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July 06, 2007


Dan Seamans

This is an area I continue to struggle with. I must have started playing games at around the age of 7 and there certainly wasn't any Grand Theft Auto on my Spectrum 48 (this is back in 1982 or thereabouts). I have however continued as a gamer all my life and have naturally played my fair share of games with violence in them. From my experience then it hasn't turned me into a violent person, but I'm only one person.

I think you're quite right to question the language used to describe/advertise games as much as the content itself. I was speaking last week about my work in Second Life and afterwards one attendee told me of his dilemma when his boy asked if he could have a war game (it may have been Call of Duty, I'm not 100% sure), a game which the parent felt uncomfortable about. However he agreed on the condition that they also studied the events of the game in a wider context, bringing in books and dramas and so on, so that the game content could be experienced in a greater context. I felt this was a very honourable approach.

However at a time when Manhunt 2 has just been banned I continue to question the role cinema plays. Violence is extremely common, often graphic, and in many cases quite intentionally sadistic (Saw), yet movie after movie reaches the mainstream cinema and indeed the modern horror movie has had something of a renaissance in recent years.

So I can't say I'm against violence in games, although I dislike those that are openly cruel and sadistic and play on the gamers desire to act this way. What sits most uncomfortably at a personal level is that I seem to have a category of "acceptable violence", and I'm not sure I'll ever feel completely comfortable with the implications.

Derek Robertson

Thanks for your comments Sam. I too have my reservations regarding violent cinema and movies such Saw 1, 2 & 3 as well as Hostel seem to be bringing new levels of sadistic violence to the audience. I don't think that these films necessarily make people want to act in this way to others but I wonder if they are helping to establish a growing framework that influences our sub-conscience to accept horrendous levels of violence into our mental frameworks.


In terms of educational value, I'd say these violent or war games are useless. My grandparents and uncles were all in wars and share one thing in common, they never want to speak of it. War (or violence) is horrific that they never want to talk about it and until a computer game has this effect, it cannot truely educate about war. Infact, these games have the opposite effect, you enjoy it and play more, and I think along with other cultural media, it goes some way to normalising violence.

Id really recommend reading this book -

On Killing:The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

Which has a section on violent media and violent culture -
"Colonel Grossman¹s perceptive study ends with a profoundly troubling observation. The desensitizing techniques used to train soldiers are now found in mass media — films, television, video arcades — and are conditioning our children. His figures on youthful homicides strongly suggest the breeding of teenage Rambos.
William Manchester, author and WWII vet"

Personally I only watch real documentaries on war and am often disgusted by what I see in films and games. I cant help but wonder if the entire world could benefit from seeing what I see and being truely disgusted by senseless video violence. I think the true nature of violence is hidden by this media and thats dangerous.

I also did a post partly on this issue

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