VIOLENCE IN VIDEO GAMES
Some video games are violent, just like some films and TV shows are violent. However because video games are actively interactive they have an added layer of scrutiny although that would suggest that people study and analyse the video games and their content across a wide range. One of the main arguments in condemnation of video games is that violent games corrupt our children and make them anti-social and more violent. It’s hard to completely accept this because people were anti-social and violent before video games existed, but there is no denying that some video games such as Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty are violent games.
However what a lot of people honestly seem to fail to recognize is that none of these games are rated for children, as video games are rated in the same way that DVDs are with clear age ratings on the front and a picture-based description of the content that warranted that rating on the back. Some of the anti-video game people think that the makers of the video games are irresponsible for making these games at all, some think that the games insidiously get into the hands of children and corrupt their minds, making them hyper-violent delinquents.
No-one (or at least very rarely) on the anti-video game side of things seems to acknowledge that video games are rated and that while sometimes government-mandated, the rating and “regulation” in a sense has been welcomed and encouraged by the video game industry itself and that doesn’t really sound like a group who want to corrupt people’s minds. When they plead ignorance to the fact that video games are age-rated they also tend to dismiss the fact that stores like GAME take things seriously in making sure they don’t sell age-rated games to those under age, although there is nothing they can do to stop a parent from buying a violent video game for their child.
I don’t think that someone going into GAME, seeing a game their child had asked for, reading the age rating and content and then making a judgement as to whether to buy the game or not is the wrong thing as it shows that someone has judged whether they think it would be suitable or not…however age ratings have been called useless as studies have shown up to 90% of parents never check the age rating before buying the game for their child. In this sense it would seem the only way to age-rate games effectively would be to have the cover art be nothing but an age rating, but that would be censorship on another scale and level.
Online retailers such as Amazon have no way to check if someone is genuinely the age that they say they are so it becomes difficult for game sales to be regulated online, although for minors in most cases their parents would have to buy the game for them online so the principle of checking the age rating or not applies in this situation as well. I’m not sure there would be any consumer-friendly way for Amazon to check how old someone is online, so I’d have to say that in this situation the buck stops with the parent who purchases the game for their child.
Labelling all video games are violent does an immense disservice to the industry as a whole and the many positive effects it can have on people as evidenced on websites such as How Games Saved My Life and that many foster long lasting friendships; it’s not uncommon for friends who meet on MMOs such as World of Warcraft to organize drinks or a trip to the cinema etc. in real life and socialize. I think the fear-mongering of some that video games only serve to corrupt minds and distance people from reality risks ignoring and forgetting those who love and enjoy video games and those who genuinely feel that video games have helped them in their lives.
There’s no denying that some video games are violent, but the industry has embraced regulation that attempts to educate the wider public of the content that they are buying, and some games that seemingly only exist to be violent and offensive, like the recently announced and quickly-decried Hatred, are roundly and justly criticized for demeaning an industry that yes, exists to make money, but also seems to have an immeasurably positive effects on millions and millions of people.
While violent video games exist, and children do play them, there is an instant reaction by some to demonize videogames as a whole and absolve themselves of any blame.
The attitude and presentation of the show made it quite obvious they weren’t there to have a debate or educate but to state “facts” and opinions on how damaging videogames are to the nation’s youth.
I think the main problem is, for lack of a better term, a lack of education as to who video games are for since a large amount of the general public see them as child’s toys or playthings and not with a wide-range of content for young and old(er) as it is today.
More people need to be aware of the age ratings for games (I mean does a name like Grant Theft Auto seriously sound like something suitable for a minor?) and aware that they can buy these games online because there is no way of verifying someone’s age online.
I feel as if the debate will rage on until more become aware that video games are not something insidious but entertainment products for all ages, and if they can’t take it seriously enough to self-educate or “listen” then they risk becoming part of the problem and perpetuating a myth and problem.