R P G A M E R . C O M   -   E D I T O R I A L S

Violence Control, Revisited

Josh Martz

There's a common misconception going around the general public that states that video games cause violent tendencies. This, as stated earlier, is a misconception. Remember back when the shootings at Columbine High School were in the news? Apparently there were violent video games on their computers that may have had some contribution to their attack on their high school. Yeah, right.

The game that was on their computers, that the police identified, was a game called Doom. Doom, created way back in the early 90s, is a very, very dated game, of the first-person shooter variety. In the game, you are some soldier somehow dropped into the depths of hell and forced to find a way out, destroying any demon, mutant, or ogre that gets in your way, using shotguns, chain guns, rocket launchers, and of course, the BFG (Big F***ing Gun). This game is so unrealistic it makes my head spin to think that this game somehow could have had some effect on the two shooters of Columbine. I, myself, have played Doom many times, and have yet to possess the urge to go kill several people in a fit of rage.

Video games don't cause people to have violent tendencies. The only possible way I can imagine them having an effect on someone is when the person involved is already incredibly out of touch with reality. The only way that this theory holds is that there are a significant number of people in this world that are out to lunch. I'm sure if you had someone that thought that he was a military commando from the future, and placed him in front of a copy of the game (something more realistic than, say, Doom) Goldeneye, he may try to exterminate the people around him, claiming that they were Russians that deserved what they got.

If video games did make people violent, then there would be no end to the violence. People who play Role-Playing Games (RPGs) would be attacking each other every 5 steps at random, and those who play sports games would tackle, high-stick, slide tackle, or box everyone they meet, because they're not on his team. Hell, even Mario games were violent. Mario ran around on the screen, killing Koopa Troopas and Goombas by jumping on their heads. Imagine if life was like that. And then we'd find the princess, only to find out that she's in another castle.

Around October of 2002, a sniper terrorized the Washington D.C. area by stealthily shooting innocent people in public places. At one of the crime scenes, police found a Tarot card. "The words, "Dear Policeman, I am God," were reportedly scrawled on the card. Scrambling to discover their relevance, gamers and their critics suggested on the Internet that the sniper could be a video-game player because phrases referring to "God" can be found in several 3-D shooters."

There are references to "God" in video games. There is a mode included in many games called "God" Mode, which enables the player to become invulnerable to all forms of damage. How this situation could possibly be construed as influence from video games is beyond me. "God" is a general term, describing someone of insurmountable power and awe; one who has the ability to act over all. In fact, the sniper was probably a fundamentalist Christian who read the Bible everyday and killed people because of it. Of course, my theory is bunk, but hey, it holds as much ground and has as much evidence supporting it as do the critics'...which is next to nothing. I and many of my friends play video games quite often, and we have used "God" mode before. Ok, it's a mode. It exists solely for the purpose to beat the game without any trouble whatsoever. It is up to the gamer to differentiate between reality and fantasy, and to realize that "God" mode is not applicable to reality.

And what about the parents? Are they nonexistent? Do they not have any effect on their children? The parents are partially responsible for teaching their children the difference between fantasy and reality. The other person responsible is the child himself, who will inevitably find out the hard way by leaping off the couch in an attempt to fly like Superman. The games themselves do not TEACH. They are not created to teach, but to provide entertainment. Apparently, there are still those that think that the games themselves are at fault.

Back in 1993, a Democratic senator from Connecticut named Joseph I. Lieberman held a press conference to discuss the nature of video games and their effect on the populous. He said, "'I really wish that we could ban them [video games] constitutionally.'" He later brought forth the accusation that "'people who play violent video games, probably will have a tendency to be more violent, or at least less struck by violence, in real life.'"

Lieberman, while a prominent figure in the race to enable censorship in video games, is not the only one disgusted at violence in video games. Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman (retired), a witness from the Kentucky school shooting incident, also displays his disdain for the games.

"Grossman characterized the first-person shooter genre as 'mass murder simulators,' and compared the desensitization to violence experienced by game players to the training methods used by the U.S. military, which uses virtual reality tools to help train soldiers."

He obviously has some knowledge of the virtual reality simulators that the military uses in their exercises, but they are designed for a purpose; to improve the soldiers' ability in combat. Video games aimed at the general population are designed for a different purpose; to entertain. These politicians are ignorant in the fact that they ignore this purpose. Movies are created to entertain; music is written to entertain; video games are produced to entertain. Most game players understand this, and as I said before, the only reason that the politicians can gain any ground on this subject is that a portion of the population is not right in the head.

In fact, I read in a magazine some time ago that apparently a group of teenagers went on a rampage in their town, breaking and entering, hijacking cars, and doing all sorts of vandal behavior. In the end, they blamed it on a game: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. In this game, you play as a thug who rises in the criminal world by completing missions which revolve around stealing cars, killing gang members, and planting explosives. However, blaming one's own idiotic actions on a video game is just plain ignorant. It is people like this that give gamers a bad name, and cause an uproar in places like the Senate. However, not everyone believes that video games are linked to extreme violence. Damon Thompson, the Surgeon General Communications director states,

"Media violence specifically video games are not a major risk factor for violence. We did find rising links between media violence, television violence, and short-term aggressive behavior. But that is significantly different from violent behavior allegedly caused by playing video games."

The fact is there is no hard evidence to suggest that video games are linked to violence. Short-term aggression like yelling at the screen or slamming the controller on the ground are hardly signs of violent behavior. I would be willing to wager that video games even enhance some abilities of those who play them. Games exist where the sole purpose is to solve puzzles, and some of these puzzles can be quite taxing on the brain. Solving these obstacles forces the player to use his or her wit and logical capabilities in order to pass. I would like to see any regular Joe play a game such as Escape from Monkey Island without straining their neural capacity. These games require intelligence and analytical thinking above anything else.

Even hand-eye coordination is improved. The ability to look at something in front of you without having to look down and see what your hand is doing is a great skill, and can be used in things such as sports, typing, or just everyday tasks. People argue that these controller skills can somehow contribute to violent acts such as...sniping. Honestly, it's a controller, an item that is held in nowhere near the same fashion as a rifle. Or a handgun. Or any other weapon. Controllers are usually held around waist-level (actually, some people, like myself, hold them in any way possible), and let the user press buttons with their thumbs, forefingers, and sometimes middle fingers. Now, there are light-guns (plastic guns that use infrared and laser technology to enable the user to shoot the screen) available for certain games which could contribute to the gamer's ability to aim. However, these implements still do not cause the gamer to act in a violent manner.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to believe that video games cause violence, and therefore there is certainly no need to censor them. It's important to educate the general populous, as well as politicians, about video games. Unless they realize that it isn't the game, but the gamer, that acts in anger, then there will never be any closure on this issue. As an avid game player, I have yet to experience any voices in my head telling me to go do something brutal. The fact that there are millions of "normal" Americans out there that are unaffected by violence in movies, TV, video games, just helps prove my point.

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