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On Realism and Virtual Murder 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the joyride-down-a-slippery-slope dept.
Gamasutra has an interesting article about how the push toward realistic graphics and extremely lifelike characters in modern games is making the term "murder simulator" — once laughed off for referring to pixelated dying Nazis — a concept to take more seriously. The author is careful to simply explore the issue, and not come to a specific conclusion; he doesn't say that we should or shouldn't prevent it from happening, only that it's worth consideration. (One section is even titled "Forget the kids," saying that decisions for what children play fall under parental responsibility.) Quoting: "We should start rethinking these issues now before we all slide down the slope together and can't pull ourselves back up again. Or, even worse, before governments step in and dictate what can and can't be depicted or simulated in video games via legislation. ... Obviously, what makes an acceptable game play experience for each player is a personal choice that should be judged on a person-by-person basis (or on a parent to child basis), and I believe it should stay that way. As for me, I'm already drawing the line at BioShock — I can barely stomach the game as it is. Sure, I could play it more and desensitize myself, but I don't want to. And that's just me. It's up to you and a million other adult gamers to decide what's best for yourselves and to draw the line on virtual violence where you feel most comfortable."
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On Realism and Virtual Murder

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  • Relevant quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @01:48AM (#28538949) Journal
    Relevant quote that I saw on the bottom of slashdot a few days ago, this from Alfred Hitchcock:

    TV has brought murder back into the home, where it belongs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797)

      TV has brought murder back into the home, where it belongs.

      I watched Die Hard IV again last week, and there is a relevant scene at the beginning of the movie. One nerd is playing a violent video game while another was doing something with his PC in the same room. His monitor started getting flakey, and he demanded that the other guy keep his hands off. He hits "delete" and the house explodes; the bad guys had filled his computer with C-4 and rigged it to explode when the delete key was pressed.

      It was almost

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @01:53AM (#28538971) Journal

    Sorry but this is very very silly.

    We've had violent games and movies for a long time now. Take a look at the blood and gore in horror films. It currently does and will continue to outdo any realism a game can provide for some time to come.

    Take a look at games where we play murderers. How to host a murder/murder mystery nights. What are you going to do next. Ban Murder She Wrote because some idiot might decide to copy one of the murders?

    The solution is simple. You need to educate children about the difference between fiction and reality. It's really not that hard.

    Will there be people who copy the fiction and commit murder? Sure. They're mentally unstable and would find some other reason to do it anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fractoid (1076465)
      OK, imagine that it's 2050 and computers can create seamless virtual realities that we have trouble telling apart from 'real' life. Imagine that your friend buys a new game, "Virtual How-to-host-a-murder 2050", and spends the next month solid playing it. It's very realistic, you go through endless scenarios where someone in the dinner party gets bludgeoned - except that in this game, it actually happens, and your friend is acting out beating someone to death with a lead pipe in the Conservatory. Over, and o
      • by lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:42AM (#28539247)
        if that voice is not strong, then you have a problem well before playing a violent game. it's not like full metal jacket had such an impact...
        also, stop pursuing thought crime or thinking that blurring reality and simulation will make criminals out of people, that happens only when you have a strong predisposition towards violence and crime, and happen in the same way it would happen trough alcohol or drugs.

        it's not good when everyone is punished for the fault of a small group of people, when that happens the society as a whole fails.
        • by fractoid (1076465)
          Sorry, the point I was trying to make was that the injunction stopping the friend from carrying out the murder grows successively weaker with each ultra-realistic simulated murder, to the point where when the opportunity arises, he's already desensitised himself to it. Other posts here have mentioned operant conditioning, and while it's incomplete as a theory it does explain this quite well.

          And I guess I must have stepped on someone's toes, I'm getting -1 Overrated mods. :P
          • by gullevek (174152) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @03:15AM (#28539385) Homepage Journal

            No it does not, because a simulation is still a simulation, as real it might be. If he would only play such a game, never go out, never leave his house, never communicate with anyone. Well if that happens now or in 50 years, such people who might loose the grip of reality, loose it anyway.

          • by 1u3hr (530656) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @04:20AM (#28539681)
            the injunction stopping the friend from carrying out the murder grows successively weaker with each ultra-realistic simulated murder...

            And you know this for a fact? From watching Star Trek episodes about Holodecks, perhaps? Jack Thompson's newsletter? Please cite a source for this claim. Especially as no such "ULTRA REALISTIC" murder simulator exsts, or is likely to for some decades, until you can "jack in" like in Neuromancer. It's still a VIDEO SCREEN, not REALITY. If someone can't tell the difference, they need psychiatric help.

          • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @09:26AM (#28541347)

            Sorry, the point I was trying to make was that the injunction stopping the friend from carrying out the murder grows successively weaker with each ultra-realistic simulated murder

            No, the point you were trying to make is that for some inexplicable reason you believe that. You've given no evidence, no arguments, nothing. You've just said, "Hey, it just makes sense to me that..."

            If you have any evidence whatsoever that repeated exposure to simulated murder makes a statistically significant difference to people's willingness to actually commit murder, please present it. Otherwise, state your opinion as an opinion, unsupported, anti-empirical and baseless as it is.

            You're aware--since you have an opinion on this issue and it would be unethical to form such an opinion without doing at least a little research on the matter--that there is a very significant correlation between easy availability of pornography and a large decrease in the incidence of rape (http://www.impactlab.com/2008/01/06/internet-porn-shown-to-decrease-incidence-of-rape/)? (curiously if you google "rape decrease pornography" the machine kindly asks you if you meant "rape INCREASE pornography", so deeply embedded is the "it just makes sense to me" in our culture.) The detailed structure of this correlation in time and space makes it pretty compelling that the link is causal: would-be rapists are using pornography as a surrogate for actually committing rape, rather than a training manual as a certain bunch of anti-empiricists want to believe.

            Plausibly, the same phenomena could apply to other crimes of violence, and I believe there is some evidence to show that people who play violent video games are less likely to commit violent crimes. Oh look, here's Google again: http://www.livescience.com/health/070425_bad_video.html [livescience.com]. Please note that finding someone who has committed a violent crime and then pointing to his use of violent video games for entertainment does not increase the Bayesian plausibility of the statement "people who play violent video games are more likely to commit violent crimes" one tiny bit.

            So again: when you have something beyond your imagination to support your position, please share it.

        • by pugugly (152978) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @03:26AM (#28539425)

          I have two impulses.

          I) All thought provoking coffee house conversation aside, we have moved from a more violent culture to a less-violent one, all despite Poe, Hitchcock, NCIS, Grand Theft Auto, or anything else. Anyone that wants to compare modern society (I will except the horrors of war and other automated grand-scale killing here) level of violence with that of the Old west, or even the old East - before the Civil War a congressman bludgeoned an anti-slavery advocate to a pulp on the floor of the house of Representatives.

          Today we argue about the jokes David Letterman made about a woman.

          The trend is fairly obvious.

          II) Then there's the flip side. I know I play games where I get to be the Hero - when I 'kill' in Morrowind, I'm fighting an evil that will overtake the land.

          I also hear from the guy that talks on the forum about how he killed the entire population in the game. *THAT* guy is *weird*. And I have to wonder, if he thinks that is fun, *is* he going to feel the same way given something that helps enhance rather than mitigate that kind of 'fun'?

          I don't think either of these is an insane take on the issue, so are they two competing trends, do they cancel out, or do they just mean we're headed towards a largely peaceful world that happens to have very occasional but very violent serial killers?

          Just a thought - Pug

          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @04:22AM (#28539695)

            We have had a steady downward trend of violent crimes in America, and most other industrial nations too, for about 3-4 decades now. Despite the media fear that tries to make it look more dangerous, society is in fact less dangerous. There are less murders, less rapes, less assaults and so on.

            Now this time has been during the video game revolution. This is the time period in which game machines came in to homes and have grown to a massive cultural phenomena. They went from being niche geek things to kids toys to mass entertainment for all ages. All the while, violence has slowly ebbed.

            So, I think its pretty safe to say that no, videogames DON'T lead to an increase in violence in kids or adults. We've had nothing but more and more games out there, and more and more gamers, but we are not seeing an upswing in violence, we see a continual downswing. That tells you that the theory that more games equals more violence is bunk, no matter how you try and spin it.

            I think the problem is that most people who look at this lack any sort of historical perspective, both recent and long term. They seem to think that society is more violent now, and that violence is the exception not the rule. That couldn't be further from the truth. Have a look at Roman history, where blood sport was very popular. You had real fights often to the death for the amusement of the masses.

            Until someone can point me to some real, valid, research that shows that videogames cause more violence I just don't want to hear this BS. It seems every new form of media is cause for people to say "Oh god it'll make everyone so violent." However that never happens. Why should video games be any different?

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by dargaud (518470)

              Have a look at Roman history, where blood sport was very popular. You had real fights often to the death for the amusement of the masses.

              I agree with you overall, but I'm not sure that point is as strong as you think. Take a look at ultimate championship fights or bare knuckle fights or mixed martial arts fights and you'll see most of the contestants end up in the hospital. At the same time roman gladiators were often (OK, not always, many started as slaves) paid professionals who lived and trained together and the fights were probably highly choreographed (like today's WWF 'fights').

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:56AM (#28539311)

        OK, imagine that it's 2050 and computers can create seamless virtual realities that we have trouble telling apart from 'real' life.

        Ok, lost me already. With technology advances, simulations asymptotically approach reality, sure; but 40 years from now it won't be indistinguishable, we'll just be that much better at distinguishing reality. That position's probably controversial among /. futurists, but I'm pretty convinced it's true.

        Another, perhaps less controversial, but also less universally applicable point: very few games sacrifice gameplay for realism. Why would they, just because more realism is possible? I doubt players really want to get out of breath if they walk too fast for too long, feel pain when they stub their toe from a momentary lapse in coordination, or any of a thousand other inconveniences that we accept unthinkingly in RL, because there's no alternative. When it's a simulation, there are alternatives, and I think most games won't be as realistic as they could be, given tech levels. Of course, there probably will be some simulations that do try for realism, and if the friend in question is really into those, your point could remain.

      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @05:42AM (#28540057) Homepage

        OK, imagine that it's 2050 BC. Your friend, Thogg, finds a shiny sharp rock, and spends a month imagining bashing your head in with it so that he can have your cave.

        Not knowing this, you decide to invite him over to your cave to eat some leaves. Halfway through the first handful, the fire goes out.

        How sure are you that Thogg won't bash your skull in? He's been doing it in a photo-real environment for the last month.

        I think it's clear that we should all agree not to use our imaginations, for fear of the consequences.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @06:44AM (#28540303) Journal

        You decided to have an 'IRL' dinner party, and thinking nothing of it you invite your friend.

        That's where the problem is. Would you invite someone who spends his time beating mannequins with a lead pipe pretending to "kill" them in the process ? "Murder simulators" are not interesting because of their murder part, but because they involve an interesting story, tactical and strategical games, etc... I would not invite someone who plays quake during all his free time in a map filled of models of persons he likes just to kill them. It has nothing to do with realism.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LanMan04 (790429)

        Protip: Don't become friends with people who can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

        The guy had a mental problem before playing the game, it just came to light due to the game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      It's not that simple. I assume you are basing this on your personal observations, and not on any controlled study. If you do know of studies, please share them. It will take a while before we know the true effect of violent video games on a person, but studies are starting to trickle in: http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/03/violent_films_and_games_delay_people_from_helping_others.php"> like this one showing people who play violent video games are slower to help people [scienceblogs.com]. There are similar
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Allicorn (175921)

        Fascinating link, ty. Since the study finds some impact from both video games and movies I'd love to see similar work done regarding the effect (or otherwise) of observing news broadcasts and documentaries about violence, written fiction, and "acceptable" actual violent behaviour (hockey, boxing, etc).

        Proving that violent videogames and movies make folks temporarily less likely to aid others might be all the basis lawmakers need to rule in a whole bunch of crazy censorship ideas I'm sure we can all imagine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shoemilk (1008173)

        The studies aren't flawless by any means. For example, in the cinema experiment, it would have been impossible to properly "blind" the researchers to the trials they were conducting - they must always have known whether the film on show was violent or not, and that could have biased their reactions as they timed the helpful behaviour of the film-goers. The delay in helping was also small (although statistically significant). The same applies to the first experiment's differences in whether recruits heard the fight or how serious they thought it was.

        The link you had also didn't mention how they took into the causality and correlation aspects. It seems like it was there in with the tests of people going into the theater, but the link is just a summary and it's too hard to tell if it was really taken into account.

    • This. Until we're in holodecks or getting direct neural stimulation that is utterly indistinguishable from reality the whole thing is a nonissue as the rational mind will simply know the difference between reality and fiction, just like when watching a movie.

    • by srothroc (733160)
      The way I read it, his major concern is that as the person who commits realistic murder, YOU will be affected by the emotional backlash of seeing "someone" suffer as a consequence of your actions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 0123456 (636235)

        The way I read it, his major concern is that as the person who commits realistic murder, YOU will be affected by the emotional backlash of seeing "someone" suffer as a consequence of your actions.

        Which must be a good thing, because it will make non-psychopaths far less likely to murder someone in real life.

        • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:24AM (#28539149) Homepage
          Not if they keep doing it until that emotional backlash subsides and they see "things that look and act exactly like humans" as empty cybernetic shells rather than as people. Because once they start seeing "things that look and act exactly like humans" in that way, they'll see humans like that too. They will become psychopathic.
          • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:48AM (#28539271)

            Not if they keep doing it until that emotional backlash subsides and they see "things that look and act exactly like humans" as empty cybernetic shells rather than as people.

            Except anyone who keeps killing innocent photorealistic VR humans until 'the emotional backlash subsides' was probably a psychopath to begin with.

            You must have a pretty low opinion of your fellow humans if you think that the average person will enjoy realistic in-game killings as opposed to current cartoon-style death.

            You might also want to explain how the average frontline wartime soldier -- you know, someone who's been professionally indoctrinated to kill people and has actually, really, physically killed them for real in real life -- manages not to go on a killing spree after being discharged from the service, yet a kid who's killed a few pixels on a video screen is going to do so?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by interkin3tic (1469267)

              Except anyone who keeps killing innocent photorealistic VR humans until 'the emotional backlash subsides' was probably a psychopath to begin with.

              That doesn't sound as common sense to me as it may to you. I play games where you can kill innocent people and it's realistic. Sometimes I do kill them, there is not much emotional backlash for me, I reason that it's a game and not real. I don't know if it affects me. Could it be causing a slippery slope effect, where in a confrontation I'm more likely to say "This guy is an asshole, not an innocent, so it's okay for me to kill him?"

              I can't think of a way to prove that one way or the other. I don't thin

            • Not exactly (Score:5, Interesting)

              by wanax (46819) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @04:31AM (#28539735)

              You seriously underestimate how easy it is to psychologically indoctrinate a 'normal' person to do all sorts of horrific things. The reason ex-combat soldiers rarely go on killing sprees is the indoctrination is surrounded by discipline... which while it allows them to stop killing when they get home apparently, as we are finding out, has a major psychological cost.

              And even if you doubt the psychological evidence, such as from Milgram and the Stanford prison experiment, do you really think everybody actively involved in the Holocaust, Siberian prison camps, Cultural revolution, Rwandan genocides, Darfur,Bosnia/Serbia, Armenian and Kurdish genocides, My lai, the Killing fields, etc, etc etc were all psychopaths?

              Or just maybe, it's not that hard to desensitize a person towards killing. And if it's done in a non-disciplined setting, especially something like a video game where you get some type of reward for instigating indiscriminate murder, the line will get blurry for quite a few people if they get upset, or are in an emotionally charged situation.

              I think that glibly writing off any possible consequences to 'well, they were psychopaths anyway' ignores both what we know of psychology and history.

              • by moz25 (262020) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @05:41AM (#28540041) Homepage

                If this is your true opinion, then it's no wonder you're running into "glib" attitudes from people who aren't as clueless.

                You mention a number of atrocities that each had *nothing* to do with video games. Instead, they had to do with ethnic tensions, economic inequality, unscrupulous politicians and - most importantly - a populace that believed that blaming everything on scapegoats would solve their problems. It looks like video games are your scapegoat.

                Is there any indication that non-systematic murders are being committed by gamers? No, these are predominantly people with low violence thresholds, no education and a dysfunctional environment.

                The ultimate virtual reality simulator is of course our own mind when we dream. So do you do the same things in real life as in your dreams? Probably not. This is because the mind knows when things are real and when they're not. I myself have never felt the need to hurt a person in real life, yet in GTA4 I went on killing sprees against fleeing civilians, blew up cop cars, hijacked all sorts of vehicles, etc. I imagine it's exactly the same for the many other millions of gamers.

                There is also another major difference: inconvenience to your own person. Even IF you were completely desensitized, you would still know that there will be very negative consequences for you if you commit such acts, particularly pain and loss of freedom.

                You know what desensitizes people? The news. When you keep hearing reports of X people being killed in a suicide attack, do you really have exactly the same feeling of shock as you had, say, 10 years ago? Heck, you can hear a report of hundreds of thousands of people drowning in a flood, followed by a report of how Britney Spears is doing and not lose sleep over it.

                But hey, let's not be "glib" about discounting the dangers of news reporting!

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by QuantumG (50515) *

            empty cybernetic shells rather than as people.

            Or as slashtards?

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:12AM (#28539081) Homepage Journal

      The solution is simple. You need to educate children about the difference between fiction and reality. It's really not that hard.

      Maybe you should RTFA? (Or even RTFS?) The author's whole point is the effect that games have on adults, not on kids. Agree or disagree with his conclusions as you will, but don't argue against a straw man.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032)

      Will there be people who copy the fiction and commit murder? Sure. They're mentally unstable and would find some other reason to do it anyway.

      Got that right. "Hey, let's play Abraham and Isaac! I'll tie you up, and god will stay my hand just before I cut your throat!"

      -jcr

    • You need to educate children about the difference between fiction and reality. It's really not that hard.

      Could we first of all educate our politicians? When I look at the development of legislation concerning "murder games" and "terrorist training games", it seems to me they need it a lot more.

    • by twostix (1277166) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @04:15AM (#28539661)

      Good grief, you people are your own worst enemies aren't you? Perhaps you should try and *at least* read the summary where both the article author AND the submitter went to great pains to make obvious that they're not in favour of banning anything.

      "The solution is simple. You need to educate children about the difference between fiction and reality. It's really not that hard."

      Way to come to THE SAME CONCLUSION AS THE AUTHOR.

      Bloody hell talk about knee jerk reactionaries, did you have that saved in a text file for the next time someone mentioned violence in video games?

      Congrats you're a fanatic...so much for the "rational intellectual" label that everyone around here likes to label themselves as....rational until it comes time to discussing their pet loves...violence in video games and child por..ahem..*Hentai*. Then it's pure foaming at the mouth emotional hubris and leaps of logic that would make the most ardent religious fanatic proud.

      If you can't see the difference between Murder She Wrote and simulating bashing in a childs skull then video games don't stand a chance of remaining unregulated. You hurt more than hinder with such asinine "logic". I mean truly did you think that would convince *anyone* outside of this distorted echo chamber?

    • by pvanheus (186787) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @04:20AM (#28539679)
      Ok so then let's take sexualised violence, a staple of slasher films but also available as "snuff" porn. "Flower of Flesh and Blood" for example involves a woman being drugged and cut apart. Ok, so let's take this to its photorealistic conclusion - a computerised simulation of rape and murder. No problems yet? Is there any point where you'd have a problem? Virtual Nazi concentration camp?

      I think the point of the article is simply this: a) take something you find disturbing b) imagination a perfectly realistic simulation of that thing and then imagine the effect on people. I don't agree with the author that a legal solution is correct in this instance but I do think there are psychological and social issues to be faced here.
  • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @01:55AM (#28538973) Homepage
    The reason we have so much violence in games these days is that in the very early arcade games, that's how things were scored. Mario jumped on goombas for points and self-defence. The aliens in Space Invaders had to die to protect the Earth. That worked, from a gameplay point of view, so we kept going with it, never thinking that in 30 years' time the aliens in Space Invaders would have realistic anatomies and motivations and a family back home who's relying on them to bring Earth's cows back for dinner.

    Which brings us back to the initial point: Why would you WANT to kill that alien? The first games, killing enemies was the moral equivalent of stomping on ants. Sure, they die, but how much actual life experience have they lost? Now the games are increasingly realistic, it's no longer ants we're killing. Sure, there are scenarios (like war games) which people want to re-enact virtually, but games like Manhunt are explicitly designed around killing defenseless strangers. Maybe it's time to put games like that on the same level as rape simulators?
    • by Vectronic (1221470) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:07AM (#28539057)

      The reason we have so much violence in games these days is that in the very early arcade games...

      I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that there is violence in video-games is because in reality we are increasingly less able to do it. 50 years ago, you had an urge to fight, you went to the bar, you wanted excitement, you drove fast, you wanted to explore, you went outside... now-a-days most people don't really have any exciting in their lives, nor are they really allowed to (even Raves, and Concerts are usually "locked down", even sports are tame now), so they look for that visceral experience where they can, in video-games and movies.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        I could be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure that there is violence in video-games is because in reality we are increasingly less able to do it.

        Absolutely: humans are by far the most bad-ass predators on the planet, yet for the last few decades governments have been trying harder and harder to wrap us in cotton wool. It's no surprise that if we're denied an outlet for our natural violence then we'll find one in play.

        What the cotton-wool fanatics seem to miss is that is that violence is not a bad thing so long as it's used in defensively rather than destructively, and that if humans can't play at being violent, they're far more likely to bring viole

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:18AM (#28539113) Homepage Journal

        50 years ago, you had an urge to fight, you went to the bar ... now-a-days most people don't really have any exciting in their lives, nor are they really allowed to

        If you still want a real live bar fight, I guarantee you that you can find a bar that will meet your needs. Probably within walking distance of wherever you happen to live.

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          I *wish* I had a bar within walking distance of where I live. :(

          Ah well, maybe I can start a bar fridge brawl vs my cat. :P
          • Well, if you're really out in the boonies, you might have to drive some distance. But I'm pretty sure there is nowhere in the lower 48 states of the US (except maybe parts of Utah?) where you're more than ten or fifteen minutes from a bar -- half an hour, tops -- and most people are a lot closer than that. And there are some things you can do that are pretty much guaranteed to start a brawl in any bar you're in.

            I'm not recommending this, of course, just noting that it's possible.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              I grew up in rural Massachusetts where I was a half hour drive from a convenience store, never mind a bar. And Massachusetts is relatively compact... I'm sure there are many places where it's much worse.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by skavenger (1219006)
          You should travel more. I live in Arizona and there are plenty of places here and in surrounding states, with neighborhoods (generally ranches), where you need to drive more than an hour to get to the nearest gas station, and further for a bar.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @01:58AM (#28538997) Journal
    From the article:

    Within the next 10-20 years, your virtual victims in Grand Theft Auto 6 could look, sound, and behave exactly like a real human would if you stabbed him in the neck or shot him in the gut. There'd be plenty of blood, screaming, and carnage to go around. You could watch as they bleed to death in agony.

    The funny thing is -- and I'm just guessing -- you wouldn't want to do that in real life to a real human, so why would you want to do that in a video game?

    I think in most people there is a side that actually would want to do that to a real person, sick as it sounds. You probably have that side, even if you haven't recognized it yet. How much do you want to bet Jack Thompson does? There's probably a reason he's so scared of it. I'm not trying to be judgmental, but that's the true reality of life.

    I don't know what playing games like this will do to a person; probably no one knows. But we are going to find out soon, I guess. They aren't going to stop making these games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fractoid (1076465)

      I think in most people there is a side that actually would want to do that to a real person, sick as it sounds. You probably have that side, even if you haven't recognized it yet.

      There IS a side like that, and not just in 'most' people. We're killers, that's why we're here and not the descendants of the Neanderthals that we wiped out.

      However, we're also social animals and we've covered our killer side over with social responsibility and ethics and laws. The problem is that every time we kill, we reinforce the killer side and we weaken the restraints on it. If we're only killing pixellated mushrooms then the effect is minimal. If we're beating some virtual unfortunate's head in wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thiez (1281866)

        > The first time a quest asked me to kill a female human NPC in WoW, I felt distinctly uncomfortable - now, I'm used to it and don't even notice.

        So you're saying violent video games contribute to gender equality? :p

    • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:52AM (#28539285) Homepage

      There will be screaming, but no crying. In GTA or anything similar, there are groans, shrieks, and most of them are a little "overdone" to be comical. A real death is less gory, but far more traumatizing. They would have to plead for their lives, start praying, or simply mutter the name of their child or their mother until their life leaves their body. I think only a very small subset of the population is going to want to see real death simulations.

      Recently I ran over a fox, and I thought it was a small dog so I pulled over and I got out of the car. It was twisting in agony, gushing blood from it's mouth, and I watched it as it died. It tried to get up a few times, the rattling in it's throat grew louder, and I recognized the moment it gave up. That was the most terrifying part to watch, not the actual death at the end, but the moment were it seemed to realize that it's time had run out.

      Death and suffering are something we have a natural aversion to. That's why Shock and Awe was shot from miles away. That's why hamburger arrives in little white styrofoam trays with no pictures of cows on it. That's why we've made it as a species - we've needed each other to survive, so our evolutionary morality led us to the point where we more or less share a similar set of values. And that's why I don't think the simulations will come close to reality, because few people want to see it, and many who think they do will realize that they don't.

      • In 1997, when I was fifteen, I lied about my age so I could beta test Postal. Like any red-blooded American teenage boy, I loved killing virtual guys. Postal went a little too far for me, and I put it down after not too long (well... the beta was also almost impossibly hard). Anyway. Postal's graphics were pretty rudimentary, if I remember right, and it had a way-zoomed-out isometric view. That is to say, the gruesomeness was pretty limited to little pixelated guys (even if dismembered) and splashes of red.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by El_Muerte_TDS (592157)

      From the article
      The funny thing is -- and I'm just guessing -- you wouldn't want to do that in real life to a real human, so why would you want to do that in a video game?

      - Nobody gets actually hurt in the game.
      - There are no savegames in real life, you've only got 1 live.
      - When I turn off the game all carnage will be gone until I start it again, this isn't the case in real life.
      - Not that easy to get a gun in real life (at least, in some countries).
      - A game is not real, that's why you want to do these thin

  • When there is no lines separating what is right from what is wrong, anything goes, but the final choice is made by the buyer (client, visitor, whatever). But once put a line somewhere, limiting the freedom of both producer and client, it always ends putting the wrong things in the right places, or being redefined to be more restrictive, but rarely loosened or removed. The same could happen with most things in internet too. Will the FPS be replaced by FPPS (First Person PhotoShooters)?
  • Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being. This requires the death of a human being, being the ceasation of life. One cannot commit virtual murder.

    Further more, one cannot commit murder against an artificial intelligence or even an alien (at this moment in most countries).

    To confuse 'killing' avatars in an MMO with murder is rediculous, at its best, rendering an avatar useless against the law would be property damage.

    The photorealistic qualities of games do not change the law, or impar

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378)

      Representations mean something. If you know someone that is always playing "Virtual KKK," running around lynching black men and burning crosses in a virtual setting, are you going to say, "oh, he's not a racist, those aren't real people?" No, you're going to make a connection between the representation of a thing and the thing itself.

      While the re-enactment of a murder isn't the same as a murder, no one is saying that it is. What they are saying is that indulgence in the first desensitizes us from our horror

    • If you're going to be pedantic and legalistic, you might want to try proofreading your post before hitting the "Submit" button.

  • False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by another_twilight (585366) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:06AM (#28539049)

    From the article;

    "With each act of violence, a piece of us grows cold, calloused, and uncaring towards the well being of others. Repeat that, and we become slowly desensitized to pain and suffering."

    Perhaps the part of us that finds violence towards an on-screen representation of someone or something, but I have yet to see any evidence that this translates to a callousness towards real people or events. The implication that increasingly realistic graphics are somehow going to cross this divide is neither argued nor proven in this article.

    Games are designed as entertainment. Entertainment is not realistic. No matter what the interface (I will even allow some futuristic neural hookup) there are going to be clues and cues that what you are engaged in is not Real Life. It is this very knowledge that is part of what makes games enjoyable. We are freed of the normal consequences of our actions, free to explore a new environment, to discover the rules of cause-and-effect and to enjoy the difference between these and the world we normally live in.

    Perhaps when we have the tech to seamlessly mimic reality there may grow a market for entertainment that deliberately blurs the line between Real and Game, but that relies on both an increase in technical realism and a deliberate move away from what makes a game a game.

    Perhaps the author has forgotten what it means to play.

    • Re:False premise (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Macgrrl (762836) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:21AM (#28539135)

      "With each act of violence, a piece of us grows cold, calloused, and uncaring towards the well being of others. Repeat that, and we become slowly desensitized to pain and suffering."

      Good thing I don't need to kill animals for food then, imagaine how much damage that would do to the psyche as opposed to the detatchment we get from buying meat vaccuum sealed at the supermarket.

      It's not that long ago in terms of human history that death was far more familiar to everyone, we killed for food, people were born and died at home, wars broke out far more frequently and we most likely on your doorstep, life in general was far more girtty and voilent on a daily basis.

      Oddly enough the average 'man in the street' didn't turn into a serial killer through simple exposure to all this banal violence. Maybe that was the difference, the banality of it all. Why do we believe the exposure to fantasy violence will be so damaging when exposure to real violence typically wasn't?

      There are still people in our communities who are exposed to massive violence on a daily basis - slaughtermen, emergency services personnel, etc... Do they have a higher than average likelihood to commit violent crimes?

      There are times I think this is all a beat up for someones honours thesis.

      • by genner (694963)

        "With each act of violence, a piece of us grows cold, calloused, and uncaring towards the well being of others. Repeat that, and we become slowly desensitized to pain and suffering."

        Good thing I don't need to kill animals for food then, imagaine how much damage that would do to the psyche as opposed to the detatchment we get from buying meat vaccuum sealed at the supermarket.

        It's not that long ago in terms of human history that death was far more familiar to everyone, we killed for food, people were born and died at home, wars broke out far more frequently and we most likely on your doorstep, life in general was far more girtty and voilent on a daily basis.

        Oddly enough the average 'man in the street' didn't turn into a serial killer through simple exposure to all this banal violence. Maybe that was the difference, the banality of it all. Why do we believe the exposure to fantasy violence will be so damaging when exposure to real violence typically wasn't?

        There are still people in our communities who are exposed to massive violence on a daily basis - slaughtermen, emergency services personnel, etc... Do they have a higher than average likelihood to commit violent crimes?

        There are times I think this is all a beat up for someones honours thesis.

        While video game violence is debatable exposure to real violence does have dramtic consequences on some people.
        You never heard of post traumatic stress disorder?

    • by palndrumm (416336) *

      I have yet to see any evidence that this translates to a callousness towards real people or events.

      Read the article linked to in this comment above [slashdot.org]. While it's by no means conclusive evidence, it is does suggest there may be some kind of connection worth investigating.

  • Kids pointing their fingers at each other and yelling "bang!" are simulating murder. So what?

    Hundreds of millions of kids play cops and robbers or cowboys and indians, and never hurt anyone at all.

    -jcr

    • Re:Oh, please. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nutria (679911) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @03:26AM (#28539427)

      Kids pointing their fingers at each other and yelling "bang!" are simulating murder.

      It is bald stupidity or complete intellectual dishonesty to equate gross (of, relating to, or dealing with general aspects or broad distinctions) stylizations by children who have never seen a gun, much less blood or a serious wound, with photorealistic hi-def video of death, agony and gore.

      • by jcr (53032)

        It is bald stupidity or complete intellectual dishonesty

        How do you walk with that stick up your ass?

        -jcr

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Nutria (679911)

          That 5-digid uid should make you old enough to think up something better than a middle school insult.

  • We could simulate murdering Tom Cruise over and over and it would just never get old.
  • by haeger (85819) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:16AM (#28539105)

    Read this by Dave Grossman http://www.killology.com/print/print_teachkid.htm [killology.com]
    It's about teaching kids to kill. I'm sure there are many anecdotes out there about how "I played games for years and I haven't killed anyone" but the man has a point...

     

    Some quotes from the text:

    "Healthy members of most species have a powerful, natural resistance to killing their own kind. Animals with antlers and horns fight one another by butting heads. Against other species they go to the side to gut and gore. Piranha turn their fangs on everything, but they fight one another with flicks of the tail. Rattlesnakes bite anything, but they wrestle one another.

    When we human beings are overwhelmed with anger and fear our thought processes become very primitive, and we slam head on into that hardwired resistance against killing. During World War II, we discovered that only 15-20 percent of the individual riflemen would fire at an exposed enemy soldier (Marshall, 1998). [...]

    That's the reality of the battlefield. Only a small percentage of soldiers are willing and able to kill. When the military became aware of this, they systematically went about the process of âoefixingâ this âoeproblem.â And fix it they did. By Vietnam the firing rate rose to over 90 percent (Grossman, 1999a).

    [...]

      The training methods the military uses are brutalization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and role modeling. Let us explain these and then observe how the media does the same thing to our children, but without the safeguards.

    Brutalization, or âoevalues inculcation,â is what happens at boot camp. Your head is shaved, you are herded together naked, and dressed alike, losing all vestiges of individuality. You are trained relentlessly in a total immersion environment. In the end you embrace violence and discipline and accept it as a normal and essential survival skill in your brutal new world.

    Something very similar is happening to our children through violence in the media. [...]

    Classical conditioning is like Pavlov's dog in Psych 101. Remember the ringing bell, the food, and the dog could not hear the bell without salivating?

    In World War II, the Japanese would make some of their young, unblooded soldiers bayonet innocent prisoners to death. Their friends would cheer them on. Afterwards, all these soldiers were treated to the best meal they've had in months, sake, and to so-called "comfort girls." The result? They learned to associate violence with pleasure.

    This technique is so morally reprehensible that there are very few examples of it in modern U.S. military training, but the media is doing it to our children. Kids watch vivid images of human death and suffering and they learn to associate it with: laughter, cheers, popcorn, soda, and their girlfriend's perfume (Grossman & DeGaetano, 1999).
    [...]
    The third method the military uses is operant conditioning, a powerful procedure of stimulus-response training. We see this with pilots in flight simulators, or children in fire drills. When the fire alarm is set off, the children learn to file out in orderly fashion. One day there's a real fire and they're frightened out of their little wits, but they do exactly what they've been conditioned to do (Grossman & DeGaetano, 1999).

    In World War II we taught our soldiers to fire at bullseye targets, but that training failed miserably because we have no known instances of any soldiers being attacked by bullseyes. Now soldiers learn to fire at realistic, man-shaped silhouettes that pop up in their field of view. That's the stimulus. The conditioned response is to shoot the target and then it drops. Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, repeated hundreds of times."

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Read this by Dave Grossman http://www.killology.com/print/print_teachkid.htm [killology.com]

      I have read it, and I'm sorry, but I'm far from convinced: he makes some good points in his book, but this one is just silly. It's one thing to take a soldier who's going through the brutalising process of basic training, teach them to shoot a gun at a target, then throw them into a war-zone with a gun and people shooting back at them and expect them to shoot back; it's a huge jump to go from there to claiming that shooting a few pixels on a screen using a mouse button in the comfort of your own home will m

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tnok85 (1434319)

        I have read it, and I'm sorry, but I'm far from convinced: he makes some good points in his book, but this one is just silly. It's one thing to take a soldier who's going through the brutalising process of basic training, teach them to shoot a gun at a target, then throw them into a war-zone with a gun and people shooting back at them and expect them to shoot back; it's a huge jump to go from there to claiming that shooting a few pixels on a screen using a mouse button in the comfort of your own home will make the average person more likely to go on a killing spree.

        It's not a far jump to say that simulating an environment in which we are trained to kill has absolutely no effect on us. Boot camps are essentially extended training simulations, when you look at it like this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        it's a huge jump to go from there to claiming that shooting a few pixels on a screen using a mouse button in the comfort of your own home will make the average person more likely to go on a killing spree.

        It was a "few pixels" back in the days of Space Invaders, but now the push is to make it more and more pixels, to get more realistic.

        While I don't think that legislation is appropriate, you're fooling yourself if you think that slaying a monster by bumping into a single ASCII character (ala Nethack) has the same psychological impact as blasting away at a very realistic looking human with a BFG, splashing realistic gore all over the place at 1600x1200.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          It was a "few pixels" back in the days of Space Invaders, but now the push is to make it more and more pixels, to get more realistic.

          And? The more realistic it becomes, the less people will enjoy doing it unless they're psychopaths already: Grossman's own book points out that the vast majority of people have a natural aversion to killing, and that's not going to be any less applicable to realistic killing in computer games than to killing in real life.

          As a poster up above pointed out, you can't quit boot camp the way you can quit playing a computer game, so the comparison is just silly.

  • The closer games get to simulating reality, the less reasons & excuses there are to do bad things in reality. With full immersive VR, the collective id of humanity can be contained in the sandbox "Matrix" where it belongs. Reality may finally become the exclusive domain of our higher nature, unpolluted by our base, obsolete animal/tribal urges.

    People are so quick to fear the "corrupting" effects of virtual reality, but it may very well be that VR is the key to establishing an unimaginably better reality

  • by denoir (960304) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:36AM (#28539213)
    In the early 80's when VHS became popular there was a strong movement in Sweden for banning all video imports. The reason cited was that the children would become hooligans at best and mass murderers at worst if they were to exposed to so much violence. Until the early 90's, there were no private TV channels in Sweden. There were two state owned and controlled channels that were very proactive in censoring violence. Movies in theaters were heavily censored as well.

    In a way the fear of video was more justified than the fear of video games - there was no prior data on how people react in general when exposed to displays of graphic violence on a regular basis. As it turns out, photorealistic video did not make mass murderers out of the population, so there is really no reason why we should expect the video game generation to be any more violent than the VHS generation.

    The video ban in Sweden? It was never introduced, but not for a lack of trying. The reason why it was scrapped was because a ban would have violated some trade agreements. It is a rather remarkable human trait - the desire to stop *other* people from doing something they like. Note that it's always stopping others for their own good. You'll never find somebody saying: Please pass this ban so that I'll stop doing that thing that I know I shouldn't be doing.
    • You'll never find somebody saying: Please pass this ban so that I'll stop doing that thing that I know I shouldn't be doing.

      Haven't you ever had a girl call you to see if she's kept up on her diet?

  • by saladpuncher (633633) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @02:47AM (#28539267) Homepage
    I have killed more people than Hitler. It's true. I have murdered millions of Nazis and slaughtered as many dragons. I have raped Native Americans and killed hundreds of thousands of cops. I have killed aliens that looked like pigs dressed as cops. I have destroyed feminism by flashing cash at strippers. I have committed genocide. I have wiped the earth clean of barbarians, Romans, Egyptians, Germans, and the Mongols. I have brought sword to creatures great and small because they may be carrying gold. I have killed creatures and then thrown away anything they were carrying because I did not deem it worthy. I have lied, cheated and double crossed denizens of the wasteland, a fairy kingdom, an ancient alien race and time travelers. I have shot mutants and bounty hunters in the groin and face. After killing someone else who I have never met and who had done me no wrong I crouched over his dead body and tea bagged him. I have enslaved a star faring race and then traded those slaves for military secrets. I have spied on other countries, planets and star systems and sabotaged numerous public works to cause strife and disorder. I have starved cities and brought whips down on my workers so that they may finish great works in my name before someone else did the same. I have stabbed kings and rezoned miles of pristine wilderness into ash spewing city hell holes. I have built nuclear reactors and then let them go critical so that I may laugh at the death toll and then, while the people were still putting out the atomic fires, I have unleashed Godzilla and a hurricane onto them. I have built swimming pools and then removed the exit ladders to watch people drown. I have smashed buildings to grab people inside and then eat them.

    All of these simulations have trained me well in the off chance I am ever presented with the ability to be an omnipotent, immortal, time traveling, alien, city building, world conquering, sword wielding, post apocalyptic, giant fire breathing, car jacking last great hope for humanity...who also happens to be a complete and total bastard.
    • I have murdered millions of Nazis ...

      Millions?! What game was that where you were killing several thousand Nazis a session? Spore?

    • by cjb110 (200521) <cbeachNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @07:51AM (#28540629) Homepage

      You forgot to mention that:
      You've saved more people than Ghandi, Jesus, USA and the UNSC. You have saved millions more than you killed. You have built hundreds of ecological perfect cities that house thousands. You have helped evolve the human race from primates to space travellers. You have prevented the Earth from being destroyed by aliens, asteroids, gods and your evil twin brother. More than a few times you saved the entire solar system, and once you even saved the entire universe from destruction. You've built roller-coasters, hospitals and entire transport networks. You've read more about ancient history, engineering and advanced physics than anybody. You're worshipped by millions and your choices directly improve the lives of trillions.

  • I draw the line at servers where gruesome graphic murder is OK but swear words are not.
    Think of the children? Seriously??
    That's just too messed up to support.
    • I draw the line at servers where gruesome graphic murder is OK but swear words are not.

      Think of the children? Seriously??

      That's just too messed up to support.

      Why? Lots of kids run around saying the f-word but not that many of them are campers at the playground.

  • Desensitized? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @03:21AM (#28539407)

    I'm in my early 30's. I've spent a great number of hours playing Wolfenstein, Mortal Kombat, Doom, Quake, every incarnation of Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, and so on. Although I don't have reasonable numbers to work with, I'm comfortable saying I played these violent games more than the average person. I watched a lot of gory movies, too. I've had a healthy dose of Three Stooges and Warner Brothers cartoons to boot.

    There are a couple of things about me I'd like to say about me. First, I don't think anybody would ever describe me as violent. It takes a lot to even get me to shout at somebody. I don't bang my fist on the keyboard or steering wheel. I don't threaten to hurt people. I have a real calm demeanor. You've all heard that story from other people before so I'll leave this point here.

    Secondly, I'd say I'm about as desensitized as it gets. I really cannot imagine that my exposure to all of this media is anything but 'higher than average'. I didn't even find beating up hookers in GTA all that shocking. (Or fun, either. Despite what the noisy people have said, you start avoid killing pedestrians when the cops come after you and make completing missions difficult. Compare that to, say, Crazy Taxi, and well I can tell you what I'd prefer my future kid to play when learning-to-drive time comes along.)

    When I was in college, though, I made a surprising discovery. Somebody mentioned Rotten.com, a site where you can see actual real dead bodies. (Do not go there unless you're really to see something like that. NSFW) Two things really struck me about the content of that site. First was that I gasped and made a bitter-beer-face. Second was that this shit didn't look like anything I had seen in Hollywood. (Although I dare say Starship Troopers was awfully close.) Part of it is simply knowing that this was real and not made up baloney, but part of it was that damaged flesh is a very complex... and goopy, swelly, discolor'y. In other words, I reacted to actual murders and accidents in a way that is significantly different from the way I react to them in video games.

    Since observing that, I realized that knowing that something actually happened makes a huge difference. I went by the Television Department in college and saw a safety video that was part of the orientation that rail-road workers were required to watch. I wanted to watch it because I caught part of it and was like "That guy got his foot smashed! Neat!!" So the instructor was like "Okay, watch this..." The video I saw had a train come to a stop and put these legs down on the ground, I assume to stabilize the train while cargo boxes were lifted off it. This guy had his hand in the way and the engineer didn't see it. He extended the gear and *goosh* caught the guy's hand. It was just pushed into the ground so hard that the guy pulled his arm back only to find it hand-less. This was not gory, really. There was no real blood or anything visual, it was all covered up by his jacket. But somewhere in the back of my head, a thought made itself heard: "This happened to somebody. It has probably happened a lot." That little clip was far more disturbing to me than anything in Robocop or any other of Verhoven's movies.

    I do not believe violent video games desensitize kids because violent video games are not even heading in the vague direction of reality. I don't care how much better the graphics get, they do not touch on the real horrors of violence. I've yet to even really see a movie that managed this.

    I think I understand where the fears of this come from. I think we've all seen kids imitate what they see on TV. I think the experience a video game provides, though, is being given way too much credit. All this talk of 'murder simulators' and the like... but if you were on an airplane and the pilot died, and a teenager volunteered to fly the plane with thousands of hours of Playstation time under his belt, would you take it seriously?

  • by emanem (1356033) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @05:53AM (#28540105) Homepage
    ... for example in the ESRB 12 years rated World of WarCraft WotLK there's a quest where you have to torture a prisoner to get intel...
    What about this? Is it morally acceptable for 12 yrs old kids?
    Are all them children of torture supporters like the previous american administration?
    Cheers,
  • by kylebarbour (1239920) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @08:01AM (#28540655)

    TFA says:

    Show BioShock to a non-gamer -- someone who hasn't been desensitized to killing virtual people -- and watch their reaction. Show them how you bludgeon people to death with a pipe wrench. If they don't wince and express some form of shock at what's taking place on the screen, they're either seriously disturbed or they're a seasoned gamer.

    This is incredibly true, and is exactly the thing that makes me resistant to gamers saying that video game violence is totally normal and acceptable and that people who are opposed to it have something wrong with them.

    I recently was exposed to Gears of War for the first time, and the violence and hatred in that game was so horrific to me that I wanted to vomit. I was incredibly, incredibly troubled by it. And it wasn't just the brutality, the incredible realism of the violence, the curbstomping, but also the attitudes of the players online. People were not laughing and sharing something positive over the in-game chat, nor were the players in the house laughing and working together - they were expressing violent, hateful feelings.

    Now, whether this is acceptable in the sense of free speech is one thing, and I think it is. But there's another question to me: is this the right thing? Is this healthy? If it's true that to non-gamers that the games being playing induce feeling of sickness, pain, and emotional trauma, which personal experience can attest that they do, then I don't believe it's reasonable to dismiss the concerns of the non-gaming population.

    It is like free speech. Exercising your right to say whatever you please is not a good idea, even though it's legal to be constantly hurtful and hate-filled (and should be).

    Again - I'm not arguing that gamers will kill people, or that these games should be banned. I'm arguing that there's definitely something to the belief that playing these games is not psychologically healthy.

    Flame away, Slashdot.

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