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Carmack: violent games "potentially positive"

Doom creator believes they could reduce aggression and violence

id Software's John Carmack has defended violent video games, arguing that they could in fact reduce aggression in players.

"There is more evidence to show that the violent games reduce aggression and violence," the technical director told IndustryGamers.

There have actually been some studies about that, that it’s cathartic. If you go to QuakeCon and you walk by and you see the people there [and compare that to] a random cross section of a college campus, you’re probably going to find a more peaceful crowd of people at the gaming convention."

"I think it’s at worst neutral and potentially positive."

Carmack also dismissed the controversy around the issue.

"I never took seriously the violence in video games debate. It was basically talking points for people to get on CNN and espouse their stuff on there," he suggested.

"There was an E3 where all that was going on where I was giving interviews and the reporters would start going into their questions, and I wasn't supposed to talk about any of that. My wife was there and she’d start kicking me when I was about to go, 'Well, I think…' And in the end it didn’t matter, it didn’t make any impact on things. I never felt threatened by it and it turned out not to matter."

John Carmack is one of the founders of Doom developer id Software.

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Latest comments (8)

Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve10 years ago
I agree with him on this point, but I'm not convinced that anything the industry does will change the minds of those who say games do cause violence, because most of them are set in their ways and aren't up for a rational debate. I believe once a few more generations pass, games will become more and more mainstream as people grow up with them, and there wont be the fear that causes this "debate".
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Richard Pygott Level Designer 10 years ago
If I am in a bad mood, I put a fighting game on and smash the pads buttons to get the agression out of my system. I am orginally from a working class background and have been brought up with Morales and values and the wisdom to know whats right and wrong.

GTA? I love hijacking cars and doing bank robberies on it, doesnt mean I would do it in real life. The same game, Ambulance and Taxi Missions, I'm not keen to work as a paramedic of taxi driver.
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David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga10 years ago
Anything that you spend hours of secluded time with will affect your mind. Spending those hours thinking about violence without a proper outlet can also affect your mind. At the end of the day you need to realize what is right and wrong yourself and act upon it.
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Show all comments (8)
Overarching statements such as violent games are positive or bad are all in the eye of the wielder. You could say the same risk applies to watching TV daily ( may cause your mind to be brainwashed with daily gloom, or mainstream reality drivel and your eyes and gums to bleed) or more extreme such as owning guns is cool, and having a blast on a gun firing range is positive. In the right hands and minds, this can be positive, but overall the general public can be trusted do the wrong thing when you least expect it eg. Oslo bomber using cod as a training facility..that's really positive isn't it!
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Mark Androvich Manager, PlayStation Network Advertising, Sony Computer Entertainment America10 years ago
True, blanket statements such as "games are good for you" or "games are bad for you" don't take into account the effect on individuals. Which is why blanket prohibitions on violent video games are equally overreaching. Unlike alcohol or cigarettes, which have a known, measurable physical effect after being consumed, the mental effect of playing video games isn't easily measurable, and seems to differ greatly per person.

There are plenty of mature 15 year-olds who could handle playing M-rated games such as COD, Halo, and GTA without becoming aggressive in real life, but there are also plenty of immature adults who probably shouldn't be playing violent video games so frequently. It should be up to parents, and individuals, to decide what is best for them.

As a side note to Carmack's comments, violent crime rates among juveniles in the US actually fell during the 1990's when violent games such as Doom, Quake, GTA and the like were released and being played by millions of people. So, if there was truly a direct correlation between playing violent games and committing acts of violence, you wouldn't expect that to be the case.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Androvich on 1st August 2011 6:47pm

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@ Mark - try selling that to our populist governments. They just want to protect the minority of madmen who go on killing real life sprees.
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Bill Guschwan Adjunct Professor, Columbia College Chicago10 years ago
If there is a 2 Player Kinect game with actual physical touch violence on another person, then violence in videogames needs to be regulated since actual physical violence has the quality of addiction. Interfaces mediated by controllers don't have that addictive quality that leads to more violence. The root of "ahimsa" is this.
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Charlie Cleveland Game Director/Founder, Unknown Worlds10 years ago
The Carmack has spoken!

I do wish he would reference those studies though.
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