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Those Video Game Violence Debates

March 22, 2010

As gamers, we are getting more and more used to the fact that we are the enemy. We are weird, sick adults who enjoy watching brains being blown out and destroying innocent digital lives. We enjoy the hunt and torturing our prey. We all have some kind of serious social issue. We are pale, spotty, fat losers who live in their mother’s basement. We are all men and we are all sex pests. We are gamers.

Of course none of the above is honestly true. I, for one, am not living at home; I’m a woman; I am pretty social and I pass out at the sight of any real blood so I don’t think I am going to murder anyone any time soon. I’m not even a real gamer according to statistics. Most of my male friends, who are also gamers, don’t seem to fit into the above description either. Actually, how many gamers do you know even fit that stereotype?

Gaming has had a horrible history of biased debates on television. Fox News’ attempt in bringing down EA’s Mass Effect, the onslaught of media hating on Grand Theft Auto 4 and even Modern Warfare 2 with that infamous airport scene. They have always been terribly biased affairs, pitting one games expert (if we are lucky) against a panel of uneducated, anti-games idiots who know nothing of the medium to really comment.

So Alan Titchmarsh, well known to us Brits as a television host for a variety of gardening programs, now has his own chat show. Why? I have no real idea but apparently it does pretty well. In the latest episode, they decide it is about time they address the big issue of video game violence. Understandably, a lot of parents watch this show, so the audience is perfect. They are the ones who need education and the debate that took place was a serious disservice to them and the entertainment industry as a whole.

As you all know, real debates are fair and balanced. From my experience, the ‘teams’ are of equal number and both are experienced in the field they are auguring for or against. The show pit CVG editor, Tim Ingham, against a sexual relationship expert as well as a former editor of The Sun newspaper. Neither of the two were gamers or played games. Titchmarsh himself was the most embarrassing of the anti-games group, not only claiming that video games didn’t have ratings but also that your kids can’t get hold of movies at home. Someone show him a DVD please!

We have to be honest and agree with some of the anti-games points that are being made. Children should not be playing these violent video games but they should not be getting into the hands of children. I wasn’t allowed to watch 18 rated movies when I was under 18, so what is the difference with games? Parents are refusing to take the blame or any ounce of responsibility for their children when it comes to video games and I don’t understand why. Why are parents happy for their children to play an adult video game but refuse to let them watch 18 rated movies? I don’t believe that they can’t see the ratings as my mother was always very wary of what I could and couldn’t play and the age ratings have always been clear and concise on the box. She would check them and I don’t know if that is because my mother is some kind of genius or that she just takes an active interest in what I doing and being entertained by.

I worked in a GAME store for a few years and if there is one thing I have learned it is that the majority of parents have no idea about what they are buying for their children. Also that parents are more weary about violent content for their little girl than their little boy. I’ve sold GTA4 to boys as young as 10 because their parents were so insistent. I’ve explained the content, the age rating and why their boy shouldn’t be playing it. Yet I am always being told “it is just a video game”. Sure, it is just a video game, but you are the first people to complain when your kid starts effing and blinding and becoming aggressive.

It is fact that violent video games can contribute to making children violent. However, it isn’t just video games, it is violent media as a whole. If I sat and read books about murder and violence, I would probably be a pretty aggressive child too. The same with watching any of the torture porn movies like Saw over and over. If you watch a lot of violent media you do become desensitised to violence, we all have to accept this fact. It is exactly the same with how sex and nudity is now pretty open and accepted these days.

Not everyone is effected though. I still get dizzy after a paper cut and can’t watch needles go into arms. Which is weird seeing that I can watch the movie Audition, which is an asian horror flick where at one point a lady shoves needles into the guys body and cuts his feet off with cheese-wire. I have just learned about what is real and what is entertainment. I also enjoy cutting Locasts in half with a chainsaw in Gears of War but it doesn’t mean I am going to do the same to my next door neighbour. There is a real difference between a sweet head-shot in Call of Duty and actually pulling a trigger of a loaded gun which pointed at a person in real life. News just in, recoil is a bitch.

I can sit through all sorts of violent visual and interactive media but would never be able to cope with the real thing. As adults, we need to protect children from violent media and make sure the violent media we enjoy is rated and kept out of their hands. We are responsible. We can still enjoy this media but we have to make sure we are not exposing it to children.

Of course, gamers are straight onto the complaints desk. I am going to safely assume that 90% of the complaints being made are just as ignorant as the panellists on the show itself. I have little faith in the gaming public when it comes to this stuff. When we were all painfully watching Jack Thompson throw toys out of his pram, all us gamers did was send death threats to the lawyer. This pretty much confirmed his argument that all gamers are violent and made us look like a bunch of murderous idiots.

We also need to learn to defend ourselves in an adult manner. The average age of gamers is 33, so why are we not acting that way? The games industry also needs to defend itself. After the Mass Effect debate, All EA did was send a little old letter that didn’t really demand much of an apology from Fox News. No one is calling out the incorrect facts which are being broadcast. It is almost unsettling that games are often ignored but film is constantly being defended as it becomes marginally more violent of a medium than games will ever be.

What can we do? Until someone notable is willing to speak out then there isn’t much we can do. If you are going to complain then do it constructively. There is no point badmouthing the 2 other panellists as you’ll never get your point across. Be honest and only really bother if you are actually offended.  No point joining on the bandwagon. Me? Well, I’ve made this post and it’ll be interesting to see what people have to say about it. I doubt ITV will issue any apology and I am not sure what all the complaining will really do. One thing I am for sure of is that we need to work out a way to educate families on how video games are not the enemy and can be beneficial in the home if understood.

On a side note I wasn’t expecting this to hit over 1200 words. Sorry for the long read!

31 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 1:27 pm

    “It is fact that violent video games do make children violent” – it is? Link or it’s not been proven. Careful with that, Lozza. 😉

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to speculate that exposure to violent games could trigger that, though. There’s some evidence that it’s the case with film.

    • March 22, 2010 1:34 pm

      Read the sentence after. It is true that media makes children more aggressive. Violent acts around children the same. Most bullies have horrible home life etc. I think I am being fair to say that.

      • March 22, 2010 2:53 pm

        I’m really interested to know where I can read proof of this, though, if you’re stating it as fact. I’m not saying the suggestion seems unlikely. Just that I didn’t know it was even close to having been proven. I would be delighted to be proven wrong, though.

        God, I sounded really prickly, didn’t I? Sorry. Tend to get sucked into ANGRY MODE when debating.

      • March 22, 2010 7:37 pm

        Here is an article about it:

      • bigjonno permalink
        March 25, 2010 8:43 am

        There is a world of difference between “studies have shown” and “it’s a fact.” Interesting link, but it looks like they’ve looked at lots of studies that have concluded that violent videogames make kids violent and come to the same conclusion. That’d be fine, if those studies were good to begin with. Unfortunately, the vast majority of research into the effects of media violence are utter tosh; poorly researched, based on very flimsy evidence and biased from the start.

        Now I’m inclined to believe that violent media does have some effect on children. It’s somewhat foolish to suggest that something that you see and hear won’t. However I’ve yet to see any conclusive research on those effects and how severe they are.

  2. March 22, 2010 1:29 pm

    I was unfortunate enough to see that happening. To use a display of the industry’s creativity like the BAFTAs as an excuse to run through this same routine was more offensive to me than the shrieking woman. What really got my blood boiling though was when Ingham brought up the balanced and sensible Byron report and GOT BOOED FOR IT. Then it went a bit Ed Byrne stand up when he was asked if he had kids. If you don’t have kids you’re just not allowed a say in this debate it seems.

    I also like how the woman nicely adhered to the 3-point checklist for these lynchings. 1) Supposedly videogame related murder/shooting, 2) Videogame controversy like Hot Coffee and 3) Reference the American studies which are generally ignored even by the academic community due to their methods.

    The whole thing doesn’t affect anything though, the industry is now too large, too successful and too important to national economies to be truly threatened by stuff like this. Over time gamers will outnumber non-gamers by a large margin both in government and the public and it will just cease to be an issue. Nothing to do but wait really, the loudest shouters will never be convinced otherwise and the quieter ones will forget about the whole thing the next day.

  3. March 22, 2010 1:39 pm

    I present two historical facts the average gamer might not be aware of as they are generally too busy slapping their face into their keyboard and/or trying to get their mates to approve an article on N4G:

    1) In the 18th century, plenty of today’s most respected works of literature were considered fluff to occupy the minds of bored housewives whilst the intelligent man of the house would read books on history and whatever quack science was currently in fashion.

    2) In the 16th century, The Globe was generally regarded with less prestige than a venue down the road which dealt in bear-baiting.

  4. deftangel permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:40 pm

    “It is fact that violent video games do make children violent. However, it isn’t just video games, it is violent media as a whole.”

    There’s been an awful lot of research into media effects on violence. Some of it conclusive, some of it less so. Some of it rubbish and some of it valid. I’d venture that it’s not quite accurate to describe it as “fact” though, there’s too much research with contradictory conclusions to really say either way so definitively.

    Generally speaking mind, most people accept that exposing children to media which may not be suitable for them is not something to be taken lightly and not really the best idea.


    “I’ve sold GTA4 to boys as young as 10 because their parents were so insistent”

    That’s would have been a criminal offence had the Government not dropped the ball in 1984 and forgotten to register the relevant piece of law with the European Union. It definitely is now though, you almost law breaker you 🙂

    Parent’s insistence shouldn’t come in to it, it’s against the law and they should be told to do one and if they were giving you any grief, GAME management are supposed to back you up. If they buy it themselves specifically, it’s their choice though.

    • March 22, 2010 1:46 pm

      Actually no, it isn’t against the law. If I have a parent in front of me asking for the game I can’t deny the sale. I wish I could. I’ve wanted to. I wasn’t allowed to. Not only for the sake of my job but also because of consumer rights.

      I wish there WAS a law. There isn’t. It is only a recommendation. I can’t sell the game to a minor but if an adult is present with the minor and I take the money form the adult then it isn’t illegal. I made sure I only took money from adults and explained the content. Not much else you can do. Ask other employees of stores that sell games and they will tell you the same thing.

      I’d defo say that violent media can affect children. Children are a lot more susceptible to violence than us adults are. I’ve seen my sisters son become more aggressive after playing GTA4 (even though I’ve told his mother that he should not be playing it). There must be some fact in it or this wouldn’t be an issue.

      Also if violent media didn’t affect children then why do we have age ratings in the first place?

      • deftangel permalink
        March 22, 2010 1:58 pm

        Selling the game to a parent isn’t against the law, selling it to the 10 year old is. That’s what I said.

        I’m not saying it’s unreasonable to assume exposing kids to violent is less than a good idea (I’d be out of a job if I did!), just that evidence is currently inconclusive to say so definitively either way.

        The problem with most of these game debates is that one side will often pull out a study saying one thing that backs up their worldview, which is usually flawed. That’s if they bother, which Titmarsh clearly didn’t. It’s impossible to have a rational debate about it when it gets so polarised.

  5. Threetem permalink
    March 22, 2010 2:19 pm

    Titchmarsh: “…games such as Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare”

    /stop watching. If he can’t get even the bloody name right what sort of debate is it going to be?

    I second your comments about parents buying inappropriate games, was in a Game the other day behind a woman with a 10 year old, buying MW2. When the cashier pointed out it was an 18 she told him to “stop telling me how to raise my kids and mind yer own business”. All I could think about as the clapping, booing audience exposed themselves for the morons they were was how many of them had undoubtedly bought their children games that were inappropriate – the same games they were now complaining about.

  6. Kazz permalink
    March 22, 2010 2:48 pm

    Nice post lozzle! I’ll have to lend you the book ‘grand theft childhood’, it’s an interesting read 🙂

    • March 22, 2010 2:49 pm

      Do this please~

      • Kazz permalink
        March 22, 2010 2:52 pm

        Its interesting since it’s written by a husband and wife who have kids of their own. I’ll bring it with me next time I see you

  7. Marcel permalink
    March 22, 2010 3:32 pm

    “It is fact that violent video games do make children violent. However, it isn’t just video games, it is violent media as a whole.”

    Wow… even though i hesitate to deny it, i cant say its a fact too. studies about that topic contradict and my personal experience is different too.

    i was always a very peaceful kid, but liked violent video games. since i started playing violent video games pretty late (like when i was 14, not earlier) i can remember that i didnt notice any change of my behaviour or acceptance of reallife violence against animals and humans when i started playing those games. and i still hate violence in reallife, can barely kill a fly.

    on the other hand i knew kids from school that seem to be affected. but i dont know whether the videogame was the CAUSE or the bad home.

    its a highly complex topic.

    if simplified it might be safe to say “it has some influence, like any other media too”… but i guess its not that simple… but hell… maybe its better we see it that way, than banning all violence from computer games alltogether until were so used to it like we are in books and on tv.

    its definately smarter to see the whole entertainment thing and not just the videogames when talking about that stuff.

    true, true.

  8. March 22, 2010 4:07 pm

    “…a sexual relationship expert as well as a former editor of The Sun newspaper.”

    Sigh… Typical, eh?

    Good read.

  9. March 22, 2010 6:21 pm

    As a parent, the exposure to violence debate is a fluid one. I wouldn’t let my 6 year old play God of War 3 but we play Street Fighter 4 all the time. He is a wonderful normal boy who likes to pretend that he’s Superman or Wolverine in his play, and also likes High School Musical.

    I don’t think that video games should be blamed for violent behaviour anymore than violent stories/books/movie/news coverage are.

    Fear of video game violence is a fear as well as a misunderstanding of the technology as well as the culture of videogames. The impetus behind burning books throughout history is the same as the move to ban violent videogames now.

  10. NamelessTed permalink
    March 22, 2010 6:42 pm

    I could be alone on this. But, I don’t think it matters if there is evidence for or against whether or not violent video games can cause violent behavior in children from a legal standpoint. Yes, parents should not allow their kids to play games that they think is inappropriate. I am saying that it isn’t the governments job to decide.

    Movies and music and other media are generally protected under the First Amendment of freedom of speech in the US. Even with movies, the rating system is completely voluntary but everybody participates. If a movie theater decided to let a 12 year old into an R rated movie, they are well within their legal ability to do so. The parent is the person that should know where their kid is and what they are watching.

  11. March 22, 2010 7:47 pm

    Regarding video game ratings, I used to work at a video store, and parents would always try to tell us to let their kids rent movies of whatever rating as long as it wasn’t sexual. R for violence is fine, but for sex, no! Sigh… We refused.

    • March 23, 2010 12:10 am

      I buy all my games at XtraVision, which is usually a movie rental store much in the vein of Blockbuster and whatever else have you, and in all my years of buying games there I’ve never been asked for age verification buying them. I was 13 the week GTA3 came out, not so much as an eyelid batted at me. Yet 2 months ago – I’m now 20 – I go to buy Scarface on DVD, and I get asked for ID? Please…

  12. Shawn Bolander permalink
    March 22, 2010 8:30 pm

    As I commented on NegativeGamer, I do appreciate how quickly the host tried to shelve the idea of implied parental responsibility in terms of controlling what content their child ingests, which can effect each child differently.

    I vividly remember getting the gift of Mortal Kombat II when I was probably no older than 10 on Super Nintendo when it was released. The game is tame by today’s standards, at the time it was the most violent game in existence for home consoles. Did it effect me? Not in any way what so ever.

    There’s one for the news stories. “Child plays violent video game, eventually graduates from good college and gets a good job, and even marries. Film at 11.”

    I really think that if a child has a sense of right and wrong, a basic grasp of reality versus fiction, the impact of games on them is negligible. Not all kids are the same, and not all kids respond to the same stimuli the in the same way, so it falls to parents to be able to discern what is appropriate for their child. A pity that many seem asleep at the wheel.

    Are there bad parents? Yes. Would I welcome the further intrusion by the nanny state into my home because they can’t keep theirs in order? Goodness no. I can’t help but feel a law “protecting” people from violent video games is wrong, as is any form of state censorship, as long as the product is clearly labeled so that consumers are informed. Just like the system we currently have in the States and that you have with PEGI in the UK.

    Perhaps that comes from a very 18th century ideal I prescribe to that power rests ultimately with the people, and that the government had better have a pretty good reason for violating the sanctity and privacy of the people’s homes, not to mention what intellectual materials that enter it.

    Would I let my hypothetical kids play whatever Modern Warfare 2 equivalent that exists later? I would have to answer with a qualified “maybe.”

    If they knew the different between reality and fiction, an understanding of right and wrong, and weren’t otherwise showing violent tendencies? I’d let them give it a try if they were 10 or 12. Wouldn’t let them have a headset though for the sake of the other players though.

  13. March 23, 2010 12:19 am

    Us gamers generally wind up doing ourselves our own dis-service by sending out the hate mail after these guys that speak out against the hobby we love, that’s true. But there’s also another side of the coin to that too: if we’re that engrossed in our games, we’re too busy enjoying ourselves in the digital world to go out and start committing crimes in the real world.

    With Australia looking to lift the ban on Mature-rated games, and Switzerland now seeking to ban them there though, I guess this will just be one of those things that’ll always be up in the air. Who’d have thought – creators of the greatest pocket knives in the world, want to start banning violent games. Pot and kettle, anyone?

  14. March 23, 2010 12:41 am

    Great piece!

  15. March 23, 2010 1:05 am

    Ug… I saw that video. It was a complete set up. They had no intention of any sort of actual debate. It was the host, the other guests, and the crowd against one guy, constantly shouting down his arguments and interrupting him with claims and statements they never backed up. He even said they clearly set him up to be the bad guy… 😦

  16. Stephen VanB permalink
    March 23, 2010 3:11 am

    What a number of people forget is that adult video games are for adults. Just because its a video game doesn’t mean kids should play. People accept movies and cartoons in this way so what is so wrong here?
    People need to wake up because in 20 years or more when we are sitting in the holo deck in a recreation of some battle people are going to say the same thing again.

    Just like we are now with Video Games
    Just like we did for Movies
    Just like we did for TV
    Just like we did for Radio
    Just like we did for Books

    Anyone seeing a trend here?

    • Paul permalink
      March 23, 2010 9:24 am

      I play all kinds of games, but I don’t go around cutting off people’s heads like in Dragon Age, or shooting people in the head like in Call of Duty. And I don’t have a personal army like in Command & Conquer.

      I have morals and common sense. If you have had a good upbringing, then you won’t be a violent person. I play games to escape the real world, and they have little to no influence on my actions in the real world, as I understand that they are fantasy.

      Finally, Carol Ann Duffy’s Education for Leisure – knife crime? It’s WARNING us about knife crime, not PROMOTING it!!!

      • Paul permalink
        March 23, 2010 9:26 am

        In fact, it’s not even that – “It is a plea for education rather than violence.”

  17. March 23, 2010 10:59 am

    It certainly seems to have been a lynching rather than a balanced discussion.

    If they started as ‘uninformed’ individuals, with pre-set frames of mind then the show clearly merits no recognition as an unbiased platform for what should have been an interesting debate.

    Ratings exist to protect consumers from content which can be potentially damaging. In most cases, 18 year olds have reached the peak of their cognative development and are less likely to be directly influenced by ‘scenes of a graphic nature’. If parents are going to abuse the ratings guidelines, then that’s their choice; much in the same way that some parents allow their children to drink/smoke/have sex before they are legally old enough to do so. It doesn’t make it right, but there isn’t a lot that can be done to avoid this short of an ‘orwellian’ control on home lives.

    It’s simply easier for people to attack a growing industry of artists and developers.

    It’s lazy.

    Sure, why not. Lets ban videogames. I’m sure there’ll be a public outcry when our entertainment industry dies and there’s no money coming in to the country. At least it’ll populate content to fill daytime TV slots and give gardeners something to bitch about.


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