A recent topic in the gaming industry has started to take front and this is a topic that has made me scratch my head in confusion for the last several days now. People are starting to ask this ridiculous question. A question that makes Jack Thompson blue in the face. “Are video games too violent?”
For several years on end, the gaming industry was heckled by Florida Lawyer Jack Thompson. Other than being insane, good ole JT’s goal was to bring down the entire violent video game empire. He specifically took aim at companies like Rockstar for their franchise “Grand Theft Auto.” He went on a tyrade on how our platform of violent games must come to an end. He ended up saying a lot of stupid things, and eventually got his license to practice law taken away from him. It only makes sense to bring up a topic like violent video games when this guy has been trying to explain this for a good couple of years.
Despite his attempts to take down the community that has established itself under the pretense of entertainment, we have finally come full circle and came around to this way of thinking. Although, it’s hard to ask such a question as opinionated as “Are games too violent?” and think that maybe this is 2013’s rendition of “Are video games considered art?” It’s a stupid question to ask in the first place and I will tell you why.
As Americans we have a culture that is surrounded by violence. It’s on in the morning news shows, we see it in the papers, and we see it again at night before (or while) we go to sleep. We even have dramas where the plot is based entirely off of violent behavior. Shows like CSI explore violence and gore in such ways that can only be passed because there is some sort of positive justification behind them. Sure, we can see the core intestines of a cadaver, but that is because someone is using it for science! There is some sort of excuse there, and we try to validate it using the power of “positive justification” in order for it to be viewable on television during prime-time.
By this example, we can look at what we use games as. Video games has always been a form of entertainment as equal to shows and movies. Games have proven their worth as a form of media that can hold their stride against shows. After all, there are games based off of movies and television shows! So how can we justify the violence in these games? By playing off the positive character. The reason why you kill and murder so many people is because they are the bad guys. If there was ever to be a game where you play as a rampaging terrorist, then instantly that game would be shut down and never be made in the first place. As long as you’re playing as the machismo protagonist, then let the blood fly!
So now that we established what your role is in a game, what about the actions that determine that character? What about the acts of violence that you commit? Games like Call of Duty have you killing mindless drone soldiers, one after another. In several situations, the series does become very graphic. The infamous “No Russian” scene from Modern Warfare 2 is a segment in which the player may skip if they please. It is segments like that which ask the question: “Are games too violent?”
What I can say is that games are in fact violent. Taking a gun and shooting someone is violent no matter how you look at it. If you are taking the idea of mortality and introducing it into a game, then yes, it is violent. Even if the game itself features a cartoon character that occasionally just jumps off a cliff, there is some stroke to violence there. Mario even features violence at a certain point, but dismisses itself because it doesn’t feature blood and gore, nor does the heads that you are jumping on reflect actual human beings. Rest assured, if we did live alongside a race of anthropomorphic mushrooms, then Mario would be given the same “court” treatment that games like “Bully” have went through.
On another angle, how much violence is too much violence? We see movies depict extreme moments of violence all the time, and they are praised by viewers. “History of Violence” is a great movie, but at one point the movie becomes insanely violent. Yet this movie has won a large amount of awards (and nominations) despite some people saying that it was “too violent.” The one thing that we don’t look at is the fact that the movie is called “HISTORY OF VIOLENCE!” It is in the title of the movie! “Grand Theft Auto,” oh man! I wonder what you’re going to do there! We, as an audience, seem to dismiss the fact that most game titles just sound violent. “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield” are two titles that just make you assume that you are (1) Playing a soldier and (2) there is going to be some fighting.
If the title (or box art) of a game doesn’t say it enough, we have ratings for the games. These tell people what is in the game, why it is rated in its appropriate rank, and gives in depth examples pulled directly from the game. We as a society have broken away from doing actual research ourselves and outsourced thinking. Unfortunately, if you present the title of a game and its box art, there is a chance that most adults will purchase the mature rated game for their ten-year-old child just so they can stop hearing them cry.
If you are a grown adult and you feel that a game is too violent, then you have the choice to shut it off. But, why not just pinpoint exactly what it is that everyone is talking about. The only reason why this issue has come to face is because people started to play Bioshock Infinite. They loved the story (as did I) but felt that there was a tad bit too much violence tied to the game. I’m not going to go all out and defend this matter, because it would take a whole other blog post, but I will state the obvious. The game isn’t too violent to my standard of playing. I have played many games before and I have never been sickened by the material I was playing. I have never cried outrage because I violently bashed someone’s head in with a pipe and found it tormenting.
I do think that someone is attempting to bring up another topic that we can all talk about because other than “next generation systems” and “always online games,” there really isn’t much to mention anymore.
Once again, this is a stupid question. There are so many sides to this argument that it’s almost impossible to come to a solid conclusion. The only thing I can say is that violence sells, and people love it. If it didn’t prove to be right, then “Grand Theft Auto” wouldn’t be such a hit, and the game would feature you helping old ladies out and bringing in grocery bags.