Games of Violence

I am not comfortable with violent games.

I am not comfortable with violence, and gamification does not change much for me.

But I am also increasingly uncomfortable with declaring violent video games categorically evil. To do so I would need some consistent standard. Is it the depiction of blood which is a problem? Certainly not. How about violence as a whole? No… So maybe killing in particular? That can’t be.

It is even more difficult to make absolute statements because there is such variety among games, even in the clearly violent category. Halo 1 feels the same as playing paintball, but I know that other games exist that would make me want to destroy them all and send their creators’ straight to years of counseling.

My 5-year-old nephew wanted me to watch him play games this Christmas, so I got an up-close look at a first-person shooter game which made me cringe.

Later as I took pictures of him and Josh playing a different game, my nephew excitedly told me about how they were knocking out the bad guys so that the police could come get them.

A few hours later I watched them play outside. They chased each other around with sticks and alternated turns declaring that they had killed each other.

To me it is clear that there is everything right with them wrestling and running around outside killing each other. On the other extreme, I would not currently choose to allow my 5-year-old to play first-person shooter games at all. What’s up with that?

Part of my hesitance for judging video games categorically comes from the fact that I know that I do not know enough about them, and it is all too easy to judge that which we do not understand. Is it wrong to act as if killing is a game? Perhaps. But if that is the case, then it must also be wrong to act as if promiscuity is something to laugh off.

Hours after watching my nephew play his violent games, some of us watched my youngest teen sister-in-law play Just Dance. I spoke with another of Josh’s sisters about the fact that we never would have been allowed to play these games back in the day, they clearly promote promiscuity and materialism just as much as the other games promote violence. And yet I am quite comfortable laughing at how strict our parents were, because I am familiar with these dancing games, and I don’t think that they are going to make my young sister-in-law grow up to struggle with sex or princess greed.

So perhaps my discomfort with violent video games comes from the fact that they are strange to me more than any honest moral qualms.

It is also a factor that some of the best, most gentle men I know (including Josh) play games that I dislike.

I do not dismiss real ethical issues just because Josh thinks differently. If I know that something is wrong I will throw a good ol’ fit until it has been made right. And if people in your life are playing games that you know are harmful, then I suggest that you do what you need to do to correct the situation. Don’t whine to your friends, address the person with the problem!

But it remains that Josh and I are different people who experience entertainment differently, and I trust his judgement until there is real evidence that I need to question it. I am unwilling to declare that something is wrong, merely because I do not like it.

Perhaps someday we will have consistently strict standards for all games. Perhaps we will cut our children off from their cousins because we will not want them to be a part of that putrid world. I’m pretty good at the whole airs of superiority thing, so such a future seems possible (pun unintended, thanks Google for cluing me into gaming terms).

For now though, I just toss my hands in the air and admit that I do not know. Something is rotten in the state of Video Games, but I am not prepared to determine what is right and wrong about it because it is not my country. I have no idea how to communicate with the locals, and so I’ll have to let someone else figure it all out for me.

What do you think of violent video games?

Do you play video games such as Halo? Do you play paintball? Do you watch violent movies like The Hobbit?

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5 thoughts on “Games of Violence

  1. Kelly

    I’m not a fan of violent video games, but J plays them sometimes, and is one of the gentlest people I know. I think most people can distinguish between real violence and on-screen violence (I sort of can’t, emotionally, which is why I can’t handle violence in movies, either). I prefer the ones that don’t show exist in the realm of real people and are more fantasy-based–they bother me less. If I were a single parent I wouldn’t want my kids playing much of those games, if any, but as it stands now I’m not sure I feel quite strongly enough about it to really draw a hard line if it’s not something that bothers J. Maybe it depends on the kid.

    I do think there’s not much value in depicting realistic violence for entertainment. Actually, I think it’s awful. But I also think people are affected by it differently.

    I’d also be really concerned with the way women are portrayed in some games. That, to me, is just as problematic–especially because while shooting someone is hopefully not an experience a video game player will ever have in real life, encountering women certainly is.

  2. Rebecca

    I’m not a fan of video games that are not 1) Super Mario brothers or 2) tetris-like (basically electronic puzzles)….but that is purely my personality.

    The Man plays video games, some violent, some not, but what I see isn’t so much the game itself but the frequency. I won’t go so far as to say “all things in moderation” because there are some things that one should not do, ever, but with video games, I think moderation is key. AND knowing the personality of the player. I also think it is better to err on the side of “no” for children.

  3. waywardson

    With all due respect to gamer girls, first person shooters are a bit of a “guy thing”. The audience is very male oriented.

    Boys and men do engage in violent role-playing, like killing each other outside. I don’t think you can really get rid of that. After all, we’ve all heard the stories of little boys bending Barbie dolls at the waist to use as guns. But, of course, there is no real violence. Nobody gets hurt, everybody gets up afterwards. This is the “magic circle” of play.

    Violent video games are just another extension of this violent role playing. The key is to be able to separate fantasy from reality and that is a developmental issue. What is appropriate for adults may be highly inappropriate for children.

    Some fantasy is very disturbing, although sometimes it is fun to be the villain. Still, I would say that video games are less disturbing than violent movies because the video game world isn’t as realistic as the movies, even with modern graphics. It’s easier to maintain the psychological separation.

    Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

    Of course, all things in moderation. People do become addicted to video gams fo a

  4. Mama Kalila

    This is a big topic here.. Dh is a gamer. He loves first person shooter games… but he doesn’t care for ones where he’s killing people so much. Aliens or monsters fine… Military type stuff sure… but still. He also has very strong opinions about them with our kids and what age/maturity is needed before certain types of games.

    As for running around and playing.. we’re all good with that too… unless the phrase I’m gonna kill you or I killed you pops up. That just bothers me for some reason… Going after bad guys is a fav though :-)

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