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Senior Game Designer Talks About Game Violence, Real Violence, and Lead (Video) 223

Posted by Roblimo
from the chemicals-can-outweigh-nurture-and-even-nature dept.
William Volk may not be the world's oldest game designer, but he's up there. He started out as a play tester for Avalon Hill in 1979, and since then has worked for Activision and other major players in the game space. His current job is with PlayScreen, where he's working on their Word Carnivale iOS game, which is not violent at all. But over the years Volk has worked on slightly violent video games and has watched public outcries over video game violence since 1976. He's also tracked how much less violence we've seen since lead was removed from gasoline. (Editorial interjection: Aren't most remaining pockets of massive gun violence in cities where many poor kids grow up in apartments that have lead paint?) Due to technical problems during the interview, some of the conversation is missing, primarily about the recent spate of multiple murders. It seems, for instance, that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza was heavily into violent video games, which is sure to spark plenty of new discussion about how they affect players. But then again, as Volk reminded me in an email, "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now," a meme that has been floating around Facebook since last year, if not earlier.

Robin Miller: Hi, William Volk. Tell us about yourself and what you do.

William Volk: I am not the oldest living game designer in the world but I did get started as a playtester in ‘79 and currently I am the chief creative officer of PlayScreen, which does casual games mostly for the iPhone. We do social casual games. Our biggest game right now is Word Carnivale. Word Carnivale is a very cool game.

Robin Miller: Wait a minute. Is it a game in which you shoot at people?

William Volk: The only thing you do violently in Word Carnivale is pop balloons. What it is, it is letters on balloons that you find words by drawing on the balloons and they give a satisfying pop when you actually find the word. And if you like popping bubble wrap, it feels like that. It has that sort of sound of popping bubble wrap. So it is satisfying to find words, because you are not just finding the words, you are actually popping bubble wrap.

Robin Miller: Is the NRA trying to get you to give a copy to every child in America? Does it promote killing?

William Volk: No, it does not promote killing. Nor does it teach gun handling unfortunately or fortunately. It is just balloons, it is just popping balloons, I am sorry.

Robin Miller: What about other games that you’ve worked on in the past? Haven’t you done some...

William Volk: I haven’t done any violent games. The only thing I can say is the biggest game I am known for is in 1993, I was the technical director and did a lot of the UI for Return to Zork. And in Return to Zork there were millions of ways of dying, but most of them involved doing the wrong things to a character and then this sort of guy would show up and he would laugh at you, and say, “You are finished” and that was the end, he would steal all your stuff or whatever. And there were a lot of ways of dying, but there was nothing violent except I guess there is one scene where a woman pulls a shotgun at on you but she doesn’t fire; she just pulls the shotgun out at you because you are intruding into her place. It is a very famous scene, so if you searched Return to Zork + shotgun, you’d actually see a picture of this woman holding a shotgun. We actually used real actors on a bluescreen to do that game, and that was 1993, it was my most well-known title until recently.

Robin Miller: Okay. But what about other things? Like earlier I think you were telling me another time about Sega Genesis, and how violence got into video games?

William Volk: You know, I looked it up in the pause we had and there’s a game dating back to ‘81 or ‘82 called Berzerk, and that was the first game that had controversy I know about violence. There was also an arcade game based on a movie called Death Race 2000, that was in the arcades in the ‘70s. Death Race 2000 is notable for a couple of things; one, it is a terrible movie; two, it stars David Carradine and a young unknown actor called Sylvester Stallone. It was Stallone’s first big film. He had done some minor stuff including I guess some adult film, but his first big role was in Death Race 2000. He had a small role in that. And it was a horrible film. But Death Race 2000 basically was a film where people were racing cross country and earning points for running over people. A film. And so they made a video arcade game out of it, and that got into a lot of controversy. So that was in the late ‘70s. Death Race 2000, I believe.

Robin Miller: So it goes all the way back to then? So we are not talking about

William Volk: Let me just see the date on that because I think I can find the date on that. Just a second. Death Race 2000, 1976. Death Race 2000, I was a freshman in college. So Death Race 2000 was the first video game that sparked a discussion, a game which challenged players to run over stick figures with cars. Death Race 2000 made national news on shows such as 60 Minutes, and caused an outcry so bad that video arcades removed the game. And then the game I mentioned just now, in 1981 was a game called Berzerk and it became notable because some player died from a heart attack shortly after playing the game.

Robin Miller: I remember that.

William Volk: Yeah. You are a stick figure with a handgun and the objective is you kill as many of the stick figures before they kill you. So it was a shooting game. And what’s interesting is in the article that just comes it notes that the actual gun murders per 100,000 people in 2010 was the lowest it has been since 1981 which happens to be the year that Berzerk came out. So the gun violence per population has gone down. Of course, if you’ve been reading the internet lately, you’ll know that there is a theory out there which is very remarkable that said that right about the time the current children were growing up is when we took lead out of gasoline.

So if you look up violence and crime rate and lead, you will see there is a very cogent theory out there that says when Nixon took lead out of gasoline or Ford, which was very hard, and I’ll show a good article about how that happened, actually eventually since it affects children more than it affects adults, they claim that that is a correlated factor to the decline in violence.

So what’s interesting about everything that’s happened is that violence has declined in America, it doesn’t feel that way, but it really has since the ‘80s. And lead used in gasoline, the drop in lead blood levels actually reflects itself when those children grow up and the reduction in crime. So I’ll send you a link to that. So fascinating, isn’t it?

Robin Miller: What I am saying the scary part is they were telling us that lead, one of the reasons that lead was dead, is because it made the kids more violent, and this was talking about high, the kids were eating paint in some apartments in Baltimore.

William Volk: The most popular games in volume are probably the casual games like Angry Birds, and the word games you saw, and they are the real big rising stars in terms of the number of people playing them. Angry Birds is the most popular game in history.

Robin Miller: And how many people get killed in Angry Birds?

William Volk: The only things that get killed in Angry Birds is pigs and they just pop and disappear. And by the way, I did an exploding pigs game a year before Angry Birds came out called Pigs A Pop’n which is actually still available in the iTunes Store. Once again, I pioneered the game idea that was obviously was a good one, blowing up pigs is a very popular thing. So we did Pigs A Pop’n in 2007 and 2008. So anyway, Angry Birds, Words with Friends, Ruzzle! our game Word Carnivale, those kinds of games very popular. They have nothing to do with violence at all. They are really about skill. On the video game side, the console side, it is a much more limited audience in terms of demographics, yes there are women who play these games, but the demographics for most of these console video games are younger men and they like first person shooters and they have liked first person shooters since the day Doom came out in 1993 or so or Castle Wolfenstein in 1991 or 1992. I remember when those games came out, Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, it was clear to everyone in the business that this was going to be a huge huge success. These types of games were going to dominate the video games, console video game industry and they have. So yes, you can see the progression from Wolfenstein which by the way involved shooting Nazis, which happens to be a constantly popular theme in video games as well, all the way through Doom, and then through Quake, and then through Call of Duty and so on, and Halo that is a now it is 20 years of actual background in these games, and they are very popular, but they are popular to a segment on a certain type of platform. If you go to the iPhone chart, other than the fact that the people who did that in NRA game were probably really happy about the PR. Almost all the games have nothing to do with shooting anything. They are just like fun games. Like Number 18, Llama or Duck or Temple Run or... Scramble with Friends is 28, or Bejeweled Blitz, they are just fun

Robin Miller: So you are saying other than the NRA game on the freebies for iPhone and iPad, they are all cute happy games you can play with Mom.

William Volk: Well, Underworld Empire is at number 6, but Underworld Empire is a common genre where you basically make friends and not enemies, but it is the same game that we have seen for years, mafia wars type of games that has been around forever. It has weapons and it is you know, it has got lots of weapons and stuff, but it is not the top game, it just happens to be a game, and it is actually rated 12 and up, like it says; on the outside the pictures are very attractive, women in the screen so they know their marketing. This is a game for boys, men.

Robin Miller: Tell me this, which nobody has successfully answered: Are video games causing the violence or is it just that some of the violent people are attracted to the violent video games?

William Volk: Yeah, the answer to that is yes. What I mean by that is, yeah, it is possible that some of these people are influenced by video games, but generally the reason why these people may have played video games is because they are interested in violence in general. You know, they are into what they are into, and video games are there. It may be found when they do the studies. I hope they look into this, when they do the studies that has been recommended, they may find that video games actually reduce violence because they allow people to blow off steam that they normally wouldn’t have a way of doing so.

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Senior Game Designer Talks About Game Violence, Real Violence, and Lead (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @01:49PM (#42946485)

    It's abortions and stronger morals that have allowed this reduction in violence.

    • It's abortions and stronger morals that have allowed this reduction in violence.

      This is much more likely than the lead theory, but you should include some evidence to back it up [wikipedia.org]

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        This is much more likely than the lead theory

        What makes you say that? I note you yourself fail to back that statement up, instead trying to piggy-back it on a link that has nothing to do with it.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          Take a look at the excellent documentary, Freakanomics...it has a pretty interesting explanation of this theory that the drop in violent crime over the years seems to coincide with the legalization of abortions.
          • ... the drop in violent crime over the years seems to coincide with the legalization of abortions.

            Furthermore, a number of states legalized abortion prior to the 1973 Roe-vs-Wade decision that legalized it throughout the USA, and their crime rates began to drop earlier than the states that legalized it later.

            But the lead theory has some strong evidence as well, and is probably a contributing factor. The CDC [cdc.gov] has found a strong correlation between blood lead levels and poverty, and between lead and low IQ. Low IQ is very strongly correlated with being convicted of a crime, especially violent crime.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RazorSharp (1418697)

          I say that because there's little evidence to support the lead theory aside from a correlation that abortions also share. The difference is, the abortion theory is backed up by much more statistical evidence and even a control group (Romania banned abortions about the same time the U.S. legalized them -- crime in Romania skyrocketed about 15-20 years later and crime in the U.S. plummeted). The linked article explains this, which is why it has everything to do with the topic at hand. The research was done by

    • It's abortions and stronger morals that have allowed this reduction in violence.

      How exactly does one measure the strength of morals at a population level?

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I would imagine crime rates would be one direct measure.

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Why would you imagine that? There are crimes, e.g., pot smoking, that have no connection to morality whatsoever. And there are crimes, e.g., those commited by bankers, that are deeply immoral but never get prosecuted so they can never affect measured crime rates.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I mean the crimes that reflect this morality.
            Yes some crimes are not immoral and some are more immoral than others.

      • by jythie (914043)
        I use a spring scale personally.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:25PM (#42946749) Journal

      It's probably video games themselves that have contributed to the decrease in violence. Those who are prone to violence are attracted to violent media and this keeps them off the streets where violence is more likely to occur.

      • by westlake (615356)

        It's probably video games themselves that have contributed to the decrease in violence. Those who are prone to violence are attracted to violent media and this keeps them off the streets where violence is more likely to occur.

        Violence is often rightly associated with the adolescent male.

        He'll watch the video or play the game, but he is far too restive to remain indoors.

      • I think it's reasonable to presume that video games have helped to reduce violence,
        • I think it's reasonable to presume that video games have helped to reduce violence,

          Reading this story's transcript, Mr Volk tends to lean towards your view. He does note that violent crime has actually decreased from the time that lead was removed from gasoline. Also it's around the time of the first 'violent' video game, when he created "Beserk"...

          Robin Miller: Tell me this, which nobody has successfully answered: Are video games causing the violence or is it just that some of the violent people are attracted to the violent video games?

          William Volk: Yeah, the answer to that is yes

  • False equivalence (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Farmville does not realistically represent the manual labor or complexity of farming in the slightest, whereas FPSes compete with each other to include the most gore.

    (Granted, the gore isn't realistic either but, if anything, it's exaggerated for dramatic purposes.)

    • by alen (225700)

      by your definition neither does call of duty

      read most accounts of war and firefights take hours compared to seconds on the consoles. you lay down covering fire and have maneuver elements. you call in air and artillery. you find good fighting positions and use cover to stay alive and move around. unlike cod where all you do is move in a straight line to play the level

      • by chill (34294)

        America's Army would be a better comparison than CoD.

        • by alen (225700)

          nope

          american soldiers are smarter than to fire at an enemy in an unprotected position. that's why our casualties are so much lower than everyone else's

          look at any photo or youtube video and the americans are always firing from cover. the enemy is almost always in the middle of a field or the street in the open firing from the hip and playing rambo.

        • A bit off topic but Back in the 90s I was talking with some 1st year Naval cadets at Annapolis.

          They were discouraged from playing any commercial available military war game – with the exception of Harpoon. The feeling was that the cadets would subconsciously pick up on biases in the game. (i.e. relative strengths of various ships.) And because they were 1st year they could not play the military simulators because that had classified data.

    • by jxander (2605655)

      Gore, maybe ... but an actual firefight? I've yet to see a video game reproduce that.

      How about a real wartime scenario videogame? Trying to catch whatever few hours of sleep you can, in a hole you dug ... walking around with a metric fuckton of gear strapped to your ass. Setting up camp, burning barrels of poo, MREs, sand in your everywhere ... oh, and no respawning. That game would just FLY off the shelves, ya?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Most homes in New England (especially in Northern New England: New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine) have lead paint. Yet, New England (and especially Northern New England) has some of the lowest levels of violence in the USA.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Lead Paint is pretty sketchy sounding anyway, most folks don't eat paint chips. Lead in gas however you have no choice to not breathe.

      • by CaroKann (795685)
        I can imagine kids eating paint chips. However, from what I've heard, it's not so much the paint chips as it is the dust from deteriorating paint. Have you ever run your finger along a dirty windowsill? A lot of that is not just regular dust and dirt, it also contains paint dust.
    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Having lead paint around is not an issue. The problem occurs when the paint is not maintained and chips off where it is easily ingested by children. Perhaps the standards of maintenance are better in New England.

      • by Medievalist (16032) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:39PM (#42946865)

        Having lead paint around is not an issue. The problem occurs when the paint is not maintained and chips off where it is easily ingested by children.

        Yep. And crime already correlates incredibly strongly with poverty (go figure!) so it's hard to separate the effects of poverty from the effects of the heavily polluted, badly maintained environments the poor often inhabit. It's probably even harder to sort out when the poor live in close proximity to crime targets; poverty-stricken inner-city youth live near stores and wealthier people, whereas subsistence farmers in less polluted environments usually live prohibitively far from any large number of easy crime targets.

    • by jjsimp (2245386)

      ...Yet, New England (and especially Northern New England) has some of the lowest levels of violence in the USA.

      probably due to the prolonged winters. Hard to kill someone when there is three feet of snow blocking you in.

      • It seems to work up here in Minnesota but slightly different. People don't want to go out and commit crime when it is 20 below out side yet the first nice weekend there is always a spike in crime.
    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      Yes, but there are laws in place to mitigate the impact of lead paint. I live in Massachusetts, where landlords are required to remove lead paint [mass.gov] from a rental dwelling if the tenants have a child under age 6.

      I have two things to say about this. One, it's a burdensome regulation that disinclines me to invest in rental properties in Massachusetts. Two, it probably works as a public-health measure.

    • I think the effect is for lead in gasoline more than paint, no?

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:06PM (#42946601)

    One thing that is important is to keep in mind is perspective:

    The millions murdered in World War 1 & 2 never played video games.

    So I'm not sure ready to jump on the "video games == violence" bandwagon; no doubt "video game violence" and the "causation vs correlation" will be debated till the end of time so I did my own experiment. As both a game programmer and designer I have found that when take a month long break from gaming I have found that my mind is significantly calmer. I have also done experiment with Aikido, meditation and yoga (found Aikido to be very interesting, meditation to largely be a waste of time, and found yoga to be extremely helpful.) Gaming with my online buddies is also a great stress reliever since we're almost all 40+, can joke around with each other, have fun cooperating, and don't have to worry about the typical bullshit drama. I would wager to bet that we all find it therapeutic after a long day at the office. The point of all this is that each person needs to find out what works for them. i.e. Listen to a new genre of music and keep a log of how it effects you, etc.

    Since the human brain is at least a threefold structure ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triune_brain [wikipedia.org] ) I wouldn't be at least bit surprised if the reptilian complex ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_ganglia [wikipedia.org] ) is responsible for some of the inherent violence in men. A civilized person doesn't want to beat the living crap out of another person -- yet our species is "entertained" by such mindless violence -- one has to wonder if it isn't deeply ingrained in our genetics.

    --
    Only cowards use censorship.

    • by Algae_94 (2017070)

      The millions murdered in World War 1 & 2 never played video games.

      And I'd wager most of those people didn't want any of the violence of that war.

      As an aside, the killing of enemy soldiers during an active war is not usually referred to as murder.

      • As an aside, the killing of enemy soldiers during an active war is not usually referred to as murder.

        Six million Jews.

        More than half the Soviet casualties were civilians.

        A large fraction of German and Japanese casualties were civilian (don't have the numbers to hand, don't want to look them up, but it's in the millions each).

        • by Algae_94 (2017070)
          I'm aware of those numbers, and I don't think " the killing of enemy soldiers during an active war" would include civilian deaths, or civilians that were victims of genocide. Those are clear cases of murder / war crimes.

          The comment I was replying to referred to both World Wars and seemed to indicate that all deaths in those wars were murder. I was not trying to indicate that all deaths during those wars were justified by any means, but clearly many were. I don't believe US soldiers returning from war we
    • by westlake (615356)

      The millions murdered in World War 1 & 2 never played video games.

      An interesting example of a statement that is demonstrably true but utterly meaningless.

      Para-military training and open field war games for young boys began at around age ten or so in Nazi Germany.

      You joined in the games and played to win or else.

      There were no video games, of course, But an abundance of violently anti-Semitic board games, books, films, radio programming and classroom exercises targeting all ages,

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @05:07PM (#42948457)

      The Call of Duty series are some of the best selling games out there, and they are violent as hell. If they lead to more violence, well then we should be seeing a lot of it given how many people play them, and that the number who do is increasing. But of course we don't. The best kept secret of the media, it would seem, is that violent crime has been on a steady decline, which is a wonderful thing.

      Also it rather ignore nature. A big part of play in many critters is fighting. Their play mimics their combat in many ways, just non-harmful. Get a couple of kittens and watch what they do: They stalk and ambush each other, the wrestle, bite, kick with their back feet, etc. Well guess what? This is what cats do when they are hunting/fighting, only the claws are out and the moves are full-force. This is true even of cats who are 100% domesticated, and never have to hunt for food or defend themselves. They can tell the difference, they don't accidentally rip each other apart, play and combat may be related, but they aren't the same thing.

      So why would we think humans would be so different? Why wouldn't our play be play fighting, and why wouldn't be be able to tell them apart?

    • by jandersen (462034)

      The millions murdered in World War 1 & 2 never played video games.

      What has that to do with anything? That's a bit like saying "my granddad smoked like a chimey and lived 'til he was 95, so smoking isn't unhealthy".

      It is very difficult to prove that violent video games cause an increase in violence; as a point of interest, it is in fact even harder to disprove. It is not impossible, however, and we are slowly beginning to see something emerge, which looks a bit like proof.

      A civilized person doesn't want to beat the living crap out of another person

      And yet, one can not deny that the Nazi elite were in many respects very civilized. That apart, I don'

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @08:12PM (#42950699)

      A civilized person doesn't want to beat the living crap out of another person

      Whatever gave you that idea?

      I've never known a "civilized person" who didn't want to beat the living crap out of another" at one time or another.

      The real marker of a civilized person isn't that he doesn't want to beat the crap out of another, but that he overcomes the urge to do so....

  • Cause or Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:06PM (#42946605)

    Does playing violent games cause people to be violent in real life or do violent people in real life prefer to play violent games? In both cases there is a correlation but the cause and effect are reversed.

  • I'd be willing to bet $1 that there is at least one person out there that has tried to duplicate at least some part of their Farmville crop at home, even if it's buying a tomato plant. Why would the effect only be legitimate if a majority of people follow it?
  • They quote the Sun, as a source the Lanza played video games? Supposedly going off the word of a plumber who supposedly heard this from his mother? Why am I not surprised no other major news outlet has claimed this despite the fact the Sun published it's claims in mid December. Even if it were true, I'm willing to bed a significant portion of the younger generation has played CoD at one time or another. I have. I'm willing to bet they breathed air at some point or another. Are we to ban that?
    • Because it's clearly a logical assumption that interactive media has the exact same neutral effect as breathing air... ?

      I'm not one to argue that video game violence causes real life violence... but I see lots of "I bet they all ate bread, too!" type of retorts ... which don't seem to make sense. Interacting with a virtual reality sot of thing is pretty different from breathing air, and it seems illogical and silly to try to say they should be treated in the same way.

      Do video games affect us? Yes, we know

      • by Psyborgue (699890) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:52PM (#42946953) Homepage Journal
        Well. Maybe it's a bit silly to go so far as air, but how about this: obviously any media or art we consume, whether book, painting, tv, music, or video game, affects us in some way. Billions have been killed as a result of direct commands originating in violent books (ones we revere out of tradition and political correctness), yet nobody would dare ban them. We don't, because we realize that while a book can command a person to kill somebody, it cannot load the gun and pull the trigger. Yet the very same people who revere those violent books will have us believe that video games can do exactly that. It's throwing personal responsibility out the window. That's even avoiding the fact that religious books contain direct commands to commit violence and video games are very explicitly works of fiction.
      • by Firethorn (177587)

        Do video games affect us? Yes, we know they do. Do they affect us negatively? That's the part that studies don't seem to know.

        There are some positives, some negatives with video games. What I do know is that we're a lot less violent than we used to be - to the point that video games, lead, etc... Are all insignificant compared to the decrease between the 15th and 20th centuries. And that's including the world wars.

        In general, the research I've seen suggests that 'violent' media increases violent behavior in those under 6 for brief periods of time amongst inadequately supervised children, mostly due to imitation. For teenagers

  • by i_ate_god (899684) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:14PM (#42946675) Homepage

    If video games affected kids, then they would all be running around a dark room eating pills and listening to electronic music.

    Unfortunately though, that happened. It was called the rave scene.

  • Here [motherjones.com] is a better article than the small blog post cited. Read the whole thing. The clincher for me was that when lead was removed from gasoline in different states at different times the reduction in violence in those areas tracked perfectly two decades later. Not only that, but the shape of the violence reduction data tracked well with the shape of the lead reduction data. (i.e. a fast phase out of lead resulted in a fast reduction of crime twenty years later. [nber.org])

    • by Zeromous (668365)

      While I agrree, (and read the same article) we must be careful to mind this as only an obvious contributing factor. It does not tell the whole story, though. There are so many inputs relating to violence it's hard to blame any one thing.

      Those findings refer to a measurable and documented case of environment affecting/causing various neurosis. This is great. However does not prove that there are no other contributing factors. It would appear that videogame violence only heightens the risk of real viol

      • by greg_barton (5551)

        You can't prove a negative.

        Anyway, you can argue all day that the waves aren't knocking your sand castle down, but after the tide comes in you look like a complete idiot. :)

        • by Zeromous (668365)

          Indeed. Just pointing out there is a whole cottage insurance industry for "sand castles" that does not apply scientific method in any meaningful sense. My post only predicts that these morons are not going anywhere, so we're going to need more than 'leaded gasoline directly correlates to increased violence in nearly all cases enumerated' to make our point.

  • by RazorSharp (1418697) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:27PM (#42946771)

    The video games/violence debate is extremely flawed from both angles. In this regard it reminds me of the nature/nurture arguments -- whenever someone takes a side one way or the other I'm convinced they're wrong. The problem with the 'video games cause violence' argument is that people are free to make choices of their own. The problem with the 'video games don't cause violence' argument is that the choices people make, especially among children, are influenced by environmental factors.

    I'm critical of video gaming as a lifestyle. I have no problem with them as an occasional diversion, but playing for hours on end is like running a screensaver on your computer -- it's keeps things active enough to stay on, but nothing useful is happening. I've seen children who act violently, mimicking video games/tv/movies/etc., but that's not what really concerns me. What concerns me is that the children who play lots of video games have an extremely adverse reaction to any suggestion that they should read, do something constructive, or exercise. All too often these 'gamers' are confused for nerds (or geeks or whatever word you choose to use). They are not. They're morons and they'll remain morons as long as they spend the majority of their free time on XBox Live or the Playstation Network.

    That's not to say I think video games are a scourge to society. They're no different than TV in this regard. The problem is parents who allow their children to plug into these diversions from actual life on an almost permanent basis. Many of my friends have children. The ones who limit video game/tv time and only offer it as a reward for doing constructive things have well adjusted children who are bright. The ones who let their kids zombify themselves in front of the boob tube have maladjusted morons for children who think an example of fine art is a Michael Bay film.

    When people claim that video games cause violence they're oversimplifying the issue -- however I can't disagree that children who are raised by video games moreso than their parents will be more prone to becoming violent adults than those who aren't. When people dismiss the idea that 'video games cause violence' that's not really what they're objecting to -- they're objecting to the very true assertion that playing video games extensively has a negative impact on an individual's life.

    • by shadowofwind (1209890) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @03:00PM (#42947005)

      I think these video-game-violence /. threads are mostly an exercise in rationalization and justification, not an effort towards understanding the nuances of the issue.

      If you play violent video games, you have violent images and patterns in your mind which you are reinforcing by repetition. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing isn't easy to answer, since as omnivores we already have such patterns hard-wired in, and expressing an instinct in a relatively harmless way can be better than suppressing it. But there's absolutely no doubt that violent gaming affects a person's thinking. And the barrier that separates 'pretend' from 'real' is never completely impermeable.

      Almost anyone who has kids can see the addictive and adverse effects of gaming. As with candy, some kids will limit themselves to a healthy level without parental intervention, but in my experience and observation those kids are the exception.

      Note that I'm not making an argument for any kind of government regulation, or saying that nobody should play violent video games in moderation.

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        It's interesting that you say this because from what I've seen, it's often the people who complain the most about media violence who have the most trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality. Naturally they want to sanitize everything down to their level, using government of course, because they assume everyone is at their level. As someone who grew up with such games in the 80s and 90s, I've never had trouble telling the difference, nor has it impacted my judgment. I think the real proble

        • by PPH (736903)

          it's often the people who complain the most about media violence who have the most trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality.

          True. Or they have kids who have trouble making this distinction. Try telling a kid that his friends are 'well adjusted' but he (or she) may be suffering from a lack of judgment.

          If anything, we should be toughening ourselves up for the future instead of softening us up.

          Then lets have some more realistic FPS games. Odds are that up against a similarly equipped enemy, you should be taken out after only a few kills. And going up against unarmed civilians gets you surrounded by the cops and shot or burned to death in your hiding place. Now that game I'd give any kid.

    • I just sent a copy of your comments to a whole bunch of my friends who say the same thing.
      Absolutely right.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      You could make the same case for virtually any other hobby or pastime. Sports carry risk, as recent cases of cranial trauma from football have brought to light. In fact, everything carries risk. At some point it boils down to what you want to do with your free time over what you are capable of doing with your free time. Obviously, doing ANYTHING obsessively for a long time is unhealthy, but the old sports jock > video game nerd stereotype runs strong in your post. From where I sit, I see far more ev

      • The difference is that the gameplay mechanics of a MMO are designed by psychologists specifically to be addicting. It's not physically possible to play sports for the amount of time one can play a video game. A person can go on a 24 hour Halo binge but they cannot go on a 24 hour soccer binge. I'm not arguing against risk, I'm arguing against doing something detrimental with the majority of one's free time. I drink alcohol, I get drunk. But I'll still argue against getting drunk every day, just like I'll ar

        • by Smauler (915644)

          There's a reason 'professional video gaming' never took off the way gamers hoped.

          Having been a gamer all my life, I've always wanted 'professional video gaming' to fail. I've got zero interest in watching other people play - I always want to play. That's what gamers do - they game. I don't know what you'd call people who watch other people game.

          There are obvious exceptions - watching your team in Counterstrike after you have died, for example.... all the time wishing you were still playing :P

    • In summary, bad parenting contributes to bad kids. .

  • by dittbub (2425592) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:29PM (#42946785)
    No one would play a hyper realistic farming game. On some level though we all seem to enjoy throwing stuff at moving stuff, even if simulated. It seems logical to me that repeated simulated murder could warp the mind of a young or weak mind. But what I heard was Adam Lanza played WoW...
  • Video games might have been a factor without being a cause. From the reports I've heard (which, admittedly, might still be pure speculation), he saw his shooting body count as a "score" and was trying to top the "high score" set by the Norwegian shooter. Of course, your average gamer into games of that nature might try to top a "high body count" score within the game, but isn't likely to try to replicate this outside of the game.

    He also trained at shooting ranges for this so it's not like video games were

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      I've pointed this out before, but when he talks about a "high score", he's comparing himself to a well-publicized serial murderer. I think the publicity and notoriety that the media is providing these people is more of a cause for this particular type of mass killing than any video game would ever be.

      Yes, he expresses himself in terms of a score, but that is no more than an indication that he is influenced by video games into expressing an achievement as "points". Shooters aren't the only games with point

  • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @02:48PM (#42946925)

    Everyone knows it's not the violent video games, it's that evil Jazz music corrupting our youth!

  • What about movies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by synapse7 (1075571) on Tuesday February 19, 2013 @03:00PM (#42947013)
    What games compare to movies like Saw?
  • "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now"

    This made me laugh for the "in your face" factor, however quip hardly closes the door on the debate. I would submit that generally it is much easier to influence socially undesirable behavior in people than it is to influence desirable behavior. It's human nature - the forbidden fruit is always calling. The appeal of the easy score, and "being bad" for real excitement has no substitute in farming vegetables, p
  • "If people were influenced by video games, a majority of Facebook users would be farmers by now"

    Idiotic statement. A) We're not talking about farming, and B) just because everyone had not transformed into a farmer does not mean people are not influenced by those games, and C) farming and killing (in games) most likely stimulate completely different parts of the brain. You're comparing apples to pineapples. Yes, they sound similar but are mostly different. Every single thing you see or do has an influence
  • Good to hear that someone from Avalon Hill is still around. I've been playing their boardgames (and those from SPI) since the mid-70s. That's way before video games were invented (uh-oh...that's bound to start something). And I remember that some 'conventions' - where a dozen or two dweebs would gather at a school meeting room to play through a WW2 simulation - were picketed by protesters who believed that the boardgames were promoting violence.

    I wasn't either side of the fence - I got my kicks from a
  • *ANYTHING* that a person is exposed to will have some influence on that person. It only stands to reason, regardless of what sort of thing they are exposed to, that t sufficient frequency of exposure is going to have a profound impact on what sort of person they become. This does not mean that environment determines behavior in any sort of absolute sense, but it is somewhere between naive and completely ignorant to assert that human beings are not ever going to be affected by what they are exposed to. B

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