Violent video games: Pushing wrong buttons in blame game

Feb. 15, 2013 | 5:00 a.m.
(Edel Rodriguez / For The Times)

(Edel Rodriguez / For The Times)

Critic’s Notebook: Yes, unrelenting carnage is a problem in video games — but not in the way most people might think.

Twice now I have failed to finish the 2011 film “Drive.” The first time I left the theater. The second time, encouraged by friends who love the movie, I tried to watch it at home. Shortly after Ryan Gosling smashed a man to death in an elevator, I was out.

Bottom line: I avoid ultra-violent entertainment. Unless it’s a video game.

It’s not because I write about them for a living. It’s because the modern, big-budget game that doesn’t celebrate the art of shooting is as rare these days as an original Intellivision console.

THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE:  Art | Film | Television | Hollywood

In the wake of last year’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Vice President Joe Biden met with representatives from the video game industry. The conversation was about how to limit gun violence in games. Earlier, the National Rifle Assn. also tossed out the expected names — “Mortal Kombat,” “Grand Theft Auto” — in its own war on violent pop culture. After all, Newtown gunman Adam Lanza was reportedly addicted to the “Call of Duty” war games.

But like many who love to play video games and write critically about the field, I rolled my eyes when interactive entertainment was once again singled out for inciting real-life violence. But I wasn’t surprised. Video game publishers aren’t much for providing arguments to the contrary.

Instead of a story, 505 Games’ “Sniper Elite V2” boasts a “kill-cam,” which breaks from the game narrative to detail exactly how a bullet wreaks havoc on a victim’s innards. “Borderlands 2,” from Gearbox Software and 2K Games, is so efficient in its line-’em-up, shoot-’em-down formula that it makes a joke of it. Here’s an example: There’s a character named Face McShooty, a mohawked buffoon who hollers and yelps until you shoot him in the face.

And yes, Face McShooty made me laugh.

Zer0 takes on Stalker enemies at close range in a scene from the video game "Borderlands 2." (2K Games / Gearbox)

Zer0 takes on Stalker enemies at close range in a scene from the video game “Borderlands 2.” (2K Games / Gearbox)

Why “Drive” — but not these games — has an effect on me is not easy to articulate, but it has to do with context and presentation. Violent images in most games come fast — too fast for them to linger in one’s mind. The next mission is always just seconds away, and the development of most characters stops at the name. Face McShooty isn’t anything resembling a real person; he’s a punch line.

Ultimately, the difference between “Drive” and “Call of Duty” is that the film is so emotionally involving that it forced me to look away from the screen. The game is simply a test of button-pushing endurance. That’s OK, as it’s probably what makes for an effective game. But that doesn’t mean it’s an interesting one.

THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE:  World Cinema

There are Cuban soldiers in the latest “Call of Duty,” but they’re obstacles — the military game equivalent of a barrel in “Donkey Kong.” Only here, you press a button to shoot instead of pressing a button to jump.

I’ve had fun playing some of these games and don’t deny they can be, well, a blast. Each year, shooters get a little more refined in their controls, and the settings become a little more expansive or outlandish (witness the island sex and savagery of “Far Cry 3”). Yet these are tweaks to a well-honed formula rather than creative advancements. It’s violence, with a different-style template.

A scene from "Far Cry 3." (Ubisoft)

A scene from “Far Cry 3.” (Ubisoft)

Don’t just take my word for it. “The incredible success of the ‘Call of Duty’-type stuff drives games away from more constructive conflict. I think that’s one of the sad things and one of the things I don’t like about the game business…. Enough with the shooting. Figure out another type of productive conflict — building, creating.”

That’s Edmonton, Canada-based Greg Zeschuk, who last year resigned from BioWare, the company he co-founded about two decades ago. One of the most successful game operations in recent history, BioWare’s credits include the “Mass Effect” series and “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” the former of which was heavily lauded for its use of narrative elements.

THE CULTURE OF VIOLENCE:  On-screen history | Theater | Research

“Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” the latest blockbuster in the Activision Blizzard series, was the top-selling game of 2012 and fastest ever to $1 billion in sales, hitting the milestone in just 15 days. It boasts writing from David S. Goyer, who counts Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy among his credits, makes overtures to current events and the debate surrounding unmanned drones, and features digital interpretations of the likes of David Petraeus and Oliver North.

Soldiers and terrorists battling in the streets of Yemen in a scene from "Call of Duty: Black Ops II." (Activision)

Soldiers and terrorists battle in the streets of Yemen in a scene from “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” (Activision)

Yet “Zero Dark Thirty” it is not. Make no mistake, “Call of Duty” asks questions of the gamer. They are all variations on the following themes: How fast can you shoot, and can you sneak through this area undetected? It’s a test of reflexes.

It’s true, when 10 or 15 seconds of the game are flashed on the news, it does indeed look garish, and early in “Black Ops II” gamers even watch a character get incinerated. Yet blink and you’ll be behind in the action. I, for instance, had no idea my character was talking to a real-life figure such as North until I played the game a second time. The story is an accessory and not an examination of war or shooting.

“The industry saw what the reflex game mechanic could do and they invested heavily in it,” said Dan Connors, a former LucasArts employee who co-founded Telltale Games, the independent company responsible for last year’s wildly successful story-driven take on “The Walking Dead.” “They left behind this other form of entertainment, which is allowing people to interact with characters inside of a story.”

Like cinema and television, there’s a vast array of video game content to provide exceptions, and there’s even the occasional blockbuster such as “Halo 4” that’s able to push the shoot-’em-up genre into more emotional territory, which did so by taking a laser-sharp focus on its main character. Though not a shooter, another noteworthy title is the action-driven assassination game “Dishonored,” which is as damp and macabre as they come, but challenges gamers to constantly question how they move through the world.

A scene from "Dishonored." (Arkane Studios / Bethesda Softworks)

A scene from “Dishonored.” (Arkane Studios / Bethesda Softworks)

Yet it would be nice if the video game industry used the current gun debate as an opportunity, a chance to openly discuss whether its use of violence is artistic or gratuitous. It’s the time for self-evaluation and to ask whether the industry’s biggest games — the so-called AAA titles — are pushing the industry forward or simply finding new places and new ways to kill things.

“This,” said Connors, can be “the moment in which games started to create characters you cared about and characters who felt real.” Independent developers like Telltale are taking risks and challenging the industry to tell better, deeper and more involving stories.

They’re not doing so by creating shooters. In fact, how to build a better shooter is not a question that should be asked. Even the bad ones today are fairly competent in their game mechanics. The question is how to make a more challenging game, and it’s not one some in the industry may be willing to ask.

“Seeing it from within a big company, the reality is you go where the money is,” said Zeschuk, now spearheading the Beer Diaries, an online destination for craft beer. “You can try to change the world, but if you can’t create shareholder value while doing it, you’re hosed.”

– Todd Martens

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


119 Responses to Violent video games: Pushing wrong buttons in blame game

  1. Cldmnd247 says:

    I was out of your article right here :"Violent images in most games come fast — too fast for them to linger in one’s mind. The next mission is always just seconds away, and the development of most characters stops at the name. Face McShooty isn’t anything resembling a real person; he’s a punch line."
    That is the line that violent video games are blurring in young peoples minds. The line between reality and fantasy, real people and punch lines. Some people might play video games 8 hrs and go out in public for 1- the line gets blurred.

    • CarapaxtotheMax says:

      What you are describing results from excessive video game exposure and a mental vulnerability that already existed before this person even touched a controller or a mouse. And said people, who binge on video games and can no longer discern reality from fantasy are just as likely to do it with any other form of media. Because they are literally ill. They were ill to behind with, and whilst this particular form of media served as a catalyst, it cannot be said that it is -because- of the video games that these people develop mental issues. Sane, stable young people who game (even those too young to legally play some of these games) will not resort to violence more readily than non-gamers. That is blatant fact.
      "Young people" are not mindless, nor are they infants. Whilst they may be impressionable, those with mental stability are very capable of discerning right from wrong, reality from fantasy. Thank you very much.

    • kmrod says:

      violent people might play violent video games, but video games don't make people violent. i am no more violent now than i was before i played call of duty and neither are my kids. you can blame the game if i you want, but the truth is crappy parenting (and using a video game/console as a babysitter) is more to blame for kids' behavior than is any game.

    • Django says:

      I have a son who is now 24 and he's been playing video games since he was 5. He has never not realized that the game was just a game. He has never confused reality with the screen. All his friends are in the exact same boat. They all play the most violent of games, yet none of them confuse the games with real life. In real life they are all really great guys; honest, respectful, polite. They all go to college, and all contribute to society. My son is a math tutor. He is also passionate about social justice. The idea that people confuse the real world with the video world is in my experience unfounded.

    • brittny says:

      yo this dude has a point

    • Alex says:

      Fantasy is exactly what we are dealing with. We are perverting our flesh with demonic influence. The same thing can be thought about pornography, its not sex, its just a picture, I didn't do anything….but receive the filth of satan into Gods temple. Deceit is the devils playground, perversion is his imagination.

  2. bendertheoffender says:

    It's very simple what to do with Video Games – DON'T BUY THEM FOR YOUR KID!!!
    I play Video Games, Call of Duty, Halo, and other Violent Video Games. My son who is 13 wants to play them, and I let him. But I monitor how much he plays, and he understands that it is a game.

    It is a privilege in my house to play video games in my house and not a right.

    Parents need to do more to regulate and monitor their kids

    • LSH says:

      Monitor you kids personality types as well because TV & Film media on a non-stop basis will result in a long-term "short-term" effect, because it never stops UNLESS the perpetrator cuts his link to this stuff, which rarely happens as these medias have an addictive attraction. Also, these media types; games, TV, movies and violent rap lyrics, can be a trigger for dormant aggressive traits. It's best to sublimate those traits before they start manifesting like in all the gang violence in many major US cities. It's common sense, but more INDEPENDENT scientific studies should be completed AND publicized to convince the skeptics

  3. David in Queens says:

    It seems like movies allow the viewer to contemplate killing of man and what it means, while in gaming, the gamer is conditioned to kill without thinking of consequence, objectifying each dead target as a small victory on a road to the ultimate victory.

    • kmrod says:

      it may seem that way, but it's not that way.

      bad parents just tend to want to blame anyone or anything but themselves when their kids to bad things.

    • shewolf1x says:

      Funny, I thought I was doing something with pixels and 0s and 1s, not actually killing people.

      News flash- your opponents in a video game are not real people. Apparently, you lack the awareness my 7 year old has.

      • Prodigy Sniper says:

        its not the games. its the availability of the weapons capable of dealing mass damage. Look at Japan. Is the murder rate due to weaponry as high as it is here? Nope. Is there a larger gaming population? Hell yeah. What now?

  4. Janet says:

    Yes, unrelenting carnage is a problem in video games — but not in the way most people might thing.

    *think.

  5. Dean says:

    This is one of the most intellectually slipshod pieces I've ever read, starting with the typ-o on the byline ("…not in the way most people thing."). The basic premise, by a writer who isn't even remotely qualified to discuss sociological, much less psychological topics, is that because the violence in shooter video games is fast, it doesn't affect people. The writer defies even basic common sense in this assertion.

    Most obviously, Mr. Martens is an adult, so his concept of "lightening fast" is a bit different from a 15 or 16 year old's. Yet his inability to recognize this basic fact leads him to make the most fundamental of journalistic errors: He takes his own POV and uses it to explain the topic at hand. Note there's no evidence he conducted any research to prove or disprove his personal experience. Just a few self-serving quotes from the industry.

    And his basic premise: "Violent images in most games come fast — too fast for them to linger in one’s mind" is demonstrably untrue. Psychologists have demonstrated that certain images assume far greater significance in developing minds than others. Naturally, Mr. Martens doesn't muster any evidence for his bald assertion regarding the way the human mind operates. We're to take his word for it, I guess, because he plays lots of video games.

    A second obvious error in his premise is that the speed with which a young person is exposed to an image bears little, if at all, on whether or not s/he remembers it or is affected by it. And besides, when you kill an average of 400 characters per game, those individual flashes add up to a prolonged exposure.

    Of course, ultimately none of this matters, because most of the second half is consumed with Mr. Martens' complaints about the quality of narrative, or lack thereof, in modern video games. This non sequitor isn't just another example of poor writing and lazy thinking, it actually weighs against his argument. He's basically saying that modern shooter video games have become little more than spatter fests of violence and gore, with little or no socially redeeming qualities.

    Maybe he can find a Hollywood shrink to explain why this isn't bad for kids.

    • Evan Dickinson says:

      Nothing is simpler than telling the difference between a video game or movie and reality.

      One happens when you turn on your game console or put in a dvd, the other happens apart from the screen you use to watch games/dvds.

      You assume that people cannot flip a switch and declare something not real. In fact it is the easiest thing when there is a simple rule for deciding what is real or not.

      For the logic of your ilk we are to assume that the most powerful complex computers in existence (humans) cannot remember one bit of information and based on that bit decide if something is real or not.

      The line between reality and video games is sharp and will always be sharp because the line is exactly on pressing the power button, and that is an all or nothing affair.

    • kmrod says:

      or rather than type 500 words to stroke your own self-inflated ego, you could have used that time to explain why you disagree.

    • jay says:

      I'm an adult that plays very violent videogames and have since my youth, yet I've never had violent tendencies. I actually a huge pacifist.

      The biggest problem these days is a lack of parenting.

    • @MilesToCode says:

      One would imagine, if one were to accept your premise, that when Atari released Pole Position 30+ years ago that the people playing it would be causing more accidents due to speeding but I have yet to see any evidence that actually happened.

      • Dean says:

        That comparison doesn't work because in terms of realism, comparing Atari's Pole Position game to today's first person shooters is akin to comparing the violence in Wile E. Coyote cartoons to that in Quentin Tarantino movies.

    • chris says:

      Well Mr. Dean, I sit on the side of the fence that says – Don't ban anything until its proven to be bad.
      And this generation we have one of the largest test samples in the history of man. Millions of children, including me, HAVE ALREADY GROWN UP on violent video games. When I was born, video games were already prevalent. And I'm already into my twenties. I was killing hundreds of terrorists and soldiers a week when I was in elementary school playing CS.
      With this sample, compare crime rates to some sort of control sample. And you can see some sort of trend, even if you can't attribute it to video games. Seems simple enough, now you just need millions to carry out the study.

      Unrelated: I think its ironic that games demonstrate so much activities that would be illegal in real life. But they strictly ban things that are legal in real life "sex, porn." Maybe our society would be better if children had sex with hundreds of people a week in video games, rather than shoot hundreds of people a week.
      Maybe it would result in a society that cares more about "consensual pleasure" (consensual sex) rather than "one-sided gratification" (shooting a person).

    • george costanza says:

      Unless you are seriously disturbed, one does not decide to commit crimes in the real world after a virtual, (and frankly, hillarious) encounter with shooty mc faceshot. The line can get blurred, but it must be distorted beforehand. Also, videogames are a perfectly valid medium for storytelling. Judging from your tone, I would wager that you have not played any videogames beyond tetris. So this brings up a more pressing matter than the validity of the article: Why are you here? Are you trying to impress? If so, who? Find something better to do with your time sir, because you seem like the unqualified one. Oh, and "bald assertion?" Realy?

    • Maxco says:

      I'm a teen and have never been violent, even though I play violent video games, and to clear things up, after a match of CoD or Halo, I only remember if I won or lost. While if you’re referring to a subconscious effect, like I said, I'm not violent. In fact, I am a very emotional person. If I need to kill something or someone in a video game, I view them as an obstacle to victory. After the game, when I look at an actual person, I see a human with feelings, a soul, goals, loved ones, etc. It’s comparable to when (most) soldiers come back from active duty and view people as people, not as targets.

  6. JAYnLA says:

    I strongly disagree with the premise of this article. As a fan of horror flicks, the difference seems obvious to me.

    In video games, you ARE the killer. You embody the character. In films, no matter what, the killer is not you. It is a different psychological paradigm altogether.

    • Evan Dickinson says:

      No you are not the killer. You are pretending to be the killer. The difference is that you are not actually killing anybody. Thats not a small difference. Another difference is that you will not be punished at all, which is another large difference.

      People do not confuse themselves with their character even if they "immerse" themselves in the game. What they instead do is examine a hypothetical.

    • kmrod says:

      actually, you are the killer in neither.

    • michael says:

      well, in some games you are not the killer, you are a survivor. like games based on movies mostly. so you can embody the prey sometimes and run from the predator.

    • Noah says:

      Go play Spec Ops the Line. That is the perfect counterexample to your argument that "You are the killer", because Spec Ops goes out of its way to make you feel terrible about killing people. Besides, if you try to talk about "psychological paradigms" and things like that, you better make sure that you have scientific evidence to back it up.

  7. THX_1138 says:

    Looking at the bigger picture I'm amazed and saddened at how popular violence has become. Perhaps I'm not the norm, but I dislike anything having to do with violence and therefore never buy related products. It's nice to see some parents are regulating what their kids are exposed to – it's too bad some don't care.
    The gaming companies produce what sells and have little or no concern about long-term effects of their products. I guess money trumps all…. sad

    • Herbert West says:

      "I'm amazed and saddened at how popular violence has become."

      In Roman times we gathered into areas to witness people getting torn apart by lions. We're no more violent than we've ever been.

      • Catherine says:

        Bahahaha that made my day! Not getting torn apart by lions, but the fact that you summed up what some people have been trying to say in two blunt sentences.

  8. GTH says:

    "…ultra-violent entertainment…"

    That pretty well sums up the problem.

  9. JamesRK says:

    Ban guns AND video games. No one needs video games.

    • J. Lafayette says:

      Scandalous movies, also. And that devilish “rock-and-roll” music everyone’s been dancing so loosely to. Oh, and books! Did you hear in the new novella, Catcher in the Rye, lead teenage character Holden Caulfield uses curse words?! Perish the thought!

    • Logic says:

      I agree. No one needs video games. You know what? No one needs movies either. No one needs television. What good is it? No one needs computers, what good are they? We might as well get rid of books, while we're at it. Plays, too. Who needs culture? Who needs entertainment? What is the purpose of enjoying anything? Let's just live our lives with nothing to look forward to, mindlessly working to make our robotic lives better.

    • Antonio says:

      Yeah yeah! And we can ban electricity cuz that is straight up deadly!
      And water! 100% of people who drink water die! That is a statistic that everyone can understand!

  10. Lefty says:

    If anyone really thinks that playing Call of Duty is what causes someone to go on a shooting rampage, I've got an old bridge to sell you. Yesterday on COD II there were over 500,000 people playing when I logged in. My bet is that 0% of them were influenced to go out and use their button-pressing skills on a real gun. The fact is their are madmen in this world who will be influenced to do evil deeds by their own minds, not by playing a video game or watching a movie. Oh, the guy loved Italian food. Blame the rampage on lasagna.

    • James says:

      And I played Aztec endlessly on the Apple II at 16yrs old and never felt the need to dig punji traps in the sidewalk or put an alligator in someones mailbox (hmmm). Nor would I own a gun or watch a Quentin Tarantino movie. I did just play 30 minutes of MW3 and then PBS Congo. I hate gratuitous sex and violence in film but I agree its different in a video game. I tried following the new Kevin Bacon thing The Following buts its stupid gore trying to be intellectual and its Fox so I gave it up. Downton anyone?

  11. Adam says:

    Quit believeing the fake-humanitarian, bleeding heart rhetoric! It's a show!

    All the Government want out of this is MORE MONEY. That's all they ever want. When the record industry was booming in the 90s, the attack was on 'violent' music. Now that the game industry is booming the attack is on games.

    What was the immediately suggested solution this time? You guessed it MORE TAX MONEY. That was seriously the first proposal (from Congress) I heard after Newtown, was a 1% tax on "violent video games", really?! That helps how?. But you'll see, that's just get their foot in the door, give it 10 years it will be a 20% tax.

    That's what this succubus of a Government full of thieves does, they suck industries dry one after the other. There are a few ways to make large sums of money in this world, you can offer goods and services, or be a swindler (sometimes both)… yet politicians have chosen to take the swindler route, and I am quite fed up with otherwise intelligent people falling prey to their charade.

    Taxing games does nothing, but line the pockets of Government just for a short while before it falls out of the massive hole in the bottom it, which we like to call a $16 trillion debt. We're getting robbed, tell these people to go **** themselves.

    All they ever are looking for is MONEY, that is all…. period. They DO NOT care about "violent games".

    • James says:

      What about the Tax the NRA levies on gun manufacturers to spread their lies. Millions to peddle more weapons to morons.. You know why Oscar P. shot his girlfriend. It was because he had one in the house and she didn't stand a chance.He didn't try the baseball bat cause she could have taken it from him. Gun owners are cowards who needed more time with Mommy.

      • Gary says:

        To let you know. I own a gun but I am no coward, I only use it to hunt deer (which are on the rise and a public nuisance). Other than that it sits on the gun rack. I prefer hand-to-hand combat. I think that the people that have to use guns or knives or any other weapon to harm someone in real life are the cowards. So don't call gun owners in general cowards because we're not all cowards.

    • Ritzy says:

      Well said. Finally someone who's not totally insane. We live in a society of stupid…… and these are the results.

  12. jj212442 says:

    I have trouble understanding why games like Halo or Call of Duty are being targeted here – it's not like the characters in those games or similar franchises are out trying to shoot up schools. Many are military themed games, where the objective of the game is to save people – whether that's hostages held by terrorists or the entire human race. People always look for someone or something to blame after tragedies and I guess video games are the bogey man for the older Americans who didn't grow up with them.

    I would bet a lot of money that they have the relationships wrong… the gunman who shot up the school didn't do so because he played Call of Duty. He shot up the school because he was a very disturbed wacko and he played Call of Duty because he was a young person in 2012.

    • CppThis says:

      Video games are being targeted for the same reason guns are–charlatans in our dysfunctional political system want a casus bellum to take more rights and more money from lawful citizens and 'redistribute' them to themselves and their corrupt buddies. Notice how nearly every pol clamoring about this stuff hails from an economic wasteland bleeding more jobs and money than all of Master Chief's dead alien friends combined.

      That being said, I do wish there was more focus on story and character development because AAA games are just boring and feel the same. And full of communazi DRM, which I cannot abide. Deus Ex 3 was the last FPSy game that I really enjoyed, because it had a good story.

  13. KMA says:

    How's this for a change?

    BE A PARENT

    All games sold in North America that want legitimacy carry an ESRB label, indicating content within. Just like rated R movies, you can filter these out from you children. I know I have.

    This too hard for you? You have only yourself to blame when your kid goes nuts because you never taught them right from wrong, fiction from reality.

    Anyone who blames movies or videogames for the psycho behavior of mass murderers really need to start to blame the parent for not parenting.

  14. Guest says:

    The proof is in the numbers. If violent games or "shooters" drove people to kill then the murder rate would have exploded over the last 10 years. These types of games have saturated the culture of most young men and women yet the murder rate is more or less constant over the same period of time. Society and the media tend to inflate the potential impact of these games when a particularly horrible tragedy occurs but there were just as many violent young men and women before video games existed.

  15. BOBWSA says:

    Ban all ultra-violent entertainment and while your at it get rid of romantic movies how many unwanted baby's have been created after watching that vile stuff. Ban them all or start passing out the condoms and flack jackets – it's worth your efforts, if it saves just one misspent load…. we need laws against this now… save the essence of America.. get this problem in hand and pull it to completion.

  16. Matt says:

    The problem with this article is that Drive was not a violent movie.

  17. Steve says:

    We should all just read Government approved bibles with the violence, racism, and sexism edited out. War should only be spoken about in Government approved terms. Governments never committed genocide in war or anything like that. Our children should stay away from those "taboo" subjects in our speech, thought, and art because it might corrupt their fragile little minds. They may realize the ease at which people in power choose to oppress and extinguish life.

  18. 76 acres says:

    An ad for beer is intended to promote your desire for that beer. An ad for a car is intended to encourage you to desire that car.

    What does a violent video game promote? Friendship? Peace? Gentleness? Or violence?

    If the violent video games do NOT promote violence, then the advertisers of beer, cars, etc. must be wasting their money.

    How likely is that?

    • @beketaten says:

      A video game promotes winning that video game. If you think most people are really so weak minded that they cold be persuaded to violate their personal morality and the mores of their society without a second thought, then your line of thought leads inevitably to the creation of a society of deeply sheltered individuals and mass-censorship. Most people have an implicit sense of what's fantasy and reality, and to believe that video games amount to mind control says far more of a paranoid mindset than a real social phenomenon.

    • chanster says:

      Your logic is flawed. A video game isn't an advertisement and people know this. The game isn't trying to sell you anything except wanting you to buy DLC or the sequel games after that.

      Going by what you said, any type of entertainment can lead you to something. What do suspense novels, action movies and scary movies involving a murderous serial killer promote? Nothing because all of them are forms of entertainments and not promotions.

    • Guest says:

      Guys, he's right. I played Katamari and after I had the insatiable desire to roll everything up into a ball.

    • Soca says:

      You have to be an idiot to believe that, first of all your logic is flawed. You said that these beer and car ADS promote the sale of beer and cars, but then you say that possesing a violent game causes violence. The ads for the game just make you want to buy the game. Look im 17 and ive played games for 13 of those years, i havnt been in a fight since second grade. Would you call that violent? Of corse you would… Because you are an idiot

    • MlCHA3L says:

      well, in halo you are a super-solider trying to save humanity. so that promotes being a hero, and sometimes heroes are violent but you cant win a war with kind words.

  19. Guest says:

    Maybe some need to read and learn about neuroscience before erroneously concluding that constant stimulation, whether good or bad, doesnt rewire the nervous system.

    Habits, addictions, etc… All have a component due to rewiring…

    Most have heard of pavlovs dog?

  20. Joe says:

    This Bozo obviously did not bother to do any research prior to writing the article. Using video simulations to condition soldiers to overcome the resistance to killing can be observed in Vietnam and the Falklands where it gave US and British units a tremendous tactical advantage in close combat, increasing the firing rate from the World War II baseline of around 20% to over 90% in these wars. Computer/video simulations are still used today by the military because of their tremendous effectiveness. While I do not think playing violent video games turns ordinary kids (and adults) into killers, at the margins there are those already unstable folks who only need a bit of a push to go over the edge.

    • @beketaten says:

      But if someone is already that unstable, then just about anything could end up setting them off. Insanity will always be with us, and it is not a positive direction for society to believe, with great hubris, that it can save itself from the acts of unreasonable criminal insanity by way of preventing the vast majority of the populace –who can separate fantasy from reality and deduce consequences from actions–from being able to responsibly unwind with their chosen entertainment made by those who are exercising their right to freedom of expression.

      • burtquinn says:

        Everything you said could also be said of gun owners the vast majority of which are responsible owners and are entertaining their second amendment right to bear arms. If we are truly going to offer counter measures to these terrible crimes vs. the political lip service being offered, more than gun control needs to be discussed. The intersection of guns, violent media and psychological problems is part of the equation not just gun control itself.

      • Philip says:

        Nothing will happen if i trigger a gun inside a game. Something will happen if i trigger a real gun. THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE. Having games just haves the effect of someone palying them. Having guns has the effect of someone SHOOTING something, or worst, someone with them.

    • burtquinn says:

      Great comment Joe. Most of the writer's comments and the responses to the article are just opinion with no grounding in well established psychological research findings. I do not admit to being a psychologist either but there is a toxic mix of violent media, easy access to guns and psychological problems that taken together are creating monsters. Addressing only one aspect of the problem will have little effect on the problem and why most are focusing only on gun control makes little sense and is a dangerous delusion.

    • Equimanthorn says:

      Your 'research' sounds far more suspect than anything presented in the article. In Vietnam, the high firing rate can be attributed to 'video simulations to condition soldiers to overcome the resistance to killing'? Really? Please elaborate upon exactly what these killing simulations consisted of, bearing in mind we're talking about the mid 1960's, whereas, say, the extremely primitive Pong didn't even come out until 1972. Your statement seems like complete junk.

      The Falklands war killed about 900 people and pre-dated true first-person shooting games like Wolfenstein 3D by 10 years. Neither conflict can be compared in scale, technology, methodolody or psychology to WW2, where tens of millions died. Where games are used by armed forces today, they're mostly used as a cynical recruitment tool, or as R&R by soldiers, as a way of relaxing, socialising and a form of escapism from their grim situation.

      The article here is certainly speculative, but actually far less so than the arguments arrayed against video games. There is no logical consistency to the scapegoating arguments. First we hear that games are dangerous because of their player involvement, which makes them more emotionally involving and believable. Now the argument appears to be that they're dangerous because they're *less* emotionally involving than book and film. The 'research' indicting violent games consists of nothing more than statistical noise.

      The people you mention 'at the margins… who only need a bit of a push' surely can receive that push from anything – be it a violent film, a violent game, an upsetting conversation or an irritating housepet. The answer is not to conduct reactionary with hunts.

  21. Serfin ceorll says:

    Roman gladiators, public hanings, call of duty. Some things about human nature never change over the course of thousands of years. At least no one died in cal of duty, unlike the animals, slaves, and petty thieves of the past days of violence … This is progress.

  22. Bill says:

    You're all a bunch of gullible dumbasses. Video games are toys. Plain and simple. They are a cartoon fantasy, nothing more. Video game purchases made by young people have more than doubled in the last ten years, yet violent crime among the same subset has dropped to more than half. Consider that. You people are pathetic. Go do something useful like burning books at a library.

  23. Easy E says:

    While I definitely disagree with video games being the cause for violence (almost all of these tragic shooting events are from someone who has some sort of prescription med that reeks havoc on the brain), there are more than just shooter games. You want a story driven game with characters you can connect with? Great- play a RPG. A lot of them are more story driven than most movies.

  24. John says:

    Violent crime among young people has dropped to more than half in the last 10 years while video games sales have more than doubled in the same period of time. Explain that.

  25. Squeaky says:

    The problem is not with the games. It is the mental state of some who play them. The article's author mentions Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza should never have been permitted to play those games. His parents bought his whole setup and all the games. They failed their son and they failed their community.

  26. Lee says:

    Video games started out as training tools. They simulate environments and how they react to the users actions. Remember "Flight Simulator"? Still today video games are used to train police on how to make quick decisions with firearms use, etc. Violent games where the user shoots people to death is training the user to be a mass murderer.

    • Philip says:

      you cant be more wrong. Its right the opossite. Games became training tools once people who don't know about games saw the potential they have to train eye-hand coordination.

  27. Guest says:

    How about I blow everyones mind right now?…Violent video games actually REDUCE violent crime (as shown by the drop in violent crime over the years). They provide a release for young adult males to appease their instinctive aggression in an entirely safe and harmless way. I am always trying to control my temper myself in this stressful world, and I think video games are a great release (in addition to weigh-lifting & a punching bag).

    • CppThis says:

      Finally, someone who gets it. Forty years ago a pissed-off young guy would join his nation's military, be given real guns and given the opportunity to go commit real rape and murder in some other country's territory, all perfectly legal. Hell, most governments encouraged it–even our own. Now there are other options.

      Of course, one has to wonder if humanity just needs to meet a dead kid quota and the only question is whether it goes down in My Lai or Newtown. Personally, I'd prefer it not be over here. I suppose that makes me a nationalist, if the theory is correct.

  28. Mauloa says:

    I wonder if we had violent games that specialized on killing, torturing, and violent acts…against people in the Senate, the House, the other departments of government — instead of the current monsters/superheros…would continue to be sold. I don't think so! If it is aimed at a specific group such as politicians – would they still be allowed to be made? What if someone created a violent game against Hollywood Monguls, T.V. Journalists…how woud that go over?

    The violent games need to stop period! Use some intelligence and sense…the idiots that are shooting people/classrooms, etc. are all "hung up on these games" playing them 24/7.

  29. Chase says:

    We are kidding ourselves if we think no one is influenced by the violence in video games. Our character is made of the stuff we do. Some people like playing them (why is a topic for another discussion) and want to justify themselves. There is no argument to the contrary.

    • Philip says:

      The character is made by pixels, is not real, and has a set of possible actions, so no, we don't make them. Seems like someone has difficulties to see the difference between reality and a set of pixels.

  30. Guest says:

    Anders Breivik in his trial said he trained extensively with Call of Duty for his mayhem. While games may not incite someone, they can provide a training platform and desensitization tool .

  31. LINDALEE says:

    Wasnt there a game out for about 8 years called Kindergarten Killers- and the press failed to mention it!!!!! How coincidental! Also if you watch a game like those mentioned about it takes the bad guy through the process of getting all the materials necessary for a massacre then the sound effects are rewarding the more people you kill!!! IT IS ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING TO WATCH- and to think kids are getting their hands on this crap- parents are clueless- and these films are so desensitizing that they are used by the govt to train armed forces field personnel!!! AGAIN THE PRESS IGNORES THIS BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD IS A HUGE LOBBY CONNECTED TO ALL MEDIA!

    • Philip says:

      Curious facts:
      1-The creator of the game, based it on a movie.
      2- 0.6% of the serial killers has played a videogame at least once on their lives.
      3- There is no scientific proof about relations between videogames and crimes.
      4- There IS scientific proof about reations between people and guns. There is a 97% of prob. for a gun owner, to make a shoot by accident, regardless hitting someting or sommeone. There is a 27% of prob. for that person to shoot someone, by accident (12%) or on pourpose(15%), resulting in a crime 18% from that 27%.

  32. carlo1775 says:

    If this moron cannot see the connection between violent video games and these shootings, then he is nothing more than one of those out of touch "consumeristic" flesh blobs lining the malls on weekends and holidays buying Chinese slave goods. With people like this, America deserves its apocalypse.

  33. jslizzard says:

    video games dont make you violent so stop the bull nobody and damn sure no video games controls your actions but you. so dont go blaming video games because you people want someone to blame theres been violence and murders before video games were even invented the news just talks about violence more then before oh and before people turn to blaming someone else for their methods look at your own and the guy in the Connecticut school shooting was clearly mentally ill

  34. MUCK says:

    Its the new Heavy Metal……….we did this already.

  35. Randy Marsh says:

    "Figure out another type of productive conflict — building, creating.” – Fair enough. Many of these games exist, and some are fun. In my experience there is also an element of "person on person" violence in these games, but not nearly as much (or as graphic) as in the games that were reviewed.
    The thing that is worrisome about the building / creating games is the restricted freedom of choice which to me results in a very passive kind of brainwashing. In SimCity for example, you are limited to pretty much an American / Modern / Industrial way of designing a city, all orthogonal, no allowance for creative civil / civic works & solutions, no allowance to manage your resources like water and soil, etc… in other words a limited palate of industrial bits and pieces. (As a student of cities, sim city represents less than 1% of what is possible!) Conversely, a game like Towns (available through Steam) allows the player to custom build everything in the city. Imagination takes over, and for the most part, you set your own limits (you can play effectively with 2 people in your town, or 200)… Peace

  36. skepticalsurfer says:

    The big bankers who run the Federal Reserve and the big bankers who pull the puppet strings of the government love gun violence and war. The gun violence creates a great media distraction and will lead to better control of the masses. The wars create great wealth for the bankers because they own the weapons industry and good portion of the media. Video games and all of the other forms of entertainment are so abundant and pervasive because it keeps us from thinking about what is really going on. Don't expect anything to change because the people who pull the puppet strings don't want it to change!

  37. Bob Forsberg says:

    The Newtown basement dweller playing violent video games took make-believe to real life. Gun control does not help nut cases looking for the 15 minutes of fame media drools over and helps to promote by their glorification of their mantra " if it bleeds, it leads".

  38. Gary Riccio says:

    Gary Riccio
    “Shooting” is only one aspect of a shooting game. This is a very important thing for people to understand about the genre. Shooter games create situations in which there are a myriad of social micro-experiences that aren’t an act of shooting. Shooting, however, can create a context of time-critical decision making with clear consequences that make social micro-experiences more interesting and fun. And fun creates the conditions for the amount of practice and focused attention required for mastery.

  39. Gary Riccio says:

    It is not just physical "reflexes." It is as much cognitive as physical. Habitual values-based decision making in time-critical situations is cognitive capability that is much more interesting than a physical reflex. It is not just whether you hit the target at hand, it is as much about what comes next, what you are ready for next, the consequences of past and present behavior for future behavior, and the implications of potential future behavior for present decision-making and behavior. Sound complex? Welcome to the depth of shooter gaming.

  40. Gary Riccio says:

    "The question is how to make a more challenging game." Precisely! We believe, however, that the secret is in co-design of games and communities. Nobody is putting that on the front burner right now and most don’t even recognize the importance of it. This will be difficult because game designers generally have different personalities and interests from community designers. Anyone who can bring these two groups of leaders together will do something pretty special.

    See also, http://tinyurl.com/a5cngaf

  41. Melissa Ann says:

    When I was six, I remember watching a movie about a kid who played video games about drive by shootings and hitting people with cars. His brother suggested they see if they get such a thrill as they did while playing it…
    We have a friend who plays such games, and has tried to commit suicide multiple times because the art of death has become ingrained in his mind.
    How many lives might be saved if instead of banning guns we banned "games" that create a mentality for destroying human life?

    • Jack Frost says:

      Seriously? So a friend of yours who has an obvious pre-existing dispostion to violence is a reason to ban games? It isn't the games fault. It was just sitting there when a kid picked it up who had no tolerance for the stuff that the game had to offer. My "friend" was reading a romance novel and when the strategies to romance in it didn't work he killed himself because his brain was high wired to success of "go jump off a bridge."

      Same thing in the end. The only major difference is that one has been targeted by the government.

  42. Jack says:

    I'm 20 and I have been playing video games since I was very young, my "playing time" was not strictly limited and I was not pushed towards spending time away from computers and games, however one thing that I think is very important is spending time playing these games with your kids, taking an interest and monitoring what is going on in their hobbies and lives, not as in installing key loggers and snooping over their shoulder, but just taking an interest. I didn't have a TV, computer or games console in my room until I could afford to buy one myself.

    I have played Tell-tale's the walking dead and it is without a doubt one of the best games i have ever played, and there IS violence and real issues and decisions a player has to make, and this makes it more hard hitting and emotive. Kids sit and play call of duty because there is no thought required, its sit down, hit targets and then go. I know, I have sunk many an hour into it. At the end of a round it is not about how many people you have ruthlessly slaughtered, leaving their families alone and without a dad, it's a number on a scoreboard, and the single player modes on these games are terribly bad, in terms of storytelling, it's just action sequence after action sequence.

  43. Nathan says:

    No, I don't think games cause kids to be more violent. I'm 14 and usually don't play straight up shooters and fighting games because I want my games to have in depth story in them. But the few times I do play Call of Duty of Halo I don't instantly fantasize about killing my friends or parents, and I'm not hostile or aggressive.

    If you look at the history of guys like James Holmes, Adam Lanza, or Jared Loughner, they all had histories of people noticing aggression and behavior problems without playing video games. Its up to people, not just parents, to notice these things and tell someone or talk to the person. And I'm glad that my mom sat me down before handing me this rated Teen game I wanted and explained to me that its not real and I shouldn't imitate it in real life. I already knew that, but I'm glad she did it out of concern. Parents I think need to distinguish what's appropriate for children of certain ages. You definitely shouldn't buy a rated Mature game for a seven year old, because they are not ready for stuff like that.

    But anyway, I don't think violent video games cause kids to be more violent. I think that they already had these issues and were going to snap anyway, with or without playing games. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect are violent at times, but they have great themes like friendship, sacrifice, duty, and love that people should take to heart instead of focusing on the violence. People who commit these evil acts would have done so anyway. These games should not be blamed for the sorrow in the world.

  44. guest says:

    The Newtown killer played Starcraft, hardly COD….

  45. Tony says:

    Yes, Adam Lanza was a big fan of COD games, but so are 100 million other people. I am not a psychologist, but I believe most Mass Shooting maniacs, serial killers ect. have deep underlying issues, that come about no matter what they do. I'm sure 1000's of cases can be directly tied to medication, or lack of medication/ Mental health treatment. With 5 out of every 10 people on some Anti Depressant, Anti anxiety, Pain Medivation ect., It's surprising there isn't more Mass shootings.

  46. GUest says:

    The author clearly doesn't understand Borderlands…

  47. Guest says:

    No matter how far Video Games develop, there will always be shooters, action satisfies humans basic urge for action at the lust to be a hero and save the day. I'm in no way condemning story driven games such as The Walking Dead, but things like that should be classified differently than COD, Battlefield, or Far Cry. People make the mistake of referring "Video games" as a whole when there is SO much variation in the art

  48. Jon Boa says:

    Be honest. How many of you actually wish you can do some of the things you do in the video games. Now, image that some people actually do. You can't deny it, video games affect people. If it didn't, it wouldn't be a multi billion dollar industry.

  49. Antonio says:

    So has no one noticed that video games are so prevalent that it is easy to assume to almost any given person is a gamer. Daniel Craig, the newest James Bond, has admitted to having an "addiction" to Halo. So using the logic that most people use to show the link between violence and video games, we can now see that action games encourage people to become stars of action movies.

  50. Nicole says:

    I think a lot of people who don't even play video games have difficulty telling the difference between reality and fantasy. We expel little kids over "hello kitty bubble guns" and "Lego Guns" and then make unsubstantiated claims that gaming blurs the line between reality and fantasy. They did it with D&D back in the 80's. blamed heavy metal music for suicide, and now once again we are blaming part of the entertainment industry for a generation of latchkey parenting and refusal for any kind of accountability. If you have a gun, lock it up. If you have a child, do your job and raise the child.

  51. Matthew says:

    I know this probably doesn't help the situation and maybe a handful of people will actually read this… but for what it's worth I've been playing Battlefield 3 since it's release in Oct of 2011. I have almost 1,000 logged hours. Thousands of kills and thousands of in-game deaths. Many of which proclaim, "suicide". Over the last year I have had very scary premonitions that I have nothing left in life and literally felt like I needed to commit suicide. So scary to the fact that I could not even go into my bedroom near my closet where I keep a handgun for personal protection and safety. A combination of empty feelings and personal problems paired with the hours of gaming and lack of interest for much else in life due to financial troubles… it's almost as if suicide is my only option. I believe that my gaming obsession over the last two years since I got the PS3 has influenced depression. I realize that I have problems but have yet to seek help, again due to financial and personal restrictions. I haven't had an episode in quite some time and have backed off gaming a little bit but am still addicted.

  52. Jake615 says:

    If the campaign of Call of Duty is teaching people to do what they do in the game then I think thats great, because all I see in the campaign are operators fighting to stop terrorist attacks, not to mention online I know im not killing anyone because that person is going to press square or X to respawn(respawn does not exist in real life if you failed to catch that) and once the game is over usually the other player and I are laughing about our encounters in the game with eachother. If you are worried about your kid and the children of others having insane thoughts about killing people I would suggest giving them a hug.

  53. 8e6³ says:

    This article is bogus. Equivocal. You could have turned this around in favor of films vs. games and split hairs just as easily. What are your credentials? You know nothing of perception and cognitive language. Violence and competition in games and film is perpetuating the primitive parts of the brain and indeed conditions people to become tolerant of violence and prone to violent,rash, or ignorant behavior. I used to play a lot of games and I knew there was something wrong when I heard young kids swearing, getting into fights (sometimes with adults), or celebrating their kill/death ratio. It's sick. If people are proud of being rewarded for killing or be okay with watching movies like Saw or Hostel, there's something wrong going on. Just cause it's been this way for a long time, doesn't mean it's right. I don't think we should necessarily sensor ourselves, but we should look at the bigger picture and start to guide ourselves in a different direction because our media is definitely FLAWED when it comes to direction.

  54. Anjl16 says:

    So one day I was busy reading through an interesting article about videogaming violence, then i was bored and read the comments.
    Alot of butt-hurt people trying to prove their point.
    Uhm…… if violent videogames make people violent, how come when playing games that relate to other things, like the famous Guitar Hero series, how come people who are amazing at that aren't amazing musicians? If I start playing football and basketball games will I become better at those too? I mean, my input means nothing 3 weeks later, and the fact that I'm only 17 and still in High-school, but seriously? Playing call of duty once a month with my friends for super long sessions I don't think "I'm killing people to win" I'm actually attempting to win an objective by taking out the enemy team like a game of paintball. Anyway, I'm going to go watch some star-trek because that'll make me a better pilot in hyper-space and a savant at talking with intergalactic races :)

    • sammy says:

      Try finding a better analogy. People who are good at Guitar Hero have developed the skill to press x button at n time no matter how fast the many colorful buttons are coming at them, aka they are adept in maneuvering themselves….in guitar hero. Are they plucking real guitar strings and listening to chords? Nope. You should carefully reread what you wrote, especially the "if violent videogames make people violent" portion. How can you equate someone becoming VIOLENT, a CHARACTERISTIC with someone becoming ADEPT at something. No one's saying that litlle Johnny is going to become a pro at massacring real life people because he's a pro at COD. The topic of 'discussion' (that's another argument) is the IDEA little Johnny COULD pick up from the games. Like the IDEA that killing people in real life that you might not like (even if he has no idea how to use the real life guns in COD) is cool.

      Now, am I implying we ban all video games? Nope. But it's disgusting to see people ignore that violent video games are just that –violent. Much of the things done in them is extremely messed up. And yes everyone, there are other things (books, films) that are messed up and violent, thanks, I know, I'm a member of the human race as well.

  55. That guy16 says:

    What’s sad is I can read a book with way more gore and violence than any video game and think about what I just read and it’s a million times worse than any video game. What people do (school shootings) is stupid and it’s their mental sickness that’s driving this whole crap down and the first thing they blame is a video game bcus we choose to use them as basically an alternate life that we can do anything we want with. I’m sorry but if I’m gonna blame video games for anything it’s the fact that I’m not some crazy billionare city building tycoon or in the NFL or NBA. I personally think the whole debate is stupid and people need to drop it. It’s not the video games fault it’s your child’s sick mind that gave them the idea to go shoot up a school.

  56. Uknownnn says:

    Yup because Movies are just the same as games. The Dark Night has shootings…No body cares. News people says it fake. Call of Duty has shootings..Everybody blames it on them.

  57. sammy says:

    Breaking news: violent video games bring world peace.
    O wait…
    C'mon, the old: 'be a parent', 'video games don't kill people', 'I play genocide x2 and I'm normal'
    are just recycled, justification responses. The games themselves don't kill, but you're lying to yourselves if you say that virtual massacring won't have an effect (it's only on the mental kids, right) on even normal children's minds.

  58. Axl says:

    I think the key action here is to respect the rate for video games the ERSB does pretty much, parents should stick into this, if a game is rated for "mature" and you have a 15 years old kin, the you shouldn't allow him/her to play it, there are heaps of different tittles to choose from. like the movies, music and so on. Parental Advisory and bla bla bla. Do not forsake that video games are played worldwide but only in the US these terrible crimes occurs. Greetings everyone

  59. Bart Gunn says:

    Video games aren't just limited to the shooting genre.

  60. Wesley says:

    Video games aren't just First person shooters and "violent". There are many other genres in video games than shooting.

  61. Tuck- says:

    I think that video games are fine just that many people are psycos

  62. aaron says:

    I agree with a lot of this. I don't have a problem with some game being violent, and some people enjoying the artificial adrenaline boost they get from violence on the screen. I don't consider it my business to tell other people what to like, but violence is taking over gaming. I'm going to stop being a gamer soon, because its either that or Mario, and I'm not that big on childish games. Seriously, violence isn't just a part of gaming. Its the freaking norm, and its more prevalent than in other media, and its just getting more and more gory. Seriously, why do all these game reviewers keep writing "satisfying" when they talk about violent in games. Its like, the most common word video game reviewers ascribe to bloodshed in games.

  63. MICHA3L says:

    yes, there will be an effect, which is why parents should help separate reality from fiction. and yea i know every one goes after the parents, but its true it IS they're responsibility. games don't kill people, neither do guns, or music, or violent movies. people kill people. period. we have been for thousands of years. music is a sound, a set of notes. a gun is a tool which, yes, was created to kill. but also to defend people. and violent video-games? well they never did anything to me. why? because i know he difference between fantasy and realaty

  64. johny brown-finger says:

    i believe that this country is just try ing to find something to blame. it just so happens that video games give you control over the violence and that they make it necessary that the country saw this and, rather than confront the problem head on, decided to blame the game. im 16, and ive been playing video games since I was 6. about 90% of the games I played had some sort of violence in them, whether it be cartoon violence, or set in a fictional setting and its realistic violence against people. in-game, iv shot peoples heads off with a shotgun, punched beavers, incinerated innocents, and you know what I do in real life? I try to stay away from conflict, out of fights, and generally act pretty peaceful. so, if you like to light your farts on fire to heat up your microwave burritos and blame it on the violent games you don't even play, let duke it out in front of paarthurnax on the throat of the world in whiterun, byatch.

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