Crew View: That whole violence in video games thing
Today another member of community, the DLC Crew, takes centre stage. Meet Aaron Hamilton, he flogs video games IRL, he may be the illegitimate son of George Hamilton and he wants to talk gaming violence from a front line perspective. You have the floor Aaron.
Violent video games get a bad rap. We can’t seem to go a few months without something in the world being partly, if not entirely, connected and blamed on video games. After the attacks in Norway mid-2011, numerous news outlets claimed the gunman used Call of Duty to train for the massacre committed. Now I don’t know how you train for a real life scenario within a game, especially one which uses 200g controllers or a keyboard and mouse which control absolutely nothing like a real life firearm. That didn’t stop the media from jumping on the hype bandwagon, because let’s face it, it grabs people’s attention and sells stories.
Other controversies within the gaming sector itself have popped up more and more in recent years. One of the most notable being the “No Russian” mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (see below), where the player was placed in a Russian airport with a LMG and ordered to open-fire on the crowds. Luckily when the game was released there was an option when first booting up the game to skip the mission, to let people who would be offended/traumatised by the mission to leave it be. Yet, the game went on to become one of the highest selling games of all time, signalling to developers gamers are happy with this kind of content. The question must be asked then, why do people play these violent games? Do they get thrills from gunning down crowds of innocent bystanders in an airport or driving down the side-walk of a bustling city in Grand Theft Auto watching bodies fly everywhere?
To answer these questions, I went to the source. Being employed at an undisclosed gaming retailer, I was in the perfect position to try and find out why gamers are attracted to titles which often focus on violence. Over the course of a couple of weeks there were a couple of mindsets which became more and more obvious with most answers falling under these viewpoints. The first was that the gamer in question doesn’t instinctively go for or play these violent games, the games they play just happen to have violence in them. This is a very valid point of view, especially considering most games these days have some degree of violence in them. Even Skylanders, seen everywhere as a kids game (G-rated) has the player running around blowing up, beating up and destroying enemies. The difference here, however, is the type of violence and its depiction.
The second standpoint, similar to the first, is consumers play for the story and the experience first, not the level of violence or the number of explosions in it. In the recent Tomb Raider reboot the developer, Crystal Dynamics, came under fire for the level of violence protagonist Lara Croft inflicts and receives. These include brutal over-the-top death scenes and a scene which looked like she was going to be sexually assaulted (she wasn’t in case you were wondering).
After playing through the game a couple of times now, I can understand the approach the developer took. The d incident in question was used as a story-telling device, showing viscerally how Lara became the battle-hardened explorer/adventurer we know highlighting traumas she endured at the beginning of her adventuring life. Violence is often used in games like this to draw the player in to help them connect with the protagonist on multiple levels, leading to a better experience with the game.
The third point of view is it’s just a game. Plain and simple. I couldn’t have said it better myself really. What a lot of people in the world fail to see is most gamers can tell the difference between a game and real life, despite the stereotypical depiction of gamers in movies and TV shows. Just because a person goes on a rampage in Grand Theft Auto killing wave after wave of cops in continuously creative ways, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will go to the town centre or heavily populated area and open fire. A lot of people don’t realise, or even care for that matter, that gamers are regular people. Yes, sometimes it can become a little unhealthy when you find yourself consumed by an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) or online competitive shooter and play non-stop for a week or two (or longer). That doesn’t mean every gamer adopts this attitude or spend the same number of hours gaming. I know I haven’t and I’m sure most of you haven’t. End rant.
There has been a lot of research conducted trying to prove violent games negatively effect people, especially younger children and teenagers. But, what if I told you new research shows violent games can be beneficial to a person? Having done a minor in Psychology at university, I came across this research whilst doing an assignment. The studies showed violent video games are an effective means of relieving stress. More so than even yelling into your pillow, which is meant to be one of the best ways to release tension. Growing up, this was the case for me. Being bullied at school and having less than reliable friends, I was known to come home and just drive around in GTA causing havoc, which kept me from tipping over the edge.
Violence in video games isn’t the end of the world. Yes, it’s different to movies because you’re actually interacting directly, doing what’s on the screen. There is, however, a world of difference between performing a hidden stab in Assassin’s Creed and going down to your local service station and doing the same thing. Stay informed and aware of the ratings and guidelines on games, especially you’re the parent of young kids or teenagers. Remember games are mean’t to be fun, so have fun with your games and enjoy the ride.