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It's Time to Reconsider the Violent Game Debate

It's Time to Reconsider the Violent Game Debate

Tue 15 Jan 2013 12:00pm GMT / 7:00am EST / 4:00am PST
Politics

Restraint, reflection necessary to distinguish overly defensive game industry from entirely divisive gun lobby

Gaming violence is in the headlines again, and the industry's response has been as disappointing as it has been predictable. Rather than pausing to consider what we--meaning the press as well as the industry proper--can do to keep tragedies like this from happening again, we are more concerned with avoiding blame.

We absolve ourselves of blame by pointing to an imperfect ratings system, chastising parents for ducking accountability as we try our best to do the same. We point to a Supreme Court-confirmed right to free speech, dismissing suggestions that we should use that right to say more than "Carnage is awesome." We point to violence in the news and on television, as if we must be the absolute last party to address the concern. We talk about how gaming can move us emotionally or improve hand-eye coordination, but pretend the effects of something that powerful are exclusively positive.

The last thing parents want to hear is denial and deflection from the people trying to sell their kids on gore and violence.

In trying to avoid the same cultural ghettoization that crippled the comics industry once upon a time, we are only increasing the likelihood of that outcome. Ian Bogost touched on the problem in an editorial for The Atlantic last week when he called gaming "a wealthy entertainment industry that maintains near-total social disengagement except when its profits are threatened." Though it was not the crux of Bogost's message, that line gets to the heart of the game industry's current predicament.

1

It should be clear why some people think games are too violent.

Despite everything the Wii and mobile and social games have done to expand the audience in recent years, when people think of games, they still think of an endless parade of games that let players shoot each other square in the face. And it's completely understandable why. That's what we make. That's what we market. That's how we present ourselves to the outside world.

So when tragedies happen, our response must be galling to those who don't "get" games. Instead of explaining the merits of what we do, we throw up discussion-ending roadblocks of First Amendment rights and scientific research (ignoring that parent watchdog groups also claim to have the weight of scientific research on their side). It's not unlike what the National Rifle Association does when the issue of gun control comes up. They say it doesn't work, namecheck the Second Amendment, and change the subject. Regardless of whether you feel the NRA is right, you have to understand how galling that position is to the people who believe access to guns in the US is a significant part of the problem. Now consider that American parents are equally likely to blame games for the violence in society as they are guns, and the problem becomes clear. Parents are worried about their children, and the last thing they want to hear is denial and deflection from the people trying to sell their kids on gore and violence.

Simply having a ratings system isn't enough, not when the industry views it as a defense mechanism instead of an act of civic responsibility.

Publishers will swear up and down that violent games aren't being marketed to children (the ESRB expressly forbids it, actually), but what they really mean is they aren't buying ad time for Call of Duty during episodes of Dora the Explorer. What they're doing instead is glutting the aisles of Toys R Us with action figures and building block sets based on M-rated fare like Halo and Gears of War. They're putting violent trailers behind laughably ineffective age gates, as if momentarily inconveniencing everyone is actually preventing anyone from exposure to unsavory content. And most surprising of all, they're sneaking their M-rated brands into more family-friendly games. They put Kratos in Little Big Planet and Hot Shots Golf, Solid Snake in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and the cast of Army of Two, Dead Space, and Medal of Honor in MySims: Sky Heroes. Oh, and who could forget the Mortal Kombat animated series?

Twenty years ago, public outcry over games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap prompted the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The theory was that it would be better for the industry to police itself than to ignore calls from the outside culture, practically inviting the government to step in and impose more financially damning changes. The ESRB did the trick when it came to legislation, providing a legitimately helpful tool for parents without significantly undermining game sales. But simply having a ratings system isn't enough any longer, not when the industry views it primarily as a defense mechanism instead of an act of civic responsibility.

2

Curb-stompingly cute Gears of War Meccano toys.

After the 2011 Supreme Court decision, it seemed like parents and politicians alike backed off the violent video game issue. They had lost the fight, and for the first time, the gaming industry was able to talk about the issue internally, without some overarching fear of invoking censorship at the hands of crusading lawyers or narrow-minded politicians. And after the gaping wound parade of E3 2012, we did just that. If we want to avoid becoming a divisive subject in our culture today, if we want the video game industry to have better connotations than the gun lobby, we need to continue that discussion now. We need to have it in public, in the middle of a storm of criticism.

Ignore the science. It will always be argued over given the difficulty in establishing causation in human behavior. Ignore the prospect of legislation. If people see the industry taking this issue seriously and making positive changes of its own accord, calls for government intervention will find no traction.

Instead, we should take a page from broadcast television, where stations are required to serve the public interest with a portion of their programming. Broadcasters do this with educational shows for kids, civic programming to provide voters with informative election coverage, and making their content accessible for the sight or hearing impaired. Surely there is room for the major players in the gaming industry to dedicate a portion of their talent to more substantial, edifying content, to the sort of games that try to realize the incredible potential we talk about when describing the medium to outsiders.

I have no problems with producing games that are cultural junk food, but it's time to put vegetables on the menu as well; even McDonald's has salads.

66 Comments

Craig Burkey
Software Engineer

155 155 1.0
Its time American retail wake up, and sell AO titles to adults and for the ESRB to stop rating AO content as M. I read a great article about the Hot Coffee debacle on Eurogamer(http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-11-30-who-spilled-hot-coffee), content made for adults shouldn't be ashamed of its target audience but retail needs to provide a marketplace for it. Censorship isn't the answer in my opinion.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Robin Clarke
Producer

300 684 2.3
Popular Comment
There's an enormous amount to take issue with with this article, being as it is an appeal to avoid the ghettoisation of games by implementing an equivalent of the disasterous Comics Code.

There is no blame to absolve. The whole point of free speech is that it's not limited to particular forms of expression that an arbitrary authority deems as morally edifying. We don't point to violence in other media as being first in the queue - show me a single instance of this happening. We don't "pretend" anything about negative effects that are entirely speculative.

It's not constructive to play along with delusional positions - agreeing to ever more onerous restrictions to protect people from an imaginary bogeyman. If there was any evidence that entertainment media was causally linked to antisocial behaviour then we would be having a different conversation.

Games are already subject to a far greater degree of censorship (extending worldwide) than TV and film thanks to the disproportionate influence of US retailers.

Comparing a position backed to the hilt on scientific evidence and common sense to the mendacity of the NRA is intellectually dishonest and insulting. Suggesting we should give credence to parents' misplaced fears instead of educating them is either imbecilic or (if the goal is to curtail artistic freedom to keep their money rolling in) deeply cynical.

The final plea for more diverse and thoughtful content of course wilfully ignores that outside of the FPS blockbusters this is available in abundance. Like judging all of literature on the contents of an airport bookshop carousel.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Adrian Herber

69 23 0.3
I agree with Craig's point. Even here in Australia we finally have an adult game rating, and though America has AO they might as well not since it's sales suicide to get that rating. Making AO usable and then actually applying it to games would be a really good step forward.

Posted:A year ago

#3

David Howard
Editor-in-Chief and Founder

12 19 1.6
I feel that prose that "it's time to put vegetables on the menu as well" is deeply flawed. There already is.

The wealth of diversity among games is already huge in both quantity and quality. You don't even need to go far to see them in the charts: FIFA, Skylanders, Minecraft, Need for Speed, LittleBigPlanet, Just Dance and Mario to name but a few.

I'd argue that first- and third-person shooter are in the minority in terms of overall amount but they are of course some of the most popular. There's no problem with that though and given the variety, and an increasing one at that, available it's silly to suggest otherwise.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
Popular Comment
@Robin
It's not constructive to play along with delusional positions - agreeing to ever more onerous restrictions to protect people from an imaginary bogeyman.
THIS. So much this. The point that people seem to miss here is, once you ink the stamp, the compulsion to use it grows. Thank you for making these eloquent points, Robin.

Sorry, but parents need to pick up the pace here. Any "parent watchdog" group who wants to use scientific data to justify a position that ultimately absolves a parent of making responsible choices for their child is a media sanitation lobby. Period, end of story.

As I said yesterday, we're either artists who enjoy broad First Amendment rights, or we're just people who crank out a "product". But, in this specific instance, you cannot cherry pick the best bits from both sides of that coin. I certainly do not care for the work of Andres Serrano, I think it's grotesque. I would not take a child who was under the age of 18 to go see it. But I fundamentally recognize his right to create such works of art, and I completely recognize that while I do not enjoy, or appreciate his art, there are people that do.

Those people have a right to look, or not look at Mr. Serrano's art. The choice is mine, and theirs. As I have yet to see anyone holding a gun to the head of a Soccer Mom in a GameStop, this issue should be moot. Parents are the first examples in a child's life. We need to point that out, circle it with the biggest marker we can find.

This debate is, for all points and purposes a laser light show. It's deflecting the talk away from where it needs to be. But if the game industry as a whole capitulates, or starts being led by the nose instead of leading the charge in enforcing our rights as artists, then we will be taking a turn toward disaster.

Posted:A year ago

#5
Great post, Robin.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jessica Hyland
Character Artist

243 818 3.4
Any "parent watchdog" group who wants to use scientific data to justify a position that ultimately absolves a parent of making responsible choices for their child is a media sanitation lobby.
And what do you call an industry group that does the same to absolve themselves of any kind of responsibility themselves?

This constant crying of censorship is getting really boring.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Darren Stewart
Videogame investor

52 17 0.3
As I read the article I thought all the things that @Robin said in post #2 but could never have put them so eloquently.

@Robin +1 (will that do?)

www.bougafer.com - investing in video games

Posted:A year ago

#8

Andreia Quinta
Creative & People Photographer

214 534 2.5
Instead, we should take a page from broadcast television, where stations are required to serve the public interest with a portion of their programming.
(...)
I have no problems with producing games that are cultural junk food, but it's time to put vegetables on the menu as well; even McDonald's has salads.
I can't help but disagree, anyone with (not so) vast knowledge about the gaming industry knows perfectly that developers and publishers are already catering to this market. We have plenty of "vegetables" and veggie games on the menu. If in the end, people - specifically easily impressed children - decide to go for the most common denominator, than it's not the industry to 'blame' when those same children decide for a big mac instead of the salad.
We have "salad" for pete's sake, we have games like Pokemon, Just Dance, Dance Central, Singstar, Mario franchise, Zelda franchise, party/family game night games. We have Little Big Planet, Skylanders, Lego, Sonic franchises, Trine, Kinect and Wii Sports. There's actually up to three systems that were created with the intent of filling that market, the Wii, Wii U and DS brands, all of them are "vegetables".

Yes, this industry can do more, but public service is certainly not on the 'to do' list. There's no blame to assign on the gaming industry for it to feel the need to do something more to absolve it self. This industry has grown more in the last eight years then when it started to take flight in the '70s, branching out to untapped markets of casual and mobile games.

No, in my opinion there's a lot of vegetables on the menu, if people got used to eating the same menu all the time and aren't willing to try something else than that's an entirely different issue. Should we blame Mcdonalds for serving high cholesterol food, or the parents that actually take the kids there because they can't be bothered to cook or order something healthier?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 15th January 2013 3:10pm

Posted:A year ago

#9

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
Popular Comment
This constant crying of censorship is getting really boring.
Who's crying? Stating some facts here: the United States has a verifiable history of knee-jerk censorship of media when someone gets their hair in a knot. Why is it you have such a hard time acknowledging this? From the Comic Code Authority, to the Hays Code. McCarthy-ism and the Red Scare, to George W. Bush and the Dixie Chicks. I'll go one further: these people are enabled by well meaning folks who suggest it's okay to dialog, and give credence to such people in the heat of their frenzied reaction. There are people in this country who still believe that homosexuality is something you can catch if you are exposed to it for too long. They attack a television network if any two men or any two women kiss in the course of performing an act of creativity and art. This is a nation that gets upset at the mere flash of a buttock, or a nipple.

History is replete with people who gave an inch, only to be taken for a mile. Why is that so difficult to grok?

So, please. By all means Jessica. Tell me how censorship is not one of the most relevant concerns here. Enlighten us as to why this fear is not a real thing when it comes to the American Political Response to things that people perceive as being the problem, but is not the actual problem. I get your position. It's not even necessarily a bad position. It's just not right one here. Someone, anyone, needs to stand up and straight up say: artists art. That's what they do. Parents parent, so get to it.

As Charles Barkley once famously quipped: "I am not a role model".

Posted:A year ago

#10

Darren Adams
Managing Director

229 404 1.8
Popular Comment
Jeez, this site has really gone to shit recently. Has anyone actually looked at the front page articles?? It is just full-on opinionated, industry baiting editorial tripe designed to get people arguing with each other. Why does everyone have to push an agenda? Where are the unbiased articles that actually relate to the things we do every day and not some bullshit peddled by people who have something to prove/exploit/redirect etc etc

Come back the old GI.biz!!

Posted:A year ago

#11

Thomas Kennedy
Studying Computer and Video games

7 6 0.9
I do think the games industry tries to shift to blame too much but they are not responsible for a lot of stuff, the rating system is far from flawed, if it was then how comes games are actually banned? Like how Manhunt 2 was in the UK? its because the rating system deemed to to violent.

The fault of violent video games getting into the hands of kids is not the developers, not the publishers or rating system because these people don't walk onto the street and give the latest Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty to a kid, its down to Retails partly by not asking enough questions and Parents for getting the games, Saying
The last thing parents want to hear is denial and deflection from the people trying to sell their kids on gore and violence.
well as developers we have something during the initial brainstorm called "Target audience" in which we decide who the game appeals to, these games with "Blood and gore" would normally have a target audience of late teens to adults, we do anything BUT try to sell kids on heavy gore and violence, sure the Industry can be partly responsible for stuff but saying that we are in the wrong when its down to parents not understanding that an M rated game means "Don't buy it for you kids 10th birthday" more then anything

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Thomas Kennedy on 15th January 2013 3:39pm

Posted:A year ago

#12

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,148 928 0.8
Yup.

Tom Pickard, I don't know what's wrong with people.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 15th January 2013 3:43pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
What happened to Parental responsibility and actually following the age ratings that are displayed on boxes.. When I was a kid my mum wouldn't buy me Grand Theft Auto... Because she felt it would be inapropriate. My Dad would have punished me if he caught me smoking/with porn/with other restricted stuff that wasn't age appropriate...It's called being a parent, doing whats right for your child by not giving them whatever they want..
Agree fully. Problem is these days parents (often, not always) give their kids games, other media and other things they are not meant to have (yet) because it allows them to have more freedom. I.e. a kid the age of 12 can play CoD while mum and dad do other things, not having to worry about entertaining or parenting their child.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Bryan Robertson
Gameplay Programmer

86 210 2.4
Popular Comment
My biggest problem with all this talk of "deflecting blame", is that there is absolutely no good reason to take the blame in the first place.

I'm sorry, I don't see why our industry should accept blame for this, just because the media and gun-lobby have arbitrarily decided that video-games are to blame. If someone wrongly accuses you of a crime, with no rational basis for doing so are you "passing the buck" or "pointing fingers" to point out that they have no basis for their accusation?

Video games are the popular scapegoat of the moment, blamed for every tragedy that comes along. It's worth pointing out that it wasn't that long ago that flight simulator games were being blamed for 9/11.

I also strongly disagree that violent content inherently consigns violent videogames to the category of cultural junk-food. Some of the greatest stories in history have been replete with violence. If violence = McDonalds, then Romeo & Juliet is cultural junk food, Homer's Odyssey is cultural junk food. I think we can all agree that's a pretty ridiculous stance to take.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
Problem is these days parents (often, not always) give their kids games, other media and other things they are not meant to have (yet) because it allows them to have more freedom. I.e. a kid the age of 12 can play CoD while mum and dad do other things, not having to worry about entertaining or parenting their child.
+infinity.

Bingo. Right here. Parenting by proxy. It happens a lot in the United States. It's the dirty little secret nobody wants to grasp here. I'll go one further, if your child has been sent to the principal's office for bullying another child or children, and is ripping the heads off dolls, maybe you should not buy them Call of Duty, or Bulletstorm. Yet, I have seen some parents who have truly unruly kids with such titles. These same people, I have seen throw their hands in the air at the thought of telling their child "no", (because they don't want to hear their child get upset) and expect our government to "do something about all this violence".

Purely from my own experience, and the experiences of others close to me, I have found such parents are fast becoming the rule, and not the exception. It's disturbing to see. It's disturbing to hear. It's disturbing to watch. These people think it's perfectly acceptable to find a legislative solution to something that should be solved personally. Through their inaction, and laziness they watch their children become little terrors, and then step in front of a television camera and talk about how the government has to do something.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Neil Sorens
Creative Director

17 48 2.8
Gotta love the rush to point fingers: NRA at entertainment; entertainment at NRA; politicians at both. And for what? "Solutions" that have no basis in reality and history and are incompatible with our Constitution. All this in service of politicians' insistence that if we just give them our votes and money, tragedies will never happen, and evil will not exist. I can't believe how many seemingly intelligent people are playing this game that serves no one's interest except that of the political parties.

Posted:A year ago

#17
Jessica, I know you think you're taking the 'grown up' stance here, but your position makes no sense, as Robin, Christopher and Brian have eloquently pointed out multiple times. It's not the perfectly legitimate 'crying' that is getting boring, it's your arrogant demeanour that is getting annoying.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Del Hartin
Senior Designer

9 24 2.7
"Rather than pausing to consider what we--meaning the press as well as the industry proper--can do to keep tragedies like this from happening again, we are more concerned with avoiding blame."

This sentence, right smack-bang at the start of the article, immediately made me pause and reflect. We need to reflect on what WE can do to keep people committing atrocities because of violent video games. I forgot that we'd already been found guilty. Car accidents are up because people are trying to drift round corners, gamers are developing phobias of parks in case Slenderman gets them and I'm sure I saw some kids throwing hamster-balls at squirrels to "catch 'em all".

Ok, so enough with the mockery, onto the meat of the matter. Haven't we been through this enough, this to and fro? Who takes the blame - parents, the NRA, society, the games industry, the movie industry, the media? Do you really think that diluting the vision of a violent game is going to have ANY impact on a disturbed human with a tendency towards mass-murder? Really? If you truly believe this then I applaud you for trying to stop the slaughter but I believe that this would not only be ineffective but would also just be a sop for the media rather than an actual attempt to make the world a better place.

(Uh oh - did I say "smack-bang"? I meant "whizz-pop".)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Del Hartin on 15th January 2013 4:39pm

Posted:A year ago

#19

Seb Downie
Producer

27 26 1.0
Ban this sick filth! (or something)
Not quite sure what this article hopes to achieve other than try and annoy part of the industry that makes 'violent' or adult themed games without really providing solutions or even properly highlighting what the problem is. It states we need to 'reconsider the debate', but we're rehashing the same old arguments about 'freedom of speech', 'games are art' and 'bad parenting' because they are still valid arguments. The playing field has not changed since the last time we went through this rigmarole and doesn't look to change either.

"The industry" is also a fun one. Do you expect all the publishers to come together and decide what lines should not be crossed? How do you govern the imagination of Designers to think of new and exiting ways to maim and murder NPCs?
Are we going to take publishers or studios to task about the content they create? Then you'll just create a second tier of developers that will fill the gap and grab that share of the existing market. Get real. If there is a market there is a product.

I make violent video games. I don't make them for children. I make them for adults as an entertainment product. I also enjoy playing violent video games, but it, much like a burger now and again, is only part of my gaming diet. Poor old Tarantino is losing his mind right now too with the media waving fingers. I feel for him.

PS: The calories in those salads aren't all they are cracked up to be.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
Uh oh - did I say "smack-bang"? I meant "whizz-pop"
What do you have against Whizzes? =)

Posted:A year ago

#21
It is fascinating to see the consumer games industry mulling over its bellybutton on this subject - being invited to the White House and reporting that they got out "unscathed" !

On the other side of the 'token' and the amusement industry sees its machines removed from facilities (even after extensive parent based rating schemes), and now being vilified over consumer because as the media claimed "...playing violent games in public spaces is worse than playing in the privacy of your own home."!

That the child in question is playing "illegally" games not suited for them in their home - and that the consumer games industry has not yet devised a means to restrict inappropriate content getting into the hands of players - are not even mentioned!

I wish we could all work together on this, than allow the media to play all sides off against each-other hoping to take the flak off of the NRA.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Craig Page
Programmer

382 218 0.6
I'm pretty sure this debate was settled in the 1990s, DOOM and Marilyn Manson are entirely to blame for every shooting. Easy access to guns has nothing to do with it.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Bryan Robertson
Gameplay Programmer

86 210 2.4
and that the consumer games industry has not yet devised a means to restrict inappropriate content getting into the hands of players - are not even mentioned!
The Xbox 360 (and I believe the PS3 too, I'm not 100% sure because I don't own one), can easily be set up to disallow playing games with particular age ratings, and to limit the hours that games can be played. This feature has been available and working for years now. Just google for "Xbox 360 Family Settings"

Posted:A year ago

#24

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
It really is boring this, and it achieves nothing. Leave it to the lawyers, because that's where it'll end up in the US. If Americans want guns, they will continue to suffer the downsides that come with that, whether games are around or not.

Who's up for discussing the making of games and creating great experiences? Count me in.

Posted:A year ago

#25
I'm not for any censorship at all but rather I'm for a shift in culture. Our entire culture and society needs to change. What is so "entertaining" about watching one human kill another? What are we teaching our children? why do they see someone blow the head off another human in a movie or game and say "awesome'? We are failing as parents, a society , and a culture.
I guarantee you if you walked into a crime scene, or war zone, your not gonna say "awesome", yet our entertainment is soaked in such vile imagery.

We ALL are to blame. We have a sick society and culture. Violence is not awesome, nor fun nor anything we should glorify, but yet we do.. Now we have to ask ourselves, why is that? and how do we fix it. We have to be better than this.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 15th January 2013 5:55pm

Posted:A year ago

#26

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 810 2.9
The argument for a causal relationship begins and ends with the absence of actual kids stuck in actual pipes at the outset of Mario-mania, circa 1985. Funny, isn't it, that when you remove the context, the argument on its own becomes a totally, undeniably ridiculous one.

And that's because it is.

Posted:A year ago

#27

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@ Todd. I hear what you are saying, but I think most countries around the world and quite a lot of Americans know the difference between science fiction and reality. There's nothing wrong with story telling. It doesn't mean you have to replicate it in real life.

Harry potter flies around on a broom stick, but it doesn't make kids jump out of the window and try the same thing. Not that I've heard of anyway.

We should look beyond guns and see what else video games make kids do. I've a feeling that would probably tell you what you already know.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 15th January 2013 6:18pm

Posted:A year ago

#28

Richard Vaught
Studying B.A. in Game Design

19 33 1.7
Someone PLEASE look up the definition of propaganda, print off a hundred copies, roll them up and beat people with them. Cries of "save the children" are so ridiculous because they completely ignore the evidence.

#1 Fact that gets ignored: Violent Crime is at a century wide low.

There are not more murders, rapes, beatings, woundings, robberies, etc, there are less. If video games cause an increase in violence, why is there no correlating rise in violence since the advent of video games? Instead, we see the exact OPPOSITE! Since the advent of video games violent crime has reduced tremendously.

Why do we not hold the media accountable for reporting the facts as they are instead of fear mongering?

Posted:A year ago

#29
@Sandy I'm not talking about storytelling, Im talking about the glorification of gun violence and the like.

And Sandy, you dont think video games have the power to teach,and to be a positive influence on someone? well if you think they can do that, then logic dictates they can do the opposite as well.

@Richard, problem with your assertion, and that is all it is, an assertion, is because others can say, look at the prison population , its exploded during the same time period you speak of, so THAT must be why crime is down, or NRA people can say look at the number of guns in society during this same time period, they to have exploded in number, so it must e GUNS that make violence go down .. see where this goes, anyone can look at a piece of data and make an assertion.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 15th January 2013 6:31pm

Posted:A year ago

#30

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
@Todd
And Sandy, you dont think video games have the power to teach,and to be a positive influence on someone? well if you think they can do that, then logic dictates they can do the opposite as well.
Correlation does not equal causation. This is a logical fallacy that has no place here. Appealing to consequence (among other things) won't work here. Mavis Beacon teaches typing is designed to teach people how to type. Grand Theft Auto is not designed to teach children (or adults) how to run over prostitutes, or shoot police. This is a re-hash of Jack Thompson's theory of "Murder Simulators". If you can find me a Rockstar dev who supports the notion that their team set out to teach people how to smuggle drugs and kill people indiscriminately, I'll eat my collection of fedoras. The notion is absurd.

Which drives us back to the point: a purchase of a game is a voluntary thing, for every Call of Duty purchase, there are also purchases of Minecraft, Bejeweled, or Civilization V. The market determines which art is accepted, and which is not. But art cannot just be sanitized because one segment finds it unappealing. What you get then is another second reformation.

Posted:A year ago

#31
@ sorry Chris you seem not to understand causation and correlation. Games do not have to be instructional software to teach and instill values. Many books, movies, and so forth have been very influential and sometimes even life changing to people, and these movies are not " instructional videos" Games have the ability to be as powerful as books and movies.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 15th January 2013 6:44pm

Posted:A year ago

#32

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@Christopher. Pretty much agree with all of that. I personally know many of the Rockstar north guys based right here in Edinburgh and worked with some of them elsewhere. I can say without doubt, that's not their intention. ;)

@ Todd. I do think they can have a positive effect in education, and you can learn from all games. Violent or otherwise. I don't think they are there to teach anyone law, or the nuances of society though. That's parental duty right there.

Posted:A year ago

#33
@Sandy, not everyone is blessed with good parents. We are all in this together

Anyway its a fine debate, and one that can only help. Thanks everyone, Have a nice afternoon

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 15th January 2013 6:45pm

Posted:A year ago

#34

Robin Clarke
Producer

300 684 2.3
Pretend violence is awesome.

Posted:A year ago

#35

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@ Robin. Haha. Sure is. When I'm sitting playing fight night, there's not one part of my sorry ass wants to rise from the Sofa and go toe to toe with Ali or Tyson for real. Although, I think after another 100 hrs of game play I'd be a threat.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 15th January 2013 6:56pm

Posted:A year ago

#36
Nobody is ducking accountability because there is NOTHING to be accountable for.

The media has always been the whipping boy whenever someone wanted to deflect social criticism and
the nonsense charges of the NRA are just that. There is no good scientific evidence that links media to
long term behavioral changes. Many societies that consume the same media we do do not have the same
shooting problems we do... because they aren't dripping with guns.

If we treat the "Guns don't kill people, Videogames make People kill People with guns" argument at all seriously all we
do is a disservice to both the industry and society.

Posted:A year ago

#37

Richard Vaught
Studying B.A. in Game Design

19 33 1.7
@Todd

There is some truth to what you say and if you look close I am actually agreeing with you to an extent. What the OP posted, and what the video game critics are doing is nothing but asserting propaganda without any verifiable data to back up their claim. The violent crime statistics are independent of prison rates, because they are tallied per crime, not per conviction and because there is no way to determine whether someone would be a repeat offender or not. So, it is very difficult to correlate those two data sets to get any meaningful results. My point, over all though, was that if violent games engendered violence in the players, then there should be a correlating increase in violent crimes, regardless of the following conviction rates. However that correlation simply does not exist. There is no data to support it at all. That is when it becomes propaganda. (**edit** it is also worth noting that what we consider violent crime has changed over the years, skewing the statistics. The 2012 reports count threats of violence, and unarmed attacks with minor or no injuries as assaults. So not only are we still on the decline, we have broadened our definition to include more incidents).


The question is, why are we (as a group of generally well educated intellectual people) getting worked up over propaganda?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Vaught on 15th January 2013 7:35pm

Posted:A year ago

#38
@Richard
well said

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 15th January 2013 7:33pm

Posted:A year ago

#39

Del Hartin
Senior Designer

9 24 2.7
@Richard: I think many of us aren't so much getting worked up about the propaganda as we are worked up at having the propaganda shoved at us yet again. ;) It's a shame that in order to get some very good points together (lots of these comments are insightful and wonderfully composed) for a debate, we first had to be baited.

Posted:A year ago

#40

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@ Richard. Well said.

Its amazing that the general public, and a lot of the gaming community are being pulled in with this red herring.

If a kid walks off a cliff holding a spade however, I may change my mind and blame lemmings.

Posted:A year ago

#41

Jamie Knight
International Editor in Chief

48 21 0.4
guns don't kill people....rappers do

( I've seen it in a documentary on BBC2 )

Posted:A year ago

#42

Christopher McCraken
CEO/Production Director

110 251 2.3
If we get worked up over "Propaganda", it's because it has a historical precedent of being a successful tactic. The only way to counter it, is to fight it and the people who fall for it with the truth, and the reality of the situation at hand.

Posted:A year ago

#43

Gregory Hommel
writer

91 53 0.6
The problem here isn't avoiding blame. The problem is laying blame. Which everyone in the country seems to be doing. The fact is, accusations and blame deserve no response at all. Asking any industry to change what they do is pointless. You can't arbitrarily make nonviolent games just like you can't arbitrarily make alternative fuel vehicles. There must be a need for something new or at least a market. Some people are just crazy. It is so painfully simple, an entire nation just can't accept it. Of those crazies a smaller percentage want to hurt people. An even smaller percentage have access to and use guns to commit crimes. You tell me to consider people who think more gun control is the answer. What if I told you to consider people who think poop tastes good? There are more painfully simple reasons why gun control cannot and never has worked but you don't want to hear it, so there is no market for it and I won't arbitrarily explain it to you.

Posted:A year ago

#44

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,017 1,463 1.4
@ Dan Not that I agree with the idea that games have a causal relationship with violence, but your statement is genuinely awful. The comparison between a game that is intentionally ridiculous and fantastical to a game that is intentionally realistic and grounded is not a good one.

For a more reasonable view on this: yes, games, as with many things, can and do often create some aggressive thought patterns. Other things that create those patterns are competitive sports (both watching and playing), general television, playing outdoors with friends, and mathematics. I don't think anyone is arguing for the censorship or government control of any of those things.

Ultimately only the already mentally ill mind cannot distinguish between reality and fantasy, and it's a parent's responsibility to expose their children to age-appropriate content, not the government's.

Posted:A year ago

#45

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,153 1,070 0.5
The argument for a causal relationship begins and ends with the absence of actual kids stuck in actual pipes at the outset of Mario-mania, circa 1985.
@Dan - I almost choked to death on my dinner when reading that - thanks for the laugh.

Not so funny - I heard on the radio that some politician here is tossing up the idea for a tax on violent rated games sales to fund some sort of mental health study or something crazy like that. That sort of thing I can't see any smart person going for, but here in the US, I have the feeling that with enough push from both sides of the aisle, it may come to pass (which would be nuts)...

Posted:A year ago

#46

Rubens Maximus
Video Game Artist

3 3 1.0
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Posted:A year ago

#47

Marty Howe
Director

58 25 0.4
We can do violence in a more stylized and cartoony way, no blood, death animations that look like dance (like some John Woo scenes etc) Smart design can also help, like Half Life 2 (shoot clones, robots, monsters, insects, shooting disabled for NPC's etc)

I'm just playing Call of Duty 2: Black Ops and the gun violence is like a horror film (screams, gushing blood, limbs falling off)

Posted:A year ago

#48
@ Del Hartin: " We need to reflect on what WE can do to keep people committing atrocities because of violent video games."

That's easy. Just like violent games have apparently trained this handful of individuals into committing atrocities, they must also have train everyone else... What we have, simply from the work of Call of Duty and Battlefield is a highly skilled army numbering in the millions! We just need to put them on patrol on street corners, on the look out for the unstable individuals.



On a more serious note perhaps consoles should start shipping with parental controls enabled by default and some sort of age verification required to disable them? I'm not sure how best to check the user's age, but at least that will remind some parents that there ARE actually settings to control what your child is playing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher Beckford on 16th January 2013 9:16am

Posted:A year ago

#49

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
There are more painfully simple reasons why gun control cannot and never has worked but you don't want to hear it, so there is no market for it and I won't arbitrarily explain it to you.
Funny that, here I am sitting in a country with very strict gun control laws with far lower homicide rates than America, but of course, gun control never has worked so I must be imagining it.

Posted:A year ago

#50

Bruce Everiss
Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Blimey. Let's look at the facts.
After a previous school mass shooting the US government paid Harvard Medical school $1.5 million dollars to research the relationship between violence in games and children's behaviour in society. Much original research was done.
The results can be found in a book called "Grand Theft Childhood". It would really help if people read this before contributing to the debate, then they would have some grasp of the facts and issues.

Cheryl Olsen, one of the Grand Theft Childhood researchers, is involved in the current discussions with Joe Biden. So at least he is properly informed. Details here: http://gamepolitics.com/2013/01/12/grand-theft-childhood-author-discuss-biden-meeting-msnbc-saturday-1-pm-et-esa-issues-stat#.UPZ1OaV7P8s

If you want to become better informed there is a Grand Theft Childhood website: http://www.grandtheftchildhood.com/GTC/Home.html There is lots of really good content here. Or you can buy the book from Amazon, like I did.

Posted:A year ago

#51
@Dave: In the US I think it's a case of Pandora's Box (or should that be Pandora's Ammo Crate?).

Posted:A year ago

#52

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

556 607 1.1
Now here is a bit of news that actually has the NRA working with the Gamesindustry to provide a shooting practice game. For children as young as 4.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21025626

Who says the NRA and games industry can't work together to create something meaningful...

Posted:A year ago

#53

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
This is a societal issue in both the U.S. and U.K as much as a games issue.

For example there are many violent games with a certificate of 15. ey dare to have a bare female bum or a couple in a bed, even under sheets, doing it, and it's going to be an 18 certificate!

We see TV cop shows repeated in the afternoon with murders and shoot-outs, yet a documentary about breast feeding would have to be on TV after 9pm!

Both the U.S. and U.K are puritanical when it comes to the human body and sexual act, just go to You Tube and watch a female review a game, then look at how 70% are about how the female looks and how the commentator would like to "do her", this shows a juvinality when it comes to the sexes. Violence needs .no such sophistication, and games companies know this- hence violent games but no "adult" (as in "mature") games.

Posted:A year ago

#54

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@James. I believe a group of developers from Amsterdam tried making an adult erotic game quite recently, but it broke the terms of their Steam agreement, so was blocked from Steam. I'm sure they are still in development though. Personally, I think its wrong that it was stopped because "some one didnt like it". There is clearly a market for it. Hopefully other platforms will be more open minded in future.

Posted:A year ago

#55

Chris Madsen

22 10 0.5
I do say "awesome" to some of those violence in games and movies, but I restrain myself with all that when my sisters or friends children are around, because I know how easy they take in what we say as "positive", but not everyone are like that as I have observed elsewhere..

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Madsen on 16th January 2013 11:40am

Posted:A year ago

#56

Robert Fuller
Studying GSP

10 4 0.4
You know the game debate is right...Violent games are the reason for violence. It is such a clear, clean black & white issue. I mean Porn is the reason people have sex right? I mean Pornography is why so many people commit such horrible sex crimes, if we got rid of porn there would never again be a sex crime right? I think this is good logic....

<sarcasm>

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Fuller on 16th January 2013 4:33pm

Posted:A year ago

#57

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
More people have gone out and killed people as direct result of books as opposed to video games. Bible, Koran?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 16th January 2013 11:27pm

Posted:A year ago

#58

Al Nelson
Producer

32 47 1.5
If only the next-gen console cycle was as short as the "blame video games for violence" cycle.

Posted:A year ago

#59
Say, isnt there more violent news media coverage than there are games with stylised realism & graphic violence?

Posted:A year ago

#60

Sandy Lobban
Founder and Creative Director

313 201 0.6
@ Chee

Some things are just too big to tackle, and face up to though :)

Posted:A year ago

#61
The problem is that if you take violent games out of the industry.. .there is no industry left. Maybe Nintendo and mobile. Just have a look at the uk charts for example.

How can the industry get to a point where the diversity in the charts resembles the box office or music charts...

Posted:A year ago

#62

Paul Johnson
Managing Director / Lead code monkey

808 1,010 1.3
I've reconsidered it. And I still think the "violent games debate" is ludicrous!

Posted:A year ago

#63

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,153 1,070 0.5
Perspective: if you're "on the fence" about the "realistic" violence in mature rated games, but LOVE full contact sports where real people are hurt (or sometimes killed or sometimes kill themselves years later so doctors can study the brain damage they've gotten from all those concussions), that's something to add to your thought process.

Also, given the logic tossed around by some in the anti-gaming crowd in politics and mass media, shouldn't game developers be the biggest bunch of homicidal lunatics on the planet because they're holed up all day making this stuff?

Eh, whatever - someone will sort it all out at some point...

Posted:A year ago

#64

Rubens Maximus
Video Game Artist

3 3 1.0
Or perhaps, parents of USA should not give their kids adult content to consume. This games are just like Playboy magazines, it's for +18 years old. Does every boy and girl in America have playboys now? I don't think so sir. Will my kids have +18y games? Not even on their dreams! (and if they have it, it will be MY fault, for God sake).

If ERSB is out there telling us that some games have heavy adult content, it's clear that it depends only on parents to perhaps discipline their kids.

PS: Or should we also study the effect of Playboys on kids? Here is a book about it ([link url=""]http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov07/webporn.aspx[/link]). But you know... Again... My advice: Maybe we should just not give it to them.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rubens Maximus on 18th January 2013 6:46am

Posted:A year ago

#65

Dick

13 3 0.2
Its Parents responsibility to watch over kids and prevent them from playing violent games not industry.

Posted:A year ago

#66

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