In today's world, violence is becoming an ever-growing theme. In movies, on television, and now becoming increasingly prevalent in videogames, violence has become an interaction in many people's everyday lives. While television and theaters may be too hard to enforce, violence in videogames needs to stop sooner than later in many families home. Researchers now believe that violent electronic games have a far greater impact than violence on television (such as the Sopranos), because of their interactive nature (Berner, 58).
First-person shooter games place weapons and fate (kill or be killed) of the characters into the hands of the players. In my experience of playing first person shooter games, the only objects visible to me on the screen is the weapon I am holding, and what ever is in front of that. I cannot even see my character; merely only the objects you are trying to destroy, along with the size of your weapon. This tells me game developers are no longer worried about what a character should look like.
They are focusing on the detail of the effects of the weapon on different objects. Eugene Proven zo, education professor at the University of Miami, has said the whole lesson of these types of games is learning how to kill- and kill very efficiently at that (Berner, 58). John Murray, a child psychologist at Kansas State University, has been studying the effects of violence on television for the last thirty years (Berner, 58). He claims to have evidence beyond reasonable doubt that game violence can cause aggression and fear in children, and possibly even adults (Berner, 58).
210 college students were rated based on aggressive reaction and hostility, both during and after playing a blatantly violent videogame (Wolfenstein 3 D) (Time 100). Researchers noticed an increase in hostility and aggressive reaction of more than 142 students (68%) (Time 100). In another survey, 227 other college students were polled based on previous playing (Time 100). Increased delinquency was found among those whom played violent games during high school (Time 100). Doom is a very popular game now, and has been for about a decade.
Making its first appearance on the PC, Doom is one of those first-person shooter games I mentioned about. It is currently on such consoles as Nintendo 64, playstation, and Nintendo game cube. Doom is one of the most violent games out on the market today, next to Grand Theft Auto Three (in which you work for the mafia and get paid to steal cars and murder other mob bosses in a town infested with crime and unorthodox police). Featured in Doom are naked women standing tied to pillars in a dungeon from which they cannot escape, begging you to shoot them and end their misery (Berner, 58).
Slaying them lets you advance in the game, and it's the kind of violence that most ten year-olds parents should be shielding from the child's eyes (Berner, 58). Sued in 1999 for a connection with a 1997 school shooting in Paducah, Kentucky (Veenker 21), Doom is currently used by the United States military (Dickenson 100). It is a modified version used to train soldiers because the killing skills taught are so effective (Dickenson 100). In the tragedy in Columbine, Colorado, both of the teenage killers were avid players of Doom, as written in their diary (Dickenson 100). The latest versions of Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Half-Life, all feature extremely realistic sound effects of guns (down to the exact type), and / or graphic depictions of violence (Dickenson 100). We can guess the nature of the violence just by looking at the game title name's themselves.
In each of these games, limbs getting blown off and organs getting splattered on the screen seem to be a central theme (Dickenson 100). The games are connecting kids to a fantasy world in which the most vicious killers are the winners (Dickenson 100). In Mortal Kombat, players have the choice to either decapitate their opponent, or rip out the heart (Veenker 21). Like Doom, Mortal Kombat has been popular for a while now, but has been heavily criticized by educators and child psychologists, for its content and suspected role in promoting violent acts (Dickenson 100).
Christians are doing their part by campaigning against graphic videogame violence. Specifically, against the Chicago Planning Department, who's giving a 2.2 million dollar economic grant to Midway, who is the manufacturer of Mortal Kombat and other violent games (such as NFL Blitz, which is football with absolutely no rules) (Veenker 21). Mervin Stoltzfues, director of CPT (Christian Peacemaking Teams), claims games that are focusing on killing raises kids who think it is not wrong to kill (Veenker 21). His organization's position on violent videogames is backed by Arnold Goldstein, director of the Center of Research and Aggression at the University of Syracuse (Veenker 21). "Playing violent videogames legitimizes and makes violent behavior acceptable", says Goldstein (Veenker 21). CPT has published a pamphlet including tips for planning a protest and other educational resources about games (Veenker 21).
Their members say public money should not go to companies selling violent games and toys to children (Veenker 21). Stoltzfues claims that if just 500 congregations across America would be willing to make protests against violent games a ministry focus, everyone would see a tremendous change in game sales, manufacturing, and developing (Veenker 21). The Mennonite Central Committee has sponsored the Games Project, which is dedicated to rating violence and horror in videogames, as well as recommending games that promote education, creativity, and skill (Veenker 21). There are other gripes opposing retailers. James Ryan, Illinois Attorney General, has asked distributors to halt on the sales of these violent games to under-age children, after sending out these younger kids to prove the willingness of major chains (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) to sell to those under 17 years of age (Berner, 58). On May 23, 2000, nine U.S. senators faxed letters to these companies and others such as Best Buy and Circuit City, demanding similar sales restrictions (Berner, 58).
A few days later, Sears and Roebuck and Company pulled M-rated (Mature) games off the shelves, saying it was too hard to ensure children would not get access to them (Berner, 58). This shows that some of the campaigning has given modest results. However, Wal-mart, Circuit City, and Best Buy all argue that it is up to the parents to control their kids (Berner, 58). While these stores can educate consumers about the ratings, it is not their goal to replace the parents (Berner, 58). I personally do not see why these retailers continue to sell to under-age kids. According to Interactive Digital Association, of the six billion dollars in total income last year from games, only ten percent were to kids and only a fraction of these games were M-rated (Berner, 58).
So, not only is it morally wrong to sell to under-age kids, it's bad business. Since just ten percent were kids, there isn't much downside to complying to regulations. Plus, these stores do risk onerous regulations at state and federal levels by not conforming to reasonable rules (Berner, 58). At Game Works (an entertainment center such as Chucky Cheese), consumers have the option to have a regular card or a V-card (web). The regular card allows access to all games, while the V-card limits access to only non-violent games (web). This offers adults the choice to limit their child's exposure to something deemed as violent.
The regular card doesn't demand a certain age, but it offers parents a chance to come to Game Works with their child (which most parents do) and not worry about their son or daughter viewing graphic depictions of violence (web). Of course there are other options than just buying violent games. For kids that like action and strategy in a game that doesn't involve the splattering of body parts, there are games such as Donkey Kong 64 and Crash Team Racing (Dickenson 100). These are low-level rated games that offer much excitement, usually more than the gruesome games.
According to Francis Mao, vice president of Gamepro Magazine, Chu Chu Rocket (with a family rating) has even the Doom fanatics at the magazine hooked (Dickenson 100). You sometimes also have to look past the titles. For example, Shogun: Total War (on playstation) is more about real strategy than actual sword fighting and war (Dickenson 100). But like Best Buy and other retailers argue, the problem may not be in the ratings, but in the parents.
Gloria DeGaetano says the first goal should be to educate parents about the effects of violent video games on their children (web). DeGaetano, co-author of "Stop teaching our kids to kill", says buying a gaming system when kids reach their teens is a big difference as compared to buying one at an earlier age (web). She says that trouble begins when the children are very young and playing violent videogames, before they can develop the analytical ability to understand the context of violent acts in the games (web). If kid's play violent games before they fully understand the difference of right and wrong, they may think something they did on a screen is right and should be done in their lives. Working in the area for the past decade (especially with more advanced video game technology), DeGaetano claims that children who start playing violent video games as teens ultimately end up preferring the more sport-oriented games, over first-person shooter games (web). So, the solution isn't having stricter rating systems, but rather a stricter system in marketing to children (web).
The government regulates tobacco advertising, why can't it do the same for video games (web)? But, the best solution is having stricter parenting, which could never be replaced by regulations and ratings (web). DeGaetano suggests renting a system or console and doing sampling (actually playing the games with the child) before buying the whole package (web). Also, there are plenty of non-violent games.
She suggests drawing a line somewhere, because this could help your child fit in with peers playing the same types of non-violent videogames (web). She also suggests that if your child is already hooked, try replacing some playing time with other fun activities that the child enjoys (web). The AMA (American Medical Association) suggests that parents are growing increasingly concerned with violent games (Veenker 21). In 1997 (before recent school shootings), 81% of parents said computer games for children need higher standards of violence regulation (Veenker 21). A suggestion is that the family should keep the PC and other gaming consoles in a public place in the home (web).
This way, parents can pay close attention to games commanding kids attention's (web). Parents should also read every game's box before purchasing. Look carefully for an A (adult) or M (mature) rating, or descriptions such as "extremely graphic violence" (web). Also, the Entertainment Software Rating Board's website contains helpful ratings of many, but not all, video, computer, and online games (Dickenson 100). For now, I think retailers should set an example because when most electronic game sales migrate to the internet (which I think they will eventually do), rating enforcement will be much more difficult. And soon, it will be hard to keep fantasy from reality as games come closer and closer to becoming motion-picture quality.
The more real these games appear, the more easier it becomes for kids to believe in them. Berner, R. "Want a Gory Game? Let's See Some I.D". Business Week June 2000 p. 58 Dickenson, A. "Violence in Video Games". Time May 2000 vol. 155 no. 19 p. 100 Game Works card will keep kids out of violent videogames. Online.
Internet. 14 Oct. 1999. Available HTTP: web Parents should take the first step. Online. Internet. 2 Nov. 1999.
Available HTTP: web Veenker, J. "Christian Campaigning". Christianity Today Mar. 2000 vol. 144 no. 3 p. 21.