Part One: Killer Games
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be discussing my thoughts on the different facets of the gaming culture, both good and bad. Welcome to The essence of gaming.
Games are bad. If played unchecked they will create in you an urge so powerful that you just cannot resist it. In fact, if you’re a gamer then you should do society a favour and chain yourself up so that you never set foot outside because if you do get into the “real world” you will rape, pillage and plunder with all the ferocity of the Vikings of old. Don’t sit there with that disbelieving look on your face, you know that it’s the truth. Games force you to murder your fellow human beings. In fact I bet that you’ve already got your neighbours buried in your yard and a few others sitting at the bottom of the river.
Okay, I’ll stop.
Yes, I know it’s a load of codswallop but this is what we, as gamers, face all the time in the news. Finding an impartial news report on “the effects of gaming” is like finding a seal that enjoys being clubbed. Oh, they start off seemingly impartial with their guest speakers, one from each side of the coin. You will have your gaming advocate on one side, usually a sensible looking guy. On the other side you will have your rabid anti gaming activist who seems to be the only one in the room who actually is capable of murder. The title of these heavyweight bouts are ususally something along the lines of “Slay-station 3” which leaves no doubt as to who’s side the news network is on. Then the verbal flaying of the gaming advocate begins. It’s even worse when there’s a studio audience because even though he (the advocate) will be the only one speaking any kind of sense, the crowd become a mob thanks to the emotive soundbites spewing out of the mouth of the rabid activist and there are times when I fully expect the mob to light up their torches and throw the advocate on a burning pyre. We’re the ones who are most likely to murder though. Not the irrational, emotional jerks with their infamous “Thousands of studies have shown” mantra.
In 2001 a game was released that was like nothing we had ever seen. It was a whole city in which we could do whatever the hell we wanted, including running over old ladies with a car, punching random strangers in the face and shooting everyone in sight. Two years later in 2003, Grand Theft Auto III found itself at the centre of a bitter legal wrangle involving a murder and then a hefty lawsuit. Jack Thompson was the witchhunter general and his sights were set on not just the game but everyone involved with it, from its creation to its retail distribution. In his eyes all these people were wort-ridden hags of the highest calibre and he wanted to throw them all in a river and see if they floated. Apparently the young man who had committed the murder was also partial to a game of Grand Theft Auto III. This quickly became the defense and before you could say “Games are bad mmmkay?” the defendant and his parents blamed the game, saying that it had inspired him to go out and kill someone for real. This insanity plea was eventually withdrawn around the same time as the family refused to let Jack Thompson defend the case.
Jack Thompson proceeded to file for $246 million in damages from Take Two Interactive (the game publisher), Sony and last but not least Wal-mart. Seriously, even Wal-mart didn’t escape his money grabbing gaze. Why? Well they sold the game in the first place. The charge was that all involved should have known that the game (Grand Theft Auto III) would cause copycat violence. Hey Jack, why not sue the dumbass parents that bought the game for their 15 year old murderer in the first place? The case was dismissed as the Judge was obviously a sensible person who understood that games don’t make people kill. People make people kill. The thing is, even though it is all over the media in a highly negative way I still walk into game stores and see 12 year olds harassing their parents into buying them the latest game that’s clearly rated for adults only. It’s those very same parents who then nod their heads in agreement and become part of the mob in the studio audience; it’s those very same parents who want to blame anything but themselves for their children being anti-social. It’s as though they see the games console as a babysitter that they don’t have to pay $10 an hour and can be around all day and all night. Perhaps this could be Microsoft’s next advertising spin – “The Xbox 360, takes care of your kids so that you don’t have to” (side effects may cause violent tendencies, anti social and possible sociopathic behaviour).
That last paragraph may seem as though I agree that consoles create killers. Well, to be honest I do think that if children spend their days dumped in front of violent games that were made and clearly labelled “for adults” then yes, there is a strong possibility that those children would become anti social and quite possibly violent. What I don’t agree with, is that the game itself is to blame for such an outcome. It is simply the product of bad parenting, nothing more and nothing less. When adults play these games they realise that even though they can “hire prostitutes and then kill them to get their money back” (another anti Grand Theft Auto mantra) they shouldn’t promptly wander down to their local red light district with hammer and duct tape in hand to re-enact the damn thing. If they were to go and re-enact it then there is already something seriously wrong with them and they could have just as easily got the idea from the talking fly on the talking turd of the talking dog in the nearby Dog Park.
In 2005 Jack still hadn’t shut the hell up about it all and was on 60 Minutes where he claimed that the game was a murder simulator. The air force has awesome flight simulators, learner drivers can use driving simulators and now, especially for the sociopathic and deranged amongst us, we have a murder simulator. Brilliant. What we need next is a “how to clean up your murder scene” simulator. Or, you know, we could just watch a few seasons of CSI.
Over the years Jack has set his sights on many other games, including Rockstars Bully, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Manhunt. The man really hates Rockstar games. He also tried to sue Facebook because they didn’t remove the anti Jack Thompson groups; the funniest of them being Jack Thompson should be smacked across the face with an Atari 2600 . Unfortunately though, It seems that Facebook aren’t actually liable for what people do with their service. Hard luck, Jacky boy.
He has become a parody of himself almost to the point where he could actually be a character in some crazy game where he roams around with his lawsuit bazooka and blows the crap out of games developers. It could be called
“Jacked off” – When an anti games activist has failed in every way, there’s only one course of action left; to blow stuff the hell up! Available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Preorder now to get your free copy of “Soundbites that use many words to say nothing”
More recently we had author and psychologist Cooper Lawrence who faced off against Spike TV’s Geoff Keighley and a few biased panelists plus a biased Fox News anchor. We all knew that Geoff wasn’t going to stand a chance and he was lucky to be able to speak as much as they allowed him to. The whole section was more reminiscent of the 18th century British navy kangaroo court than an objective news segment. Here is a video of the laughable discussion about the pornographic content in Mass Effect. Yeah, you heard me right; pornographic content.
Ok so let’s just take a closer look at this. Firstly, the Fox News graphic title of “SexBox” immediately tells us which side their hammer of bias is going to fall. This is not going to be a sensible debate and we shouldn’t be surprised if the panelists each have a bag of rocks to throw at Geoff when the “discussion” is over. I can almost hear John Cleese shouting an edited version of his Life of Brian bit.
“No-one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle, even, and I will make this perfectly clear, even if they do say Mass Effect isn’t pornographic”
The part that struck me the most was when Cooper Lawrence was asked by Geoff if she had ever played the game; a fair question, I’m sure we all agree. Her response to this question was a giggle followed by a resounding “No”. How the hell can she argue about this when she hasn’t even bothered to fully research it by playing it or at least watching someone else play it? I’ve never had much respect for Fox News but this has got to be journalism at its worst. Unsurprisingly that book she plugged at the start was slated by hundreds of angry gamers. They all ranked it lower than low and left some highly amusing comments claiming that they hadn’t bothered to read it but knew for a fact that it was the worst book ever written, one of my favourite quotes being:
Excuse me “Darling”, I guess I don’t have to read your book to bash it the same way you don’t have to play or even research a game you are talking about before you go on Fox News and spout your ignorance as fact. You are a moron and an attention [expletive deleted].
Touché, angry gamer. Touché.
It wasn’t long before Cooper issued an official apology and claimed that;
I recognize that I misspoke. I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke. Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography. But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.
Look out JJ Abrams, you might be next on her “to burn” list.
Meanwhile, BioWare CEO Ray Muzyka had this to say:
We’re hurt. We believe in video games as an art form, and on behalf of the 120 people who poured their blood and tears into this game over three years, we’re just really hurt that someone would misrepresent the game without even playing it. All we can hope for is that people who actually play our games will see the truth.
Well I did see the truth, Mr Muzyka. The scene in question is extremely tame.
Nowadays, we have pop psychologist Carole Liebernam taking up the rabid idiot, sorry, anti games activist mantle with her wild claims that games such as the recent Bulletstorm by Epic Games can be blamed for increasing sexual assault cases. Well, I played the demo of Bulletstorm and I have to say that the last thing I wanted to do was “get my rape on”. I really don’t even understand how that specific game can coax anyone into a rape situation. Firstly, it doesn’t contain any rape and secondly I don’t remember any of the characters talking about rape and definitely not advocating rape. Perhaps there is something in the game that only she can hear – you know, like a dog whistle’s effect on dogs.
She had this to say about her original statement:
My FoxNews.com statements were taken out of context and made to sound more inflammatory than they were meant. Nonetheless, I stand behind my view that media violence, and particularly videogame violence is harmful.
Thousands of studies have shown that the more violent media a person consumes, the more desensitized to violence and the more aggressive they become.
When this violence is sexualized it is even more stimulating. And rape is a violent crime. Furthermore, research has shown that, not only do people become more aggressive in a general sense, but they also act out copycat violence in response to behaviors seen in movies, TV shows, and video games.
There’s that mantra again, “thousands of studies”. This is us (the unwashed and apparently uneducated masses) being told that she has irrefutable proof that she is right and we, the more sensible and objective people are wrong. The fact is that there aren’t thousands of studies on this. These claims are based on a very small group of researchers who follow a very limited method of research. Of the 300 studies they represent (thanks Google) not a single one of them has discovered inconclusive evidence that games make people violent. It is all conjecture intended to convince us by using scientific buzz words mixed with emotive language. The findings showed that it was more a case of aggressive people liking aggressive games, which means that these subjects were already aggressive and the game itself could be a very healthy outlet for that aggression. The general consensus is that video games may be one small risk factor but only when coupled with unsavoury real life situations and possible abuse. There is absolutely no research that has found video games to be a primary factor or that playing violent games can singlehandedly turn someone into a killer.
I think it’s safe to say that Lieberman is just another dime a dozen pop psychologist playing the rape card with no actual evidence to back up her outlandish claptrap.
Games have age ratings for a reason; because some of them contain content that is unsuitable for little Timmy to see. As games become more and more cinematic and graphics more ultra realistic then those ratings are more important than ever. I have seen kids pester their parents for the latest Call of Duty game and I have also seen those parents have the purchase denied because the salesperson knew it was for the little kid and not for the parent paying for it. It is true though that kids do get hold of these games be it from their parents going to the store alone or ordering it online or even stealing it from older siblings, whatever the reason, too many kids get their grubby mitts on games with mature themes.
We know this is fact because we’ve all heard their girly screaming through our headphones on Xbox LIVE and PSN, you know who I’m talking about, they have screechy little voices that are as high as their balls. It’s difficult not to laugh when they inevitably threaten to kill your Grandmother and have sex with your Mother just because you killed their character with a well placed headshot. There’s no doubt that most of these kids have serious anger issues and should not be playing games like Modern Warfare 2 or Black Ops. My opinion is slightly selfish though because if they weren’t playing Call of Duty then perhaps those of us who are grown up would have more fun when playing online.
The truth of the matter is that it’s plain old good parenting to make sure you don’t buy these games for your under the required age children and it’s also the parents’ responsibility to know what their kids are playing. You wouldn’t buy your kid a chainsaw and Jason Vorhees mask or an AK47 so why buy them games that are inappropriate for their age bracket?
Here’s a video to give it some perspective.
That’s all for this week. I hope that this makes you think about and discuss the subject on our forums.
Join me next week when I’ll be discussing the image of gaming.