Grand Theft Assumption
Nowadays it seems that petitions are being rallied every day against violent video games, and with the recent release of Grand Theft Auto IV the industry is under heavy fire yet again. Jack Thompson, an attorney and activist, and is known for frequently speaking out against games he deems violent, always assuming the worst from video games, and making attempts in getting them banned. The problem I see, though, is that it is the same people and the same organizations every time and the entire time there is nobody in a position to defend video games. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is nobody defending video games at all. There are numerous mainstream figureheads (developers, game journalists, and hosts of TV shows are just a few that come to mind) that are very willing to state their opinion the defiance of anti-videogame lobby however they are all known for what they are rather than the “defender of gaming” which I think the industry could really use.
Recently when you see a popular video game in media there’s a good chance that it won’t be because it got a good review. You’d mainly see it on a cable news station, CNN for example, because of its ‘gratuitous amounts of violence corrupting today’s youth’. “…everyone dismisses their favorite media to contributing to a more coarse society” (Beck). This is so true, and it blatantly shows when video games come under attack. What we are led to believe today is that video games are corrupting our youth more than anything else, completely ignoring other medias. What I would honestly like to see is anti-gaming lobbyists sit down and talk with some sort of sense. To try and not be so completely one sided on their debate, and maybe see someone else’s point of view for a change. I know that may not sound like its asking for much, but considering the arrogance of certain lobbyists it really is asking a lot. We need to come to a middle ground. Both sides need to their faults, but more importantly both sides being reasonable to each other. Every generation has its specific “scare” in media, we can all look back and say “why did they make such a big deal about x, when y was obviously the real problem?” and realize that society today may be more coarse, however that is the progression of human society in general, because if that wasn’t the case we would still live in a time where a girl showing her ankle would be too “risqué”. Author Steven Johnson goes further elaborates on this point stating a scenario when books are new and video games have been around all along:
“Reading books chronically under stimulates the sense. Unlike the longstanding tradition of game playing—which engages a child in a vivid, three dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page. Only a small portion of the brain devoted to processing written language is activated during reading, while reading games engage the full range of the sensory motor cortices.”(Johnson, 19)
While this is obviously a mockery of anti-gaming lobbyists, turning their argument against them it goes to prove that when targeted, any medium can come off as unworthy of society’s attention.
I would like to point out the fact that if anyone wants to get anything banned for whatever reason- it is always done to protect the children, building up parental suspicion about whatever claims you are making. Some anti-videogame lobbyists choose not to see the ‘M’ rating on a title, while the ESRB rating system acts as a voice of reason in most cases. The rating system of the ESRB has gotten to the point where game content is so specific on the label it is hard to confuse who the audience is meant for, thus why Grand Theft Auto comes under fire so much boggles my mind because it is an adult game made for adults; clearly stated on the cover of the game. Now if a copy of a violent, controversial, game comes into the hands of children it is automatically the game developers fault for putting such content in the game even when the child playing the game wasn’t the target audience. Why is it that video games are as frequently targeted as a violent media and other medias like movies and TV shows get off seemingly scotch free. Is it harder for a child to walk into a game store and purchase a hyper-gore filled game and not getting asked for I.D., or is it easier for them to sneak into an R-rated movie after purchasing a ticket to the most recent Pokémon movie? And I’m sure people are familiar with the South Park franchise. While I am a huge fan of the series I can recall it being under similar pressure from the news and media for being a cartoon that uses curse words. Eventually the creators of South Park expressed enough that the show wasn’t intended for children, thus the reason for the disclaimer at the beginning of the show, and the rating of the show as well, and the media backed off. In no way am I stating that video games are not violent—they are nobody can argue that. However all I simply ask for is the equal treatment of the violence in all media, and to stop isolating video games as the sole problem of what is wrong with society today.
Who knows where gaming will be years down the line, it will obviously keep evolving, gamers are very aware of this. Will gaming be the target of the press twenty years later, when it becomes a much more established form of entertainment? As much as I don’t agree with a lot of the things James Paul Gee says, he makes a valid point when he says:
“Video games are at the very beginning of their potential—“we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” They will get deeper and richer. Eventually some form of conversation between real people and computer-created characters will occur alongside the conversations among people in their virtual and real identities that already take place in internet gaming. There are and will be vile games, and eventually there will be some “canonical” games, games that lend themselves powerfully to elevating the aspirations and imaginations of all people for better and more just worlds. These may be new aspirations and imaginings or ones that fill old visions with new meanings and hope (Gee 205).
Gamers will continue to play controversial games, mainly because games that are controversial have newer ideas that challenge modern society’s thoughts on what we should be doing for entertainment. I think that it is just a matter of time before anti gaming lobbyists will start to reconsider their crusade and move on to other medias to lash out at, because honestly—you can only act outraged that ‘you can hire a prostitute, beat her to death and then steal her money’ because apparently society has not turned to the dark side so far and yet they are always clambering about it years later.
Beck, Glen. 05/12/2008. <http://www.cnn.com/cnn/programs/glenn.beck/>.
Gee, James, Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and
Literacy. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.
Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good for You. New York: Penguin Group,