Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Violence: Virtual Vs. Reality

Today marks the beginning of a new journey for the gaming industry. Starting early today, at the United States Supreme Court, the judges are looking at a California ballot that is targeting at video games. What the ballot says is that it will rate Mature-titled games like Halo: Reach, Call of Duty, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, and No More Heroes as the same category as pornography. That's right, the games you and I love where young boys and girls aren't the target demographic, will be in the same league as Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy, and Bikini Girls on Dinosaur Planet (real movie). The ballot has been shot down left and right in the state of California a couple of times for the main reason is that game developers and the content they create are protected by the Constitution and the first amendment rights of freedom of speech. For anymore information of how you can help out the cause, please go to the Video Game Voters Network Page here and lend in your support. But now let me get down to why I'm writing this.

A couple of months ago, my English 111 class had an assignment where we have to make an analysis on whatever topic we feel like is more important than anything. As a gamer, I chose the violence vs. gaming topic and made a powerpoint for my presentation on the topic. I won't post it up, but in the end I got a awesome grade out of it, and created a discussion after my presentation and after the class was over. Needless to say I was proud of it, and when I heard the violence in video games was going to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court today, I thought it's a good time to bring my paper to The Internet and give you guys a good counter-point on why violence in video games isn't bad at all. Thank you for your time and enjoy.

The video game industry has grown as not only as a cultural phenomenon but also a marketing success, raking in total revenue of seven billion dollars a year (animationarena). But like every form of entertainment, there’s always a dark side that people try to bring the industry to its knees. It all started in 1993: a year when both the PC game titled Doom became the industry standards for first-person shooting games to come, and the Sega CD hit store shelves, along with a premiere title called Night Trap that got some U.S. senators hot under the collar. After a hearing from the senate governmental affairs and judiciary subcommittee, violence in video games has become self-aware not only in the government, but the American public as well. Less than a year later, the video game industry created the Entertainment Software Ratings Board or ESRB, a system where it regulates any games in development and gives the game a rating based on its content. But it wasn’t enough. In 2001, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) III introduces gamers to an open-sandbox game where they could not only follow the story of a mafia-setting plot but also wreck havoc against innocent civilians and police force. The game, such as Night Trap, was under rapid fire from the American government. The great debate of violence in video games is a never-ending struggle; it’s a series of blaming games from those who are against or defending violent video games, why the pro-gamers are right and those against gaming are wrong, and how can a theory help the pro-gamers win the argument. When all is said and done, the pro-gamers and gaming culture alone will be on top because they have potential to win this debate over those who are anti-gaming.

When it comes to violence in video games, it’s a touchy subject to gamers since more than half the games they played have one form of violence or another whether it is first-person shooters or fighting games. Mostly, the reason why is because gamers like it, as long as it’s simulated. It is also leads to the “alleged” facts that anti-gamers stated in belief that is plaguing the youth of America. First-person shooters are always the targets for the world’s ills, which it’s “supposedly” leads to not only the Columbine school shootings but also the Virginia Tech shootings. I say, “supposedly” because there are no facts to back it up, giving the anti-gamer side all the wrong hasty generalizations, false conclusions, and oversimplifications; sometimes a combination of all three. Some of the anti-gamers have never seen or play the video games they are accusing. As a gamer, I feel insulted by it and unless there are any real physical evidence connecting to a video game and criminal acts, they should use their time and energy on something good rather blaming violent games for all the world’s problems. The violent video game debate has many faces representing the anti-gamers, but two have stood out above the rest.

Just like video games, the debate has a boss or to be more precise, a group of bosses. The two that stand out the most are former Florida District attorney, Jack Thompson and former South Australian General Attorney, Michael Atkinson. Thompson was more or less the face of anti-gaming. During his time in Florida, he bashed GTA on television for the game being sold to kids. He created a state bill to ban mature-rated games in Florida and tried to make it into a law and failed. District Court Judge James Brady turned down the Bill and ruling it unconstitutional (McElroy). His hearings came to a halt in 2008 where he was disbarred from the state’s court system for making false statements and accusations in most of his cases, and accusing others for distributing sexual material to minors (gamepolitics), some of those cases could be video-game related. Ever since then, Thompson has gone on record, stating that he has played the games he has accused of selling to minors and real world violence, and that video games are the greatest technology and teaching tool in the world today. The same cannot be said for his international counterpart.

Michael Atkinson was more aggressive to violent video games than Thompson was. Before stepping down from being General Attorney, he disapproved a bill that would allow an R18+ (M-Rated titles) rating in the Australian gaming board system, giving games like Left 4 Dead (L4D) 2 and Fallout 3 to be distributed in the country the way their developers intended, and so far the Australian government is discussing of disapproving the bill. He deemed those said titles to be too violent or sexualized for it to be considered beyond the system since without proper rating, games like L4D2 are banned from the country (Polo). Australian gamers are so upset by it, they have been protesting from the start of the hearings hoping for the bill to be approved. Going so far as to have 500 of its gamers wearing zombie makeup and outfit, and protest in Sydney for the government’s lack of adults-only video game rating (Plunkett). Speaking of politicians, there are some in the United States that have talked about violent video games.

Violent video games get a rare lecture from the U.S. Senate but when it does he gaming community takes note. The biggest hearing was in 2005 when Senator Joseph Lieberman and then Senator Hilary Clinton introduced a federal ban on the sale or rental of games rated Mature or above to minors, and violators would be fined (Totilo). For a time, they were the bigger targets at Washington D.C. who tried to stop the distribution of games like GTA and one of its clones 25 to Life period. They believed that it would stop the violent behavior from kids under 17 at schools that was supposedly called one of the main problems in America. The Bill Lieberman and Clinton created never got through, but at the same time, no one hasn’t step up and given their thoughts about the Bill or the topic itself.

It concerns me is to why no one at Congress has ever gotten to be at the other side of the argument, giving their opinion on whether violent video games aren’t the main cause. The simple answer is they fear for being ridiculed by their own peers and opponents in their future elections. Some Senators have spoken out that they have played video games from time to time (Polis), but it’s a shame no one has ever given their thoughts on the legislations. Or maybe gamers might have the upper hand when it comes to their side of the topic.
The biggest reason for it is because there is no statistics of studies, experiments, and pieces of evidence out there to help the anti-gamers. There are no physical evidence that has a remote link between violent video games and real world violence. The sad truth is that those who think that there is any connected evidence are believers. They don’t care if they have no evidence to back up their claims; they just want to get everyone to believe it enough in hoping it would make sense, and that’s what the anti-gamers are built around on. Sure they or anyone can believe in something, but it must have concrete fact or reason in order to make sense, but in the violent video games debate it doesn’t pass the test (GAME OVERTHINKER EP 25). And this truth can only be use for the pro-gamers.

There are plenty of reasons why pro-gamers, including myself, have the upper hand in the debate. We have the advantage because we know what the anti-gamers don’t. GTA, the biggest example, isn’t really about killing men, women, cops, and doesn’t exploit “pornographic” material. The latest game in the franchise GTA IV lets the player take control of an immigrant who explores an urban environment that challenges his realize fantasy of the American dream. Recent releases like Splinter Cell: Conviction sets the narrative of a former black ops agent on revenge against the man who killed his only daughter. When it comes down to it, it’s called fighting smart and knowing who the pro-gamers’ allies are.

With the help of technology that is available in this generation, any or all pro-gamers have all the rightful tools to fight back the anti-gamers. More importantly, they have the right to call, write or email anyone in the state or congress. Pro-gamers need to give their reason why violent video games aren’t bad as others portray them and to tell their congressman or senator to vote against any or all anti-gaming legislation that is brought in the Senate. Thanks to the First Amendment that pro-gamers have to the right to do this, and they shouldn’t be afraid to do it. If this doesn’t help, then maybe a theory I found can put the anti-gamers on the defensive.

This theory that that no one ever thinks about what could be a positive link between violent video games and the psyche of why gamers don’t cause real world violence and that is Freud’s Theory. Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 at Freiberg, Austria. He was influenced by a study of hysterics and Darwin’s Origin of the Species that he was convinced that both the human mind and body could be specified through the scientific method of observation and analysis. He let his patients speak freely in hoping to unlock any previously repressed feelings (Question of God). He was a man who knew nothing of women, but it never stopped him from theorizing about them. He believed in psychoanalysis in which dreams are the key to how people really are. To put into perspective, if he ate something like anchovies or strong-salted food that would make his throat dry and if he goes to sleep without drinking a glass of water, he would have a dream of drinking gallons of water from a fountain before waking up and proceed to get a drink of water. The dream takes place of action before or after that action occurs in real life (Freud). This theory can be connected to video games in general; not just the violent ones.

Freud’s theory can be connected to video games because gamers like to be part of the video game world. Video games were created not only to be entertaining but to escape from the real world and to become someone or something else in the virtual world when they are playing in for a small amount of time. Whatever the amount of effort or time they spent can become a pretentious dream whenever they are asleep. They can remember any achievement the gamer accomplished and perhaps changing it inside their dream so that they can re-live that experience if they were better at it. It’s really not a bad thing to dream about it, and thanks to those dreams, the gamer will never experience any real world violence just so they can just dream about it. In order to have a clear understanding, let me use a video game as an example.

To prove Freud’s Theory and its connection to video games, I’ll use a popular video game title to give the big picture. In the first-person shooter game titled Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the players are in the boots of army men and Special Forces trying to save the world from a nuclear threat. Hardcore fans of the game play it for the online multiplayer which is fast and most of the time competitive. If a gamer is playing it and gets beaten by the opposite team, they might go to bed and re-experiencing the matches they played. The gamer would think they could have gotten every single headshot, but in their dream, they do; and at the end of every round, they will always be number one for killing sprees, headshots, and more. The gamer is trying to perfect their skills instead of playing the game for hours on end. When the gamer wakes up they may remember the dream, and if what they dreamed is true, they will get better at it and not grab the nearest gun and try to use it on their family. This is an introspective and more of a thought than a belief, but it might work better than any allegedly evidence brought up by the anti-gamers.

In the end of this violent video game debate, sooner or later, the anti-gamers must answer to the questions asked by the pro-gamers. They don’t want to believe that there is no concrete evidence supporting their accusations and constantly accusing games like GTA and Modern Warfare for the real world violence and shootings. Pro-gamers have the right to fight back by fighting smart and know who they trust in order to put the anti-gamers in their place. They have the metaphorically bigger gun thanks to the amendment rights and give a good reason to anyone at Washington D.C. why violent video games shouldn’t be a concern. Hopefully Freud’s theory will put an end to the debate and leave the pro-gamers the winner. Personally, I hope the pro-gamers win this debate because it isn’t the retailer’s fault for selling mature-rated games to minors or the creators for making them. The only ones who should be partly responsible are the parents. They don’t need to keep an eye on their children 24 hours a day to see what they’re up to. They need to look at the game they are getting for their kids. If they see that it is a mature title, they need to think the behavior of their kids and decide if the game is really good for them. Once the problem is solved, then it’s one step closer to end the violent video game debate. I know for certain, it will be the pro-gamers and gaming culture itself will win this debate proclaiming victory over the anti-gamers.

Works Cited

"DISBARRED!" www.gamepolitics.com. ECA, 25 Sep 2008. Web. 10 Apr 2010. <http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/09/25/disbarred>.

Freud, Sigmund. "III. THE DREAM AS WISH-FULFILMENT." www.psychwww.com. Psych Web, 02 Jun 2007. Web. 30 Apr 2010. <http://www.psychwww.com/books/interp/chap03.htm>.

"GAME OVERTHINKER EP 25." YouTube. Web. 10 Apr 2010. .

"Life of Sigmund Freud." The Question of God 2004: Web. 10 Apr 2010. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/twolives/freudbio.html>.

McElroy, Justin. "Judge: Louisiana must pay ESA's legal bill, Taxpayers: Crap." www.Joystiq.com. Weblogs, Inc, 16 Apr 2007 . Web. 21 Apr 2010. <http://www.joystiq.com/2007/04/16/judge-louisiana-must-pay-esas-legal-bill-taxpayers-crap/>.

Plunkett, Luke. "Zombies Protest Against Aussie Game Ratings." kotaku.com. Creative Commons, Mar 30 2010. Web. 23 Apr 2010. <http://kotaku.com/5505949/zombies-protest-against-aussie-game-ratings>.

Polo, Susan. "Australian AG Michael Atkinson Resigns." www.geekosystem.com. Geekosystem, LLC, 21 Mar 2010. Web. 23 Apr 2010. <http://www.geekosystem.com/michael-atkinson-resigns/>.

Rotis, Jared. "Commentary: 'congressional spouse' breaks barriers." cnn.com. Cable News Network, 15 Oct 2009. Web. 21 Apr 2010.


Totilo, Stephen. "Senators Propose A Federal Ban On Explicit Video Games." mtv.com. MTV Networks, 30 Nov 2005. Web. 09 Apr 2010. <http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1516675/20051130/story.jhtml>.

"Video Game Salary." www.animationarena.com. animation arena, 2009. Web. 09 Apr 2010. <http://www.animationarena.com/video-game-salary.html>.

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