Video Violence Boring

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The Washington Post has front page article on an allegedly new trend in video games–awarding points for moral player behavior. Violence has become so passe that the designers of Postal are thinking of a new version in which the "Dude" can choose to behave himself so well that he runs for president.

The article is an interesting contrast to the usual storyline in which video game violence leads to youth violence. Just a reminder–as the video game industry has grown to a $7.3 billion per year industry, the teen murder, suicide and physical fighting rates have been plummeting. Teen birth rates have dropped steeply too.

Perhaps video games are so distracting our youths that they don't have time to be either lovers or fighters? But for our national scolds, every silver lining must come with a dark cloud; in this case, instead of fighting, murdering or fornicating, America's youth are becoming fatsos. If video games don't cause violence, they must cause avoirdupois. It can't be much longer before perennial self-promoting moralizer, John Banzhaf, sues the video game companies in his war against obesity.

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  1. Yet another sign of the downfall of Western Civilization!

  2. Yet in the same edition of the Washington comPost, there is an article in the Metro section about some bizarro, urban group that pickets the outside of a Best Buy for selling the game “GTA – San Andreas”. The buffoons admit that they never played the game, yet they are firmly convinced of its evils. They claim that you can kill pregnant women in San Andreas.. what the fuck? I’m waiting for the Xbox version, but can someone tell me if this is true?

    That aside, I love how the media distorts the play of the Grand Theft Auto series. They constantly claim that one is “encouraged” to kill police and civilians. Though one is certainly free to do so, you gain very little from it. In fact, your “police meter” goes up every time you kill an innocent, and if it gets too high, the game becomes unplayable.

    Fucking liars.

  3. i freely admit that i can’t hack the intensity of violent gaming — i quit halo 2 a quarter of the way through because i realized that i was nervous, angry, agitated and anything but happy — just as i had been for halo and innumerable others…. i’ve since gone out of my way to avoid them — gamecube now gets a lot more use. 🙂 so there must be a market of idiots like me out there.

    the moral player trend (which i experience in fable) only does so much, fwiw. i was saintly in that game, but i still grew tired (and quit) of the constant killing (and the questionable gameplay, but that’s another story…).

  4. Games have often included situations where civilians deaths incur penalties, etc., and if enough die, you lose the game.

  5. What? wait, huh? Teen birth, murder, suicide and violence rates are all falling? How can that be when we have clear studies that show correlation between watching violent media and engaging in violent behavior?

    Oh, i guess it must be just a bunch a shit made up by people who need to conrol every aspect of every life.

  6. Gaius, there’s a market for everything.

  7. In view of the pre-presidential lives of our last two presidents, I’m not sure if behaving oneself is necessary (or even helpful) if one wishes to run for president…

  8. “Yet in the same edition of the Washington comPost, there is an article in the Metro section about some bizarro, urban group that pickets the outside of a Best Buy for selling the game “GTA – San Andreas”. The buffoons admit that they never played the game, yet they are firmly convinced of its evils. They claim that you can kill pregnant women in San Andreas.. what the fuck? I’m waiting for the Xbox version, but can someone tell me if this is true?”

    You can kill pretty much anyone in San Andreas. White, Black, Men, Women. It’s called “equal opportunity gafflin'”. Within the hundreds of pedestrian models, there are some women with what appears to be a bit of a pudge. However, there is no clear appearance of anyone being pregnant.

    Even if there were, the complaints by this idiot protest group make no sense. In effect, by protesting this one single aspect, they would be sanctioning the rest of the horrible things that go on in the game; in other words, claiming that killing a collection of pixels that looks like a pregnant woman is somehow worse than, for example, putting a bus in an intersection, dropping 10 or 15 remote detonated satchel charges, waiting for the intersection traffic to get really backed up, then explode the whole thing, killing scores of “collections of pixels” that look like non-pregnant people.

    Hogwash. And if the idiots don’t even have the fucking sense to play the game before they bitch about it, then how can anyone take them seriously whatsoever?

    “I love how the media distorts the play of the Grand Theft Auto series. They constantly claim that one is “encouraged” to kill police and civilians. Though one is certainly free to do so, you gain very little from it. In fact, your “police meter” goes up every time you kill an innocent, and if it gets too high, the game becomes unplayable.”

    Yeah, good point. The more people you kill, the worse off you are, really. How is this teaching anyone a bad lesson? Though, there are missions and “rampage” games where you’re required to kill innocent bystanders.

    But, besides all that, the game is rated MA. Mature. Any parent who lets their 12 year old play the game is a fuckup anyway. And if you’re over 17, I’d say, chances are, you’re not so impressionable that a goddamned video game is going to make you go out and kill people.

    As for “moral” video games, hey, more power to ’em. This was something like the idea of the sims. Make friends, be nice, take care of people.

    Hell, even in SAN ANDREAS, there are girlfriends who you have to be nice to, take out on dates, bring flowers, etc. And I remember, in Vice City, the previous GTA installment, if you saw a cop chasing a criminal, and you “apprehended” the criminal for the cop, you got a “good citizen bonus”.

  9. Oh, but, um, yeah…I play video games, but, oddly enough, I am in bodybuilding shape. Damn, I know…I can’t explain it. Sure, one might chalk it up to “personal responsibility”, but, nah…I’m probably just an abberation.

    Wasn’t Michael Jacobsen and the Center for Idiocy in the Public Interest trying to get a “fat tax” enacted on video games, TV’s, etc.? Wonder what ever happened to THAT…I guess they realized that they’d also have to tax BOOKS…

  10. This is just SICK! Video game companies need to be taxed out of existence. Really, you all NEED to think of the CHILDREN! Precious lives are being destroyed by these purity-killing machines. *Jesus* surely weeps every time a child hooks up his Playstation 2 (i.e., DEATHstation 2)or Gamecube…I’m calling my congress person RIGHT NOW to do something about this URGENT problem!

  11. Evan:

    Thanks for the info and comments. This proves my suspicion that these nannies are lying again.

    I was in a game shop the other day, and witnessed a clerk turning down a sale to a kid. Mind you, this was done voluntarily. I brought up the subject of legislation with him, and it really set him off. Voluntary and good business practice all of sudden becomes a matter of life and death, and good and honest folks can lose their right to make a living.. all because of a few retarded kids who can’t tell the difference between games and the real world.. and moron parents who refuse to take very basic responsibility.

    Green Day is right. All the stupid people are breeding.

  12. “…a new version in which the “Dude” can choose to behave himself so well that he runs for president.”

    Since when do you have to behave yourself to become president?

  13. A swing and a miss by Wa Po. Anyone who games knows that the story is, as already reported in Reason last year, the increasing demand for player choice in resolving game situations, and an increasing expectation that the game will have some mechanism for players to ‘leave their mark’ on the game world by way of their choices.

    A subset of this trend is the notion of moral behavior being associated with gametime consequences, but, in general, it is a mischaracterization to say that moral choices are rewarded while immoral ones are not. For example, the consequence of an aversion to killing may be less action of that sort. Some may not view that as a reward. These days, it seems the model is that the axes of character choice leads you down a social path, a stealthy/problem solving path, or an action/combat path.

    The consumer does not want to be fed a morality lesson through game mechanics because the typical consumer is older than what WaPo is thinking.

  14. Isn’t that Harvey Danger who says “been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding”? Couldn’t agree more. And yeah, Evan’s comment on the wackos’ fury over “how dare they think about killing the PREGNANT pixels” occurred to me, too. But hey, feel free to light up the 2nd-class childless/empty-nester pixels until they’re nothing but gibbage.

    And the dumbass parents crowing about how the gub’mint should pad the world for Pweshus are the first ones to stand there and rip a poor Wal-Mart clerk a new one if they don’t hand over a violent game to Pweshus just because he asks for one.

  15. Dick Cavett once replied to a question whether violence on television led to more violence on the streets “There’s a lot of comedy on television, too. Is it causing more comedy on the streets?”

  16. Yeah, all the GTA games make things harder on you if you go around killing randomly. I never got very far in SA, though, since I can’t stand playing those sorts of games on a gamepad.

    Honestly, the biggest ‘rampage’ games tend to be poor games to begin with (like Postal or Manhunt) and rarely sell well.

  17. Hey man, I would appreciate not having to open up this Blog man, and seeing my copyrighted name used to attract more uhhh, web traffic and stuff to your ummmm, site….man.

  18. This aggression will not stand, man!

  19. “Do it for the children?” FUCK the children! I have nothing against kids, but I’m sick and tired of this idea that the sole purpose of human civilization is to Set a Good Example for the Wee Ones, and its corollary idea that a person somehow ceases to matter once they reach the magic age of eighteen.

  20. All your base are belong to us.

  21. Boy Jennifer, you hit one of my hot spots there….

    In my active work discussing drug policy issues, I will often have people say something akin to, “You want to legalize pot. Well then there would be more stoned drivers and what do you say when one runs over a busload of kids?!”

    I reply, “That would be tragic, but don’t think I haven’t considered that. Except in my reasoning process it wasn’t a busload of kids I envisioned, it was ME! possibly getting run over. ANd I’m a lot more worried about potential increases in danger to ME than I am somebody else’s little brats…”

    IF stated with a cheesy W.C. Fields inflection, the humor quotient increases as well.

  22. During such discussions, have you ever had one of those odious people say something like, “Mr. Clearwater, *I* have three children myself?” in a tone of voice which implies that this comment is a REAL zinger that should totally wipe you away with its devastatting logic? I have, and my response was “I’m glad to hear your genitalia’s in working order, but that has nothing to do with your brain.”

    Which in turn apparently makes me a real bitch. Oh, well.

  23. Jennifer:

    Great zinger. I can’t believe how some people think it’s some great accomplishment that they can reproduce. It’s one of our very basic biological functions. Any douchebag can do it. To be consistent, people should be bragging about the double-flusher they had this morning..

    Steve IC – you’re a hero, seriously. Thanks for being on the front lines.

  24. Oh, Jennifer, that just makes you a bitter, barren childfree bitch like me. High-five, girlfriend. Probably going straight to Hell, but that’s where all my friends will be.

    How does a stoned driver run over a busload of kids? I mean, if they’re still on the bus, wouldn’t the stoned driver suffer the worst of the lot? Purely rhetorical, don’t bother answering.

  25. that’s the wrong way to fly, man.

    just tell em “what about the busload of kids…of your mind?”

  26. You Need A Busload of Faith To Get You By…….

    THANK YOU SENOR NICE GUY….for taking that extra minute to type such nice words to me in a public forum….Drop me a note sometime and let’s figure out a way you can help the ‘front line’……Even a very modest donation of time can be channelled into real results.

    Which leads to a side note many of you already know…the work I and my primary cohorts do has little to do these days with marching in front of police HQ waving our Freak Flags and chanting, DRUG WAR PIGS SUCK!!! (although many do and that’s kind of a fun afternoon)….

    We directly influence media and have increased coverage across North America over the past eight years. And of that coverage, we’ve seen a swing from about 25% of newspaper outlets condeming Prohibition to more like 75% being very critical of one or more drug war policies.

    So yep, please drop me a note as you feel inspired. Everyone who can take even a few moments a month to represent helps continue the gravitation away from Prohibition and towards more freedom and sensible regulation.

    My contact info is on the page hyperlinked to my HitandRun posting ID.

  27. I don’t know if this could really be considered a new trend.

    Computer based RPG’s have been offering rewards for “good” behavior in-game for years (also rewards for bad behavior).
    Taking the Postal example, There is nothing in Postal 2 that actually requires you do do any violence whatsoever. The game can be completed without killing a single thing.

    Dousing the dog with gas and setting it on fire is completely optional.

  28. Maybe this is some sort of Orwellian Newspeak idea.

    Even games that allow/reward “good” behavior are bad if they also allow “bad” behavior. After all, if no-one realizes they have the option to act “bad”, no-one will.

  29. Also, if you set the dog on fire you’d better run, the little bastards fast and he’ll be pissed.

  30. You’re right, zeroentitlement. Bitter over my childless status, that describes me to a T. Right now, for example, I’m horribly depressed to think that my boyfriend and I are going on vacation next month, when we COULD have spent that money on orthodontia for some child of ours. And to think that last night I got to sleep for eight straight hours, without experiencing the joy of waking up three times to change a stinking diaper or feed a wailing baby! Not to mention watching my savings account grow each month, when I could be spending that money on kid’s clothes and toys.

    I must leave now, for I am sobbing so hard I fear my tears will fall into the keyboard and electrocute me. (Sob, sob, choke.)

  31. Jennifer:

    Courage.

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