Violent Video Games

I recently read an article by the Physicians for Global Survival entitled Video Games that Promote Positive Social Change (pdf). The beginning of the article denounces violent video games, but then list several games the author believes “educate youth about some of the most pressing social ills around the globe. Such games can serve as effective tools in educating our youth about ways in which they can bring about positive social change.”

The title and aim of the article sound great enough, but I strongly disagree with some of the claims the author makes.

In the first paragraph, the author states,

“A vast amount of empirical evidence exists in support of what many feared (and knew) true for some time: a positive correlation exists between playing violent video games and real-world aggressive behaviour.”

The author then goes on say,

“Violent video games do not positively contribute to youth development and socialization. Instead, such games normalize violence as a common and acceptable option for dealing with conflict. Additionally, such games desensitize viewers to violence, undermining feelings of concern and empathy for victims and increases aggressive/violent behaviour.”

I don’t think that “games normalize violence as a common and acceptable option for dealing with conflict.” Also, it is incorrect that “a positive correlation exists between playing violent video games and real-world aggressive behaviour.”

There is a clear trend that since becoming mainstream, as video games increase in popularity, teen violence has decreased. This means that games are not contributing to violence as a common and acceptable way to deal with conflict.

I also think that games do positively contribute to socialization when the gamer is not overly obsessed with the game. A lot of games involve multiple people playing and require teamwork and verbal communication to develop strategies and work through problems.

I could continue picking apart this article—the people who wrote it are clearly bias. However, some of the games they recommend in the end are  similar to the kind of games I’m interested in creating, although I want to wrap my games in a package a hardcore gamer would like. A lot of the games they list are overtly trying to push ideas into gamers heads, and thus are bound to push typical gamers away.

One game mentioned that I find interesting is “Darfur is Dying,” where “the player, from the perspective of a displaced Darfurian, must negotiate forces that threaten the survival or his/her refugee camp. Players must rebuild a village while having to make periodic trips to forage for water, while at the same time, avoid capture by Janjaweed militias.”

But while “Dafur is Dying” sounds interesting, the premise to “September 12th,” is something I think could be adapted to a game a hardcore gamer would like.

“Throughout this game, players are encouraged to consider various aspects of the ‘war on terror’. Players hunt down terrorists but soon learn that in doing so, collateral damage is unavoidable. Additionally, players soon learn that the killing of a terrorists results in the emergence of additional terrorist threats, eventually filling the city streets.”

That’s the kind of game I want to create. If created tactfully, it could please both gamers and critics, although it would not be my goal to please the latter.

In the end, violent video games are meant for mature, not kids. Organizations such as Physicians for Global Survival need to focus on keeping games meant for mature audiences out of the hands of kids instead of denouncing the games all together.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 7th, 2009 at 12:50 pm and is filed under Video Games. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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