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An infographic about violence in bestselling video games.
May 1, 2013 4:32 AM   Subscribe

The Guardian has a nifty infographic of violence in the top 50 video games sold in 2012. Just over half are considered violent if "cartoon violence" is excluded.
posted by ersatz (73 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
For what it's worth, some of the labels on the infographic are a little misleading. Many games have alcohol content, but only one is mentioned on the labels (one quick example, you can buy and drink alcohol in Skyrim, but it doesn't have that warning. Likewise you can drink and gamble in Borderlands 2, but again no warning). Not quite sure how well those warnings are enforced.

That being said, yes, most popular video games today involve copious violence. As no-one seems to be able to tell whether or not that matters, I'd still recommend keeping it from the kids. I believe adults should be able to make up their own mind as far as that sort of content is concerned.

If violence in games influences real life, what about other features? I've heard more anecdotal evidence that driving in GTA leads to bad driving habits in real life than the violence. Does drinking or drug use in games encourage similar activity off line? Should we be encouraged that only two games featured that great evil of nudity and three had partial nudity?
posted by YAMWAK at 5:02 AM on May 1, 2013


Oops - just noticed the 'use of alcohol label' as opposed to the 'reference to alcohol' label I was looking at. Please disregard my post.
posted by YAMWAK at 5:06 AM on May 1, 2013


Just over half are considered violent if "cartoon violence" is excluded

Minimizing 68% by calling it "just over half" and excluding 9/50 games that have cartoon violence makes me think the caption writer wanted to state a low proportion. But 68% is closer to two thirds, and the violence percentage goes up to 86% when cartoon violence is included. Of course, I have no problem with the games on that list (that I know of), and it's at least an interesting chart, even if one caption is misleading.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:14 AM on May 1, 2013


Yeah, I was gonna say - since when is 68% "just over half"?
posted by Peevish at 5:24 AM on May 1, 2013


I don't think that video games with violence are a social ill, and they would still be protected speech if they were, but the chart certainly does seem to reflect the limited palate in which these games are designed.

If Minecraft were included on this chart, I wonder if it wouldn't give a very unrealistic picture of the violence in that game (and elide the fact that it's possible to play without it entirely).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:26 AM on May 1, 2013


since when is 68% "just over half"?

The 68% figure includes the games with cartoon violence (34 out of 50). Excluding the 9 with only cartoon violence leaves 25 out of 50, which is just over half if you are a "glass half full" kind of person.
posted by jhc at 5:34 AM on May 1, 2013


Unless I'm getting something wrong, Cartoon Violence (9)+ Violence (11) + Intense Violence (14)= (34) or 68% of the total and if you disregard cartoon violence it's one out of two.
posted by ersatz at 5:36 AM on May 1, 2013


Hey, jhc.
posted by ersatz at 5:37 AM on May 1, 2013


It's also worth noting that, for example, one of the "violence" games is Wii Sports. Presumably because it includes boxing. Which, as someone who has boxed at the amateur level, seems to be rather misleading - boxing is a violent sport for sure but not much more so than football/hockey and I don't think it carries the same potential concerns as, say, GTA-esque games.

Plus how does Mario Kart not have a violence warning?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:51 AM on May 1, 2013


It is interesting that Madden -- the American Football series, for those not familiar -- gets a pass on Violence, but WWE (wrestling) gets lit up with warning labels.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:56 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Plus how does Mario Kart not have a violence warning?

They don't give warnings about real life violence among the players, just in game violence.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


As moronic an enterprise as analysing the violence in the top fifty novels or movies would be.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:05 AM on May 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Unless I'm getting something wrong, Cartoon Violence (9)+ Violence (11) + Intense Violence (14)= (34) or 68% of the total and if you disregard cartoon violence it's one out of two.

Oh, you're totally right--mousing over the 68% figure shows it instantly. Sorry!
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:05 AM on May 1, 2013


I'm really not sure what the point of this is. It's not accurate (RE: Operation Raccoon City and BLOPS2 certainly have bladed weapons with your melee moves), and the information is very obtuse. I can't tell what I am supposed to be learning from this data. A division by game genre would be more concise and more revealing about the types of video games that have mass-market appeal.
posted by demiurge at 6:08 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Part of the problem is that games pretty much require contests, and contests generally suggest violence. I remember a board game years ago that's big selling point was that it "was pacifist." Unfortunately, it managed this by moving conflict "off screen." You would go on a quest to rescue someone from pirates, collect the tokens to find the pirates, a curtain would be drawn, and rescue!. Collect VP.

Sure, you could have games that focus on economic competition instead of gladiatorial combat, but you are probably ignoring the brutal expiration of the workers. The only reason there is no violence in Railroad Tycoon is that they have neglected to show it...
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:23 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


As moronic an enterprise as analysing the violence in the top fifty novels or movies would be.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:05 AM on May 1 [+] [!]


Why? Are you a gamer and you dislike the implications of the study?
posted by ben242 at 6:31 AM on May 1, 2013


As moronic an enterprise as analysing the violence in the top fifty novels or movies would be.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:05 AM on May 1 [+] [!]

Why? Are you a gamer and you dislike the implications of the study?


Can we please not do this?

Whatever the reasons for MartinWisse's comments, and I agree that the comment could stand to be fleshed out more, just throwing accusations of partisanship seems a little argumentative.

As mentioned many times, noone has been able to convincingly prove that games are related to violence, nor that they aren't. The implications of the study is that people enjoy violent games. I can see a lot of people not liking those implications, but it wouldn't be just gamers.

Also, does this qualify as a 'study'? It's an infographic - it's data, not information.
posted by YAMWAK at 6:43 AM on May 1, 2013


The implications of what study? There have been several studies that have come up with results that are unclear.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/science/studying-the-effects-of-playing-violent-video-games.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0)

Articles like this always come across as "We all know that violent video games make people violent, we just haven't found the proof yet. But look at how violent these games are!"
posted by papercake at 6:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


As moronic an enterprise as analysing the violence in the top fifty novels or movies would be.

In answer to your query, I haven't seen anything like all of the top 50 movies from 2012, but making reasonable guesses and doing minimal googling, about two-thirds of them had violent content. All of the top 10 except maybe Ted had violent content; I'm just assuming it didn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:57 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like a nice bit of violence.

Dull military nonsense and bro-homour I'm less keen on though.
posted by Artw at 6:57 AM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


The most popular game among my friends right now is Candy Crush, closely followed by Words with Friends.

These sorts of assessments of video games always stick to the big-ticket, super studio console and PC games, whereas an awful lot of the market these days is in casual games, small aps and mobile gaming, a significant chunk of which is non-violent.

I am likewise puzzled as to what this graphic is meant to achieve, especially since it's not even a very whole picture of gaming as a whole
posted by Jilder at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Plus how does Mario Kart not have a violence warning?

The infographic tells us it has comic mischief, which suggests to me the sly antics of Victorian jackanapes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [12 favorites]




Ted has a pretty intense (though absurd and funny) fight scene between the two principals.

So all of the top 10 movies from 2012 featured violence, if ROU_Xenophobe's google fu and my memory are to be trusted.
posted by Poppa Bear at 7:11 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd think the kind of violence in these games would also matter. I can see a difference between the violence that celebrates the player's own power over their targets, as in Call of Duty, and the violence that inspires more fear than confidence, as in Amnesia or Minecraft. But that difference is neither obvious nor objective, so it's probably not quantifiable.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:13 AM on May 1, 2013


Also -- while I am not much of a video gamer -- I do play Skyrim betimes and while I have no doubt that many many video games feature arterial spurts to beat the band, the second clip the video here shows from Skyrim (at about 0:08) seems to be a Magelight spell. Someone is literally illuminating a dark room and it is implied to be violence here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2013


Skyrim being the magical land of knee-trauma?
posted by Artw at 7:26 AM on May 1, 2013


Violence has two things:

1) It's dramatic and allows for what video games are especially good at: exciting physical moments.

2) It's easy to quantify physical damage in video games. The idea of a "health point" is very well understood in today's media culture. And "death" (even temporary) is a very simple metaphor for "game over."

Hence: Lots of violence in video games. It's not because everyone involved in video gaming are bloodthirsty sociopaths.

The open(-ish) questions are: Is this violence problematic in other ways? Does it make people violent? Does it alienate people from gaming who might otherwise find a place? Is it healthy for kids to be exposed to it? Considering todays technology, why can't more best-selling games be about political intrigue or romance? Or other more complex themes?

The graphic considers none of this. It just states the rather obvious: That top-selling video games have a lot of violence. Well, no shit.
posted by chasing at 7:36 AM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Amused to see "bow and arrow" in Wii Sports Resort. It's pretty well represented, and there is nothing at all violent about it. The most violent thing in there is the foam sword bashing thing. It encourages simulated domestic violence. ;)

I've always wondered why the phrase "bow and arrow" when we don't say "gun and bullet." Is it just because "bow" is a homograph and there's some confusion that people might be shooting each other with tied ribbons or respectful gestures of humility?


I stopped playing Borderlands 2 sometime after the first playthrough, because of the bro-humor violence. Laughing after shooting people in the head, setting midgets on fire... it just did not feel right, especially in the wake of school shootings. (Plus I always hated Tiny Tina. And Handsome Jack creeps me out, though initially I thought it was a good thing for the story to have Most Hateable Villain Ever.)

I'm totally fine with smashing bandits with a big freaking hammer and setting adorable rat-people on fire in Guild Wars 2, just because the representation of the violence is so much different. And any number of ways to "arrest" criminals in Champions Online (bullets, thousands of bullets, poison, earthquakes, lasers, sorcery, swords, freakish large swords, kung-fu, psychic torture) since it's so obviously comic-booky.
posted by Foosnark at 7:39 AM on May 1, 2013


Skyrim being the magical land of knee-trauma?

Knee trauma as backstory, which is a thing even TVTropes does not address yet (I think).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:42 AM on May 1, 2013


Blah. Sports.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:43 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


While we're on the subject of violence and video games...
I want to tell you about some gaming experiences I had the other night. After a few hours of studying I decided I needed a break, so I got out my copy of Fallout:New Vegas and fired up the 'ol PS3*. While playing I noticed a couple of things that got my mind grapes all-a-jitter.

First I need to tell you about my in-game character. Normally when I play RPGs the character I'm playing is just an idealized (or simply dramatized) version of myself. This style of play is of course very fun and highly immersive. It's enhanced make-belief. It's also very easy to play this way because you don't really have to think about your choices, you just "act natural". I still enjoy playing this way most of the time, but I've already played a lot of New Vegas so I decided to take my character in a completely different direction:

Character Name: Sarah [female]

Age: Very Young (15/16)

BASIC Stats: Really high perception, intelligence, and agility, good endurance, everything else is low. Strength is 2

Tag Skills: Science, Lock-pick, Repair

Background: Sarah is 15 or 16. She has recently escaped from a super-crazy Polygamist Apocalypse Cult (they call themselves Children of the Covenant). She is a daughter of one of the sister-wives and was about to be forcibly married to one of the cult's elders as his fourth wife. Fearing a life of institutionalized rape and general subjugation she escapes into the dead of night and heads for a new life in New Vegas.

Sarah has no "hard skills"
Though she was born and raised in an oppressive cult it was not without its advantages and as a consequence she is extremely well-read in the sciences and very adept at repairing pre-war machinery. Even though the cult is quite oppressive and nasty, at a low-level it preaches non-violence and that all human life is sacred. Sarah believes this strongly.

So: my character has very weak combat skills
And furthermore, she's morally opposed to killing humans for any reason (I'm already at Level 3 and have killed no humans). She also is afraid the cult is searching for her so she wants to keep a low profile. This has been challenging for a number of reasons:

New Vegas wants to kill you. Pretty much any human you encounter on the road is likely to want to murder you.
This makes leveling a little more difficult. Killing humans yields more XP than killing most animals. Many of the quests lean toward killing so you have to pick and choose what you do there as well, and how you do it.

I have to seek out animals to get more XP (i.e. go "hunting"). This doesn't scale well because many animals out in the wastes are pretty badass compared to a low-level character (e.g. Cazadores HOLY SHIT RUN).

I'm traveling on the outskirts a lot. It's interesting. And sometimes scary. I thought I could avoid Novac and still get to New Vegas but

DEATCHLAWS DEATHCLAWS DANGER BLOOD PAIN CRIPPLED-SCREAMING

See one time I was sneaking around and I saw a group of raiders and then a group of Deathclaws farther in the distance (this was over by Harper's Shack). The Deathclaws detected me so I started to haul ass. Realizing that I probably couldn't outrun a pack of Deathclaws I decided to skitter through the raider encampment in the desparate hope that the two groups would start fighting each other while I made a clean get away...

...and it actually worked! I did take some bullets from the raiders though so I ran off and hid behind a rock to heal my wounds and watch the battle. Maybe, I thought, the Deathclaws will eviscerate the raiders and then return to their nest. And then I can loot the bodies, see? Brilliant plan, right?

Mmm, not so much.

No sooner had I hidden behind that rock when all of a sudden the red [DETECTED] word flashed and the beasts were after me again. I ran, hoping I could make it to Ranger Station Charlie and hide in one of the buildings. Alas I was cut down within seconds.

*Loads Last Save* OK fine, let's go to Novac instead.

I did the Boone quest mostly because I wanted the hat.
In my meta-narrative I decided that Sarah would be opposed to the idea of letting Boone execute someone, but as I(she) found out what really happened and discovered [spoiler] the bill of sale showing Boone's wife being traded like cattle [/spoiler], she feels a pang of recognition from her own former life and decides to give Boone the vindication he seeks. But she still feels pretty sick about it, watching him kill that woman.

Boone joins Sarah. She realizes she needs an experienced warrior on her side, someone who can kill a human if necessary. Someone to do the dirty work of surviving in the wastes. She's still not ready to make that fatal choice herself, but the execution at Novac, however justified it may have felt at the time, has broken a little bit of her moral resolve.

We leave Novac, it's nighttime.

I figure we didn't want to be around in the morning when the woman's remains are discovered. It's not long after when we come upon a place called Gibson's Garage. My survival instincts are itching at me...let's go see if there's anything to scavenge/steal from this place.

There are dogs everywhere. And an old woman sleeping in a dirty bed. My adrenaline's still pumping from Boone's kill. Let's just grab some supplies and leave. We'll be quiet and the woman won't wake up and we can just get out of hear. After he killed that woman I had asked Boone to stay passive. Just don't go shooting everybody, OK dude? I want to avoid bloodshed as much as possible. He agreed to follow my lead, so I figured we could sneak in, take some stuff, and jet.

We're in Old Lady Gibson's room, which is just a greasy converted garage. There's even an old motorcycle parked there. The dogs are eyeing us, but they don't seem bothered by my skulking and Old Lady Gibson is snoring away. There's a metal box with a lock on the lid.

I decide to pick it.

This puts the dogs into a frenzy and they rush me. I bolt for the door --too late-- Boone has his rifle out and has already killed two dogs. Old Lady Gibson is out of her bed screaming, firing off shotgun blasts when Boone nails her right in the face with another shot. She flies back onto the bed and blood is spattering everywhere. Somehow another stray bullet has caused a fire and the old motorcycle explodes in big flaming chunks.

AND THEN I LEVELED UP

*record scratch*

Ok. Wait. How am I supposed to make this fit with my character? This is all completely unwarranted violence. Like mega carnage. Granted I shouldn't have been trying to steal. But hey, I told Boone to lay off the trigger finger. So what now? I kind of wish there was a cutscene after this little event:

Sarah: Boone!? What the fu--*collapses to the floor**holy HELL Boone what have you done??

Boone: The dogs attacked. I was just keeping us safe.

Sarah: But we could have just fled. You didn't have to murder everything in sight! Oh man oh man I think I'm going to be sick.

Boone: Hey, I'm a soldier. This is what I *do*. If you can't handle the heat...*Sarah vomits a little*

Sarah: *wiping her mouth* No. NO. Just WAIT a minute. *breathes* OK. We need to get out of here...uhh...maybe we should check her for valuables? *heads over to the corpse* Ohh ohh she's still warm ohhh no no no no no I can't do this.

Boone: Here I'll do it. Hup. There we go. Look at this, 30 bottle caps! That'll come in handy. And hey that's a nice shotgun. You should take it, I don't care for scatter shot but you're a shit marksman so it'll do fine for you. Alright quit your crying let's go.

...

And that's where the game breaks for me.
Because it didn't have this cutscene. Because as awesome and amazing and fun as New Vegas is it still mostly treats killing humans the same way as other games: merely a waypoint to loot, XP, and the next plotline. Most other aspects of NV are quite wonderful. The dialog trees are good, the side-quests are very interesting, and the whole world is just very realized and excellent. You can play fairly non-violently, but you can't be completely non-violent.

Yeah, I get it. It's an FPS+RPG. There are certain conventions. It's expected. I don't want NV to be a different game, but it's making me want an FPS+RPG that makes killing another human exceptionally difficult and terrible for your character. Like, in this game the first time you kill a human should be so agonizing and altering that it completely destroys the game you were playing and takes everything in a new direction. You are no longer the same person you started out as: you are now a killer. I want a game that really really explores this in every aspect. I think that would be really interesting. And I'm not talking just about karma and reputation, though that is a fun thing in NV.

I'm talking about like every single aspect of the game changes the moment you take a human life: the colors change, the way you walk changes, your ability to do certain tasks changes (some are easier, some are harder), your dialog options are different in their tone. You start to have nightmares. Your perk options change. Everything changes.

In short: I don't necessarily have a problem with violence in games (obvs) but I sure wish more games handled it less stupidly.
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:46 AM on May 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


While we're on the subject of violence and video games...
I want to tell you about some gaming experiences I had the other night.


Fifteen years ago a friend and I were playing blitz chess (chess clock, three minutes total per side) and were both running out of time as often as not. We then took a break and played Goldeneye on the N64 for an hour and returned to the chessboard with notably sharper reflexes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:51 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


A game dev I know keeps talking about a talk he intends to give about game violence and how the "games don't cause violence" argument is misleading. Quite possibly it doesn't lead to aggressive behavior in the player, but most modern shooters certainly encourage and condone the military industrial complex. The amount of blatant xenophobia in the Call of Duty series has the same cultural effect as blatant xenophobia in the rest of the mass media does, yet gamers are a lot more complacent and a lot less critical of it.
posted by Peevish at 8:09 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Research into connections between gun violence and video games to violence in real life has been inconclusive. As the hype for the latest in the Grand Theft Auto series builds up, a Guardian analysis of the top 50 video games sold in 2012 found more than half contain violent content labels, as assigned by an independent video game rating board based in the US (ESRB). Overall, one-third have weapons that depict real-life firearms

Research has been inconclusive, but that won't stop us from implying that there is a link between actual violence and games that "contain violent content labels" assigned by a game censorship organisation! Here are some statistics in the form of a bowl of shiny hair.

Come on, Guardian. You can do better than this.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The amount of blatant xenophobia in the Call of Duty series has the same cultural effect as blatant xenophobia in the rest of the mass media does, yet gamers are a lot more complacent and a lot less critical of it.

This is argument is mendacious and silly in equal measure.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:47 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did they makes the breakdown of the types of weapons because they think that's the controversial part here? Not the severed limbs or splattering blood, but whether it was done sniper rifle or machine gun?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:51 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whatever the reasons for MartinWisse's comments, and I agree that the comment could stand to be fleshed out more

To be honest, there's little to flesh out. It's just a pointless exercise to look at the top fifty of anything in terms of whether or not it has violence in it, especially since "violence" is such a broad concept and it wouldn't be done for novels or movies (well, not so much anymore).
posted by MartinWisse at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Western society loves violence as entertainment, which is why kids see 10 million deaths on TV before they are 12 (or whatever that number is). No surprise the same should be true for video games, which are also a form of entertainment.

That is why video games have ratings, same as movies and TV shows.

I'm intrigued as to why they decided to leave out so-called "casual games." Candy Crush, Simpsons Tapped Out, and Sims Social all had millions of players last year. Enough, surely, that they should have counted for the purpose of this infographic.

There is clearly a large market for non-violent video games. It's just that it's primarily being served via Facebook and app games*. And it's primarily a female demographic. Which to many people (including whoever cooked up this infographic) means that these games "don't count."

* Two notable exceptions being Sims 3 and SimCity.
posted by ErikaB at 8:58 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


And that's where the game breaks for me. Because it didn't have this cutscene.

But doesn't the game at least allow you to imagine your character reacts that way?

the colors change, the way you walk changes, your ability to do certain tasks changes (some are easier, some are harder), your dialog options are different in their tone. Your perk options change.


The game doesn't do this for you, but you can, at this point choose different dialog options, choose different skills, choose to play the game with a different "I am now a killer" spin.

If you watch kids (or remember yourself) playing with LEGO, you see that a lot of the best times are when the kids ignore how the LEGO is "supposed" to be used or what they're "supposed" to build and do their own thing.

Maybe instead of always criticizing video games for their lack of depth and imagination, we should also criticize players for being unwilling to create their own goals, set their own limitations, bring their own imagination to co-creating the narrative.

For me, video games are at their best when they are more like toys that let me make my own fun rather than trying to be movies forcing me to passively consume the game developer's narratives and scenarios. Actively creative and engaged players will demand games that allow and reward creative participation.
posted by straight at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, I don't care a whole lot about the content here, but that sure is a slick, easy-to-explore infographic.
posted by straight at 9:06 AM on May 1, 2013


Maybe instead of always criticizing video games for their lack of depth and imagination, we should also criticize players for being unwilling to create their own goals, set their own limitations, bring their own imagination to co-creating the narrative.

Well, yeah. And obviously I was doing that, i.e. "roleplaying" in the game. Not every gamer understands this and I was merely saying I think it would be interesting if more games guided players more often to do this, and framed violence in more ambiguous, less rewarding ways.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:17 AM on May 1, 2013


It isn't weird to me how many games have some violence in them. There's some violence in a lot of stories. What's weird is the volume of violence in violent games. GTA IV tries to tell a story about a reluctant man pulled into a life of crime, but the story includes killing hundreds or thousands of largely indistinguishable nobodys as speed bumps. There are almost no videogames where you do less killing than Simo Häyhä. That's the strange thing.
posted by I Foody at 9:59 AM on May 1, 2013


There are almost no videogames where you do less killing than Simo Häyhä.

Wut? Fez launches on Steam today.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2013


Wut? Fez launches on Steam today.

Oh I know there are a ton of games with absolutely no real violence. What I mean is that games with violence at all have a ton of violence. There are very very few games with the limited, meaningful violence that exists in most other media.
posted by I Foody at 10:08 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's weird is the volume of violence in violent games. GTA IV tries to tell a story about a reluctant man pulled into a life of crime, but the story includes killing hundreds or thousands of largely indistinguishable nobodys as speed bumps.

That's not weird, just the equivalent of all the anonymous stormtroopers who get murdered on screen in Star Wars (not to mention the entire populations of Alderaan, Dantooine, and the Death Star), or all the faceless unimportant peons who die in Game of Thrones or Henry V or 2012.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or,

the limited, meaningful violence that exists in most other media

I doubt that limited, meaningful violence is common in other media.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2013


There are seven games in the list that have "Comic Mischief", which makes me question what this is all about because if that title means a Saturday cartoon wacky sort of thing, then they're reaching for a conclusion or they're not properly filtering the data.

Call of Duty, if that's the one that uses white phosphorus on the enemy and civillians, ok. That's violent and barbaric and might be questionable content if there wasn't a consequence to that action. "Questionable content" is a bit of a dodgy topic... it is a game about being in a war, people die in wars and sometimes they die because of "illegal actions", assuming that a war could actually be "legal". Sarin gas might've been used recently in Syria and the US is holding at least 100 people in Guantanamo that should've been released, but aren't and are force-feeding them (the BBC reported today), and both actions are contrary to UN resolutions. Should games really just be "the white hats shoot the black ones and then when the "good guys" have won, we roll credits."

Young adults and older who have the knowledge that these things are (or at least, should be), in real life, legally and morally wrong can suspend belief to play the game and not have their world view fundamentally altered. Whereas children can't and therefore shouldn't.
Mario Cart has "comic mischief" and "cartoon violence". I'm guessing that because it's included in with the bullet-fest that is Borderlands 2 that it's bad? Or could all of this be the same argument that's always brought up that video games are, or can be bad? Or is bumping people in Mario Cart a gateway drug to thermonuclear detonation?

Also, Dishonored. I've played it all the way through and only killed Granny because 1. the rats, 2. she's REALLY homicidal and after me, even thoug we got on ok before and 3. I really didn't think that she'd die for long, somehow. I could've stabbed people, but it's more fun to be a shadow. One reviewer on Rock Paper Shotgun said the same thing - killing's too easy and the main character is trying to find redemption, so why not go the less-violent way?

I'm sure I had a summation, but that was an hour ago... I think this information is presented without clarity or qualification, and violence does unfortunately happen. In real life it's for land or money or some kind of power, and it's really nasty violence. In games violence can occur for the same reasons, but I as a player have the ability to lessen or sometimes circumvent that violence in a way I could never do in that situation real life.
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2013


ROU_Xenophobe: I don't find them equivalent at all. You are comparing every death from a conflict in a narrative to the death attributable to a single protagonist. Games with killing often have more individual instances of killing than any human being on the planet has ever done. In most TV,movies, and literature when the main character kills someone it is a fairly important event. That's what I mean by "meaningful".
posted by I Foody at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2013


Games with killing often have more individual instances of killing than any human being on the planet has ever done.

Yeah. I think Red Dead Redemption has you kill more people in one mission than were killed in similar situations in the whole history of the Old West.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2013


In answer to your query, I haven't seen anything like all of the top 50 movies from 2012, but making reasonable guesses and doing minimal googling, about two-thirds of them had violent content. All of the top 10 except maybe Ted had violent content; I'm just assuming it didn't.

So I decided to actually do this. Took the top 50 movies for 2012 from here. Ratings from here. Just using simple text search on the ratings, we find:

"violen": 30, 60% (i.e. "violent" or "violence")
"language": 26, 52%
"action": 22, 44%
"sexual": 16, 32%
"drug": 13, 26%
"rude": 13, 26% (generally as "rude/crude humor")
"nudity": 8, 16%
"sensual": 4, 8%

Here is the spreadsheet in case anyone else wants to take a look.
posted by eruonna at 10:30 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is all true. But think of all the killing and destruction in a standard cop movie. Riggs and Murtaugh are fucking loose cannons. They kill more people than the people they are trying to catch.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2013


ALL games are violent and involve 'killing' your opponent. Checkers? The board is the world, it's life...remove a checker from the board and you remove it from life. Monopoly? You are literally trying to starve the other players to death. Angry birds? Those poor, poor piggies... (anyway, you get my point)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:47 AM on May 1, 2013


Tetris? You are sending a Soviet rocket to the moon and supporting petty dictatorships.
posted by ersatz at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


But that's like saying all stories are violent because there is some kind of conflict in them.
posted by ersatz at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2013


Call of Duty, if that's the one that uses white phosphorus on the enemy and civillians, ok. That's violent and barbaric and might be questionable content if there wasn't a consequence to that action.

You're getting Call of Duty and Spec Ops: The Line mixed up. Spec Ops's infamous white phosphorus scene was inspired by a level in COD Modern Warfare where you're targeting enemies from a plane and all you see is anonymous white blobs on the screen while you rain down ordinance.

Spec Ops does that, and then makes you walk through the consequences of your actions.
posted by dragoon at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Violence has two things:

1) It's dramatic and allows for what video games are especially good at: exciting physical moments.

2) It's easy to quantify physical damage in video games. The idea of a "health point" is very well understood in today's media culture. And "death" (even temporary) is a very simple metaphor for "game over."


3) It's easy to design and code. A game without the easy game-obstacle of combat needs extra focus on story and puzzles, and those are much more difficult to design well. For violence, all you have to do is watch for two bounding-boxes to intersect.
posted by rifflesby at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


In most TV,movies, and literature when the main character kills someone it is a fairly important event.

How many people did Luke Skywalker kill? Not even counting the presumably millions killed when the Death Star exploded, how many people did he slice in half, or blast flaming holes into, or blow up their spaceship? Answer: lots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:51 AM on May 1, 2013


How many people did Luke Skywalker kill? Not even counting the presumably millions killed when the Death Star exploded, how many people did he slice in half, or blast flaming holes into, or blow up their spaceship? Answer: lots.

I haven't watched the trilogy recently, but I would be shocked if it was more than a couple dozen. There's 2 of the TIE Fighters in the first movie plus a couple Stormtroopers, maybe. He takes down a couple of AT-ATs in Empire, which I guess did have an indeterminate number of soldiers inside and whoever he killed in Bespin. He killed a handful of people on Jabba's barge (and he did blow that up, too, or at least told Leia to), but after that it's just a couple of Scout Troopers before he gives himself up.

Another point of comparison is Django Unchained, which had people upset with the sheer amount of violence and number of deaths. 64 people is, indeed, a massive number of people to have killed in a movie, but it's maybe half an hour of any modern shooter.
posted by Copronymus at 12:26 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sheer body count tells us nothing about the violence in a film: A typical Pirates of the Caribbean movie will be close to three digits, while First Blood had all of one death, and that by misadventure. Even the two flicks that established Quentin Tarantino and set off a lot of handwringing twenty years ago had 10-12 deaths per, which is a tiny fraction of the good clean PG fun of, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark. A full staging of Hamlet will leave nine corpses in its wake (Hamlet pere et fils, Polonius and both his offspring, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Claudius and Gertrude) and I suspect this story will last a while.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:54 PM on May 1, 2013


64 people is, indeed, a massive number of people to have killed in a movie

Not according to moviebodycounts.com (which, of course, exists).

Looks like it's not hard at all to find movies with 100+ bodycounts, and that's just in a two-hour movie. If the latest Die Hard sequel were as long as a typical shooter (6-8 hours, at least), I imagine it could easily rack up a body count similar to Call of Duty.
posted by straight at 1:01 PM on May 1, 2013


There are only two with nudity? What has become of this younger generation, anyway? I am disappoint.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:04 PM on May 1, 2013


If we want nudity, we have Google.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2013


Looks like it's not hard at all to find movies with 100+ bodycounts, and that's just in a two-hour movie. If the latest Die Hard sequel were as long as a typical shooter (6-8 hours, at least), I imagine it could easily rack up a body count similar to Call of Duty.

To me, it has less to do with how violent movies are compared to video games, but with how violence is the main thing in a huge number of games, and most AAA titles. There's basically no video game analogue to a romantic comedy or an Oscar bait drama about Important Things. There's Call of Duty, Madden, and Indie games. If I turned on the TV and my choices were war movies, sports, and Anime, I'd be kind of disappointed in that; that's what video games feel like a lot of the time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:10 PM on May 1, 2013


Dragoon - right, thanks for the clarification. I'm not really into the 'on the rails' shooters, so I couldn't remember which one it was.
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:46 PM on May 1, 2013


Worlds will live! Worlds will die!
posted by Artw at 3:30 PM on May 1, 2013


we live in a violent fucking world, moreso for the fact that we are constantly at war against shit that includes abstract concepts

the art we make reflects this, it is reporting back to us accurately about the world we are in

oops, i guess?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:40 PM on May 1, 2013


The most popular game among my friends right now is Candy Land.
posted by pravit at 6:40 PM on May 1, 2013


I totally agree with that, Bulgaroktonos. Threre are some awfully good non-violent (and non-sports) indie games, but I'd love to see more variety across the board.
posted by straight at 9:08 PM on May 1, 2013


@pravit

there will always be a market for escapism too!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:46 PM on May 1, 2013


I guess it depends on how you make respoints function, too. Strictly speaking, in many games, no one dies.

In Bioshock for example, there's one notable NPC death that occurs as part of your story progression. It's an interesting scene and drives the plot, and is a bit of a spoiler so I won't go into too many details. However, once the deed is done, you walk around a corner and find a de-activated regeneration point. It's implied that the character you killed would have otherwise respawned, like a player character would. So it's fair to say in Bioshock, nobody actually dies. If they have the same sort of access to the respoints, they never die.

My housemate, with whom I've wasted far, far too many hours playing both the Borderlands games, insists there is in fact maybe a half a dozen mooks in total on the whole planet - they just respawn a lot.

Same with most of the MMOs I've played. No matter how many times you kill a particular mook, the bastard will always be right there again.

Nobody dies. Death becomes meaningless. So why would it effect the player characters?
posted by Jilder at 10:01 PM on May 1, 2013


Jilder, without going into spoilers, you and the character that you kill are the only people in Rapture that can use the respawn points. It's mentioned several times.

I do like your housemate's idea though.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:44 PM on May 1, 2013


Jilder, without going into spoilers, you and the character that you kill are the only people in Rapture that can use the respawn points. It's mentioned several times.

And because the internet is made of obsessive nerds, it's detailed here.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2013


Bergh, that's right. It's be a while since I played the first game.
posted by Jilder at 11:38 PM on May 1, 2013


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