Tag Archives: violence

Because These Things Are Totally Related…

Kotaku has another TOTALLY REASONABLE response from Fox News about violence and video games. This time courtesy of Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I’ve already written about my thoughts on this topic before; but nonetheless this still never ceases to amaze me…




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Atari to Xbox – A Dad’s Journey or “Why Halo is Fine by Me”

For me, edging close to thirty and he, being in his fifties, my dad and I get along quite a bit.  Some would argue too well; as we both have a penchant for being a complete smart-asses.  Nonetheless, he and I have always had a strong relationship.  Thus, it’s not that surprising that he has an opinion on this whole, “violent games” thing.  This might be because he bankrolled my early exploits, or he has a pretty good head on his shoulders with some good ideas.  He recently emailed me his thoughts on the matter, and what follows are one dad’s perspective on the argument.  I hope you enjoy….

Before you talk about the evils of video games and how they hurt our kids, maybe you should listen to my story.

     My first and only video game “console” was an Atari 2600™.  Every “console” that came after that was not mine, it was my son’s.  His first “console” for his third birthday was an NES.  I wanted the best for him and he had mastered my Atari 2600™ games and it was time to move forward.  The NES™ was followed by the Super Nintendo™, Game Boy™ and the Nintendo 64™.  However, I couldn’t be satisfied…I mean HE couldn’t be satisfied with just one console.  So, it was 1995 and my son wanted a PlayStation™.  It was important. It was great father-son bonding time to sit on the couch and play video games; I mean sometimes he would even let me win; it was quality time.  

     My son quickly learned that the more buttons on the controller, the lower the odds of dad winning the game; which is why I felt we should only play racing games.  Steer, gas and brake; I could handle that. I was an adult, I had a driver’s license and had been driving for years.  Yet, even on the driving games, he beat me like a drum; except when he would stop on the track and let me pass just before I wrecked crossing the finish line.  First person shooters were completely beyond me: what do I push to walk, run, jump, look left, look up or even how do I aim the gun?  But for my son, these things were all second nature.  Fighting games were again beyond what I could do; with their need to press X,X, O, ∆ to do the super move and take down the opponent. In those moments how I longed for my 2600 joystick with just one button.  

     I will admit we did share more quality time “father-son bonding” as we would play through all the characters in Soul Caliber, Tekken, Street Fighter, or what have you.  I would start in the upper left hand corner of the character screen and he would start in the lower right and we would fight until we had gone through all the characters.  I was a button masher and he was a tactician, and sometimes I got lucky and hit the buttons fast enough in the right sequence and would pull of the super move.  We bonded, we laughed, it was good.  

    He continued to play more and we moved on to the PlayStation 2™ and eventually to an X-box™.  In Halo™ I was the “Old Man” and I learned about spawn killing the hard way.  I don’t know, was I a bad dad?  Should I have allowed my son to spend so much time on video games?  Should I have allowed his friends over to play well into the night and supplied them with pizza and Cokes?  I knew his friends (they never let the “Old Man” win), they knew me, I know they didn’t get into drugs and I know they are all doing well as well-adjusted young adults; many with kids of their own now.  In the end, maybe I didn’t do too bad and maybe it is HOW you play the game, and how you see it.  It’s bonding time…

Whenever I’m able to visit my folks, I always try to make sure that my dad and I find time to do a race together.  Recently, it was Split/Second,  as our inner middle-schoolers were delighted to be bringing down buildings as we circled along the track.  For the longest time it was Hot Pursuit 2, where we’d claim that the Opal Speedster was the greatest car in video game history.  I don’t get to see the family all that often, which is why those small moments of stupid fun seem to reverberate through my own personal memory.  The more I consider it all, the more I believe that in some small way, my father stumbled onto part of the answer to this “violent media” issue.

He simply took enough time to care what I was doing…

There have been so many times where I have seen parents take no interest in what their own children care about; take no interest in the content or substance of what their kid is putting into their head.  It makes no difference if it is Mario or Grand Theft Auto as long as it is occupying them just a little bit longer.  There is no problem with kid playing a violent or “adult” game; the problem is when the parent doesn’t care and has no clue what their child is playing.  For my friends and myself, there was never once that our parents didn’t know what “nonsense” we were putting into our heads.  They could talk Halo strategy, Final Fantasy spells, and Risk tactics along with all of us; all because they took a vested interest in what their kids found fun.  We all played violent games, we all shot fireworks at each other, and we all turned out relatively well adjusted.

 Obviously, not everybody has a solid family life; and there will never be one definitive answer to this sort of issue.  Yet, every little bit of what we can offer in the way of solutions can only help.  We live in a world that is coming together more and more because of technology, yet it is that same technology that insulates us from each other on occasion.  So, if you’re a parent reading this, talk to your kids tonight.  Find out WHY they play what they play; what’s in it, and what makes that so damn fun for them.  You’ll probably learn something, and if you’re lucky, find something that you can share with them.


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A Fight Worth Having?

There have been a lot of things to write on in the last couple of weeks; THQ’s closing and requisite sell-off, the Ni-No Kuni Special Edition mishandling, and even Sony saying that they will let Microsoft make the first move when it comes to announcing their next-gen slate.  Yet, the one that has seemingly resonated across all forms of media is the continued debate on violent games.  It has been well publicized that Vice President Biden met with the leaders of the industry, and that there is now a bill in Congress that is set to study the effects of violent media (including video games) on children. This is all well and good and, in fact, can probably benefit all in the industry, but the question still remains, “Is this the right answer?”

The video game industry has already been through some of this before.  The California law that went to the Supreme Court was shot down, with the Court stating that video games were protected under the first amendment as free speech.  Going even further back; the creation of the ESRB was a result of pressure from Congress for similar reasons.  This is the same old song and dance that has gone around before, yet it seems that this time there is a much more solid push for “something” to be done now.

The industry is not alone in this.  Both Hollywood and the comics industry have gone through similar proceedings.  Hollywood’s torrid history led them to the Motion Picture Production Code, and forebear to the modern MPAA; and comics had the Comics Code Authority; though by 2011, all the major publishers had abandoned it. Media, it seems, always has to fight for its first amendment rights.  Nonetheless, neither movies nor comics are regulated by the government.  Both are self regulated by non-biased agencies, and neither of them are seemingly, “on the hook,” in this current debate.  People seem to understand what a rated R movie is, and comics and their readers have grown up to know Spider-man is for kids and Kick-Ass is not. So why are video games held to a different standard?

As with most problems in the world, ignorance is the answer.  When you hear the phrase, “video game,” most people instantly think of children, Tetris, and other harmless cliches.  The fact is, like all art forms, the medium has grown up.  Not all “games” are for kids anymore.  There are whole genres out there that didn’t exist twenty years ago, and all are expressing something worth saying. It’s art, and not all art is for the young.

This has come to clash with most parental conceptions of their child’s hobby.  There have been many times I have been at the local game store and just heard a parent brush off the clerk as he (or she) tried to explain how Grand Theft Auto might not be for their eight year old, only to be told something along the lines of, “they see that stuff everywhere.”  My personal favorite was when someone was buying Far Cry 3 and the clerk told the parent that there was, “intense violence, nudity, and a graphic sex scene,” and the parent responded with, “is there language?” The clerk was taken aback, especially when the parent said that all that would be fine, as long as there was no swearing in the game.  Occasionally you see the parent of some child actually not buying the game once they find out what is in it, but generally speaking parents have no idea what their child is playing, and just don’t care because it is simply that, “a game.”

In so many of the tragic stories we hear where video games are blamed, you hear the same sound byte from the parents, “I didn’t know what they were playing or that it would affect them…”  Why are games being attacked when it seems that those buying them have no idea what they are doing?  We don’t need new legislation on violent games, we need new ways to educate the modern parent on what video games are now; and get them invested in what their kids are playing.  Legislation would not solve the problem; and one could argue, wouldn’t change a thing.  [Parents would still buy the M rated games for the kids, and the games would still be blamed]  Yet, if we go after the root of the issue; and look at the parental involvement, greater change has the chance the take place.

The most difficult part in all of this is the fact you can’t legislate or control parents.  They will do what they always do, and how much they involve themselves in their child’s life is their own choice.  That’s what makes going after the video game industry so appealing; it’s the easy answer.  If you can’t change behaviors, just stop the product.  It’s similar to an alcoholic trying to shut down the liquor industry; its not actually solving the problem and confronting the real issue. Yet that is where we seem to find ourselves now.

Mentioned earlier, the Comics Code was created to monitor the comics industry for years, after the book Seduction of the Innocent was written, condemning the medium to destroying the minds and hearts of young ones.  At the time, people were scared of the influence this blossoming art form was having on the young, so instead of taking on responsibility the Code did it for them.  It forced comics to redefine all that they were and what they could show and offer in their pages.  Succinctly, it is the reason that the modern superhero exists.  Crime, horror, and other types of stories could no longer be written, so the all american superhero was created to fill the void.  It wasn’t until the publishers abandoned it many years later that creativity was able to spring up again, and we see stories like Fables, Hellboy, Fatale, and many more be born.  We lost years of amazing stories because of the backlash of fear mongering and uneducated individuals.  To be blunt, we cannot let this happen again.

Games like The Walking Dead, Spec-Ops, LA Noire all have a place in this world.  Games can tell a story, teach a lesson, give a message, and be emotionally moving; and should be allowed to do so.  I would hate to live in a world where all we had was Mario and Tetris; yet that is a distinct possibility of where this legislation could lead us; albeit in a worse case scenario.  We have come so far and live in such an amazing time to see all this change and growth happen around us.  We should not sit idly by and let the first amendment be forgotten by a generation that does not understand the medium they wish to monitor.

Colin Moriarty of IGN has gone on the record saying that he wants this fight to happen; for there to be a first amendment showdown. I believe he is right.  The sooner we can put all of this behind us, the sooner we can get back to the art of making great games, and new experiences.  Let them come; torches ablaze, seeking the monster; and in turn, let’s show them that the monster doesn’t exist.  It’s education we need, not legislation; and we’ll all be better off if we can agree on that.

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“All you’re focusing on right now is gun control…What about the violence in our video games? You and I both have children. We don’t allow those games into our house. We’ve made that decision because we think it desensitizes our children to the real effects of violence.”

Gov. Christie of NJ on the violent games debate

Speaking of Shots Being Fired

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