Archie Folta

Media Studies

05.A07. Technology

Violence in Video Games

No time is wasted when the media gets hold of a story regarding a basement-dwelling gunman who happened to play the occasional video game. Twenty year-old Adam Lanza was the latest focus, involved in the Connecticut school shooting on December 14th 2012 in which he shot 20 children and 6 adults.

The answer concerning this violent attack was made prominent, when the National Rifle Association faulted the video game industry as a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people”. Special detectives even analysed the route Adam Lanza took to possibly prove that it might resemble at least one of the thousands of maps available in “Call Of Duty”.

The more Games change, the more they stay the same. Most games have always been about acts of violence, such as chess, and video games especially haven’t changed that aspect of game play. The immersions and graphical ability in video games have made the violence much more prominent in recent years, and hence are a focal point of any disturbance in youth behaviour.

Several different experts have conducted studies to analyse the potential impact video games have on a developing brain, and the results are as opposing as the white and black pieces of a chess board could ever be. University Professor Christopher Ferguson told NPR news that “…youth violence has declined to 40 year lows, not gone up in recent years…”.

There is no arguing that the media has always and will continue to desensitise its audience, but the available violence in video games is one of the concerns for the victims of violent incidents.

The acts of violence in video games are a mere representation of an artificial recreation of someone’s imagination, and clearly highly unrealistic. The physical command one gives, through the controller, to the protagonist to act violently is the concerning feature of video games. The increasing immersion a medium provides the audience, from literature, through television and cinema, to modern day video games, has always troubled the older generations. The act of actually applying pressure on to a controller button in order to perform a violent act implies that the performance has been taken one step closer to the audience. For example, people may have been distressed about the 1979 film The Warriors, but actually playing the well known and highly praised Grand Theft Auto is not too far from acting out the violence portrayed in the film.

“…youth violence has declined to 40 year lows, not gone up in recent years…”. Christopher Ferguson

Rewind back to 1984, when Elisabeth ‘Tipper’ Gore, former first lady and head of the PMR [Parents Music Resource Centre], produced a list called ‘The Filthy Fifteen’. This particular document outed the apparently fifteen most violent/sexually explicit bands and song lyrics of that time. Dee Sniper, lead singer from the Twisted Sisters was summoned to a court hearing, allowing him to explain and defend a musician’s freedom of speech. He argued that his medium allowed the audience to interpret the song lyrics in their own way, and hence the possibility of finding gore and explicit material not suitable for children was not unfitting but also not entirely true to what the artist had created the song for.

Many examples of violent media outlets have appeared since the 1950’s and especially in video games since the 1980’s. The psychological aspect of violence in the media suggests that video games must not be compared to other mediums. Video games are played; hence the violence depicted is acted out by the participant, rather than passively observed. This aspect of the new media has raised the increasing issue of the role of the player in regards to the content of the medium and the notions of interactivity. The interactivity in the case of the video game medium does not just relate to the player and the medium but also the social interaction one encounters during a session of playing video games.

The context of the environment, the audience interacting with the medium, differs from medium to medium. This allows the player to interact with other players via the environment, i.e. arcades, LAN (Local Area Network) gatherings, Internet cafés and others, as well as through the medium its self via forums, online/social networks and so on. This means that the gaming experience depends on much more than just the content of the medium, despite what critics would argue. Most people who play video games would argue that it is an outlet that satisfies violent urges in some players- a theory that many psychologists dismiss – and a way of socialising with other players through this multiuse medium.

Despite the actions some video game players take outside of these fantasy worlds, the general conclusion is that these actions cannot be held against the medium or ought to be a generalisation of the demographic that enjoys playing video games.

Image © Pawpaw67

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