitude, that is inherently tied – and limited – to a “genre” of fiction. I am hugely skeptical of this magical idea. It really isn’t what I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is a bunch of fatalists here in the comments section who think school shootings and violent culture are inevitable parts of life, regardless of whether they are connected: this idea is not original, it has a cultural origin. What I’m seeing is Adam Lanza’s mother collecting a bunch of guns because she thought there would be an economical apocalypse that would turn the suburbs into a warzone. Call it exceptional, but her idea was not original either, she did not make it up. Americans today are obsessed with the end of civilization, and if they are clinging to their guns it is because of their power fantasies: there is no practical reason why they would permit the ownership of weapons that were not designed for personal self-defense or hunting. Listen to the people who say guns are needed to overthrow a tyrant, listen to Wayne Lapierre who talks about “bad guys” and “good guys” as if this was an action film:
        ————————————–tl;dr——————————————–
        fiction and fantasy are not separated from the general culture that forms the basis of most decisions and desires, because imagination is our capacity to envisage situations. Control of the content and modalities of imagination are thus tools of extreme power.
        —————————————————————————————
        Control of imagination, which can be used to justify fears has allowed the Empire to kill two hundred thousand people in Iraq for not justifiable reason. Fiction is not just something people enjoy in itself like a fine wine, a piece by Vivaldi or a handjob.
        You say that negative themes in DayZ is justifiable because it is part of a genre where “people are nearly always dicks to each other”. This does not make it okay. This does not allow us to isolate this packet of cultural information.
        John Wyndham’s, who wrote Day of the Triffids had some many rotten ideas about human nature: the ending of The Chrysalids, which is also about evolution and adaptation in a post-apocalyptic scenario, is about how violence against lesser races is morally justified if it is meant to preserve the unity and safety of members of the master race. You cannot simple say that this idea is acceptable because it is part of a genre. I want you to think, to be critical. You have to wonder, what was going through Wyndham’s head, what culture is his work a part of, and what kind of culture it contributes to? It is a part of something. Video games are a part of something. Think.

        9) “There is no evidence, none which says it has merits”
        The studies you mention are irrelevant, it’s not about the average chump’s willingness to be agressive. The existence of driving guarantees the existence of improper driving. The presence of guns and the presence of kindergarten classes in the same city does not guarantee the existence of school shootings. More so than aggressive driving, the school shooting is an idea. We do not say a “shooting at a school”, we say a “school shooting”, it’s a concept, and idea. The school shooting was invented (at Columbine, some would say), it was designed, planned, and later carried out by copycats. School shooters did not reinvent the school shooting every time. It exists somewhere in our culture, in our collective conscience. Why can’t video games carry these ideas when the media is done talking about them? Saints Row: The Third is full of ideas on how to kill large amounts of innocent people. It’s all part of the schème.

        It looks like neither of us feels like backing any of this up with any sources, I am glad I did not expand on this idea. As I have said, I am not terribly interested in knowing whether horrendous acts, if they can be called exceptional, are caused specifically by video games. I am mostly interested in the way people respond to them, what they can do to prevent them. Did four men in Delhi rape a girl for sexist cultural reasons? What is clear is that the authorities’ response was based on male chauvinist culture.

        We can demand sources and quotations from each other, and tell ourselves the burden of proof is not on us but on our opponent, but let’s be honest here: you didn’t wait for the studies, who aren’t complete anyway, before starting to play video games? You were already playing, and the companies were already profiting.

      • 28977136 says:

        I was worried no one would respond (especially not so quickly), and althoguh you haven’t really criticized the main idea of my comment, you’ve given me a lot of expand on. The first three topics you mentioned are fairly independant of my main idea, but whatever.

        1) “I’m sorry” [SIC], but I never said Anna Anthropy was “betraying America”, how did you come up with that? I never even said the word “America” in that admittedly poorly constructed sentence. I would never even use the term “betraying America”, I’m not an American nationalist. Anyway, I didn’t actually explain what I meant at all with my inflammatory comment, so I’m glad you asked. I meant the LGBT community. Look, I like Auntie Pixelante more than most developers: I liked Dys4ia, I liked her book, I like what she brings to the field of video game design, I liked Savagery, I like that she’s trying to say something, I liked Police Bear, her participation in the Occupy movement and I think she should keep making games regardless of how I feel about them. However, there are numerous flaws, amons them 1) rhetorical execution: If you’ve followed the general idea of my original post, you should know that I do not believe cultural forms can easily be “isolated”. This applies to her use of irony and exaggeration, which is often confusing. Anna Anthropy is like someone who says “literally” when she means “figuratively”. Snippet: “It would be hilarious to portray the female characters realistically. If you chose the female character in your FPS she would have to move very slowly, dragging the gun around.” Is the exaggeration meant to ridicule people who don’t think women should be in the army or is it honest or is it a way to use video game conventions to convey an honest message? It could easily be misinterpreted.
        What I am mostly concerned about, however, is her sometimes flawed and misguided message (not unlike molleindustria’s game on queer theory that unwittingly ends up being about raping your opponent). BDSM, which is portrayed in many of Anna’s games and posts (and she makes sure it isn’t just a bedroom thing), betrays the struggle of the LGBT community by recreating and celebrating exploitative patriarchal dominant relations. Instead of the breadwinning man and the homemaker woman, we get the dom and the sub, the top and the bottom, and these power relations (that permeate the relationship as well as culture and are not limited to bedroom activities) are supposedly contractual, and empowering for both participants in some sort of inverted liberal world where reproduction of sadistic and exploitative forms and pornographic representations are meant to be transgression. Play Anna’s game “Encyclopedia Fuckme” and you’ll see what I mean: it’s not really a game, just a text that describes a violent and murderous queer relationship. It’s not transgressive, it makes light of domestic violence, and turns it into a personal fetish. It ‘s just unhelpful considering all the violence transgender people have to deal with. Anyway, this is all highly debatable, and your question wasn’t about the LGBT community or BDSM, so I’ll leave it at that, with a quote from Melissa Farley that sums up how I feel about it : “Sadomasochist dykes play-act power and prestige in a world that crushes any attempt to organize for real power. The play-acting helps us to forget how much we are hated and hurt. And forgetting that is the real danger.”

        Come to think of it, that sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it?

        • Ich Will says:

          You wrote “Anna Anthropy’s fetishism for sexual violence is traitorous”

          being traitorous is the act of being a traitor.

          A traitor is someone who betrays their country.

          Anna Anthropy’s country is America

          THerefore, you accused… Oh fill in the rest yourself Not gonna read anything else you write, clearly a troll or a retard.

          • 68465128 says:

            What you have described is called “treason”. You have confused the words “treasonous”and “traitorous”.

      • 28977136 says:

        2) Ohhhh man. Outcast. Ohhh boy. You were NOT paying attention when you played it. It’s the “Tintin in the Congo” of video games. I don’t know where to begin. The game is PACKED with colonial stereotypes and orientalism (“Many moons ago”). Most cultures on that planet are unacceptable caricatures of colonized peoples, the “riss cultivars” are like east asians, and there are the persian-like people who live in a desert, and at one point you can come across and even more “primitive” species that had sacrificial altars and blowdarts (you could just kill them on sight).
        But that’s not the worst part. Almost everything in it is borrowed from the colonial genre (think Tintin, Lawrence of Arabia, Honoré de Balzac and more), it’s like the writers were doing it on purpose. Of course, it’s science fiction, but nonetheless it belongs to a genre that should have died long ago. Here’s why:
        -The white man is their mythical “chosen one” and prophecised messiah. Like Lawrence of Arabia (or Avatar), this is your typical and unoriginal story about how a white man “goes native” and teaches the mostly lazy natives how to fend for themselves.
        -The fact that the main villain is an exploitative human does NOT make it less colonial. The explicit idea of the plot might be resistance, but the undertones are not. In fact, it is very common in colonial stories for the bad guy (always with a “native collaborator”) to also be a white man. For the writers of these stories, indigenous characters just weren’t credible bad guys for the intended audience. Likewise, Outcast’s plot had to do with pieces of human technology, an issue that was beyond the aliens.
        -Human technology was worshipped as “sacred objects”.
        -The primitive culture mistreats the “females” (in Outcast they were all locked away on an island or something). Colonial discourse often portrays (this was the case in Algeria) the colonized as being sexist, often hypocritically (and it still does, the right-wing in Europe, which isn’t particularly feminist, will often talk about misogyny when it tries to stigmatize muslim immigrants (When they made a referendum to ban minarets in Switzerland, one of the right-wingers’ arguments (and it wasn’t always implicit) was that they were a symbol of women’s oppression.))
        -You can argue that these elements all find their place in the plot and setting one way or another in a non-colonial way, but it is clear to me that they are all borrowed from the big book of European colonialism. In case you had any doubts about whether they were truly and effectively colonial, I would like to remind you of KAZAR. Remember? The scientist (who is actually a good guy), along with Xue (renamed Fae Rahn when he turned evil) travelled to the alien planet, made himself some sort of divine prophet, and _MADE ENGLISH THE DOMINANT LANGUAGE_. The fact that the writers could uncritically include such a plot device displays a clear colonial mentality, and I do not believe you will be able to convince me otherwise. As a member of a struggling linguistic minority, the casual inclusion of attempted ethnocide in a video game really upset me. How the FUCK could Belgian developers present planet-wide language acculturation as something that would not create any tensions, or any ethical challenges at all?

        3) There was something pretty damn off about the “races” in The Elder Scrolls. As I said, there is often tension between the message the writers try to convey (which did try to talk about prejudice, racism, cultural resistance) and the way gameplay conventions are presented. In the end, however, gameplay prevails : the plot has to be shaped around the player’s protagonist who is an outsider, a privileged overman, and a tourist, so we always fall back on the same plot where the prophecised outsider learns about the native culture and saves the day. The occasional anti-racist message was undermined by the presence of gameplay conventions : the races are not social constructs but genuinely existing, objective, quantitative differences between Nords, Bretons Imperials and Redguards. And guess what? The dark-skinned humans had less intelligence points in Oblivion than any of the other races. Not okay…

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Wasn’t the main character in Outcast black, or a very dark latino? He was certainly darker than me and I’m as dark as Lewis Hamilton, who is generally referred to as black. Not that it really changes your point as you seem to be saying that because the game uses tropes, and in this case the dark skinned man was playing the white man’s trope, the natives to that world were playing the dark native trope etc etc.

          Can I ask which extraordinary fiction you actually enjoy guilt free so I can point out all the tropes in it too and therefore link it to the crimes of real life people who match those tropes.

          I’m guessing something Eastern European, obscure and ultimately more about telling your “friends” how cultured you are than something you actually enjoy.

          Also, if I were to be a colonialist evil dude, guess what I would do as my first act in power – wipe out their culture starting with their language. I am also a member of a group of people who’s language is considered dead. In fact, as I live in mainland England, I generally get accused outright of lying when I tell people my first language isn’t English. But it’s not. I don’t see how what you have noticed makes the game colonialist, it’s just what the writers imagination perceived. If you’re now going to accuse the writer of being a colonialist because he wrote a colonialist character and dared make that evil character very evil, then I guess Tolken really secretly wished to enslave the Welsh, Susan Collins secretly believes that sending children to fight to the death to win food is an absolutely spiffing idea and George R.R. Martin thinks incest improves a families genetic line.

          (Or maybe they wrote fiction rather than a subconscious truth about their beliefs)

          It doesn’t matter how pretentious the language you use is, your idea’s are arrogant and ridiculous. One day you’ll grow out of it, I’m sure.

        • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

          Even I was surprised when I saw your paycheck for a bajilion dollars for playing college semiotics kiddie 101! Free toaster ovens for all!

    • Sheng-ji says:

      I’m going to ignore your massive, pretentious wall of rant in which you commit the scientific sins of: Overselling, Post-Hoc Story Telling, P-Value Fishing and Creative Use of Outliers;

      and instead condense your post to the following:

      “I am of the opinion that video games contribute to an undesirable culture and that society would be better off with less gaming because we are products of out environment”

      And answer you with:

      No, we’re not solely products of our environment, to argue so is as naive as trying to argue that our environment does not affect us. People don’t get affected by violence in video games because no-one believes it is real, thus when placed in a situation in real life where violence could occur, the affect violence in games has on us is not tapped into. Different areas of our brains are active when we see violence in games/movies or whatever than when we find ourself in a situation where violence is possible in real life. Aiming a gun at your friends avatar does not affect us in the same way as pointing a real gun at a target and certainly not in the same way as at a real person.

      Give people more credit, you pretentious arrogant twat.

      • 32656482 says:

        “Overselling, Post-Hoc Story Telling, P-Value Fishing and Creative Use of Outliers”
        I feel that you are naming sophisms from a checklist (with capital letters, too) as a cheap and easy way of criticizing a text without actually mentioning any specific idea. Is that a sophism? It should be. Am I a sophist? I could be.

        Also, I’m looking at pictures of Cutter Slade at http://www.planet-adelpha.net/Outcast/characters.html and I’m seeing white across the board. I’m also seeing some pretty bad 1990’s shading, so I’ll admit I wasn’t sure either.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Overselling. In scientific terms this is exaggerating the importance of your work. You do this a lot when you present opinion as fact, an example “. I am too critical and learned to ignore that Outcast is revoltingly colonial”

          You are telling us that you are so clever that you can see above all others that Outcast is revolting colonial. Firstly, you oversell the emotional response you have to a computer game story. If you really are revolted by it, how do you feel about spec ops, the line. I’m guessing you will run out of extremes of English language to describe SO:TL if you find Outcast actually revolting. But you don’t, unless you are mentally ill. (Actually, given what you have written, a reasonable explanation)
          Next you oversell your credentials. You have a masters degree you idiot. You are not even top of the academic food chain, let alone in the real world where genuinely intelligent people debate this stuff, to whom a doctorate is something they pick up every six years or so. Finally, the whole opinion as fact schtick. Your opinion does not equal fact. Do not present it as such.

          Post Hoc Story telling – This is where you write a ton of crap but use the one or two valid points in it to validate the crap too. For example, you wrote:

          “Ohhhh man. [CRAP] Outcast. Ohhh boy.[CRAP] You were NOT paying attention when you played it. [CRAP]It’s the “Tintin in the Congo” of video games. [CRAP]I don’t know where to begin. The game is PACKED with colonial stereotypes and orientalism [TRUE] (“Many moons ago”). Most cultures on that planet are unacceptable caricatures of colonized peoples,[CRAP] the “riss cultivars” are like east asians,[CRAP] and there are the persian-like people who live in a desert,[CRAP] and at one point you can come across and even more “primitive”[CRAP] species that had sacrificial altars and blowdarts[TRUE] (you could just kill them on sight).[CRAP]
          But that’s not the worst part. [CRAP]Almost everything in it is borrowed from the colonial genre[CRAP] (think Tintin, Lawrence of Arabia, Honoré de Balzac and more), it’s like the writers were doing it on purpose. [CRAP]Of course, it’s science fiction,[TRUE] but nonetheless it belongs to a genre that should have died long ago{CRAP].

          Please note, I have labelled statements as crap for a variety of reasons, mostly because they are either untrue or a personal opinion of yours. PS, you really don’t understand Persian culture if you think those desert dwellers were based on them.

          So what we are left with is: Outcast has tropes in it. It is sci fi. Some aliens in it use blowdarts.

          But using those hits, you attempt to justify these misses (and many more): You were NOT paying attention when you played it [were you watching me, nope didn’t think so]; Most cultures on that planet are unacceptable caricatures of colonized peoples [Opinion, not fact]; It’s the “Tintin in the Congo” of video games [What does that even mean… Opinion]; the “riss cultivars” are like east asians [Your own deeply racist opinion] etc etc etc

          P-Value Fishing! My favourite. Bear with me, it’s a little abstract, in a mathematical way, I’ll try to make it clear for you. Say you got 1,000 random people and a scientifically proven way to measure the effect of violent games on them. You made them play violent video games and measured them against a second group of control subjects. You discover that the first group were more violent than the second group – both completely random remember. Result, surely you have just proved that violent games make people violent! WRONG! There is a way to measure the effects of randomness in their populations – it is almost inconceivable that your two random groups would have the same aggression levels, what if the second group were naturally more aggressive? You have to decide, how much more aggression in the first group is significant and the figure you choose is the P-Value. But this figure is arbitrary, no better than a guess. So let’s say you decide that the cutoff p-value of 0.05 is significant. So when you plug in your maths with your results, you find that your P-value resolves to 0.05. Did your test beat randomness or didn’t it. Tell you what, lets run a different statistical analysis over your raw data, maybe exclude a different set of extremes and see what happens then. Congratulations my friend, you are now fishing, doing the maths in a different way to deliberately get a different result.

          So how does that apply to what you have said today: Heres the example:

          “Seriously, HOW THE FUCK can anyone say that video games don’t propagate violent and negative attitudes when so many gamers think DAYZ is a realistic representation of “human nature”

          You chose DayZ as some arbitrary measure, you compared your data against this stick and found it worked (even though your data is imaginary, but thats a whole other problem). DayZ was an arbitrary measure, it is meaningless to try to prove your argument based on DayZ because a meaningless measure is meaningless. Do you understand that? You may as well have said that TV viewers have no grasp on reality because 78% of Sesame Street viewers believe Sesame Street is a real road. It is codshite. You fished you a game that proved your point and you presented it as proof.

          Creative use of Outliers – This is when you “clean up” your data by excluding inconvenient data. It is easy to come up with excuses as to why xyz which doesn’t match your proposed model of the world should be excluded. But it is wrong to do this.

          Example: “If you have seen FPSRUSSIA’s videos and still don’t think there is a link between violent video game power fantasies and fetishization/banalization of real-world violence, you are an idiot. FPSRussia is a disgusting, putrid, abhorrent mother fucker who leeches off video games culture to sell REAL weapons by displaying (and I’m willing to bet his audience mostly consists of teenage boys who crave power fantasies) their awe-striking effects and similarity to video games, while hiding the fact that they were designed to murder, maim, dismember and burn real people in atrocious ways that have NOTHING to do with self-defense (long-ranged weapons, flamethrowers, mortars, etc.).”

          Yeah, lets ignore all the other weapon dealers, all the other teens, and adults of the world. Lets just focus on this one guy cos he happens to match my model and present his one data point on my line as proof of what I say.

          Consider yourself educated.

          • 68465128 says:

            I am a bit weirded out by the part where you just quote my paragraph and write [CRAP] next to every sentence you don’t like. But that’s not the point. We have extremely different approaches to science and different criteria for deciphering and establishing what consists of meaningful data.

            I’m not interested in knowing whether video games make people violent. I posit that they are part of a culture that creates representations that influence our attitude, and thus our willingness to act collectively in light of these situations.
            In response to the Newtown killings, many Americans opposed to gun control fell back on culturally transmitted forms about founding fathers, tyrants, roving bandits or the collapse of civilization. They did not individually invent these ideas. They are culturally transmitted, most of them are imaginary. Since imagination is a part of our capacity to envisage situations, products that determine the content and modality of our imagination (and why would video games be an exception?) can have an influence.
            That is the core of my argument, it is the simple notion that culture is performative.

            You said my ideas were opinionated and emotional. Affects are not a flaw, this is a situation where they are an effective variable, and by extension, since my text is argumentative/performative and submitted to the same mechanisms it is describing, I am not afraid to appeal to emotions, as I want to question and change the way people emotionally react to situations.
            You say I chose examples that were exceptional and thus meaningless. 1) Exceptional situations mark our collective memory (which is significant considering the school shootings are generally described as copycat crimes) 2) The samples anthropology and media studies use are tiny. The idea is to discover new mechanisms or phenomena that change our categories (Jane Goodall said we must “redefine tool, redefine Man”, by looking at a small sample of chimpanzees). If I have given the impression that I have oversold my idea by presenting it as the unique description of opinion-forming, then I concede I was wrong. I DO NOT posit that DayZ is in any way a “measure” of culture. I use it as an example that justifies the simple idea that video game culture can reinforce negative attitudes on a notable scale. 3) Not only is FPSRussia the only arms-dealing shitbird with millions of views on YouTube’s front page, he interests me because creates a direct symbolic and cultural link between video game fantasies and real-life weapons proliferation. Gun culture is widespread, it does not have a single face, and I could always be accused of being selective no matter who I select. But the samples are not singularities, they echo a culture and contribute to it, they find a place in its dialectic constitutive structure.

            Conclusion: Regardless of whether these examples are representative, the dialectic and influence are real, and thus we cannot continue to pretend there is a magical barrier between our attitudes (that are never completely original) and the dominant ideology as conveyed by cultural products. Act of Valor is not just an action movie. Likewise, the stigma we face as members of a linguistic minority is not just personal lack of knowledge or instinctive fear.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I didn’t write [CRAP] next to sentences I didn’t like, I wrote it next to crap sentences; meaningless filler, opinion statements; incorrect facts etc etc. Basically anything which you wrote which you present as evidence for your argument which is not valid to be used as evidence.

            We do have different approaches to science. Your approach involves presenting opinion s fact, ignoring any data which doesn’t match your weirdly rigid model, an inability to admit you are wrong, changing the goalposts to make sure you get the result you want etc etc. In a word, your approach to science is incorrect.

            So what, your goal is to change culture, forget all the individualities that make our ancestral makeup unique. We should wipe that all clean and subscribe to your nice clean bland boring uniform ideal of culture. Dictated by you. Piss off, I’m proud of my culture – and before you sling verbose insults at it/me for being proud of my culture, let me remind you, you have no idea what it is.

            But the funniest thing is, you are a product of your culture, it is what has made you an incredible tool in everyone’s eyes except your own. You know, that American gun culture you hold in such disdain came from a time when those “imaginary” issues were very real. If an american really does believe that he needs a gun to protect himself from roving bands of marauders, he is mentally ill and needs help and understanding, not you stood on your 1″ high pedestal attempting to look down of people taller than you.

            What I suggest is that we learn to understand why culture is what it is. Why do all the faces of the statues in my home village have their faces chiselled off. What lessons can we learn from that. What we shouldn’t do is try to change peoples culture – take away culture and you have a human race without interest. I bet my last (insert local currency here) you wouldn’t criticise the culture of a native Amazon tribe, I bet you wouldn’t insist they stop bearing poisonous blow-darts. I bet this culture change only refers to white westerners because tribal people are so (whatever hipsters use to describe things they like)

            The Newtown killings were a horrible thing, but they were as a result of society failing a mentally ill young man. It is not the fault of gun culture that he did what he did. It is the fault of there being no safety net to catch people who have worked themselves into a condition where they could do such a thing. Sure, guns make such tragedies more accessible than a culture without guns, but the guns themselves aren’t the problem. Treat the disease not the symptoms.

            Culture is not performative – people aren’t pretending to act in the way their culture dictates, they genuinely are that way. I know you think there is some bland robot under that veneer of culture, but I suggest that you only feel that way as you have no capacity to empathise. You don’t get that a leathered up biker sees the world in a different way than you, or that a camp guy isn’t just putting on a camp act. You think everyone is like you but they have becomes snagged in some performance, some trope or character. This is not the case. They are that person too the core. Do yuo, or have you ever suffered from schizophrenia? No need to answer – if you have that would explain everything including why you have used at least 3 different logins! Go get help man!

            Anyway, onwards with your ideas. You think that appealing to the emotional maximum is a valid way to have a conversation. It is not. You state that you are trying to illicit emotional responses. I fail to see how this doesn’t make you the very definition of a troll. You are one or two steps away from vandalising a dead persons facebook page. If you want to have a valid debate, the inference is that you want to hear the other persons reasoned answers. By attempting to get an emotional response from them, you are attempting to put them in a position where they can’t make a reasoned argument. This means you have no interest in a debate, you just want to tell other people how right you are and how wrong they are. Which is why myself and others call you arrogant.

            So what’s wrong with the way people reacted emotionally to the school shooting? Is not disgust and anger the correct response to have in your books? Because that is overwhelmingly the response seen. Sure you get some who play up to the cameras, it’s difficult not too when made the center of attention by having an ENG cameraman with light and sound crew, recognisable face with a microphone all asking you, what do you think.

            And yes, choosing the exceptions and basing your opinion on them is wrong. Let me painfully explain why, Again. If 9999 out of 10000 dogs would never savage a child, you do not ban people from keeping dogs. You put systems in place to make sure that the 1 dog who will savage a child is weeded out and you ban people from keeping it. You educate dog owners, make sure they understand how to keep a dog safely. Simples, no?

            “I DO NOT posit that DayZ is in any way a “measure” of culture. I use it as an example that justifies the simple idea that video game culture can reinforce negative attitudes on a notable scale.”

            You clearly do not understand how wrong this is. Listen, in the late 90’s, someone mapped every case of cancer and compared it to mobile phone masts. To their horror, they noticed that every mobile phone mast was surrounded by dense clusters of cancer patients. The daily mail got up on their high horses and told the world that mobile phone masts have a strong correlation with cancer. They reproduced a section of the map showing clusters of cancer right by phone masts. House prices near masts plummeted, people got rid of mobiles, the old idea that the speaker microwaves your brain is as widely accepted as ever it was.

            The simple fact is, mobile phone masts are placed in areas of high population density. If you adjust your map to take population density into account, there is literally zero correlation with mobile phone masts. Stupid mass hysteria because some “genius” didn’t think outside of the results they were fishing for to explain it any other way. Which is what you are doing with your dayZ example. people who play DayZ have a lot of things in common, not just that they play DayZ, so a common held belief (Which I still notice you are insisting is a fact without providing any evidence, even hearsay to back it up) is a given. Guess what, people who play Anno 2070 have a lot in common too, but sadly the things they have in common don’t help prove your point, so lets ignore them amirite.

            As for this, the singularities echo a culture crap – bollocks.. I’m not going to watch that dipshites videos, believe it or not I have a social life to attend to. I believe you when you write what you wrote, however you are either willfully ignoring or just to stupid to realise that the people watching those videos have a lot more in common than just a liking of guns. Go watch 1000 other videos on youtube with similar numbers of views. Look at the comments. Equally dumb, right. That’s because youtube comments have a stupid culture all of their own. I put it to you that you haven’t eliminated the possibility that what you are seeing is youtube culture in action, not gun culture! Every outlier has a reason to be an outlier and I agree they shouldn’t be ignored unless your measure was inaccurate in that instance. We shouldn’t ignore that some few people can murder children, but don’t think that echos all of society. It doesn’t. I could never point a gun at a person, let alone kill them under any circumstance. I know this because I went to vegas and went to the gun range and held a bb pistol. I shot six shots at a paper target and hated the entire thing. I left trembling, my hands were numb, my arms were weak. I had problems shooting a bb gun at a paper circle. Yet I play fps’s all the time, weekly. So clearly I am an outlier that echos society as a whole too right, the person who can play fps’s but not shoot a gun? But how does that work, how do the two outliers come together when they are so diametrically opposed? They don’t obviously! The vast majority of people lie in the middle and do not stray to the extremes. This is why you can’t base your hypothesis only on the outliers, especially when you pick and choose which outliers you are going to consider.

            Your conclusion is a bit pre-emtive, you haven’t tested your hypothesis. Also, I don’t face stigma as a linguistic minority. People not believing me is not a stigma, it is a chance to educate someone in my wonderful language and culture. I’m sorry you feel stigmatised, but that’s coming from you, not other people. Probably because you talk to them like you typed to us.

            I don’t for one second expect you to actually listen to anything I have said. You are a child, emotionally, that much is clear. You don’t like being told you are wrong and because you are wrong and everyone is telling you so, you are trying to use the same flawed logic to prove you are right. But no matter how many times I lead you to water and show you how wrong your logic is, you just won’t drink until you are good and ready. When you are happy to have a sensible debate, which involves listening to and understanding opposite point of view. Understanding why you cannot present opinion as fact. Understanding why you can’t only base your debating points on the extremes, why you can’t ignore evidence if it doesn’t agree with you etc etc, you may learn something. Until then, I have nothing more to say to you. You are an emotionally childish troll who’s ludicrous opinion will never be taken seriously. You have little man syndrome something chronic and a chip on your shoulder the size of the Polish statue “Christ the King” and for that reason, I’m out.

            P.S – could you please stop posting under so many different usernames, we all know they are all you – you’re the chump using random numbers (or some hipster code puzzle more likely) and it means I won’t be able to effectively block you. I consider it an abuse of the wordpress system and I would like for you to receive an IP ban for doing it, however I have to face facts that the people who can do that will be far to busy mocking you to ever want to give up their joke. I’m not going to read any more of your posts, it’s painfully obvious who you are and it would make my life easier if I didn’t have to scroll so far past your posts.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      I like how you buried some potentially intriguing points that might be worth discussing under a mountain of didactic, inconsistent, opinionated rhetoric, as well as a heaping helping of strawmanning and spurious appeals to deceased authorities who can’t speak for themselves on this issue. Your degree’s really working for you, huh?

      Oh, and I particularly enjoy the way your argument can be applied to all culturally relevant works that don’t meet your incredibly particular and vaguely contradictory standards. How convenient for you!

      Though you’re currently worshipping at the altar of the Frankfurt school of critical analysis, I must say, your approach to argumentation is still decidedly Randian. I’d say it was Nietzschean, but Nietzsche was concise. And neither author was so sanctimonious.

      What I love the most about your argument is that you basically came in here, assumed we were all uncultured troglodytes, spent paragraphs calling us exactly that, and ended by lamenting the fact that nobody’s willing to engage intellectually with you on this issue. I may be uncultured scum without a degree, but I think I can resolve your quandary: maybe don’t presume everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot?

      But what do I know? I’m just an agent of the Western hegemon!

      • F3ck says:

        …my boy’s wicked smart…

      • 28977136 says:

        “What I love the most about your argument is that you basically came in here, assumed we were all uncultured troglodytes” ; “maybe don’t presume everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot?”
        I do not feel that these kinds of arguments, while they might arguably be true, can actually contribute to our discussion. You don’t really attempt to refute any of my ideas, you’re just upset about my rhetoric.

        Remarkable hypocrisy. Maybe I am right to “[lament] the fact that nobody’s willing to engage intellectually”, because you sure as hell don’t. It doesn’t help that you think I “buried some potentially intriguing points that might be worth discussing under a mountain of didactic” if you don’t actually mention any specific ideas. Make a better effort.

        Saying my ideas have Nietzschean origins is not inaccurate at all considering his philological studies that established a link between discourse and power, however I am genuinely interested in knowing how my thoughts are “still decidedly Randian”. But seriously, you can’t just put a label on my thoughts and pass that off for critique, that would be even more pedantic than what I said!

        • Premium User Badge

          ffordesoon says:

          You misunderstand me. I’m deliberately not responding to your points until you state them like someone who wants to be taken seriously. I found some of your points interesting, and said so. For instance, the idea that “human nature” is a social construct designed to reinforce a set of social norms approved by the Western cultural hegemon. That’s intriguing. I don’t necessarily agree, but it is an interesting thought I’d be willing to entertain for the sake of a discussion.

          However, your childishly supercilious attitude is poisonous to reasoned discussion. Until you talk to me – and, by extension, my fellow RPS posters – like a human being whose differing opinion is valued, you’re the one who’s unwilling to engage intellectually with me, not the other way around.

          If that’s just too taxing for you, then prepare for future mockery, because that’s all you’re going to get from anyone else. If you find that unfair or hypocritical, too bad. My life’s too short to waste it talking with blowhards who think a degree gives them carte blanche to be a jerk.

          • 68465128 says:

            Fair enough. I can see how I did not justify the unpleasant attitude I put forth in my original post. I was frustrated and I mostly wanted to draw attention, you’re right about that.

            However, generally speaking, I do not believe I can criticize mainstream culture without conveying a condescending attitude towards that large majority of people who enjoys these products. Someone who’s in conflict studies would probably not appreciate watching “Homeland”. Someone who’s in women’s studies probably wouldn’t enjoy reading “Twilight”. Inevitably, they will find peoples’ appreciation of these products to be harmful and misguided, and the fact that this attitude is privileged will make people feel uncomfortable. If I am feeling cynical, it might come off as contempt or mockery, and for that I apologize.

            I know, it is paradoxally privileged that we would criticize dominant discourse by setting ourselves above the average person’s way of thinking, or that we would criticize the stigmatisation of minorities, and then denigrate mainstream culture with a similar form of analysis. Nonetheless, this isn’t about sensitivity or preservation, as ideological and intentioned discursive critique can be unapologetically “monstrous”: it is the intentional destruction of forms.

    • 32656482 says:

      I’ll be brief, and I will respond with content that covers other objections people have brought up since the site won’t let me fully respond to Ich Will in a direct reply.

      I’m sorry I pooped on beloved games instead of targeting easy examples like Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Duke Nuk’em Forever. All those games I mentioned are or were among my favourites, but, god damn, if we want to set the bar higher, we have to criticize the games we can love.

      I want to put to rest the idea that video games are “just toys”. Even toys and time wasters have a message. Ich Will, you bought your son a Tomy My First Keyboard. Is the toy truly meaningless? Is the act of buying, and giving your son a toy meaningless? Your love for your son is not meaningless. Christmas has a message. Did you notice if the toy store was gendered? A message made you buy a Tomy My First Keyboard. Few games are completely abstract, if you think Medal of Honor: Warfighter does not have a message, you are sorely mistaken. Just because fiction isn’t “real” doesn’t mean it is empty of normative ideas, you don’t enjoy video games like you enjoy a fine wine, a Vivaldi piece or a handjob. We have cultural products that contain messages, and we have humans who are generally receptacles of these cultural packets of information. And yet, it is up to us to prove that people are actually recieving messages from cultural products. To isolate culture in such a way is magical thinking. I am hugely skeptical that the attitudes in games like DayZ are a “movie response” that is limited to the “genre”. I don’t see how being part of a genre makes the messages any less performative. John Wyndham, who wrote Day of the Triffid, also wrote The Chrysalids, in which the ending is quite openly about how violence against lesser races is morally justified if it is meant to preserve the unity and safety of members of the master race. That’s not just an innocuous part of the “genre”. Wyndham had an idea. Thinking critically means wondering what culture his work is a part of, and how it contributes to it.

      The simple fact that school shootings (notice that it is an idea: we call it “school shootings” and not just “a shooting at a school”) are most likely copycat crimes shows us that media has an impact on individual acts (however, this doesn’t mean the shooters wouldn’t have committed acts of violence if it wasn’t for the media). If the news can preserve and project the idea of the school shooting, why couldn’t a video game do it? If someone wants to commit violent acts, why couldn’t a video game give him/her ideas on how to do it?

      Anyway, it seems I have failed to convey my main message: I am not interested in knowing whether horrendous acts, if they can be called exceptional, are caused specifically by video games. I am mostly interested in the way people respond to them, what they can do to prevent them. For instance, I can’t tell you that four men in Delhi raped a girl for sexist cultural reasons, but it’s probable that the authorities’ response, based on their discourse and attitude (and NOT necessarily their psychology) was based on male chauvinist culture.

      Sheng-ji has brought up the fact video games aren’t real life. This is meaningless, it’s like saying “I will write a poem that celebrates the exploits of a fictitious serial killer. But don’t worry, his victims aren’t real, they’re just words on a piece of paper”. The poem might not incite murder, but it would still convey an unpleasant message and a light attitude towards unacceptable behaviour. Every culture is influenced by myths, tales and fiction. It’s all imagination, just listen to the numerous people who say guns will be needed to overthrow a tyrant, to people who think they’ll need military weapons to fend off bandits, to Wayne Lapierre who talks about “bad guys” and “good guys” as if this was an action film:
      ————————————–tl;dr——————————————–
      fiction and fantasy are not separated from the general culture that forms the basis of most decisions and desires, because imagination is our capacity to envisage situations. Control of the content and modalities of imagination are thus tools of remarkable power.
      —————————————————————————————

    • 32656482 says:

      I’ll be brief.
      I want to put to rest the idea that video games are “just toys”. Even time wasters have a message. Ich Will, is the toy you bought your son truly meaningless? Is the act of buying, and giving your beloved son a toy meaningless? Did you notice if the toy store was gendered? If you think Medal of Honor: Warfighter does not have a message, you are sorely mistaken. There is normative content: you don’t enjoy video games like you enjoy a fine wine, a Vivaldi piece or a handjob. John Wyndham, who wrote Day of the Triffid, also wrote The Chrysalids, in which the ending is quite openly about how violence against lesser races is morally justified if it is meant to preserve the safety of members of the master race. This is the sort of idea that comes from a culture and can contribute to it, you can’t just isolate it in a “genre”.

      Look, it seems I have failed to convey my main message: I am not interested in knowing whether horrendous acts, if they can be called exceptional, are caused specifically by video games. I am mostly interested in the way people respond to them, what they can do to prevent them. For instance (nasty example, sorry), I can’t tell you that four men in Delhi raped a girl for sexist cultural reasons, but it’s probable that the authorities’ response, based on their discourse and attitude (and NOT necessarily their psychology) was based on male chauvinist culture.

      Sheng-ji has brought up the fact video games aren’t real life. This is irrelevant, it’s like saying “I will write a poem that celebrates the exploits of a fictitious serial killer. But don’t worry, his victims aren’t real, they’re just words on a piece of paper”. The poem might not incite murder, but it would still convey an unpleasant message and a light attitude towards unacceptable behaviour. Every culture is influenced by myths, tales and fiction. It’s all imagination, just listen to the numerous people who say guns will be needed to overthrow a tyrant, to people who think they’ll need military weapons to fend off bandits, to Wayne Lapierre who talks about “bad guys” and “good guys” as if this was an action film:

      My final word on this (hopefully):
      Fiction and fantasy are not separated from the general culture that forms the basis of most decisions and desires, because imagination is part of our capacity to envisage situations. Control of the content and modalities of imagination are thus tools of remarkable power.

      • Ich Will says:

        Saw my name in recent comments, couldn’t resist!

        Am I the time waster?

        The keyboard I bought for my son was a gift I knew he would enjoy given out of love. It looks a little like a piano because in our culture, we have pianos. It’s not however a piano nor is it meant to be a piano. Nor does it mean I think he is going to be influenced by it towards becoming a musician. It’s a toy, it exists for 1-2 year olds to have fun with. It does not exist to train them in music, guide them towards becoming a pianist, develop skills applicable to pianists or an appreciation for music. Comprende?

        Remember, I’m the one who actually partially agrees with your core message, just think you presented it in the most awful way. Sheng-ji said it best when (she? as I remember) condensed your view down to one line. The rest was utter drivel and all it achieved was making you sound like an arrogant pretentious moron.

        Oh, and by the way, I am perfectly capable of reading a poem glorifying a fictional serial killer and seeing it in the context it was written. Stop telling me and everyone else that we can’t, that some how if you glorify a villain, the reader/viewer/player somehow has their own morals and opinions flooded by the thing you are reading/viewing/playing. I figure I got it. You were weak minded, you were influenced by that stuff. You played gun games and felt yourself wanting to commit violence. You were revolted by yourself and you dedicated your life to training your mind to be above such things. You feel you have suceeded so you march around beating your chest like a prize winning gorilla when in actual fact all you have suceeded in doing was bringing your mind up to the level of the rest of us. Well done, we got there when we were 4 years old, you’re only 20 years behind us. Now maybe you can go learn how to tie up big boy laces.

        • 68465128 says:

          You overestimate your capacity to resist the message of cultural products as an adult. Adulthood is pretty much the oppposite of what you have condescendingly described: it is culturally marked by the percieved completion of socialization and the internalization of cultural forms: it does not make you a truly independant mind that can deflect ideological discursive content in cultural products : it only makes you independant in sense that you need less active discipline and control to respect and carry out culture.

          I do not believe you when you say adults are not influenceable. I know how you feel, you’re skeptical that this toy or that film could change who you are, but look at how our political structures and morals are necessarily founded on myths. The Nation, the Lord, the People, Man, Human, the Self-Made Man, the Family. Do you think they haven’t changed? That we have only learned about these institutions before we were four years old? If that was the case, I doubt politics and propaganda would exist.
          You cannot negate the ideological force of products by putting them in their “context”, like a crummy co-worker who shares a sexist joke and calls it ironic, or a non-African-american film critic who talks about Birth of a Nation’s artistic merits. These actions REPRODUCE the vehicle of the cultural form nonetheless and ensure that they can persist to be performative.

          You are wrong about me, I have not “come to [your] level” and set aside the conscience that I am a still influenced by my environment. Let me be clear about this: my message is ABSOLUTELY NOT that we should free ourselves from the dialectic that forms our subjectivities, from the very notion that culture transmits ideology. I am not fighting against it, I am fighting against its current form and content. I accept it, and this is why I strive for change, reappropriation or replacement of forms. To this end, reflexion is critical: thinking you are not influenceable obscures how much you have internalized dominant culture.

    • distrocto says:

      So, you’re basically a pompous, insufferable asshole that can’t enjoy himself or anything else?
      Gotcha

    • Jimbo says:

      Man, imagine if you had dedicated all those years of learning to something useful.

  37. frightlever says:

    For me, this is one of the best articles on RPS recently.

    I actually think that violence in video games, like much of the culture we indulge ourselves with, does contribute towards our desensitization towards violence. I don’t see how anyone can argue against this. Mankind, and primarily men, are hard-wired for violence. A large part of our civilization is geared towards curbing this by attaching harsh penalties to unsanctioned violence. But the impulse is still there in most of us.

    But violence is a response, broadly speaking. If you lived in a monastery and knew nothing of the outside world, your few material needs met with no concept of greed or jealousy then your violent urges aren’t going to surface very often if at all.

    On the one hand we have an actual Western culture (remember different cultures have different views on how much violence should be allowed out to play) which says violence is bad unless it’s in defence or for the state, while a lot of popular culture is chipping away at this with triple digit body counts and the affirmation that sometimes violence is the only answer. I watch a couple of shows, Dexter and Sons of Anarchy, were the lead characters are cold-blooded murderers.

    Does watching TV turn me into a killer? No, of course not. Does it contribute towards that chipping away at the line between what’s acceptable behaviour and what isn’t? For some people, yes absolutely. That’s how influence works. That influence may only extend to a handful of people and it may only be a small contributing factor, but it’s a factor. Again, how can anyone argue with that? The argument in favour of game violence is that it’s escapist fantasy. The problem lies with people who are unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Normal people keep it all reined in. It’s the crazies that get up one morning with the intention of killing John Lennon.

    Cars kill people, but we still drive cars. Violent media probably has a fractional percentage point effect on murder rates. I guess it’s an acceptable trade-off. Do we really want to go back to TV the way it was before HBO or Starz? I think not.

    The problem with video game violence is that it’s hardly changed much since Space Invaders. It’s still all about epic body counts with a few exceptions. I’d like to see a few more moral choices thrown in there, like the DB quest line in Oblivion.

    • Xzi says:

      Well, you said it. There will always be crazy people. Will reducing the amount of violence in gaming overall change that? No. The media will just go back to blaming rock music or violent TV shows or books. The inability to differentiate fantasy from reality knows no boundaries.

      What’s really broken in the US is the way we approach and treat mental sickness. I also maintain that images we see every day on the news are far more desensitizing and influencing than any other form of media. The knowledge that our country has engaged in killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the very recent past, in REALITY, and in widely-televised detail, is more damaging to the psyche than anything else you can possibly imagine. And all too often we wear these deeds as a badge of honor, and tell our children to be proud of them as well. God only knows what greater future violence we’re inspiring.

    • Wulf says:

      Eh. I’ve said things like this before but I’ve had little success. The problem is is that gamers tend to be clever automatons; They have plenty of intellectual and a competitive nature, a drive to “win” at everything. What they lack, of course, is a sense of empathy. There’s a word for that but I don’t like flinging it around, though it does surprise me that it’s a growing psychiatric concern, and it’s actually been trending on an upward scale of late.

      Now, me? I don’t actually enjoy games that try to force me to attack/kill something that looks like an entry of the endangered species list. The moment a game pulls that, I set it aside, and I don’t play it. I prefer diplomatic solutions to things, I like games where one is allowed to talk. That’s my feelings at work, because I have this little thing called guilt which plagues me even with videogames. That is because I actually do feel things, but I’m not sure if many do. This is what has me wondering if, perhaps, there aren’t more crazies out there than we would care to admit. Out there. In here.

      I’ve been attacked before for the simple desire to have more diplomatic options in games. I’ve had people go at me like rabid dogs for the mere notion that a game should have an option 2 that doesn’t involve driving a blade up some poor git’s nostrils. Again – clever automatons, no empathy. And this is what bothers me with gaming, because it seems to be creating a trend against empathy, where empathy is actually a bad thing. Where, as a guy, it’s bad for me to have feelings.

      And as stereotypical as it is to say this, none of my guy friends understand this. None of them. Now, talking with my lady friends? Plenty of them do! We’re getting into a culture where men apparently seem to think that it’s bad to explore things with their feelings, rather than with their thoughts alone. In my opinion, though, you need both thoughts and feelings to truly be self-aware. Without both, if you only have one, then you are but a clever automaton. Because you’re not fully experiencing the scope of reality. And that’s what tends to have people act crazily. No feelings, no understanding of consequence.

      So whilst I can talk to a lady friend and she’ll understand that I’m bothered by games not offering diplomatic and/or non-lethal solutions, and she’ll actually get why that’s an issue, and why it makes me feel bad; I can’t actually talk to a guy and do the same. A guy laughs it off and tells you to grow up, to have a tougher skin, or they make a meme out of your desire for more intelligent, more ethical games. That’s happened here. And really, I don’t know if I’m going to reach anyone now.

      Why do I say that? Because I don’t know in honesty whether anyone at RPS is able to empathise with my position. And that… well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Good luck trying to get this message through, too, because all it’s seen as is a contesting viewpoint, not something to empathise with, and someone with an opposing viewpoint is just a target to destroy. Not a person to empathise with.

      • Stan Lee Cube Rick says:

        While I do take my share of demented glee in virtual violence and carnage, I agree with many of the points you have made. Depending on the nature of the game I am often disappointed by the lack of nonviolent options available.

        Immersive role playing games with significant elements of exploration or dialog still tend to shoehorn the player into combat options in sometimes jarring ways, simply because fighting is what is considered to be primary gameplay whereas other aspects serve to lend context to that ultimate goal. The boss is in his lair and must inevitably be killed to see the credits roll. Strategy simulation games often frustrate me with limited and flawed diplomacy that frequently ends up being a mere delaying tactic in the overall warlike scope of the game. Almost an afterthought, diplomatic victory options are typically about obtaining a certain number of points before one’s opponents, more an exercise in economic supremacy and avoidance of actual diplomacy rather than engaging its nuances. That isn’t to say these particular game styles would feel complete for me without the potential for open aggression. You can’t always be friends with everyone, and conflict is the foundation of any game, but the resolution of these conflicts is biased by what appeals to the most gamers.

        I don’t believe that game or media violence is particularly responsible for what happens in the world now, let alone over the whole bloody course of human history without either of them. However it cannot be discounted as a factor, it too is part of the environment that shapes who we are and what we do. Like you I believe that our culture is suffering from an erosion of empathy, and the results can be seen every day. Is it any wonder that some people lash out when we are so ready to disavow all moral obligation to their well-being while demanding compliance with our expectations, the same expectations imposed on ourselves as much as they may chafe here or there. Once someone earns or believes they have earned a label, it can easily become a self fulfilling prophecy unless we are capable of understanding the complexity of a person and being prepared to assist one another as human beings. In other words, empathy.

      • cuchufluru says:

        @Wulf:

        I empathize with your opinion :) And I actually think a lot of RPS readers agree with this way of thinking, with slight differences. I find yours and many other comments (plus the article) honestly fabulous. This site is really something.

        Now this is my little grain of sand: violence is not just knife attacks, shooting or punching.. violence is harm, violence is attacking..

        And it’s interesting that you mentioned the word “empathy” a couple times.. since that is the only thing that can keep us from doing something harmful to other person/being: putting ourselves in their shoes, feeling what they might be feeling.

        If you think of it.. it’s amazing how many issues could be solved with a little more empathy, don’t you guys think?

        Cheers

    • grenadeh says:

      While that’s true it doesn’t matter for a normal person. Unless you are psychotic or sociopathic you can experience violence and get desensitized but not completely forget the reality of it. I have played violent video games an games in general for 20 years. I’ve never done anything violent. It’s been at least 14 years since I’ve kicked someones ass, probably more. I own firearms, a lot of them. I don’t shoot people, I don’t do anything violent at all. Do I want to? Pretty much, but I know better. So no, desensitization to violence while having valid psychological roots, is still a load.

  38. DeSaad says:

    I just want to say I find it completely hypocritical that something is considered
    -Wrong and worthy of discussion if it instigates fake violent gun-related death at the touch of a (▲) button on an electronic remote control device
    (Call Of Duty)
    -Not wrong and worth discussing if it instigates fake violent gun-related death at the touch of a (▶) button on an electronic remote control device
    (Tom & Jerry)
    …because in one country the media are looking for scapegoats to shift the blame from the completely unbalanced, unrevisioned constitutional right to bear arms that was only logical when the most advanced weapon a man could have was a one-shot pistol that was more prone to miss its target if they were more than 30ft away or explode in your hand or misfire. 100ft if it was a rifle.

  39. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    Sometimes violence makes games less fun. DXHR became less fun when it turned into a cover-shooter rather than the player being just as able to sneak and hide to get to the end. Sure, you could do it, but it became brutally hard upon, say, the return to Hong Kong where the player’s surrounded by soldiers and can’t cross the street without being confronted by security guards or local thugs.

    But let’s face it, the big popular games are the manshoots we deride as being the realm of bros and fratboys and teens – two sets of players we just brush off as being simple and immature.

    Back when I was in college, BECAUSE I AM OLD, Mortal Kombat was the big nasty. And we had the Senate hearings. And we didn’t care once they stopped threatening to ban such games, because they just slapped on the idea of ratings – which then took a few years to gel.

    But let’s be honest about it, ratings don’t stop people from buying games that could or should be labelled ‘mature only’ for their kids. People still think of games as being for kids or emotionally stunted manchildren, so nobody pays that much attention to ratings and content. Should they? Sure.

    Beyond that, we really have to ask why American gamers play a metric shit-ton(ne) of violence-based video games and America has so many massacres, yet other countries full of gamers don’t seem to have as many cases. Is it just that America is more populous? Is it just that America has easy access to guns? Are the more/most violent games the ones made by American companies (or by American designers in concert with overseas studios)?

    Back in the olde days we played a hell of a lot of NES Contra and Genesis Revenge of Shinobi and SNES Contra III… and I didn’t even know a single person or family who owned a gun. Nobody shot up our school. I never even held a real gun until I married my wife, and her father, a retired cop turned private detective, took us to the target range to teach us gun safety. Just in case we ever got a pistol for home protection. Us being in the ‘big city’ compared to her family.

    Before the 1960s there was really only one American disaster on the scale of what has happened recently, the Bath School massacre in 1927. Then in the 1960s a guy went to a university belltower and shot people until he was stopped. Since then, slowly, similar cases have happened. Each decade, more and more, bigger and more horrible. The shooting memorialized in the Boomtown Rats song “I Don’t Like Mondays” was, we thought, an aberration, a rarity. But since the mid to late 1990s, it’s one after another, a Kip Kinkel here, a Columbine there, a VA Tech, a shopping mall…

    We’ve had videogames since the late 1970s. And shooting range type mechanical games before that. But it wasn’t until the mid 90s that these mass shootings started being sadly common. I want to argue therefore that violent videogames don’t cause these sort of tragedies, because the shootings happened even before the games were realistic enough to be anything more than a mess of pixels of different colors. Or is it the other side, that even the unrealistic violence of Doom and Quake was thrill-kill-violent enough to feed the messed up minds of these sickos? I don’t know anymore.

    If there’s anything I can land squarely on, it’s my opinion that the increasing tide of military manshoots (call of Band of Duty of Ops etc etc etc) is a symptom of an increasingly angry and militaristic America lashing out after we were hit at home.

    I was playing Hitman (the first one) on Sept 10th 2001. I set it aside the next day. Never went back, though I’ve tried a few times. Hitman 1 through 3 sit unplayed on my shelf. I’ve bought them and tried to play them again, as I like sneakers, but I couldn’t do it.

    I fear that since that day, some Americans have just felt angry and just looking for someone to blame, someone to hit, to shoot.As if violence can solve every problem. Our country was hit hard, and we’ve lashed out at different countries, different peoples/groups/ethnicities/religions, across the world. We’ve seen some Americans’ fears of the direction our country is headed turn to anger, bitterness, and even racism as people bicker over who’s to blame for the wars, the continued overseas backlash over those same wars, the pulverization of the economy and the “American Dream”. Too many people must just feel they have nothing left, that’s the only explanation i can even fathom.

    An America with an overabundance of anger and bitterness, plus a scarcity of hope, plus a decade plus of brutal wars sold to the people as justice and revenge, plus constant uncertainty about the future, plus *popular culture (including videogames, movies, TV) idolizing ‘just’ violence* plus the big one, *EASY ACCESS TO GUNS AND GUNS AND GUNS* is what I think has happened.

  40. LurkInTheDark says:

    I think games have the opposite effect on violence in real life, a game that has you performing violent acts during extended periods of time is more likely to deplete your stress than to generate anything negative. I enjoy playing games, after playing a match of something like counter-strike or blacklight retribution, where enemies will explode in blood and have their heads turned into fine red mist, leaves me satisfied, especially when my team wins. And afterward i feel good about playing that match, i feel it was all worth it, and i gleefully proceed to either do another match or do something else.
    If anyone might be affected by violence in video games are people who had the disposition to kill before they even saw the game.
    Now that’s a fair discussion, videogames might influence boys with that disposition, but i highly doubt a run-of-the-mill human being can become a murderous fiend over any course of time.
    I personally think i’d be more violent if i didn’t play games, I’d be bored, stressed, and angry, and you know where that leads.

    • steviesteveo says:

      This one’s dodgy. Current psychological research shows violence / anger etc as more like a muscle than a reservoir — you don’t fill up with anger and drain it out, you train your response. For example, people who were told to punch a wall when they felt angry just developed a habit of punching things when they were angry. I’d argue you could do worse than train yourself to play video games when you’re mad but the problem the punching experiment found was that it worked until you didn’t have the option of punching a wall — then you had the instinct of using violence but no safe way of channelling it and that just makes the problem worse.

      The problem is just how well that maps to a video game. The actions are different, after all. Could it just be you’re setting yourself up to hulk out when your xbox breaks?

      • LurkInTheDark says:

        I play on PC first of all, and playing games is one way of releasing stress, i have others, and I personally am not much that violent, and I do not become angry all that often.
        People who NEED to punch a wall have more problems than just a constant need for walls to punch, they need psychological help, imo it’s a quack solution, someone like that has serious anger problems and needs to resolve them in ways other than punching walls or playing games. they need to confront what it is causing their stress rather than drain it away.

        Video games is just a way to drain everyday stress, like coming from work, or after a long day of studying.

      • e9000es says:

        What you’re describing with the wall punching is known as ‘catharsis’ ie letting off steam, which as you mention, has it’s detractors, however studies in videogames have found an effect known as ‘mood management’ which is distinct from catharsis. Studies show that whilst violent videogames do not seem to cause increased or decreased aggressive behaviour, however they can help individuals handle stress, decrease hostile feelings and help with depression.

        Here’s a link to one such study… http://www.tamiu.edu/~cferguson/hitman.pdf

  41. Cinnamon says:

    Violence is exciting so as long as there is fiction and games people will find ones about violence exciting. Naturally we can be suspicious of the quality of an industry that keeps on spiking our games with increasing levels of violence just like we can wonder about the food industry and sugar. But just being preachy about violence will just make it seem more exciting.

    What can’t really be done is making out that violence is something that is not in our nature and can be removed. It will always be there under the surface and will bubble up when we least want it. There is some reason to believe that giving people who are prone to violence games that are violent reduces the overall violence level in society just because it keeps them a bit busier. On the other hand taking away their games and giving them assault rifles…

    • D3xter says:

      “Naturally we can be suspicious of the quality of an industry that keeps on spiking our games with increasing levels of violence”
      [Citation needed]

      As with the also rather pointless “sexism in video games” debate, there is nowhere near the amount of violence some games had throughout the 90s, since some people seem rather sensitive thereabouts.
      If it comes up it’s often more in a comical context like Team Fortress 2 or Dishonored with characters that only vaguely resemble actual humans.
      There’s some guy with a YouTube channel called “Classic Gore” showing off a few of these older games: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6wUxIr-ECc

      There’s nothing near the levels of Soldier of Fortune, Blood 2, Kingpin – Life of Crime, Carmageddon, Postal 2, Quake II, Turok 2, Half Life, Resident Evil 2, Soldier of Fortune 2, Aliens Vs. Predator 2 etc. nowadays.

      • Cinnamon says:

        The violence now is the mainstream, front and centre of the marketing strategies of the major companies. As opposed to the goofy horror film gore of 90s PC games which were less of a corporate strategy and more a reflection of the hobbies of some of the people who made them. But pop open the mountain dew and dorritos and have a manly evening in front of console pressing x to stab people in the throat. Sponsored by Ikea.

      • 2helix4u says:

        Hey Dexter have you ever played any of the modern warfares since the first one?
        They regularly include animated QTE sequences of you stabbing people in the brain and spine in a real life semi-historical context.
        They might not have as much pixellated red gore and exploding polygons as the old games but in terms of actual simulated -violence- it has been nothing but ramping up. In the first 10 minutes of BLOPS 2 you watch a man burn to death and look into a mans eyes as you bury a machete in his skull and he looks at you in slack-jawed horror/surprise. I’m pretty sure in the first BLOPS you could shoot peoples arms and legs off ALA SoF too.
        Violence isnt the same thing as gore. I’m seeing men and women being raped in my video games, im putting broken glass in a suspects mouth and beating him, hell, every AAA game needs a torture sequence nowadays!
        Its not just graphical fidelity that has increased, higher poly count doesn’t mean much, its that games have begun to become more and more mean spirited in their portrayal of violence since our medium no longer feels the need to excuse itself.

        “There’s nothing near the levels of Soldier of Fortune, Blood 2, Kingpin – Life of Crime, Carmageddon, Postal 2, Quake II, Turok 2, Half Life, Resident Evil 2, Soldier of Fortune 2, Aliens Vs. Predator 2 etc. nowadays.” This assertion genuinly made me laugh out loud; and those are all games I played, bar Kingpin and Blood 2.

        E: also I’m not an old curmudgeon, I was ~5 when I started playing the Megadrive and I’ve been a gamer since. I played Mortal Kombat and Postal2 and AvP and never considered any of them particularly violent, gory and absurd maybe. Nevertheless the last 3 years or so have started to get progressively less comfortable for me with the advent of (among other things) high-fidelity QTE executions that serve no gameplay purpose other than appealing to ultraviolence.

        • grenadeh says:

          Not really. Hollywood and books have been doing this for years and years before games were ever even graphically advanced enough to depict the difference between a stick and a human. Games, in their violent content, are only maturing – not ramping up. Simply put, if you can’t handle a rape scene or some broken glass in a guys mouth as you punch him, you shouldn’t be playing that game. It’s not mario. You’re not seeing Bowser now capture Peach and start sexually molesting her. These games are intentionally given the content that they are and are made for a specific audience. Granted that some children (well, 60% of people playing Call of Duty) are getting their hands on them, that doesn’t make the games wrong and the shitty parents right for letting the kids get the game. Thus, there is no reason to care at all about the violence in the games. If you don’t like it, don’t play it. The end. Start respecting the developers freedom of expression and let them make the game they want to make.

      • Prime says:

        As with the also rather pointless “sexism in video games” debate…

        TRIGGER WARNING!

        (The above comment may induce feelings of anger and the need to debate the commenter’s head off. Please be aware he may possibly be a troll with an agenda)

  42. Shiny says:

    Of course even the articles that somewhat agree with the NRA have to spend the first few paragraphs talking about how horrible they are.

    “verbally tarred and feathered for what was frankly a disgusting, opportunistic display in light of such a terrible tragedy.”

    I thought it was a defensive response, myself, to all the calls from the usual suspects to make it harder to own a gun and attacking the NRA for defending that right. And as pertains to video games, it’s nothing that hasn’t been said by many on the left and right in the US and acted upon in Germany, Australia, etc.

    Intelligent people who want to kill and spend time and effort planning it all out aren’t going to be thwarted by the lack of one particular tool to accomplish their aims: there are many, many, many ways to kill a lot of people: arson, ricin, other (legal) weapons, homemade explosives, combinations of chemicals in conjunction with blocking exits, and so on. Those advocating for increased gun control know this and it is they who are exploiting a tragedy to pass restrictions on a constitutionally guaranteed individual civil right, when those restrictions would in fact not have prevented the tragedy or mitigated its scale in any way.

    With video games, there’s NO concrete evidence linking them to violent actions. None. Zero. An increase in “aggressive thoughts”, sure. But that’s a far cry from real violence. And the opposite may in fact be true – games could act as a safe outlet for violent impulses that would otherwise translate into real-life violence.

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      elderman says:

      “With video games, there’s NO concrete evidence linking them to violent actions. None. Zero.”

      This is simply counterfactual (unless you mean something particular by the qualifier ‘concrete’). I have several scientific studies on my hard drive drawing a link. Let me quote from the abstract of one survey of the literature:

      “Research on violent television and films, video games and music reveals unequivocal evidence that media violence increases the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts. The effects appear larger for milder than for more severe forms of aggression, but the effects on severe forms of violence are also substantial (x = .13 to .32) when compared with effects of other violence risk factors or medical effects deemed important by the medical community (e.g., effect of aspirin on heart attacks). The research base is large; diverse in methods, samples, and media genres; and consistent in overall findings. The evidence is clearest within the most extensively researched domain, television and film violence. The growing body of video-game research yields essentially the same conclusions.”

      From: Anderson, Craig A., Leonard Berkowitz, Edward Donnerstein, L. Rowell Huesmann, James D. Johnson, Daniel Linz, Neil M. Malamuth and Ellen Wartella. “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest 4 (Dec., 2003). 3: 81–110. PDF retrieved from JSTOR.

      This doesn’t mean that there is a link, that the studies are right, meaningful, or well done. They are certainly alternately contradicted and supported by other, more recent studies. I haven’t come to any conclusions in my own mind about this this yet. I certainly don’t feel I could convince anyone else. However, there is definitely evidence of a link.

  43. alsoran says:

    I don’t care, I can distinguish between fantasy and reality, I’m a grown up who can make my own decisions. Mostly.
    If I don’t like it then I don’t do it, simplez if sometimes a little contradictory, but thats life.

  44. ShotgunPEN says:

    I thought about this recently as I was browsing the mod for New Vegas.

    As I saw all mods that turn the women into more or less of sex dolls, I thought “that’s repulsive.” I shuddered at that thought not too long after I realized I was saying this about a game where shooting a man’s limbs and making them explode was commonplace. Beating, cutting, and shooting a person to death is viewed as okay, but sexualized women is drawing the line?

    But how much of this is bias? I was kind of annoyed when I heard the German versions of Fallout 3 and New Vegas censored this violence, but how much of it was annoyance from censorship or from being relatively desensitized to all kind of dismemberment in games. So is this a numbness towards game violence or an aversion to people changing what game developers made in the first place?

    Don’t get me wrong, real violence makes me incredibly squeamish. And with video games I make that distinction that “hey, this isn’t real.” But I don’t get that reaction when it comes to anything sexual in games or elsewhere. And shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    I love games, and I might boot up New Vegas again later, albeit with less violent tendencies, but violence is a prominent factor in most games’ gameplay. Why is that? Is it easier to design games around it? Is it a cultural thing? Am I over-analyzing things? I’m not trying to get anybody to ban anything, just simply acknowledge that Violence is a thing in games. Or hell, maybe it’s not as bad as I think. Discussions please!

  45. Nura says:

    Games have been a large part of my life, and the stories they’ve told have had profound affects on me. To be completely honest, I haven’t played a great number of violent games personally. Mainly because violence – even in games – tends to make me cringe every time I take a life. While one explanation might just be that I am more affected by immersion than others, I’m pretty sure a large part of the equation is the way my mind is wired. I have no doubt that there are a *lot* of people who really enjoy that feeling of power they can get through virtual violence… thus it would stand that there are some people out there who’d want to experience more of that feeling in real life. At the same time, violence is an essential part of human nature, and I wouldn’t say that anyone who gets a thrill out of mowing down enemy soldiers with an assault rifle in Call of Duty is necessarily any closer to being a homicidal maniac in real life than I might be. As little faith as I have in the intelligence and sanity of my fellow humans, the percentage of people who decide to act on their love for violence in real life *because of the types of games they play* is quite certainly rather insignificant. Correlation does not equal causation. A person’s actions have a lot more to do with what type of person they are, (not to mention their knowledge that in real life, there are actually these things called “consequences”), than how desensitized to violence they have become due to any sort of media. In fact, in a lot of circumstances, games serve as a much-needed outlet for aggression… even for someone as peace-loving as myself. There have been many people I’ve known who have said things to the effect of, “if I didn’t have video games to get out my frustrations, I don’t know what I would’ve done.” I imagine this is the case much more often than not. Humans need that feeling of power over others sometimes, especially in today’s world where that is so difficult to attain. In this society where so many people feel like the course of their lives are dictated by the ebb and flow of the “system,” depression is rampant, and suicide accounts for such a large percentage of deaths, it’s nice to be able to use games to take out one’s frustrations, rather than on others (or oneself) in real life.

    This is actually a really fascinating article. http://bitmob.com/articles/my-four-year-old-son-plays-grand-theft-auto
    TL;DR: What a person feels when they play a game – no matter what the subject matter of the game – will reflect the person’s nature, just as abstract piece of art will cause one to reflect on his/her own experiences and thus find a unique interpretation. I never even thought the GTA games offered side missions like the ones described in this article, but that was because I never considered going down that route.

  46. Sinnorfin says:

    The US is huge, with a vast population and easy gun accessibility.
    These shooting , although very tragic and sad, are miracoulously rare in my opinion.

  47. JoshuaMadoc says:

    The reason why I play violent video games is to remind myself that I am just a pathetic little worm with laughably little power, who can’t even solve my chronic indecision problem and manic depression and nigh-extreme paranoid anxiety issues, and can’t solve any problem with anything else other than “find the guy who’s being the most obnoxious and reconstruct half his face with one of two bludgeons built into my arms”, after realizing that the utmost importance of diplomacy and politics in winning over every single debate has been completely overshadowed by its increasingly blurry and complex machinations, one-hundred fold. I do a bit of self-flagellation on the side, though unfortunately I broke my last bludgeoning implement for such occasions.

    I mean, really, what else do you think I’d say? To have a worldwide bonfire with the so-called “killerspielen” being the fuel, as mandated by every single governmental body in the world? I might just offer myself into one of those bonfires. Do the world a favor and not waste oxygen, as others so eloquently put it.

  48. grenadeh says:

    I tire of having to say this. It really doesn’t. It really, really, really doesn’t.

    You know what effect violence in games has on gamers? None. Do you know what effect the game itself has on gamers? Rage induction. Why? Because games are terribly designed.

    Play Battlefield 3, on normal, on a daily basis or semi-weekly basis. Shoot someone 15 times in the face at pointblank with any gun in the game. Get killed when they shoot you once in the stomach with a less powerful gun. Then, try, just try not to get pissed off.

    Rinse and repeat several times or dozens of times throughout the day. You’ll get pissed off and you’ll hate shittily designed games that are broken at their core. The only effect of games is getting angry – moreso at the lack of playability and game testing than the game itself.

  49. running fungus says:

    A few of us have regularly taken the middle road but as you point out, Nathan, it tends to get shouted down by both sides. “Cause” is a black and white word that both sides seem to favour for its rhetorical if unrealistic weight. “Influence” is harder to pin down. Sure, we’re not all psycho killers (qu’est-ce que c’est?) but would we give much weight to someone saying “My purchasing behaviour is unaffected by advertising”? We understand our motivations poorly at the best of times. I am generally not a violent person (I say “generally” because I still cope with instincts learned, not I think from video games, but from having been bullied in school), but how am I to say if I would be at all different had I not steeped myself in thousands upon thousands of hours of video games? Unaffected? I doubt it.

    What I do like about this article is that it points to something I’ve been thinking about lately, which is becoming *resensitized* to violence – whether in video games or film or other media. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It seems to me that people age very differently. Some people seem to gradually lose all empathy – the world becomes only about them. For me, it’s the reverse, and I can’t stand levels of violence in film, for example, that I shrugged off some years ago. I attribute that to a greater level of awareness of real suffering and violence in the world but it’s not an intellectual thing – it’s visceral.

    Anyway, good on you for – I would say re-opening the debate, except as you point out, the debate is never actually had. Just a lot of shouting on both sides. So good on you for actually opening the debate. Especially here.