Last night I was watching 28 Days Later, and after the first few seconds, which include many graphically violent images, I remarked to Mike- “This is ok, but I still can’t get Manhunt 2?”.
Why is it that incredibly violent movies and tv shows, depicting real people with real blood and real weapons, are pretty easy to get into the public realm, but a game like Manhunt 2, which doesn’t even have actual human beings in it, gets blocked and banned and is forced to change before we can ever get our hands on it? This isn’t a new argument.
There is a new theory on the effect of video game violence every day, and while I can make the assumption that is isn’t affecting me, I can’t pretend to be an expert on how it affects others.
I did have a new thought this morning while gathering up my things and walking out the door. I saw a stack of Choose Your Own Adventure books sitting on the coffee table, and it made me think about how much fun Mike and I had when we found them at the bookstore and spent the night choosing our fate. On their own, these stories wouldn’t hold my attention if read straight through. While the writing was actually more complex than I remembered it, endings like “You were never heard from again” leave alot to be desired. Obviously the fun is in the choosing- being able to put the decision in your own hands and choose what to risk and when to play it safe.
I think this is the same danger many people see in video game violence. If I watch a movie and someone gets killed, I personally don’t have anything invested in that killing. I can watch it, even squirm a bit in my seat, but the next scene comes on and I quickly forget the image. But if I am playing a game, I have the choice to pull the trigger. I can decide how many times I shoot someone, whether I want to sneak up and choke someone, or if I want to kill them at all. I have something invested in the violence. If I don’t kill them first they could kill me. Survival instincts are human nature and most of the time these instincts will kick in.
Does this cross over into my every day life? Not that I can see. I would have a pretty tough time really punching someone, and I am not the best shot with a gun. I watched Mike pick up a bug this morning and let it loose outside instead of squashing it, yet he will kill my character over and over in a game and laugh the whole time.
There are violent crimes every day, and only occasionally does the person turn out to be a hard core gamer. I could probably find a correlation between people who commit violent crimes and chewing bubble gum or wearing black shoes. Data and statistics are wonderful tools while trying to prove a point. Given the right data, I could prove that people who read this are more likely to drink a glass of water every 3rd Tuesday of the month while standing up than those who don’t. I think alot of fear about violent games comes from the choose your own violence nature of them. For those who don’t play, watching someone aim a sniper rifle at someone and shoot while laughing about how easy it was is probably an unsettling sight. For me, I would be laughing along and offering a high five.
Do I think kids should play these games? Personally no, but thats why they have parents. I have watched parents buy games with M ratings in stores and then hand them to their 8 yr old while walking out. Aren’t these the ratings parents screamed for to protect their children? In the same way, I am often in a R movie filled with kids accompanied by their parents/uncles/brothers who have no problem buying the tickets.
Do I think these games can cause violence? No more than watching the news every night. I am more horrified at the actual violence happening on my tv at 6 o’clock than any game I have ever seen.
Giving games M ratings only work if parents show some responsibility. Stores refusing to sell games only fuel the desire to buy them. If we are going to find a way to reduce violence in video games or prevent kids from playing them we should take a good look at what is actually effective instead of narrowing our focus. I don’t think anything more needs to be done but if you’re going to try, at least do it sensibly.
I can’t get behind censorship and think we spend too much time and money trying to fix the wrong part of the “problem”. I am just trying to understand why people choose to target the game and make it the cause, instead of looking at the person. I can’t explain why people kill, and in some cases noone really knows.
Not every person who plays violent games is violent in life. If video games are behind masses of violence in the world I’d really love to get my hands on that game Hitler was playing. I bet it was messed up.