Violence in Games: The Never-ending Quarrel

By Rick Charbs (Jammart), Onrpg writer
Participators: Ben Lamb (BGLamb), Jeffrey Kerkdijk (Hyarume), and Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson)
A handful of Onrpg writers have been brought together to debate on a very controversial subject: violence in video games. Enjoy as you are dazzled in this colossal debate of rebuttals and fist fights.
Opening of Topic
Video Games have been related to various crimes and violent acts in the past years, as well as world-wide current happenings. Generally targeted at a youth audience, MMORPGS are some of the accused catalysts to the criminal, or simply the violent, mind. From stabbings in Australia, to gang beatings in Russia, to various cases of virtual murder and theft, MMORPGS have been targeted sensibly for inducing serious violent thoughts and actions in gamers’ minds. It has been stated that in some cases, emotional attachment causes such action: “Sometimes the emotional investment people put it into their online lives is so great that their anger can spill over into reality.” (Simon Hill of BrightHub) Is it possible that a game can provoke such emotions?
Troubled teens generally seek an escape from reality and an MMORPG covers that pretty well, but I don’t personally think that a game should cause such anger to then be propelled into real life. However, I do accuse games of this to a certain extent. In the case of a troubled youth (most especially with temperament issues) video games can encourage violence and don’t necessarily heed any warnings for anger and provoked violence.
However, I believe personality is the true cause of these violent acts, and not the actual video game nor its content.
“In April 2008 a study carried out at Middlesex University found that World of Warcraft had no link with increased aggressive tendencies. In fact, quite the opposite may be true as many people were calmer after a session.” (Simon Hill of BrightHub)
The violent and addictive personality some gamers tend to acquire can definitely cause some trouble in the long run, but in majority, I believe a game is more of a form of entertainment in order to relax and enjoy ourselves (while possibly having an adrenaline rush here or there), but gaming is definitely not the time to get overanxious or angry. The one special trait of an MMO is that players will be together. Violence is much more easily provoked within a group, which is why online games are much more often related to virtual and game-related crimes.
Criminals and violent people are everywhere, and some just tend to play MMORPGS. It’s all about the person’s personality, not the game. Considering the amount of crimes linked to games, it is safe to assume that many people play games with different intentions.
When bad things happen people need to find a reason why. When its people that are the cause of these bad things, people want to know what made them do it. They will very rarely reach the conclusion that it was just ‘who they are’. It makes much less of a media item also. When it’s young people who commit a violent crime, all eyes are turned on that young person’s habits. Rock music, violent films and computer games are what catch people’s eyes.
A False Perspective
Argument by Ben Lamb
To people who are accustomed to these things, this finger-pointing at our sources of entertainment seems not only misguided but downright offensive. But when viewed from outside the perspective of a regular user, these things can be shockingly violent. This afternoon, after finishing a session of Deus Ex, before switching off I [Ben Lamb] turned my machine gun on all the random civilians in the bar. I wasn’t even really thinking as I idly mowed them down, chasing one woman into the toilets and throwing a grenade in after her. It wasn’t until I turned and saw the expression on the face of my girlfriend, who had been watching me that I even thought about what I had done.
We’re just not shocked by these things anymore. This doesn’t mean that real-life violence isn’t still shocking, but as this study found people do become desensitised to real-life violence, simply by playing a violent game.
It would be really gratifying to think listening to lyrics about pain and death, watching some gory horror film, and then massacring all your friends on a PvP server is completely unrelated to violence in real-life, but I think to take that view would be to deny the evidence of both scientific findings and common sense.
People will argue that a game or a song can’t make you do something you don’t want to do, something out of your character, but I would say we’ve all got a dark side. We’ve all got a little bit of violence in us locked away somewhere. With some of us it just needs less encouragement to come out than with others.
As a wonderfully intelligent film once put it, Movies don’t make psychos, they make psychos more creative!

Sensitivity is Relative

Rebuttal by Jeffrey Kerkdijk
All people are sensitive, whether they like it or not. However, some people are more sensitive to certain things than others. I [Jeffrey Kerkdijk] think that some are even sensitive to games. Some games have a lot of violence going on in them. What the eye catches stays in one’s mind. Every violent act you see, whether it is in a game or in a movie, does affect you.
To be honest, I agree with Ben that people seek reasons when bad things happen, but I also think that many of these “game related crimes” have nothing to do with games. Sure it might be how they act; they might act like playing a game in real life. Foremost I think that people commit these awful crimes because they have lost their view on reality, perhaps they are traumatized, abused, or in a psychological state. It is in those moments that crimes like this occur to the mind.
When a person loses his view on reality life may suck, but there can be a better future if you are willing to work for it.
It’s Not the Game
Argument by Vincent Haoson
I’ve always believed that whatever our influence is, we are the masters of our own action. There are a lot of cases where people who are surrounded by bad neighbourhoods, and even bad friends, would often grow into good people in society.
The same applies with violent video games, may it be console games like GTA (which has often been the target of the authorities as the prime suspect of teen crime influence) to MMOs (though I can’t really recall the exact MMO that they pointed out as the reason why a kid stabbed someone).
I say that it’s not the game that makes today’s youth act violently. It’s the lack of proper guidance and support from the parents themselves that pushes youth to do such atrocious acts. If a kid was properly guided by those who are near them (e.g. parents) then I would confidently say that regardless of whatever game they put their hands on, they wouldn’t come out as a psychopathic shooter or thief.
A classmate of mine in college did his thesis regarding the tendency of gamers to act violently when exposed to violent video games. His found out that violent games, does increase the tendency for the youth to act violently but they don’t do it because video games push them to do it, other factors such as friends and whatnot are the ones they put their blame on.
I personally think that blaming violent games as the reason why today’s youth act violently is downright irresponsible. I say that it’s the lack of proper guidance from the parents and those who influence the youth that pushes kids to act what they see.
Argument by Ben Lamb (He is aware of its contradiction!)
I don’t think that you can point to any one ’cause’ for an ‘effect’ as complicated as the actions of a person. Everything that people experience will affect them to some extent.
If a child is brought up with a good grounding in life then they will have the understanding to put all subsequent experiences in their proper place. It’s quite easy for a middle class white-boy like myself to listen to some gangsta rap and enjoy it for what it is without being unduly influenced by the messages it, often explicitly, conveys.
Give a child an education via the television instead of through ‘proper’ parenting, and that child’s founding experiences will lead them to understand all later messages in a different way. The commonplace violence in these mediums will forever skew their view of the world and leave them more likely to make choices towards violence in their later years.
Is it the responsibility of the parents to bring their children up with an education that allows them to relate to society in a non-violent way? Yes. But this does not remove the responsibility of the rest of society.
There is no use in pointing the finger of blame at the portion of society who is probably in the worst position to do anything about it. (EDIT: By this I mean parents who themselves were educated in front of the telly)
As members of society we are all responsible for society’s children, and if our children are finding education in violent games then we must seriously question if these games are what we should be supplying to them. (EDIT: ie: producing and selling them)
Closing Statement
With all of these varied points of view in mind, should violent video games be banned from society? Should they be heavily regulated or ignored? It is virtually impossible to draw such a conclusion on a matter as elaborate as this one, however, we can still rely on ESRB ratings to protect youth from seeing or playing what they should not.
“If you start banning or even restricting everything that might be bad for people, where do you draw the line? Most people would draw it somewhere between drugs (probably should ban) and media (probably shouldn’t ban), but even that is open to huge debate.” (Ben Lamb)
Censorship may be adequate to solve this problem, but it cannot be the only method to take action. What is your opinion? We hope to receive your views on this topic via the Onrpg Forums!

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