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Is Violence Inherent in the System? Or the Game?

As the wonderful Monty Python quote offers, "violence is inherent in the system!", but how about in our gaming systems?

It's no secret that in 2013 Obama sought to give the CDC $10million to study the links between gaming and media with violence. This has been a concern to parents and families for years, but what do we know about it?

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) now determines game rankings based on 30 categories of inappropriate content that could appear in each game. When searching the site, you can sort between a summary of these through eight categories: Violence, Blood/Gore, Sexuality, Nudity, Language, Substances, Gambling, and Humor. 

Big name games like Black OPs, labeled M for Mature with an age rating of 17+, have even gone out of their way to attempt to dull down the violence with game options that turn off blood/gore and harsh language. I've noticed this myself while going through the game settings.  

Over the past two months, there were also two articles on The Guardian about video games and violence. One titled, "Do video games make children violent? Nobody knows – and this is why" by Rich Stanton points out two major problems with continued research into this topic. The first, that defining "violence" or "aggression" is difficult when comparing them to the games used by the person(s) being studied; each game contains different forms and levels of violence. People in reality do too, so determining what to compare in both cases is not an exact science. 

The second is that even though there may be a slight correlation it cannot be determined that the games are the main factor in a person's reaction. In regard to his own research Stanton states:  

"What the Conduct Disorder study is saying is that there’s a relationship here worth looking into, but it can’t point the finger at anything, and that above all the association is weak. This conclusion has to be interpreted in the context of (a) the solid data and (b) other studies arguing for a much larger and in some cases causal effect between violent video games and aggressive behavior. The fact these findings are so uncertain also highlights the difficulties researchers face in getting a handle on the subject."

Even with this being the case, we are still being given evidence that we should worry about game content. Wikipedia has a list of controversial and regionally censored games. Among these games are Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto: Sand Andreas, Gotcha, Death Race, and Saints Row lV. So even if the violent game content is not the sole factor in recorded studies it does have a hand in it. This means it needs to continue to be addressed and studied. ratings need to continue to adapt to fit the expanding contents concepts these games contain. Overall it may have more of an effect than we realize. 

 

Published Mar. 14th 2016
  • Mathenaut
    "Do videogames cause violence?"

    Answer: No

    This is a debate that has been all but settled, but it's an important thing to zero in on for the moral sensors. After all, if 'problematic' media isn't responsible for 'problematic' behavior, then the entire basis for the moral crusade is moot.

    Gotta keep that fight alive, yeah?
  • Ainyan
    Correspondent
    Your title is incredibly misleading. What it is asking is 'Is violence essential in video games' or 'Is violence necessary in video games', while your article is all about whether there is a link between real-life violence and the playing of violent video games and never actually addresses the question of whether or not video games have to be violent.

    To answer your title: Absolutely not. There are entire genres of video games that have nothing to do with violence, and I don't just mean Solitaire. Games like King's Quest, Myst, or the Talos Principle were puzzlers with a rich story; Gone Home and Firewatch are introspective virtual storybooks. Even games like Portal limited any mention of violence to the antagonist, and left the protagonist to survive with only her wits and a non-lethal portal gun. Violence has its place in video games, but it is not inherent in the concept, only within certain subsections.

    To respond to your [very long and hotly debated] topic, I believe that while there is an argument that suggests that unrestricted access to violent video games might negatively affect children, I don't believe the video games are to blame, any more than the burner is to blame when a child places his hand upon it, or the ground is to blame when the child trips and bumps his head. If a child has unrestricted access to violent video games, then it is necessary to question 1) why he/she has said access and 2) who is responsible for said access. It is on the parents/guardians of said child to ensure that the child's access to mature video games is restricted and closely monitored, and that the child is made aware that the activities in the game may not necessarily be permissible outside of the game.

    We have a rating system in place - one that is run by parents, not by the gaming industry - that generally gives a fairly representative rating allowing parents to know exactly what kind of game their kid is playing. If parents choose to remain uninformed, that is their decision. The information on the ESRB, its ratings, and the meanings of its terms is EVERYWHERE - and, failing the ability to type into Google, said parent can always ask at the game store when purchasing the game for his/her child.

    Succinctly put, stop blaming the tools for being used incorrectly.
  • GlitchChic
    Contributor
    I am sorry about the confusion with the title. That was a temporary placement during the editing process that was supposed to be addressed this morning but logins were down. As for what you are pointing out I agree. I see it as we have a very detailed set of criteria in which to determine how to rate these games. Also, many companies are going out of their way to make these games adjustable to multiple audiences. The steps in this direction have made it very clear what to expect from a game purchased. I am not suggesting that we go out of our way to disassemble the great games we have already but to simply keep up the good work. Games are ever progressing and we just need to keep up with them and adapt how we rate them accordingly in order to best inform the public of what they are exposing themselves to.

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