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Electronic Gaming Violence: Are We Missing Something?

By Tristinian


Perhaps it would be more helpful then to gauge exactly how realistic video game violence is. I recently located a mini-undergrad essay on the video games/violence topic at the McMaster University website that touches on how video games have evolved in terms of the depiction of violence. This lengthy segment I've chosen from the essay gives us some interesting food for thought…

"Ever since their conception, video games have contained violence, violence being to cause pain or death onto other beings. From the earliest games to most advanced modern 1st person shooter violence plays an important role in games. Determining that violence is present in video games is easy and the answer is yes…one would have to conclude that video games have always contained a high degree of violence, but just now are the realism and gore levels catching up to the level of violence in games. With the exception of most sports games and educational games, video games have a high degree of violence but not all include the high levels of realism and gore that are possible." (Video Games and Violence, Janushewski and Truong)

Janushewski and Truong attempt to make the point that realism and violence in games should be considered separate matters of contention and I myself can then perhaps see a general pattern in regard to the differentiation of these two elements. In the days of Altered Beast and Double Dragon, did we ever witness anything as gutwrenching and disturbing as the Columbine incident? And yet, as games became more realistic, we certainly do have those problems now. This is intended as an EXTREMELY general statement and is to be taken as such for as I said before, my goal is to provoke thinking on this subject…not to take a stand--at least not without personal research on the issue.

But with the casual information we currently have to fall back upon it does all seem to come back to responsibility to a large degree. And the responsibility of the game purchaser is what is being relied upon with the relatively recent advent of game ratings in 1994. The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), is the general yard stick by which games are measured in terms of their level of mature content (Nintendo and Sega still have their own rating systems as far as I know). Can anything else be done besides the implementation of a rating system? Or is it all we've got right now in an attempt to prevent young gamers from getting a hold of excessively savage gaming titles? Game level designer, Stevie Case had this to say on the matter…

"It all has to come back to personal responsibility. There are millions of people in the world and we create entertainment. We're not responsible for raging kids. People have to be responsible for themselves. I think ratings are a good thing. The problem comes in when you start censoring or not allowing content. Ratings are great because they allow parents to decide what their kids should play, and that is what they should be doing." (PC Gamer, Nov. 2000, p. 78)