Gerard Jones on Videogame Violence

Comics writer Gerard Jones makes some interesting points about the general failure to differentiate between types of violence in our fiction and fantasies. It makes me wonder whether heavy consumers of violent entertainment – such as the people who might read this blog – would make the best censors of the kind of violence their offspring end up being exposed to. After all, we know it inside out, and can instantly evaluate its merit, or horror quotient…


  1. Steven Hutton says:

    I guess I would describe what I just watched as an exercise in common sense.

    The first question I guess is should a ten year old play CoD4. In Britain we know that the answer is no just because it’s 15 rated and we’re all law abiding citizens who never, ever snuck into the local cinema to watch 18 cetificate movies or tricked our parents into buying games that we were technically too young for.

    But on the other hand I always felt that CoD4 was quite effective at dealing with death in a mature manner. The early scene where you


    inhabit the body of a man about to be executed is particularly chilling and (I feel) completely changes the tone of the hundreds of deaths that follow. While the game is clearly very violent it’s far from being a Gear of War style mindless celebration of violence and rather deals with the concequences of violence much more directly than most first person shooters. (You die [true death not “return to last checkpoint” death] in first person twice during the game).

    Weirdly I think I’d be ok with a 10 year old playing the multi-player (x-box live’s constant verbal abuse not withstanding) but having watched that video the now infamous nuke scene stikes me as perhaps a little strong for a kid of that age.

    Um, where was I? Right. It’s nice to see these issues discussed in an intellegent and coherent manner for a change at any rate.

  2. cyrenic says:

    I can believe anything said by someone who’s that relaxed.

  3. Erlam says:

    I have three 3 year olds and a 7 year old, and I do something crazy, that parents have never seemingly do.

    I play the damn games with my kid.

    You know who the best censor for your children is? You! So why is it suddenly with games that no longer applies?

  4. Steven Hutton says:

    Eh, give it ten more years and all the people who’re too old for games will be dead. Of course then the young people will be into something new and all the parents will panic about that. Just like Rock & Roll, D&D and comic books in the past.

  5. Solario says:

    Know your child and know what your child is exposed to. It’s really just that simple.

    Also: Your child is not an idiot. Don’t assume it just because you can’t remember what it was like being young.

  6. Dag says:

    This is a Quote from a article I did last year and I think it it something we all should be doing.

    “If my son buys a game on his own I play it first, then if I do not approve of It I make him return it. I tell him why I think the game was wrong. It’s not the job of the TV, computer, internet, his friends or the video game he plays, to tell him what’s right and wrong, that’s MY JOB, I am not his friend I am the parent first and I am here to make sure he grows up knowing right from wrong good from bad. If he fails in this it’s MY fault alone.”

  7. MetalCircus says:

    The only censor, in my oppinion, that should be allowed is the one in your OWN HEAD. If you decide you find something too violent, don’t pay attention to it. Any outside party or otherwise 3rd party influence even ATTEMPTS to lay his or her hand on me to govern what I can and can’t see is my enemy, and has no right to judge what is fit for my consumption – I am the judge of that. No-body else.

  8. Alex McLarty says:

    “I have three 3 year olds..”

    Three three year olds? DAMN IMPRESSED.

  9. Steven Hutton says:

    Triplets or polygamy?

  10. James T says:

    Maybe she had a kid in January and got pregnant again by March. It’s science.

    edit: Wait, no it’s not, one of them would be 2, or 4… IT’S NOT SCIENCE AT ALL!

  11. Skalpadda says:

    I don’t have children of my own, but my mother used to always sit down and watch movies with me and she would explain or even translate things I was too young to understand. I’m really thankful for that, because she did act as a sort of shield and safety for things that scared me and I could always ask her about the things that I didn’t understand. She also played all my NES games (and got really hooked on Zelda in the process) which was kind of cool.

    It’s really easy to put all reasponsibility on the parents and urging them to use their common sense and spend time with their children, but it’s pretty clear that a lot don’t have the time, knowledge or the common sense that’s needed.

    I worked at a kindergarten for a couple of years and we had one kid who suddenly couldn’t join the others when they were resting after dinner. He wouldn’t even go into the room. After talking to him a bit about what it was that scared him, it turned out he’d been playing Doom 3 with his older brother (he was 5, his brother was in middle school, so probably 9-10) and he was really, really scared of being in a darkened room. I was pretty horrified, and more than a little angry at the parents who had no idea what their kids were playing at the computer. My co-workers were all in their fourties and had no idea what Doom 3 was.

    I am a bit torn about this kind of thing, because the age recommendation on the box is clearly not something a lot of parents even look at, and it’s pretty obvious that a lot of kids don’t have parents that keep track of what they’re doing in front of the computer or TV. Meanwhile I think censoring culture is an awful idea, but you can’t just shrug it off and accept some kids as a sort of “collateral damage”.

    Parental education, teaching parents to keep an eye on what their children are doing is the only thing I can think of. Teaching common sense? Parenting school?

    Sorry for the hideously long comment.

  12. Michael says:

    Funny how some take issue with giving kids games, but nobody seems to mind teaching kids religion.

  13. Jim Rossignol says:

    Let’s just hope children are smart enough not believe in invisible superbeings in the sky.

  14. Mr_Day says:

    Are you saying Father Christmas isn’t real? Because I will cry.

  15. Gorgeras says:

    Santa isn’t invisible. The red suit and reindeer make him a bit damn conspicious in fact, especially as we haven’t had a white Christmas in more than a decade now unless you live on a mountain.

    Jim is talking about the giant people are who are playing us, using giant pointing cursors(what do you think UFO sightings really are?). As soon as mine discovers WASD, I’ll be kicking out some illest moves along skyscrapers and circle-strafing mofos to death.

  16. Lamprey says:

    This was from April 2007, so that 10 year old wasn’t playing COD4. Now that they’re 11, however, they’re playing it.

  17. Muzman says:

    The issue always seems to get crossed around whether something is disturbing or whether it isn’t and protecting kids. Arguably a mother wondering if her kid is going to start shooting people after playing COD4 isn’t expecting her kid to be scared by the game, but rather enjoy it far too much (to the point that they no longer have any sympathy for other human life). It gets kinda messy.
    I’ve never seen many kids who were genuinely horrified by video game violence (not that I’m someone who deals with kids a lot). It’s just not realistic enough. Really nasty movies will get to kids where games won’t (and I would argue, can’t). Adults on the other hand, aren’t so much fooled by the imagery but it’s that the symbolism of the act holds almost equal weight in the emotional response. For one example, I knew a couple of girls about eight or nine and they thought slitting someone’s throat in Hitman 2 was the coolest thing ever. They caught sight of me doing it once and wanted to play the game too. Not sure whether to let them I showed their mothers who screamed when they saw it. There was a lot of damage control there, but I’m pretty confident based on these kids’ reaction to the news and movies and other things in their life that what I’ve always thought was true; they can fundamentally tell the difference and are in some ways more capable of differentiating between media portrayals of violence than adults.
    This is a little hard to swallow for some folks because kids are obviously more easily scared and disturbed by the things we’ve laughed off years ago; bad ghost stories, loud noises etc. But I reckon that the processing of destructive violence and spooky things is vastly different and seems entirely separate from one another, each changing a great deal over our lives, despite the reaction to them seeming alike at times.

  18. Steven Hutton says:

    @Well, if they were talking about CoD3 then he really shouldn’t be playing it. Although not because of the violence.

  19. kadayi says:

    Playing games with your kids is the best approach, either co-op, or them ‘driving’ and you ‘navigating’. You can then have a dialog about what’s going on and what they think about what’s occurring.