You are on page 1of 63

Sam Richardson, 200264192 1/63

Does the violence in video games truly deserve its negative and harmful
perception conveyed in the media, creating a negative view of gaming
in general, and to what extent is gaming misunderstood in relation to
other forms of entertainment media?

Samuel Richardson
Student ID: 200264192

This dissertation is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the


degree of Bachelor of Arts in Graphic and Communication Design

The School of Design, University of Leeds,

Date of Submission: 19/03/2009


Sam Richardson, 200264192 2/63

1 Introduction........................................................................................................ 3
2 Literature Review.............................................................................................. 3
2.1 FPS ............................................................................................................. 5
2.2 Online Gaming........................................................................................... 9
2.3 Addiction / avatars....................................................................................10
2.4 Criticism:....................................................................................................12
2.5 Jack Thompson and incidents linked to violence in video games .......14
2.6 Media influence and power......................................................................19
2.7 Studies.......................................................................................................23
2.8 Benefits of gaming....................................................................................26
2.9 Wii ..............................................................................................................27
2.10 Young Industry........................................................................................31
2.11 Age Ratings ............................................................................................33
2.12 Gore and sales numbers .......................................................................36
2.13 Killing Monsters and other books of influence:....................................38
3 Primary Research............................................................................................40
3.1 Research Questions.................................................................................40
3.2 Methodology..............................................................................................40
3.3 Results.......................................................................................................41
3.3.1 Interview Results ...............................................................................42
3.3.2 Questionnaire results: .......................................................................44
4 Discussion ........................................................................................................51
Sam Richardson, 200264192 3/63

1 Introduction

The primary focus of this dissertation is to discover whether the mediaʼs


negative portrayal of video gaming is justified, and if that is because video
gaming is perceived as an immature form of entertainment. This essay will
aim to determine the history of violence in video games, and just what makes
a violent computer game. It will then ascertain what the negative criticism is,
and by using different forms of research, discuss whether the general
perception of gaming reflects that of its fiercest critics. Another factor that it
will discuss is whether there are positives to gaming, and if the recent events
in gaming such as the release of Nintendoʼs Wii console have finally brought
the culture of gaming into a potentially positive light. As the newest form of
entertainment industry, this essay will endeavour to discover whether it is only
a matter of time before gaming gains acceptance in the public eye, and
develops a positive reputation. Violence is an intrinsic part of gaming, and it is
important to explain why the negative connotations linked with gaming and
violence in youths has helped create a stigma regarding the genre of gaming
and the gamers alike. The source of blame is intrinsic to this dissertation, and
it will endeavour to find out if video games justify their own negative
connotations, or are just the latest scapegoat in regards to youth violence.
What proportions of games are violent? Do people agree with the mediaʼs
portrayal of violence in video games? And, perhaps most importantly, does
the media do as it claims and reflects the opinion of its readers, or tries and
change that point of view to reflect their own agendas?

2 Literature Review

“Civilisation is, at its earliest phases, played.”


“It does not come from play… its arises in and as play, and never leaves It.”1

1
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, published in 1938
Sam Richardson, 200264192 4/63

The Dutch historian, Johan Huizingaʼs comments run true to this day and
likely always will. Play is integral to society and as technology improves, so
will the styles and quality of games with it. Currently, one of the main forms of
play comes in the guise of video games, and as the technology improves, so
does the realism of violence. Newspapers and the media in general have had
a long-running relationship with gaming and its potential affects on players,
and this essay aims to provide a fair argument into why this happens, and
whether the violence in video games truly deserves the negative stigma.
Firstly, to understand how games have progressed to where they are now, we
must look to the beginning of the history of video games.

The Internet was developed in the 1960s by the US military to facilitate


strategic communication between military personnel in the event of war (an
aim was to create a communication system that would be able to survive a
nuclear attack). According to Cynthia Carter and C. Kay Weaver, it is hardly
surprising that computerised games were, from a very early stage, militaristic
in their orientation.2

Videogames, since their inception into the public consciousness have been
violent. Often, the driving force behind many technological advances
developed in recent times has been to progress military prowess. There have
been wars for as long as humans learnt how to pick up sticks and fight for
their land. There has always been violence and it is hard to imagine a future
without it. It is impossible to appease every person and therefore before long
this will lead to conflicts. As Herz puts it, “as long as weʼve been consuming
narrative entertainment, weʼve thrilled to the exploits of blood-streaked
warriors who hack limbs off their opponents.”3

2
P139, Cynthia Carter and C.Kay Weaver, Violence and the Media, Open University press,
2003.
3
Herz, Joystick Nation: How Videogames ate our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired
our minds. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997
Sam Richardson, 200264192 5/63

As a race, we are obsessed with fighting. Day after day we see on the news
stories of terrible violence and death around the world. As it is so prevalent
and streamed direct to our public psyche, it is easy to see how people can
become desensitised to the violence. However, one type of violence that is so
often publicised strikes a chord with most and brings up many questions –
youth violence. Stories such as the Columbine school shootings, creates
mass hysteria and fingers are pointed at the latest scapegoat. In that
particular case and now many more, that scapegoat is violent videogames.

The first game created was Pong, a coin-operated (see fig.1) arcade game
created by game developers Atari, in 1972. The popularity of this resulted in
more games and the first already showed signs of the violence trend that
pervades games today. The 1980s was a time of the seminal Pac-Man and
Space Invaders4. In essence, the purpose of Space Invaders was the same
as the most recent shooters such as Half Life5 and its sequel, The Halo
series6 and countless others – kill the alien invaders. The huge leap in
sophistication that the video-game genre has had over the years can also
lead to one of the prime arguments of negative association with videogames
now instead of then: Realism.

These early games were the precursors to a massive industry spanning the
globe and now as big as the film and music business. The industry makes
billions of dollars a year and one of the main contributors to this is the First
Person Shooter genre, or in terms of an easier to digest acronym: FPS.

2.1 FPS

The first shooters appeared on the PC mainly because of the PCʼs superior
processing power when compared with most so-called ʻconsole computersʼ at
the time. The first truly groundbreaking FPS came in the form of DOOM.

4
Tomohiro Nishikado, Published by Taito, 1978
5
Valve Software, Published by Sierra, 1998
6
Bungie Studios, Published by Microsoft, 2001
Sam Richardson, 200264192 6/63

Wolfenstein, also developed by Id Software7 was released a year previously


and is regarded by many as the true first FPS. This was swiftly followed by
games such as, Marathon on the Apple Macintosh8 and later the Quake9 and
Unreal Tournament seriesʼ10. Quake was the first FPS to incorporate the
WASD11 mouse/keyboard control scheme and has led to almost all adventure,
first-person games on PC using the same set-up. Goldeneye by British game
developer Rare is perhaps the most fondly remembered and important
console shooter of its time. It finally made console shooters feasible and
combined the well-known story of the James Bond film with a fantastic and
fondly remembered multiplayer.

Early shooters consisted of tight corridors, suspense and shooting gallery


enemies but now as technology has been developed, AIʼs (Artificial
Intelligence) have the power to out-manoeuvre the player and adapt to its
surroundings. Modern FPSs canʼt simply rest on their laurels and expect
random monsters popping up and being killed to receive any enthusiasm from
players or critics alike. Today, the shooter genre is home to some of the most
influential and powerful game franchises in the industry and this is mainly
thanks to their stand out storylines, use of physics or adult theme. In the early
90s, many games companies decided that to make a game more ʻmatureʼ, it
would splash litres of gore over everything and add breasts. Sadly, this theme
stuck with the media coverage and as such, the immature association with
games is maintained. Thankfully, however, times have changed. Call Of Duty
412 was a huge commercial and critical success that revolutionised the FPS

7
Id Software, 1993
8
Bungie Studios, 1994
9
Id Software, 1996
10
Epic Games, 1999
11
The WASD key set-up is used mainly in conjunction with the fact it is not ergonomically
comfortable to play using both a right-handed mouse and arrow keys on a keyboard.
Primarily, W and S are used for forward and backward movement and A and D is used to
strafe left and right. The space bar is usually used as jump and operated by the thumb, with
the little finger used to operate the CTRL key (often the crouch command). This control
scheme was first coined by John Romero in the game Quake and has been used ever since.
With this control scheme, the player now having the ability to strafe and turn at the same time
invented the term ʻcircle-strafingʼ.
12
Infinity Ward, Published by Activision, 2007
Sam Richardson, 200264192 7/63

genre and brought it firmly into the 21st century. There are many features that
could be lauded but the most stand out moment is one scene where a lead
protagonist has to crawl out of a crashed helicopter, just after a nuclear bomb
has been detonated. There are decimated surroundings, debris and smoke,
which make a very poignant comment on real-life terror and war, which
combines to create a stunning scene. The maturity and cinematic scope in
which this scene encapsulates indicated perfectly how the genre has
developed over the years.

One of the reasons why violent games, especially first-person shooters, are
so common in gaming today, can be linked to their economic viability. As
Steven Kline argues, software development is a risky business. This provides
a powerful incentive to stick with the tried and tested and continue with
previous success. The repetitive pattern is reinforced by the fact that game
developers are recruited from the ranks of game players. Such asexual
reproduction gives game culture a strong tendency to simple self-replication,
so that shooting, combat and fighting themes, once established, repeat and
proliferate.13

It is a simple but fair comment on how the games industry operates. The
industry is relatively inclusive and as such, almost all ʻcreativesʼ have at least
some prior experience in gaming and in most cases a passion for gaming is
necessary if not required.14By playing, and enjoying these types of games, it
is only natural that more will arise. Despite there being a predominance of
violence in games, it is not a solely violent culture that is used within games.
Sports games are seen by many as just as if not more appealing and
attractive to gamers. In England, the FIFA series15 and Pro Evolution Soccer16
consistently sell very successfully. When discussing gaming as a whole, it is

13
P251, Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witherford, and Greg De Peuter, Digital Play, the
interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing. McGill-Queenʼs University Press 2003.
14
Bungie Game Studios, Jobs page, 2009, (12/02/2009)
http://www.bungie.net/Inside/jobs.aspx#job17291
15
Electronic Arts under the EA Sports label
16
Developed and published by Konami
Sam Richardson, 200264192 8/63

important to establish the fact that violent games are just another sub-genre,
much as films can come in many genres from comedy to horror. Steven Kline
makes a good point regard to this: Although some of the gaming genres
overlap with a game culture of violence, its is important to recognise that
games such as the Tony Hawks skateboarding series are as much a part of
the gaming scene as Quake. Thus, the picture painted by critics who
characterise the interactive game industry according to its bloodiest products
is a misrepresentation, as are the whitewashes of its apologists.17

However, the argument that games that are predominantly aimed at children
have no violence is flawed. A study by Children Now reported that, of the
games rated E, more than 75% contained some type of violence18

Violence may not be the sole aim in video games, but its prevalence is very
clear throughout. The point of this is, that to ʻbeatʼ a game, an obstacle must
be overthrown or defeated. Challenge comes from having to beat something,
whether that means shooting and killing terrorists or jumping on the head of a
Goomba in Mario. What makes a violent videogame depends wildly on what
the overall premise of the game sets out to be. Some games are violent for
the sake of being violent – in many cases just to attract attention (Manhunt
and Soldier of Fortune) whilst to the other extreme some have violence that is
bloodless, and seemingly painless. The recent Mario game, Super Mario
Galaxy by Nintendo (2007) received widespread critical acclaim for its brilliant
regeneration of a stale genre (Platform games) but the concept of death is still
prevalent. In games with a set start, middle and end – death is a necessary
risk to the protagonist as to assure replayability and also a sense of danger
and challenge.

17
P255. Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witherford, and Greg De Peuter, Digital Play, the
interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing. McGill-Queenʼs University Press 2003.
18
Glaubke et al. “Fair Play: Violence Gender and Race in video games”. Los Angeles:
Childrennow, 2002. Available online at www.childrennow.org/pubs-media.htm
Sam Richardson, 200264192 9/63

The prospect of death for the player, however, is generally overlooked in


favour of the concept of killing others in videogames. The media generally
concentrate on how there are no real consequences for killing in a game and
as such can lead to desensitisation to the violence portrayed. Recently,
realism and inclusion into violent games has reached an unprecedented level
with the inclusion of realistic graphics, real-time physics engines, and
potentially the most important factor – online play. Being able to play with, and
kill real life people (in the game of course) from across the globe has given
rise to unprecedented popularity to the genre, and retaliation in the form of
media coverage.

2.2 Online Gaming

Now, anyone anywhere in the world can boot up their Xbox 360, Playstation 3,
Nintendo Wii, or PC and link to millions of others over the respective online
networks. Console online multiplayer was started by Sega with their console
the Sega Dreamcast; however, the success was short-lived with few having
access to broadband. The biggest online network for console gaming is
Microsoftʼs Xbox Live, which was first unveiled in 2002 and has this January
revealed that it has over 17 million online subscribers to the service.19

Playing games online allows a whole new level of multiplayer experience and
creates a truly immersive and sometimes addictive experience. There a many
possible positives and negative associated with the new online component to
gaming. We are now able to play with friends across the world, make new
friends, involve in competitive tournaments and socialise for free or for a
relatively small fee.

Despite being a generally positive experience, the inevitable encounters with


poorly educated, loud and obnoxious players occurs. Whilst it can be avoided

19
By Tor Thorsen Gamespot UK, News, GameSpot, Posted Jan 6, 2009 GMT
http://uk.gamespot.com/news/6202733.html
Sam Richardson, 200264192 10/63

by only playing within a set group of personal friends, it is an unfortunate fact


of life that some people feel it necessary to make other playerʼs experiences
less enjoyable. It is precisely this kind of gamer that helps reinforce the
negative views of gaming as a whole. That, and the most worrying trend in
gaming at the moment: addiction.

2.3 Addiction / avatars

“Our connection with the real world is very thin, and our connection with the
artificial world is going to be more intimate and satisfying than anything thatʼs
come before.”20

World of Warcraft21 is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game


(MMORPG) that allows the player to join millions of others in a fictional world
where experience, levelling and items are of great value and importance. It
has received much press attention down to its addictive nature, which can
lead to worrying levels of play and a detachment from real-world occupations
and socialising. It is precisely when the importance of an in-game avatar and
its possessions becomes greater than that of the real-world significance of
self that major issues surrounding violence, delinquency and emotional
problems arise. In Korea, a man has been jailed for life for murdering a fellow
Ultima Online (another MMORPG) player over the sale in real currency of an
in-game sword to another member of the online community. When the line
between real world and fictional game-world become this blurred, it is easy to
appreciate the fears we have over the rise in violence and social problems.
Whilst videogame violence has its fair share of critics, the major problem
faced by the video gamers of today is the possibility of becoming addicted to
games. A recent and as yet unfinished report from Sweden has claimed that

20
Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of arts and sciences at MIT.
Quoted from Tim Druckery ʻElectronic Representation: Imaging beyond photographyʼ.
Camerawork. Op. cit.
21
Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, Feb 2005
Sam Richardson, 200264192 11/63

Blizzardʼs game, World Of Warcraft is harmful to users and most shockingly,


can be as addictive as cocaine.22

Keith Bakker, the founder of Europeʼs first and only game addiction
rehabilitation centre claims differently however, and believes that 90 percent
of the children who attend the clinic for compulsive gaming are not addicts. He
believes that gaming is a social rather than psychological problem. He states,
that the more he treats the children, the less we can call it an addiction. “What
many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers - this is a
social problem."

He continues by saying "This gaming problem is a result of the society we live


in today. Eighty per cent of the young people we see have been bullied at
school and feel isolated. Many of the symptoms they have can be solved by
going back to good old fashioned communication."

He is also quick to make clear the fact that 87% of online gamers are over the
age of 18 and as such have to make the decision themselves to get out of the
compulsive playing. Bakker and his clinic feel that problems lie far deeper
than simply the content of the game. It is vital that communication between
parent and child comes first in dealing with the problem. Research at Smith
and Jones (the rehabilitation centre) imply that feelings of anger and
powerlessness are often pre-existing and can create a compulsion to play
games with violent content. An excerpt from an interview with one gamer
being treated at the Amsterdam clinic supports this view of anger leading to
violent games: “I was aware that I played too much but I didn't know what to
do. But it helped me because I could be aggressive and get my anger and
frustration out online." 23

22
By Jason Ocampo, Report: WoW as Addictive as Cocaine, IGN news,
http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/957/957551p1.html

23
By Paddy Maguire, Compulsive gamers 'not addicts', Tuesday, 25 November 2008 BBC
News, Amsterdam http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7746471.stm
Sam Richardson, 200264192 12/63

Young gamers often feel frustrated with their real lives. Aggression and
violence will continue to be the focus of the effects of videogames, but Bakker
believes that if there was more commitment on behalf of the parents, and they
listened to what their children are saying then the issues of frustration, anger
and isolation could be dealt with at the source. Whilst very few gamers would
actively claim that violence in video games actually affects their behaviour, the
addictive nature of video games is well known and clear to see. With violent
games, it would seem that the user actually seeks out the violence and must
already have the prerequisite background influences to carry out real life
crimes. To actually commit murder or violence is an incredibly rare occurrence
that affects few. To examine this further, I contacted a member of the games
online community who could relate to the addictive nature of the game. He
considers himself to be an average gamer who plays ʻnowhere near the levelʼ
of some of his online compatriots. To then discover that this estimate has lead
to over 32 days of continuous playtime shows a stark contrast to what would
be a previous average gaming session length. He claims to have simply been
ʻsucked inʼ; where in a constant world there are always things to do. ʻYou can
never run out of stuff to do, once you reach 60 (the in game level cap, recently
upped to 80 with the release of expansion pack ʻWrath of the Lich Kingʼ) the
game really begins.ʼ With the combination of realism, online play and
addiction, a clear negative image can be associated with gaming. As such
criticism is an inevitable consequence.

2.4 Criticism:

Negative criticism of gaming has come from all angles and what seems like a
relatively recent phenomenon, has been around almost since its inception into
public consumption. One early negative view on video games and their affects
can be taken from Newsweekʼs ʻNintendo Kidʼ article in 1991:
Sam Richardson, 200264192 13/63

“Nintendo speaks to something primal and powerful in their [adolescent boys]


bloody-minded little psyches, the warrior instinct that in another culture would
have sent them out on the hunt or on the warpath.”24 And when questioned on
the subject of Nintendo bringing the family together with their current games
console, the author refutes this argument by claiming that since games are
primarily aimed at males, games would have the greatest effect on the father
son relationship.25

This comment above may be contested now with the shifting focus of gender
in games found in the Wii and other ʻfamily gamesʼ but the conflict still holds
resonance with parents misunderstanding the culture. Technology can be
blamed for causing the divide between parent and child but this has always
been the way, with the teenage child having a natural disposition to try and
rebel and distance themselves from the parent. If criticism can be aimed at
video games, it must surely be at the social aspect, where addiction can lead
to exclusion from real life social experiences and detract from the realities of
life. But on the other hand, the social experience of many games today, with
their multiplayer instalments can be regarded as positive. It is common to play
a multiplayer game with friends and family, and enjoyment can be far higher.
The stereotype of a gamer sitting alone in their dark room playing games
should be abolished thanks to the online play and multiplayer functionality of
most games.

Arguably, the most influential incident regarded video game violence linking to
real life violence occurred on Tuesday, April 1999, where 17-year-old Dylan
Klebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris killed 12 students and a teacher, before
committing suicide in the Columbine High School Massacre. The two were
allegedly obsessed with the video games Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, and
Harris also created two of his own levels for the game with one named "Tier",

24
P122, Marsha Kinder, Playing with power in movies, television and videogames, published
by University of California Press, 1991.
25
P 122, Marsha Kinder, Playing with power in movies, television and videogames, published
by University of California Press, 1991.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 14/63

which he called his life's work. One researcher argued it is nearly certain the
level contained a mock up of the Columbine High School. 26 Some analysts
believe that part of the issue behind why Columbine happened was due to the
pairʼs desensitization due to constant exposure to violent media. This came in
the form of films, music and importantly, video games. The link between
violent media and real life violence has sadly become a constant and it is a
difficult image to remove from the public consciousness. This is the news
story that not only brought violent video games into public knowledge but also
coincided with the persistent image of violent games negatively influencing
youths. It is this kind of harmful imagery that has prompted many in powerful
positions to criticise and actively encourage the negative stereotypes attached
to gaming Unfortunately, those in power and those who can convey their
feelings of concern towards the general public are of an older generation. The
issue is regarding media that is new, different and intimidating to parents and
adults alike. Mass hysteria can spread quickly when the issue concerned is
not fully understood.

Opposition to video gaming has come from many high ranking politicians as
well as the newspapers. Before running for presidency, John McCain
presented a conference for parents illustrating the ʻharmful nature of video
gamesʼ. It is precisely this knee-jerk response to an outside influence that has
caused the negative image of violence in games, and on of the most
outspoken and well-known public figure opposed to gaming is Jack
Thompson.

2.5 Jack Thompson and incidents linked to violence in video games

Never has gaming received more violent criticism than in the form of former
Florida attorney Jack Thompson. He single-handedly waged a war against

26
Basement Tapes, March 15, 1999, Evidence item #265, Pieced together from the
Columbine Report and Time's article dated 12-20-1999 (hard copy and online version).
http://acolumbinesite.com/quotes1.html
Sam Richardson, 200264192 15/63

video-gaming violence in a campaign of lawsuits and sound bites decrying the


genre and blaming most atrocities involving school shootings on video game
influence. His outbursts prompted gamers to unite across the world and
enhance the social aspect of gaming across the Internet. According to
Thompson, "In every school shooting, we find that kids who pull the trigger are
video gamers."27 One recent example of his outbursts came in the advent of
the Virginia Tech in April 2007, literally hours after the shooting. Before the
murderer Seung-Hui Cho was identified, Thompson predicted that the killer
had trained on Counter-Strike.28 Despite Seng-Huiʼs room mate claiming that
he only used his desktop computer to write fiction, and that he had last been
know to have played Counter-strike 4 years ago, Thompson disputed this and
clamed ʻyou donʼt drop it when you go to college, typically.ʼ A search warrant
of the dorm room later found no evidence whatsoever of video games in
Seung-huiʼs possession.

Gamers have responded to Thompson's attempt to link the Virginia Tech


massacre to the game Counter-Strike. Video game Web sites and young
gamers on Internet message boards "teemed with anger" at what San
Francisco Chronicle reporter Peter Hartlaub called "his serial misstatements,"
in some cases providing links to YouTube videos of Thompson, and
dissecting his claims point by point.29

Thompson has also rejected arguments that such video games are protected
by freedom of expression, saying, "Murder simulators are not constitutionally
protected speech. Theyʼre not even speech. Theyʼre dangerous physical
appliances that teach a kid how to kill efficiently and to love it," as well as
simply calling video games "mental masturbation".30

27
Excerpt from '20/20' on the Debate Whether Violent Video Games Desensitize Children."
World News Now, ABC, 2000-03-23.
28
By Winda Benedetti, 2007Were video games to blame for massacre? MSNBC Technology
news, April 20 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18220228/
29
Hartlaub, Peter. "Another tragedy, another platform for video game fear monger". San
Francisco Chronicle, 2007-04-24
30
By Winda Benedetti, 2007Were video games to blame for massacre? MSNBC Technology
news, April 20 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18220228/
Sam Richardson, 200264192 16/63

His outspoken response to terrible tragedies such as the school shootings


simply led to the impression of a desperate man fighting an un-winnable
battle. In his attempts to demonise gaming and gamers, he effectively helped
reduce the negative feelings towards such games and portray himself as the
negative and immature influence. When discussing his comments to parents
and adults in general, the overall response was that of disbelief and
disagreement. Whilst almost exclusively consisting of non-gamers, any
negative feeling they held towards gaming was if anything reduced in
response to Thompsonʼs behaviour.

Jack Thompsonʼs main rival in terms of video gaming has been Rockstar
Games, the developer of the controversial Bully, Manhunt, and the Grand
Theft Auto series. One such story that aroused his attention was in February
2003, when 16 year-old American Dustin Lynch was charged with murder. His
defence plea was of insanity, and made claims that he was obsessed with
Grand Theft Auto III.31 This piqued Thompsonʼs interest and he encouraged
the father of the victim to hand a note to the judge that read: "the attorneys
had better tell the jury about the violent video game that trained this kid [and]
showed him how to kill our daughter, JoLynn. If they don't, I will."32 The
accused later retracted his plea of insanity, however, with his mother claiming
ʻIt has nothing to do with video games or Paxil [an anti-depressant drug Lynch
was prescribed], and my son's no murderer."33

Many incidents involving youth violence have been misrepresented in concern


of violence in video games. It would seem that on more than one occasion,
the link between the real life actions and those in game would simply be their
similarity. On February 27, 2004 in Leicester, UK, 17-year-old Warren Leblanc
lured 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah into a park and murdered him by stabbing

31
Developed By Rockstar North, Published by Rockstar Games, 2001
32
Hudak, Stephen. 'State gets; OK to try teenager as adult 16-year-old accused of killing
Medina girl." Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2003-05-13.
33
Hudak, Stephen. "Lawyer wants in, wants judge out in murder case of Medina teen."
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2003-08-19.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 17/63

him repeatedly with a claw hammer and knife.34 Leblanc was reportedly
obsessed with Manhunt, although investigation quickly revealed that the killer
did not even own a copy of the game. The victim's mother Giselle Pakeerah
has been campaigning against violent video games in the UK ever since. She
says ʻI can't believe that this sort of material is allowed in a society where
anarchy is not that far removed. It should not be available and it should not be
available to young people.ʼ This is precisely the issue that violence in video
games has been dealing with in regards to the media and views expressed.
The material in question, Manhunt is rated 18 and should not be played by
those under the age, but to ban the product as a whole is surely an
unnecessary restriction. Simply adhering to the ages specified by the ratings
boards could prevent the fear of children acting out violence seen in games.
The spokesperson for Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers'
Association said: "We reject any suggestion or association between the tragic
events and the sale of the video game Manhunt. The game in question is
classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and therefore should
not be in the possession of a juvenile. Simply being in someone's possession
does not and should not lead to the conclusion that a game is responsible for
these tragic events." It is very important to note, that legally the game should
never have been in the possession of Warren LeBlanc as he was under the
legal age to own to the game. Once again a link between a game and a
murder has been used for justification of a terrible incident, even when proved
wrong.

Counter Strike35 has been the subject of more than one investigation into the
ʻteachingʼ factor. The realism of acting as a team to kill the opposition, being
either terrorist or anti-terrorist has frequently been cited as reasons behind
murders. One particular spree of murders, the worst in Germany since the
Second World War, happened in 2002, and prompted the quote ʻThe killer

34
BBC NEWS, England, Leicestershire, Game blamed for hammer murder, 29/7/2004
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm
35
Developed by Valve Software, Published by Vivendi Universal, retail release Nov 2008
Sam Richardson, 200264192 18/63

was trained by a computer game.ʼ36 This concluded in strict restrictions


regarding the sales of video games and claims that the murderer was
effectively trained and conditioned by the game to go on a killing spree. In
regards to these claims, a group of Counter Strike enthusiasts created a
website named Gamers against Terror, with the very clear message of "It is
understandable that the world is looking for reasons and for motives, but it is
not acceptable," they write, "to portray us as if we are all lining up to burst into
schools, shoot down teachers and police officers and rob old people."37 A
gaming convention, where up to 2000 attendees were expected, was
postponed in respect of the tragedy. As the quote above states, it is
understandable to be looking for potential motives for the murder, but the fact
remains that if there is any link to a video game in regards to violence then
that is what catches the media attention the most.

Accountability is very difficult to ascertain, where the only true person to


blame can be the one holding the gun and pulling the trigger. There has long
been a tradition of scapegoating the latest trend amongst younger
generations, and in the last 10 to 20 years it has been video games that have
taken the blame. Undoubtedly, the extreme violence portrayed in some games
can and do have some links to the emotional and behavioural issues of those
that commit crimes, but equal blame must also be attributed to the social
situations they are in, the parents for not identifying the issues and even
buying the games for their underage child. It is unfair to place full
responsibility on just once aspect of the problems that faced the perpetrator.
In evaluation of the news stories linked to youth crime (there are far too many
to adequately convey how many there have been), it would appear that the
finger of blame is almost solely placed on the video games that were played,
when it is almost always admitted there were other issues surrounding the
36
By Clare Murphy, BBC News Online, Tuesday, 30 April, 2002,
Playing the game: Germany's teenage killer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1959632.stm
37
By Clare Murphy, BBC News Online, Tuesday, 30 April, 2002,
Playing the game: Germany's teenage killer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1959632.stm
Sam Richardson, 200264192 19/63

crimes. One story linking computer games to murders helped create a trend
that shows no signs of ending. Jack Thompson clearly took his cue from the
events at Columbine, and undoubtedly the media in general found a new
source to find blame in. What the media portrays in one particular
circumstance can easily be applied across the board. By claiming that
Counter Strike trains those who play it to kill, would simply imply that there are
millions across the world ready and willing to murder. This patronising style of
reporting that disregards a childʼs ability to differentiate between what is real
and what is fantasy is extremely controversial, and raises many issues.
Fingers are pointed from both sides at contrasting things – the violence in
games versus the parents not acting responsibly. In order to fully understand
gamingʼs true impact on players, opinions must be taken from both sides, as
accusing only one factor can never be an adequate excuse.

2.6 Media influence and power

The Newspapers are the primary source of media influence that is free from
most regulations regarding content. The editors and in many cases the
paperʼs owner have used their own predilections in swaying the theme,
content and viewpoints.

The fact that newspapers have such strong bearings on the opinions of their
readers shows a link between their coverage of violent crimes linked to games
and the perception of violent videogames inevitable.

One clear example of newspaper influence is the 1992 election campaign


where the Sun ruthlessly ridiculed Labour leader Neil Kinnock and John
McKenzie later claimed it was "the Sun wot won it" for John Major.

Media control is the focus of many authors and Noam Chomsky holds the one
of the most controversial and powerful views. His book, Media Control,
Sam Richardson, 200264192 20/63

focuses on the power government has over the media and when needed,
propaganda can be used to totally influence and change the mind-set of a
population. A prime example of this is illustrated with the 1st World War where
a pacifist countryʼs inhabitants were transformed into ʻblood-thirsty war
mongerersʼ. Chomskyʼs writing style has an aggressive and accusatory
nature. Using phrases such as ʻengineering opinionʼ and constantly referring
to the public as simple and unable to make their own decisions (in the eyes of
US democracy). This highly critical account however does help in proving the
incredible effectiveness of propaganda if used properly.38

Whilst the main focus currently in media is the violence in video games, there
is violence in almost every form of entertainment media: Film, television,
music and books. There have been countless studies into the potential effects
of violent TV and films and the age rating system has been applied to both.
Videogames, however, have encountered endless negative press and the
overriding theme displayed by publications and newspapers is that games
have a negative impact on society. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail relish
stories of violence potentially caused. One such story that abuses the
information in order to convey a particular theme and imagery is the story of a
man stabbed whilst queuing for the release of a new game.39 The crime in
question was a stabbing and theft of Grand Theft Auto 4. The stabbing had
nothing in relation to the game itself, and could have happened at any other
time during the night. The fact was that people were out late (the release was
at midnight), with money and games on their person and this made the
unfortunate victim vulnerable. Despite this, the focus was on the violence
within the game and was used as a form of negative publicity. Editors know
very well that much of the time, it is what is in the headline that attracts people
to purchase the newspaper. A story about another act of mugging simply
would not make the front pages.

38
Noam Chomsky, Media Control, New York Seven Stories Press, c2002
39
By Sam Greenhill and Olinka Koster, Man stabbed queuing for midnight launch of ultra-
violent video game Grand Theft Auto IV, Daily Mail, 30 April 2008
Sam Richardson, 200264192 21/63

The majority of the time newspapers and news channels are totally unaware
of the actual content of games and the nature of the vast majority of gamers,
but report sensationalist hyperbole. One offshoot of this reporting can actually
be found in some games, which contain parody news stories that poke fun at
the fear-mongering nature of some real-life reporters. One notable example
would be the ʻWeasel Newsʼ network found in Grand Theft Auto 4.
Newspapers have incredible influence on the perceptions people have, but
sadly, the people who have never actually experienced the ʻultra-violentʼ
games themselves generally only hold these opinions. Just why is the
portrayal of videogames so negative in comparison to the universally
accepted violent films (the Saw series for example)? There is an established
age rating system but many younger children are able to play them, primarily
due to the negligence of parents or sales assistants.

The desensitisation to violence is one of the main fears and associations


made with violent computer games. The general perception of violent
videogames is that they are immature, aggressive, pointless and dangerous
to our mental health. The fear of youth violence can be placed down to its
inexplicability. It is very hard to accept and understand how some young
people turn to terrible acts of violence, so it is only natural to assume other
factors influenced them. Karen Boyle makes the point that the image that all
children are innocent and naïve leads to the belief that it must be an external
influence, and in most cases the media is brought into question.40

“Press-fuelled hysteria” is commonly used explaining the way media uses fear
to control. This comment can be applied to many news stories but one of the
most recent and horrific cases of child violence is in the Jamie Bulger murder
trial in which the judge made a statement linking the murders in a small way to
ʻvideo nastiesʼ. The investigation denied any link and there is no definite proof
that the child murderers ever even saw the films (in this case the ʻChildʼs playʼ
films) it was the perfect scapegoat and tabloids quickly latched on to it.

40
P2, Karen Boyle, Media and Violence, Sage Publications 2005
Sam Richardson, 200264192 22/63

Another factor is the fact that young crime is so often reported in favour of
adult crime. It takes a particularly gruesome crime to warrant news coverage if
an adult harms another adult, whereas a child or youth being stabbed is a
sure-fire way to garner attention.

In 1997, a survey of Los Angeles Times articles found that a murder


committed by someone under the age of 18 was 3 times more likely to be
reported than a murder by an adult.41 This just helps reinforce the unfair slant
given to crimes committed by youths. Adults are constantly reminded of how
they should fear their children and as such has developed a culture where
every parent is scared of what their child witnesses. In reality, children and
youths are incredibly unlikely to commit such crimes, but when they do the
reality is far harder to take. Hence the newspaper headlines, and then the
general consensus that ʻour children are in danger.ʼ Gerard Jonesʼ comment
helps solidify the argument that the newspapers and other news media are
helping create the negative view of youth and the disproportionate weight held
to youth crime. Children are without doubt most susceptible to outside
influence but when studied, it has never shown conclusive evidence into
whether computer games actually harm them in any way. Parents have an
expected right to worry about their childʼs well being but when the only
evidence they have about computer games comes from biased resources and
scaremongering newspaper reports a negative view can easily be obtained.
The assumed response in studies therefore is generally negative, as
experimenters set out the tests to try and find a correlation, in contrast to
finding out whether there can be any positives. By trying to prove rather than
disprove the negative effect of violence in computer games, results have often
been unreliable and inconclusive.

41
Excerpt from Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy, superheroes, and
make-believe violence, published by Basic Books, 2003. P126
Sam Richardson, 200264192 23/63

2.7 Studies

Gaming is the newcomer in terms of mass media and as such there has been
little in the way of identifying and examining the true effects they have, The
studies that have been conducted have primarily been based on correlative
studies that have indeed supported the idea that entertainment does influence
behaviours. The problem however, is that the studies have treated media (TV,
films, games) as an external substance that we have no control over. The
obvious problem with this is that playing a video game is down to the userʼs
ʻchoiceʼ. Choice is a major keyword when it comes to investigating violent
video games. Gamers choose to play and therefore have direct impact on
what they want to do in the games. They influence the nature of the game,
rather than the game directing the player to what it deems appropriate. The
Albert Bandura study in 1963, is perceived as the cornerstone in media-
aggression experimentation. The findings were that if children watched
someone punching an inflatable clown doll, they subsequently punched an
identical clown doll more often than children who did not watch the video. This
clearly demonstrates the truth that if children see something exciting on TV,
they are more likely to copy the actions in play form later. Gerard Jones puts
this in context though, by discussing how in fact there is no evidence to prove
that punching a toy clown can develop into delinquency and crime. Stuart
Fischoff says “when we are aroused, we do everything harder – no matter
what the stimulus is.” In essence, the studies measure general arousal, but
only taken from that what they are looking for: heightened aggression.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans
of children who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional
arousal, and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in
self-control, inhibition and attention (See Fig 2). When we look at whether
violent TV shows or other forms of media have the same effect, they have
discovered identical findings. John P. Murray, a psychology professor at
Kansas State University, conducted a very similar experiment, employing the
Sam Richardson, 200264192 24/63

same technology used in Mathewsʼ study. “Kids in his study experienced


increased emotional arousal when watching short clips from the boxing movie
“Rocky IV.”

A very insightful and balanced argument in a study in 2006, into how violent
videogames can affect behaviour written by Kristin Kalning, Games editor for
MSNBC asks a very appropriate question: “So, why is everyone picking on
video games? Probably because thereʼs a much smaller body of research on
video games. They just havenʼt been around as long as TV and movies, so
the potential effects on children are a bigger unknown. Thatʼs a scary thing for
a parent.”

Clearly, Newspapers have an influence and the power to create opinions in


common culture and understanding. Sadly, fear is in the unknown and the
new fear is of the misunderstood. Mike A. Miles reported on a focus group on
violent crime in the Orange County. He asked:

“How much of Orange Countyʼs violent crime is caused by youths under the
age of 18?” The lowest estimate was 40%, made by a 19 year-old woman.
The highest, by an older man, was 80%. The group average was 65%. The
truth, according to law enforcement reports was 10%.”42 We can accredit this
response to the media and the way that youth crime is so often reported. So
often the younger generation is given a negative stereotype and this sadly has
stuck. Even by giving the lowest estimate of 40%, the 19 year old still held the
belief that those around her age committed a large percentage of crime. By
conveying youth as a completely negative force in the media, it has helped
create a state of mind for the younger generation. Some see it as a challenge
where they may in fact wish to live up to the perceived behaviour, others as
simply something to be feared and intimidated by.

42
Mike A. Miles, The Scapegoat Generation: Americaʼs war on Adolescents. Published by
Common courage press, 1996.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 25/63

The Leonard Enron studies have one of the most important findings of studies
into the effects of violent media, and this was that the correlation between
violent TV and aggression is 10%. But when compared to the 50% correlation
between violent homes and aggression, it pales in comparison. 43 No matter
what the child played or watched on television, it can never provide the same
emotional stimulus or influence of that of the parents and home life. This is not
to say that video games and violent media are completely without blame, as
some studies have found a positive link between violence in games to the
behaviour displayed afterwards. Their surroundings and especially the media
profoundly affect young children. Without adequate supervision it is clear that
violent videogames designed for an older audience, played by children, can
have a real effect on behaviour.

Children who regularly play video games admit they can be addictive and lead
to them acting out the violent scenes that are an intrinsic part of many
videogames, according to a survey by researchers at Aston University. Many
described violent scenes ʻwith relishʼ, they found. Almost 60% had witnessed
other children mimicking violent games.44

The issue with studies conducted is that they are almost entirely conducted
using child participants. Whilst the risk may be seen as highest in young
children, it is not representative of the game playing population as a whole.
This also disregards the fact that games are rated in accordance to the age
appropriate for the game. A child at the age of 12 naturally should not be
playing games rated 18, as there is potential for harm. It is hard to establish
whether video games really influence gamers in general, and if behaviour
turns to violence whether it is predetermined or influenced. What is clear,
though, is that the claim ʻviolent games teaching our kids to killʼ is wholly
unjustified.

43
Taken from Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy, superheroes, and
make-believe violence, published by Basic Books, 2003, p184

44
Daily Telegraph, 25 October 1993, cited in Craig and Petley 2001. “Children ʻact out video
violenceʼ
Sam Richardson, 200264192 26/63

Helen Smith concludes in her book on youth violence and its relationship to
video games in the media, that the “research on video games and crime is
compelling to read… But it just doesnʼt hold up. Kids have been getting less
violent since those games came out. That includes gun violence and every
sort of violence that might be inspired by a video game.”45 Without ever truly
finding a direct correlation between violence in video games and consequent
violence in reality, it is hard to discredit the argument that many studies are
simply trying to justify a perceived belief that has been created by the media,
that video games are a bad influence. With that in mind, and the evidence to
back up the claim that violence in games simply does not affect the vast
majority of its players, the question of whether Newspapers and the media are
simply looking for another scapegoat to continue the fear of teenagers
becomes easier to answer. Nevertheless, despite all the negative media
attention, there are definite positives to be had within video games, and
violence placed in a safe environment can be beneficial.

2.8 Benefits of gaming

Much has been discussed in regard to the negatives of gaming, but benefits
have also been found, especially in regard to children playing. Many of the
benefits found are to do with cognitive thinking and reactions. Taylor (2006)
claims that gaming requires quick thinking, reactions and spatial awareness.
Durkin and Barber continue this claiming that it also helps attention spans,
reaction times and spatial thinking. There is also evidence that prolonged
gaming sessions can result in improved visual perception skills46. Claims are
often made about the enormous benefits that games could offer as a learning
tool47. “The ʻaffordancesʼ of games, for example in providing instant feedback,
in requiring ʻactiveʼ learning, or in simulating particular types of real-world
activities can make them especially well suited to some kinds of educational
45
Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids who kill, published by
Callisto, 2000
46
Green and Bavelier, 2003, 2006
47
Gee, 2003, Prensky, 2006
Sam Richardson, 200264192 27/63

tasks not offered by many other modes of learning,48is quoted in the Byron
report. There are however, issues with sticking to these claims too strongly.
The main would be that many educationalists and researchers would claim
that it is not the videogame itself that enhances the learning, but rather the
context surrounding the child and technology, such as the skills of the
particular teacher that determines the success of teaching new skills.

Examples of benefits towards social and family orientated interactions can


also be seen with people seeking to become more ʻgoal orientatedʼ and
perform better at other activities. Multiplayer functionality in gaming also
allows more than one player at a time to play the same game, increasing the
social aspect. Enjoyment is crucial in developing skills, as the game can only
be successful if the player actually wants to succeed and complete it.

2.9 Wii

With Nintendoʼs release of its newest console, the Wii (September 2006), it
has ushered in a new era of gaming that has arguments for and against its
positive and negative impact on the gaming format.

With worldwide sales of 44.96 million consoles49 it is hard to avoid the fact
that the Nintendo Wii has outsold every other competitor in the current
generation of console gaming at almost a ratio of 2:1, and this can simply be
placed at the consoles appealing nature to a whole new gaming audience.
This new gamer is widely referred to as the ʻcasualʼ gamer, families who
spend an hour or so a day playing simple, easy to grasp games that can take
the role of traditional board games in the household. The positives of this are
prevalent in that the console can bring families together and create a good
social experience. With games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit released early
last year, their huge success is only comparable to their competitor opposites
48
Kirriemuir and MacFarlane, 2004; Mitchell and Savill-Smith, 2004. Byron Report, p.155.
49
Consolidated Financial Highlights" (PDF). Nintendo. 2009-01-29. P. 11.
http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2009/090129e.)
Sam Richardson, 200264192 28/63

in the traditional style ʻhardcore gamesʼ focusing, on graphics, game-play and


storytelling. It is the simplicity and user-friendliness that has separated the Wii
from the traditional gaming platforms and it is this that has lead to many
positive stories from the media.

With its casual games and simple family fun, the Wii has given confidence to
the genre of gaming, but that confidence is almost a false promise. With its
emphasis on family gaming, it has ostracised itself from the gaming populous
with criticism from many gaming publications. Its lack of ʻrealʼ games and total
disregard for traditional gamers, who have now been replaced by the casual
market, has ensured original and mature games have all but ceased to exist,
in favour of cheaply produced, easily accessible titles. Looking at the whole
situation in purely financial terms, it has been a masterstroke by Nintendo, but
the long-lasting effects of this have only just started to become clear. Today
the cost of making a game has sky rocketed from the last generation and big
budget games such as Grand Theft Auto 4 and Gears of War 2 have cost
around $40-50 million to make. See fig 3 for a graph on game costs.
Nintendoʼs games, simple graphics, simple design, low concept but easily
playable, however, are exceedingly cheap in comparison to produce and
when that is compared to levels of sales, it is clear what direction gaming will
take in the near future, especially when considering the current economic
situation.

This again has encouraged criticism from gamers. In the eyes of newspapers
and the media in general, family games are safer and best, but this is in direct
contrast to the people who actually play most videogames, with the average
age for a UK gamer being 23+. Despite promoting a new type of gamer, the
traditional gamer has been left in the same position as before and if anything,
has become more separated from the now popular form of casual gaming.
Violent games are still misrepresented and misunderstood, especially in the
Sam Richardson, 200264192 29/63

case of the Wii. No story shows the segregation better than that of Daily Mailʼs
story on the upcoming Wii exclusive Mad World.50

“Mediawatch-UK, Britainʼs longest running pressure group campaigning for


decency in TV, films and games, said MadWorld will 'spoil' the Wii. John
Beyer, director of Mediawatch-UK, said: 'This game sounds very unsavoury …
I hope the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will view this with
concern and decide it should not be granted a classification … Without that it
cannot be marketed in Britain. We need to ensure that modern and civilized
values take priority rather than killing and maiming people … It seems a
shame that the game's manufacturer have decided to exclusively release this
game on the Wii … I believe it will spoil the family fun image of the Wii.'

What this comment suggests is that the Wii shares nothing in common with
traditional consoles and as such should be treated as a separate entity. By
claiming the console has a form of innocence is comparable to claiming that
the other two consoles and PC are anything but innocent, and past the point
of saving. To suggest that the game should not be on the Wii but on another
console proves that in the eyes of the general public, watchdogs and media
general gaming is still a negative thing. Mediawatch are almost trying to
ʻprotectʼ the false image of an innocent games console when what gamers
want is the total opposite: Variety.

If what the media think we need and what the gaming populace want are
totally contrasting, the prospect of finding a universal agreement on the
subject of violent games is one that will never see fruition. There has long
been a clear divide between the types of gamer: casual and hardcore.
Originally, the hardcore were more likely associated with extremely intense,
difficult games that required incredibly quick reactions and much practice.
These kind of games were originally Japanese side-scrolling shooters such as
Ikaruga51, however, with the wake of a new type of console that attracts a far
larger audience (the Wii), the boundaries have been blurred somewhat. With

50
Platinum Games, published by Sega, 2009
51
Treasure Games, published by Sega, 2001
Sam Richardson, 200264192 30/63

the current emphasis on family orientated games, the level of difficulty a game
must have is far lower to be classified as hardcore. In a sense, the Wii with its
casual games has segregated itself so far from the general game market, the
other consoles and PC gaming are being seen as serious ʻhardcore gamingʼ
whatever game is released on it. Because of this merging of classifications, a
far broader spectrum of gamer is available to provide opinions. The average
gamer can quite easily be a mix of both casual and hardcore, and as such
violent games can be played just as much as the casual games.

In evaluation of the Wiiʼs influence on gaming, it is hard to ignore the positive


social impact it has had on family gaming. One clear way to help prove this is
the enormous age range that the Wii inhabits. Grandparents and
Grandchildren can play together which is indeed a first in the often-exclusive
world of video games. One reason behind this must simply be the accessibility
of the games on offer on Nintendoʼs console. It is also interesting to note that
the most popular games are those bundled with the console, Wii sports52.
With the exception of Wii Boxing, no other game in this bundle contains any
form of realistic violence. However, with almost all of Nintendoʼs other major
first party releases, violence is almost integral to proceed: Legend Of Zelda
Twilight Princess53 grants the player with a sword and is charged with
defeating the evil Ganondorf and the climax sees Link (the main player
character) plunging the sword into Ganondorfʼs chest; Super Mario Galaxy
has Mario flying through the galaxy to try and once again rescue his princess,
and defeat Bowser firstly by making him land on fire and then hitting him off of
the planet they were fighting on; finally, Super Smash Bros Brawl, which is
considered by many gamers as the most ʻhardcoreʼ game on the Wii. The
premise of the game is simply a fighting game, with up to four players
choosing a character and battling on a level. It is clear, that despite the Wiiʼs
ʻunspoiltʼ image as claimed by Mediawatch, violence is still clear and
predominant in some of the Wiiʼs best and most successful games. The image

52
Consolidated Financial Highlights" (PDF). Nintendo. 2009-01-29. P. 11.
http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2009/090129e.)
53
Developed and Published by Nintendo, 2005
Sam Richardson, 200264192 31/63

promoted by the media is very different to the actual quality of the titles. Of the
three games mentioned, the average rating given to each game has been
97/100 for Super Mario Galaxy, 95/100 for Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess
and 93/100 for Super Smash Bros, the three highest rated Nintendo Wii
games.54 Almost all top rated games throughout all generations of computer
games have included violence from one degree to another. Video gaming is
still seen as an immature hobby, for children and children alone, so violence
must be curtailed. Films are not deplored if they contain content for viewers
above the age of 12 but the main reason for this must surely be because of
the widespread acceptance and understanding of the entertainment. For
violence in games to finally be accepted and appreciated as the norm, the
whole video game industry must first be understood, and not just for its impact
on children, as children are no longer the sole target market.

2.10 Young Industry

Video games have been around now for over 30 years, but in comparison to
the other forms of entertainment media it is still the youngest. Because of this,
and the media coverage associated with the stereotypes of games and the
gamers themselves, it lends itself to the belief that it is far more closely
associated with children. Technology of today has led to a widening of the
generation gap and therefore an increase in the lack of understanding
between children and their parents. Parents had television and film in their
childhood and are aware of the potential affects these media forms can have.
Videogames are an influence that has become a major part in childrenʼs lives,
yet the parents have very little knowledge of what they are like. Dr Tanya
Byron makes an excellent point in relation to this with her statement: "Kids are

54
Super Smash Bros Brawl metacritic score:
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/supersmashbrosbrawl Super Mario Galaxy
metacritic score:
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/supermariogalaxy?q=super%20mario%20gala
xy Legend Of Zelda metacritic score;
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/legendofzeldatwilightprincess?q=legend%20of
%20zelda%20twilight%20princess
Sam Richardson, 200264192 32/63

the digital natives, parents are the digital immigrants." With only the stories
seen in newspapers and the news to gain reference from, the idea of a young
child playing a violent computer game is a very scary one. It is common
knowledge that many games can and have a violent nature, it is less
understood, however, that they are regulated just as much, if not more that
the film genre. In theory, these games should pose no threat to children as
they are aged appropriately according to BBFC regulations. Sadly, this rating
system is not taken as seriously as other forms of media, with the prolific
belief that video gaming is still not a fully established genre. Because of this,
Ian Livingstone, Eidos' Creative Director and Head of Acquisitions, has called
on the UK government to show the games industry more respect. "We're still
seen as the red-headed stepchild of the creative industries, one notch up from
pornography in the eyes of most of the establishment," he told The
Guardian.55

It is very easy to cast games aside by looking at them at face value, and some
game companies do nothing to try to rectify this. As the old adage goes, all
publicity is good publicity. Games developers Rockstar are renowned for their
reputation amongst worried parents and adoring fans for their games. Grand
Theft Auto broke all sales records56 and this in some part is down to
exceptional amount of publicity given to the gameʼs violent content. Games
and their publishers have the ability to perform and react to any situation
desired, and there is already a backlash against the controversy, with games
such as Manhunt. Whilst technically a mediocre game, its popularity in sales
and interest was almost solely down to the huge controversy caused by its
hyper-violent content. Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt are constantly cited as
the instigator of violent crimes in adolescents. You would not expect a parent
to allow their young child to watch a Saw film, but the same can not be said
for an 18 rated game. If parents call for the ban of violent games, would it not

55
Tom Ivan, Eidos, Games viewed as "one notch up from porn"
Thursday 23-Oct 2008 http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=200074
56
By Curt Feldman, Grand Theft Auto IV steals sales records, Thu May 8, 2008,
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/05/08/gta.sales/index.html
Sam Richardson, 200264192 33/63

make more sense instead of banning the games outright, to educate the
parents themselves on the content of these violent games? Conversely, one
of the main reasons as to why parents feel their children are at risk by playing
mature games is down once again to the fact that the image of gaming is still
one of immaturity, and that video game ratings donʼt apply in the same way to
games as they do to films.

2.11 Age Ratings

At a recent video game convention, a member of the BBFC ratings system


company Jim Cliff gave an overview of the way that the BBFC rate games.
Drawing contrasts between the BBFC and PEGI systems (See Fig 4).
Interestingly, when talking about the elements that the BBFC look at when
rating games, the first thing he mentioned was weapons. “Weapons are tools
and we use tools to interact and have an affect on the world around us.” It is
slightly odd how, when talking about games the first tool, or method of
interacting with the world, which springs to mind are weapons.57

“Cliff talks about the role of photorealism and interactivity when rating games
and the wider role of realism in the process. Jim highlights that long games
pose an interesting challenge for the BBFC. Also how game patches and
user-generated content are making one off ratings for games redundant … He
also points out that different countries have different social and legal demands
on media and entertainment classification and how a pan European
classification system may not be fit for purpose in that sense.”58This can be
applied to examples such as the very strict German classifications, where
many games are heavily censored or even refused sale. Classifying games is
a much harder job than classifying any other form of entertainment media, in
that games are intended to played and used by the player. Interacting with the

57 th st
Live blog from Gamecity 30 Oct to 1 Nov http://gamecity.org/live-from-gamecity/

58 th st
Live blog from Gamecity 30 Oct to 1 Nov http://gamecity.org/live-from-gamecity/
Sam Richardson, 200264192 34/63

media is what marks the video game industry apart from any other from of
entertainment.

The Byron report focussed strongly on the parents purchasing games aged
older than the children themselves. Whilst most parents consented to
purchasing 12+ games for their 7-10 year olds, they then felt under pressure
to buy 18+ games for their children when slightly older. Whilst gaining fairly
mixed views from parents, the overriding opinion is that it is down to the child
in question whether they are mature and responsible enough to play the
games. There are clearly far more circumstances that effect the behaviour of
a player other than simply the content of a game. Buyer discretion is
paramount, but what may be more important is the ability of the parent or
guardian to make a more informed decision. Again, the Byron report revealed
that of all parents asked about the restrictions and parental controls built into
many games, none were aware of their existence.

The video-game industry is the most heavily regulated media entertainment


industry, with three separate bodies rating the games. PEGI was the original
self-regulated ratings body, but with claims of misunderstanding the age
ratings, BBFC have since been added to clarify the situation. ESRB are the
third, rating games for the American population. The problem with rating
games, however, is that the content is now no longer a linear narrative. With
games becoming more and more complex with multi-branching storylines and
the ability to choose the outcome, it is very hard to accurately regulate the
game. A recent game, Mirrors Edge59 is a first-person action game that gives
the player the choice between killing the enemies, or choosing not to fire a
single bullet the whole game. In this instance not firing a bullet is actually
encouraged and rewarded. Senior producer Owen O'Brien stressed, "This is
an action adventure. We're not positioning this as a shooter … the focus isn't

59
EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts, 2008
Sam Richardson, 200264192 35/63

on the gun, it's on the person."60 The game is rated 16+ based on the
inclusion of gunplay, but how would you rate the game if you chose not to kill?
The same can be said about a multitude of current generation games that
involve morality as a major gameplay aspect. Fallout 361 gave the player an
effectively ʻblank canvasʼ character that they could then shape and mould as
they saw fit. Using the ʻKarmaʼ system, the player could choose to become
purely evil, killing and being aggressive throughout the game, or to be good
and never kill a thing throughout the game. Becoming either of these
extremes is also down to the discretion of the player, being neutral or
anywhere in between is possible. This brings about the fact that the game
itself has almost infinite ways of completion and as such, surely would
become a meta-rated game, where the player chooses what level of violence
they use. Giving a game the same classification system as films may make it
clearer and easier to understand for a parent purchasing the game, but still
cannot fully convey the content.

In conclusion then, purchasing a game rated above the age of a child is


simply down to the adult/ parentʼs own discretion. Blaming a
misunderstanding of the age-rating system canʼt excuse purchasing a game
that is heavily violent for a child that is not responsible or mature enough to
play the game. Complaining about a game that is too violent for children
seems a poor argument when all games are currently rated for the age
appropriate for play. If a game is too violent for a child, then the game will be
rated in conjunction with this. However, successfully rating a game is very
difficult and as such judging whether the gameʼs content is suitable for a
certain age can be incredibly restricting. With the advent of choice in how you
complete the game, and with many games containing the option of reducing
or turning off gore, it is now more and more down to the responsibility of
parents to develop a greater understanding of the game they are purchasing.
Gaming as a medium is maturing far quicker than many in the media are able

60
Nick Suttner, Previews, Parkour details and in-depth interview. 02/29/2008
http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?cId=3166742
61
Developed and published by Bethesda Softworks, 2008
Sam Richardson, 200264192 36/63

to appreciate, and in fairness for every Fallout 3 there is another child-aimed


film spin-off that is specifically targeted at young children and requires little to
no skill to complete. This is in stark comparison to what mental images are
conjured up in the minds of the media and adults when told about a new
shooting game. The first of which usually, is gore.

2.12 Gore and sales numbers

When parents and the media discuss shooters the first thing they focus on is
the ʻgoreʼ and the realistic representation of death in a game. They feel it
trivialises real life death and it can, in fact lead to desensitisation to violence
and death. However, Dallas Middaugh, an editor of many games-related
books and a gamer himself argues that gore is at best a tertiary appeal of
shooter games. Gameplay is by far the most important element, next comes
the environment and the suspense. Gore is simply a superfluous addition.62

Games such Half-Life require far more thinking and strategy in its complex
game play than the ʻone-trick-ponyʼ Soldier of Fortune63 that boasted about its
26 points of body dismemberment. Whereas Soldier Of Fortune had plenty of
gore, the game play was lacking and the interest in the game died down soon
after the glossy coverage grew tired. Half-Life however, remains one of the
most accomplished and successful games of all time. Not because of gore,
but because of its game play.

Another critical analysis of games is that they are there for aggressive people
to let the violent content fuel their rage. This, however, is patently untrue in
most cases. For example, when looked at in the context of any other
game/sport rage or aggression is the fastest way to lose. Losing your temper
in football leads to bad tackling and a loss of concentration. The same can be
said for computer games, especially ones that demand high attention

62
P173, Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-
believe violence, published by Basic Books, 2003.
63
Raven Software and published by Activision on March 27, 2000
Sam Richardson, 200264192 37/63

(shooters for example). The most vital way to succeed or improve at a game
is to be calm, donʼt let nerves, anger or tension cloud your vision and make
small mistakes. In essence, playing games calm is far superior than getting
angry.

As technology matures and advances, so to do games. They can now


approach more adult themes such as sex, violence and storyline to an almost
filmic extent. Controversy caused because of these games can simply be
attributed to the immature imagery surrounding gaming. Some see men at the
age of 25 playing games as immature, when in actual fact this is the main
target market for games. 59% (26.5m) of all 6-65 year olds are gamers. The
average age of the UK gamer is 28, and 51% of 36 to 50 year olds play
games, and that number is growing.64 But different age groups make different
choices about how, where, and what they play.

2007 was an unprecedented year for the industry with a staggering growth in
sales, the industry saw a 16% increase on units sold from the previous year
taking the total to a whopping 75.9 million units sold. These record sales of
interactive entertainment software across all formats totalled £1.72 billion, an
increase of over 26% per cent over 2006ʼs record figures.65

As you can clearly see, the games industry is huge and current industry
analysis indicates that by next year, games will be out-selling the music and
film business. It is without doubt the newest and most powerful influence in
young peopleʼs lives but instead of a negative alternative (as perceived by
other media outlooks) the games players themselves see it as a positive
improvement on the media they consume.

64
What is the average gamer? 26th November 2006
http://www.theaveragegamer.com/averagegamers/
65
Market Data compiled by ELSPA.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 38/63

2.13 Killing Monsters and other books of influence:

One of the most influential points of research I have found is Gerard Jonesʼ
ʻKilling Monsters, why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe
violenceʼ. In review of Jonesʼ work, it is hard not to acclaim his piece in
proving that violent entertainment is in fact good for children, and demonizing
it can harm our childrenʼs emotional development. He argues that violent
media can provide a safe fantasy world in which children can control and
become accustomed to the frightening emotions linked to development such
as violence, sexuality and anger. He successfully debunks many studies into
the effects of media violence and makes a very well judged argument that
children can clearly differentiate between fantasy and reality. He urges
parents (of which he draws many references from his own experiences of a
parent) to try and see the difference between what violence means to them
and what it does to their children. As adults, we may be inclined to be horrified
at the content of violent games, but children are interacting far more with the
emotional implications and identifying with the protagonists, giving them the
feeling of power and control in their otherwise very ʻun-powerfulʼ young lives.
Jones addresses adult fears of the power of popular culture and cautions that
"entertainment has its greatest influence when it's speaking to something that
isn't otherwise being addressed in a child's life." To lessen the impact, adults
should "model nonaggression, empathy, respect, a clear distinction between
fantasy and reality, and the integration of aggression and other scary
feelings.”66 He suggests possible ways of behaving and treating the young
children and although seemingly sensible, he bases many theories on his own
personal experiences. Obviously, everyone is different and children respond
to varying forms of influence and treatment. Whilst I agree whole-heartedly
with his critique of studies and their various shortcomings, the argument is
mostly one-sided and ignores some issues that are a real problem for many
gamers at this time.

66
Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe
violence, published by Basic Books, 2003.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 39/63

Julian Dibbellʼs, Play Money, is a brilliant book that delves into the dark side of
massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGS) and the
obsessive-ness of its inhabitants. The author looks into the burgeoning
economy market of buying and selling virtual goods for real money, and how
people can become so immersed in the ʻworkʼ in-gameʼ that the lines between
reality and virtual reality are intrinsically blurred.67

He also goes on to investigate how civilisation has its roots deep in the
concept of ʻplayʼ with an example being the Kpelle people in Liberia, who
”scarcely make a distinction at all, allowing for a difference between arduous
tasks ʻforest workʼ and lighter ʻtown workʼ but generally avoiding all work that
canʼt be done playfully, amid song and dance and jest.” He uses his own
personal experience researching and eventually immerses himself in the trade
and reveals the multi-million dollar industry created out of the MMOs.
Throughout his journey he encounters players who have had their lives
controlled by the games (World of Warcraft and Ultima Online in particular)
who play for at least 7-10 hours a day, repeating the same menial tasks and
doing the same quests for a reward of better armour or virtual money. The
dark-side of gaming is clear to see, where violence in games may not
adversely affect our behaviour, the compulsive behaviour represented in such
games clearly can. His work displays such ʻaddictionsʼ and an insight into the
lives of the players; almost all find their normal lives a struggle and use their
virtual lives as an escape. As mentioned previously, the fear of addiction is a
very real one, and it is an issue that is genuinely affecting many gamers
across the world. Marvin Minsky makes a good point in claiming that our
connection with the real world is very thin, and our connection with the
artificial world is only going to become more intimate as time progresses.68

67
Julian Dibbell, Play Money, Published by Basic Books, 2006
68
Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of arts and sciences at MIT.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 40/63

The books I have examined show a common theme, that violence in media
and more specifically video games show no evidence of causing real-world
violence but in fact are a development of our own needs and suppressed
desires. In order to further understand to what extent violence in video games
has affected our culture, and how the mediaʼs coverage has shaped the
perceptions of video games, further first hand research is vital.

3 Primary Research

3.1 Research Questions

After the research so far, the main focus has been on the point of view
expressed by those who are in control of the media and experiments, or to put
it more bluntly, the adults who are most likely not to have been involved in the
gaming populace and as such donʼt have views that effectively represent
those who play. This negative stance has contributed to the way gaming is
seemingly perceived by the general populace at large, but it is necessary to
discover whether that view is genuinely shared by those who are actually in
the generation that play games and have video games as an integral part of
the entertainment media in their lives. A questionnaire will ask what their
viewpoints are on video game violence, what their perception of gaming is as
a whole and how they would rate video gaming as a form of mature media. It
will also be asking if playing games can affect their own behaviour and
whether they believe that the game or the parents purchasing the game is
more important in regards to potential harm caused to a child.

3.2 Methodology

With the current views held by most non-gaming adults as negative, it is


important to establish what the actual generation of gamers (and non-gaming
youth) think of the violence in games and their view of gaming in general. The
questions outlined above will all be placed in the form of a questionnaire, but
Sam Richardson, 200264192 41/63

there will also be discussion groups with gamers who would class themselves
as ʻhardcoreʼ in regards to frequently playing violent video games that require
a high level of skill, dedication and predominantly the inclusion of online
multiplayer. To justify this approach in research methods, a questionnaire is
the quickest and most accurate way of obtaining a broad spectrum of views
on the particular subject matter. The questions will be simple and to the point,
as to ensure no confusion and the clearest results. The reason the
questionnaire is predominantly restricted to the current age group that most
frequently play games (16-28) is so the actual opinion of gaming can be
gauged. The second form of personal research that will be conducted will be a
discussion group with a small number of gamers face to face. The gamers will
be a selection of those who play games above the average level of play time
and most importantly, spend most of their gaming time online and in games
containing violence. This will provide first hand research that can help give a
broader view of what attracts them to the games in the first place, what affect
the games can have and what they think of them. Thirdly, I will be entering
various video game outlets and researching into what proportion of games
available contain violence. Obviously, the discussion group and questionnaire
can not give an overview of the entire gaming populace, as the results will be
quite restrictive to British people alone, and canʼt fully represent the feelings of
a global gaming community. But, given time and monetary restraints, this is
best possible approach to gaining a fair and logical view on gaming, from
gamers themselves.

3.3 Results

The results reflected what had been expected, in that the overriding viewpoint
of most people in the age generation of gaming, from 16 to 28 saw the past
time as that of a positive influence and felt that the portrayal of video games
and violence in them was negative and largely unjustified. It was quite
surprising as to how strongly many felt that the responsibility was down to
parents rather than the games, as the results indicate. To ensure that the
questionnaire made sense to all participants, before releasing it into the
Sam Richardson, 200264192 42/63

public, I asked specific members of the community that would be questioned


whether or not the questions made sense and were easy to understand. It is
very important for the participants to fully understand what the questions were
asking, so as to ensure the results are as fair and accurate as possible.

For my shop research, the clear front-runner in terms of genre for the
consoles was violent video games and more specifically First Person
Shooters. Of the top 30 PS3 games, 18 contained some form of violence, 17
of the to 30 for the 360, and 11 of the to 20 contained violence in the PC
charts. Although it must also be noted that 8 of the top 20 games for the PC
were The Sims69and its vast array of add-ons. The top 20 games for the Wii
however, was a very different layout, with only 2 games featuring overt
violence, and 7 games that would be classed as ʻnon-gamesʼ, such as mini-
game compendiums and Brain Training simulations.

3.3.1 Interview Results

An interview was conducted with 10 individuals who either played Halo online
regularly, World Of Warcraft or a mixture of online shooters such as Halo, Call

69
Designed by Will Wright, Developed by Maxis, Published by EA 2004
Sam Richardson, 200264192 43/63

of Duty or Counter Strike. The results of the discussion were very interesting
in relation to what had been anticipated. There seemed to be quite a fervent
defence of video game violence, with almost complete denial of some
negative media surrounding the games. The clear overall factor to take note is
that there is a very positive personal image of gaming and violence does not
play a significant role in this. The community aspect of World of Warcraft such
as the guilds they are members of was brought up often as a positive aspect
to the game. The average number of hours spent a week on this particular
game (Warcraft) was around 15 hours. It seems that in a perpetually
operating world populated by real people, time moves fast and to keep up you
must play very often. As one of the group claims: “Thereʼs a pressure to keep
playing, you have to keep up, be the highest level, and donʼt miss out on any
sieges. If you miss out on an amazing piece of armour just because you were
eating food or something, itʼs really annoying.” When questioned on the player
versus player combat and violence, the responses were not as expected.
“PvP (player versus player) isnʼt my thing, its much better to work as a team
and take on a massive quest, you only get the best stuff if you work together.”
Teamwork proves to be a crucial aspect of all online experiences, as the
entire group when asked mentioned the need to work together to win a
game/complete a quest. This social aspect of gaming seems largely
overlooked in the media, and seems to be an important one at that. Violence
in games seems largely superfluous, where the importance of winning is far
higher than the actual process of killing. When asked about the ʻteachingʼ
effect some games can have with their realistic depiction of violence, the
majority of responses regarded the violence in game being just as instructive
as images seen in films and TV. “What all the media doesnʼt seem to get is
that 99% of people playing these games can differentiate between whatʼs real
and whatʼs just a game. If someone plays a game like Halo and thinks ʻyeh, I
could go and snipe someoneʼs head off nowʼ, theyʼve clearly got something
wrong with them. Itʼs just not like that in the real world is it?” When asked
about the possible influences that playing violent games have on them, all but
two claimed to have had either daydreams or thoughts relating to violence in a
Sam Richardson, 200264192 44/63

real world situation. As with prolonged exposure to all things, the thoughts can
stay with you, such as a song being stuck in youʼre head or something
happening that reminds you of a particular scene in a film. The important thing
to remember is that boundaries between what is allowed and what is not in a
public space must always be adhered to and remembered. Violence in video
games can affect the psyche, proved by the comment: “I have thought
sometimes, like, what if I could do what happens in Counter Strike, but you
know that it never would happen, thoughts are totally different to actions.
Gamers arenʼt stupid. Adults need to realise that.”

3.3.2 Questionnaire results:

To access the results, visit the website where the full results are presented at:
http://tinyurl.com/videogameviolenceresults. To further research, a
questionnaire was given to a broad range of gamers and non-gamers, with
the hope of determining the thoughts and feelings of the general populous
towards violent games. I tried to gain an even spread of gaming preference,
but studied the key age demographic of gamers, with most results taken from
16-21 year olds.

Question 1: How old are you?


Sam Richardson, 200264192 45/63

The questions asked were primarily to do with their perceptions on gaming


and if it affects their behaviour in any way. The first two questions were based
around age and how they would classify themselves as a gamer.

Question 2: How would you classify yourself as a gamer?

As expected, the most common response was that of an average gamer,


where they played around 2-4 times a week on a variety of different games
and genres. There was also an above average total in numbers of casual
gamers than was expected. Playing once or twice a week seems natural now,
but a few years ago the divide between gamers and non-gamers was
dramatic. If this questionnaire had been conducted 5 years previously, the
divide in answers would be far larger. My next question asked the participant
whether he or she felt that video game violence is a genuine problem that the
youth are affected by.

Question 3: Do you feel that video game violence is a genuine problem that
the youth are affected by? With 1 being a genuine problem, and 5 being no
problem at all.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 46/63

The response again was relatively mixed, but the highest proportion felt that
that the effect of violence in computer games lacked a real risk to the youth.
The next two questions may well be the most important in linking the
perceptions created by the media in relation to actual perceptions held by an
average consumer.

Question 4: What do you think the general perception of gaming as a whole


is?
Sam Richardson, 200264192 47/63

This first question asked what they thought the general perception of gaming
is as a whole. Out of all responses, 5% believed it to be a positive view,
whereas 39% saw it as misunderstood and a slightly higher percentage,
46.3% recognized that gaming is growing in acceptance. There is still clearly
the belief that gaming is regarded as a negative form of entertainment, with
12.2% regarding the general perception as negative.

Question 5: What is your perception of gaming as a whole?

The answers here were a stark difference to the next question, where it was
the actual participantʼs view on gaming being questioned. Here, 58.5% of
participants asked gave a response of a positive view on gaming and 31.7%
for growing in acceptance. With these results it is clear to see there is a divide
between the perceived negative beliefs and the actual positive views towards
gaming by the culture that actually plays the games.

Question 6: When playing games with violence in them, do you feel that they
can affect your mood or behaviour?
Sam Richardson, 200264192 48/63

This question asked the participants whether they felt that games affected
their behaviour and mood when the game in question involved violence. With
87.9% of responses claiming not at all to only sometimes, it is clear to see
that the issues of violent games causing direct social and behavioural
problems are blown out of all proportion by the media.

Question 7: Do you feel that media portrayal of violence in video games is


justified? With 1 being totally justified and 5 being totally unjustified.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 49/63

I next asked participants if they believed that the mediaʼs portrayal of violence
in games is justified. The responses were quite varied but the highest
percentage went to it being largely unjustified (34.1%). With 22% claiming the
mediaʼs portrayal as totally unjustified and only 7.3% claiming it to be totally
justified. However, the difference is clear in how the young demographic see
video games and their role in our society.

Question 8: Do you feel that games rated 18 are potentially more harmful to
the user than films rated the same age?

Once again, the popular myth that gaming in some way can harm children
more than any other form of mass media entertainment seems to be mainly
disagreed with. The age ratings of games would therefore relate very closely
to that of films. However, the opinion is not totally one-sided, and there is still
a feeling that games can exert a greater influence on its players, possibly
down the far greater level of immersion seen in many violent games we see
nowadays.

Question 9: What party would you say are more responsible for children being
affected by violent games? The parents purchasing the game for their child, or
the actual gameʼs content.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 50/63

In relation to children and the effect of violence in computer games, the long-
running debate has been whether it is in fact the parentsʼ responsibility for
letting the children play games rated above their actual age or the destructive
and violent nature of the games themselves. This survey helped clarify the
views of an average gaming demographic, which again contrasts the view of
the media at large. Here, an overwhelming majority of 82.9% put the blame
mainly on the parents. As mentioned many times previously, it is the
responsibility of the parents to judge whether the age rating of a game is
suitable for their child and to find out before, not after, whether the game is
appropriate.

Question 10: In comparison to long-running and established forms of media


such as film and television, do you feel that video games are seen as an
immature form of media entertainment in general?
Sam Richardson, 200264192 51/63

Again, the answers were fairly varied from degrees of fairly agree to disagree,
but the most common response was in agreement to the statement with
43.9% of those asked feeling that the gaming entertainment media is still
perceived as quite immature, this concurs well with the comments used earlier
by Eidos Creative Director Ian Livingstone.

As I conducted my survey primarily from the focus of the age group that most
commonly plays computer games and they are most naturally aware of
current technologies, it may give a slight disadvantage to the overall image of
gaming, but conversely also reveals the generational divide in terms of the
gaming culture. The overwhelming response provided by participants was that
gaming is an important part of our entertainment culture and it is viewed as a
positive factor.

4 Discussion

It is clear to see that the people who have grown up with games as an integral
part of youth culture see it as misunderstood and positive. The negative view
of gaming seems held almost solely by the older generation, from the age of
45 onwards. This generation did not grow up with the technology and MTV
culture as the current generation has, and as such can likely see the influx of
Sam Richardson, 200264192 52/63

new entertainment media as threatening and alien. Comparisons can be


made throughout the 20th century, with the term Generation Gap first being
coined in the 1960s. In the 50s it was rock music, in the 70s and eighties it
was horror films, 90s began the music television craze that permeates general
entertainment media and also saw the beginnings of gaming becoming more
and more popular. There has always been a new form of media that attracts
the young and alienates the old.

In many ways it is the younger generation, who the older feel is most affected
by, who have the most valid views on the subject. It is them who are most
likely to play, and judge the gaming fairly and it is this generation that has the
best understanding of it. Adults absorb only the mediaʼs perception and horror
stories of gaming, and negative stigma has naturally arisen from this. Perhaps
the most important aspect of this negative view given by the media is that it is
written precisely by the generation who have no real experience with video
gaming, and they are getting older. A study in 2002 shows that the average
age of journalists increased to 41 years old from 36 in 1992 (See fig 5).70
They have least experience but conversely the greatest influence. This just
goes to show the schism between influence, power and general
understanding. Of course, this difference can only last so long, as the
generation who have grown up with video-games move into adulthood, their
views will become more and more important and influential. It is already
happening with the advent of positive news and views becoming more
publicised such as Government minister Tom Watson, who claims that the
Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Xbox can give children real educational
benefits and that he had already witnessed progress in his three-year-old son
from interacting with computers. He goes on to state "I'd rather my boy be
playing on his Wii than passively watching telly. Most games are educational.

70
Poynter Online, Finding 1: The American Journalist Survey,
Traditional Journalists Are Getting Older, Apr. 10, 2003
http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=28781
Sam Richardson, 200264192 53/63

They make you think, focus, challenge and change … 500 years ago a
medium that did this would be called art." 71

As has happened with most other issues regarding negative publicity and
fears, once the trend has become mainstream, widespread and understood
fully, the establishment will move to the next issue. While, millions play games
across the globe, and only a small minority of genuine and appalling events
that have happened create the negative image of gaming, the vast majority
enjoy and see positives in the video games. Violence in any form of media will
always be debated for its possible negative connotations, and rightly so.
Some do take violence literally and see the violence in media as precursor to
real life violence. It is an unfortunate occurrence but we can link this tendency
towards violence in the youth culture to far more influences than simply video
games and other forms of mass media. In many cases, where there is a large
amount of youth violence, the instance of a computer game or console even
being present is relatively low. Helen Smithʼs book on youth crime and
violence makes the claim that: “Thereʼs no connection between video gaming
and violence in the kids I see … In fact, the lower-income kids who make up
the great majority of violent kids usually donʼt have any interest in games …
and if they did they couldnʼt afford the hobby.”72After conducting a massive
national study into youth violence, she makes the very poignant point that,
“Not one young person in my experience has ever been made violent by
media influence … young people who are already inclined to be violent do feel
that violent media speaks to them. A few do get violent from it. But more of
them find it to be a way to deal with their rage.”73

So, do video games truly deserve the negative stigma attached to them,
primarily because of the violence in games and the way that they are
71
Paul Waugh, Minister: Wii the best boost for children's intelligence
Deputy Political Editor, Evening Standard, 29.12.08, http://tinyurl.com/b7zvwf
72
Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids who kill, published by
Callisto, 2000
73
Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids who kill, published by
Callisto, 2000
Sam Richardson, 200264192 54/63

conveyed in the media? The simple answer would be to say that no, the
media has never fully justified its use of video games as a scapegoat. But, to
claim that games are totally innocent is also an untruth, in that some games
do actively encourage the negative criticism and use it in order to gain
publicity. Of all the studies and research conducted into the negative affects of
violence in video games, none have ever shown any conclusive evidence
showing either a negative or positive. In fact, with recent studies, some have
begun to indicate positives connecting games with education. In the eyes of
the mass media, there must always be a scapegoat for the younger
generation to help justify fears associated with the misunderstood. For a time
video games have provided an ample excuse for terrible acts of unexplainable
youth violence, but with the generation of gamers quickly maturing into the
next wave of adults, it is to be expected that as the gamers mature, so too will
the image of gaming. Gaming may still be seen as the relative newcomer to
the entertainment industry and will always have its opposition, but it is only a
matter of time before it is understood and appreciated, and the negative
imagery associated with gaming becomes a thing of the past.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 55/63

Figures:

Fig 1:

Fig 2:
Sam Richardson, 200264192 56/63

Fig 3: The graph below demonstrates the cost curve for game developer,
Factor 5, and this correlates very closely with the industry norm.

Fig 4: Below are both the BBFC age ratings on the top and PEGI ratings
beneath.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 57/63

Fig 5:
Sam Richardson, 200264192 58/63

References:

1
1. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, published in 1938
1
2. P139, Cynthia Carter and C.Kay Weaver, Violence and the Media,
Open University press, 2003.
1
3. Herz, Joystick Nation: How Videogames ate our Quarters, Won Our
Hearts, and Rewired our minds. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997
1
4. Tomohiro Nishikado, Published by Taito, 1978
1
5. Valve Software, Published by Sierra, 1998
1
6. Bungie Studios, Published by Microsoft, 2001
1
7. Id Software, 1993
1
8. Bungie Studios, 1994
1
9. Id Software, 1996
10. 1 Epic Games, 1999
11. 1 The WASD key set-up is used mainly in conjunction with the fact it is
not ergonomically comfortable to play using both a right-handed mouse
and arrow keys on a keyboard. Primarily, W and S are used for forward
and backward movement and A and D is used to strafe left and right.
The space bar is usually used as jump and operated by the thumb, with
the little finger used to operate the CTRL key (often the crouch
command). This control scheme was first coined by John Romero in
the game Quake and has been used ever since. With this control
scheme, the player now having the ability to strafe and turn at the
same time invented the term ʻcircle-strafingʼ.
12. 1 Infinity Ward, Published by Activision, 2007
13. 1 P251, Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witherford, and Greg De Peuter,
Digital Play, the interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing.
McGill-Queenʼs University Press 2003.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 59/63

14. 1 Bungie Game Studios, Jobs page, 2009, (12/02/2009)


http://www.bungie.net/Inside/jobs.aspx#job17291
15. 1 Electronic Arts under the EA Sports label
16. 1 Developed and published by Konami
17. 1 P255. Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witherford, and Greg De Peuter,
Digital Play, the interaction of Technology, Culture and Marketing.
McGill-Queenʼs University Press 2003.
18. 1 Glaubke et al. “Fair Play: Violence Gender and Race in video games”.
Los Angeles: Childrennow, 2002. Available online at
www.childrennow.org/pubs-media.htm
19. 1 By Tor Thorsen Gamespot UK, News, GameSpot, Posted Jan 6,
2009 GMT http://uk.gamespot.com/news/6202733.html
20. 1 Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of arts and sciences at MIT.
Quoted from Tim Druckery ʻElectronic Representation: Imaging beyond
photographyʼ. Camerawork. Op. cit.
21. 1 Developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, Feb 2005
22. 1 By Jason Ocampo, Report: WoW as Addictive as Cocaine, IGN news,
http://uk.pc.ign.com/articles/957/957551p1.html
23. 1 By Paddy Maguire, Compulsive gamers 'not addicts', Tuesday, 25
November 2008 BBC News, Amsterdam
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7746471.stm
24. 1 P122, Marsha Kinder, Playing with power in movies, television and
videogames, published by University of California Press, 1991.
25. 1 P 122, Marsha Kinder, Playing with power in movies, television and
videogames, published by University of California Press, 1991.
26. 1 Basement Tapes, March 15, 1999, Evidence item #265, Pieced
together from the Columbine Report and Time's article dated 12-20-
1999 (hard copy and online version).
http://acolumbinesite.com/quotes1.html
27. 1 Excerpt from '20/20' on the Debate Whether Violent Video Games
Desensitize Children." World News Now, ABC, 2000-03-23.
Sam Richardson, 200264192 60/63

28. 1 By Winda Benedetti, 2007Were video games to blame for massacre?


MSNBC Technology news, April 20 2007,
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18220228/
29. 1 Hartlaub, Peter. "Another tragedy, another platform for video game
fear monger". San Francisco Chronicle, 2007-04-24
30. 1 By Winda Benedetti, 2007Were video games to blame for massacre?
MSNBC Technology news, April 20 2007,
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18220228/
31. 1 Developed By Rockstar North, Published by Rockstar Games, 2001
32. 1 Hudak, Stephen. 'State gets; OK to try teenager as adult 16-year-old
accused of killing Medina girl." Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2003-05-13.
33. 1 Hudak, Stephen. "Lawyer wants in, wants judge out in murder case of
Medina teen." Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2003-08-19.
34. 1 BBC NEWS, England, Leicestershire, Game blamed for hammer
murder, 29/7/2004
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/3934277.stm
35. 1 Developed by Valve Software, Published by Vivendi Universal, retail
release Nov 2008
36. 1 By Clare Murphy, BBC News Online, Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, Playing
the game: Germany's teenage killer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1959632.stm
37. 1 By Clare Murphy, BBC News Online, Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, Playing
the game: Germany's teenage killer
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1959632.stm
38. 1 Noam Chomsky, Media Control, New York Seven Stories Press,
c2002
39. 1 By Sam Greenhill and Olinka Koster, Man stabbed queuing for
midnight launch of ultra-violent video game Grand Theft Auto IV, Daily
Mail, 30 April 2008
40. 1 P2, Karen Boyle, Media and Violence, Sage Publications 2005
Sam Richardson, 200264192 61/63

41. 1 Excerpt from Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need
fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence, published by Basic
Books, 2003. P126
42. 1 Mike A. Miles, The Scapegoat Generation: Americaʼs war on
Adolescents. Published by Common courage press, 1996.
43. 1 Taken from Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need
fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence, published by Basic
Books, 2003, p184
44. 1 Daily Telegraph, 25 October 1993, cited in Craig and Petley 2001.
“Children ʻact out video violenceʼ
45. 1 Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids
who kill, published by Callisto, 2000
46. 1 Green and Bavelier, 2003, 2006
47. 1 Gee, 2003, Prensky, 2006
48. 1 Kirriemuir and MacFarlane, 2004; Mitchell and Savill-Smith, 2004.
Byron Report, p.155.
49. 1 Consolidated Financial Highlights" (PDF). Nintendo. 2009-01-29. P.
11. http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2009/090129e.)
50. 1 Platinum Games, published by Sega, 2009
51. 1 Treasure Games, published by Sega, 2001
52. 1 Consolidated Financial Highlights" (PDF). Nintendo. 2009-01-29. P.
11. http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/pdf/2009/090129e.)
53. 1 Developed and Published by Nintendo, 2005
54. 1 Super Smash Bros Brawl metacritic score:
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/supersmashbrosbrawl
Super Mario Galaxy metacritic score:
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/supermariogalaxy?q=su
per%20mario%20galaxy Legend Of Zelda metacritic score;
http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/wii/legendofzeldatwilightpri
ncess?q=legend%20of%20zelda%20twilight%20princess
Sam Richardson, 200264192 62/63

55. 1 Tom Ivan, Eidos, Games viewed as "one notch up from porn"
Thursday 23-Oct 2008
http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=200074
56. 1 By Curt Feldman, Grand Theft Auto IV steals sales records, Thu May
8, 2008, http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/05/08/gta.sales/index.html
57. 1 Live blog from Gamecity 30th Oct to 1st Nov http://gamecity.org/live-
from-gamecity/
58. 1 Live blog from Gamecity 30th Oct to 1st Nov http://gamecity.org/live-
from-gamecity/
59. 1 EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts, 2008
60. 1 Nick Suttner, Previews, Parkour details and in-depth interview.
02/29/2008 http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?cId=3166742
61. 1 Developed and published by Bethesda Softworks, 2008
62. 1 P173, Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy,
superheroes, and make-believe violence, published by Basic Books,
2003.
63. 1 Raven Software and published by Activision on March 27, 2000
64. 1What is the average gamer? 26th November 2006
http://www.theaveragegamer.com/averagegamers/
65. 1 Market Data compiled by ELSPA.
66. 1 Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters, why children need fantasy,
superheroes, and make-believe violence, published by Basic Books,
2003.
67. 1 Julian Dibbell, Play Money, Published by Basic Books, 2006
68. 1 Marvin Minsky, Toshiba Professor of arts and sciences at MIT.
69. 1 Designed by Will Wright, Developed by Maxis, Published by EA 2004
70. 1 Poynter Online, Finding 1: The American Journalist Survey,
Traditional Journalists Are Getting Older, Apr. 10, 2003
http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=28781
71. 1 Paul Waugh, Minister: Wii the best boost for children's intelligence
Deputy Political Editor, Evening Standard, 29.12.08,
http://tinyurl.com/b7zvwf
Sam Richardson, 200264192 63/63

72. 1 Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids
who kill, published by Callisto, 2000
73. 1 Helen Smith, The Scarred Heart: Understanding and identifying kids
who kill, published by Callisto, 2000