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In Defense Of Violent Video Games

Every now and then the world outside of gaming locates a big problem, thrashes about for something other than itself to blame, and grabs ahold of the scapegoat of violent video games.

And there the focus rests as media and government personalities make outrageous claims, deny reality, and cast confusing aspersions on the gaming entertainment medium as well as the people who enjoy it.

I won't waste your time running down the list of ill-informed politicians or “news” personalities who have lambasted violent video games since the tragedy at Newtown but will instead focus on the awkward approach recently taken by ABC's Katie Couric and my response to it.

As reported here at PSXE the host of “Katie” asked gamers to tweet her about the topic of violent video games with a very particularly worded request: “Passionate gamers upset [with conversation] whether violent video games can contribute to [violent] behavior. Tweet the positive side of violent [video] games?”

Thankfully there are some thoughtful comments and not just the usual flame war that doesn't make gamers look good, but I wanted to address the defense of violent video games from another angle. As we know, all efforts to gauge the impact of violent games on young people are futile because they all reach the same conclusion (yes it's a problem for developing minds) and violent games are not meant for them. Therefore the negatives concerning the effects of violent games on young people are 100% immaterial to my argument that violent games are a good thing. Instead we can look at such games from a stark and realistic standpoint minus the controversy which thrives in environments where stereotypes and mischaracterizations reign supreme.

Just a few examples should help. Infinity Ward employs over 100 people, Treyarch does too; to date the Call of Duty franchise has sold over 100,000,000 copies of its games. Naughty Dog employs as many as 200 people and the Uncharted franchise has sold roughly 18,000,000 copies. Ubisoft Montreal employs over 2000 people and the Assassin's Creed franchise has sold over 50,000,000 copies to date. Starting to spot a trend?

Studios that develop violent video games employ many talented people with a range of specialized skills that they honed while piling up debt so that they could attend colleges to learn about what they love to do. Those studios contract with others for software engines, they work under publishers, they work with advertising people, and all of these people employ countless others.

Now that games have become more realistic the industry also employs professionals in voice acting and motion capture. Who could forget Andy Serkis or Nolan North's contributions to violent video games this generation? By the time the latest installment of Assassin's Creed or whatever violent game you enjoy comes to shelves a lot of genuine human beings with families to feed and ambitions to reach for have been employed in a thriving industry that is so popular and full of potential that it threatens to unseat film and television for the top entertainment spot.

I'm sorry but this could not happen with E and T rated games only. When it comes to fantasy worlds adults seek what is exciting whether that is HBO's Game of Thrones, an Alex Cross novel, or the latest Bioshock game. These violent video games made for adults drive the industry forward in very much the same way that violent movies drive the movie industry. When creators are happy to make violent games and publishers are happy about the money they rake in there is more money available overall to fund other projects that might be more innovative and risky, or even more games that are okay for kids. And these new projects give rise to new talents, new studios, new actors, and more growth.

As gamers we are inclined to argue about the necessity of the drama for the narratives we enjoy, about the creativity, about the passion, about the fun, the evils of censorship, and yes even the hilarity of inflicting violence on virtual characters. All these things and more are important to understanding violence in video games but they are the finer points which outsiders on soap boxes simply cannot understand. They believe we are training to kill real people whether we mean to or not. The problem with this is it understands gaming to be as simple as satisfying blood lust like the gladiator games of ancient Rome. This is not the case. We play games for entertainment, for camaraderie, for laughs, for thrills, to relax, and for anything else we get out of it. Violence is really just a small part of what gamers are actually seeking when they buy these games, and it doesn't help anyone to put others in a box.

What are the positive sides of violent video games? The question is easily answered when we drop all pretense that the goal of targeting violent games has anything to do with protecting our youth. If it did then all forms of violent media would also need further review, and sensible people have already concluded that those things are within the purview of the parents, not the government or the media.

I can see the positive sides of violent games every time I hear an artistic visionary passionately discuss the product they plan to bring to market, every time a voice actor answers questions on how they brought their character to life, and every time I read the “thank you” section of ending credits where the creators show their appreciation for the patience their families have showed while they worked to create an entertaining, violent product that helped to feed and house those families.

If you keep your eyes open you will see human beings, jobs, careers, success, and economic progress, if you shut them you will only see what you want to see. And in darkness we are haunted by our fears.

Related Game(s): Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Assassins Creed, Bioshock Infinite, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune

Tags: violent video games

5/16/2013 10:48:09 PM David Nelson

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (25 posts)

Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 12:14:45 AM

Katie Couric really turns me on.

End of Line.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 12:37:52 AM

It really annoys me when people say "oh look at the world we live in, it glorifies violence" or after a tragedy people say "what has our society come to" The truth is that pretty much every civilization in history has glorified violence and we actually live in one of the safest societies that has ever existed. Is it perfect? Obviously not and there is still a lot of danger but when you look through history, human civilization has come a very long way.

Also violence has been around long before video games.

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PSN French
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 4:42:43 AM

Public school educated!! Just an FYI, the Roman Empire was much safer to live in than now. The American "Wild West" (the REAL west, not the Hollywood wild west) was actually safer. There are almost as many legal murders in this country EVERY DAY, than there were in Rome EVERY YEAR. Illegal murder was also much, much lower in the Roman Empire because people were all but required to carry a sword for personal protection. We live in a country where it is super easy to for criminals to obtain weapons, and impossible for the innocent to carry protection. If you look at hard numbers, we actually live in one of the most deadly times in all of history.

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PSN French
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 4:44:32 AM

However, I understand why you think the way you do. It is natural for every society to think THEY are the most "civilized" and "honorable".

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 9:51:48 AM

PSN French he was saying violence has been around for a long time and video games weren't required for violence to exist.

Your "facts" about Rome and the wild west are also a bit misleading. The Roman empire was around for over 1000 years and was huge. The rules and laws were different as the times changed. Not everyone carried a sword, now most people had one because most farmers were part of the legion.

The wild west well, where are you getting your information from? I would like to see these historical figures that the west wasn't violent.

I don't have a history major or anything but I was really into history for awhile.

All that aside humans have always been killing each other, and I think the point here is that the disturbing and messed up stuff we did to each other 2000 years ago wasn't influenced to those people by video games.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 12:42:57 PM

@ PSN French, I never said we are more civilized or honorable, and I should have clarified that I am from Canada and so I was referring to Canadian homicide rates which are pretty low, and in Canada we don't have the death penalty so we don't have legal murders.

Also we don't need walk around with a sword to be safe...

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 10:47:30 PM

@ PSN French

Go read “Better Angels of Our Nature” just so you can see how remarkably wrong you are. This IS the safest era that humans have ever seen. The best part of the book is he doesn't simply make obscure comments he shows the documentation to back up the claims. I get upset anytime anyone tries to do what you just did.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 9:27:20 PM

Bros, leave French alone. He's a walking fake-fact making machine. The dude thinks polio vaccinations are giving us more polio. Need I say more?

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Deleted User
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 12:41:35 AM

I agree that games should never be censored. When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building, there wasn't a mad dash to ban The Turner Diaries, even though there was evidence that it was the impetus for his actions. At the end of the day, it falls to personal responsibility. People are just too damned frightened to admit that anyone from any walk of life or upbringing can go nuts. Because by blaming games, movies, music, and guns it gives them a tangible enemy that they believe they can control and prevent recurrence.

I disagree that violent video games are an absolute necessity for the advancement of this industry. That's ridiculous.

Last edited by n/a on 5/17/2013 12:42:21 AM

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 1:12:09 AM

I think it is from a realistic perspective, without mature content a pretty large number of adult gamers would have just left gaming behind because it really would be just for kids.

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Deleted User
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 1:34:26 AM

But you wrote that the violence was a small part of what gamers were seeking. That I agree with. I believe everything you intimated above could be achieved without all of the violence. We can't see it now because it is here, but the industry would have adapted to move forward without violent games as the spearhead, so to speak.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 4:08:44 AM

I read you, we'll just have to differ on it. I just can't see the current state of gaming being as advanced as it is without the driving force of M rated games and the market that craves them.

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Deleted User
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 5:18:04 AM

Uncharted IS a T rated game, though.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 11:52:56 AM

Was it? Interesting. But you'd still have to remove all the violence and then where would it be?

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 5/17/2013 11:55:04 AM

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Deleted User
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 6:33:38 PM

Uncharted sans the violence? You'd have a better game.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 9:30:53 PM

I disagree. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to show conflict without violence. Without it, you need to have a passive conflict. One that is difficult to show without first having to immerse ourselves in an action/reaction sort of way. (keeping it a game and not just an RPG select-what-to-say scenario)

There is a limit to when violence becomes gratuitous, of course. But even in dramas where violence never happens, it inevitably shows up. Even if it's just a lady slapping a dude. Physical conflict adds depth. And physical drama is necessary to immersion in a visual presentation.

And lastly, you can't just remove every aspect that makes the game a game.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 5/18/2013 9:32:03 PM

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 1:28:29 AM

Here's the gist of a violent video game. We all enjoy a nice and thoughtful experience in movies and games that have a story to tell....
And sometimes our brains are too weary for that nonsense and have a desire to shoot a virtual terrorist in the face.
My 2 cents.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 1:39:00 AM

As long as parents don't see the damn difference between an E rated game and an M rated game, this industry will always have politicians on their backs.

Fact is, if a kid wants to play GTA or a CoD game, his/her parents will buy that game just to shut him/her up. Not realizing.... no, wait.... not CARING that said games are rated M. They don't give a fudge. As long as Lil Timmy gets to play the popular game that everyone else is playing online, they'll buy it at a high price.

These parents absolutely have no idea about what that big M means on the box. They would never buy a XXX DVD for their kids. But they sure as heck buy him or her the latest CoD game. Because they don't know the damn difference between an E, T and M rating.

And that kind of ignorance goes all the way to Washington. So not surprisingly, politicians talk about videogames as being an industry that caters exclusively to KIDS. Because they also cannot tell the difference between an E rated game and an M rated game. They're videogames and I guess they're suppose to be for kids. That's what they think over there.

I think the parents are to blame. But also, lets not "kid" ourselves here. Many companies (looking at you Activision), are not exactly going out of their way to prevent children from infesting their M rated games. Why would they? With thousands of kids playing their games.

Its extremely common having to deal with kids when playing shooters online. Yet we all turn a blind eye about that. Especially the companies that thrive on selling games to that demographic. One has to wonder why they oppose more strict measures to prevent those kids from playing such games. Its not like those measures will affect us grown ups.

The rating board needs to do a better job an educating parents about their rating system. There is no need to start using the AO rating either. Just make it clear to parents what the M rating means.

It's getting annoying having to read the same stories every year. And nothing changes because no one really does anything about it. So it just gets worse and worse.

Last edited by Bonampak on 5/17/2013 1:40:01 AM

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 12:51:56 PM

I think you're being a little unfair to parents..yes there are bad parents out there who know the game is for adults but don't care. However, the vast majority do actually care but as you said, they-like most non gamers-assume games are directed at kids, or simply don't know what they're buying. Obviously that doesn't excuse them as they should know, but that's nowhere near as bad as the horrible parent picture you're painting.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 2:18:36 PM

@matt99 - If you notice, I was making the point that parents and politicians are ignorant about the rating system, because the rating board and retailers barely lift a finger to enforce them (I also hinted as to why they are slow to act on that- PROFITS) and that they should properly inform parents and politicians about what the damn difference between an E rating and an M rating means.

Just placing the M on the box, obviously is not enough.

So they should go the extra mile and inform parents and politicians about why games get rated a certain way. And they should also tell politicians that they need to pass on that information to parents. Instead of just trying to crack down on violent games that were never designed for children.

But again, my previous point was that some companies (and retailers) refuse to go out of their way to enforce the M rating and to inform an adult when purchasing a game at GameStop/WalMart/etc. that that M rated game they're buying is not for kids. But they're not doing that because they're too busy chasing a buck.

So even if some parents genuinely don't care if they buy a working nuclear bomb for their kids (because they say: Hey, don't tell me how to raise my kids!), the responsibility still falls upon retailers and the game companies themselves to inform all parents about the rating system.

But nothing is done. So that's why we keep reading these stories every year. EVERY YEAR.

Last edited by Bonampak on 5/17/2013 2:20:40 PM

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 5:06:55 AM

a good thing about violent games?
id just point her to bulletstorm and all the smiles it puts on peoples faces!
making people happy and laugh is "good", no?
hell, inspires and encourages creativity which is also good.
nah, seriously though would heavy rain be as gripping and emotional without the violence?
if instead of cutting off your finger and threatening a innocent man with a gun, if you were just to color in a crossword puzzle, and have a tea party, would it have been as gripping and emotional as it was?
of course not!
you were connected to the characters because of what they had to go through, and you really feel sorry for them.
take out the horrible things they had to do, you remove the connection players had to the characters, and thus destroy the whole point and pull of the game!

spec ops the line another perfect example.
a game holding a mirror up to society and saying are you really ok with this?
its a shame it does not really do it half as well as it should of though.
if it really made you connect with the characters as heavy rain did it would of made it so much of a better experience!
but you still gotta applaud them for at least trying to put up a mirror to the world.
most developers couldent give a flying %$#^!

Last edited by ___________ on 5/17/2013 5:08:51 AM

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 9:56:09 AM

Violent videogames might provoke disturbed individuals into doing terrible things to other people.

But how many people blow off steam playing violent games? I wonder how many people let stress go with violent games?

This if anything is going to prevent them from acting out real life violence and as a whole reducing stress is a good thing.

Now not everyone playing a violent game is going to reduce their stress. But I know a great deal of people who do this and it works for them.

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Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 11:00:56 PM

A government should never take away the choices we are entitled to as human beings in a free world. Obviously society needs guidance on its path to further greatness and this is where our laws come in, but we should at least be free to choose where that path leads. If I want to play games with blood guts and naked women, then I should be free to do so.

I think when something threatens to disturb the peace, then that thing should be removed. But a form or art cant do that.

It's funny how all these us politicians complain about violent games so much, because they promote violent behaviour, but yet they just recently failed to pass a law that would reduce the number of weapons in the country. This would have an immediate and certain affect on gun violence, here in Australia 90% of the population don't have access to firearms. We also don't ever have an issue with violent games. We also don't have gun massacres.

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Banky A
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 5:12:56 PM

only read 50/50 of article and comments before i have to drive out --

but all i know is that games without blood or gory violence like persona 4 arena, blazblue, league of legends make the player more angry and mentally unstable than any reality-based killing games like cod, ac or uncharted

lol also partly from experience (P4A)

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Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 9:09:44 PM

I thought I was reading an article from Ben. Nice job World, seriously.

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