Old Blood 'n' Guts
The video-game violence witch hunt
The New Year saw a "Special Report" being posted on the Reader's
Digest website titled "Computer
Violence: Are Your Kids at Risk?". The suggestion was that playing computer games turns you into a
homicidal maniac devoid of morals or conscience...
For several years now people have been trying to blame society's woes on the computer games industry. But
after all this time, there is still no real evidence to link violence in computer games to violence in the
real world. The Reader's Digest article was a great example of this, relying more on moral indignation than
evidence, with nothing to back up their self-righteous crusade except a few flimsy assumptions by people who
generally knew nothing about the subject.
And computer games are just the latest victims of a witch hunt by indignant people looking for a scapegoat.
In the 1970s it was violent movies, in the 1980s it was "satanic messages" in heavy metal, and in the 1990s
it is computer games...
Why? Because it's much easier to blame Duke Nukem, John Woo or Marilyn Manson when your child commits suicide
than it is to realise that it is probably YOU who is to blame.
One famous case involved a teenage boy who spent all his time locked away in his bedroom playing Doom. One day
he went to school with his father's gun and fired at students and teachers before killing himself.
While this is obviously a tragedy, blaming Doom is the easy way out. The parents should be asking themselves
why he was spending all his time on his own instead of with them or with his friends. Why they didn't
do anything about it. Why they allowed him to continue playing computer games all night when it must surely
have been adversely affecting his school work. And why they allowed him easy access to a loaded gun...
Most of you reading this editorial have no doubt played violent computer games, sometimes for hours at a time,
and many of you have been playing them for several years.
My memories of violence in computer games go all the way back to playing Barbarian on my BBC Micro when I was 7
or 8 years old. Barbarian was a game that allowed you to decapitate your opponent with a sword, and then watch
as a little goblin came to remove the corpse, kicking the head off the screen as it dragged the lifeless body away...
But how many of you have killed someone in cold blood because of all that time spent playing violent computer
games? None of you. Unless of course your prison has internet access. ;-)
In fact, the vast majority of people I have spoken to have said that playing violent computer games releases
their aggression, not causes it! After all, what better way is there to unwind after a hard day at school or the
office than to hop on to a Quake server for a couple of hours of mindless fragging?
Generally most of us can tell the difference between reality and fantasy. We know that although violence in a
computer game is alright, but that violence in real life is wrong. If you can't tell the difference between what
you're doing in a game of Quake and shooting someone in real life, then either you're much too young to be playing
the game or you're mentally ill.
Of course, the gaming industry isn't entirely blameless. Companies often cash in on the witch hunt by releasing
games that are intentionally designed to be controversial. After all, "any press is good press", and "free press
is the best kind"...
For example there's Carmaggedon, a game in which you have to run over pedestrians to score points. Or Postal, a
game in which you walk around a town blowing away civilians for no obvious reason except to "make them pay".
Both games were obviously designed to be as tasteless and controversial as possible, and sparked a massive media
outcry that probably helped the games sell thousands more copies than they otherwise would have done.
Another issue is the ratings system. These days most computer games are rated, just like a movie. The difference
is that computer game ratings are not legally enforcable - even if a game is rated AO (Adults Only) it can be sold
That's like a 12 year old kid being able to walk into a video rental shop and hire a porno movie, as AO games often
contain explicit sex and/or violence...
The Buck Stops Here
But at the end of the day the responsibility (for now at least) comes down to the parents.
If someone is old enough to buy their own games, then generally they are old enough to play those games. How many
12 year olds do you know who not only have enough pocket money to buy a $40 computer game, but are allowed to go
into town on their own with all that money? Younger children must usually rely on their parents to buy their games
And that's where ratings come in. The ratings are there for a reason - if you don't want your child playing violent
computer games, don't buy them any. The answer is to be more responsible yourself, not to go on a witch hunt to try
and stop those of us who are old enough to decide for ourselves from playing violent computer games!
The views in this editorial are not necessarily those of PlanetQuake, it's
staff, cheerleaders or lone gunmen.
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