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My Four-Year-Old Son Plays Grand Theft Auto
June 23, 2010 11:31 AM   Subscribe


 
I loved this. I'm also pretty wowed with this kid's strong sense of ethics.

So, what makes us -- nature, nurture, or video games?
posted by bearwife at 11:35 AM on June 23, 2010


Fucking n00b.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


Video games are both nature and nurture to me.
posted by Babblesort at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


His son is doing it wrong. You steal the fastest car you can switch to the mafia/opera radio channel and then just do stunts in order to activate the slow motion cam. So that your mom comes in behind you and starts cracking up hysterically, because it reminds her of The Godfather.
posted by edbles at 11:37 AM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


He should then stare at his mother blankly as she rambles on about "mix of extreme violence and operatic music," and then go "No, it's just cool mom GAWD."
posted by edbles at 11:39 AM on June 23, 2010




I'm playing Red Dead Redemption right now and I have the exact opposite reaction. I've become increasingly compelled to kill every living non-human that comes in my sight and then skin it. It's actually quite disturbing. I didn't kill this many animals playing Big Buck Hunter.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:49 AM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I find myself wanting to do nice things in violent games, too. Last night in Red Dead Redemption, I was horsing it through Mexico and out in the middle of nowhere I came across a Mexican guy with a gigantic sombrero leading, not even riding, just leading a mule. And he was miles from anywhere hospitable. I really wanted to give him my horse, but alas, there is no "give horse" button.

So I rode away, accidentally knocking him down as I sped past. Which I felt doubly bad about.
posted by notmydesk at 11:49 AM on June 23, 2010 [23 favorites]


Having never played the game, I had no idea the sandbox was that big. Nice little write-up, and kudos the the game designers/writers for making the game that open.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I find myself wanting to do nice things in violent games, too. Last night in Red Dead Redemption, I was horsing it through Mexico and out in the middle of nowhere I came across a Mexican guy with a gigantic sombrero leading, not even riding, just leading a mule. And he was miles from anywhere hospitable. I really wanted to give him my horse, but alas, there is no "give horse" button.

So I rode away, accidentally knocking him down as I sped past. Which I felt doubly bad about.


Last week I lassoed a woman and dropped her on the tracks in front of an oncoming train.

It turns out there's an achievement you unlock for doing it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:53 AM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Having never played the game, I had no idea the sandbox was that big.

The big sandbox is basically the reason people like GTA. It's kind of its defining characteristic.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:53 AM on June 23, 2010


I've become increasingly compelled to kill every living non-human that comes in my sight and then skin it.

Yeah, I normally don't kill animals in games unless they attack me (I shot a seagull once in Half-Life 2 and immediately felt guilty about it), but it feels perfectly normal and natural in RDR to do a lot of hunting. I wouldn't say I open fire on everything, but I do hunt a lot and not strictly in self-defense. Weird.
posted by notmydesk at 11:54 AM on June 23, 2010


Boy, that sure wasn't what I thought it was going to be. In fact, it makes me want to get a version of the game so I can do it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:55 AM on June 23, 2010


Cute on one level I suppose, but doesn't admitting that you have to explain to your son that there's a difference between real life and video games suggest that maybe he's not really ready for that yet? Same reason you try and stop very young kids from watching commercials on TV -- they genuinely can't process the difference, and just because you explain it once doesn't mean from that point on they get it.
posted by modernnomad at 11:56 AM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am not sure it's THAT surprising that a 4 year old would want to drive firetrucks. I am impressed with his motor skills of course.

Hell, I still want to drive firetrucks and I'm a bit older than the boy.
posted by Richat at 11:57 AM on June 23, 2010


At one such intersection he attempted to brake, but he was traveling too fast. Instead of plowing into the rear of the car ahead of him, he swerved to the right and popped up onto to sidewalk. In doing so, he accidently ran over a woman walking towards his oncoming car. He was incredibly ashamed of himself and profusely apologized.

I'm not accusing the guy of bad parenting - he knows his son better than any of us do - but that kind of experience sounds like it could be pretty traumatizing for most four-year-olds.
posted by naju at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hope he's ready for his first Adderall script in a few years.
posted by docpops at 12:01 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I gave my 4 year old son a slug of whiskey. He went into convulsions, turned yellow, and vomited all over the cat. I was amazed! And, he decided for himself that he wasn't ready for the hard stuff yet, so I switched him to Coors Light.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:15 PM on June 23, 2010 [22 favorites]


I was about 4 hours into Resident Evil 4 before I accidentally shot a crow and a jewel fell out of it. I felt like such an idiot.
posted by Elmore at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I gave my 4 year old son a slug of whiskey. He went into convulsions, turned yellow, and vomited all over the cat. I was amazed! And, he decided for himself that he wasn't ready for the hard stuff yet, so I switched him to Coors Light.

You gave him Coors Light? Now, that is bad parenting, give him a real beer.
posted by Elmore at 12:20 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was stymied the other day by an obvious question: if media exposure doesn't affect our behaviour, why is so much spent on advertising?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:24 PM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is great!! My son has improved his vocabulary more than most people could imagine through video games.
posted by loathepiety at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was stymied the other day by an obvious question: if media exposure doesn't affect our behaviour, why is so much spent on advertising?


Maybe because advertisers are good at advertising? There's this great quote I saw in a profile interview where some marketing PR dude is talking to the google guys about google analytics and he’s super pissed, because they’re giving their purchasers ACTUAL NUMBERS on how they're ads affect purchasing behavior. Instead of weaving an idea of increased revenue and profit in front of an execs face.
posted by edbles at 12:28 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


but doesn't admitting that you have to explain to your son that there's a difference between real life and video games suggest that maybe he's not really ready for that yet?

No, because the dad was sitting right there next to me, helping and explaining things to him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope he's playing with the sound off.
posted by box at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason why his son plays this way is that his parents (I'm assuming about his mom) are active, engaged parents who supervise him. They have taught him, most likely, that it is not OK to take another child's things, so of course he has those ethics when he plays GTA.

Good for both of them.
posted by plinth at 12:29 PM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


He asked very excitedly if he could get the bad guys too. With a huge smile I pressed R3 to initiate the Vigilante Missions. It was as if his imagination had come to life. He was taking down delinquents left and right.

By which he means he had his four-year-old son play the game mode where you drive around and bloodily kill criminals, either by running them down with your car or shooting them with guns or blowing them up with missiles or grenades or setting them on fire so they can burn to death while screaming in pain.

"Oh but the deaths in GTA:San Andreas are nowhere near as bloody as the High Definition Gore available on next-generation systems! So that makes it okay!"
posted by straight at 12:30 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I've become increasingly compelled to kill every living non-human that comes in my sight and then skin it.

Other than the skinning this sounds exactly like my 5th grade response to Oregon Trail. Well that and naming characters after teachers I hated.

Mrs. Evilton has died of cholera. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the mean mean la-innocent.)
posted by edbles at 12:31 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm playing Red Dead Redemption right now and I have the exact opposite reaction. I've become increasingly compelled to kill every living non-human that comes in my sight and then skin it.

I spend most of my time jumping off my horse to pick flowers.
posted by turaho at 12:33 PM on June 23, 2010


I was stymied the other day by an obvious question: if media exposure doesn't affect our behaviour, why is so much spent on advertising?

If media exposure is trumping all other cultural and social influence, then you are either mentally ill and should seek help immediately or your parents have failed you in some way.

It's not that it doesn't have *some* influence; it's that it doesn't have -- if other factors trump it -- that much influence. A Snuggie commercial doesn't make me want to buy a Snuggie. Why? Because the other cultural and social influences, combined with my own decision making abilities, tell me I don't want a fucking Snuggie.
posted by grubi at 12:33 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sorry if I came off snarky. Didn't mean to.
posted by grubi at 12:39 PM on June 23, 2010


Why wouldn't you want a Snuggie?
posted by brundlefly at 12:40 PM on June 23, 2010


I don't want a fucking Snuggie.

Snuggies aren't just for fucking, get a regular one, the one without the containment cup.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:41 PM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


That article is such horseshit. Beyond the sensationalist storylines, the marvel of GTA is how rich and thoroughly conceived they are. There are tons of mini-games you can stumble on, some more morally dubious than others. The kid found his way to the cops and ambulance drivers because he's four years old and doesn't understand the idea of "antihero". What happens when he advances in the police missions to the point where he's required to wipe out legions of thugs? Does that sit OK with you?

Most games simply don't work the way he's describing them. In as much as he gets around to making a larger point about trusting the ESRB, he's cherry-picking his example for cheap effect. As an equally extreme counterexample, the best-selling game of last year was Modern Warfare 2, another "M" rated game. I defy him to sit his 4-yo down in front of "No Russian".
posted by mkultra at 12:42 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hope he's ready for his first Adderall script in a few years.

...I don't get it?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe somebody ought to explain the Dunning-Kruger effect to this father, who apparently doesn't realize how stupid he is, in spite of his extensive analysis supporting his own conclusion that he's not stupid.
posted by The World Famous at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's not that it doesn't have *some* influence; it's that it doesn't have -- if other factors trump it -- that much influence.

This is wrong. If beautiful art, music, and literature can be uplifting, revelatory, inspiring, moving and powerful on their own, then conversely bad art, music, and literature can be oppressing, stifling, disheartening, degrading, and ruinous.

This doesn't mean that someone who casually plays violent video games will themselves become violent. It does mean that they will take a casual attitude towards violence.

Consider this question. Next time you are playing a video game, ask yourself why you are playing that particular one. If your answer is simply "it's fun", then ask yourself why that particular game is fun to you, and others are not.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


I spend most of my time [in Red Dead Redemption] jumping off my horse to pick flowers.

Ever since I finished the game, I've discovered the sociopathic joys of the shove button. I've spent an idle hour or two just walking into town, picking a random victim, and announcing "You'll never stop...THE SHOVER! *shove*". I then proceed to run away as if I'd just knocked over a bank.

Fortunately, Mrs. Example is a patient, tolerant woman and puts up with my self-indulgent giggling during these episodes.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:50 PM on June 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


This doesn't mean that someone who casually plays violent video games will themselves become violent. It does mean that they will take a casual attitude towards violence.

They will? This always happens? Every time?

Consider this question. Next time you are playing a video game, ask yourself why you are playing that particular one. If your answer is simply "it's fun", then ask yourself why that particular game is fun to you, and others are not.

What if this particular game is fun to you, and so are those others? That seems more likely to be true to me, at least based on gamers I know. This seems like a false dichotomy to me.
posted by not that girl at 12:54 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


By which he means he had his four-year-old son play the game mode where you drive around and bloodily kill criminals

Ah, that's what felt totally off about this. There's no way to lawfully convict felons in GTA. No way to read them their rights. No court system, no repercussions from the police department. The Wire this is not. Wildly violent killing is the only option. Worse, he's teaching his son that slaughtering is perfectly okay if it's the ill-defined "bad guys" you're taking down in a hail of bullets and blood. At least as an adult playing the game, I had no illusions that my actions were heroic and morally sound.
posted by naju at 1:00 PM on June 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was ready to get all judgmental, until I remembered that my four-year-old daughter loves terrorizing Miami and Sydney in that shark game. Her favorite part is chomping the people on the cruise ship. I've taught her to say OMNOMNOMNOM when she does it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:01 PM on June 23, 2010 [20 favorites]


Starting at the age of 4, my son cut his gaming teeth on Earthworm Jim, the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and Toejam and Earl on the Sega Genesis, and then the Spyro series for the PS-one.

Nowadays, whenever I comment on a sequence in a game he's playing that, "Hey, this reminds me of Crash Bandicoot/Spyro/etc," he gets all teenager on me. "DAAAAADDDD! Stop SAYING that! This is totally different! Just because I'm flying from platform to platform looking for hidden objects..."
posted by not_on_display at 1:03 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


The World Famous: “Maybe somebody ought to explain the Dunning-Kruger effect to this father, who apparently doesn't realize how stupid he is, in spite of his extensive analysis supporting his own conclusion that he's not stupid.”

Exactly what I was thinking. If the kid had picked up a gun and started blasting people with glee, or if he'd seen some gore and ended up really liking it (not to mention if he'd enjoyed stealing cars and killing cops) we'd be reading an article about how these games 'speak to the 4-year-old in all of us,' and how there's something childlike behind the violence.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is why parents should have spouses; you're just a lot less likely to screw up when there's somebody there to point out that you're being stupid. And maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that if this dude had a husband or wife that was anywhere near this, they wouldn't have allowed it. I know anything can happen, but having two parents around tends to make it less like. "Honey? You want to play GTA with the 4-year-old? No."
posted by koeselitz at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you are raising a kid in America, you can be sure of a couple things. The forces encouraging them to become fat will never stop and the forces working toward making them mouth-breathing morons with the attention spans of gnats won't either, by which I mean hyperkinetic media and shitty underfunded schools. So for the same reasons it makes some sense to hold off on the twinkies and soda, letting a kid fuck around in front of video games probably isn't too smart. Yes, he or she may be a prodigy and turn away from the joystick in favor of some pastels, a bike ride, or a rousing volume of Twain or game of chess, but probably, once they get a taste of the intense stimulation, colors, and sound coming from the screen in front of them they will perpetually seek it out.

Most of the kids I see fucking up in school and taking ADD meds are allowed unrestricted access to video games as well. Just like most kids with repeated ear infections live in a house with one or more smokers. I don't need a study to tell me it's causal. Being a fucking parent is more than enough.
posted by docpops at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2010 [12 favorites]


Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is why parents should have spouses; you're just a lot less likely to screw up when there's somebody there to point out that you're being stupid. And maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that if this dude had a husband or wife that was anywhere near this, they wouldn't have allowed it. I know anything can happen, but having two parents around tends to make it less like. "Honey? You want to play GTA with the 4-year-old? No."

A thousand times yes. My kids likely would not be in possession of all four limbs or be able to read were it not for my wife. Then again, were she flying solo, they could not know how to swim, ski, or plant a tree.
posted by docpops at 1:13 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese: "I was ready to get all judgmental, until I remembered that my four-year-old daughter loves terrorizing Miami and Sydney in that shark game. Her favorite part is chomping the people on the cruise ship. I've taught her to say OMNOMNOMNOM when she does it."

My first memory of ever willfully and deliberately withholding information from an adult was when I was either three or four in preschool, and playing with some blocks. A relatively large stack was a either a cliff or skyscraper, and the little short purple cylinder blocks were people, one of whom was convincing the others to leap off to their doom. (I'm pretty sure there was the image of a dropped egg going splat at the time.) Circulating teacher/tot-wrangler asked me what I was playing, and I distinctly remember having the feeling that things would be a lot less problematic (in some way that I of course had no way to articulate at the time) if I gentled a lot of the details. I think I told her they were diving into water and swimming, something innocuous like that.

Four's a good age for cheerful cartoon bloody-mindedness. Although that was more Wile E Coyote at the time than videogames, which still lay years in the future before I ever knew such things.
posted by Drastic at 1:13 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pastabagel: “This doesn't mean that someone who casually plays violent video games will themselves become violent. It does mean that they will take a casual attitude towards violence.”

not that girl: “They will? This always happens? Every time?”

Er – look, I don't know about violence impacting people's minds or whatever, but didn't Pastabagel just basically formulate a tautology? How could you possibly casually play a violent game without on some level taking a casual attitude towards violence? I genuinely don't see how that could possibly be.

At the same time, anybody who's ever read Don Quijote and enjoyed it has to take a casual attitude toward violence, too. But can you really argue that when I laugh my ass off reading the really shocking stuff in that book – seriously, people getting hit on the head so hard they spit weirdly-colored fluids, for a start – I'm not 'taking a casual attitude toward violence?'
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I spend most of my time jumping off my horse to pick flowers.

Wait, is there more to Oblivion than that?
posted by joe lisboa at 1:16 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


No way to read them their rights. No court system, no repercussions from the police department. The Wire this is not.

I do not think that comparison achieves what you intended, but I appreciate your point all the same.
posted by joe lisboa at 1:18 PM on June 23, 2010


Boy, I sure look forward to the rest of this thread where we conclusively determine whether videogames are good for kids or not.
posted by odinsdream at 1:19 PM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Phoenix Wright this is not? That Law & Order game this is not?
posted by box at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2010


Most of the kids I see fucking up in school and taking ADD meds are allowed unrestricted access to video games as well.

Many of the people I work with at software companies (in other words, fairly successful people) had unrestricted access to video games as well. So apparently (by your observational logic) things will work out fine for those kids.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Boy, I sure look forward to the rest of this thread where we conclusively determine whether videogames are good for kids or not.

Regardless of the outcome of that particular question, I think it's safe to say that figuring out what's good for kids by trying them out on your own kid first and then observing the immediate results is not a fantastic methodology.
posted by The World Famous at 1:24 PM on June 23, 2010


I would argue that the problem is not showing GTA to your 4 year old because it will make them deranged. The problem is that GTA is wasted on a four year old. It doesn't engage with him on his level and half of what makes the game enjoyable will fly over the kid's head. The kid isn't able to understand the caricatures of modern life that it presents or get a thrill from running around in a world where you can break all the rules because he doesn't know what the rules are, yet.

He hasn't spent 20 years ground into bureacratic and social institutions that strip away his autonomy and remove his sense of agency, thus forcing him to seek it out in a virtual environment. Unfortunately, this viscous cycle of conforming and then rebelling by seeking the warm glow of a console will enmesh him further in the machinery of society, because he will need to get a job to earn money to purchase video games. This job will strip away more of his autonomy thus focing him to need an even bigger dose of ludic agency. Until finally in his late 20s he gives in becomes a gogglehead and just spends all his time jacked into the metaverse.
posted by edbles at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


Boy, I sure look forward to the rest of this thread where we conclusively determine whether videogames are good for kids or not.

Well, the post is pretty thin, so there is that.

Aside from that, perhaps the reason this strikes more of a chord for me is that I came of age when Atari broke onto the scene with Missile Command, Asteroids, and Space Invaders. My friend down the street, an amiable stoner that I played Frisbee with every night, three years older and a senior in high school, would play constantly and I swear I would have sold a kidney to own a console. I was the sort of student that always pulled off good grades but only with ungodly amounts of fucking around and procrastination. My parents had the good sense to ignore my pleas for video games. I doubt they even knew why, exactly, but I suspect it was obvious to them that anything that distracted from academics was not a net good. There is no way on earth I would have the life I enjoy now had one of these been in the house.

It's snotty of me to pass judgement on this poor sap that is excited as a Dad for seeing his son happy. Good for him. I bet this leads to all manner of wonderful adventures and it would be ten times worse if he were staring at the NFL game while his wife took him for a walk. But at four years of age you are still getting asense of what your kid's temperament is as far as their degree of kineticism and focus, and this just seems like a sace of bad-idea Jeans in action. Like Koeselitz stated, I kept thinking, "Where's Mom?"
posted by docpops at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


If beautiful art, music, and literature can be uplifting, revelatory, inspiring, moving and powerful on their own, then conversely bad art, music, and literature can be oppressing, stifling, disheartening, degrading, and ruinous.

I see your point, but I don't think it works like that. Art expands your imaginative and moral scope, it helps you to transcend your mental/spiritual limitations. Good art is powerful, bad art is weak. Art with a morally bad message may still be good art and on the whole any good art is good for you. It's about growth or non-growth, not about the superficial didactic messages.

Not to say that GTA is actually suitable for four-year-olds.
posted by Phanx at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


If X is awful for a four year old, it may well not be good for that four year old's father.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2010


I HATE EVERYTHING.

I can haz mai sensatiff intallexual badge nao?

(I used this in another thread, but I'm beginning to think it's appropriate for soooo many MeFi outrage threads.)
posted by grubi at 1:35 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Many of the people I work with at software companies (in other words, fairly successful people) had unrestricted access to video games as well. So apparently (by your observational logic) things will work out fine for those kids.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:23 PM on June 23 [+] [!]


That just tells me that certain traits and historical behaviors might direct people toward certain jobs. Of course, if software and IT were limitless in it's commodiousness we would never have to worry.
posted by docpops at 1:38 PM on June 23, 2010


I HATE EVERYTHING.

I can haz mai sensatiff intallexual badge nao?


No, sorry. You almost qualified for the sensitive intellectual badge. But your clothes just weren't quite right. See, you're not supposed to be wearing all black. You're supposed to wear earth tones and sensible brown shoes. And if you truly hated everything, you would have much more creative facial hair.
posted by The World Famous at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2010


And if you truly hated everything, you would have much more creative facial hair.

ATTN: I HAVE TWO RESPONSES. GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL.

1) DAMMIT. You get kicked out of Mustache May *one time* for failing to upload a pic, and you're labeled for life.

OR:

2) You haven't seen my user pic, have you?
posted by grubi at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2010


He didn't avoid these things because I told him he counldn't try them. It just never occurred to him to commit these acts.

A lot of people want to say there's nothing wrong with games (or movies) that reward the fantasy of amoral action without consequences. It doesn't really stand the test of reason that they have no effect. Playing games can be fun, but when people get accustomed to dialing back or repressing the shocked, surprised, empathetic moral response, it should set off an alarm bell in people concerned with ethics. Sure, it's 'just fantasy.' But it's not as though there's a bright line between what happens in the mind as fantasy and what happens in reality. No, people don't play one game and then step out to re-enact everything they just did. But people do exist in an environment in which there is a range of possible responses to real cruelty and injustice, from passive indifference to egging on to active involvement to prevention or advocacy or protest. How does the roleplaying interact with people's own propensities to indulge in, or oppose, violence or prejudice or rashness or cruelty? How does that experience interact with their own social set and the environment in which they make moral choices?

We know from history, experimentation, and current events that human beings can be conditioned to do acts of terror in environments which support, encourage, and reward those actions rather than amplify the empathetic response. Games are "not reality," but neither were the Stanford prison experiments, and yet people readily assumed a willingness to commit acts of cruelty even though they were in a contrived, pretend situation. I can't accept the argument that all kinds of experiences can have a formative impact on moral development in one way or another, except media experiences, which are fine because we all know they're not real. They count as human experiences, even though they may vary in remove from harming other people directly.

The question that concerns me more is not exactly which media help to develop that fantasy further, but why, when, and how the taste for that kind of fantasy comes to exist in people in the first place, and how a casual attitude toward cruelty or injustice can translate to a passive response to observed cruelty and injustice in other kinds of society. For instance, misogynist horror movies are "just entertainment," but the creation and screening of them contributes to building a stable of mental impressions and images which ultimately justifies and rationalizes the characterization of women as ideal victims.
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on June 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


I didn't kill this many animals playing Big Buck Hunter.

Haha, Big Buck Hunter. I actually used "Buck Hunter" as the name on my Facebook account after seeing the arcade game in a bar, and drunkenly thinking it would be hilarious if that was actually someone's real name.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2010



I see your point, but I don't think it works like that. Art expands your imaginative and moral scope, it helps you to transcend your mental/spiritual limitations. Good art is powerful, bad art is weak. Art with a morally bad message may still be good art and on the whole any good art is good for you. It's about growth or non-growth, not about the superficial didactic messages.

If we're going to have the games as art discussion, let's define terms. Art: I like to go with Joyce's definition usually.

Joyce defines Improper Art as kinetic and breaks it down into two categories: the pornographic and the didactic. Pornographic art is any expression that inspires desire in the observer to possess the object. All advertising art is pornographic in this sense and therefore improper.

The second category of Improper Art, in Joyce's aesthetic, is the Didactic. Didactic Art is any artistic expression which instills fear or loathing in the observer and thereby pushes them away from the object being observed.

Joyce defines proper art as that which does not pull the observer toward it or push the observer away from it, but rather holds them still in aesthetic arrest of the moment.


Arguably GTA is pornographic because it inspires a desire in the observer to possess it. Also the level of violence manifested in the game makes it appear Didactic in many eyes. However, I would argue that the game creates emergent moments of aesthetic arrest. For example, swelling chords as you pilot a “Cheetah” through a 360 spin over railroad tracks, strolling down the street listening to the wide variety of barks, watching a NPC to NPC car accident, admiring the skyline as you pilot your helicop- WHY DO THEY ALWAYS PUT FUCKING HELICOPTER MISSIONS IN THESE FUCKING GAMES. NO ONE LIKES THEM. I’VE DONE STUDIES. ASK ME ABOUT THEM.
posted by edbles at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Some how, some way, I blame hipsters.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:57 PM on June 23, 2010


That just tells me that certain traits and historical behaviors might direct people toward certain jobs

Sure, but I mean both here and in college I knew lots of kids who grew up with unrestricted computer + console games. After all, in the 80's most parents really didn't know anything about them, and so there was even less guidance either way on what to do. And my biased sample shows a lot of very successful (educationally and professionally) gamers, which tends to make me doubt anything inherent in video games. But that's not any more scientific than what this dad did, or what most people do when forming opinions about this.

I can't accept the argument that all kinds of experiences can have a formative impact on moral development in one way or another, except media experiences, which are fine because we all know they're not real. They count as human experiences, even though they may vary in remove from harming other people directly.

But why assume (if you are, not clear to me) that it would be a negative impact? Obviously all our experiences affect us. But it seems just as likely that: playing games reduces actual violent behavior by acting as an escape , playing games reduces violent behavior by making it seem less remote and unreal (other than video games and TV I really never experienced violence growing up), or playing games makes people more likely to be violent because of association with entertainment. I don't see any easy way to choose amongst those or other outcomes given the difficulty of controlling for all the other variables that shape one's behavior.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:59 PM on June 23, 2010


I love video games. But I honestly think this is not something to be proud of.
posted by gnutron at 2:00 PM on June 23, 2010


Hey dad, stop letting your 4 yearold play GTA. He's 4. Kids are not tiny adults. That is all.
posted by nola at 2:01 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


We know from history, experimentation, and current events that human beings can be conditioned to do acts of terror in environments which support, encourage, and reward those actions rather than amplify the empathetic response. Games are "not reality," but neither were the Stanford prison experiments, and yet people readily assumed a willingness to commit acts of cruelty even though they were in a contrived, pretend situation.

And all those people - every one, ladies and gentlemen - had a bitchin' gamerscore.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:02 PM on June 23, 2010


I am insufficiently outraged!

But can you really argue that when I laugh my ass off reading the really shocking stuff in that book – seriously, people getting hit on the head so hard they spit weirdly-colored fluids, for a start – I'm not 'taking a casual attitude toward violence?''

The usual argument about this is that there is a difference between 'cartoon' violence and 'real' or even 'realistic' violence. It's perfectly possible to take a casual attitude to Miss Piggy's Karate chops while being grossed out by Reservoir Dogs. Being able to tell the difference between them is something we all have to learn, and this father believed his kid was ready for that lesson, in terms of ps2 animated violence. He explicitly states that it's not for every kid, and that it's the parents' responsibility to decide the timing and be involved in the experience of that learning.

I have no problem with that. Let the kid drive a damn firetruck - it's as damaging than what I used to do to my Action Man with my Smash Up Derby at that age.
posted by Sparx at 2:05 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Most of the kids I see fucking up in school and taking ADD meds are allowed unrestricted access to video games as well.

Or, kids whose parents apply no restrictions to anything, and are generally as little involved in their kids' lives as possible, are more likely to fuck up. Go figure.

Given two kids that are allowed an hour of videogames every now and then in a generally well-balanced life, do you think that one that spends it playing GTA is more likely to "fuck up" than one that plays Madden? I don't.
posted by CaseyB at 2:06 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj - I assume it may have a negative impact only because I can't see in any way how it could have a positive one. Understand this is from a parent who allows TV for his kids, and many other potentially questionable things.

Video games, like smart phones, or internet usage, are things that will have different impacts on different kids. I presume we want the best for our kids, so a thoughtful analysis of how we introduce these things to our kids would indicate to me that 4 years of age is a little soon. As well, my advice to parents is not so much for their kids necessarily as it is for them. A parent who has to deal with a kid with a poor attention span, or one that can't pass math, is going to be that much less happy. Put in the hard work early on and it will pay off tenfold downstream as your kid is able to keep themselves entertained with things far less corrosive or expensive. But yeah, I'll concede I'd rather raise a well-rounded intellectual who then also chooses to play games later on (as I did, with Quake and Halo) than a kid who talks like a carnie and can't look an adult in the eye but might, if hell freezes over, get a subscription to Harpers or an actual periodical.
posted by docpops at 2:08 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given two kids that are allowed an hour of videogames every now and then in a generally well-balanced life, do you think that one that spends it playing GTA is more likely to "fuck up" than one that plays Madden? I don't.

As a parent of a four-year-old, let me point out that your premise is flawed, as there is no such thing as "an hour" of videogames.
posted by The World Famous at 2:12 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anecdotal Evidence: Bane #67 of internet discussions.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:19 PM on June 23, 2010


Anecdotal Evidence: Bane #67 of internet discussions.

Where does speculation rank? How about feigned knowledge?
posted by The World Famous at 2:20 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Video games, like smart phones, or internet usage, are things that will have different impacts on different kids.

And the interaction isn't quite as simple as Kid <>Game. There's an environment surrounding this: an environment of sales and marketing that promotes and sells the game and its equipment; an intimate and direct social environment of family members, friends, school peers, and online contacts; a broader social environment that sends a variety of other messages surrounding games and their topics. All of this mixes and melts together with a kid's own personality and perceptive ability, life experience, moral development, social-emotional development, need for acceptance and support, interests, and freedoms. That becomes complex fast. The question is never, to me, whether games alone are doing something to the kids. Such a simplistic, immediate cause-effect could not really capture a game's impact. Instead, it's how are these games interacting with the child's intra- and interpersonal environment, and what are the consquences of the behaviors resulting from those interactions.
posted by Miko at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2010


Fuck! I just let my 4 year old read Metafilter, specifically this thread, and he just nicked my bottle of Jamison, my car keys, and the prostitute I found walking in circles on the road and has gone on a bender. He's mowing down pedestrians and ramming police cars.

Fuck you Metafilter. Fuck you very much.

Give my child his innocence back. Won't someone think about my child???
posted by Elmore at 2:24 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Playing games can be fun, but when people get accustomed to dialing back or repressing the shocked, surprised, empathetic moral response, it should set off an alarm bell in people concerned with ethics.

I feel like this argument is coming from the days of Prohibition. The logical road from where you're starting to "broadly bad for individual and/or society" is tortuous, rocky, full of false completions, and strewn with the wreckage of moralist structures that sold the complexity of life way, way short. It doesn't exist.
posted by fleacircus at 2:31 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is unconscionable that a parent would expose their child to such repetitive mission structure and poor combat controls.
posted by mattholomew at 2:32 PM on June 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


Anecdotal Evidence: Bane #67 of internet discussions.

Where does speculation rank? How about feigned knowledge?


Somewhere between sarcastic rhetorical questions and assholes who answer rhetorical questions.
posted by turaho at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Elmore: "I gave my 4 year old son a slug of whiskey. He went into convulsions, turned yellow, and vomited all over the cat. I was amazed! And, he decided for himself that he wasn't ready for the hard stuff yet, so I switched him to Coors Light.

You gave him Coors Light? Now, that is bad parenting, give him a real beer.
"

That is good parenting. Years from now he'll be at a high school party and someone will offer him a beer. That little voice inside his head will say "remember, beer tastes like warm piss. Don't like." and he'll politely refuse.
posted by Bonzai at 2:47 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


My 6 year old enjoys Red Dead Redemption.

Specifically, he enjoys climbing on top of the buildings and jumping off, and he particularly enjoys riding on the roof of the train.

He also thinks riding horses aimlessly across the countryside is fun.

He does the "nighttime missions" on the Macfarlane ranch, but he lassos and hogties the wrong doers instead of killing them. I thought that was very forward thinking of him, till he reminded me bringing them back alive pays more.

When the game interrupts his fun with a forced mission or a duel, he hands me the controller.

Besides, he likes Mario Sunshine far more. I mean far more. (Had to buy a damn gamecube controller and gamecube memory card for the Wii. Why the hell can't it use internal memory for save games?)
posted by discountfortunecookie at 2:56 PM on June 23, 2010


That is good parenting. Years from now he'll be at a high school party and someone will offer him a beer. That little voice inside his head will say "remember, beer tastes like warm piss. Don't like." and he'll politely refuse.

Yeah except then he'll sneak a Mike's Hard Lemonade or a Smirnoff Ice and get completely hammered off a drink with a reputation so far in the toilet he might as well have been drinking actual warm piss. He'll realize this and switch to hard liquor instead and then I'm heaving in a public park at 3 AM after mindlessly rolling in the dirt for a good half hour.
posted by griphus at 3:00 PM on June 23, 2010


I don't entirely agree with David Lynch, but his comment on TV violence has stayed with me ever since I read it:

"The worst thing about this modern world is that people think you get killed on television with zero pain and zero blood. It must enter into kids' heads that it's not very messy to kill somebody, and it doesn't hurt that much. That's a real sickness to me. That's a real sick thing."
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


koeselitz: "How could you possibly casually play a violent game without on some level taking a casual attitude towards violence? I genuinely don't see how that could possibly be."

You could take a casual attitude towards fictional, computer animated, not all that real looking violence, while not changing your attitude towards real violence of the kind that affects real people instead of a bunch of pixels?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:22 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


but didn't Pastabagel just basically formulate a tautology?

I think for it to be tautological it would be stated as:
"This doesn't mean that someone who casually plays violent video games will themselves become violent. It does mean that they will take a casual attitude towards video game violence."
These things are much more compartmentalized than what people make them out to be. For some people these compartments sometimes merge or don't exist, but that is a symptom of something going on inside the person and not a problem of that particular media.

I've always thought they should take video game testers who spend huge amounts of time in front of these games and run them through the gamut of tests. My guess is you would get the same old bell curve measuring relative attitudes toward violence you would normally find in a population of non-video game players.
But than again I'm not a psychologist who runs these type of studies.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:23 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, I don't mind what a kid does in GTA, just for god's sake keep his character out of the bars. Sure, when they come staggering out all drunk and falling it looks funny, and yeah, ok, I've played sessions of GTA where all I've done is get Niko hammered and then see how far I could walk him, for hours, but alcoholism is a serious disease. Even if you're with that Jamaican guy, and then you go across the road to get some chicken.

On that note, I have twice as much fun getting John Marston drunk in RDR, because once I walked him out of the bar and he passed out backwards and actually smashed a window and some chick in the saloon yelled "Oh my God!" and I essentially wet myself laughing, and by "essentially" I mean that yes, I did a little laughter-wee in my pants.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:40 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised in this discussion that we've become so bogged down talking about the violence of GTA and yet nobody's mentioned what I think is the real evil culprit of video games, which is the hyperactive attention-shifting gameplay that trains people not to care about things for more than thirty seconds. Or that only present the player with interesting detail when they're busy doing menial activities.

I'm watching my roommate play Shadow of the Colossus all the way through, after seeing him play Half Life 2 and Zelda (this has been his summer of catching up with classics), and I'm struck by how different his approaches to each game are. In Zelda he was catcalling the screen, running from place to place with quite a bit of frustration when things weren't at his speed. In Half Life, which is much better-paced, he kept completely engaged — except for the cut scenes, which he gets frustrated at. (And which I get frustrated at too. Valve, you're awesome at game design. Stop pretending you're able to write good dialogue. Stop acting like I give a fuck about your Girl Character and stop making her hug my Mute Male Character unless you're gonna give us a disturbing silent sex scene to appease me.)

But in Shadow of the Colossus, from the instant the screen turned on, he was transfixed. He spends a lot of time just roaming the world on his horse in absolute silence, gazing at it. He likes that more than he likes actually fighting the Colossi, and he doesn't particularly feel good about killing them. If the game could end in any other way but violence, I'm sure he'd absolutely take it, stopping by the colossi only to gaze in a little bit of awe.

Which is how I responded to the game too. Because it's the first game I've ever played, and maybe the fourth or fifth game ever, that puts a lot of thought into its ambience, its cinematography, its atmosphere, and it's certainly the one that delivers the most polished result. (Braid: Too small; Blueberry Garden: Too quick; Pathologic: Slowly drives players insane, and also isn't fun.) I remember playing it and thinking, as I do now, that this was a game that showed the true awesome power of the video game medium. It's not about gameplay (though it certainly is about controls). It's about creating worlds, beautiful and emotive worlds, that stop you in your tracks.

Without saying a line, the hero of Shadow of the Colossus is easily my favorite video game character ever. Because he displays his character in every move he makes. The way he rides his horse, the way he stumbles as he jumps, the movements of his body as he holds on to cliffs... It's more an interpretive dance than it is an interpretive story. It's a tale conveyed with physics. It's augmented, of course, by some stellar design choices, like the one that divides the screen into rule-of-thirds so that the camera naturally composes gorgeous frames, and like the absolutely wonderful underwater lighting. And it works incredibly well. I could go through a world like that for ages.

And Shadow made me incapable of enjoying many other new games, excepting the ones I'd played before it and had nostalgic sentiment for. Because go from something like that to a game like Grand Theft Auto, with its world that offers nothing but twitchy violence (and I worry more about the twitchy than about the violence), and there's absolutely a feeling of loss in the game. For all it labors to give you this complete world, it never bothers making that world beautiful.

I think that's affected my gamer friends more than the violence has. I don't have violent gamer friends. I do, however, have friends who frequently aren't willing to appreciate things on more than a surface level, who are thoughtless and caddish, and who sometimes frustrate me when I'm in the mood to go looking for something deeper.

This isn't a problem that only games have, and I'm annoyed when the media acts like it is. (Especially when you're part of the FUCKING MEDIA. You've got no right to feign concern for other things bringing down the soul when you're the central problem, you know?) It's a problem that you find everywhere. Experiencing things beyond surface level is the norm until something convinces you there's more to it. Some people figure this out just doing wild things out in the real world. Other people get it from a book, or a movie (Ulysses and Eraserhead were the two things that stand out to me). I'd imagine you could get it from a game, if you could find a game powerful enough.

The problem with gaming/gaming culture is that it hasn't developed enough to offer any really world-class artistic experiences, the sort that change the person they affect. So if you define yourself exclusively through video games, it's harder to find that electric jolt that pushes you into seeing things differently, and gets you into deeper and more serious shit. Violence has never been a problem in art when it was coupled with maturity, sophistication, and awe. I doubt you would watch Blue Velvet (to take another Lynch film) and come away thinking that final shot of Dennis Hopper's head being torn off glamorizes violence in any way. But when the only thing on the market is cheap disposable entertainment, then you might grow up not realizing what else is out there.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


"How could you possibly casually play a violent game without on some level taking a casual attitude towards violence? I genuinely don't see how that could possibly be."

As a kid in the mid 90s, I played a lot of violent video games and watched a lot of violent movies. I also took a bit of martial arts and, more to the point, got beat up a whole lot. There was never, in my mind, a direct link between violence in the media and violence in real life outside of the fact that they resembled one another in form. I knew that if I hit someone in a video game, it was a whole bunch of electronic magic in a box that displayed stuff to a screen. If I did it in real life, I would a) physically hurt the person and possibly b) get hit back harder and get myself injured. The relationship you're talking about never established itself because the feedback from the two forms of violence was so drastically different.
posted by griphus at 3:45 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know, P.o.B. That's why I specifically said casually playing violent games is taking violence casually on some level. Although I don't think I really agree that "things are much more compartmentalized," although I may not be taking your meaning correctly - more on this below.

me: “How could you possibly casually play a violent game without on some level taking a casual attitude towards violence? I genuinely don't see how that could possibly be.”

Joakim Ziegler: “You could take a casual attitude towards fictional, computer animated, not all that real looking violence, while not changing your attitude towards real violence of the kind that affects real people instead of a bunch of pixels?”

I think this is sort of silly, and I hear this argument bandied around in the contentious "do video games make people violent?" debates a lot. People seem to be in a rush to say that "video game violence" is significantly different from "real life violence." What's funny is that it seems to me that people who say this either haven't played many video games recently or are setting aside all of their experience to say something that clearly isn't true. Video games work hard specifically to make sure that their violence is as similar as possible to "real life violence." Seriously, has anyone played games from the last two years? Assassin's Creed 2? The best thing about that game was how realistic the killing was, how much freedom you had to do it; that was, I think, part of the 'huge sandbox' allure that it had. The game actively discouraged wanton violence (seriously, a little blip popped up every single time you killed somebody indiscriminately reminding you that that was against your character's honor) but this just goes to show how much "video game violence" is supposed to mimic "real life violence," with all of its complications.

And I don't know any gamer that actually dissociates the two in their minds while they're playing. They don't say "I'm going to shoot my pixels into that lump of pixels" - they say "I'm going to go kill that guy over there." That's what it is in their minds, and the simulation is essential in some ways to the fun of video games.

But I brought up Don Quijote because I think it's essential to keep in mind the fact that simulation and playing aren't endorsement, and that it's rank moralism to accuse people who know consciously they're not killing people, but choose to participate in a game where they act out killing people, of murder or the desire to murder. Bluntly (though anecdotally, I know) the gamers I know are less likely to be violent, and less likely to commit violence against other people, than the general population at large. So even though they spend a fair chunk of their time taking violence in a casual way, engaging in games in which simulated violence is the objective, this casual experience with a simulation doesn't make them more likely to engage in the real thing. This is probably because people aren't robots or lab rats; they know when it's a simulation, and a simulation has an entirely different moral dimension from actual violence. I would argue that that familiarity can often be a net benefit, because acquaintance with a thing can lead to an understanding of its terrible sides, as well. We don't play games about the Holocaust (nor should we, I think) but we also don't try to keep our children from ever hearing about it, because acquaintance with history is essential for people to make a judgment about it. Maybe the playful acquaintance with violence gaming affords can help us have a more mature approach to it in the world.

Of course, at the end of the day, however, I have to say: RockStar Games doesn't impress me much, and I've never been very thrilled with Grand Theft Auto. Video game art might be possible, but that ain't it, and if I were gonna show a game to a 4-year-old kid, it would be something very different.
posted by koeselitz at 3:58 PM on June 23, 2010


griphus: “As a kid in the mid 90s, I played a lot of violent video games and watched a lot of violent movies. I also took a bit of martial arts and, more to the point, got beat up a whole lot. There was never, in my mind, a direct link between violence in the media and violence in real life outside of the fact that they resembled one another in form. I knew that if I hit someone in a video game, it was a whole bunch of electronic magic in a box that displayed stuff to a screen. If I did it in real life, I would a) physically hurt the person and possibly b) get hit back harder and get myself injured. The relationship you're talking about never established itself because the feedback from the two forms of violence was so drastically different.”

What relationship?
posted by koeselitz at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2010


Makes me think there should be more open-ended GTA type games that are designed for kids... There's an opportunity for the gaming industry there.
posted by puffl at 4:07 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


What relationship?

The relationship between a violent video game habit/hobby and a casual attitude toward real-life violence.
posted by griphus at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2010


koeselitz: "Bluntly (though anecdotally, I know) the gamers I know are less likely to be violent, and less likely to commit violence against other people, than the general population at large."

Rather tangentially, this reminds me of tentative study suggestions that gamers have a much easier time with nightmares than non-gamers. One of my favorite bits in it:
In other words, a scary nightmare scenario turned into something "fun" for a gamer.

"What happens with gamers is that something inexplicable happens," Gackenbach explained. "They don't run away, they turn and fight back. They're more aggressive than the norms."

Levels of aggression in gamer dreams also included hyper-violence not unlike that of an R-rated movie, as opposed to a non-gamer PG-13 dream.

"If you look at the actual overall amount of aggression, gamers have less aggression in dreams," Gackenbach said. "But when they're aggressive, oh boy, they go off the top."
Which pretty much does match the anecdotal headspace of my own dreams: almost entirely pleasantly unaggressive, non-threatening, etc., but things that I imagine turn into nightmares for others have a tendency to instead morph into what are recalled as sort of action-comedies by the time their percolation through the gray matter's done.
posted by Drastic at 4:23 PM on June 23, 2010


Makes me think there should be more open-ended GTA type games that are designed for kids... There's an opportunity for the gaming industry there.

I haven't played it yet, but reviews seem to indicate that Toy Story 3 is a sandbox game for kids.
posted by L. Ron McKenzie at 4:26 PM on June 23, 2010


Yes, he or she may be a prodigy and turn away from the joystick in favor of some pastels, a bike ride, or a rousing volume of Twain or game of chess, but probably, once they get a taste of the intense stimulation, colors, and sound coming from the screen in front of them they will perpetually seek it out.

Wow. This is brilliantly hilarious and should be on a pamphlet or in a speech balloon in a Jack Chick tract!
posted by ignignokt at 4:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I worked in my old college archives, it gave me the opportunity to peruse old college news articles with information about the haps at two small and very liberal colleges. One article in an issue from 1981, I think, described a meeting about plans for a student lounge that had just acquired, among other things, a Space Invaders arcade game. One Haverford senior spoke on behalf of a group of students who disapproved of the choice to install a video game, because video games were essentially warlike and propagated a militaristic mindset. By now that guy probably has adult children, and I'd like to think they spent their youth cadging invitations to friends' houses to play Nintendo.

In conversations like this, I remember him, and the fact that we are going to be having this argument until such time as the technopocalypse comes and children once again can only amuse themselves by pretending to shoot bows and arrows or dying of measles.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:25 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would like to say I'm glad most of you aren't my parents.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:45 PM on June 23, 2010


I would like to say I'm glad most of you aren't my parents.

Well, on behalf of those of us who are your parents, I would remind you that you promised to play GTA before bedtime, and you need to get back to the console and play it.
posted by The World Famous at 5:58 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


People seem to be in a rush to say that "video game violence" is significantly different from "real life violence." What's funny is that it seems to me that people who say this either haven't played many video games recently or are setting aside all of their experience to say something that clearly isn't true.

Video game violence is significantly different from real life violence because one is entirely pretend and other hurts people.

Video games work hard specifically to make sure that their violence is as similar as possible to "real life violence."

Until someone writes a video game that physically harms live human beings, the two are so far apart as to render any comparison pointless.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Until someone writes a video game that physically harms live human beings, the two are so far apart as to render any comparison pointless.

Seriously. Until someone invents a flight simulator that actually flies a real plane, there is no point in pilots ever using flight simulators for training.
posted by The World Famous at 6:23 PM on June 23, 2010


4 year old Predator Drone pilots don't get PTSD
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:27 PM on June 23, 2010


But daaaaaaaaaad... I'm already at 100%. I don't want to find the rest of the flying rats! I want to play Dwarf Fortress!
posted by BeerFilter at 6:27 PM on June 23, 2010


Well fuck me, that settles it: my sons get no Shakespeare until they are well past the age of enlisting.

Because that motherfucker had no compunction at all about killing off major character in the most colorful of ways.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:28 PM on June 23, 2010


Seriously. Until someone invents a flight simulator that actually flies a real plane, there is no point in pilots ever using flight simulators for training.

Seriously. Until someone writes a flight simulator that actually flies a real plane, there is no point in complaining that flight simulators encourage a casual attitude towards going Mach 2 at 500 feet down Broadway or kamikaze attacks on the Wal-Mart headquarters.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:33 PM on June 23, 2010


Seriously. Until someone writes a flight simulator that actually flies a real plane, there is no point in complaining that flight simulators encourage a casual attitude towards going Mach 2 at 500 feet down Broadway or kamikaze attacks on the Wal-Mart headquarters.

I'm not complaining that games encourage a casual attitude towards anything. Games train people to do things. Flight simulators train people to fly planes. Murder simulators train people to murder. Whether or not the people ever use that training is a completely different question.
posted by The World Famous at 6:37 PM on June 23, 2010


I assume it may have a negative impact only because I can't see in any way how it could have a positive one. Understand this is from a parent who allows TV for his kids, and many other potentially questionable things.

I suggest this assumption is unwarranted. It's certainly an alluring assumption, but I don't think it's valid.

For those arguing on the "games are bad" side of things: how are you willing to ignore the millions of people, of which I am one, who have had extensive, un-moderated exposure to intense graphic violence and sex in games, movies, books, music, etc., for literally decades, and have nothing to show for it in terms of harmful effects?

It seems like you can go about it a couple of ways:
* The negative consequences are hidden or dormant
* Only certain people are predisposed to being negatively affected
* Percentages of violent behaviour would be the same in this group as any kind of control group

I'd personally go for the last option. I have seen no reason to suspect that those with violent tendencies would have either been positively affected by the absence of simulated violence, nor do I think that those without would have been harmed by the addition of it.

I'd be very interested if anyone has come across controlled studies exploring this topic.
posted by odinsdream at 6:42 PM on June 23, 2010


Please ignore my badly-constructed either/or sentence.
posted by odinsdream at 6:43 PM on June 23, 2010


un-moderated exposure to intense graphic violence and sex in games, movies, books, music, etc., for literally decades

I'm not arguing on the "games are bad" side of things, but what games were you playing in 1990 that had intense graphic violence and sex? And what do you have to back up your assertion that you have nothing to show for it in terms of harmful effects? Is there a control group you that experienced life in exactly the same way that you did, except for the alleged graphic violence and sex in video games you were playing in 1990?

"I did it and look at me: I turned out fine" isn't a terribly scientific approach.
posted by The World Famous at 6:54 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Games train people to do things. Flight simulators train people to fly planes. Murder simulators train people to murder. Whether or not the people ever use that training is a completely different question.

Than you are talking about the intent of the person playing them and not the actual unintended affects of video games. And we've come around to "it's the person not the X" argument.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:05 PM on June 23, 2010


Games train people to do things. Flight simulators train people to fly planes. Murder simulators train people to murder. Whether or not the people ever use that training is a completely different question.

THANK YOU! Now would you kindly explain that to NASA so they'll finally let me take one of their rockets into space to blow up some asteroids?
posted by turaho at 7:05 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]




THANK YOU! Now would you kindly explain that to NASA so they'll finally let me take one of their rockets into space to blow up some asteroids?

You know that NASA does use simulators extensively to train astronauts, right? And that extensive simulation time is, in fact, a requirement in order for someone to "take one of their rockets into space?"
posted by The World Famous at 7:10 PM on June 23, 2010


CNN translation of that abstract
(i'm not saying i'm sold on the validity of that study)
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:14 PM on June 23, 2010


There is a difference between training and playing.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:15 PM on June 23, 2010


You know that NASA does use simulators extensively to train astronauts, right?

I assume those simulators mimic the actual interface that astronauts use, just like what you call "murder simulators" mimic the actual experience of reloading a gun.

I mean, push the B button, right? I am so trained.
posted by turaho at 7:22 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I assume those simulators mimic the actual interface that astronauts use, just like what you call "murder simulators" mimic the actual experience of reloading a gun.

Some of the more advanced and immersive ones do. But some don't. Pilots and astronauts have plenty of simulators that just use a normal computer interface with a monitor and qwerty keyboard.

Mind you, reloading a gun isn't an indespensible part of murder.

But I guess it's a good thing that no videogames involve killing with anything other than a gun, right?
posted by The World Famous at 7:29 PM on June 23, 2010


TWF, you're splitting so many hairs here I don't even know what we're disagreeing about anymore. But I do know that I started off thinking that dismissing a video game like Grand Theft Auto by calling it a "murder simulator" that trains children to murder is silly and a pure appeal to emotion. Do you think Farmville is an "animal husbandry simulator" that trains children to harvest crops?
posted by turaho at 7:48 PM on June 23, 2010


tl;dr
posted by Xoebe at 8:00 PM on June 23, 2010


TWF, you're splitting so many hairs here I don't even know what we're disagreeing about anymore. But I do know that I started off thinking that dismissing a video game like Grand Theft Auto by calling it a "murder simulator" that trains children to murder is silly and a pure appeal to emotion.

Are you and I really disagreeing about anything? I was responding to ROU_Xenophobe's comment above that "Until someone writes a video game that physically harms live human beings, the two [video game violence and real violence] are so far apart as to render any comparison pointless," by pointing out that a simulation of something is not at all "so far apart as to render any comparison pointless."

My further comments were simply responses to the comments made following that exchange. As I have already stated, I am not arguing that videogames are "bad." I thoroughly enjoy videogames - particularly some of the more violent ones.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is a flight simulator. I used to play a flight simulator on an old 386 PC that had terrible line graphics and physics and controls that I don't imagine were very good simulations of actual flight - but it was, nevertheless, a simulation of piloting a plane. Gran Turismo, Forza, and others are driving simulators - some more realistic than others. Grand Theft Auto is a simulation of something - several things, in fact, is it not? You'll note that, in my comment above, I didn't call GTA a murder simulator. But is murder not one of the many things in GTA's simulation?
posted by The World Famous at 8:01 PM on June 23, 2010


puffl: Makes me think there should be more open-ended GTA type games that are designed for kids... There's an opportunity for the gaming industry there.


You know, there are these things IRL called "playgrounds". And- get this- they have actual sandboxes!
posted by mkultra at 8:10 PM on June 23, 2010


Grand Theft Auto is a simulation of something

A simulator is meant to be precise and as real as possible, right? That's not GTA's intent and I could go into plenty of detail of why that isn't so, but I'll give you one simple reason - third-person viewpoint. Anyway you seem to want to gloss over the point I made about the intent thing.

Meanwhile, back in sincere discussion territory...

I guess I would have to disagree with you, koeselitz, and I would underscore what ROU_X said.
There is a huge gulf between the pew-pew disintegration kill of a video game and the full on terrible ferociousness of real world violence.
About once a week I play COD Modern Warfare with a buddy over at his house. I like FPS' but I haven't had much playtime on that game and he has it for the Wii. So there is the full on point-and-shoot aspect built into the game on that system. But last night while I was playing I had somehow remapped in my head a couple of buttons and instead of throwing grenades I kept bringing up stats mid-play. This did not break any kind of play for me, it was still part of the play and was just another mistake. So I really don't see how these these disparate things are the same to (some) people. Actually shooting a gun is wholly different than trying to out twitch some guy over the broadband connection.

it seems to me that people who say this either haven't played many video games recently or are setting aside all of their experience to say something that clearly isn't true.
I actually believe it's the other way around. The people who think video game violence and real world violence are somehow the same or close to it, haven't really taken part or been subjected to real world violence. Maybe anyone who is saying that distinction is blurry should go take part in some kind of Fight Club and see how giving or receiving a punch compares to one in a video game...not really though. Seriously though, I'm not suggesting you do that.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:21 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also seriously, what the hell is up with GTA4 not having the ambulance and firetruck missions? I miss that.

edbles, put me down for liking the helicopter missions. I think they're where GTA4 is at it's most visually beautiful. I'm looking forward to the Ballad of Gay Tony as I hear there are more helicopter missions. :)
posted by BeerFilter at 8:37 PM on June 23, 2010


I apologize for misreading your intentions, TWF. But I still take issue with you when you said "Games train people to do things." Some games do and some don't.

The skills you learn in GTA have no real world application. Just because someone is really good at GTA doesn't mean they'd make a good carjacker in real life if just given the opportunity.

I'd argue that you're muddling the idea of a simulation (e.g. the "realness" of the physics of a car drifting in GTA) with a simulator (i.e. a tool used to train someone to do a task). I think a game can be a well realized simulation without necessarily being a simulator, if you get what I mean.

If games train you at anything, they train you how to play games. If a real life application resembles the game then great, you're also training a person to fly a plane/drive a car/gun down enemy combatants from a helicopter. But when jacking a car means pressing a Y button and running means holding down the A button, you're not training anyone.
posted by turaho at 8:42 PM on June 23, 2010


A simulator is meant to be precise and as real as possible, right?

No. Not at all.
posted by The World Famous at 8:45 PM on June 23, 2010


BeerFilter: Your remarks have been analyzed and unfortunately you didn't fill out the scantron with a #2 HB leaded pencil therefore your data cannot be inputted.

I say this in the nicest way possible, Fuck The Visuals. If I can't move my dude in space in a predictable fashion, you are basically just making me suffer to extend game life. The flying missions consistently interrupt addictive gameplay and make me switch to something else.
posted by edbles at 8:50 PM on June 23, 2010


Well than let's make the distinction that there is a difference between a simulation and a simulator. GTA is not a simulator and isn't meant to be. You certainly can play a simulator like a game or use it as intended as a training device, but once we start talking about simulations being real it gets a bit dicey.
Not to mention what the simulator discussion is about is an intent of the person to actively and hopefully effectively learn to use a real world device; playing a video game for enjoyment is a world apart from that.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:09 PM on June 23, 2010


Also re: degradation of empathy/tolerance for cruelty through video game violence. I enjoy crude (read: Rockstar) games. I, however, still have mild panic attacks when I see cops just standing around wearing guns in the middle of civilian walking spaces. It does not excite me. It freaks my shit out that cops carry tiny death machines around and we let them. I also find actual real world verbal abuse and physical violence fucking terrifying when it happens on the subway. In reality, I would never want to inflict that terror on anyone else, ever for any reason. That fear is not the same as the tension and release I feel during boss battles. I'd like gaming to grow up a little, get away from the guns and the muscles, so we stop having this fight about whether games are destroying children. But I know that that's a futile hope. Violence creates easy conflicts, it's why we 19 different Law and Order's. (I think somebody upthread just said the Law and Order thing sorry for the lack of quote). Plus without death and war no Valkyria Chronicles, so yeah.

Rory Marinch: I fucking love Shadow of the Colossus. (Love it. Wrote a one shot blog about it love it.) But you can't judge GTA by Shadow's standard. Shadow's meant to reflective, GTA's meant to be spoofy action movie romp.

For all it labors to give you this complete world, it never bothers making that world beautiful.

This is like saying, "Yeah, the first Die Hard's really good, but it's no Citizan Kane."

Plus, I would argue that the overall message, if there is one, of GTA is the world is a dark, cruel place with dark, cruel people in it. GTA is a cynical caricature. Shadow is a nuanced reflection. But I agree with your overall point, (video) games are still babies they need time to grow up into subtler forms of expression. But the indie game scene is exploding right now so that's on its way.
posted by edbles at 9:10 PM on June 23, 2010


By the way, you guys ain't seen nothing yet

Or we can always sit back and watch a movie about cute and cuddly bunnies
posted by P.o.B. at 9:26 PM on June 23, 2010


me: “People seem to be in a rush to say that "video game violence" is significantly different from "real life violence." What's funny is that it seems to me that people who say this either haven't played many video games recently or are setting aside all of their experience to say something that clearly isn't true.”

ROU_Xenophobe: “Video game violence is significantly different from real life violence because one is entirely pretend and other hurts people.”

me: “Video games work hard specifically to make sure that their violence is as similar as possible to "real life violence."”

ROU_Xenophobe: “Until someone writes a video game that physically harms live human beings, the two are so far apart as to render any comparison pointless.”

Did you read any of my comment? Like maybe the point I was making? Which was, in case it got lost, that "video game violence" and "real-life violence" are exactly the same except in the one dimension that actually matters: the moral dimension. And I stand by that point.

Since you don't seem to disagree with me, I don't really know why you seem to be objecting to this. We seem to agree that killing someone in real life and killing someone in a video game are on totally different moral planes, and we seem to agree that gamers know about this distinction intuitively (like any normal adult) and make a morally legitimate choice when they take part in video-game killing because it's not actually harming anybody, and because nobody is ever pretending otherwise.

I guess I'll try to state my point more clearly.

Yeah, I get that killing somebody in a video game is different from killing somebody in real life. I think we all understand that here, and we're not about play the moral card and say that video games are immoral. But when you think about video games in terms of what they can be, in terms of the medium, I just think it's insanely condescending to say things like "oh, it's just a game." Sure, GTA has always been "just a game." I can accept that.

But if people tried to dismiss the violence in books like Don Quijote or plays like Titus Andronicus by saying "oh, it's just a book" or "oh, it's just a play," that would piss me right the fuck off. Because the violence in those works means something, it's not just there for fun; they're actually saying something about us as people, and when I experience them, I feel like I've learned something about violence itself.

And I think it's possible for games to do that, too. I have seen video games that seemed to teach me about violence and about life. And I think that should be a realm open to us. Moreover, by thinking about the violence in video games, even in clearly more trivial and diverting games (which are not therefore morally inferior, only more lighthearted or ephemeral) I think we can learn even more.

I just don't like the way people dismiss the whole idea of thinking about video games by saying "oh, it's nothing like real life at all. It's just a game." It is not "just a game." If it was just a game, people wouldn't spend their lives working on creating games; they wouldn't put the heart and soul that I've seen in games in there in the first place. Sure, it may be play, it may be lighthearted and fun, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to take it seriously; and that doesn't mean that sometimes it can't be art.
posted by koeselitz at 9:45 PM on June 23, 2010


Short version: if video-game violence and real-life violence have nothing to do with each other, then video games can't say anything about violence; and therefore video games aren't really art at all. Since I'm pretty sure video games are art, and that they can speak about violence and what it means, I am pretty certain that the violence in video games has significance, and means something in terms of real-life violence.

It should go without saying that I don't think this makes gamers violent. I said up above that I think this makes gamers less violent, because they've learned something about the meaning of violence that people who shelter themselves from violence don't learn.

I don't know why this is a point people want to disagree with so much. Apparently people here either don't like video games, or they don't think they can possibly be art or say anything about real life, or they think that gamers are violent snobs.
posted by koeselitz at 9:51 PM on June 23, 2010


If you found the helicopter controls not to your liking then I completely understand you not liking the helicopter missions. For the record I'm talking mainly about GTA4. I found them somewhat intuitive but then I tend to take to video game choppers pretty well. And please don't mistake me for a eyecandy-uber-alles gamer. Some of my favorite games use code page 437 for graphics, but I still enjoy looking at pretty things. I think graphics and gameplay are both important. One hand washes the other, but ultimately I think depth of gameplay supersedes graphic beauty.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:53 PM on June 23, 2010


my comment was directed to edbles btw
posted by BeerFilter at 9:57 PM on June 23, 2010


But if people tried to dismiss the violence in books like Don Quijote or plays like Titus Andronicus by saying "oh, it's just a book" or "oh, it's just a play," that would piss me right the fuck off.

Even if that were against a backdrop where ninnies were continually asserting that watching Titus Andronicus is likely to make you violent, or make you not care about real violence, and that plays as a whole were a bad influence on people that kids should be "protected" from?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:24 PM on June 23, 2010


"video game violence" and "real-life violence" are exactly the same except in the one dimension that actually matters: the moral dimension
Can you elaborate on the other dimensions, because I honestly would like to hear what they are?

if video-game violence and real-life violence have nothing to do with each other, then video games can't say anything about violence; and therefore video games aren't really art at all. Since I'm pretty sure video games are art, and that they can speak about violence and what it means, I am pretty certain that the violence in video games has significance, and means something in terms of real-life violence.
I'm not sure if I quite get what you're saying here either. It seems as though you're making a bit of a circuitous route to legitimize the violence in video games, by way of artistic merit. The problem I have with that is than we should open the discussion to the idea that all death and violence in art has significance above and beyond it's specific intentions. If I make some crappy drawings, and add some banal narrative; would you look at my picture book and still declare the significance of it's violence? Even after I tell you it was purely for entertainment? Idk, I get that some games are really effective at portraying violence and that some people will feel the impact of it, but I find it really hard to see the bridge that connects to reality here.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:40 PM on June 23, 2010


Just for the record I have no problem with calling video games art, but I also feel that anyone could turn any expression into art if they wanted to.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:43 PM on June 23, 2010


Speaking as a former theatre kid in high school who now lives with a theatre major, plays are about the worst fucking influence on anybody ever. I just got back from hanging out with a bunch of people who're discussing throwing bring-your-own-condom orgies for the theatre frat. I think it's safe to say these people are Godless.

I just don't like the way people dismiss the whole idea of thinking about video games by saying "oh, it's nothing like real life at all. It's just a game." It is not "just a game." If it was just a game, people wouldn't spend their lives working on creating games; they wouldn't put the heart and soul that I've seen in games in there in the first place. Sure, it may be play, it may be lighthearted and fun, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to take it seriously; and that doesn't mean that sometimes it can't be art.

Can I say that I think the disconnect has to do with the sullied use of the word "game" here? Thanks to this particular medium being termed "video game", now anything that exists in it is a "game" regardless of how serious and/or unfun it is. So when people say "It's just a game" they're not saying "It's just a mindless bit of playful fun"; they're rather saying it the way you'd say "It's just a movie".

I can look at violent thoughtless cinema and not accuse the movie of perpetuating violence. I don't think that kids seeing a movie about death are being trained to kill. (And thank GOD, because half the people here are Fight Club addicts who gleefully talk about destroying society with explosives, and I rather like being able to tease them without being bodily threatened.) I can accuse those mindless movies of promoting other things, like mindlessness, but I believe that in a shallow game, just as in a shallow movie, the WORST that can happen is that kids are taught to be shallow. We are informed by our experiences; when a game doesn't provide a compelling experience then our only informed experience is that of staring at a screen without thinking. Which sucks, but which doesn't then make those people violent.

Curiously, I feel most violent in games when I'm playing something that isn't explicitly about hurting things. Judging from how heated MarioKart 64 games get, I suspect this isn't a unique trait, and I wonder why that is.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:52 PM on June 23, 2010


Curiously, I feel most violent in games when I'm playing something that isn't explicitly about hurting things. Judging from how heated MarioKart 64 games get, I suspect this isn't a unique trait, and I wonder why that is.

I have interviewed no less than 3 friends and have decided that this is conclusive evidence that Mario Party DESTROYS friendships.

I think this is actually the random/luck balance Nintendo puts into their party games more than anything else.
posted by edbles at 5:35 AM on June 24, 2010


BeerFilter: I have decided to be less angry at the helicopter missions, because at least someone is enjoying them. I think in GTA4 the problem was I kept flying too high and then losing the guy I was chasing even though I was right on top of his dot and it just killed my momentum in terms of gameplay flow. But I have consistent problems controlling anything that’s not a car/motorcycle in those games so that’s often an issue. I agree that the helicopter is better than the remote control airplanes in Vice City and the actual plane in San Andreas.
posted by edbles at 5:44 AM on June 24, 2010


I got red dead redemption after the metatalk thread asknig about starting a posse, I'm about 80% of the way through it and it's...well, it's lost it's fun. I realized that with the bandanna, I could do whatever I wanted, so long as I killed all the witnesses, and that if I went to thieves landing or w/e I could kill all day with impunity. So I've got max honor and just about max fame, but I can lasso people and drag them through the plains for an hour. What?

Decent article, though.
posted by TomMelee at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2010


Rory Marinich: "I just got back from hanging out with a bunch of people who're discussing throwing bring-your-own-condom orgies for the theatre frat."

Are there orgies that supply condoms for their participants out of some sort of general condom fund?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:27 AM on June 24, 2010


Well, the alternate plan was providing condoms for an extra $5 a pop.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:28 AM on June 24, 2010


Video games train people to play video games. And to buy more video games.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:46 PM on June 24, 2010


edbles: "BeerFilter: I have decided to be less angry at the helicopter missions, because at least someone is enjoying them. I think in GTA4 ...."

Aw crap, there's a helicopter mission in GTA4? I haven't gotten that far yet. Might as well just stop now.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:47 PM on June 24, 2010


Rory, the condoms won't do much good if they pop.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on June 24, 2010




Right! Just games - no effect on how people behave in reality. Right?

We never said that. Games cause many of us to get into bitchy internet fights when people try to crush our joy with their alarmist propaganda that blurs the line between training for combat and relaxing.
posted by edbles at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2010


Simulations are a tool you can use them to train or to entertain. But arguing that games created with an eye toward entertainment are creating a super race of soldiers is ridiculous. You can make a game that teaches people about cultural barriers and helps train soldiers in a safe environment to choose the right greetings in Arabic for interacting with people of different social, ethnic and economic backgrounds. That doesn’t mean that someone playing COD is gaining those same skills. Nor does it mean that someone playing COD can pick up an AK-47 and know how to load it, or understands recoil, or really even how to aim properly. I think people who don’t play games look at these graphic simulations and think god these people are just thinking murder murder murder all day. What you’re actually thinking is, “Man this guy keeps shooting me, I need to find cover so I can duck around x get behind y and maybe flank here to get a good angle on x.” It’s a nuanced strategic thought process and it is at its core a puzzle. When I grotesquely stab a horrific monster in God of War (basing this on 1 or 2) I’m not thinking “Yeah I want to mutilate a thing!" I’m thinking, "Okay he’s got that big arm and those three heads so I need to let him lunge twice and then do a side roll and maybe I can get behind him and do a side roll hit x and then triangle. Nope that didn’t work let me try something else.” Even GTA isn't really about wanton destruction. The original “murder simulator” is more about pushing boundaries in a consequence free environment. all that sandbox stuff is a metagame you're playing with the designers, “What happens if I do this..? Did they think hard enough to give the world and appropriate response to this outlandish behavior? Are the systems deep enough to respond to this correctly?"

Miko: I agree with your larger point that a culture that glorifies violence is going to create violent games and that this overall cultural influence might decrease empathy and make it easier to ignore suffering. I get that you’re not just picking on games. But I kind of think that cultures that have in and out groups destroy empathy more than anything else and that’s never going away. So for me it’s more about teaching people what their brains naturally want to do in terms of othering, than it is about changing the tone of discourse in media or limiting the kinds of media people are allowed to consume.
posted by edbles at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2010


But arguing that games created with an eye toward entertainment are creating a super race of soldiers is ridiculous.

Yes, that would be ridiculous. It's a good thing that's only a straw man.

What you’re actually thinking is, “Man this guy keeps shooting me, I need to find cover so I can duck around x get behind y and maybe flank here to get a good angle on x.”

Yes. Exactly. You are being trained by the simulation.
posted by The World Famous at 9:44 AM on June 25, 2010


I agree with your larger point that a culture that glorifies violence is going to create violent games and that this overall cultural influence might decrease empathy and make it easier to ignore suffering. I get that you’re not just picking on games.

That's said well, more clearly describing my position than anything I said.

But I kind of think that cultures that have in and out groups destroy empathy more than anything else and that’s never going away.

This is what I don't agree with: that in and out groups are "never going away." In fact, not all violence springs from tension between in- and out-groups. A lot of it, at the root, springs from competition for control of resources. I believe there are humanistic solutions to this problem, so I reject as a defeatist and determinist position the idea that a preference for violent solutions is a natural or expected or inevitable part of human existence. There is plenty of evidence of interpersonal caring and nonviolent solution-finding, and plenty of evidence that empathy exists and can actually grow in environments where it's encouraged. We don't seem very interested in encouraging those environments - we don't seem as interested in designing games in which a four-year-old can roleplay a rescuer, helper, or builder who improves conditions as we are interested in designing games which celebrate the human capacity for depravity.
posted by Miko at 10:04 AM on June 25, 2010


the WORST that can happen is that kids are taught to be shallow

...and to be shallow is pretty greivously bad. How many shallow people stood by and shrugged when civil rights protestors were being beaten, sometimes to death? How many shallow people stand outside campaigning against gay marriage? To be shallow is to refuse to consider the equality of others, to refuse to accord them their rights to exist unharmed. It only takes a few people to be actively violent in any culture of violence; what allows them to continue being that way, what allows it to continue to replicate itself, is the passive - sure, call it shallow - indifference bred into, even celebrated by, the surrounding culture.
posted by Miko at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2010


But arguing that games created with an eye toward entertainment are creating a super race of soldiers is ridiculous.

Yes, that would be ridiculous. It's a good thing that's only a straw man.


Yup, it is sorry. I'll try to avoid that in future.

What you’re actually thinking is, “Man this guy keeps shooting me, I need to find cover so I can duck around x get behind y and maybe flank here to get a good angle on x.”

Yes. Exactly. You are being trained by the simulation.


Yeah, I was trying to express that the combat is just a skin slapped on a puzzle game, but I see how that reads. But I still think there's a qualitative difference. I'm being trained by the simulation to play the simulation. I can learn the AI's movements and how it responds. I can die as many times as I want. I have absolutely no idea what to do if there's an actual human with a gun taking pot shots at me (let's assume the absence of cell phone access). Confronted with that situation in reality I'd probably just pee my pants and then cry. In fact, if I'm being trained to do anything it's to stay still and hide in that situation considering how frequently I shuffle off this mortal coil in those games.
posted by edbles at 10:32 AM on June 25, 2010


But now you're just splitting hairs as to just how good the simulation is.
posted by The World Famous at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2010


Yes. Exactly. You are being trained by the simulation.

No. Not at all. I guess we're still going to play semantics here and ignore the idea that a simulator and a simulation are two different things.
People use a ready made language to describe the video game action onscreen, but that doesn't mean there is some kind of cognitive disconnect going on. You could make some kind of slippery slope argument of how that immerses the player deeper but you're still jumping across a chasm to say it is training someone by a simulation.
I can simulate a dog in a dark room with a lamp, the wall, and my fingers. Hell I could even call it a dog simulator. Does that mean I'm training myself, or the person viewing it to become a dog?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:10 AM on June 25, 2010


There is plenty of evidence of interpersonal caring and nonviolent solution-finding, and plenty of evidence that empathy exists and can actually grow in environments where it's encouraged.

The empathy impulse is super strong. But, you have to recognize someone as a person before this can take effect. "Others" are not people. I'm not saying it's impossible to fix in people, I'm saying that that core desire to form in and out groups is so surface layer and easy to get at. Stanley Milgram did it in under an hour. Zimbardo did it to a scarier extent in under a week. That the best way to prevent it is to educate people on when they're in danger of dehumanizing people so that they can be the best version of themselves. We need to teach people that they are infinitely capable of being absolute shitbags that not just “evil “ people do these things. Push the right buttons and anyone of us would turn on our neighbors.

we don't seem as interested in designing games in which a four-year-old can roleplay a rescuer, helper, or builder who improves conditions as we are interested in designing games which celebrate the human capacity for depravity.

I would argue that actually age appropriate games for four year old’s do roleplay them as rescuers, helpers, and builders.

Almost all standard RPG's and action games are person as rescuer. You probably meant rescuer w/o attendant conflict. Games like WoW and Mass Effect you spend half you time just helping villagers find shit. The plot of most games is that you are the ONE, usually saving the universe from total destruction from EVIL. Which actually means that I should hate games because they present a black and white moralistic view of the universe thus making us more receptive to that sort of indoctrination. So now I’m confused. It might be pondering time.

My gut instinct is to lean on the whole individual game say individual things and you seek different ones out for different things. Things that have a baser appeal will also have a broader appeal which means they get more money and more attention. But games like, movies, books, and any other human endeavor are capable of hitting any of our emotional responses. I go to Mirror’s Edge for prettiness and flow, GTA for naughty fun, Little Big Planet to produce, consume and share, Shadow of the Collossus* for thinking, reflection, and teh pretty, Sims to satisfy my not so latent control freak.

ohmanohmanohmanLastGuardianLastGuardianLastGuardianLastGuardianLastGuardian
posted by edbles at 11:10 AM on June 25, 2010


But now you're just splitting hairs as to just how good the simulation is.

If the simulation were perfect it would feel like being in a war, which I'm told can cause PTSD. Kind of the opposite of fun.
posted by edbles at 11:14 AM on June 25, 2010


And if we extend my dog simulation out further; what if you could control the action my shadow dog makes by telling it what to do? Bark, bite, eat. Or you could control your own shadow figure and directly interact with mine. Would you call that a dog fight simulation? You sure could, I would but I wouldn't call it a simulator.

This whole simulation/simulator argument falls apart once you open it up a bit doesn't it?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2010


Sitting in a dark room listening to a dog barking for several hours a day would certainly get you used to the sound of a barking dog.

This whole simulation/simulator argument falls apart once you open it up a bit doesn't it?

What simulation/simulator argument? I'm not arguing about semantic differences between the terms.
posted by The World Famous at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2010


Go spend 10 hours playing Microsoft Flight Simulator, then go fly a plane and get back to us and let us know how well you learned to fly a plane. Or more accurately, have your heirs get back to us.

Go spend 10 hours playing Microsoft Flight Simulator, as part of a comprehensive pilot training program with an instructor, seat time, stick time, and training manuals.

I hope everyone sees the difference.

All these distinctions between play vs training, and simulator vs simulation is simply obscuring the issue.

Using a virtual reality simulator as part of your every day military training probably would help supplement your training, and would allow you to engage in scenarios that would be too dangerous or impractical to train in real life or with live fire.

But someone playing Modern Warfare = becoming a trained killer? The idea is laughable, and anyone who would promote it simply cannot be taken seriously. In fact, all that anyone seems to be able to muster any support for, at all, is that there may be some ambiguous link between violent representations in media and a general acclimatization to violence.

If that were true, then the last 3 generations of people should be nothing but hardening killers owing to the influence of The Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny, both of which were profoundly violent.

By that reasoning, when I was playing War with my friends growing up, using sticks or if we were really lucky squirt guns, that should have counted as paramilitary training.

I can't imagine what these people would think about paintball. I would assume they would actually consider it real, actual military training, or murder training if you prefer.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2010


But someone playing Modern Warfare = becoming a trained killer?

Yeah, who do you think is saying that? Because it's not me. What you're doing is called reductio ad absurdum.

By that reasoning, when I was playing War with my friends growing up, using sticks or if we were really lucky squirt guns, that should have counted as paramilitary training.

Reductio ad absurdum.

I can't imagine what these people would think about paintball. I would assume they would actually consider it real, actual military training, or murder training if you prefer.

Reductio ad absurdum.

Go spend 10 hours playing Microsoft Flight Simulator, then go fly a plane and get back to us and let us know how well you learned to fly a plane. Or more accurately, have your heirs get back to us.

Reductio ad absurdum.

If that were true, then the last 3 generations of people should be nothing but hardening killers owing to the influence of The Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny, both of which were profoundly violent.

Reductio ad absurdum.
posted by The World Famous at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2010


Sitting in a dark room listening to a dog barking for several hours a day would certainly get you used to the sound of a barking dog.

Yeah, but that's not what we're talking about. It's simulation that's not even close to the real thing. You would get used to me making shadow puppets on a wall and yapping but as soon as I turned the lamp off you would realize what a real dog looks and sounds like.

What simulation/simulator argument? I'm not arguing about semantic differences between the terms.

I know, you keep ignoring the simple denotative difference that I and other people have mentioned repeatedly. Anything can be a simulation or simulator but for something to specifically be a training simulator than there are specific things that need to happen for the possibility of it to be successfully used as one. The creator and/or the users intent would factor high into that. Also there is a cognitive disconnect that needs to happen if you want to overcome the dissonance that would accrue with the use of the simulator just because of the simple fact it is not real.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:15 PM on June 25, 2010


TWF: People are consistently responding to something unclear in your statement would you mind clarifying your actual point?

It seems to be :
Games simulate things. All simulators train people to do things, even if that isn’t the original intention of the user or the creator. People interacting with a simulation are being trained. Even if those people never seem to use that training, they still have it.

Is this correct?
posted by edbles at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2010


I didn't realize we were at the point of throwing out fallacious one-liners to sidestep others assertions.

In that case, I could just label anything The World Famous says as confirmation bias.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:24 PM on June 25, 2010


I know, you keep ignoring the simple denotative difference that I and other people have mentioned repeatedly.

That's because the difference is irrelevant. Nobody is saying that GTA or any other popular video game title is intended to be a training simulator or that it is, as you say, "be[ing] used as one."

Is this correct?

Yes, edbles. That is correct. And reductio ad absurdum arguments, arguments that it's not a real training simulator, and arguments that FPS games don't train people on how to load a gun don't actually address my point and appear to be made just for the sake of arguing.
posted by The World Famous at 12:25 PM on June 25, 2010


That's because the difference is irrelevant. Nobody is saying that GTA or any other popular video game title is intended to be a training simulator or that it is, as you say, "be[ing] used as one."

Bullshit. You are.

Yes, edbles. That is correct.

Confirmation bias
posted by P.o.B. at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2010


TFW, in all seriousness, maybe this would go better if you could clearly and succinctly state what you mean once more so that all of us are not misunderstanding you.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2010


Obviously because it was missed I'll again link to The Treachery of Images and maybe this should give a clue as to why we shouldn't be calling denotative differences about simulations irrelevant.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:40 PM on June 25, 2010


TFW, in all seriousness, maybe this would go better if you could clearly and succinctly state what you mean once more so that all of us are not misunderstanding you.

How about this: A moment ago, edbles asked me what, exactly, my point was, and set forth what she believed it was. So I then told edbles that she was correct. My exact words were "Yes, edbles. That is correct."

You then quoted my response to edbles and snarked "confirmation bias." Now, I don't know if you're just trying to be cute because you didn't like that I called out discountfortunecookie's reductio ad absurdum for what it was or whether you really have no idea what confirmation bias actually means.

But maybe you could go back and actually read edbles' comment that I already confirmed to be correct, rather than snarking about it. Then, if you still don't understand, maybe you could go back and read what I have actually said. Then, if you still don't understand, well, I'm not sure where to go from there, since "can you please repeat the argument that we have been rebutting by reducing it to the absurd?" is, frankly, not my favorite part of MetaFilter.
posted by The World Famous at 12:41 PM on June 25, 2010


Yeah actually P.o.B. I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying. TWF: I totally hooked on the murder simulator line and the brain extrapolated. So to get back to basics.

So that training. What is it exactly? GTA asks me to hit triangle to obtain a vehicle. Is it training me to hit triangle to obtain a car? Or are you saying that it’s training me to see any car as available for taking?
posted by edbles at 12:58 PM on June 25, 2010


Actually P.o.B. prior to the beginning of exchange with TWF. You’re saying that both the user and the creator need to actively engage with and think about the actions they are performing to learn from it. TWF seems to be saying that this isn’t necessary.
posted by edbles at 1:05 PM on June 25, 2010


TFW, okay, I understand that but you sidestepping the fact that there is a whole physicality involved in true training is a reduction in absurdity itself.
Cognitive dissonance factors heavily into what you're saying, so a basic statement such as that "a simulation trains you" is not specific or valid when we look at what falls under the guise of simulation.
edbles, I've engaged this simulation/simulator idea from multiple angles but on that point yes at least one of those things need to happen.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2010


Even looking at edibles comment again

All simulators train people to do things, even if that isn’t the original intention of the user or the creator. People interacting with a simulation are being trained.

those two things are just flat out untrue.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:31 PM on June 25, 2010


those two things are just flat out untrue.

I guess we just disagree, then. Out of curiosity, though, can you name a simulator that does not train the user to do anything?
posted by The World Famous at 1:36 PM on June 25, 2010


Yeah actuallty simulators just model behavior. Scientists use them to model physical systems.
posted by edbles at 1:39 PM on June 25, 2010


Ugh. Well, if we're kicking off a discussion of the breadth of the definition of the term "simulator," nevermind.
posted by The World Famous at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2010


Well I and a few other people have pointed out that very point a few times already.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:47 PM on June 25, 2010


few...point...point...few
posted by P.o.B. at 1:48 PM on June 25, 2010


Well I and a few other people have pointed out that very point a few times already.

Yes, I assumed you and a few other people were just being obtuse and actually did understand that this was a thread about a videogame. Whatever. Nevermind.
posted by The World Famous at 1:49 PM on June 25, 2010


Not for nothing, you're the one who settle on a bland statement about "simulations train". Specifics may have helped your argument, but I don't think so.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2010


Specifics may have helped your argument, but I don't think so.

Sorry, I didn't realize I had to specify that I was talking about videogames in order to avoid reductio ad absurdum responses.
posted by The World Famous at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2010


World Famous: Your serpentine what I said/no I didn't/guess what I meant/why can't you understand fandango you are dancing is absurd.

You appear to be mistaken about what you actually said.

But someone playing Modern Warfare = becoming a trained killer?

Yeah, who do you think is saying that? Because it's not me. What you're doing is called reductio ad absurdum.


YOU ARE THE ONE WHO SAID IT.

I'm not complaining that games encourage a casual attitude towards anything. Games train people to do things. Flight simulators train people to fly planes. Murder simulators train people to murder. Whether or not the people ever use that training is a completely different question.
posted by The World Famous at 6:37 PM on June 23

[Emphasis added.]

So in your smug attitude and your compulsion to reply to every. single. comment. you forget what your own argument originally was.

You are wrong, my comparisons were apt, you were guilty of saying exactly what you've spent 2 days denying you said or even implied, and I expect an apology.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 2:07 PM on June 25, 2010


Sorry, I didn't realize I had to specify that I was talking about videogames in order to avoid reductio ad absurdum responses.

It's a bit disingenuous to retroactively state nobody can make analogous arguments. Especially when they show obvious flaws in the original assertion. Not to mention misusing an argumentative fallacy to cover for it.

Whatevs.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:09 PM on June 25, 2010


I think we may be at a point of diminishing returns here people.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2010


Wait, you think "murder simulators train people to murder" is the same thing as "But someone playing Modern Warfare = becoming a trained killer?"

Well, there's your problem right there. If you genuinely believe that those two statements are exactly the same, and that I really was arguing that playing Modern Warfare = becoming a trained killer, then I retract my previous comment that you were engaging in reductio ad absurdum. I'm sorry.
posted by The World Famous at 2:13 PM on June 25, 2010


What's your idea of a murder simulator?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:15 PM on June 25, 2010


What do you mean?
posted by The World Famous at 2:18 PM on June 25, 2010


Well everyone I believe has been having this conversation with the, very much obvious, notion that you are actually talking about something that exist like GTA, COD, etc.. But it looks like you are rather extrapolating an idea out of fight sims?
posted by P.o.B. at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2010


*flight*
posted by P.o.B. at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2010


I was not calling any specific game a "murder simulator." I was using the term in the abstract. Many videogames currently operate as simulators of various things. To the extent that they simulate some aspect of murder, they could be considered in some respect to be a murder simulator.

I suspect that what's going on here is that the term "murder simulator" is a term that pushes the buttons of gamers. I didn't intend to push any buttons. Sorry if I did.
posted by The World Famous at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2010


And I, of course, mean "pushes the buttons" and "push any buttons" in the metaphorical sense, and not as literal references to actual buttons or actual pushing.
posted by The World Famous at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2010


You don't have to apologize to me, but let's parse this out. Of course people are going to react to "murder simulator" when used very specifically in the context of video games. The assumption being you actually are talking about video games and not an abstract. But beyond that:

To the extent that they simulate some aspect of murder, they could be considered in some respect to be a murder simulator.

Books, and comics, and movies, and plays all do this same thing don't they? And I know you are only talking about video games, but if you are talking in the abstract...AND if we are blurring the line between something being simulated and something being an interactive simulator...than I think those are valid analogous responses. Unless you are saying the interactivity of video games differentiates them somehow? And if so we would definitely need to pull the physicality of what a person does into the context of their "training".

Anyway, in light of all that, I still don't see how what you've said plays.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:57 PM on June 25, 2010


Reductio ad absurdum.

You do realise that's a perfectly valid type of argument/proof, and not a type of logical fallacy, don't you, TWF?
posted by Sparx at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2010


You do realise that's a perfectly valid type of argument/proof, and not a type of logical fallacy, don't you, TWF?

Yes, I do. But hey, thanks!
posted by The World Famous at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2010


Yes, I do. But hey, thanks!

Coolio. Just checkin'.

To the extent that they simulate some aspect of murder, they could be considered in some respect to be a murder simulator.

While this is true, isn't it trivially so? To the extent that "Dinner Party Murder" games simulate some aspect of murder, they could also be considered, in some respect, to be murder simulators. This isn't a particularly interesting statement - as they're equally much moving and talking simulators (simulations in the sense that you're acting a role, not interacting IRL, as it were).

By the same token, if a video game does involve killing pixel-people, say by pressing the X button, it's a murder simulator, but not in any interesting way, unless pressing an X button and wiggling an analog stick could actually kill someone. If it's a 3D FPS type game then its also a movement simulator, but so what?

Now there is an interesting point to be made that the peripheral skills that the game develops - awareness of surroundings in a stealth game, for example - could be considered training. But I really think you have to be careful when you say what it is training for. Gears of War might teach you about the values of cover and terrain, but are you training for Total War, or might those skills be just as useful for a SnowBall fight, or throwing a surprise party? Video games like that are, in a sense, merely abstractions of the rules of the game (including physics rules), but as abstractions they are also more generally applicable than they might first appear, so we should be careful about our characterisations.

tl:dr - I think TWF is largely right, but the devil, as always, is hanging out in detail town.
posted by Sparx at 3:59 PM on June 25, 2010


I think TWF is largely right

In a very broad, non-specific and abstract sense, I would agree. But I could make those kinds of "valid" statements all day, and none of them would hold water.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:08 PM on June 25, 2010


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