I was planning to write this blog at a later, more appropriate time but due to one of the implications raised in the aftermath of the Tragedy in Newtown, I’ve decided to pen this now.
As a self-professed lifetime gamer who also happens to have worked with children for the better twelve years I have seen four generations of gaming come and go over the years. From the NES during the 1980s to the Xbox 360 and the Wii U of today I didn’t just watch the evolution of video games. I lived it. Contrary to popular belief–or urban legend if you want to call it–that most gamers are and never were no social outcasts. They’re mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, businesspeople, educators, servicemen, physicians and even politicans. They’re ordinary people who enjoy what has recently become socially acceptible behavior worldwide.
What I do find unacceptible is the perceived assumption all who play video games prefer to play the most violent games available. That’s simply not true.
If you want someone to “blame”, you’re looking at it the wrong way. The fact of the matter is this country was born from violence. As much as we might like to overlook this fact it’s not something that can be denied. As a native Bostonian I know all to well how our nation gained its independence. We live by the credo “Freedom is not free. It’s purchased with blood.” We honor those who died on distant battlefronts and remember those who are killed in the line of duty. Our country can deploy its military to any point on the planet at a moment’s notice. Even though historically we’re a young nation we demand respect for centuries-old counterparts worldwide.
What better way to caress the ego of your average American than to give them the opportinuty to play soldier? Don’t get me wrong, War Video Games have been around for 30 years. The difference between the early 1980s and today’s games is the sophistication and improvement of technology along the way. Most games of this nature are a First Person Shooter, or FPS for sort. An FPS is known for one distinct feature and that is you are playing the game from the eyes of the main character. The fixed camera angle from from character’s eyes makes it significantly easier to untilize weaponry as opposed to camera angles in which you can see the character.
Electronic Arts’ Metal of Honor series was for many during the mid-9os their second or third FPS. If it wasn’t their first they likely played Diablo or Doom first. Anyway, MoH–which by the way was overseen by the real Medal of Honor Society–got more detailed and sophisticated as technology evolved. Unlike its eventual successor Call of Duty (Activision) the Medal of Honor games never got the Mature rating. Although the series went for realism and historical accuracy their games’ long-standing tradition of being (fictional) story-driven did not require the recreation of the blood and gore its sucessor wasn’t shy about utilizing.
Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto games (or GTA for short) from III onward have been the focus of outraged police officers disgruntled politicians who’ve wanted violent games banned for over a decade. Unlike the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games, the main characters are up an coming thugs, kingpins or gangsters. Players “win” by committing criminal acts. The police are one of your most dangerous enemies and violence against them is not exactly discouraged. Some crimes comitted in recent years were copied from situatuions depicte in the GTA games. Despite the obvious “DO NOT try this at home” these games scream at you they are very popular.
Before I go further, for the sake of transparency I have played some of the GTA games from start to finish. Specifically GTA 3 and its sequel GTA: Vice City. I have also played a few Medal of Honor games and as those who follow me on Xbox Live know, I have Modern Warfare 3. I also play all three of Blizzard’s current franchises (World of Warcraft, Start Craft 2 and Diablo III). Even so, the overwhelming majority of the games I play and prefer are much tamer in terms of violent content.
See, one thing the gaming community is miffed about but at the same time isn’t talking about is the fact video games have not only gone mainstream but video games are now considered an acceptible hobby. Personally I love the latter and cautiously optimistic about the former. One thing I haven’t really seen AT ALL from the gaming industry especially in light of recent mass-shootings is addressing the belief some have there is a connection between violent video games and mass murder. They’ve left that job to people like me. And it further purpetuates the idea that they don’t care if disturbed/unstable people use their products as a training ground for committing acts of violence. By the way this isn’t true.
What IS true is like it or not most mainstream/casual gamers like violent games. As someone who prefers retro games over today’s games I am not a “mainstream” gamer. It all comes down to personal choice. I’ve watched parents knowingly purchase violent video games with their kids. I actually prefer to see this over what I saw when I was younger which was kids buying adult-targeted games behind their parents’ back. At least with the parents buying the game with their child they will have the opportunity to have a discussion about the contents of the game, why they chose to buy it, etc. as well as exercising common sense and personal responsability. This is something Gamestop and its retail counterparts have been pushing parents to do more of.
I can say compared to even 5 years ago there is an awareness the discussion with our children about violent media needs to happen. The sooner, the better. I doubt anything can be done about America’s “obsession” with glorifying violence in our media. It boils down to personal responsability. It’s a resonsability that’s for YOU to make. Not the government or the gaming industry but you and YOU ALONE. Companies may make the games but forgive my choice of words in this blog but they’re not pointing a gun at your head and forcing you to buy and play the games. Sure they might air TV ads to make the game look attractive but it’s personal choice.
These days, many Americans just prefer violent media.