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GTA, CoD Popularity Prove That Games Are Too Violent?

I am the first one to defend video games as both a legitimate entertainment medium and progressing and viable art form.

We have also objectively presented arguments concerning the effect of violent video games by routinely publishing study findings, and we've even interviewed one of the researchers who shed interesting light on the subject at hand.

However, outsiders are quick to judge based on the most popular products in the industry. And when that happens, the gamer's ammunition begins to run low (pun intended). The bottom line is that if you simply go by overall sales figures, it's abundantly clear that the most popular video games just so happen to be some of the most violent. Call of Duty is the biggest video game name in the world right now, and let's face it, the only purpose of the game is to kill people. Grand Theft Auto isn't much better and in truth, GTAV is probably the only game left this generation that could challenge a new CoD title for the sales crown.

While we will always have our great developers and visionaries like Quantic Dream's David Cage (who was quoted as saying guns take him right out of a story) and Thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen (flOw, Flower, Journey), there's no doubt that gamers tend to reward violence. It's true that quality tends to override the crap, which I still believe is a feather in this industry's cap, but when the mainstream only views that as "good quality killing vs. poor quality killing," we have a new set of hurdles and obstacles. There are plenty of amazing games where killing isn't necessarily the focal point, but they rarely seem to trump the games that do focus on violence.

So is it really that much of a reach to say that gaming is too violent? It isn't at all. It's more of a reach to say that "all games are violent" (which is flat-out untrue, but such generalizations can generate all sorts of negative implications), and innovation and advancement in the realm of interactive entertainment should continue. And in some cases, that progression won't involve guns or death. But as long as the top titles continue to be violent, we will continue to fight a losing battle against those who dislike the hobby. The most violent movies, books, and music aren't always atop the charts; schlock sells everywhere, but it doesn't have to be violent schlock in other industries. All kinds of junk sells.

Unfortunately for us, even when it's not junk, it's still violent in some capacity. Of course, the caveat is this: Who wants to play a game where we go gardening or pick up litter or something? Fantasy interaction generally involves things we can't do in real life, yes? So it's quite the conundrum...unless, of course, everyone just gets a lot smarter really fast and starts to appreciate - on a greater scale - games like Heavy Rain and Journey. And quite honestly, I'm not holding my breath.

Tags: video games, gaming culture, gta, grand theft auto, cod, call of duty

4/8/2012 9:02:20 PM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (29 posts)

Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 9:38:42 PM

It is true the the most popular games today tend to be violent. You need not look further than God of War or other shooting games to know that. I personally don't mind violence in video games. I'm now 30 and games are just an output for me. I've played all GoW games but I will never gouge someone's eye out just because they're getting on my nerves.

That is where responsibility comes in. It's perfectly fine to play such violent games if you're of the right age and knows that video games is never the same as the real world. If parents are complaining that video games are too violent, then they probably should ask themselves first why their kids are playing a game that they clearly should not be playing.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 9:53:02 PM

Hey, Farmville's mega popular but it's about as violent as a cotton-wool ball :P.

But yeah, I hear ya - more core games tend to be violent - even the more serious sim or strat-style games are structured around violence (Civilization has plenty of violence, it's just very high level!)

The big exception is the sports games and racers - GT5's plenty popular, and not violent at all, and Soccer's only marginally more violent than a cotton-wool ball, and it's mega popular in Europe as a game. So there are a few notable exceptions, but generally people are drawn to conflict, and generally conflict involves violence, or at least attempting to avoid violence.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 9:57:52 PM

I think it's just that the industry is growing so much, and publishers realize that most consumers respond to death and destruction, so they push it as much as they can, knowing they can sell it.

Personally, I don't mind violence in my games, as long as it's not all that's supposed to compel me forward. Otherwise, it just becomes a chore.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 10:02:18 PM

You know what? I think that it's a good anger outlet to take some harmless virtual lives every once in a while. Keeps me from doing it to the a holes that cut me off on the road everyday.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 10:08:35 PM

Of course games aren't too violent.

I've never heard that anyone's gotten "whacked" upside the head with any game disc.

Now take those hard-plastic retro cartridges....well, that's a different killing field, LOL

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 10:41:30 PM

It is interesting. I do think there's tons of great games that could be made if companies weren't always targeting the safe demographic themes. Violence sells just as sex does. It's the dirty side of business marketing I guess. Are we going to see epic games that follow the apostle Paul as he travels to preach the gospel? Are we going to play a dramatized thriller from the perspetive of a doctor as he earnestly strives to help patients recover from disease? Instead, our industries gleeming franchises romanticize the life of criminals, the lives of soldiers killing, and the life of assassins under the veil of anomyniity seeking their own brand of truth and justice through murderous acts. It's The entertainment myself and my peers have opted to spend the most of my gaming time and money, so the publishers will just continue feeding us what we want to buy...

Anyway, like I said, it's interesting and it provokes deeper thought.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 10:58:17 PM

Speaking of the Bible, I would love to see some company explore the stories in the Bible.

The tale of David is one that would make for one legendary gaming experience.

The lion, Goliath, the wars, the deception, the sex and violence, it is all there and it's a story that has been rarely matched in it's epic-ness.

If I had a 50 million USD to invest in a video game, Santa Monica studio's would be the only one I would consider due to their stellar work on the GOW series.

EDIT - I am sure such a tale, in all it's M Rated glory would be rather upsetting to the over-conservative groups, but I can't think of a better way to share to Gospel!

Last edited by maxpontiac on 4/8/2012 11:00:20 PM

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 11:26:29 PM

See, that wouldn't help anything Max, to pull violent stories out of the Old Testsment wouldn't change anything.
I refered to Paul because his life wasnt about death and violence from the his books in the new testament. Really, I could think of many great themes and games without it being focused intimately on the violence and killing. Thankfully a couple years ago we had heavy rain and gt5 to remind us of that.

Btw I'm not saying violence and killing aren't real challenges as part of humanity and that they have no place in game stories. I'm saying that the breadth of gaming's most critically acclaimed, best produced, and best selling usually have death and violence as a content discriptor. If gaming wants to mature and earn more respect amongst naysayers, it'll need to emotionally touch them in more ways than by the gun or sword.... Or in David's case, the sling ;)

Last edited by Temjin001 on 4/8/2012 11:28:05 PM

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 12:29:26 PM

I believe you are missing the point Temjin001.

Some of the biggest opponents of video games are God believing individuals. If those who take such a stand against video games were to actually see the Bible come alive as a software title, people might be changed. Plus, the story of David is a mighty one, and God described David as a man after His own heart.

Making a video game based on the Bible with no punches pulled is exactly what this generation of gamers needs. Many non-believers won't give the Bible a chance, but I would bet many would kill a giant, pursue a romance with Bathsheba, go to war against the Philistines, all in a Mass Effect/Skyrim/GOWIII type of setting.

You wouldn't even need to make violence the main portion of gameplay either. Perhaps you could integrate Heavy Rain style gameplay elements such as being a musician and introduce the drama of his family into the equation. Of course, the message of Gospel is littered throughout the experience as his life story unfolds. Seriously, can you find a better story that offers everything under the sun? The story of David would be a tear jerker!

I knew where you were going with Paul, but unfortunately, his story may not be accepted to non-believers. His story is amazing (all of them are really) but we must realize that violence is a part of this society, and Paul's story was centered more on his spreading the good news while David's is the complete package.

Violence, if used correctly can emotionally impact someone, and if the message of Christ is behind it, the Holy Spirit can take advantage of an open door.

Last edited by maxpontiac on 4/9/2012 12:32:55 PM

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012 @ 9:09:01 AM

How am I missing the point when the topic is about violent video games and Im providing game ideas that don't rely on violence to carry the game play forward?

You took my point, an example in part illustrated by a New Testament figure, and you then shifted it to how we need uncensored bible games, right?

That was never my point nor the topic of this article.

Cool sounding David game, though ;)

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 10:53:35 PM

Question for those who don't consider that gaming has become to violent.

When is enough, enough?

Since it is more then obvious that a decapitation or dismemberment isn't pushing the bar per se, what is?

There is little left that can shock people when it comes to games, and that my friends here at PSXE is SCARY!!

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Sunday, April 08, 2012 @ 11:18:00 PM

What about Angry Birds? The most popular game of all time, and there's very little violence in that!

CoD and GTA are both very violent and very popular, but I think it is wrong to focus on only those two examples.

Look at some of the highest selling games of all time. Pac Man on Atari. Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong and Mario Kart on Nintendo's systems. Wii Sports, Wii Fit, New Mario Bros, Super Mario Galaxy on Wii. Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy and Gran Turismo on PS1.

Looking at Wikipedia, I noticed a trend where mature games began selling more around the PS1 era, such as Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, but there were still many other G or PG rated high sellers too.

Xbox and the Xbox 360 were the only, ONLY, two consoles whose top 10 or top 20 selling games of all time were violent shooters like CoD, Gears of War, Halo, even Splinter Cell!!

With the rise of handheld gming and mobile phone gaming, children appear to be happy with Angry Birds, Draw Something and all those other fun, short-levelled games.

As the age of the average gamer gets older, we're going to see more mature and violent games dominating headlines and sales, and this does not surprise me. It's kinda why TV shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones are so popular, it's what adults like!! This is no different for video games.

The only time violent video games become an issue is when stupid or ignorant older people who still view video games as being a children's pastime start ranting and raving to journalists and news sources. I'm gonna stop before I go into a rant here, but I'll end with this...

Parents should be held responsible for what children view or play or listen to, not the developers, not the artists, not the producers, directors, publishers or writers, not the government, PARENTS!!

So long as CoD and GTA is being played by adults, as the rating and content blatently points out, then I see no issue with its content and high sales.

Violence has been a part of human nature for many millenia, and I don't see why it is any different for mature adult video games.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 12:18:19 AM

This should'nt even be goin on because what Minors does anybody know have a job to buy games or better yet a car to go get IT ??? PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 12:04:47 AM

I thought that was the point of video games, To do stuff you really cant/or dont want to do in REAL LIFE !

Older People with no kids suck !

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 9:07:11 AM

Confucius say:

Younger kids who say older people with no kids suck, shouldn't have been stupid enough to not use a Trojan before foreplay.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 12:21:12 AM

Even something silly like Super Mario Bros. could be considered "too violent" to the watchful eye.
The point is lets not lose our heads about this. Most of us grew up on Looney Tunes, I for one enjoyed the mayhem antics of Tom & Jerry. We all didn't turn into sadistic killers running around with well-to-do homemade ACME splosives strapped to shovels right??
I think this growing trend to protect and safe guard everylittle thing is more of a distraction and/or smokescreen away from the real issues.

From the games I've played there is only one that I can think of that applies to the other side of the argument--MAnhunt.
Art is art and is quite useless and none more so than this game. Besides the absolute void of any real storyline and the main character is a complete tool, people can literally walk away from this game knowing how to use a tire iron and crowbar in tandem for a lethal deathblow.
Way to go Rockstar.
I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me but I still ask why'd they make it?
I feel ultra violence for the sake of shock value is about where the line should be drawn.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 2:07:55 AM

It s not the games that are too violent , it s the people playing them .

The real life is what is too violent .

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 3:34:58 AM

i dunno about that.
some of the best selling franchises of all time are not really that violent!
metroid, mario, zelda, GT, crash and so on.
its just at the moment because, well, how else are you going to strap MP onto something unless you kill the opponent?
besides racing games obviously.
problem is developers have it cemented in their heads no MP = poor sales so every single game has to have MP!
and well, how else are you going to do MP without violence?

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 5:03:37 AM

I see a few of you mention games like Farmville and Angry Birds, and that is in fact a very interesting point.

So I went to the Android stores games department and checked out the top sellers there, and listed there were anything *but* violent games. Violence is in fact practically non-existent. Instead we find games like Angry Birds Space, Worms, Draw Something, Wordfeud, Cut The Rope, Ports Of Call (the old Amiga classic!), Airport City... No violence whatsoever.

From this we might draw the conclusion that amongst the casual games and casual gamers there actually is not that much violent games at all, while it is within the hardcore games the violence dominates.

Last edited by Beamboom on 4/9/2012 5:08:20 AM

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 9:01:46 AM

thats what you would expect.
most casual gamers are kids so you would hope violent games are not on the tops of android charts!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 9:42:36 AM

Those aren't the games that define this industry. They just aren't. Furthermore, the hardcore don't even care about them; they're almost exclusive to 100% casual gamers, most of whom are kids or women.

Those are not the hallmarks of this industry, and we will be judged on what the avid players play.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 10:26:26 AM

Maybe we will Ben, and sure they are not hallmarks.

Still, they are games that *much* more people will see and play than the hardcore games, especially amongst those who don't play "real" games and it's those peoples opinion you'd want to shape right? So will they affect opinions out there? I should think there is a possibility for that, at least.

Another interesting detail is that it seems by far most non-violent games are not in 3d. Not sure if that tidbit can be used for anything, but there it is. :)

Last edited by Beamboom on 4/9/2012 11:28:02 AM

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 7:41:56 AM

games have changed as so has the world and the people in it, but if you don't like what's being produced either in the video games , movies and music don't buy it and stop complaining.
i play games as an outlet on a bad day, i don't do it infront of the kids unless it's angry birds or something silly.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 8:01:26 AM

So what about Uncharted or even older beatem up games like Double Dragon and Final Fight? Sure there are no guns in the last two but who needs guns with pipes and knives around. Thats was pretty violent and popular back when it was new. Think some people even made a fuss about there being female enemies.

Seriously though, there are subjects in movies, tv series and books that the video game industry hasn't even touched on. Who's played a game that has anything to do with rape, the worst kind of violence, or even one that mentions it? You hear about that in asia but thats besides the point, thing is I've never even heard the word rape used in a game. No I don't want a rape game, but it can be used in a story as character development, back story or something else, as long as it there is some actual meaning for it I wouldn't mind. I was going to mention the bible for violence but someone beat me to it. Another thing is when a book talks about sex it usually describes more than just what can be seen. It can go into a range of physical/emotional feelings and thoughts, turning plain sex into something with actual depth, Games, yeah just grunting and moaning only, pretty much.

Violence though, its all around you, you need not look far, just check the news. The ones of us with some sense of reality can separate fun activity in a simulated world from a trial and death sentence in a world without save files or reset buttons. Thats the real reason for all this focus on violence, the unstable ones that bring it into the real world. The industry doesn't deserve to be blamed, its parents not knowing/accepting that their kid needs a little help or a talk. Other times some people live in their own world, charlie manson never picked up a controller but he sure loved the beatles. Some people are just looking for a voice, any voice to tell them 'do it'. I don't care about violence in games as long as the ride is enjoyable, I grew up on b-movies and slasher flicks but I can respect a view thats not my own on the subject.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 10:44:12 AM

I don't know. I see it as a matter of degree.

Games have almost always been about action and 'violence', but the degree of that violence and the graphic nature of it's depiction have changed considerably - IMHO.

Then again I see this change in the depictions of violence to be consistent with other media such as TV and Movies.

I still find it incredibly hypocritical of the industry and society to have such a high tolerance for violence in games and media and at the same time an incredibly low tolerance (relatively speaking) for nudity and sex. Though it often appears on crime shows that you can talk about and even depict (to some extent) some of the more gruesome and violent sex crimes possible so long as the perpetrator is put in jail or shot by the end of the hour.

Anyway, that's beside the point I do think that the level of violence and the popularity of certain games does show that - IMHO - games are too violent, but that the violence is popular. I would love to see the game developers and publishers take the initiative to make games in such a way that you can actually tone down the violence - and language - used in a game, if you want to. Ideally, a game would even sense the parental control level on a system and adjust it's content accordingly. This would mean that anyone that wants the fully M rated version of a game can play it that way, and yet the same game could be played by others at a teen rating level.

It's rather like movies on BluRay. With all the space on those discs, why do they not include all the alternate scenes used for the edited version of the movie so that you can select the Cinema release or the more family friendly edited version when playing? There's plenty of space and the scenes are generally shot as part of the making of the movie, so the TV version will not include swearing and nudity that cannot be shown on broadcast TV.

I guess that would be too sensible though.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 2:41:00 PM

this whole 'games are too violent' debate is just laughable.

We live in a world where genocide is still common place. Where children are handed AK-47s (real ones) and expected to be actually killing other kids, adults, etc., we live in a world where corporate greed destroys lives and communities. Slave labor is tolerated in exchange for cheap electronics. We are only a couple of generations from the atrocities of WWII where children didn't just witness murder by the millions, they were also the victims.

Yet, these people want to discuss violence in video games? It makes me want to punch these people in the face and make them take a good look at the world around me, they aren't playing a whole hell of a lot of Call of Duty in Somalia....why, when you have real guns and people to shoot....Kim Jong Il, responsible for millions of deaths, enjoyed whisky and probably never laid eye on the GTA series.

It would seem it is far easier to criticize a virtual reality than to actually focus on the true reality, that there is far more violence, murder and death in the real world...perhaps for these people ignorance is bliss.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 3:15:29 PM

Very high minded, but tell me this. If a society is no longer sensitive to issues such as violence in entertainment, how on earth do you expect that same society to look beyond it's own borders and care about the issues you mention? I mean seriously. I very much care about all of this. But it seems to me that as long as people can't care enough about their own kids to monitor what they play or enjoy, or for that matter the things that they themselves enjoy; they're never going to care about kids carrying AK-47s in the developing world, or what is little more than slave labor in far off places making their cheap Walmart products.

When Rome collapsed on itself, it's society crumbled from the inside. The rulers of the day distracted the people in various ways, for example "Bread and Circuses" - aka the Colosseum. they were distracted from the problems at home and abroad. The society and the nation ceased looking outward and ceased evaluating itself. Instead of advancing it stagnated and died from the inside out.

I think that we must look at ourselves and such things as violence in entertainment and be aware of the failings we have in order for us to really be able to look outward and care about those other things. In other words, until we take care of our own back yard, our society is not going to look outside for things to improve or change.

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Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 4:08:19 PM

I agree...but the people carrying on this debate are not the type to ever look inward, they are more often than not 'christian' zealots who have one single agenda; to force their values, mores, and dogma onto the rest of society. These are the very people who would, if given the order by their so called leaders, be the first to flip the switch on a gas chamber if it meant ridding the world of undesirables and/or perceived threats.

This nation has been on a xenophobic spiral inward and outward since the days of the cold war. We play out our wars on tv screens, video games and other very 'sanitary' methods. We do not see first hand the horrors of our own making. I have many times compared our nation to that of Rome, in that we prefer our luxury at the cost of the rest of world. We turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, often times created by our very own nation, because it is 'messy'. Yes, this nation needs to look inward, but I guarantee you it will not come from the likes of those who object to violence in video games. Perhaps when this nation realizes that religion has replaced common sense and has hi-jacked our political system we can begin that inward look and begin the work of repairing the damage... however, based on this election cycle, I seriously doubt the U.S. is any where near ready to look at itself and sadly by the time the rest of this country wakes up I fear it will be too late.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Monday, April 09, 2012 @ 4:50:18 PM

I'm not going to go with the "it's okay because violence is everywhere" argument. That gets us into trouble.

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