Counterstrike keeps me from going out and shooting real people.
November 18, 2003 9:19 PM   Subscribe

The Daily Herald is running a piece on Violence and Videogames, and to any person who plays games, it may marr their opinion of the Daily Herald for a while. In fact, Steve from www.HardOcp.com (november 18th link) wrote the author a letter to explain that what he wrote doesn't hold weight in the real world. "If a parent wanted their children to develop attitudes like Gary Ridgway, the confessed killer of at least 48 women, these games might provide a good training ground." Seems to me like the author doesnt play video games, especially considering there are other games besides first person shooters. "Video games are expected to reach $20 billion in sales this year. That is a sizable piece of the growing economy everybody is hoping for, and it works directly against what most parents want for their children." A little opinionated, but so am I. What do you think?
posted by Keyser Soze (44 comments total)
 
These people are like the games they criticize - they need a rape button.

Seriously though, why - WHY must we pay attention to every drooling reactionary demagogue who comes spewing or hemorrhaging their brainless $.02 on this topic? The arguments never change, the studies never agree, and the reality of the industry growth is static as well. Violent crime is going DOWN in the United States as violent games increase in number, not up. Not to mention most violent games make up an incomprehensibly tiny fraction of the total market to begin with.

If anything the data presented makes a good case for letting peadophiles whack off to all the pre-existing child pornography they want (provided violent and severe steps are taken to halt any existing production of such) - because it clearly seems that being able to express one's darker self is therapeutic and increasingly necessary in our over-stressed society. Yes, sickos will be sickos and will be drawn to negative media prior to acting out their intent, but for the vast and overwhelming majority it provides a healthy and needed release to blow your boss to bloody chunks over the LAN at the end of the day.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
posted by Ryvar at 9:35 PM on November 18, 2003


My paper publishes stupid community "leader" op-eds, too. Can we discuss those on Metafilter? You're up on the vagaries of the local school capital spending referendum, aren't you?
posted by dhartung at 9:46 PM on November 18, 2003


People who think violent video game promote violence DONT PLAY video games themselves. If not, show yourself.
posted by Keyser Soze at 9:46 PM on November 18, 2003


really? FPS games teach you a pathalogical hatred of women and then train you how to kill them? and here I thought you'd at least need a serious mental disorder to get to that level! I must have been doing it wrong all these years.
posted by Hackworth at 9:53 PM on November 18, 2003


As an ardent gamer, my favorite argument against articles like this is the one I think I stole from Penny Arcade: If violent video games train you in the ways of senseless and efficient killing, then why hasn't my proficiency at Tony Hawk 4 made me a better skateboarder, or, in fact, any kind of skateboarder at all? Or why can't I figure out how to fit ladders in my pocket, like in Space Quest 3?

Case in point - I'm working through System Shock 2 again and have yet to accuse any of my roommates of being spawn of The Many before beating them to death with a wrench.

(also, I'd like very much to know exactly what game the writer is vaguely alluding to. What game allows urination of all things?)
posted by Monster_Zero at 10:19 PM on November 18, 2003


Video games are misogynistic? Compared to American Psycho? More violent?

And where can I download that game that lets me urinate on people I've killed? That sounds fun.
posted by DaShiv at 10:23 PM on November 18, 2003


What's with the urination? I have played more than my share of video games, many of them indeed quite violent, and I don't believe I've urinated on a dead body once.

I did a lot of urinating in Conker's Bad Fur Day, but if my gaming behavior ever does in fact cross over to the real world, only anthropomorphic flames and sentient rock beings need to be worried about my urine.
posted by kevspace at 10:26 PM on November 18, 2003


i doubt this Gary Ridgway character play video games when he was a kid.
posted by ruwan at 10:28 PM on November 18, 2003


And where can I download that game that lets me urinate on people I've killed?

Look for Postal 2 on your favorite P2P system. It is, indeed, fun.
posted by majcher at 10:28 PM on November 18, 2003


I gave a speech on this in the 10th grade. My main point was that if the neighbor's kid isn't smart enough to realize the difference between fantasy and reality, and his parent's aren't smart enough to make decisions about what they do and don't want their kids playing with, I shouldn't be punished. It's like banning all teenagers from diving because one of them drinks and drives.
posted by tomorama at 10:30 PM on November 18, 2003


There's a mad dash to find some guilty party and video games are an easy target. The problem is that its parents allowing a game machine or the TV to raise their kids for them and then they get pissed off when the kids have issues.

Its just another go around on the Blame Game. But hey, the article's author, Bill France, has his email address on the article so I would guess he'd like feedback. Send him an email and let him what you think of his narrow article.

Are sports games evil as well? What about Dance Dance Revolution (which is almost certainly evil for other reasons)? Or MotoRacer?

The only game I can remember urinating in was Duke Nukem and he used a urinal, surely he's not saying its evil and bad to teach children to pee in a toilet?
posted by fenriq at 10:33 PM on November 18, 2003


That's my biggest fear, dinking and diving!
posted by fenriq at 10:34 PM on November 18, 2003


What about Dance Dance Revolution (which is almost certainly evil for other reasons)?

Where is Kevin Bacon when we need him?
posted by shagoth at 10:35 PM on November 18, 2003


I see Counterstrike as excellent training for ten years from now, when 9 out of 10 people my age will have been turned into homocidal maniacs by videogames.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:43 PM on November 18, 2003


From the article:

The games use techniques known to be effective in teaching young people to drive cars or go to war. Simulation, Eklund points out, is designed to hone the trainee's instincts, to help them build habits that that they can carry out quickly, without second thoughts.

Video games laced with human atrocities help young, impressionable people practice killing without care.


Simulations teach people the habit of flicking a mouse to hit that rail/sniper rifle shot. If only that method of aiming actually translated into real life. Next up: running through imps in Doom with a chainsaw as a lumberjack training simulator.

Simulations have been proven to enhance very specific motor skills, and are enormously useful in helping people to learn how to interact with complex systems (such as an airplane control system). I've yet to see any shred of evidence that games affect one's moral/ethical faculties more than movies or other "passive" media. In fact, given the historical (and current) deluge of propoganda in other media, video games have a long way to go to catch up to them in terms of being morally/ethically pernicious.

Thanks for the heads-up on Postal 2. I've been looking for a game to brush up on my, eh, aim.
posted by DaShiv at 10:45 PM on November 18, 2003


It seems that the people who make the most noise about violence in video games are:
1) Politicians approaching an election who have no constructive platforms or ideas in their pocket.
2) Authors approaching a submission deadline who have nothing to write about.
3) Parents who do not communicate or spend enough quality time with their own children.

The only people who really should be worried about violence in video games are these guys.
posted by cup at 10:47 PM on November 18, 2003


What about us fans of generic violence in any form?

Sometimes I think this shit is for the best, the more time the wingnuts waste attacking TV and videogames the less time they have trying to burn my precious books.
posted by skallas at 10:56 PM on November 18, 2003


I think this sort of ranting might be a blessing in disguise for the gaming industry:
The only people who are influenced by this rhetoric are parents with pre-teen kids, so this leads the industry to focus less on kids and more on adults, hence getting a little more of the respect it so sorely needs.

By portraying computer games as 'violent','dangerous' and 'subversive' they also help them appeal to the sort of people who like dangerous, violent and subversive films, books and art.
posted by spazzm at 11:02 PM on November 18, 2003


The article is indeed poorly written, alarmist, and badly researched. However, I think the very dismissive attitudes by the posters in this thread are equally suspect. Do you folks truly believe that misogyny, for instance, in media (whether it be games, movies, music, comics, or literature) doesn't affect the thinking of young people that are exposed to it?

When I was a kid (70s and 80s), I could point to the people who had directly affected the way I thought about things/people and the way I conducted myself. When I talk to kids these days and ask them why they think X, they never point to "real life" models. They most definitely take examples from whatever's popular in mainstream media.

No, I'm not saying there's definitely a corelation between video games and murder, but it seems to me one would have to be living in denial to think that kids don't learn some lessons from the media they interact with. It seems about as deluded as statements like "advertising doesn't work." Look around you.

We can say "it's bad parenting" till we're blue in the face, but how realistic is it to expect parents to have control of their kids 24/7? In addition, isn't "bad parenting" somewhat tantamount to "bad adult role models"? And if so, why aren't the people making these media (games, movies, whatever), as adults, more responsible? At which point does our own disgust with things happening in society finally defeat the draw of the almighty buck? At what point do the programmers of Unreal Tournament, for example, say to themselves, "You know what, enough is enough. Does this character really have to say "Die, bitch!" when he kills a female opponent?"?
posted by dobbs at 11:16 PM on November 18, 2003


Ya know my video game playing as me so angry about this report im gonna go stab that guy with my Master Sword! That son of a bitch!
posted by MrLint at 11:43 PM on November 18, 2003


cup, you forgot:

4) Lawyers seeking to gain money and notoriety suing game companies "for the children".

but that's a different story. *cough*Jack Thompson*cough*



Anyway, the games DO HAVE RATINGS NOW. If you are criticizing M-rated games for teaching children the "wrong" things, then you are criticizing the wrong thing. You should be criticizing the stupid parents that buy these games for their kids; or the retailers that sell the games to obvious minors (although, in this case, the parents should still have a say).

The author mentions it briefly:
Parents cannot trust their neighborhood stores to not sell hyper-violent video games to young children.
but then goes talking video games as though they're equal to serial killers. *NEWS FLASH* Jack the Ripper was not playing Postal when he was a kid.
posted by mkn at 11:47 PM on November 18, 2003


I really don't know why FPS games are always the targets. I prefer to load up Civilization and commit slaughter on a scale undreamed of by any shooter.

Then I torture my Sims.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:54 PM on November 18, 2003


"You know what, enough is enough. Does this character really have to say "Die, bitch!" when he kills a female opponent?"?

But she was totally ill-tempered!

I prefer to load up Civilization and commit slaughter on a scale undreamed of by any shooter.

You too?
posted by The God Complex at 12:06 AM on November 19, 2003


Do you folks truly believe that misogyny, for instance, in media (whether it be games, movies, music, comics, or literature) doesn't affect the thinking of young people that are exposed to it?

The issue isn't whether media can affect youths; the issue is why gaming is being singled out for criticism. And I believe it's because the concept of an interactivite medium is poorly understood by many. "Bad" games have no more power over its audience than "bad" music, movies, books, etc. In fact, one could even argue that music is more subversive due to its ubiquity, books through their academic legitimacy as a medium, etc.
posted by DaShiv at 12:22 AM on November 19, 2003


Read what he replied to me:

Keyser, thanks for a well thought out and written letter. Takes time. I don't think I said I don't see how anyone can play video games. I said it is disturbing that adults like to play the ultraviolent video games that I describe. I think I know pretty much why they like to. I also don't say that the Gary Ridgway was caused by playing video games, but rather than the game scripts that I describe could be pulled out of his descriptions of his actions. One of my opinions is that violence begets violence...not in every indivdiual by any means, but by creating an atmosphere that tolerates violence and in which some people are more likely to be violent. Again, Keyser, I appreciate your thoughts and quesitons.

----- Original Message -----
From: Keyser Soze
To: bsjf@gte.net
Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:41 PM
Subject: "Violent video games are training children to kill"



Hello.

I am 20 years old, and I have been a video game player for a while now. I have an active social life, and I am what most people could consider normal.

I have played everything from Commander Keen to Doom 3, and I feel that your piece regarding video game violence comes from rather inaccurate assumptions of what goes through a persons mind when they play video games.

I know that whatever anybody writes is biased, and a strangers advice will not change another persons opinion easily. But I want to at least explain my feelings on video game violence.

First:
"These video games are not spectator activities, like going to a violent movie. They use simulation techniques that are used to teach people to fly a plane, drive a car or fight wars"
Can you name one game that teaches you exactly how to fight a war or drive a car in reality? Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 is far from violent!

Gary Ridgeway's attitude was developed by two things: Nature and Nurture. A combination, possibly. Maybe just a chemical imbalance. Pong certainly did not do it. Would you get Gary Ridgeways personality by playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Even a very young child will not believe it is possible to do all the things you can do in a videogame if his or her parent is around long enough to explain real life to them. I mean, do you become gay by having friends who are? Nah. Im not gay yet. Am I comparing apples to oranges? Certainly. Am I in the same ballpark? I think so.

You say yourself that you do not see how anyone would play violent video games in the first place. That is completely fair. But you are representing the Herald, so your piece inadequately represents the Herald itself, because of the human condition known as bias.

With all respect, what is your opinion?

Sincerely,
Keyser Soze
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:27 AM on November 19, 2003


Am I comparing apples to oranges? Certainly.

I think the real question here is why we can't love both apples and oranges, even one with seeds in them.

Am I in the same ballpark? I think so.

Your favoritism to American-centric sports (american football, baseball) and complete neglect of other, superior suports such as hockey--which is played in an arena--is appalling.

You'll be receiving a letter from my lawyer shortly.
posted by The God Complex at 12:32 AM on November 19, 2003


Parents cannot trust their neighborhood stores to not sell hyper-violent video games to young children.

How about neighborhood stores can't trust parents to get some fucking responsibility. Young children, last time I checked, don't earn the £40 or so needed to buy Grand Theft Auto. If parents actually paid attention to what their little brats were doing, I wouldn't have to listen to my favorite hobby coming under constant attack.
posted by Orange Goblin at 12:35 AM on November 19, 2003


*just realizes that the last sentence means that every writer for the Herald is inadequately representing the publication based upon the premise of bias*
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:37 AM on November 19, 2003


btw god complex: I eat both fruits, and I dont watch baseball or play it. :)
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:38 AM on November 19, 2003


Whatever you say, pinko.
posted by The God Complex at 12:40 AM on November 19, 2003


Parents cannot trust their neighborhood stores to not sell hyper-violent video games to young children.

What kind of parent gives an 8 year old $70 cash to spend on anything they like?

Jeez, when I was 8 (which wasn't in the stone ages, thank you very much) I'd have to be *REALLY* lucky to have $10 in my pocket. And that *might* buy a beat up 4 year old budget pong knockoff for my C64. Maybe. If I stole it.

Or does he mean "young" as in 16 and old enough to drink and marry in most countries but his?
posted by shepd at 12:47 AM on November 19, 2003


We can say "it's bad parenting" till we're blue in the face, but how realistic is it to expect parents to have control of their kids 24/7?

By giving a child unending love, attention, close contact with people of various genders, ages, nationalities, etc., sharing media experiences together and keeping a two-way line of communication permanently open, a parent can emotionally equip a child to be able to survive total submersion in negative media images and emerge intact. If a parent fulfills their responsibilities to their children, society and mankind by preparing their child in this way, the parent would not have to worry when someone creates a violent video game and there would be no need to control children 24/7.
posted by cup at 12:48 AM on November 19, 2003


Hmmm... I would like to say that game ratings are just a guideline. No retailer has to follow them. A retailer can sell any game to any person. Don't you all remember when this happened? Yeah. So, again, we have to refer this to the parents on making an informed decision on what the child is playing. Not that it makes a difference. I mean, if your 13 year old kid doesn't know shooting someone is wrong, then face it, you fucked up.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 1:09 AM on November 19, 2003


Well JakeEXTREME, there is rare cases where a mental imbalance is (and was) caused by yet unkown chemical imbalances in the persons mind. That is something a parent has no control of. 99.9 percent is the former.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:33 AM on November 19, 2003


A mental imbalance is acceptable reason to make a mistake, provided the person has no concept of right and wrong, cause and effect, yada yada yada. Of course someone who can't tell the difference between killing and not killing, would most likely not be playing video games like those which are the topic of discussion. Ergo, if you're not under supervision because you can't make basic decisions and you kill someone... shame shame.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 2:29 AM on November 19, 2003


By giving a child unending love, attention, close contact with people of various genders, ages, nationalities, etc., sharing media experiences together and keeping a two-way line of communication permanently open, a parent can emotionally equip a child to be able to survive total submersion in negative media images and emerge intact. If a parent fulfills their responsibilities to their children, society and mankind by preparing their child in this way, the parent would not have to worry when someone creates a violent video game and there would be no need to control children 24/7.

If my folks had tried this shit there would have been some trouble, I can tell you.
posted by biffa at 3:47 AM on November 19, 2003


We can say "it's bad parenting" till we're blue in the face, but how realistic is it to expect parents to have control of their kids 24/7?

True. But we don't have to buy our kids TVs for their bedrooms and let them lock themselves away segregated from the rest of the family all day and night with no knowledge, much less input, on what kind of media they are submersing themselves in.
posted by glenwood at 5:38 AM on November 19, 2003


Who was it that said: if video games influenced players, we'd all be running around in the dark eating pills and listening to repetetive electronic music, a la Pac Man...
posted by kindall at 6:22 AM on November 19, 2003


/me pops another pill, searches for nearest underaged girl to dance with.
posted by DaShiv at 6:41 AM on November 19, 2003


This reminds me of the backlash on metal music for "causing" suicide. Maybe, just maybe, a very small percent of teens are influenced by this. But a large portion of people aren't. Plus the whole free speech thing, which I think also applies to this scenario.

If anyone wants an example of how not influencing violent games are, look at my husband. He is such a calm, caring, nice person who has no violent bone in his body (we sometimes argue over who is going to kill a bug). Yet he loves FPS, starting with Doom in college. He loved Halo and is enjoying some of the other ones out on XBox (can't remember them all). But he hasn't changed from playing these. He's still a non-violent person.

[OK, I admit, one thing has changed. Sometimes while we're out and about he'll note that a certain spot would be a good place for someone with a sniper rifle. ]
posted by evening at 7:10 AM on November 19, 2003


Relax, he's just showing you that he cares about you by making sure there aren't any gh3y campers hiding there. Really.
posted by DaShiv at 7:22 AM on November 19, 2003


I really don't know why FPS games are always the targets.

They're not. The last batch of outrage was at GTA3, because you could pick up hookers, then beat your money back out of them with a baseball bat.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2003


One of the designers here was playing GTA3, and indeed beating up a hooker, when his 3 year old daughter walked in. She looked at him with a sad face, and said "Why daddy?", and now he has difficulty playing GTA3 without feeling bad.

Personally I never bothered with the hookers, because it was much easier to just drive to the hospital. (Doing the nasty with a hooker restores your health)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:20 PM on November 19, 2003


Complain about bad parenting all you want. The bad parents are not, whatsoever, going to listen. People still leave infants in roasting hot cars, which is a level of neglectfulness far beyond letting your tween kid play Vice City.

'...and said "Why daddy?"'

When my daughter was 3, she laughed and giggled at the funny GTA cartoon people beating each other up, just like she does today with a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Because she knew that's what they were -- cartoons. Also, she used to ride shotgun and play sniper-spotter for me back when I was playing a lot of multiplayer RTC Wolfenstein. Her eyes are better than mine.

It just goes to show you there are a lot of different ways to raise a healthy, well-adjusted kid, and not all of them involve sheltering or desensitization (she wasn't desensitized to violence -- she vocally protested when I got sniped or hauled off by cops or generally got my butt kicked).

Oh, and inpH: the hookers can get you to over-100% health levels, which hospitals can't. It's handy for those Last Stand-type gunplay missions.
posted by majick at 5:51 PM on November 20, 2003


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