The Future of Violence in Video Games

Posted by & filed under Game Culture Class, Paper2.

Constantly being brought up by the media is the subject of video games and video game violence. It’s always been something that has been shrouded in controversy. What many of us see as not a big of deal is actually quite a big topic of discussion. Some say that children shouldn’t be exposed to violence at a young age, it changes them over time for the worse or children have the ability to tell the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Despite ruthless attempts to stop violence in video games, violence is still there and isn’t going anywhere and it doesn’t seem like anytime soon. While game companies were selling violence and making millions of dollars, some people in alliance with the government aimed to take violent games off of store shelves. However, violence is still there. With the always advancing technology and the desensitization of the younger generation, video games violence within the next ten years will become even more realistic and lifelike.

In 1993 the game DOOM was released to the general public. The game became instantly popular but it also underwent heavy scrutiny. DOOM is considered one of the most violent games to date. It would seem that somewhere between all the blood and gore, shooting, and all out chaos the game just didn’t sit well with people. Controversy has always walked hand-in-hand with violent video games. Enough so that eventually game companies would start to make jokes at people whom were trying to get violent video games taken off of store shelves. A game that definitely was poking fun at the people against video game violence was Gears of War. In Gears of War 2, on one of the multiplayer maps, if a player was to look around the arcade on the level, sooner or later the player would come across a machine titled, “Murder Simulator.”  The “Murder Simulator” is like a laugh in the face to Jack Thompson. Jack Thompson is a former attorney and activist against video games, mainly the way video games portrayed both violence and sex. Thompson also made accusations against the Grand Theft Auto series. The Grand Theft Auto series itself was birthed into controversy through the very means that Jack Thompson was so against. A player, in Grand Theft Auto can literally walk up to a random stranger and do whatever they would like to them, whether that be beat them to death with their bare hands or murder them in cold blood with some sort of weapon. Without taking a brief look into the past of video game violence one cannot talk about the future of video game violence.

If a person plays enough violent video games eventually to some degree that person becomes desensitized to violence in general. Another is how the media portrays real violence in our everyday world. Every day the media talks about how a person or several persons were killed in some sort of manner. From that point it would make sense that if non-gamers are exposed to that everyday then even in the slightest way would become desensitized to it. For gamers, it’s just a little different. Gamers are actually able to conduct the violence themselves and combine that with what the media spits out can only make gamers even more desensitized to it as well. Desensitization has to be brought up because video game violence is to a level today that would make people disgusted only several years ago. From an eye witness account of watching a person play Dead Island, a zombie game, with little realization to how horrific the scenes within the game really were. The event went as follows. The player walked through several palm trees to come out to a clearing, where a huge building was in front of the player. Being cautious the player looked around the local terrain to find a bathroom that was leading down a set of stairs. With weapon at the ready, the player proceeded down the stairs. Once inside the bathroom, there was no enemy. The floor was bathed in blood, lights flickering. Four dead bodies lay in the blood, some appearing to have been burned. The other bodies looked beat and cut to death. The player then navigates around and picks up some items that were located around the bathroom, then the player moves on without as much as a hint of disgust or discomfort. It then was apparent that aside from just witnessing a horrific scene the player just continued on playing the game. Studies have been conducted to show any connections between video games and desensitization and the evidence showed that people who played violent video games had skin measurements that were decreased compared to the people that didn’t play violent video games. The study was conducted at Iowa State College by Nicholas Carnagey, a psychology instructor, Craig Anderson, a Professor of  Psychology at ISU, and Brad Bushman a psychology professor at the university of Michigan.  Therefore violent video games desensitize people from violence in the real world, however it is not to the extent that someone could be killed directly in front of said person, and the person wouldn’t react to it.

Having covered both violence in video games in the past and desensitization within violent video games an analysis of violence in video games in the next decade can be made. Most people are aware that technology is advancing in some way, shape, or form. It provides gamers with the latest graphics, games that can handle more game mechanics, and improved audio in games. The advancement of technology as well as the effort to continuously produce something different will only lead to game companies venturing into somewhat unfamiliar grounds. Violence however, from this point would only make sense to become even more brutal and realistic. The advancement of technology would be directly associated with how realistic the violence looks. The violence may also be more realistic in the sense of player’s actions. However, violence cannot really further be expanded on in the form of action because there isn’t much more that could happen to a human being that already hasn’t been portrayed in a video game. Violence in video games visually can go farther. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has a perfect example. The mission “No Russian,” the player simply walks around an airport in Moscow, Russia and kills unarmed civilians in an airport. This mission was a new way that Infinity Ward was able to portray the violence.

In conclusion violence in video games has been around since DOOM made its release in 1993. Not to mention that Jack Thompson has been on video games since DOOM’s days as an activist against video games. Aside from the criticism some games have come to even mock the people against them, such as Gears of War’s “Murder Simulator” joke. Desensitization plays a part into violence because that in turn defines how the violence is interpreted. The bathroom scene from Dead Island supports this. In support of the desensitization professors from Iowa State University and some colleagues studied desensitization from video games and applied them to the real world. The study showed that the people who played the violent video game had decreased skin measurements than those of the people whom played the non violent video games. The next decade will show a visually more realistic way to show violence and gore, while no movement in the actions of how the violence happens. Also creativeness of how violence is portrayed will improve as well as people become more and more exposed to violence. Violence in video games has been around since 1993 and evolved into what the media portrays violence as today. Nonetheless violence is still in video games and does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

-A.Lueck

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