This week we look at video games and violence with three stories where violence just doesn’t belong. First we got a Pokémon Go player who goes Pokémon hunting in the wrong neighborhood and finds the wrong kind of Blastoise. Next, we travel to South Korea where a disgruntled gamer goes Carmageddon on Nexon headquarters and finally to California where a Heroes of the Storm keyboard warrior goes full terrorist complete with an AK47 and ends up in FBI custody. You better get this show.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December, the debate over violent video games is being waged once again.
Just before Christmas, National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre made controversial remarks about violent video games in a public press conference. Over the past week, Vice President Joe Biden invited representatives from the video game industry to a panel discussion about the gun control and violence topic. On January 10, New Jersey governor Chris Christie also noted violent video games as what he believes to be a factor in violence.
“You cannot tell me that a kid sitting in a basement for hours playing Call of Duty and killing people over and over and over again does not desensitize that child to the real life effects of violence,” Christie said.
The topic of video game violence has been going on almost since the day the general public first became aware of video games. In 1976, Exidy’s Death Race became the first video game to spark such discussion. A game which challenged players to run over stick figures with cars,Death Race made national news headlines on shows such as 60 Minutes and created such an outcry that many video arcades removed the game.
Stern classic Berzerk also sparked similar discussion in 1981, especially after 19-year-old Jeff Dailey died of a heart attack shortly after playing the game. Similar to remarks recently made about games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Berzerk found itself criticized by then-National Coalition on Television Violence chairman Dr. Thomas Radecki.
“In this game you’re a stick figure with a handgun,” Radecki said in 1981. “The object is to kill as many other stick figures as possible before they kill you. This type of role-playing practice is certain to have long-term harmful effects on the player. It teaches violent reactions. These games are training the next generation of Americans to be even more violent than our current adult generation, already the most violent in American history.”
According to a FactCheck.org posting on December 20, there were 3.59 gun murders per 100,000 people in 2010, the lowest rate since 1981, the same year Dr. Radecki made his statement about Berzerk and similar video games.
A number of gamers from the 1981 generation of grew up to become lawyers, business owners and doctors. Joel West, the 1982 world champion on Berzerk, is a conservative Christian and father who still plays the classic today. Another notable name who has made a living in the gaming world says despite thousands of hours of gaming, including Berzerk, he did not turn out violent.
“Berzerk was one of my favorite arcade games back in the early eighties,” said former Electronic Gaming Monthly writer ‘Trickman’ Terry Minnich. “Today, I own an original Berzerk machine and it is still one of my favorite games. I’ve played every type of game. No matter how bad I am doing, I never kick or punch the machine or throw a controller in anger. I never have and don’t believe I ever will.”
Minnich went on to point out that some members of the early gaming generation, instead of becoming violent, went on to create a major impact on the world today.
“Some of the first geeks and nerds started in that generation,” he said. “The famous ones went on to found Apple and Microsoft and helped usher in the technology we enjoy today. I think that generation turned out pretty well overall.”
On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.~J.A. Laraque
Gaming in the Spotlight
Remember when even mentioning that you played computer games was met with weird looks? Maybe not, but if you are a gamer in your 40’s to 50’s you might remember when people just could not understand how you could sit looking at a screen all day, as if there wasn’t this thing called television.
As games became more popular in the 90’s more and more people got used to seeing, mostly kids, playing on a home console system. The thought was that it was a child’s toy like any other, all the while gamers from a past generation were helping to push computer gaming into the forefront.
With the holy trinity of arcade games, home console systems and computer games all being popular at once gaming stepped into the spotlight. You began to hear of the senior citizen who could beat Pac-Man with one quarter or the CEO who played Doom before meetings. There still was a push back to gaming however, and many people still saw it as an immature activity or something only geeks and nerds did.
When MMO’s arrived many new gamers were created. While games like Everquest still attracted more experienced gamers it was easier to play games such as City of Heroes and World of Warcraft that brought in a new group of gamers, ones who had never gamed before. Now in one family you could find every member playing a video game, from Mario Cart to Guitar Hero, but this new exposer also brought along its owns issues and stereotypes.
As more people played video games more news reports talked about people neglecting their responsibilities be it at home, work or school. People cared about gaming and the media was fascinated if not late to the party and with coverage of people becoming sick or even dying because of a video game we had a new rallying cry against video games that had not been seen since the fight over video game violence of the 90’s.
The idea of the nerdy gamer came roaring back as a picture was painted of the loser World of Warcraft player living in his or hers parents basement. We saw documentaries of people needing help for gaming addition because of how video games ruined their lives. The attacks did not just come from the outside, but from other gamers who saw certain MMO players as not real gamers or people who made gamers look bad.
Then came social games like Farmville and mobile games like Bejeweled and later, Angry Birds. Now, almost everyone was playing something and whether or not they considered themselves a gamer did not matter, a game was being played and the industry was as strong as ever.
The lazy, immature or loser label however has not disappeared. Just recently a state Senate candidate was attacked by her opponent for playing World of Warcraft. Fliers were sent out showing her character, an Orc Rogue, and various postings of hers on forums that discussed the online game.
“I don’t understand why I’m being targeted for playing online games when all I’ve done is campaign on the issues.” She said and went on to say; “There are a lot of these misconceptions about people who play online games. I’ve played with people who are retired, college professors and lawyers. I’ve only ever played with adults.”
She also stated that she hardly ever logs into the MMO anymore and her game of choice is now Angry Birds. However, her defense is pretty normal for many gamers. Often when confronted for playing games the response is that they do not play that much anymore or that the specific game in question is no longer fun for them so they now play another game, normally one that is more socially acceptable, as crazy as that sounds.
Anyone who follows gaming culture has most likely seen both sides. On one hand you have the person who puts guild leader in World of Warcraft on a job application and another where a gamer turned an idea into a million dollar company. My take is it does not have to be the best or the worst outcome, there is a lot of middle which can allow you to game and take care of the important stuff.
While it may be beating a dead horse to state this, anything can become too much be it sports, food, even working out and yes, gaming. Not everyone is going to turn their StarCraft playing into a E-Sports career just as the World of Warcraft player does not have to have pale skin and poop in a sock.
Just as people have a television show they love to watch and must see the same is with our games and we should be proud of what we love. You can balance recreation and responsibilities and you should never deny what you enjoy as long as it is not hurting others and you are not hurting yourself.
Video games are in the spotlight as are those who play them. We need to show the truths of gaming from all sides, the good and the bad and still proclaim that this is who we are and we are not changing based on negative stereotypes and attacks.