Experienced Points: Violent Videogames are Awesome

By Shamus Posted Tuesday May 14, 2013

Filed under: Column 224 comments

This week I jump in on the whole violence in videogames debate. My position probably isn’t terribly novel or shocking among gamers, and picking on Katie Couric is really going after low-hanging fruit, but I’ve never really tackled the subject before and now is as good a time as any to wade in.

It’s sad that the debate has gone on so long. It’s also sad how so much of it is driven by the baby boomer generation, since they were the targets of moral panic more than any generation that came before. Rock & Roll, free love, weed, their openness towards minorities, their rejection of the nuclear family… they did a lot of things differently from their parents, and we were promised that all of it was going to lead to one horrible scenario or another. The boomers scoffed at all of it, did their own thing, and the world didn’t end. And now videogames come along and the baby boomers sound an awful lot like their parents. This new thing is unknown to me and I fear it despite all evidence of it being benign.

Is this going on elsewhere? I really only hear about videogame violence in the United States and Bundesrepublik Deutschland. (With the latter having most of the really strange censorship stories.) But we can’t be the only two countries getting hysterical over it. I’m curious how the debate is playing out in the rest of the world.


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224 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Violent Videogames are Awesome

  1. wheals says:

    “He’s been gaming for years and he’s killed very few people.”

    Do you think we’re stupid, Shamus? You aren’t fooling us! We’ll find those bodies!

    On a more serious note, I noticed a worrying trend among those opposed to all the gun control ideas happening in the past few months (this isn’t a place to discuss that, though) to look for a solution. Instant answer: Videogame violence.

    That’s probably true of everybody. They want others to know they’re Doing Something, even if it has no chance of actually working or mattering.

    1. Hal says:

      It’s pretty standard deflection. If you had siblings and cookies went missing, you told Mom and Dad you saw them in the cookie jar. You’ll even say this with a mouthful of cookies. So I’m not surprised that when moral panics start looking for scapegoats, the scapegoats start pointing fingers.

    2. Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

      There was a mistake in Boston 12 years ago…

      1. I think Shamus’ article series on that is actually a plea for help to any available time travelers.

  2. Zagzag says:

    But if people accepted that videogames aren’t responsible then what would they blame for the current problem of the day?

    1. Mephane says:

      They’d just find something else. In essence, it is the same old scapegoat-blaming that has been ongoing throughout history. The psychology is not very different from medieval witch hunting.

    2. Syal says:

      Sugary food.

      1. ACman says:


        1. Terran says:

          Those Gypsys are poisoning the wells!!!!

          1. Felblood says:

            Aliens, and/or the G-Men covering up the aliens.

  3. mdqp says:

    Tomorrow’s headline:
    Gamer admits videogame cause violence and that cheese fries cause anorexia.

    Also, nose piercings may or may not cause brain cancer.

    Here is Tom with the weather.

    1. rayen says:

      Breaking news. turns out scientist got some papers mixed up. in a completely unexpected turn of events it turn out violent video games cause cheese fries and anorexia causes violence.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Are you sure it’s not video games causing anorexia and cheese fries causing violence? I’ve been known to get too lazy to cook when I get wrapped up in a game, and I likes me some cheese fries…

        1. Felblood says:

          I’m pretty sure I’ve seen kids fight over the last of the cheese fries, at least once before.


  4. Anster says:

    Well, there are TV programs and news reports that demonize videogame violence at times in Ukraine and Russia, but nobody really cares about them that much

    The thing is, only the minority of the generation of people who grew up in USSR really thinks that here. The same people who say that rock music comes from the bowels of hell and give insightful commentary on politics. I traveled a bit and can say that every nation has loads of dinosaurs who hate new ideas. The thing is, some of them grew up on ideas that were new to the generation before them, and it goes full circle like that all the time.
    And videogames are a whole new media that threatens, say, television networks quite a bit. So planting seeds of hate is great for them, because they get to slow down their eventual need for changes

    I just went deep there for no reason
    I’ll rephrase that
    People are just aholes and need to blame things for other things, so that they don’t have to work on actual solutions

    1. Nevermind says:

      Do you remember the butthurt the “No Russian” scandal caused here? I’d say that Russians are at more or less the same hysteria level about videogame violence as Americans; it’s just that we have many things that are even more stupid and/or maddening to worry about.

      1. 4th DImension says:

        Well that one level was bad. It’s like making a game where player has to facilitate terrorist slamming a airplane into a New York tower.

  5. mdqp says:

    As for the debate in Italy, I can tell you there is virtually no debate at all. A few sensationalist journalists and tv anchorman try to bring it up, from time to time (usually by parroting US media in a really poor fashion) but the majority of people happily ignore them.

    I guess this also has to do with differences in the gun legislations, and the relatively rare “boy kills people like in a videogame” scenario. I mean, it’s really hard to sound believable, when stuff like that almost never happen around here.

    1. False Prophet says:

      This brings up a good point. I feel video game violence is frequently condemned by the American media or activists, because the US has frequent spree-killings by largely young white middle-class men, and they are looking for (charitably) an explanation/motive or (uncharitably) a scapegoat. And old media have a long history of using new media as scapegoats.

      Here in Canada, spree-killings are an aberration (IIRC, there have only been two in the last 30 years), and most murders are either gang/drug-related, or domestic violence. I suspect it’s similar in most of the developed world, hence the lack of moral panic over video games. I’m not sure why Germany and Australia seem to be the exceptions–maybe someone better informed can shed some light. Meanwhile, cyberbullying over social media is alleged to be a factor in the recent suicides of a few Canadian teenagers, so there is a hue and cry over that.

      1. Deoxy says:

        the US has frequent spree-killings by largely young white middle-class men

        You’d never know it from the media (but then, when does that NOT apply?!?), but mass-killings have been declining for YEARS. They aren’t new, at all.

        In fact, the worst school mass-killing in US history was done before WWII. With a homemade bomb.

        Oh, and while males are vastly over-represented in mass-killings (there’s been like 1 female in my lifetime?), WHITE males are not. In fact, they are UNDER-represented – that is, they commit mass-murder less often than their percentage of the population would suggest.

        Whites and hispanics are underrepresented, blacks and asians overrepresented.


        Yeah, actual stats – strange, eh?

        1. Trix2000 says:

          But why would you ever look at the big picture??? I mean, you can get REALLY ANGRY about those BAD PEOPLE who shot other people!!!

          …More seriously, it always makes me sad how much people are ready to point fingers and hate at people/things rather than giving their thoughts towards the victims. It strikes me as an odd form of attempted vengeance – people want to see the shooters/whatever suffer for what they did.

          But is that any better than what they did themselves? I’m not saying to let them off – they really shouldn’t be allowed in normal society given the seriousness of what they’ve done – but I think there are more productive and meaningful things to do than wishing death on anyone, even if they ‘deserve’ it.

          Apologies if I got a little unrelated there…

        2. DaveMc says:

          “White males … are underrepresented”. Well … but just barely, right? I see 42 of the 62 shootings with a race listed as “white”, which is 67.7% compared to 72% white in the U.S. 2010 census (sayeth Wikipedia). That doesn’t seem like all that significant a deviation.

          But I see your point: if it seems like most shootings are by white folks, it’s probably just because most people in the U.S. are white.

      2. Kingmob says:

        Germany still suffers a little from their Hitler complex. I live in Germany as a foreigner and to me it is obvious in all the little things. Germans are actually a lot more liberal than I expected, but their reaction to any violence is absurdly politically correct. In such an environment it gets very easy for a few people to cause a scare that eventually leads to censorship.

        It makes for an interesting dissonance where you have huge naked women on billboards, but virtual people bleeding candy ;)

  6. Klay F. says:

    You mentioned it in your article, but I just wanted to add a little something.

    Videogame violence is, above EVERYTHING else, designed to be cathartic. From the squelching sounds of stabbing a Nazi, to ridiculously quite gunshots, on to gouts of tomato sauce that manage to avoid staining anything, to the slow motion reward for good accuracy. Its all been painstakingly designed to be as kinesthetically (drink!) pleasing as possible.

    As both a witness and perpetrator of real life violence (went deer hunting once…never again.) I can say with confidence that real violence is traumatic, not cathartic.

    Thinking about it, I think there is a market for a horror game that aimed to make violence the seriously traumatic thing it is. As far as I’m aware nobody has really managed yet. It would probably require a complete re-do of traditional game design as we know it, as even in the most scary of survival horror games, all the scariness and unease is focused towards a survival aspect. So in order to be effective, it would need to ditch the survival part and just focus on the horror.

    1. There’s a difference between an empty niche and a market. Would anyone want that?

      1. Klay F. says:

        Well It obviously wouldn’t be a triple A game. And also pretty obviously, it would have to be relatively short since it would most likely be building to a single moment. I don’t know if anyone else would want it. I suspect that they would though. I mean, people like survival horror games. It doesn’t really make any rational sense for people to WANT those games, yet I, and many others do. Its just that the survival portion of a survival horror game is much easier to turn into game mechanics than the actual horror portion.

    2. harborpirate says:

      I’m going to agree with you and throw a collection of randomly connected thoughts out there in vague support of your assertion.

      Shooting a real gun is a very different experience than a video game. Loud enough to make your ears ring, concussive force you can feel in your chest, and a kick that reminds me a bit of catching a medicine ball or 20 lb bag of dog food. Force feedback and the extended “booooom” you get in video games are nothing like the shock of just how sudden and loud a gun is when you’re firing it.

      Shooting at something with the intent to kill is a totally different experience than playing a video game; and I’ve only shot birds. I can’t imagine what it would be like to shoot a human, and don’t want to.

      I wonder, how many people comparing video game violence to real violence have actually done both? At least for me personally, I have found very little in common between hunting and playing FPS games, so it is hard to imagine someone with the same experience equating them directly.

  7. Francis-Olivier says:

    Around here in Quebec the biggest crime people accuse games or electronic media of comiting is leading to an addiction. So I guess we’ve got it good enough.

    1. wererogue says:

      Oh, come on now, that’s not fair. They also accuse them of “wasting taxpayer money”, or conversely being “good for our economy”.

  8. This actually makes me curious. The debate’s been around since at least the mid 90’s when I read the first actual thought-provoking article by an editor of Next Generation (the US branch of Edge magazine) and it makes me wonder: has anything ever come of it?

    I’ve been big on games for quite a goodly long while and to my knowledge, the closest we ever got to this talk ever having long lasting tangible effects on the industry was when it was up in the air as to whether vidgames were protected under the constitution. Well…they are, which makes any talk on the matter now pretty much completely irrelevant right?

    I’ve heard this back ‘n forth for over a decade and by this point I can’t help but feel a little like Michael Madsen from Reservoir Dogs: “Are you going to bark all day little doggy, or are you going to bite?”

  9. swenson says:

    I’m not from Australia, but it’s got to be a problem there, right? Or at least I always hear about the lack of an R18 rating being an issue. Although that finally got passed, didn’t it?

    The thing about violent videogames = violence argument for me is, I am a very meek person. I am not confrontational. I hate violence and anger and even arguing in real life, and the idea of physically injuring somebody else (or getting into a fight) is horrible to me. Yet I love videogames, even fairly gory ones. So like Shamus says, videogame violence is clearly separate from real-world violence. It’s just such a blatantly unfounded argument, I don’t understand how people can still believe it.

    Now the addiction side of videogames, that there might be some evidence for, the same as there’s evidence for Internet addictions. But that’s a totally different thing and has nothing (well, very little) to do with violence.

    1. Hal says:

      Isn’t Yahtzee always going on about weird regulation/censorship in Australia due to video game panic?

      (It might not be related, but I recall an effort on the part of some Australian politicians to ban pornography with small-breasted actresses because they could be confused for/passed off as underage. That country seems like it has a decent handle on moral panics.)

      1. ACman says:

        No, The Attorney General of South Australia Michael Atkinson finally retired and ended his one man opposition blocking any commonsense reform. It’s great to know that any change to the ratings system in this country requires the unanimous support from all 9 Attorneys-General.

        The pornography thing is just one of a list of prudish restrictions on pornographic material that are again made laughably irrelevant by the internet. Images of sex or naked people over the age of 18 are not illegal but if the could be misconstrued as under the age of 18 then they cannot be classified and thus cannot be disseminated. But then – Internet.

        AT least until we end up with a Communications Minister dumb enough that he can be convinced that he can filter the thing without seriously damaging it’s usefulness.

    2. Psithief says:

      The lack of the R18 rating for video games was much more to do with government inertia (all state governments had to sign up) than with anything else. One or two old white men held the issue from being resolved for decades.

    3. Blake says:

      I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and here I haven’t really seen any video game violence stuff (closest we got were a few religious types complaining about us trying to bring in the R rating, which got through anyway).

      I would imagine it’s because we don’t really have a whole violence moral panic thing going on. In the 80’s and 90’s it was a problem, we had like 16 mass killings (4 or more deaths) in 18 years, peaking with the Port Arthur massacre in 1994 with 35 dead and 21 wounded, at which point we brought in tough gun control laws and haven’t had a single one since.

      Hard to go all moral panic when people stopped dying post Doom.

      Instead we get ‘social media leads to suicide’ and ‘refugees are all illegal boat people that are coming to ruin our society’ and somehow “Australia’s economy is all busted up and we’re going to all be living in poverty” even though we’re like one of the strongest economies in the world with a AAA credit rating, low public debt, low unemployment, etc.

      1. ACman says:

        Don’t forget the “All night service of alcohol with no all night public transport leads to violence” panic.

        Oh wait… That one actually makes sense.

    4. Trithne says:

      We have a major political party that is steadily regressing into the 1300s. And several minor ones. Sadly, that party is heavily favoured by our mass media (which is 70% owned by one man).

      The whole videogame thing gets trotted out on occasion, but we just don’t have the number of violent killings the US does, so it’s not our hot-button issue to gripe about. Now, if you could correlate videogames with refugees arriving on our shores, you’d have a moral panic.

      (To Hal: We really don’t have a handle on our moral panics, we just have different ones.)

      1. ehlijen says:

        A successful anti gun campaign about a decade and a half ago has left Australia fairly indifferent about videogame violence. There was resistance to the 18+ rating, but of much bigger concern was the desire to stop internet porn spreading pedophilia into all the people’s brains.

        Violence was a concern, but a secondary one. Like in the US and contrary to Germany, you’re less likely to get away with showing a boob or butt (especially blue ones) than with a decapitation (compare the Starship troopers cuts screened on TV in each nation to see the difference).

        Now that, hopefully, the internet censorship plans are off the table here in Australia and 18+ games can try and see how they sell, we’ll have to wait and see for a bit to see how public opinion changes, if at all.

        1. Clearly Australia needs a tough anti boob and butt campaign so they can loosen up about nudity. As soon as we stop having mass murders with actual boobs and butts, people will stop getting so upset about having them in movies and games.

      2. Hal says:

        Oh, I think I didn’t say what I meant properly. Perhaps it would be better phrased like this:

        “When the Aussies do a moral panic, they sure do it right.”

    5. ACman says:

      We’ve got an R+18 rating now. So I can now legally buy Mortal Kombat and L4D2.

      Not that that stopped anybody because, y’know, internet.

      1. Felblood says:

        Well, more of them might actually be buying it now, as opposed to hitting up The Bay, so I guess there is some potential for good news, at least until we get some solid statistics to dash my optimism.

  10. Vegedus says:

    In Denmark… I seem to recall there was like an article once, somewhere, where someone had an opinion about violent video games. But there’s never been a shit storm.

    There’s a good deal of focus on the health issues, the whole spending the most of your day sitting, staring at a screen deal, but it’s still more of an “let’s do something about it!” than a controversy.

    1. urs says:

      Coming from Germany, I experienced quite a change in that regard, yes. Was rather perplexed to zap into an uncut Hostel during early primetime.
      Also, something like Left 4 Dead: getting it uncut* is possible and legal in Germany, but you have to ask for it, it’s under the counter (if the shop in question bothers selling a product that cannot be advertised) – here, the city was plastered with L4D2 ads…

      *examplary censorship measurement: the version sitting in the shelves is 18+, has no exploding limbs or heads (I can live with that. No need for gore-stuffed paperbags like in L4D2), but also the zombies, when killed, fade away immediately. Green blood on the Xbox version

      1. Scampi says:

        Have to add my 2 cents to that: this will soon not be possible anymore-the more games require online activation, the less uncut versions will be available, since Steam’s new policy for recent titles will only grant access to the “normal” version available in the country (at least, that’s what I read). Consequently, there will be no possibility of activating an “uncut” edition, even if it’s an imported version of a game, since the license is delivered to a german customer, who is only supposed to receive games that satisfy german law and censorship demands.
        So…Urs: keep your eyes open in the future, since your precious “uncut” versions might not be really uncut for much longer(at least the new titles).

        1. Mephane says:

          If they really do that, they will just drive more people to piracy.

        2. urs says:

          just to clarify: I live in Denmark, so for all Steam knows, apart from my .de email, is that I am a danish citizen, with a danish billing address and a danish IP, so this policy doesn’t really affect me anymore (I hope, haven’t made any purchases I can remember where censorship could have been an issue).

          Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but it’s also not “precious”, it’s just that – using the previous example – dispatching a horde of 50 zombies and leaving behind a floor that you could eat off is just a huge break of immersion aka: stupid ;)

          1. Scampi says:

            No need to tell me…a guy who just pimped up his FO3 and his once again replayed copies of Dark Messiah with uncut patches because he doesn’t like sterile battlefields;)

            And btw: glad you avoid the system…glad for you:)

            1. urs says:

              Hehe, sounds very familiar, escpecially Fallout3. Quite, uh, something when you install a bloodpatch for, well, Blood and find out that your .22 calibre actually rips off heads :)

      2. Corpital says:

        You know, I always wondered…that RTL coverage of the GamesCom, where they said all gamers were stinky, filthy barbarians was August 2011. It caused a huge backlash and Doom 1 got off the index at the end of the very same month.

        And, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I haven’t seen anybody bashing videogames as bad as before that fateful event.

        As for uncut new games…don’t see very big chances there. While the censoring is often a lot less stupid than in the days of yore, playing games through Steam more or less forces you to use the version fitted for your region.

    2. Mathias says:

      As a fellow Dane, I second that there hasn’t really been much of a fuss about violent vidya games here. In fact, most mainstream news publications (even the ones who cater to an older generation) are quite happy to have games people writing for their online print, even indie game devs or “art game” people, so those are the people who tend to get picked up whenever videogames are discussed in any great detail in the media, which is quite rare, still.

      1. Greetz says:

        Dane here too, just wanting to kick in my two cents.
        The typical Dane opinion is “meh”. It’s really up to the individual to determine, whether or not they can handle the game. There’s not really any restrictions in place, to keep you from playing any game you want. Censorship is non existent. Some games aren’t imported (a lot actually), but non of them have extensive visual or game play segments removed.
        But games aren’t being taken completely serious either. There’s really only one or two shows dedicated to games (and a small segment on the “Good morning” show). And most of them focus on whether or not the game is fun, not how the story plays out, or what the characters are likable.

        1. Mathias says:

          That’s true, I may have been a bit hyperbolic in my statement. I don’t run into much televised games discussion, but in print media I actually find that games are quite popular.

  11. While the media (and some politicians) here in the US like to blather on about the effects of video game violence on children, what almost NO ONE discusses is how children (and young adults) TREAT EACH OTHER while playing video games.

    I’m specifically referring to online voice interaction in games like Halo or Call of Duty. In real life there are social rules dictating how we interact with each other. Sure, those rules are frequently broken, but at least the rules exist and there can be consequences for breaking them.

    But parents often completely ignore their child’s behavior while playing video games. Since there’s no supervision and no consequences for bad behavior, you frequently get verbal abuse, bullying, and worse.

    In my opinion, the player’s abusive behavior towards each other is FAR MORE PROBLEMATIC than the violence they’re seeing on the screen.

    1. monkeyboy says:

      Agree, although I would point the finger at online, anonymous interaction in general rather than at games in particular. (See almost any other forum). It does make one wonder if interacting with a stranger by shooting them changes your perception.

      1. swenson says:

        Shooting them only for them to respawn shortly thereafter, don’t forget. Multiplayer shooters are kind of strange in that the violence is entirely temporary. It’s more like a giant game of tag than anything else–if you get tagged 150 times, say, you’re out and have to go sit in your base for five seconds before you can play again. And some people’s tagging devices can tag you 50 times at once or whatever. It’s the same concept.

      2. Trix2000 says:

        GIFT comes to mind here…

    2. Shamus says:

      That is a really good point.

      I was just in another window writing about a situation where a vile rageboy spent years spewing bile and irrational nonsense at people. He was a pro player, who was good enough to make a living at it, and he apparently has a dedicated fanbase of people who love “his style” – meaning his needlessly hate-filled arrogance and profanity.

      Pro sports has a bit of this. There are a few top-level athletes who get away with public jackassery and contempt for the fans, but they’re usually the exception. In the gaming realm, there’s an attitude that “This is just how it is. OF COURSE people call you a faggot and threaten to rape you. That’s how it is. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be playing the game.”

      Like you said, this is a much more serious problem than what’s being shown onscreen.

      1. Mathias says:

        I’m guessing you’re talking about the whole “Idra” debacle? Since you mentioned you’d been watching a lot of Starcraft 2 lately.

      2. Klay F. says:

        The issue of professionals acting…well, unprofessional is prevalent, but its also in the process of being addressed. Just recently in the Starcraft 2 circuit, Idra, one of the best Zerg players in North America was fired by his team for his extremely unprofessional conduct. Sometimes its not so simple because some players have followings precisely because of their unprofessional behavior, but I think that will change as pro gaming matures.

        As a matter of fact, I think crappy behavior is LESS prevalent in pro gaming than it is in actual professional sports like football or basketball.

        Part of the problem, I think, is that nobody looks at these people as role models, whereas tons of people look to traditional sports stars as such. (Whether they are deserving of being put on a pedestal or not is another question for another time. That is the simple reality, and the people who don’t like it will just have to deal with it.) I also think that this will change with time as the scene matures. Its just that online gaming has a stigma to overcome that traditional sport never had to deal with. I still think the day is coming when kids will grow up wanting to be the next SlayerS_`BoxeR`, just as much as some other kid wants to be a football star.

        EDIT: It apparently totally escaped my thought process that Shamus very likely already knew about the whole Idra situation given that he was recently following SC2.

        I will say that I don’t think the majority of pro gamers act like Idra. We only hear about people like him because he makes more noise, and many teams figured out a while ago that “drama sells.”

        1. Shamus says:

          Heh. Yep. Idra was exactly the guy I was writing about. I’d never heard of the guy until he got fired and Day[9] and Husky mentioned him. At that point I looked him up, and… ugh. Horrible.

          The role model point is an interesting one. It’s begun. Husky has cited Jaedong (hope I spelled that right) as one of his childhood heroes. Probably in another ten years that will be more common. It’ll be interesting to see how that works. It will also be strange to see forty year old pro gamers.

          1. Mathias says:

            The question is whether they’ll still be able to perform at their current level when they’re forty. Reaction time, as far as I know (though keep in mind I am far, far from a biologist) probably slows down with age. Like with any professional sport, I don’t think that they’ll be able to keep it up forever. Most people who practice professional sports of any kind don’t tend to last very long, though I’m told by my brother (a real sports geek) that this is mostly due to cumulative injury. I guess we’ll see.

            The Starcraft 2 scene in general is quite interesting, as is this whole e-sports concept, and I’m interested in seeing how it’ll go from here. While Starcraft 2 is a fantastic showcase for professional play, I wonder what other genres would be possible to branch into in the future. Right now, most esports center, at least from my limited perspective, around three game types: You’ve got the FPS, you’ve got the RTS, and then you’ve got the MOBA. I’m curious to see if there are any other genres that can be made into an entertaining viewer experience without making it any less challenging for the actual players.

            EDIT: My spelling. Good grief, this is what I get for staying up until 23:30 on a school day.

            1. Klay F. says:

              One possible solution to this is to just create a separate league for the pros over a certain age, like how golf has a seniors tour. I’m not sure how successful it would be at present, since pro gaming is already fractured beyond belief. But as time goes on and the masses start developing favorites, following your favorite players throughout their careers will be a matter of course. Heck, following a particular player through different teams and leagues is already pretty easy, especially since the leagues don’t show any sign of consolidating any time soon.

              As for different genres, there are already pro fighting game players. One genre I think could make a comeback with competitive play is the combat flight sim, both in space and in an atmosphere.

            2. Bubble181 says:

              RTS -> Fast-paced chess
              FPS -> fighting
              MOBA -> not really a genre, more a general name for lots of similar stuff :p

              ANyway, there’s only so many different things you can do competetively. Anything story-related doesn’t stand a chance.
              Sports games could work, but they’re not interesting enough to look at – the real thing is usually more interesting. Racing has the same problem, up to a point. I can see both of those becoming more pro in time, though.

              Also, you didn’t mention the arcade fighters. Very big competitively – Mortal Kombat, Tekken, whatever.

            3. Galad says:

              Also, in 20 years’ time there would probably be at least two more Star Craft games, and I’m guessing professional e-athletes would have to be good at them too to stay competitive..

          2. John the Savage says:

            The interesting question is whether or not forty year old pro gamers will be common. With a game like Starcraft, which requires intense mental dexterity and concentration, I suspect it will be a young man’s world.

            1. Humanoid says:

              I’d expect performance enhancing drug use to help with longevity a bit.

              Would it be so absurd to entertain the notion of official dope testing in pro gaming? After all, drug cheating is a big thing in sports such as chess and darts.

              1. Felblood says:

                That is an interesting idea.

                I’m trying to image a world where pro gamers are regulated in their consumption of caffeine, and it’s a struggle to wrap my brain around.

                You would have to start by limiting dosages, and then work on lowering the limit until it ceases to be a significant issue, or you’ve achieved a full ban.

      3. Deadpool says:

        To be fair, pro sports has more than “a bit” of this… It is reprehensible, but somehow being good at a sport (or music, or acting) seems to be enough to offset a douchebag attitude…

        I feel this is less a game problem and more a societal problem.

        1. Shamus says:

          I was thinking of comments like this:

          you’re all a bunch of fucks
          it just so happens i get paid to treat you like it. it’s fucking awesome.

          That’s not the worst thing he’s said, either. That’s pretty much a normal day for him. I can’t think of a Pro Athlete that behaves that badly. I’m sure there are a few, but that level of open aggression and contempt towards fans is pretty outrageous.

          1. Baytor says:

            While you’re probably aware of this he did a pretty open interview about this whole situation where he explains his behavior and puts it in some perspective.
            Still not a really defendable perspective but it gives some context that might be missing as this particular comment is being used in almost every article about this mess.

            1. Deadpool says:

              Watching that… He really doesn’t get why he was fired, does he?

              I mean, he makes a big, and quite realistic, speech referring to his post about how personality drives the scene. That people watch for good personality more often than for good skill, pointing out how his stream gets WAY more views than players that are better and more accomplished than he.

              Then proceeds to refer to the people who come to his stream to watch his rage (his personality) and are only interested in the drama (again, his personality) as “fucks” and should “leave” and everything that is wrong with esports…


          2. Deadpool says:

            Yeah, but that got him fired.

            Considering the amount of wife beatings, rape, molesting, drug abuse, etc out of sports athletes and I’d say esports is at LEAST a little bit better in that regard.

            I am no excusing Greg by ANY means. He DESERVES to be fired…

            Just saying, physical Sports aren’t any better in this regard…

            1. harborpirate says:

              Yeah, I suspect that the ratio of douchebags is pretty similar.

              Assuming otherwise is just the imposition of a perceived class system. Whichever group one does not personally identify with is being classified as an Other (and therefore worse).

              In addition, outsized media coverage of negative events ensures Confirmation Bias is in full effect to reinforce whatever perception one holds.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But thats not really the problem of the interaction itself.I know quite a few people that turned out bad simply because they were left to learn on their own when they were kids,before video games were a huge thing in my country.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        That something can happen in multiple ways doesn’t make it less of a problem.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Im not saying that the problem doesnt exist,Im saying that the source of the problem is not in the place,but how kids are allowed to act in that place.Good parenting involves observing and guiding your child whether they are playing a video game,football with friends,reading a book,swimming in a pool,riding on a bus,….

          Also,not all bad parenting comes from bad parents.Sometimes the parents are simply unable to be good(they are swamped with low paying jobs,or are ill,or are dead,etc).

          1. Zukhramm says:

            Sure, but parents are not omnipresent. What environments we create matters, and keeping behavior on a game server should be no different from moderating a forum of blog comment thread, yet it’s much more rarely done.

            1. ehlijen says:

              True, they are not omnipresent, but there are concerns that a possibly increasing tendency to leave them alone with a TV or computer as a substitute for parenting is doing exactly this kind of damage.

              They are physically safe in front of the TV/computer, or at least as safe as they’ll be anywhere. That is one major parental concern addressed (making sure your kids don’t die). If the parent now subconsciously equates that reduction in need to pay attention to that specific concern with a freedom to scale back parenting accross the board, that can leave kids without needed guidance.

              Finding that guidance online is hard. Without a physical presence, the consequences of actions there are too removed and abstract for a child to easily grasp the relationship.

              I’m not saying that all kids that play online will turn out mean or that the above is correct without a doubt, just that concerns of such potential tendencies sound valid to me. I’m not a parent; feel free to disagree if you have reason to.

              But yes, if those concerns are true, the culprit isn’t TV or computers in and of themselves.

              1. Zukhramm says:

                Parents are irrelevant to this really. “It should be the parents’ responsibility” is not an excuse for allowing any kind of behavior on our game servers.

                1. swenson says:

                  And even if it *is* the parents’ responsibility, it still shouldn’t be excused on servers.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Why should the web be more policed than the streets?The beach?The club?Hotel,wedding,school,church,…..?

                  There are rules of conduct in all of those places,but enforcement of those rules comes mostly from within.And it wouldnt come from within if we had free reign in those places when we were growing up.

                  1. Zukhramm says:

                    I haven’t said it should be.

                3. Felblood says:

                  Enforcing common decency is everyone’s responsibility.

                  That said, it would be great if there were more tools, for all of us to work together, to bring a kid who has started down a bad road back into line.

                  Imagine a world where a server admin can forward audio-logs to a foulmouthed kid’s parent, in addition to the regular kicks and bans.

                  Yeah, ideally a parent should know what there kid is up to online, but any tool that helps them do that, is good.

                  I think this would be a very rude wake-up call for a lot of parents out there, who don’t know what their 8th Graders are really learning when they go hang out at the neighbor kid’s house.

    4. Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

      I hear about this all the time. So much so that for years I avoided playing games on Xbox Live on the grounds that I didn’t feel the need to be yelled at by illiterate 6th graders.

      Then, in order to play with a friend, I got on Xbox live, and we did a couple Call of Duty matches. And then I started playing random matches with bunches of peoples.

      You know what the most common sound over my headset is? Silence.

      More than half of the players don’t even have microphones plugged in. The half that do, don’t use them. And when they do use them, it’s usually friends -and the result is either a private conversation that the rest of us can’t hear, or a very annoying private conversation in the main channel so that all of us can hear it.

      What I don’t hear is the screech-fest n00b-calling everyone warned me about.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well that also depends a lot on what region you are playing in.In tf2 I usually get a lot of silence.Unless there are russians around,then theres chatter everywhere.

        1. swenson says:

          Public servers in TF2 never have anybody on the mic. Servers with a usual crowd can be more talkative, but it’s rare that anyone actually gets annoying on a mic in TF2. It’s rather nice.

      2. Trix2000 says:

        I’d chalk it up to vocal minority, and how a single bad experience like that can really color perceptions.

        Reminds me of the recent LoL toxic player study actually – how everyone seems to think that the average is bad, yet for individual players its very rare for them to do something like that (excluding the actual toxic ones of course).

      3. Eruanno says:

        This has been my experience as well. I’d say that the things I experience are:

        75% of the time: Silence. Nobody has a headset plugged in or they are using private chat.
        10% of the time: Some friends having a chat openly. Usually quite calmly, sometimes a few “oh fucks” over getting killed a lot during the match.
        10% of the time: Some jerk who is pumping loud music through his unmuted headset or who is talking out loud to himself.
        5% of the time: What I assume is this one spanish family that follows me around whenever I play Assassin’s Creed 3 multiplayer with a Kinect plugged in and unmuted while their entire family is cooking dinner and talking really loudly in the background.

  12. Raygereio says:

    Is this going on elsewhere?

    I think it’s safe to say this sort of thing happens everywhere in varying levels of volume. Over here in the Netherlands violent videogames aren’t really a thing, but every now and then it gets brought up by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about.

    Also, can we start revoking the internet privileges of anyone who thinks Twitter is an apropriate format for debates?

    1. Aldowyn says:

      ‘Also, can we start revoking the internet privileges of anyone who thinks Twitter is an apropriate format for debates?’

      Well, I guess I’ll lose those privileges then, I do that all the time…

      More on-topic: Yeah, you’re probably right. It’s just here you see people that kind of have significant influence talking about this kind of thing.

  13. Knut says:

    In Norway, exept for a vocal minority, the outcry against computer games has mostly been that children stay inside too much and don’t get enough exercise etc. But most articles point the finger at the parents, saying they should be stricter about limiting the amount of playing time. I think everyone agrees that children can stand to be outside more, so it’s not really controversial.

    Also, as someone who has spend time in the both the armed forces (yes, we have conscription) and hunting, I can tell you that firing a gun in a videogame is VERY different experience than in real life. In reality, even being in the same area is much more stressfull than shoting lot’s of dudes in the average computer game.

    1. Ronixis says:

      That’s not true. I strongly disagree with this notion that “being outside more” is a good idea.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Being inside is not much of a problem, but what is a problem is that they don’t interact with their peers and build social bindings and hone such skills. Also while it’s nice to have loads of internet friends, when you need help local “real” friends are more useful since when you need to shovel a truck full of manure a friend that can bring a shovel and help is much more useful than one that can commiserate with you over facebook.

      2. Knut says:

        Yes, you are right, that was inaccurate of me. What I meant was that the normal complaint in the Norwegian media about games is not violence, but that kids don’t get enough social interaction, and that kids spend too much time sitting down. And when somebody complains about this, they usually say something along the line of “the kids need to get out more”.

        Whether they actually go out or have their social interaction inside is not the main point I think.

        1. Atarlost says:

          Interaction between children is overrated. I’m pretty sure bullying causes more violence than videogames, TV, film, books, and stage plays combined. Well, okay, maybe not books. Mein Kampf and Mao’s little ed book have caused an awful lot of death.

          1. Zukhramm says:

            I’d put those deaths on the authors rather than the books.

            1. Phantos says:

              What about all of those nutjobs who killed people(or tried) because they thought Catcher In The Rye told them to? Must we blame J.D. Salinger for the psychosis of a few members of his audience?

              (Granted, there’s a difference between Salinger and Hitler, but I think I’ve made my point. Do we hold acts of entertainment accountable for crimes they “inspired”, or do we not act like Fox News?)

              1. Alderin says:

                Don’t forget about all the deaths caused by (insert title of sacred religious text). Most people read and come away with a sense of purpose and a decent moral foundation, and some go all zealous and kill people. Sometimes the zealot has political power, and war happens.

      3. Moridin says:

        Better than spending all day sitting on your ass and playing videogames alone.

    2. False Prophet says:

      Was there any backlash in the wake of the Breivik shootings? I remember the North American media making note of his claim in his manifesto how he played WoW and CoD, but how much of a factor was it in Norwegian coverage?

      We had a brief stink over violent video games in the Canadian media after our last major spree-shooting, but it faded away soon after the shooting itself faded from the news cycle. I was just wondering if anything similar happened in Norway.

      1. Knut says:

        There was some, but not very much. It was certanly reported that he was a gamer, but the media here have reporters that are familiar with gaming, and know that playing WoW should not be considered any form of “murder simulator” or anything like that. Many media also noted that given the popularity of gaming, it would be stranger if he had never played computer games. And his own statements about “building himself up by playing computer games” was not taken very seriously. Most other potential inspiration sources (like extreme-right message boards) got a lot more attention actually. All in all, I think his gaming background was treated more like a curiosity (for example, some media had interviews with his old guildmates from WoW)

    3. We’ve been pretty lucky in Norway so far. Then again thee is really no censorship on TV either, so when Game of Thrones airs on the national staterun TV channel here, foreigners swapping channels may be catch some titties or slong if unaware.

      There was the bomb + shooting incident, some stores took a game off the shelves out of respect for the victims, while another store thought it was silly to do that as it was up to the consumers as to what they buy.

      It’s like the old GTA San Andreas hot coffee incident. Pretty much everyone here pointed the finger at the grandmother buying a Mature/18+ game for her 13 year old grandchild.

      So gamingwise Norway isn’t that screwed up, we’re pretty screwed up in other ways but not in gaming yet. Games/Movies/Animation/Theatre/Radio/Books/Music, it’s pretty liberal here in that respect.
      Reality TV shows or Music that are “bleeped” sounds just weird to us, we never bleep our own stuff so the bleeped American stuff make the US seem kind of wimpy. *laughs*

      Most of Scandinavia and the Nordic countries are like that I suspect. (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands)
      You know, the lands of the Vikings.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        Then again, you did ban Life of Brian.

        1. Greetz says:

          Ah yes, i remember dragging a chair and a TV-set up to the coast of Sjà¦lland. I would then taunt the Norwegians, with the brilliant comedy that is Monty Python’s Life of Brian, long into the night.
          Take that Norway, Score one for the Danes!

          (I kid, you know we love you)

          1. Mathias says:

            Pssht, we all know Sjà¦lland isn’t a part of Denmark, it’s just a particularly big suburb of Sweden.

            Yours truly, someone who lives in Jylland <3

            1. krellen says:

              I say with absolute sincerity that I love seeing the regional bickering of other parts of the world. I really really do.

              1. Mathias says:

                For more bickering and light ribbing at Danish/Norwegian/Swedish stereotypes, Scandinavia and the World</a> exists.

                1. swenson says:

                  I love that comic, and I’m not even remotely Scandinavian.

        2. I had to look that up since I was not ware of that, it looks like it was banned for one year. which might explain why I was unaware of it.
          Not a long time but still, not a proud moment in history exactly, it was a funny film.

          1. Magistrate says:

            Well, it did allow us here in Sweden the amazing marketing campaign “So funny the Norwegians banned it”, so there’s that :D

        3. Knut says:

          Yes, a shameful spot on our free speech record

  14. Hydralysk says:

    I haven’t really seen much violent videogame talk here in Montreal, or really from anywhere in Canada. It happens occasionally, but it never goes very far, certainly nothing close to that California bill awhile back.

  15. Jonathan M says:

    You brought up a point in your article:
    2. Violent videogames are less violent (or disturbing) than other mediums.

    I’ve seen this statement made before, and I wonder if it requires further examination. Often times we gamers state that videogames are a unique medium from film and literature because of it’s interactivity. True, I agree, that forms of violence depicted in film are far more graphic than those depicted in many games, but film is a passive medium. We are witnesses to the violence on screen as captured and presented by the filmmakers. In videogames we are invited to participate in the on screen violence.

    We frequently, and correctly, praise videogames because they allow for a greater emotional investment on the part of the player because it is interactive, and we choose to affect change in the game world. What does this say then, when we choose to pull the trigger? Or execute the enemy? Or massacre the crowd?

    I’m not sure if I’ve seen this discussed anywhere before and I’m curious if this is something worth exploring in more depth.

    1. swenson says:

      I just finished a communications class, and for my final speech I talked about art in videogames and why they matter. This was one of my major points, actually–that the immersive nature of videogames makes their themes matter so much more than any other medium, because we are participating in and driving the action, not merely observing from afar.

      That all being said, there is still a very big difference between videogame violence and real world violence, as both Shamus and people here (and people elsewhere) have said repeatedly. I have never been so into a videogame that I’ve forgotten I’m holding a keyboard and mouse rather than a gun, any more than I’ve ever gotten so into a book I’ve forgotten I’m holding a stack of paper and cardboard, or so into a movie I’ve forgotten I’m watching colored lights moving on a screen. It’s more immersive, but there is still a definite realization that it’s not real. If a person does not have that realization, that is a very concerning thing and probably is a sign of mental illness.

      1. RCN says:

        Nice going.

        I’m writing my course’s thesis, on literary theory, and my theme is game narrative. From time to time it feels I’m going way over my head, but when in doubt, I can always spring the term “ludonarrative dissonance” to sound smart (Thanks Chris).

    2. Raygereio says:

      I'm not sure if I've seen this discussed anywhere before and I'm curious if this is something worth exploring in more depth.

      I’ve similar points brought up about pen&paper roleplaying games: “What does this say then, when we choose to execute the orc?”

      Thing is – just like roleplaying games, videogames aren’t real. No matter how immersed you are in the game, on some level there is still an awareness that it’s all pretend (as long as you don’t have certain mental disorders where the line between reality and not-reality becomes less clear).
      The interactivity of the videogame medium can allow for neat storytelling that can be thought provoking and has the potential to have more of an impact then a more passive medium.
      But it’s still just pretend.

      And to repeat swenson even more:
      Pulling a trigger and shooting someone in a videogame is nothing like doing the same thing in real life. The former means you press a button and watch pixels do things on your screen. The second means you’re aiming a tool designed to kill at another living being and when you pull that trigger you’re conciously preforming an action that has the intent to cause harm, even death.
      They’re are two completely different experiences.

      1. Syal says:

        Not to mention firing a gun carries the very real chance that the gun will fly backward and break your face, or slice your hand open because you’re holding it all wrong.

        Also they’re heavy, and one thing videogames do NOT encourage is the lifting and maneuvering of heavy things.

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    I liked Shamus’ article, and found the points apt and informative. A kind of “common sense” refresher on why this whole discussion is silly.

    However, in defense of Katie Couric, she’s just doing her job well. People don’t watch the news in order to hear balanced logical views that informs real decisions about real issues in their life. TV news is entertainment first and foremost, and that of the sensationalized horror variety much akin to disaster films. That we are taking “news criticism” seriously and getting worked up about it doesn’t say so much about video games, but about the insecurity (well founded or not) of the “gaming community” in general. If you want to do something well, you have to not read the papers. Those guys will say anything. If you don’t like what the news has to say, stop paying attention to them. If no one paid attention, they would go out of business.

    Which comes back to the topic at hand. Anster brought up an interesting point when he indicated that the existing media empires are threatened by the “videogame” medium. The more perceptive of them probably see that thy’ll be out of business if this goes unchecked, and are hoping for a legislative monopoly on entertainment based largely on sensationalized violence.

    In the end Couric sold the story, which is what she gets paid for. Demonizing the competition was, I suspect, a happy side effect.

    1. Ardis Meade says:

      That’s not really a defense. If it’s your job to do something bad that doesn’t excuse you from doing it. If anything it makes it worse for choosing to do that job. Hence “I was just following orders” is never a defense. If your highly cynical view of news is correct (and I don’t feel it is) than that just makes her a horrible person for working in that field.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        “I was following orders” is a perfectly legal defense – even going so far as having been the defense at the Nurnberg trials of quite a few. It was accepted in some cases, rejected in others – depending on whether or not the the person in question went “beyond the call of duty” or tried to minimize human suffering. That following orders – even morally questionable ones – is often your only choice is a fact. One can discuss how, where, and when, of course.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with the news even in my view. It’s entertainment. If a huge number of people enjoy it, who am I to judge that it’s wrong. Especially since it’s not doing any direct harm to anyone. “News anchors are disaster film actors” is a long ways from “news anchors are terrible people.”

        1. Eldiran says:

          You know that’s not how it’s framed. News sources intend to appear as purveyors of 100% fact.

          And it is directly harming people. There are so many important issues and events being obscured and blatant lies being sold by mainstream news it’s absurd. The sad thing is there are still many, many people who treat it as an actual source of information.

          Being a news anchor isn’t inherently evil, but a lot of them either are evil themselves or happen to work for evil bosses.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Well, as you might have gathered, I don’t watch the news (Except for the Schmoyoho renditions, those guys produce top notch entertainment!) so I’m not familiar with the framing. But it’s not at all surprising. Entertainment is more gripping when you feel like it could happen to you. The best disaster movies are plausible and presented as “this could really happen.” The best horror films deal with every-day settings and situations. Of course the news is presented as unvarnished fact.

            Thousands of people were too terrified to swim in the ocean after watching “Jaws”, even years later. But no one was forced to watch the film, so it’s not like the producers were terrorists, or even bad people. They made it convincing, that’s their job. No one has to watch the news either.

            1. Eldiran says:

              You’re entirely correct, except in the attitude that the producers of false/misleading news are not to be blamed.

              Similarly, I can’t sell (or even give out for free) a harmful and defective product and then claim innocence because “no one had to buy it!”

              (Jaws may have had a harmful effect on sharks but it was acknowledged to be a work of fiction. That’s more like selling a perfectly functional product and then having the customer stick it up his nose.)

        2. Steve C says:

          News is news. Entertainment is entertainment. There *is* something intrinsically wrong when entertainment becomes news. It destroys the fifth estate which is necessary for a society to function properly.

          1. Ciennas says:

            Oh… wow.

            Let’s be careful assigning moral values to strangers. Especially people who are in one way or the other connected to mass media.

            People in large groups are a strange, fascinating and terrifying beast. Groupthink is a legitimate branch of study, and it has to do with our original role as pack hunters with a strong social system.

            (And illogical to the point of absurdity tribalism, not that that instinct doesn’t constantly impede our progress as a species.)

            Anyway, following orders is a totally legit defense, as the alternative is clearly ‘be replaced by some other person who WILL read the copy as prepared by the people who sign your check.’

            Calling a person evil for wanting to eat is like calling those pythons in the everglades evil because they were transplanted by careless doofuses and outcompete every single organism in the glades: They really are a problem, but it’s not in their control to fix it.

            If you want to fix the problem, you should make an effort to make the news companies responsible for lying and propaganding. Make sure that the line of responsibility is clearly on the head of the guy who authorized the story, and make them personally and fiscally responsible for being a panic inspiring numbskull.

            (Good luck getting through the lawyer clouds with that.)

            I would advise you to be very careful about judging news people, Eldiran. Unless you watched them all kick a puppy or something.

            Madness lay in judging people as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ based on so little.

            1. Steve C says:

              I’m unsure who you are replying to Ciennas which makes it a bit harder to interpret your points. If I understand you correctly, I’m going to disagree but not go farther than that as it’s starting to get political.

              And yup krellen, meant 4th, not 5th.

            2. Eldiran says:

              Ciennas, you’re absolutely right. I was being pretty glib in my post. I don’t want to judge anyone as either good or evil, even if I do see them kick a puppy. It’s not my place to do so. I am however very ready to call out certain actions (like puppy-kicking) as being evil.

              So I definitely stated my point incorrectly. I should have said “A lot of them either are doing evil themselves or happen to work for bosses making them do evil.”

          2. krellen says:

            Fourth Estate.

            (The other three are antiquated, referring to the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, or modern, referring to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The Fifth Estate is sometimes used to describe things that are none of those NOR the press.)

            1. Although there is actually a TV news show in Canada called “The Fifth Estate”, the gimmick implicitly being that TV is a separate thing, the printed press being the fourth and TV the fifth. So it’s not unprecedented usage.
              It’s a pretty good show, does in depth reporting on typically one or two stories which they often have investigated pretty thoroughly and sometimes are breaking. At times it’s like a very topical documentary and a major scoop at the same time.

                1. swenson says:

                  Our home and native land…

                  (I know a lot of Canadians, okay? I swear I’m still totally American! I can sing the whole national anthem–well, the first verse at least!)

              1. Steve C says:

                Funny you should mention that program. They did a segment on video game violence. It was the worst segment they had ever done. It was so bad it made me reconsider the show has a whole. It made me question what else had they have butchered but I had not realized. I stopped trusting that entire show as a news source because of this very topic.

                1. Paul Spooner says:

                  Yeah, I’ve been to a few events and then read about them later in the papers (or seen a show about them on TV). The difference between the event itself and the presentation is stunning. Of course, they may be reporting really well on things I don’t have first-hand information about, but if everything I can corroborate comes out so wrong it begins to look like one big fabrication. It only needs to happen a few times to loose all faith in the accuracy of “the News” as a whole. Maybe my personal experiences have unfairly poisoned me against “News”, but I hear very few first-hand observers agreeing heartily with the presentation that they receive. I’m glad to hear others have had similar revelatory experiences.

          3. Alderin says:

            I think the intrinsic error would be when “news” becomes entertainment. Entertainment by it’s nature is ‘news’, it has to be new and exiting. News should not be entertainment, it should be FACT, and on top of that, it SHOULD be BALANCED fact.

            Of course, I’m dreaming on that last point, but I’m an optimist.

  17. X2-Eliah says:

    I don’t really know about violent games producing killers and so on (well, I kinda do – it’s bs, imo), but for what it’s worth, I really dislike how every time the ‘violence in games’ debate falls into the two camps of “violence is awesome, stop picking on it you ninny/soccer mom” and “Won’t someone think of the mentally unstable murderous children!?!?!”.


    I’m just plain sick and tired of violence in videogames because it is so common, so meaningless, so emotionally immaterial, and so needlessly over-the-top and force-fed into every modern game. No, I don’t care what in your view the themes of Bioshock Infinite were, or that it is meant to be morally good to kill that city’s inhabitants because they were evil or something. What-freaking-ever. I am sick of seeing red jelly explosions, ketchup fountains, aerodynamically proficient gibs and giblets, and decapitations and other methods of maiming as common practice in normal videogame mechanics. There’s no point to it, it doesn’t achieve anything beyond filling my screen with extraneous visual effects, and it doesn’t contribute to anything whatsoever.

    In fact.
    You know how grey colourless corridors are/were the ‘big bad’ of videogames that was present in everything a few years ago?
    Well over-the-top gore is exactly the same thing, now. And I say, stop putting that rubbish in games!

    Anyway. Sorry about the impromptu rant. It was just a reaction to the headline.

    1. Ronixis says:

      I actually agree with this. I’m not really interested in seeing that kind of stuff (I turn off ‘persistent gore’ in Dragon Age, for example). It also really irritates me when contrasted with other ‘mature-rated’ material. In both DA games, I can see all of these people horribly dismembered, but everyone has to keep their underwear on for sex; if anything, I think that’s horribly backwards.

    2. swenson says:

      Yeah, I’m fine with having gore and random violence toned down in videogames. I’m even fine with encouraging videogame developers to have more of a reason to murder everyone in our paths than “their skin is a funny color and they were rude to your grandmother once”. Where I draw the line is when people start saying to get rid of *all* violence or that this silly gore is somehow the ultimate evil.

      I guess I could restate this more succinctly as: blaming videogame gore for society’s ills is silly, but I still don’t have to love it.

      Also, mowing down eight million orcs is not a replacement for actually engaging gameplay and story.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        Unless those Orcs Must Die? :P

        1. swenson says:

          Touche. :)

      2. swimon says:

        I agree completely. Context is key though, there are ways to make games that uses gore and violence in meaningful ways (hotline:Miami for example) but that is very rare.

  18. 4th Dimension says:

    Over here on the Balkans, Montenegro to be more precise the video games aren’t a thing, they are not a “cultural phenomenon” enough to garner attention (not when there are all those tasty cases of political corruption to talk about), so media aren’t harping on about them. They do say a thing or two from time to time usually by basically copy/pasting some article from the west, but that feels simply as filling up space on a slow day.

    On the other hand video games are “that children thing” in minds of many and couple that with kids not knowing english so they play to “shoot dudes in the face” . .

  19. Thomas says:

    Things are a little better in the UK I think, there’s some politicians who are very openly gamers and there’s never been much of a hint of actual legislation against it. Our tabloids are absolute trash though and are happy to pick up on a violent videogame story and advertise GTA the next day.

    Luckily because our tabloid media is so much worse than anyone elses it feels easy to ignore. And censorship and ratings work a lot differently in the UK so there isn’t actually much more anyone could propose to single out videogames

    1. wererogue says:

      I was going to post about UK politicians periodically using violent video games as a ratings booster, but you said almost all of it already!

    2. Harry says:

      As far as I can tell there’s only really one UK MP, Keith Vaz, who routinely calls out video games for violence. By contrast some other MPs, like Tom Watson, are self-proclaimed gamers. For most UK politicians it’s a complete non-issue.

      When it comes to the tabloids, there are literally no depths they won’t sink to, so of course video games occasionally come in the line of fire. Usually wedged between a picture of a topless woman and a column about how a celebrity looks fat.

  20. StashAugustine says:

    What I’d like to see is somebody point out that violent videogames are seriously the parent’s fault. Anecdotally (because no one has any real evidence) M-rated games are hard to get if you’re under 17 unless your parents buy it. I know fifth-graders who regularly play CoD, it’s just ridiculous.

    1. swenson says:

      You think that’s bad? My sister’s a second-grade teacher and some of her seven- and eight-year-old kids play CoD and Halo. It’s just… what is wrong with their parents? Stuff like that has a much bigger influence on kids’ minds than teenagers and adults. That’s the real concern about videogames, I think.

      1. Alan says:

        I’m always hesitant to criticize a parent’s decisions unless the offense is egregious or I know the situation quite well. Maybe the parents in question decided their children are mature enough. Maybe they decided that the harm isn’t actually significant, especially given the lack of research to support such a hypothesis. Maybe they decided that open communication and discussions about the content on the games the kids are playing are a better solution than creating tempting forbidden fruit. Maybe the parents did forbid the games and take reasonable measures to block access, but the children have successfully gotten access they shouldn’t have had. Maybe the children are lying about what they’re doing to look cool.* And maybe they’re just crappy parents. But that young children are reported to be playing violent video games doesn’t, in and of itself, worry me in the slightest.

        * Ah, junior high, where apparently the overwhelming majority of the the boys in my grade apparently had gotten to third base. At the time I felt a little inadequate. Today, I find myself a little skeptical that my Catholic school was a hothouse of heavy petting.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Yeah, its important to realize that most children are clever little shits (I keed, I keed!) and that telling them they can’t have/do something will only make them want it more. When I was younger my parents were pretty vigilant about making sure I didn’t have access the inappropriate games that existed at the time, but I usually found ways to go behind their backs and play them anyways. But the knowledge that I was directly disobeying my parents led me to be extra careful. No way in hell would I endanger myself and potentially reveal my disobedience by acting like an asshole online.

          1. StashAugustine says:

            Yeah, probably shouldn’t have said “parent’s fault,” but the point is that kids playing violent games isn’t the devs’ fault.

      2. Khizan says:

        What’s so wrong with playing Halo, unless they’re playing it online and unmonitored? And even then, the problem is not that they are playing Halo, it’s that they’re 7 or 8 and unmonitored on the internet.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I really,really wish that Ive searched what show it was,but I once saw a piece on tv that had followed a bunch of preschoolers that played m-games for fun,and it had no bad influence at them.

      But,I still had personal experience with something similar:
      I had a preschooler in my house,gleefully killing people left and right in saints row 3*,yet she still was concerned about me when she saw I was unwell.Kids can understand the difference between fake and real,despite our fears that they cant.

      *Her parents allow her to play such games at home,so I didnt go against their wishes,before anyone jumps on me for that.

    3. Klay F. says:

      Just last year, while I was in the hospital, one of my nurse’s heard me mention that I like games. She goes to ask me what kind of games she should get for her 10 year old son. I ask her what kind of games he likes. She responds that one game he has been pestering her for a full month the buy for him was “some military shooting game. I can’t remember the name.” Of course my first thought was, are you seriously buying your son Call of Duty games? So I had to give her an impromptu lesson on videogame ratings, and I made her write it all down. She didn’t even know that game ratings existed, much less what they were for.

      Bottom line, videogame ratings are useless unless we make an actual effort to inform people. Most people, lazy parents especially, will not make an effort to learn unless you pin them down and force feed them knowledge.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        I wouldn’t go so far to call them useless, since not everyone is quite that oblivious about them. I’ll agree they probably don’t do all that much in the end, because they really are more of a warning/disclaimer than anything. Up to people to make the effort to follow/use it, and some people just don’t bother.

  21. McGurker says:

    Shamus, you MUST know that Australia has had it worse than us forever! They *cannot sell M rated games* in the entire country. M!

    The interesting thing about that is that the murder rate didn’t drop until they banned assault weapons. I don’t have the numbers, but there was an amazing colbert segment where he went to an anti assault weapons ban congressman who said, essentially “a ban has never been effective anywhere in the world” and then it cuts to Colbert talking to the PM of Australia, and he says “So, why did you even bother banning assault weapons if everyone knows that doesn’t work?” to which he replies “Well…it did work. It worked so well you don’t even KNOW!”

    The moral being that as far as I know, violent vidya games are still banned there despite the fact that THAT ban did nothing, while another ban worked. Crazy country.

    1. krellen says:

      It was John Oliver on the Daily Show, actually.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        It was glorious seeing that guy talk about “other planets”.

    2. Jirin says:

      Actually, we can sell M rated games. We didn’t have an R rating for a long time (meaning anything which should be 18+ was instead refused classification, effectively banning it), but we do now.

    3. Amarsir says:

      Wait, so a guy said a thing and then another guy said the opposite thing? Slam-dunk proof, surely.

      Not that I would ever doubt the integrity of news-by-comic, but Time Magazine concluded the opposite:


    4. Trithne says:

      Yeah, going to add to the throng of ‘We can and always have sold M and MA+ rated games.’

      The issue was that there was *NO* R rating for games in the system, so if a game would be rated higher than MA, it had to rated RC (Refused Classification) and RC content cannot be sold in a storefront. We got the R rating added after much hoohah and now I can walk into an EB and buy it.

      1. Humanoid says:

        It’s been so long since I walked into a retail games store that I didn’t even know that R18+ rating thing was a thing yet. Just goes to show I guess that despite the ongoing debates and whatnot, it’s actually something that’s had nil real effect on what I can and can’t do.

        Not looked up the numbers yet, but I imagine the number of such titles affected by the new rules will probably number in the single digits annually. I admit it’s a bit of a selfish perspective though, the type of game affected is typically as far away from my tastes as can be.

    5. The Nick says:

      The big drop was in spree killings, not in violence. There are still some areas you don’t walk at during night time in Australia.

      And it’s not like Australia is a third world country with violence in the streets. It’s relatively safe compared to other countries.

      1. Ciennas says:

        As I understand Australia, there are places you don’t walk at night because the wildlife can get you.

        Australia’s wildlife is like a mario brothers level- one touch and dead.

        Or so I’ve heard

  22. jarppi says:

    We have a culture that admires power. Violence is just a one form of it, and as it happens, it is also the most spectacular form of it. That’s why it is no wonder we have so much violence in our entertainment. Yes, violence in video games is interactive, but can you really claim that, for example, fights in ice hocey games would have any less effect on people’s behavior?

    I think video games get the status of a scapegoat just for being the newest form of media / the latest “thing of the kids”. A good example of that is a phone call between my mother and grandmother I happened to hear. It was after those school scootings a few years back, here in Finland. My grandmother was absolytely certain it was caused by the rock music. My mother, being young when the rock music came here, was absolutely certain it was fault of video games. Neither one of them has any understanding on the media they blamed. Funny thing is, that neither one of them thinks guns as a bad thing to have. They neither have any problem with the fact that almost all of the young men will be taught to fight effectively with firearms. (We have universal conscription to mens.) As Knut said, it is a very different thing to handle guns in video games conpared to real life.

    1. Atarlost says:

      If it were guns it wouldn’t matter. The right or obligation to possess armaments has always been the division between slave and freeman in the western world. Pretty much everywhere except for some odd nominally enslaved warrior castes in the moslem world in fact.

      If freedom causes violence bring on the violence. People get crushed by falling buildings from time to time, but we don’t ban architecture. People dieing in earthquakes is a price we as a society are entirely willing to pay for not living in single story structures with neither electricity nor natural gas and we should be just as willing to accept a little mortality to preserve the freedom of armaments that ended the repressive feudal order and made modern democracy possible.

      1. jarppi says:

        Just to clarify a bit: I’m not against the right to have guns at home. If you look at the statistics on gun related crimes / violence, you see that most of the guns are illegal. So blaming guns / trying to make them more difficult to get has no use. It works like DRM, it makes things more difficult only to those who have honest purposes.

        What I ment by saying “Funny thing is, that neither one of them thinks guns as a bad thing to have…” was that I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind their thoughts. Shooting in a video game = bad, shooting in real life = good?* Ok, we do shoot humans in games, but then again, what is the difference when we are being taught to be effective with guns in military??

        *Btw. Shooting in real life is fun. It is also difficult but when you learn it, it becomes almost like a reflex. If you have a chance, try it. But be careful with it.

  23. RandomPhysicist says:

    One difference between violence in video games and violence in other forms of media is the sheer amount of time dedicated to it in video games. In a game like Mass Effect (which I wouldn’t characterize as a particularly violent game), I’m guessing at least 80% of the time playing the game is in combat. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie that was 80% fight scenes.

    1. jarppi says:

      It is because players need something to do. Conversations, as intersting as they can be, often become dull if they stretch too long. Making a game like The Walking Dead that works around that problem is often either extremely difficult or straight impossibility. Heck, sometimes shooting stuff is the game. Half Life series, for example, is a lot of about shooting stuff in an interesting setting. You feel like you are explorating the world, a thing you really can’t accomplish in entertainment outside video games. Anyway, I kind of agree with you. Some games would have been better with less shooting (Alan Wake, krhm…).

      Btw. Have you seen the Campster’s video on Errant Signal about this topic? It gives some explonation why video games are so much about violence.

      1. Scampi says:

        Well-players might do other things instead of violence. No, I’m not against violence in games, but I don’t like the idea that violence is the go-to solution to stretch a game from let’s say 3h of content to 30h of gameplay. The problem there is: it’s an easily repeatable mechanic that doesn’t require too much work beyond inserting adversary. When I played Soul Reaver for the 1st time, I enjoyed the riddle and puzzle parts. The combat appeared to me as somewhat annoying chores I had to go through to advance to the imho creative and intriguing boss fights. I grew up with graphic adventures where there was no violence and lots of gameplay was serious thinking about how to continue.
        I love to kick some evil butt in any game, but it seems to keep pushing out other parts of gameplay, what’s pretty annoying to me.

      2. swenson says:

        HL2 and the episodes do break up the shooting with puzzles and exploration, but yeah, there’s still a weirdly high amount of it if you think about it… I never really have before.

        But I agree that players have to have something to do. And when it comes down to it, combat is one of the simplest ways to simulate a real-world activity. How do you make conversation interesting? How do you put in puzzles without it being purely a puzzle game? Combat is much easier to explain from an in-game perspective (you’re a good guy fighting for freedom!) than puzzles are. Or at least I’ve never had to solve the Tower of Hanoi six times to get into work, Bioware.

        1. Scampi says:

          I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s too much of a problem to have puzzles. The problem is, there has to be someone who comes up with them, and that’s some serious creative work to do for someone-that guy/group would have to come up with riddles (possibly of the lyrical variation, to make it more demanding on the side of the creator), mechanical riddles, switch puzzles, find item x puzzles to continue etc. It takes mechanics to make them work and to enable the player to solve them in a way that doesn’t feel too artificially, they need to be inserted into the game world’s general feeling-that’s some awful lot of work to be put there, but it’s the kind of work I really appreciate way more than some fancy combat dynamics. Combat is pretty much the easy part. The enjoyment to me begins, where a game makes me think how to solve a given problem. This might also be how to defeat an overwhelmingly powerful foe by outmaneuvering and outsmarting him etc. There has been a time when a friend used to tell me “the bosses are switch puzzles” to get me to give a game a try.

  24. postinternetsyndrome says:

    Here in good old decadent Sweden there was a bit of hubbubb about this sort of stuff a couple of years ago and an attempt was made to ban Postal 2 (and no one cried). Recently though, I haven’t seen much of it. It has been pointed out that children spend a lot of time sitting still and such, which I agree could become a problem, though not convinced it is yet.

    Mostly, we seem to be warming to the gaming medium quite a bit, with lots of attention on Notch and other success stories. We even get to watch StarCraft 2 on national public service television sometimes!

    In general, I don’t think violence in games is a problem, but I welcome attempts to model conflict in different ways, if nothing else but for the variation. Warren Spector says a couple of reasonable words on the topic in this well-timed RPS article: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/05/14/warren-spector-on-life-after-mickey-going-no-weapons/

    1. Zukhramm says:


      Couldn’t find a subtitled version. In short: Reporter checks out expo. Concludes there are only teenage boys and war games there. Claims MW3 (which hadn’t been released at the time) has sold a 100 million copies. Asks a 12 kid what violent games does to the brain, yielding a pretty dumb answer because the kid’s 12 and doesn’t actually know the inner workings of the humans brain. Later on this answer is presented as a reasonable argument against games.

      1. swimon says:

        Really surprised by that clip since svt isn’t usually that sensationalized.

        But yes there are definitely a lot of people in sweden who are wary of games leading to violence, addiction or unhealthy life-styles (which is silly there’s nothing healthier than sitting on your ass looking at a monitor all day ^^). That said the conversation is often quite different than the american one.

        First of all while some people question the effect of games on our children very few question it’s protection under the freedom of speech. As postinternetsyndrome mentions there was a campaign to ban Postal 2 but it was more or less thrown out of court. I don’t know if the US has anything like it but the case got a “case disliked” verdict which makes it harder to try similar cases (I think, I’m not a lawyer). As such no one thinks that the conversation will lead to a ban on violent games.

        Secondly that clip is sort of an anomaly, swedish news is usually much, much less sensationalized than american news (from what I’ve seen but I admit a selection bias here since I’ve seen a lot of american news clips specifically because they were sensationalized and stupid). It usually frames the conversation more as “is this something we should do something about? Let’s discuss” rather than “this issue is killing your children in their sleep, PANIC NOW!!!”.

        Thirdly, swedish games aren’t as violent as american ones. As the swedish indie game scene became a thing it also became a thing more people talked about. As games like minecraft started to take up space in the conversation I think it became clear to a lot of people that games were not only super violent power fantasies and the discussion mellowed quite a bit. I think this is in part because, except for starbreeze, the vast majority of swedish games are indie games which are usually if not less violent at least less gory. They’re also usually easier to defend in an artistic sense. Also tastes have differed, not a lot but considering how popular the sims were over here (it was big in the US too but not to the same extent) it again reinforced the idea that there was more to games than just violence.

        I think all of these things combined to create a situation that was less hostile than the american one. The moral panic is still there definitely but it never controlled the larger conversation to the same degree.

        EDIT: cleaned up some really odd sentence structures, my apologies to anyone who read the original draft :P

        1. postinternetsyndrome says:

          Well written, but I don’t agree with the “swedish games are less violent” part. It’s true that minecraft has come to the foreground in recent years, but magicka for example is a complete gorefest (in a hilarious way), and even before the indie stuff started to explode there was several well established mainstream developers like DICE (battlefield), Massive (ground control) and others.

          I’d say swedish games are not very different from other western games, except for paradox maybe. Thought they are of exceedingly high quality of course. :P

    2. Corpital says:

      Sorry for my terrible and unrelated comment, but…

      “It has been pointed out that children spend a lot of time sitting still and such, which I agree could become a problem, though not convinced it is yet.”

      Children sitting still for a long time? You mean school? I remember being told to shut up and sit still back then.

      1. postinternetsyndrome says:

        Well, in school we had mandatory breaks every hour where we had to go outside. Which you should have when gaming too of course, and parents should probably make sure it actually happens.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    When hearing something like this,I have started to mirror John Stuart’s “bored of explaining it to dumb people,so fuck it” stance.

  26. Kuma says:

    Hi everyone, in Spain we had some problems with Mortal Kombat for SNES / Megadrive (Genesis?). I don’t remember the details, but I think both games came out censored and there was a false rumor to unlock the gore in one of the two. Apart from that, Metal Gear Solid was a couple of days in the news (due to use of Diazepan) and nothing else since then.

    1. Khizan says:

      I dunno about Spain, but in America the blood code for the Sega version of MK1 was A B A C A B B.

  27. Mephane says:

    I am living in that infamous “Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (seriously, just say Germany, even no one here says that outside of official political statements and the like), and videogame censorship is really, really atrocious, and inconsistent here. The problem is not that there is a state agency responsible for rating games into age categories. The problem is, what can happen here not just to games, but movies and books, too:

    a) So-called “Indizierung”. Basically, games that are too extreme in certain regards, like graphic violence, depiction of the Nazi regime (even when your task is to kick their asses), they are put on a list, the “Index”, aching to the Index of forbidden books in the Vatican. Games in this categorie may not receive any advertising, not even displayed in shops. To buy them you have to ask whether the shop has them and you have personally prove your age.

    b) Some games are considered so bad by the agency, that they can get “beschlagnahmt”. These items are completely illegal to trade, and (I am not exactly sure on the legal side) possibly even possess. This, however, is a really rare case, but it has happened in the past.

    c) Publisher are often, for fear of their products ending up on the Index, or simply afraid of too high an age rating and thus potentially losing parts of their market. It is them who do the censorship in advance, hoping to achieve lower age ratings or escape the Index by removing anything from blood effects to entire game mechanics*. This often leads to the absurd situation where a game is censored in hopes for a lower rating, but rated 18 anyway.

    Obviously, there are now websites dedicated to comparing original and censored version of games and other media, which have to be consulted regularly in order to know which game only to buy via import retailers. Quite often even an uncensored German version is produced for Austria and Swiss, and those can simply be ordered from many internet shops.

    You can imagine that because of all these things, I consider region-locking and region-specific versions the second-worst thing to DRM.

    P.S.: What’s funny is when decades later, a movie, game etc. is usually re-evaluated and more often than not removed from the Index. You wouldn’t believe what kind of tame stuff once ago was considered so “harmful” that its mere existence should not be advertised. We are talking about stuff like video game violence that shows much less than World of Warcraft, which in Germany is rated 12.

    *Saints Row 3 has been crippled to the extent that even the entire “human shield” mechanic got removed. As a side-effect the German version is also incompatible with any player-made mods.

    1. bigben1985 says:

      Hey, fellow german. I don’t care much for censoring games to achieve a suitable rating… actually, let me rephrase. I DO care, cause it sucks and is really unnecessary. But I could live with that.

      What I can’t live with (and I tried…) is when a game is only available completely dubbed in german. Because hey… they have to make a version solely for germany, so you only need the german voice files, right?

      WRONG! In my case, I tried playing FO3. It wouldn’t let me have the english voice actors. And if you think the english Threedog is bad, hooo boy, you need to listen to the german one.

      So yeah. Please let me at least choose the language… Best to get rid of the stupid censoring altogether, since apparently Swiss and Austria can play everything uncensored and are still in one piece.

      1. Mephane says:

        I agree wholeheartedly. I always prefer my games in English, have Steam installed in English and set to install all games in English, but a few games just ignore Steam’s settings. Saints Row 2 comes to mind, which is probably the worst example of a censored game – cutscenes replaced with black screens and German text like “bad stuff happens here”, unable to change UI language to anything but German even though all voice acting is available in English only anyway.
        I had learned my lesson and bought SR3 through an Austrian internet retailer and spent a few really painstaking hours trying to get Steam to accept my activation key, so it seams they already try to block registration of imported games (but it was worth the kerfuffle, SR3 is just awesome).

        On a related note, I hate it when websites do IP checks to determine that I shall be presented with the German version of the site (often inferior in content quality and timeliness) instead of accepting the fact that even my browser is set to tell them to just serve me the English version.

        Some really notorious examples for this are Google (which at least can be convinced by adding the “hl=en” GET parameter to my bookmark) and most advertisement providers. It’s the only reason I still have my adblocker active on this very blog here. What’s worse than annoying advertisement is annoying German advertisement on an English site, usually for the same crappy Pay2Win browser games that are also advertised on some local TV stations.

  28. Retsam says:

    I’m a pretty strong defender of video games, and I generally agree with the points being made here. I don’t think that video game violence causes real violence. There’s a correlation between violence such as shootings and video games, but I suspect that reverse causation is in play here. I find it far more likely that the sort of deranged mind that commits a school shooting might be attracted to video games, than that violence in video games can turn otherwise well-adjusted individuals into murderers. (I suspect you’d find a similar correlation between school shootings and the color black)

    But on the other hand, I do think we need to be careful in what we defend. I’m certainly not convinced that video games cause violence, but I do worry that video games promote an unhealthy outlook on violence. In short, I think violence is something seriously and that it shouldn’t be taken lightly, and video games do exactly that. Shamus’ point that violence in other media is often more violent, but I’d also argue that violence in other media is often more purposeful as well. I’d have more of a stomach for Call of Duty if it had something to say. That’s why Spec Ops was such a breath of fresh air (even if it has been made stagnant by the following waves of “video games about video games”).

    So I’ll defend violent video games and their right to exist; but I still wouldn’t mind throwing CoD under the bus already.
    (Speaking of Spec Ops, this article is excellent on video game violence: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8157257/line-explores-reasons-why-play-shooter-games)

    1. krellen says:

      There’s a negative correlation between shootings and video games. As video game sales have increased, violent crime has decreased. (Correlation is not causation, but it’s important to have the facts straight.)

      1. Retsam says:

        That’s not quite an accurate statement. There’s a negative correlation between the prevalence of video games as a whole, and the occurrences of shootings, as a whole, this is true.
        But the more interesting sort of correlation is whether, when looking at a shooting, is the perpetrator more likely or less likely to be a video game player than the average individual. I suspect that the answer to that question is “more likely”, which is the positive correlation between shootings and video games that is talked about.

        So, yes, in a sense there is both a positive and negative correlation between video games and violence, depending on how you look at it. (This is the sort of thing where that saying about statistics comes from)

        1. burning says:

          Pardon me, maybe I’m missing something. It sounds like at first you say you suspect there is a positive correlation between being a shooter and being a videogame player, and then you finish off your post by saying that such a positive correlation in fact exists. I’m not following how you get from speculation to fact. Do you have actual studies or data to back your speculation up, or does it just sound right?

          Let’s, however, assume that the positive correlation you speculate about actually exists. Before we could attempt to draw any conclusions from its existence, there would need to be a lot of careful analysis. Playing videogames is not a practice distributed uniformly throughout the population. To be meaningful, your supposed correlation would need to be further shown to be independent of other demographic considerations.

        2. Kuma says:

          Sorry but I think that everyone born after 1980 is more likely to be a videogame player. Also, I’d love throwing CoD under the bus, but for different reasons than the ones being discussed here :)

  29. Here in Brazil we have our own share of banned videogames, mostly on the 90s, but there are still a lot of scary “articles” on television and press media about the horror of the so called violent games. We have too two or three proposed bills to ban even more games, but since our political system is very morose, they don’t go anywhere (yet). Our current Minister of Culture has said that videogames are “good for children” but they are NOT culture at all… sad.

  30. Ericc says:

    Interesting followup-a study showed a correlative link for violent crime to lead. Specifically, the use of leaded gasoline and how it affected the people born and raised during this period.


  31. Neko says:

    Nicely done, Shamus. This goes in my bookmarks under “Prove a Point” =)

  32. Disc says:

    With the investments modern armies have made towards combat simulation and in some cases, such as America’s Army, recruitment, there’s proof enough that violent video games CAN be utilized as a medium to influence and train people to do nasty things, but that’s all part of the larger context of being part of institutions that specialize in violence, where making people capable of dishing out said violence is the whole purpose.

    That being said, I think it’d be easier to absorb the discussion if it wasn’t almost always mired in at least mild hysteria. With the all too common appeal to emotion, there’s little desire to keep listening.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      I played America’s Army once. I ran about ten yards down a bridge and spent the next ten minutes staring at the hole a sniper put in my head. Why anyone would buy it and go “combat is fun you guys” is beyond me.

      1. Disc says:

        Last time I played it was still free (been a few years though). Plus that sounds more like a hilarious tactical error on your part rather than any experience I ever had with the game. If one life-per-round systems aren’t your thing, fair enough, but it’s nothing new in the genre.

        1. StashAugustine says:

          Oh, I liked it and it was definitely my fault, I was pointing out that CoD and its ilk are honestly more hoo-rah than AA.

          1. Disc says:

            Well, I don’t really believe the “Hoo-rah” is what is really important nor what they were trying bring across with AA as opposed to raising awareness and interest in career choices in the US Military mixed with some mild propaganda. While I’m not an expert in the field, I don’t really know why you’d want to go for “more CoD” anyway. You’d likely risk attracting all the wrong sorts.

  33. Decius says:

    Compare the deaths ‘associated’ with violent video games (without discussing causation), and compare to the deaths which occur during or shortly after athletic events. High school and college football killed 243 people between July 1990 and June 2010, a rate (12/year) on the same order of magnitude as all school shootings combined. NASCAR kills roughly one driver a year, other motorsports kill their fraction; MMA killed roughly one per year since 2001 (worldwide), while worldwide boxing records show 923 deaths during the last 118 years.

    It makes more sense to ban sports than videogames, and far more sense to ban automobiles.

  34. Steve C says:

    These debates always start from the exact same faulty world view or are machiavellian politics. The question that is never asked is: Is there is a correlation between violent video games and actual violence that is consistent across the developed world? It’s not asked because the answer is a very obvious No.

    Causation requires correlation. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

    Before a study is conducted, statistical analysis is used to determine if the initial hypothesis is plausible. A good recent example is the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson was first hypothesized in 1964. Statistics were gathered using the LHC and determined a sigma of 5.9. What this means is that the existence of such a particle is pretty much guaranteed. After a year of study, the existence was confirmed to be true. Now let’s look back at the study of video game violence. Video game violence was hypothesized when some people believed in a correlation between virtual violence and violence in reality. The problem is that these people begged for studies to be conducted while completely ignoring statistical analysis. As a result, several studies were conducts in all parts of the world, and over different periods of time. None of them came to the conclusion that video games made people violent. That’s a lot of time and money wasted. If people bothered to pay attention to the statistics, they would have realized that the results are no surprise. In all statistics gathered, there was no strong correlation between video games and violence, there was no weak correlation between video games and violence, in fact, the correlation constant was pretty much zero.

    If it was true that video games had any bearing on violence then Washington DC would be playing 6 to 9 times more video games than the people of New York and 11 to 36 times more video games than Vermont.

    1. Scampi says:

      Actually, the debates not only start from the same faulty worldview, but even from the exact same point. It’s clear that this is not a continuous debate that keeps people busy because they are seriously interested. It’s always a kind of “rewind and restart”-type of debate, where you don’t advance in the least, but only get back to the exact point where the previous debate not left, but also started.
      This is nothing but a valve to relieve some people who don’t want to believe a society which they’re a part of could possibly breed violence if it were not for circumstances abc…xyz. The only thing we can hope is that there’ll not be a time where multiple rampages happen withing few months to keep the debates running (and get people overly tense and emotional), else there might be some real consequences.

  35. Steve C says:

    Here’s the I win button talking point that I’ve never seen addressed, let alone refuted:

    The definitive experts on violence in the world are actuaries– aka insurance companies. Knowing exactly what is dangerous and exactly by how much is very big and very old business. Has anyone ever seen a life insurance policy that asks your family’s video game habits?

    If actuaries and insurance companies don’t care about something then it’s not dangerous. And they don’t care about video games.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      While an excellent point, the long-standing nature of actuarial practice means that there are also long-standing laws about what conditions insurance can rest on. Now, I know nothing about the details of these laws, but it seems that “entertainment habits” falls under the “not open for inquiry” category. I strongly suspect that actuaries would love to ask their clients about how often they frequent houses of ill repute, or how often they go sky-diving, or riding off-road dirt-bikes, but I’ve never heard of those questions coming up either.

      I would be happy if all these laws were repealed, and the insurance companies could go crazy figuring out exactly how different factors add (and interact) to affect life expectancy, but that’s getting perilously close to discussing politics. Suffice to say that, while I agree with your point in theory, the external legal constraints rob it of much of the conviction in practice.

      1. Alan says:

        A lot of life insurance won’t pay out if you die in a skydiving accident. Coverage is available, but it will cost you more. It’s been a while since I got my own individual life insurance plan, but there were questions about my engaging in dangerous hobbies, and I know it mentioned skydiving by name.

      2. Steve C says:

        Entertainment habits are a part of policies I’m aware of. Laws don’t really matter for the purposes of this discussion because if a question was off limits it would be verboten by regional jurisdiction. The insurance industry is world wide. No matter what is off limits I’m sure there’s somewhere where it’s a legally valid question. Actually I’d be more surprised if there was anywhere where it was an invalid question to ask.

        It’s not asked by insurance because it’s simply not important.

  36. Deadfast says:

    I live in the Czech Republic, a country neighboring with Germany. I can tell you absolutely no one cares about violent video games here. The subject of video games themselves doesn’t really come up in the mass media at all, the recent arrest and imprisonment of Czech game developers in Greece was a rare exception. That’s despite the fact that the video game industry is rather sizable here.
    Violent crime in the Czech Republic isn’t really a problem. Sure, murders happen, but they are usually isolated incidents. The biggest mass killing committed in the recent history was by Olga Hepnarovà¡, a woman who killed 8 people and injured 12 by intentionally running into a tram stop with a truck. While that might sound like something straight out of GTA, this was in 1973.

  37. anaphysik says:

    China used to have a whole bunch of media-wide content restrictions, many of which doubtlessly continue to this day, though I’m not sure which :/. A classic example was the ban on any depictions of skeletons, which frex necessitated a TON of art touch-ups (or complete recommissions) on Magic: the Gathering cards made for Chinese markets. The censors also tended to zap anything with even remotely religious situations or imagery (like any sort of prayer-like kneeling).

    Sometimes this leads to stupid-looking touch-ups: http://www.wizards.com/magic/images/mtgcom/arcana300/AltArt_DHG.jpg though sometimes edits were done a little less shittily: http://squt.tripod.com/unworthydead.jpg

    And sometimes this leads to FREAKIN HILARIOUS ART, MAN I WANT THAT: http://squt.tripod.com/wickedpact.jpg

  38. Zak McKracken says:

    Everytime this comes up I think it is just another manifestation of the contact theorem.
    This means that people will hold prejudices against things they don’t know, most of which will vanish as soon as they have been in contact with whatever that thing is (applies not just to videogames, also to religions, foreigners, ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations…).

    Pretty much everyone who is so vocal about videogame violence knows next to nothing about the actual videogame culture, nor how VG violence is perceived in the community.
    From a sufficient distance away it is very easy to get a superficial impression and then just draw conclusions from one’s own taste/cultural background/gut feelings to what goes on in gamers. This is more a cultural problem and one of acceptance and social norms than anything.

    I’ve gone through this type of phase myself when I found many of my friends were musically tending towards the goth scene (some not just musically), and I projected my own feelings about goth music onto them (hell, they must be depressed and pessimistic, probably suicidal!). Took me quite a while to figure how (and why) this is completely wrong. I tried listening to one Placebo (really not goth, but definitely not happy-music) album recently, and got so depressed I had to turn it off after 30 minutes, even though the music was okay. I also couldn’t get myself to play any of the modern “US GI shoots up Middle East” games (although “Dude shoots up aliens would be fine). But I know it’s because of my own sensitivity and perceiving these things quite differently than other people.
    This must be quite the same that someone feels after growing up in a puritan environment and seeing Bikinis for the first time at the age of 25, compared top someone growing up next to a public beach. If you’re used to something it has a different meaning than if you see it the first time. Pretty much all vocal “game violence critics” fall into exactly this category.

  39. Zaxares says:

    The censorship argument does come up sometimes in Australia. Until very recently, there wasn’t an 18+ classification for games, so extremely violent games like Mortal Kombat or Left 4 Dead 2 would have to be specially censored for our region (and then hackers promptly figured out how to bypass the controls about 16 hours later).

    As for the argument that video games incite kids to violence, my standard response is to point to how many people have actually been killed due to a provable link to video games. And then point to how many people are killed every day by cars. (Hint: it’s in the HUNDREDS, if not thousands.) Clearly, cars are a plague to humanity. BAN CARS IMMEDIATELY!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      While I agree that vehicular crimes (drunk driving especially) are too lightly punished, this approach to the issue bears a fatal flaw. The danger of driving a car is significant, but the concrete utility (not having to walk everywhere, transporting heavy loads quickly over long distances, etc) is also quite evident. That most people think cars are worth the risk is clear.

      In the case of videogames both the danger and the utility are difficult to discern. It is clear that there is some benefit (or people wouldn’t be doing it) and that there is also some danger. All human activities have some risk attached, and videogames are no different. The objective is to make a sound estimation of both, and then decide if they are worth the risk.

      In my admittedly amateur opinion, the gaming community would be much better served by accentuating the beneficial nature of videogames (entertainment, motor skill and reflex training, natural education on a broad range of topics, low-cost experimentation with high-cost scenarios, etc) than trying to quash any voice raising concern about the danger of the same. Shamus has done just this, and I hope the trend continues. That videogames will be and have been harmful in some degree or case is an absolutely unavoidable fact. If we wish to defend the medium we should focus all our efforts on maximizing the evident benefit to humanity, to such a degree that outlawing videogames will appear to all just as ludicrous as outlawing cars.

  40. Phantos says:

    I can’t think of a single article header on The Escapist that doesn’t make the author look like a d-bag. Which kind of runs counter to the content and tone of your article, and the personality of the guy who wrote it.

    It’s like if all of Roger Ebert’s reviews started with a picture of him photoshopped to look like the devil. It’s just weird, is all.


    As for the article: Another well-written response to alarmist nutbags that will never be read by those nutbags. It confirms what we already know, and what no one in any position of power will ever listen to.

    But it needed to be said. It’s preaching to the choir, but I’ve always liked Gospel music anyway.

  41. Deadpool says:

    You know, I don’t have twitter so I can’t do this but… Has anyone noticed that this


    Is less than 140 characters?

    1. anaphysik says:

      Twitter actually reduces all URLs to just 22 characters, so you even have a bit of space to explain the linky.

  42. Zak McKracken says:

    Regarding the “your country is awesome”:

    Thanks :)

    I always have the feeling that this type of debate is much louder in the US than in Germany, but then that might be my perspective since I don’t get the US everyday side of it. Then again most debates seem to be led more fervently in the US than elsewhere. But that in turn doesn’t mean there weren’t any extreme opinions around here.
    I remember one shooting at a German school, where a psychologist said, on the same evening, on a large national radio station, that this was obviously and definitely due to video-games, and was taken completely serious by the reporter.
    There were some weird political debates, some legal measures and even a game tournament canceled by local city officials but luckily the debate has mostly died down. These days there’s hardly anything left of it in the mainstream media, and the last articles from “outsiders” I read were along the lines of “this is mostly unprovable, and any possible effect must be very small”. There was no grand victory for video games, though, so the debate might return at a later date.

  43. Baytor says:

    “I'm curious how the debate is playing out in the rest of the world.”

    It isn’t. At least in the Czech Republic (as it was pointed out by other people here).
    However interestingly enough I remember this being a topic back in 90’s when Doom came out. The local gaming magazines got in some “mail-wars” with certain correspondents about excessive violence, influence on children etc. and it got some traction with mainstream press. It died out pretty quickly but over the years the phrases like “violent” videogames and “dumb shooters” became common norm and are one of the two main reasons (the other being the usual waste of time, especially for kids) why they’ve got bad reputation among non-gamers over here.

    But definitely no debate that would be comparable to USA, at most the issue (mostly in the form of “shocking” news from US) is mentioned in attention-seeking articles with only short term public interest.

  44. Jeff says:

    I went down the internet rabbit hole following links, and came across one study that better sorted out various games.

    They used four types of games – non-violent cooperative games, non-violent competitive games, violence cooperative games, and violent competitive games.

    They found that aggression is linked to competition, not violence. Which seems blindly obvious and intuitive, really.

    1. swenson says:

      Hmm, interesting. I am much more inclined to accept this conclusion than the wild “FAKE VIOLENCE = MASS SCHOOL SHOOTINGS” hysteria. This does make some sense.

      Obviously aggression != violence necessarily either, so this doesn’t prove videogames = violence or anything.

  45. RCN says:

    In my country the censorship has been very as uninformed as it’s been just plain sad. Our politicians are so behind the curve when it comes to games and technology they’re still using pagers and have no idea what is this fabled “Internet” the kids talk about.

    They started serious talk about banning DOOM for its horrifically realistic graphics… in 2007. And then they banned Counter Strike in 2009… for being a game where you play as “drug lords” and have to kill cops and hostages to earn the most points.

    The level of disinformation and misinformation is so dire and so deep it is enough to make me weep sometimes. There were proposals to ban games altogether (not violent games, ALL GAMES) for being addictive. And this includes the EDUCATIONAL GAMES the government itself produces.

    Luckily, there’s just about enough actually enlightened politicians in my country to hold this fearmongering back most of the time (Counter Strike wasn’t so lucky though).

    And for all it is worth, the complete misrepresentation of video games is by far not as bad as pen-and-paper RPG games. To this day the government considers RPG players part of a “cult” and newsletters will jump on any crime even slightly related to RPG to preach the dangers of this “cult”, by spreading the worst kind of voluntary bullshit ever seem outside FOX NEWS. Once they reported a teen killed his girlfriend because they were in this “cult”, since she had died in the game and had to die in real life. They even showcased a manual for “Vampire: The Masquerade” as a “satanic book”. And never cared to rectify themselves when the police discovered the RPG rulebook belonged to the BROTHER of the killer, a meek guy who the killer abused for being a nerd, and he had killed his girlfriend out of jealousy for thinking she was cheating on him… as he CONFESSED.

  46. Adam says:

    I enjoy video games, but the view that scantily-clad, overly sexualized women in video games reinforces real-world misogyny and denigrates half our species while murder simulation surely has only benign effects is absurd on its face.

    We might start from some less defensive – and far less disingenuous – position.

    1. Shamus says:

      “disingenuous” would imply that I’m being insincere. Do you really think I’m being deceptive, or are you using the wrong word?

      Also, your argument is a non-sequitur: “Games objectify women so clearly the violence is bad.” That doesn’t follow. You’re not supporting your argument, you’re opening a new one. I can’t tell where you’re going with this.

      You assert that my position is absurd on its face, but you don’t offer anything to support this, or counter any of the points I made in my column.

      EDIT: I’m not trying to dismiss you, I’m just saying there’s nowhere for us to go from here.

  47. Adam Again says:


    I guess if I didn’t want to get deeply involved, I shouldn’t have bothered posting at all, right? I’m a shmuck. Alright…

    My point isn’t “Gamers objectify women, so violence is bad.” My point is that whereas we have a very nuanced discussion of how we treat virtual females – or the reflection of their real-world objectification – in games is damaging for all sorts of reasons, extremely few of the same people seem to find it anything other than risible that shooting virtual people dead could be anything other than therapeutic. I consider this disingenuous in the sense that the “suspicious” distinctions we make are very often self-benefiting, i.e. although most of us may not be disingenuous about our beliefs, we all often come by our beliefs disingenuously.

    To your article: Most of your points seek to draw a comparison with other mediums and note that video games really aren’t presenting a special threat. That’s all true. But a discussion of video game violence is still important in the same way as the present discussion of video games’ treatment of the opposite sex: as part of any larger cultural problem (especially in my good ol’ home of the USA). And the example of “confusion of reality w/ fantasy” that is constantly denied by gamers, such as the one in this article, is the most extreme possible (and near-unknown) type of effect, a straw man. It’s a debating tactic, not real inquiry.

    To Point 5, I think a lot of people often confuse stuff for “perfectly healthy” that simply isn’t “absolutely whack”. A lot of people on this board probably think of stuff as “unhealthy” that many people nevertheless imbibe and go on to lead what are considered perfectly normal lives. So sure, playing video games and then shooting up your school clearly isn’t how it works, but practically no problem seems to work like that.

    Perhaps rephrasing the question from “DO VIDEO GAMES CAUSE VIOLENCE?!” would lead more gamers to think about this; kind of hard to think about this sort of thing when the barbarians are at the gates with their new laws in hand. How about this: to what extent do video games conform to and promote unhealthy attitudes in our society about violence?

    I think if you were to write a column that started off with that question, we might get something less cut and dry than what you’ve written here.

    You are as always a gracious web host by the way. Sorry for what in retrospect was clearly rude. Even that 30 minutes’ time to withdraw doesn’t seem to help some of us…

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks so much for clarifying. As a bonus, this was much more thought-provoking.

      I’m actually going to think about some of these points.

    2. Sixneat says:

      I’m afraid you fell into the Couric trap by trying to defend a demi-empirical proposition by another empirical hypothesis that is based on what you think about the world. Mental experiments are not the best way to learn what’s out there, usually.

      Anyway, I’d like to comment on your points presented in the column:

      1. The rise of video games is concurrent with a fall in violence.
      This fact does not support or refute the relations between video games and violence. It is irrelevant. There were other very significant and much more prevalent trends that coincided with the decreased violence, such as the aging of western societies, huge increase in incarceration rates, and changes in law enforcement policies. Since those are much more dramatic than the video game community (and we all know that the very large majority of video gamers don’t go around mass-murdering), I suspect that any effect of video gaming would have been lost in the “noise” of social changes anyway. The mere co-occurence means very little, really.

      2. Violent video games are less violent (or disturbing) than other media.
      While CoD is considered a mainstream game, “The Human Centipede” doesn’t. Comparing one mainstream example to a very distant extreme is, as Adam said, a rhetoric instrument; not a proper argument.

      4. Video game violence is normal.
      Shakespeare’s bloody tales are much more emotionally involved matters than the mass-killing of most video-games. The violent conflict depicted in literature and other media is (almost) never as banal as some video games deaths are portrayed.

      5. Video game violence is perfectly healthy.
      You just present a counter-hypothesis: violent games are the response rather than the cause. Your hypothesis is just as easy to prove or refute as the counter-hypothesis. It’s basically a chicken-and-egg question that can be answered only in experiments. Luckily, such experiments were conducted. I’ll get back to them later on.
      Maybe the same psycho-social process works in sports just as well (by the way, I agree that many sports are just as bad), but that has nothing to do about the effect of video games on aggressiveness. Sure, adrenaline promotes aggressive behavior. So?

      6. Video game violence is fun.
      I think that’s your best point, really. Until proven otherwise, there’s no reason to bad or regulate video games any further. There is a significant body of research that supports the idea that video games promote a more aggressive and less pro-social behaviors. On the other hand, this might not be true. The references here are just the tip of the iceberg. This issue has been studied, debated and experimented upon extensively in the past 30 years. I think it’s time all this rich information should get to the public that’s seems to be interested in it. But that’s a totally different issue

      In any case, as you said in the beginning of your column, no one should defend video games. Those who call for action should base their resolution better, instead.

      Oh, and another interesting tidbit of research about the effect of violence in games: it depends on the narrative (sorry, couldn’t find the pdf itself).

      1. RCN says:

        1. It is true that the rise of gaming is probably irrelevant to the fall of violence, but when the starting point of any argument from the fearmongers is that gaming is increasing violence, they have to first explain how violence is rising when it ISN’T.

        2. Ok, but mainstream violence also easily falls into the same slopes. In 24, Jack Bauer has a kill-tally to compete with most violent game protagonists without ever really being called up on it and most of his kills are not really justified (like Spec Ops: The Line masterfully put, after a few dozen kills “self-defense” is no justification). Some episodes of Burn Notice have an absurd amount of death for the sake of action. Saving Private Ryan really indulged in violence to drive its point home. And in comparison, most popular violent games are very tame on the violence. A blood splash, at most. Not every game is Soldier of Fortune.

        That said, like MrBtongue said, violence is more like a bad habit in videogaming than a real trend. It’s became a crutch for game designers.


        Outside these two pet peeves, good points.

  48. Rick says:

    I agree, to an extent or so.

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