In my last post I mentioned me having my own opinions on the whole “video games are murder simulators” debate. Well I thought I’d run through them briefly – and also point you to a new video game made specifically for this issue.
In my mind it’s simple. Violent people will seek out violent media. If video games weren’t around then movies and books, which have both suffered in a similar way, would be getting the same attention.
That’s not to say that video games don’t influence people at all though. I’m not standing up for games or saying that they are perfect and everybody should be able to play anything. The question we should be asking is how minors get the games in the first place.
This has been said on many blogs the world over, but parents are generally ignorant about the content within games. I have worked in a movies, and video games store and the amount of media we sold to minors was vast. We didn’t break the law though, if a 10 year old child brought something like Grand Theft Auto to the checkout we’d turn them away – it’s clearly rated 18 – but then they’d come back with their parents who’d proceed to purchase the game anyway.
I think what’s needed is education for the parents. They should be made to realise that the ratings on games are just as valid as the ratings on movies. In many of the situations where video games have been blamed for bad things the people playing the games are underage. I think you see the same problem with Anime. The amount of people who buy minors rated 18 cartoons is huge, simply because they can’t understand how a cartoon could be bad – this is despite cartoons containing some of the most graphic violence I’ve ever seen.
I think it’s possible that video games are worse than movies because of the key selling point – they’re interactive! In video games you don’t watch someone beating someone up, you do the beating up yourself. Sure, there’s an onscreen avatar doing the kicking, but it’s your choice to start – and that’s the biggest problem. At the same time I find the idea that video games are ‘Murder Simulators’ simply ridiculous. Doing something in a game and doing something for real are very, very different. I have no qualms about getting into fights in a game, but in the real world I’ve never been in a fight (well… beyond the ones with my brothers, but they stopped a looong time ago).
Jack Thompson – A Modest Proposal
Jack Thompson is a lawyer who has gained a large amount of media attention through his views and court cases surrounding video games. He’s an egotistical fruit cake who is clearly doing this to get attention for himself rather than to help improve society.
The most obvious example of his nuttyness is his “Modest Proposal” where he outlines possibly the most violent, graphic video game ever concieved, and then challenges developers to make it. He went on to say that if the game was made, he would give $10,000 to charity. A number of (independant) developers jumped at the chance to make the game, most choosing to use text based gameplay or to mod existing games, since creating a game as detailed as this from scratch is such a huge undertaking.
After seeing these games Jack decided to go against his word, and tell everyone he was “just kidding” – a pretty crappy joke if you ask me.
The closest anyone has come to recreating Jack Thompsons proposed game is I’m OK by Thompsonsoft (they even credit Jack as game designer). I should warn you that it is insanely over the top, with huge amounts of blood, gore and… um… peeing on brains.
The story follows the exploits of Osaki Kim (O.K) who’s son is beaten to death by a 14 year old video gamer. A better explanation comes from the lead designer:
Osaki Kim is the father of a high school boy beaten to death with a baseball bat by a 14-year-old gamer. The killer obsessively played a violent video game in which one of the favored ways of killing is with a bat. The opening scene, before the interactive game play begins, is the Los Angeles courtroom in which the killer is sentenced “only” to life in prison after the judge and the jury have heard experts explain the connection between the game and the murder.
Looking at it objectively I think it’s quite a nice little game with some really cool touches (peeing on fires to put them out). There is lots of variation to the levels and objectives, with new things to do/ avoid each level. The art is by the very talented, slightly insane, Derek Yu and adds a nice retro feel to the game.
There are lots of nods to retro video games (I’ve heard rumours of a hot coffee mode) from the Nintendo inspired intro/ logo to the Mega Man based menu.
Highlights include the DDR boss, the peeing on brains minigame (the music makes this bit), and the Mario Boss fight. It’s all very funny, incredibly tounge in cheek and, despite the incredible amount of violence, hugely enjoyable.
If you have a Mac (it doesn’t work on Apple computers), and want to see what the fuss is about, then you can see someone complete I’m O.K on Google Video.
I’m not sure what can be done to improve things. Jack Thompson is attacking developers for creating unsuitable content, but I feel that people should be able to play whatever they like. If parents are taught that games can be unsuitable for their kids, but that equally there for every bad games there are a 100 that are perfectly acceptable. Maybe just convincing parents to spend half an hour watching their kids play would help inform them.
I suspect that, like movies before it, these issues will slowly die down with time. As people from my generation grow up, and replace extremists like Jack Thompson, and as video games mature (it is still a very young medium) these problems will become less of a concern. I guess the problem is what to do about them now..?