Over the years there has been much discussion about violence in video games. Now I’m not going to trot out the usual scientific and psychological studies that debunk the perception that violent video games cause people to be violent, because I just don’t feel like conducting a lot of internet research right now. I just know they’re out there to be found.
Granted, there may be a correlation of desensitization due to a constant exposure to violent imagery, but the same can be said of movies and TV. I’m also not going to go into full legal analyses of the pending Supreme Court decision on whether a proposed law to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors in my state of California is constitutional, because frankly with my scattered attention span (likely due to video games, heh) the topic is rather boring to me. It is ultimately up to the parents to decide what their kids play, and those lunatics who go out on killing sprees apparently due to Grand Theft Auto are already psycho to begin with.
I can count a few more controversial issues in gaming. There was the recent terrorist attack at a Moscow airport that was loosely tied to the “No Russian” level in Modern Warfare 2, then there is the general mayhem in the Grand Theft Auto series…before that was the whole tying Doom to the Columbine shootings, then there was fear of kids decapitating each other because of fatalities in Mortal Kombat, and way before that critics were outraged over Death Race 2000, a vector graphic arcade game where you get points for running over stick figures. “Deplorable” I think they called it. And in the pre-video game era, there was fear of Dungeons and Dragons, Elvis Presley, black people voting, and the newly found evidence that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
But what did we do as kids when our video game graphics just couldn’t portray bloody decapitations or the grinding up of human flesh in a barrage of bullets? We imagined it, of course! (I’m guessing girls imagined heinous disembowelments during the course of their “tea parties”.) As boys we thought of all manner of play-fighting, whether it was Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians. We played army with realistic-looking toy guns, and when we didn’t have those we used our arms and hands in the shape of guns (sadly, these mere gestures will get kids suspended from school nowadays.) We dueled with lightsabers made of sticks, and I totally remember shooting Darth Vader with my imaginary blaster and insisting to my friend playing said Sith Lord that I killed him. (I didn’t see Star Wars yet). Yes, I remember saying: “I killed you, you’re DEAD!” and back then there were no first person shooters to tie my disturbing comment to. Even tag was fraught with hazards, as running in certain areas resulted in a plunge into a river of lava. It just wasn’t recess either. Our G.I. Joe’s, Star Wars figures, and Transformers all had toy weapons and we made them blast each other to oblivion.
And when we weren’t playing outside, our cartoons were desensitizing us to violence. I’m just not talking about Robotech and Voltron which actually depicted death in a non-gratuitous fashion, but classic cartoons like this:
Shooting! Point blank in the face!
Crushing! Eye Gouging!
The point of all this is a little perspective. Personally I wouldn’t let my hypothetical kid play Grand Theft Auto or any other M-rated titles, but I’m sure in its absence he would merely imagine ways to steal cars and bludgeon prostitutes….I think I just invalidated my whole argument there. Actually, no he wouldn’t, because he would be like me and grow up into a reasonable, productive member of society. Good parents monitor their children’s entertainment. Look at me; I turned out just fine, right?