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Ending the Violent Game Debate

Ending the Violent Game Debate

Thu 31 Jan 2013 2:00pm GMT / 9:00am EST / 6:00am PST
Politics

Devs behind Twisted Metal, Night Trap, Papo & Yo, and Huntsman: The Orphanage on whether there's a problem, and what can be done to quiet the critics

The violent video game debate is not new to America. Time and again, concerned parents and politicians from outside the gaming sphere have looked at the industry's most envelope-pushing efforts and worried about the effect they might be having on children playing them. It was Death Race that first sparked concerns in 1976; Doom and Mortal Kombat in the early '90s; and Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt in the oughts.

Any hope that last summer's US Supreme Court victory for the games industry would put an end to the issue once and for all went by the wayside last month, when a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and killed more than two dozen people, 20 of them children under the age of 8. With the issue back at the forefront of the public consciousness, GamesIndustry International sought insight from a handful of developers whose careers have been defined by violence, sometimes in quite literal ways.

Take Vander Caballero for example. The Minority Media creative director swung from designing the 2008 military shooter Army of Two to last year's Papo & Yo, in which players control a young boy coming to grips with his abusive father's alcoholism. In the former, players are the perpetrators of violence. In the latter, they are the victim of it. In both cases, Caballero's treatment of violence was informed by his own experiences growing up in the midst of the Colombian drug war.

1

Papo & Yo depicts violence, but puts the player in the role of the victim rather than the aggressor.

"I saw a lot of violence in Colombia," Caballero explained. "There were guns in my home. My father had bodyguards, and they wore guns at home. It was quite disturbing to see that as a kid...So I saw the use of guns in context, for protection, for defense. On both sides, from the insurgent people who wanted a better life and from the people in a position of privilege trying to maintain that power and also defend themselves from criminals."

"I decided I couldn't do it anymore. It felt totally wrong for me to keep working on the type of entertainment where there was no moral behind what you were teaching to people."

Vander Caballero, on leaving AAA game development

Caballero tried to include that context in Army of Two, critiquing the military industrial complex through the events and dialogue of the game's campaign mode. But much to Caballero's disappointment, it was the game's context-free multiplayer mode that drew the most attention and acclaim from players. He compared the difference in experience to what one might see in a novelization of the board game Monopoly. While the board game itself might be good fun for a group of friends, it lacks context the novelization could provide as to the human cost and implications of engaging in ruthless business tactics with the goal of not just prospering, but actually bankrupting other people.

"I decided I couldn't do it anymore," Caballero said, explaining why he left the AAA industry to create games like Papo & Yo. "It felt totally wrong for me to keep working on the type of entertainment where there was no moral behind what you were teaching to people."

David Jaffe is less conflicted about his work. As a co-creator of Twisted Metal and director of the original God of War, Jaffe made a name for himself with games that are distinctly violent. But unlike Caballero, he seemed to view the altered context of violent games as almost reassuring, evidence that gamers aren't obsessed with gore for gore's sake.

"If you've played games, you know inherently, very quickly, that all of that stuff is what gets you in the door," Jaffe said. "It's the candy wrapper. It's not really why you're playing the game. It might be what entices you in the beginning, but very quickly you're focused on spatial relationship puzzles, risk-reward challenges, resource management, and meta-strategic choices. Your brain is engaged and you're looking at things not so much in context of, 'This is war.' You're looking at things in terms of, 'How do I survive the situation? What are the tools at my disposal?' And most people don't see that because they don't play these sorts of games and they just have the surface to go on."

In comparison to the violent games Jaffe and Caballero have on their resumes, Rob Fulop's work is relatively tame. Even so, the co-designer of the early '90s full-motion video game Night Trap found his work at the heart of one of the earliest iterations of the violent game debate. Night Trap was one of a handful of games specifically scrutinized and criticized during Senator Joseph Lieberman's 1993 Congressional hearings on gaming violence. Fulop said the experience definitely changed how he felt, but not about violent games.

"I met Joe Lieberman and I realized that in his heart and his soul, he really doesn't care."

Rob Fulop

"The only change is that I learned more about the political system," Fulop said. "I met Joe Lieberman and I realized that in his heart and his soul, he really doesn't care. He just is using [violent game concern] as a platform because it's easy to get people on his side. The person who's standing up and screaming about this says, 'Hey there's an issue I can get behind and nobody can argue with me. No one can prove me wrong. I can sound like a good guy.'"

In Fulop's view, that makes gaming a perfect scapegoat for policy makers, because the industry's options to respond are few.

"The only defense really is free speech," Fulop said. "Nobody can argue skillfully that it's good for kids to have a game where you can run around killing everyone. But you can make the argument that you have the right to put that game out there."

3

Night Trap's level of violence wouldn't raise an eyebrow on network TV these days.

There's even been discussion of late as to whether the best course of action for the game industry is to bother making that defense, or simply choosing silence as an alternative. Even the industry's recent meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden to discuss proposals to curb gun violence drew criticisms within the industry.

"If somebody said, 'Hey Jaffe, come meet with [US Vice President] Biden about this issue--not that they would--I'd have said thank you but no thank you," Jaffe explained. "Going and having that meeting, all it really did was cement the view of 'You guys are part of the problem' in the minds of people who already thought that...The fact that we're now sitting at the same table as the [National Rifle Association] as part of the problem? What a ******* disaster for public relations."

"The fact that we're now sitting at the same table as the NRA as part of the problem? What a ******* disaster for public relations."

David Jaffe

Taking the opposite view, Shadowshifters Entertainment director Dene Waring believes silence on the issue would be self-defeating. Waring is eager to talk about violence in games, even though he won't use it in his own. The developer described his upcoming debut game Huntsman: The Orphanage as an experiment in making a horror game without violence or blood.

"We need to talk about the subject of ultraviolent games," Waring said. "It needs to keep coming up because there's something that seems a little aberrant in that whole concept of glorifying psychotic, sociopathic behavior, glorifying the ultraviolence and expressing it so explicitly with the explosions of blood that occur when somebody's shot, and the levels of realism for what are becoming murder simulators. I do see that as a problem. I do see it as rather odd as a cultural phenomenon. Why take that aspect of human behavior, one of the most extreme and hopefully rare aspects of human behavior, and create simulators about that?"

While Waring was undecided on the effects violent games might have on players, he said developers should rethink their approach regardless.

"You would have to say apart from looking for scientifically provable links, is it really cool? Is it a good thing? Why do it? In my point of view, it just seems completely counterproductive to having a good world with people having a good life in it," Waring said.

"Why do it? In my point of view, it just seems completely counterproductive to having a good world with people having a good life in it."

Dene Waring, on making violent games

For some developers, concrete evidence would be a stronger incentive for toning down game violence than rhetorical questions. Jaffe said it was impossible to "child-protect the corners of life," but added that he would drop violence from his games if the data showed conclusively that his work was hurting society.

"Absolutely I would stop in a heartbeat," Jaffe said. "Nobody wants to be the cigarette companies."

2

Letting players harm a cyclops is one thing, but harming players themselves is another.

One thing Jaffe and Waring agreed on was that the gun violence problem was multi-faceted. Jaffe chalked it up to the inherent nature of man, mental health issues (and the stigmas associated with them), and "too many ******* guns in the country." The gun culture in America was also a major concern for Waring, who saw it first-hand as a New Zealander visiting New York, in a toy store of all places.

"I watched an average-looking customer come in to return a faulty train set," Waring said, "and in a very short space of time, pull a gun and say, 'Tell me that you're f'ing with my rights. Go on, just say it. Say it. Just tell me you're f'ing with my rights.' Over a toy train refund. And to have stood there in that toy store and seen that culturally, even though this guy's obvious unhinged, he had a gun. And he felt that it was relevant and OK to pull it on a toy store sales clerk and threaten to take his life over such a trivial thing. It was his conflict resolution tool, and he felt fully justified and within his rights as an individual, and as a citizen of a country that backs him up."

It's not as if that was Waring's first exposure to guns. As with Caballero, Waring's attitude toward firearms was shaped in part by first-hand experiences with them (an incredible story which is a feature unto itself).

So what can the industry do to break the cycle, to end the gaming violence debate and avoid another reprisal of the issue should still more unthinkable tragedies become painfully real? Some are more resigned to history repeating itself than others.

"There will never be anything that can be done, I don't think. It will just always be there. I don't think there's a way to prove that violent media doesn't cause any harm in some people."

Rob Fulop, on quieting violent game criticism

"What if nothing can be done? There will always be politicians that will stand up and rally around this cause," said Fulop. "It will happen with higher resolutions and virtual reality. There will never be anything that can be done, I don't think. It will just always be there. I don't think there's a way to prove that violent media doesn't cause any harm in some people."

Caballero suggested the industry could stifle the issue in the long term by diversifying its output. The developer described what he called a sad state of affairs in gaming today, where no company is willing to fund a major game unless it has guns or some other form of violence in it.

"Right now the industry is such an easy target because the biggest sellers of games are about killing people," Caballero said. "Where are the other big games there to defend us? We don't have a Schindler's List in games. You can go attack the movies, and [the film industry] responds, 'Yeah, but those movies are violent movies, and there's this other broad spectrum of movies that offer a different perspective.' We don't have that in games. Games like Papo & Yo are rare."

4

Huntsman: The Orphanage is an attempt at making a horror game without blood or violence.

Waring echoed that sentiment, noting that people can dismiss a B-grade slasher flick as exploitation cinema, but said people don't make the same distinctions when it comes to games. But before the industry's offerings can be properly expanded upon, he said the first step is a bit of honest self-assessment.

"The gaming industry as a whole has seemed to vulcanize in saying 'not us' and pointing the finger elsewhere," Waring said. "In fact, they should look at the most extreme examples. And let's ask the question of ourselves, and let's ask the question publicly: Have we gone too far at the extreme end? Should we be pulling back there, looking for other ways to provide the thrill factor so we can still hit the sales figures we want? Are there other buttons we can push without presenting the ultraviolence as the entertainment medium in itself?"

Jaffe's suggestions were less about changing the content of the games the industry is making, and more about celebrating the power of the medium and the work of its creators.

"It's so amazing how we've still done such a ****** job about showing off what makes our medium great."

David Jaffe

"What we should have been doing is saying some of this stuff is crass, some of this stuff is violent. Some of it has no real value, even on a pure entertainment level. Some of it, potentially a lot of people think is art. Art or not, though, a lot of people love it and it brings a lot of people joy," Jaffe said, adding, "The last thing the industry should do is try to whitewash itself and vanilla-ize itself when it is so varied and creative and thriving when it comes to imaginations working together to create cool stuff."

But it's not just about educating the outside world to the real value of gaming. That's something Jaffe says isn't always understood even by those firmly ensconced in the industry.

"The reaction I see from people when they ooh and aah when they see something violent is a normal human reaction," Jaffe said. "But it reminds me of the same reaction I see when people see amazing, jaw dropping next-gen graphics and they ooh and aah at that. And I'm sitting in the back screaming, 'Our medium is interactivity! Why don't you guys get vibed and jazzed about something like Minecraft?' It's so amazing how we've still done such a ****** job about showing off what makes our medium great."

18 Comments

Taylan Kay Game Desginer, Nerd Corps Entertainment

61 109 1.8
Nobody wants to be the tobacco industry and yet tobacco got most of its allure from its favorable portrayal in the media, with endless product placements that seemed to say "You wanna be cool like that guy/gal in this amazing movie? Light a cigarette, just like he/she does." Which is not that different from what the media has been doing for arms manufacturers for decades now. No it's not just games doing it, but we certainly haven't done enough to challenge the "guns are cool, violence solves everything" attitude of pop culture.

It's not enough to not be the tobacco/NRA guys; we're just as complicit if we are doing their marketing for them.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Matt Allmer Designer, Producer, Artist, Justastic Interactive

2 4 2.0
"and [the film industry] responds, 'Yeah, but those movies are violent movies, and there's this other broad spectrum of movies that offer a different perspective.' We don't have that in games."

How can someone claim the library of casual games is NOT a wide spectrum of non-violent games? As an industry, are we still in denial about the casual market? Much of which is not violent at all, and has much MUCH larger audience. Why is no one waving this flag in the face of our critics?

Posted:A year ago

#2
550+ Murders in the UK in 2011.
12600+ in the US for the same period.

Basically if the UK had the same population as the US that would equate to about 2,500 Murders on a pro rata basis.
(approx. 20% of the murder rate per capita)

The UK has as extensive a violent video game culture as in the US.
However the UK has about 6 guns per 100 people, where the US has about 89 guns per 100 people.

67% of murders in the US in 2011 were by gun.

I'm really not sure that it's worth debating, it strikes me there really is nothing to debate.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
@ Gordon That's true, but Canada and other countries have a lot of guns too and still not the violence level of the US. It's never one single issue. Video games are an unlikely cause of course. What is the cause is a system built around punishment instead of rehabilitation, poor mental heatlh care, and a bad poverty level.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Matthew Butt

12 1 0.1
How about Korea where they have a huge e-sport culture? Don't hear to often of mass shootings in Korea do we? But we do hear about a healthy video game culture.
How about over here in Australia? Not too many violent mass shootings, but a healthy video game culture too.

So what was to blame in years gone by before our 'violent' games industry? I remember the early 90's and heavy metal being responsible for people going crazy - but only when you played the music backwards.

It's such a silly argument to equate (as Americans normally do) everything that happens to them, happens to everyone so what they do is for the good of the world. The argument is also biased. As long as the NRA has rich funding pouring into the politicians hands, they will be saying guns are ok. It has nothing to do with what's right or wrong. All the USA needs is a few ex GTA gamers running in politics and suddenly the gaming lobby gets as powerful as the NRA, and we forget killing some 'thing' on a screen is completely and utterly different from pulling a trigger to face real life consequences.

Honestly, Im so tired of being told that because I play games I 'might' be more likely to kill someone then a gang worshipping hip hop teenager who feels the need to carry a knife everywhere and gets angry at someone looking at him the wrong way. At the end of the day, we are influenced by many things. Do we have the intelligence to look past animal instincts or understand our individual moral downfalls? A lot of people don't have the education for this level of self analysis.

We have massive over sexualization in music videos, so it must be responsible for sexual assaults...right?

Posted:A year ago

#5

Paul Gheran Scrum Master

123 27 0.2
"What if nothing can be done? There will always be politicians that will stand up and rally around this cause,"

Nah, just until the generations that didn't have video games growing up die off.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Sergio Rosa "Somewhat-Creative Director", Domaginarium

66 41 0.6
Cultural differences aside, as someone born and raised in one of the most violent countries in the world, I can say this: This country went through a civil war in the 70's and now we're again at war, but against gangs. We have many murders a day (let's just say "many" because I don't want to scare you). Half of those murders are made by gang members who are obviously too busy robbing, murdering and extorting to "waste" their times playing [whatever ultra violent first person shooter or hack-and-slash you want to insert this]. The other half are street crashes, passion crimes, "why-my-food-isn't-ready" crimes or security guards that shoot you because they didn't like your shirt, and, unlike other countries, 40+ men/women (who are most likely to cause these kinds of deaths) don't play videogames. So unless Farmville encourages to kill your wife because dinner wasn't ready (true story), there's nothing to say about the subject.

So why not just go back to the basis and ask these politicians actual proof, exhaustive studies, data, and anything else that can actually prove that videogames encourage killing. Or else the industry will simply continue playing the "yes it's your fault" "no, it's not" game for a really really long time.

The violent movies vs. The Shindler's List is't exactly something that we could use, and in fact I don't see how that argument may be of any use because the reality is that those wanting to watch the latest gory slasher film may not be the same people who enjoy watching The Shindler's List. The "wide spectrum" argument assumes the average moviegoer/player will love any movie/game whatsoever while reality is that some people like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and others like Tron just like some like COD while others like Farmville. Thus a similar logic could be used to say that Pulp Fiction inspired someone to go on a killing spree and the "but, but, but we also have The Piano and The Crying Game" argument wouldn't hold much water.

BTW the violence in games thing in general is something I wrote about on my Gamasutra blog last week, for those who care to see: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/SergioRosa/20130121/185105/Violent_videogames_Just_gimme_my_Clockwork_Orange.php

Posted:A year ago

#7

Christian Allen Creative Director & Founder, Serellan LLC

3 2 0.7
Sigh. This debate is silly, although it would be nice to see the games media provide balanced coverage when the topic is broached.

I agree that engaging is silly (and unnecessary), but is also stupid to turn this into a "games vs guns" debate. Keep them separate.

I make my living making games about killing people. Michael bay makes his living about movies in which people are killed. Deal with it.

Posted:A year ago

#8
@Nicolas

Take this from a Canadian, we may have guns, but not "a lot" and they are hardly accessible. You need to take a 2 week course(and pass to get a certification) just to use a hunting style rifle, with another month or two of other courses to work you way up to use a fully automatic weapon.

On top of that, you need to find a place to buy a weapon in the first place(which is very hard, if not impossible to find in an urban area, unless it's been smuggled in illegally) and then license it.

There is only one person I know or have known that actually hunts and therefore has a gun.

Sorry, I just wanted to throw that out there.

Anyways, to the latter part of your statement, I totally agree.
When you want to lash out on a society that has kicked you into the dirt for so long with little cause, why not go to the local gun store and kill people to express your pain?

It seems like these discussions are just a scapegoat to shift blame to the easiest target because I have not heard much discussion on how this person was treated and helped prior to the incident to begin with(which is always the case with media).

If the person's friends, family and society really cared about what he was going through and tried to get him the help he deserved, we would not be in this mess.

Why is only after someone has cracked and made an obvious attempt at a cry for help does society step back and say "hmm, well he obviously needed help for various illnesses."?

Unfortunately for what it seems, most of the world still treats people with mental illnesses as outcasts that should be shunned for "being weak" or feared.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
@ Paul You guys have a lot of guns http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country

As do many other countries in the world. None as many as America, mind you, but still. The point is the guns alone obviously aren't the problem either. Not saying they aren't MORE of a problem than, say, video games, but I wouldn't even put them among the top 3 culprits in creating a violent society.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Matt Ernst Studying Culinary Arts, Hennepin Tech

24 20 0.8
I don't know why. Tetris, Gran Turismo, and Dr. Mario are great examples for the defense of video games. When someone says video games are nothing but murderer training programs, you just show them those three mentioned games.

Posted:A year ago

#11
"The only defense really is free speech," Fulop said. "Nobody can argue skillfully that it's good for kids to have a game where you can run around killing everyone. But you can make the argument that you have the right to put that game out there."
But who is arguing that kids should have games where you can run around killing everyone? I don't think anyone is arguing they should. Isn't the consensus that kids should not have those games?

Free speech isn't about an obligation to hear you speak. It's about you having the freedom to speak and people are free to listen or walk away. Similarly, people are free not to buy games.
"Right now the industry is such an easy target because the biggest sellers of games are about killing people," Caballero said. "Where are the other big games there to defend us? We don't have a Schindler's List in games. You can go attack the movies, and [the film industry] responds, 'Yeah, but those movies are violent movies, and there's this other broad spectrum of movies that offer a different perspective.' We don't have that in games. Games like Papo & Yo are rare."
I think five of the top ten selling PC and console games in the USA in 2012 were about killing people. Five. And no, the top five wasn't solely comprised of games about killing people; the second was American football and the fifth about dancing. The industry is the target because of social narrative, because of moral panic, not because most games (individually or by units shifted) are about killing people and certainly not because of objective, dispassionate evaluation of evidence and a considered reflection on whether there is in fact a problem and if so what to do about it.

None of which is to dismiss concerns about the effect of violence in all media and the culture on children, I imagine it does have an effect. There appears to be consensus in the literature that violent media does have an effect. I am happy to agree that kids shouldn't play violent games. Now what? I think there is an obvious and immediate solution and it won't cost parents a penny - indeed they will be financially better off.

Posted:A year ago

#12

David Serrano Freelancer

300 273 0.9
"It felt totally wrong for me to keep working on the type of entertainment where there was no moral behind what you were teaching to people."

After you put the biases and agendas involved in this issue aside, "what you [were] teaching to people" is exactly what this controversy is really about. Regardless of how the criticism is communicated, the actual issue and concern about the AAA games in question is the harmful and negative behavior they encourage and reinforce with operant conditioning in PvP environments. The concern is not the violence, it's the behavior designers and developers teach.

Encouraging and rewarding the textbook definition of sadistic and antisocial behavior in single player environments is only a "responsible" design practice because playing against the system gives the behavior context. The player understands this behavior is only considered a form of play because it is directed at inanimate, non-living characters and objects. So playing against the system serves as a firewall between behavior reinforced in a game and real life behavior. Because on a conscious and subconscious level, the player understands the behavior is only tolerated and acceptable within this context. But in PvP environments, this firewall doesn't exist. Which is why encouraging and rewarding this behavior in PvP environments is irresponsible, reckless and unethical.

In the absence of any ethical or moral context, when designers and developers use positive reinforcement to encourage and reward sadistic and antisocial behavior towards other players, players consciously and subconsciously begin to associate bullying, disrespecting, harassing, humiliating, intimidating, mentally abusing and dominating other players with being rewarded or praised. They begin to associate the behavior with play and social interaction. Within the context of a competitive social environment, it creates a direct association between the negative behavior and raising their social status and rank. And since the target audience is 13 to 25 year old male players, the majority of whom probably spend 8 or more hours per day in school / college settings, there's no question this conditioning has a direct impact on how the players who receive the highest levels of exposure behave and interact with classmates and peers. The game industry cannot honestly claim "there's no scientific evidence" to prove this because the reality is there are decades of existing objective research on operant conditioning which completely invalidate all of "science" the game industry constantly cites. The onus is not on the rest of the world to disprove the game industry's cherry picked research, the onus is on the game industry to disprove the decades of existing research on one of the core concepts of behavioral psychology. And until the game industry can provide such conclusive evidence, it must stop claiming that video and computer games cannot negatively impact the real life behavior of players.

So the violent game debate is not about violence, it's about the professional behavior and conduct of designers, developers and publishers in one segment of the game industry. And the issue will be resolved when the ESA, IGDA and EMA finally accept it's never been in the best interest of the medium for them to defend irresponsible or unethical design, business and marketing practices in any segment of the market.

Posted:A year ago

#13

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
So playing against the system serves as a firewall between behavior reinforced in a game and real life behavior. Because on a conscious and subconscious level, the player understands the behavior is only tolerated and acceptable within this context.
Is this actually scientifically supported, or is it just your opinion?

Surely it only follows that in-game violence conditions people towards real-life violence, if a peoples' internal mental models of videogame violence is comparable with real-life violence?
But in PvP environments, this firewall doesn't exist. Which is why encouraging and rewarding this behavior in PvP environments is irresponsible, reckless and unethical.
If this is the case, is it reckless and unethical to reward antisocial behaviour in board-games, or does this effect only apply to video games?

Is it reckless and unethical to make the game "Monopoly"? I think most can agree that intentionally bankrupting a friend would be a reprehensible thing to do in real life. Surely, it then follows that playing Monopoly will condition players to act the same way in their real-life financial dealings with others?

Posted:A year ago

#14

Julian Cram Project Manager, Appster

50 28 0.6
blah blah blah. Let's do some REAL research here, for once.

It's right there, in the crime statistics of every major country on earth. Why is this so hard for people to figure out?

Look at every country which has video games. Was there a spike in violence when they arrived to mass appeal? NO.
Look at every major "violent" game release. Is there a spike in violence when they are released? NO.

END OF F*CKING STORY.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Cameron Lourenco Studying Business Managemant, Conestoga College

21 16 0.8
Right now, the NRA is the tobacco industry. They're the ones responsible for the destructive violence that has plagued the US on levels astronomical compared to other developed nations. Canada is right next to the US, enjoys all the same media, violent TV, violent games, violence-glorifying music, yet they don't even compare when analyzing crime and gun violence.

People in the US who don't understand this are living in a bubble, and think they are the only ones on the planet. They never take into account that there are other countries who don't have the problems they have. To analyze this, you must look at the lowest common denominator - that which you have in common, and what sets you apart. The thing separating the US from the rest of the developed world are their gun laws, which are a joke. The rest of the world looks on in complete and utter disdain at the US given its ridiculously archaic gun laws that were literally made centuries ago when there were militias, and the government was being run by people trying to take control of land. We are eons away from that problem, yet the same fallacies of logic are being applied when analyzing this gun problem.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Florent Castelnerac Managing Director, Nadeo

3 0 0.0
Bryan, I think it teaches some things. And without other media, games and some sort of advice, if Monopoly was the only game, I think it can condition somehow the behavior, on a statistical way, the population.

If all movies, books and papers were about insulting each others, I think it would influence ourselves into insulting each others a little more. And if you only play to one game where the goal is to insult other people, the question is if it would have an impact of insulting others more or less.

In the virtual world of the internet, I find that some gamers are more likely to insult than in real life. Some games are known for having a high ratio of bad languages and insults. Maybe these gamers become more violent, but in a virtual way. I would rather see that reduced than a move of this habit from the virtual world to the real world.

I think it is important to keep insults in culture, and Monopoly, because it is part of creativeness, of life, of our world, of fun, of us learning to be ruined or insulted in order to prevent us to do it, but it does not mean we should not ask the question about the percentage of it for an healthy situation. Many things, like salt or sugar can be good for the body, but can become too much. And I believe the best thing to do is to learn about this and educate people if needed. I would be sad if we were doing a trick on our own society that would make us accept mankind hurting mankind more easily.

Posted:A year ago

#17

David Serrano Freelancer

300 273 0.9
@Bryan Robertson

"Is this actually scientifically supported, or is it just your opinion?"

It is supported by behavioral and applied psychology, contextual behavioral science, history, law and common sense. It's also supported by Huizinga's characteristics of play. Through positive and negative reinforcement or punishment, we are taught to behave in specific ways in specific environments. A playground is a contextual environment. "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" clearly communicates the concept that within this environment, behavior which is distinct from “ordinary” life [both as to locality and duration] is acceptable. But "stays in Vegas" also strengthens the existing negative association with the consequences of self destructive behavior in ordinary life. In other words, it puts the behavior into context which in most cases prevents it from being emulated or repeated in real life.

So if a 13 to 23 year old player spends 240 hours per year participating in activities where sportsmanship, respectful social interaction and responsible behavior are positively reinforced vs. thousands of hours per year playing multiplayer shooters where sadistic and antisocial behavior are positively reinforced without any context... behavioral science has conclusively proven the positive reinforcement of the negative and harmful behavior will weaken or extinguish the positive reinforcement of the desirable behavior. As well as the negative association with the consequences of the negative behavior. This could be prevented if the negative behavior was contextualized or compartmentalized. Not opinion... fact.

"Surely it only follows that in-game violence conditions people towards real-life violence, if a peoples' internal mental models of video game violence is comparable with real-life violence?"

Again, the concern about the AAA multiplayer shooters in question is not the level of, or the nature of the violence. To paraphrase James Carville: it's about sadistic and antisocial behavior, stupid.

In plain English: the concern about the games in question is not that they teach players to act violently or to kill in real life... the concern is they've conditioned a generation of 13 to 23 year old male players to believe acting like a sadistic, antisocial douche bag is acceptable behavior in real life. Based on revelations like this, it would seem to be the case: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-01-10-bioware-writer-laments-increasingly-toxic-fan-feedback

If the ESA or IGDA created a graph that charted the AAA industry's transition away from developing single player centric games towards developing multiplayer centric games in relation to the growth rate of toxicity in player feedback, I'd all but guarantee the two would mirror each other.

"Surely, it then follows that playing Monopoly will condition players to act the same way in their real-life financial dealings with others?"

As a purely esoteric question, is the design of Monopoly irresponsible? Yes. Because the designers made no attempt to teach players the behavior of monopolists - robber barons is the epitome of narcissistic, selfish behavior and it has harmful socioeconomic consequences. However in practice, it's a question of context and exposure. Given the limitations of the board format, the player's understanding of the business and economic concepts, the luck / chance factor and the amount of time most people probably spend playing, in my opinion reading Atlas Shrugged or watching Fox News is more likely negatively impact your real life behavior than playing marathon sessions of Monopoly.

But look at it this way: when Steve Jobs was in his early 20's, he was a tie dye wearing, mushroom eating, tree hugging southern California liberal. 30 years later he was maximizing profits by exploiting sweatshop labor in a foreign country with a long history of human rights violations. What caused the massive change in his behavior? 30 years of corporate S--> R -->S operant conditioning. The conditioning didn't result in violent behavior, but it sure as hell did turn him into a textbook sociopath.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 4th February 2013 9:24pm

Posted:A year ago

#18

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