Stating the Obvious: Videogames, Violence, and the Media

It’s been a while since we had a good and productive conversation about why videogames are the devil’s instruments and how they’re plaguing the mindset of this generation. Boy am I glad this train of intuition and tolerance isn’t gonna go off rails! Thought to be fair, a train of intuition and tolerance has to be put on the rails first, which is what I feel about the topic of videogames and violence. Also in this case if the train passengers were patiently and generously waiting for the train to take off, while the conductor was busy bitching about the passengers because he has a major stick up his ass.

You know, I really wanted this to be a short discussion. Because I feel like it’s ridiculous to keep arguing about how videogames are affecting society, the children, and why isn’t Space Invaders around anymore? Kids these days, they don’t understand the meaning of clean old-school fun, not like how we were annihilating aliens or constantly putting those damn ghosts in a cycle of pain and misery because of some yellow puck.

Point is, journalists and consumers alike have discussed this topic to death…for over 15-20 goddamn years now. Sure every now and then we do get a Jack Thompson or a Leland Yee , but they come and go. Not to mention it’s cute whenever a political figure tries to talk about something like Mass Effect or Assassins Creed without understanding the context. It’s like a baby trying to beat you in a game of checkers, except they just wind up throwing the pieces all over the place.

However in light of the recent tragedy over at Connecticut, several figures (including the NRA) decided to simply lay the blame on videogames (to be fair LaPierre also put the blame on Hollywood, but that’s a different topic). Or to force the blame on a medium that is still new so that gun sales don’t deter, but that’s just crazy talk! Who would pointlessly transition onto a hate bandwagon only to remove the spotlight on something that is their only source of financial income? Foul-play I say, but let’s get to what started this.

In this clip right here (from Kotaku), a supposed expert was brought in to discuss the ‘real’ fault for the shooting. That fault? Well apparently Facebook, TV, and computer games were to blame for the catastrophe.

They can think of them as almost third parties, or entertainment figures, or animated creatures. And for the people among us who are vulnerable to acts of violence, who are violently ill if you will, that means they can consider others even less than ever before. So in general if our capacity to resonate with each other’s feelings is being reduced, as I believe it is, then the outliers are much less able to feel anything.

First off, I play a decent amount of videogames and not once did I ever envision my doctor or employer as a talking blue kangaroo that spits fireballs from its pouch (although drugs can help that). Second, I doubt Facebook has turned anyone into an emotionless android who’s only goal in life is to go out and shoot people. Third, and this is the most obvious part, no cited sources are to be seen/heard and the fact that he uses the phrase “as I believe it is” removes any sort of authenticity (whatever little he had) in his report.

This is just the same ol’ baseless semantics I heard a billion times before, I mean someone has to bring out some new evidence or perhaps come from an area of rationalization? Well let’s see what Wayne LaPierre has to say!

There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people,” LaPierre continues to add-on. “Through vicious violent video games, with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: It’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all yours couldn’t, or didn’t want anyone to know you’ve found it?

– Wayne LaPierre

Wait a minute, Bulletstorm? You mean that game that sold close to over three thousand copies and was considered a ‘disappointment‘ in financial terms? Whatever, as for ‘GTA‘ and ‘Mortal Kombat‘? I can kind of see what he was going for with Mortal Kombat in the sense that the newest one came out several years ago, and indeed had some very explicit fatalities (some of which made me cringed). Except for one tiny detail, that’s the reason why we have the ESRB, and that’s why it got an M-rating.

Then with GTA, look, which GTA are you talking about? San Andreas or 4? If you’re talking about San Andreas, well get over it because it’s 2013 now. If you’re talking about 4 though, well not only should you get over that, but in comparison to previous GTA games (especially now that we have Saints Row) it’s just not as over-the-top with its violence. Then we have Splatterhouse, a game that was released in the arcade around 1988 that later got a mediocre sequel on the Wii, and as I said before what year are we in?!

And finally, he tops it off by showing a game called ‘Kindergarten Killers‘. You see it’s a triple-A FPS that’s been getting popular since it’s release, and it’s fanbase has been getting bigger ever since as well. Except…it isn’t at all. It’s actually a ‘flash’ game that’s been out for over 10 years and was pulled from its website in 2008 after a school shooting. Yeah, it’s not so much as ‘hiding’ as it was just removing something that was insensitive and wrong toward those who were victims of the shooting in Finland.

Come on LaPierre! You weren’t even trying to make up some new and sensible excuses, you just recycled old ones and imported some obscure ones in there as well. Not only does that make you a liar, but that also makes you a hipster of some sort! A lying hipster, I can’t tell if that’s an oxymoron, but I can tell you that it’s the worst thing in the world! How can you talk about a medium that you have no understanding of, nor even had a hand in?

Actually to be fair, the NRA did create a game called ‘NRA: Practice Range‘ (out now on the Apple store) in which you practice shooting targets, while assuming that this entire shooting range might have been placed in the middle of ‘Hot Shots Golf‘. Check out this interesting tidbit of info from NBC News.

The free app was initially recommended for ages 4 and up, according to the iTunes, but later Monday was recommended for 12 and up.

– Andrew Mach, NBC News

Hm, alright so you’re basically shooting objects with a standard assault rifle, no harm in that! Right?

The site said it offered “a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations.” The app description added, “It strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education, allowing you to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.

– Andrew Mach, NBC News

Okay, now I’m curious if they said the same thing about Varmint Hunter. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it’s kind of ironic that LaPierre was harpooning videogames like Bulletstorm for its over-the-top violence that was intentional and done with sort of a tongue-in-cheek manner, meanwhile we have Practice Range that is supposedly about having an “authentic experience” and maintaining “realistic simulations“. You know, like what a simulator does! It doesn’t matter, because I’m sure teenagers are much more likely to cartoon-ishly kick people into cacti rather than to actually know which spot to shoot a moving target because of the game’s “authentic experience“.

Aside from LaPierre, some NRA shenanigans, and a couple of Fox News anchors not doing their research, another controversial event that happened but wouldn’t have happened if people didn’t jump the gun, was the incident revolving around ‘Mass Effect‘. Basically the one responsible for the shooting, Ryan Lanza, got his named looked up on Facebook. Quickly it was discovered by the users that Ryan liked Mass Effect on his page, and from there on out a whole lot of non-researched blame started peaking in. Comments ranging from, “Ban this game and the people who created such sickness,” to “I am sure none of these precious children had this game on their Santa list…God help protect us from all the evil our society promotes.” Because in actuality not only does that not make any sense considering the idea of what Mass Effect was about, but it turns out that these people were dog-piling on the wrong Ryan Lanza.

So after all this controversy and ignorant remarks, in due time we did get a pretty reasonable and positive discussion with the ESA and Joe Biden. Obama then decided to fund a $10 million study on videogames, and the outcome of that will probably be that there is no linkage between violence and videogames. At least that’s what I’m predicting. But most likely the study will involve less finger-pointing and more facts. Of course it didn’t take too long till we had more ridiculous comments like ‘videogames are a bigger concern than guns‘ or ‘proposing a tax on violent videogames‘, both of which come from an area of ignorance or personal misunderstanding rather than the opposite.

Personally I do think there is a problem with the way violence can be depicted in videogames. I mean shit, getting killed by a chainsaw assault rifle can be awesome, but in the eyes of someone who hasn’t played a videogame it can be a bit much. But that has to do more with the fact that some people view videogames as ‘alien’ or ‘foreign’, something beyond their understanding, but while in some cases I do think we can make the medium more presentable. What I mean by that is, to some degree, there are a large portion of games that do involve violent acts of some sort (whether it be jumping on goombas, beating up criminals, or just flinging crazy-ass birds at green pigs). Think about it, what was the last game you played that did not involve conducting a somewhat violent act on another person/being?

And I think the way to solve this problem is not so much by reducing the numbers on violent videogames. I think we just need to expand upon certain genre’s and try to make something that normally other people would look at as mundane or flat-out boring, like doing taxes or mowing the lawn (keep with me here). Take these things that we do, but try to do something that we haven’t done yet with them…make them ‘fun’. That’s what it comes down to, trying to turn something bland into something vibrant by simply challenging the fundamentals of gameplay or the way developers set out the blueprint for their titles. Believe me I know I will probably get some shit for this, but if we do want to make this industry’s image better, we got to expand into new territories of gameplay.

This is the type of conversation we need with developers and political figures, but it’s not gonna happen. Want to know why? Because for the most part, how many of these politicians even play videogames (besides the ones on their iPhones)? No, instead we’re gonna get the same ignorant BS several years from now and we’re gonna still hear about how videogames are ‘demonic’ and want to suck out the souls of children. However, judging by how things went with the discussion between Biden and the ESA, there is some hope. In time we will hear about  the conclusion to the research that Obama required, and see where things go from there.

Right now though, I’m done with this discussion. As I said this has been talked to death for over 15-20 years now, I’m too old to have to hear about why Mortal Kombat is satanic material or why the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod in San Andreas still needs to be discussed. I’m done, you got that?

Anyway, thanks for sticking through my crazy rambling this week. If you have any comments, post them below and if you can please share or tell your friends about the Brutlounge. Thanks for reading!

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2 responses to “Stating the Obvious: Videogames, Violence, and the Media

  1. Pingback: January Roundup! Abrupt Endings And Obvious Beginnings! | Brutlounge

  2. Pingback: Happy Valentines Day – Find The Alphabets

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