Video Game Experience: Is Violence Really Caused by Games?
Creating a video game experience is an art form similar to animated cartoons, novels, and films. In video games, real-life as well as fantasy situations occur that compel the player to respond to and interact with dozens of characters and sometimes whole new worlds. There are many different games that offer a diverse selection of player experience. When one plays a game they experience anything the game’s creators created. Senses can be satisfied by the realistic sounds of their character walking on a marble floor or the special effects that make everything bright when they look at the sun.
The main idea is if you are experiencing everything the character is experiencing you can allow yourself to believe that you are that person every time you play, and the achieved outcome is a video game that players want to experience more than once. But can violent games push an individual over the edge of what is an engaging experience and actually cause real life violence to occur? If so, how do experts tell the difference between violence caused by games and unrelated external factors that play a role?
Some of the different types of video game experience that have been seen in the past years are being pointed at by politicians as a way to respond to claims of increased violence among teens. Studies actually show that violence has decreased among teens as well as middle-aged men and women since the release of highly popular computer video entertainment system Sony PlayStation 2 and one of the most popular games of all time, Grand Theft Auto III. Anyone thinking that a ban on violent games will reduce violence hasn’t been to the CIA free information website lately.
This series has been known worldwide for its over-the-edge game-play which allows the player to take on missions only as they see fit when they feel like it. There is no immediate plot to be concerned with, other than the standard “you are a criminal” intro, and if you are in a hurry to get your game fix you can just hop on GTA III for a few tank battles. Some of the more questionable material found in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas includes stealing cars, naked women, explicit music, vandalization of private property, drive-by shootings, and gang-related violence have helped make this game a popular debate issue.
The two sides of the argument are as follows; one group would say “Grand Theft Auto is evil and perverts the mind causing violent actions”. Whereas another group would say “Killers are evil, Grand Theft Auto is just a game which, like violent movies, still leaves the end-user responsible for their interpretation and actions thereafter playing”. It’s this boundary between real-life and fantasy that is being crossed that’s got every one up in arms on the subject.
Violent behavior that cannot be attributed to any motive is often turned away as “just another influenced” teen’s way of expressing hate. This is why this topic is hard to discuss without getting deeply involved in the subject of violent behavior among teens. Some situations are indeed more caused by bullying, isolation, and several classic, defined psychological conditions that can be cured before violence occurs. Every independent incident we have ever seen should be looked at as such, meaning if there was an act that was caused specifically by the desire to act out video game fantasy that does not mean every violent act on earth by teens is caused by the experience the video game offered.
I think it is important to remember that when one chooses to purchase and play a video game they are choosing their own experience. If you buy any of the thirteen Final Fantasy titles also known as “role-playing games” your game experience is no longer as violent. It falls into the category of “semi-violent video games” or “fantasy/mild violence” this means there is implied violence that is not animated to graphic detail. Grand Theft Auto is a “third person point of view shooting game” and falls into the category of “extremely violent video games” because of the amount of graphic detail that is animated such as blood and gore. The player could have purchased a “non-violent video game” which animates no graphic detail of any violent events such as Super Mario Sunshine for Nintendo GameCube.
More well-rounded gamers typically take a break from their ordinary gaming routine once in a while to enjoy titles they ordinarily would not and very rarely do people actually stick to one title alone these days. Ultimately, it is the player’s responsibility to know what they can maturely handle and what they cannot. They must see that there is always a distinct difference between simulated events and real life.
In the case of Micheal Carneal opening fire on a prayer group at Heath High School with a .22 pistol he had stolen, killing 3 students, injuring 5, Micheal allowed his violent actions to cross the boundary from fantasy to real life. In Padurah, Kentucky on December 1, 1997 the fourteen year-old was said to be more accurate than the average officer in the area. According to Dave Grossman, a military psychiatrist and retired U.S. Army Ranger, Carneal fired only 8 shots, hitting four students in the head, one in the neck, and three others in the upper torso. “Nowhere in the annals of military or law enforcement history can we find an equivalent achievement”. Micheal Carneal had fired thousands of bullets in first person shooting games before his rampage.
Without delving into the psychological reasoning behind his actions, we know that Micheal Carneal acted out what he had experienced in the games he was playing and said to be obsessed with. What made him play the game so many times if the experience never changed? Why was he interested in vaporizing countless and nameless enemies without a plot? What else could he have been involved in that we don’t know about? Is he just a victim of brainwash? Can any of this be proven in court? What is needed is a more in-depth analysis of Micheal Carneal’s psychological issues.
We are plagued with questions after tragedies like this occur globally. No matter what the details it hits home all the same. You hear about it being a hostage situation and get that gut feeling that something terrible is happening within American school walls again. Violence and war are defining marks of humanity. We learn more about these things because we have to learn more in our effort to find a regulated experience that should not affect a mature player in any psychological manner. I myself have made video games in the past and found that my violent titles like Mario Hunting were just as popular as my non-violent titles like Princess Mountain. Both games received positive feedback and seem to keep people’s attention long enough that they decided to play more than a few times.
In Mario Hunting, the goal is for the player to click on Mario before he is out of sight. A gun is aimed wherever the player aims the mouse and when they click on Mario a shotgun sprays fragments through him and blood splatters from his torso and face. As you continue playing Mario gets faster and harder to hit. If you have good accuracy and fast reflexes the game is more fun. It was designed with infinite levels so the only thing stopping you from progressing is your own ability to out-pace the computer.
In Princess Mountain, the goal is to avoid enemy contact and reach the end of the level. When the flag is reached the player will progress to the next stage. Half way through the game (at about stage 15) the player takes the role of a new character (not the princess…) who is capable of using a wind tunnel to suck his enemies into his mouth and receive points for doing so while eliminating them. Throughout the entire game there are power-ups that can be picked up to gain points or enter secret stages.
This contrast between a violent video game and a nonviolent video game shows us the huge difference in the experience the player is receiving when they use the game. Some fighting games such as Mortal Kombat 4 for Nintendo 64 can be considered educational because they technically teach violence. This game, along with others in the “hand to hand combat” game genre use real life fighting styles and stances to illustrate how everything from mixed martial arts to street fights take place. The actual moves could comprise a real life combat and self defense education collectively. The player’s skill is based on how much damage they can do and how many enemies they can defeat in a certain amount of times. In a way, this is less explicit than some shooting games such as Tomb Raider: Lara Croft on Sony PlayStation.
Other games in the third-person shooting genre are even more fantasy based than Grand Theft Auto. Take Resident Evil: Code Veronica X for Sony PlayStation 2 for instance, a game known for its gory zombie scenes and “survival horror”. In these types of games, the player is intentionally spooked at critical moments and forced to think fast with deadly consequences for improper reactions. Members of the group will split up for long periods of time and characters will have their own engaging side stories that you will get to play halfway through.
The Resident Evil: Dead Aim game is even available for the SoCom 2, a light-gun peripheral which allows players to aim a pistol at the screen and shoot the enemies with their own deadly accuracy. The player must shoot zombies before they begin to eat him/her. On-screen bonuses including health and key items are available all around. This game genre also makes use of Puzzle game-play, forcing players to use logic in order to progress the story further, while still dealing with the urgency of being in a zombie-infested city.
What captures life? The rooms a player travels through can be almost like portals transporting them from one place to another to get the next clue, solve the next maze, and shoot the next enemy, save the next princess. When did Micheal Carneal decide that this portal was no longer satisfying his desire for violent experience? If we can answer this question maybe we can find out exactly if, how, and why the video game experience could have drove him to commit these acts, and finally settle once and for all whether or not the actual games themselves are responsible and should be banned from play for all ages…
In conclusion, the video game industry has a responsibility to regulate itself. Rather than having games become banned by acts of legislation video game developers that provoke action of congress should be refused publication and offered extra time to change the game for re-publication. The future of the video game experience will be involved in the future of monitoring violent or unhealthy psychological reactions to violent and/or pornographic content. This provides a responsibility to mankind from game publishers and developers alike.
Video Games are art that should be protected by the 1st amendment of the United States constitution, the right to free speech. But like film, there needs to be an unspoken understanding among the figureheads in the industry upon what is right and what is wrong. We will never truly know why Micheal did what he did that fateful day. It was widely known that he was suffering from bullying and ridicule and had become a shut-in from society long before the event took place. This doesn’t Perhaps if some one could have got him help we would know more and those students would not be dead. It is possible that past psychological science might be applied to current disorders allegedly sprouted while playing video games; the statistics paint a different picture. As it remains, more research is needed to draw any definitive results on the matter.
So, do I think video games cause violence? No more than a film causes it. Watching the terminator movie leaves many children thinking they are terminator but that doesn’t often translate into teens in the streets with shotguns. There is a stark difference between fantasy and reality and we all make our own decisions on what that reality is every day with our own actions.