Grand Theft Auto IV hit the stores last week like a tsunami, and is expected to become one of the biggest sellers in video game history. Commentators agree that the game, with its sophisticated graphics, sets a new standard for realistic violence and sex.
I wonder if these are the same commentators who claimed that “Mass Effect” had explicit man-on-alien sex.
The launch of a game like GTA IV -- labeled "M" for sale only to buyers 17 and over -- always seems to provoke the same debate. Critics charge that the game harms children, who can easily get their hands on it.
So, the game is “clearly labeled” for 17 and older, just like adult films. Where’s the problem?
Research confirms that violent media increase young people's aggressive thoughts and behavior and decrease their self-control and the inclination to help others. Adolescents who play violent video games tend to be more hostile, to argue more with teachers, to get into more physical fights, and to do more poorly in school, one national study reports.
Yes, one study. Most of my friends played violent video games growing up. We also respected our parents and were mostly non-violent. We also did well in school. We were raised well. The games had no effect. In fact, they gave us an outlet for violence. It was easier (and safer) for me to vicariously rip out Chris’ spinal cord playing “Mortal Combat” than it was to actually fight with him. Then we’d laugh and go
kill a hooker have a frosty milkshake.
Video game representatives make two arguments when faced with such data. First, they insist that parents are the gatekeepers for their children's play. Sounds good, but ask any 15-year-old male if it's really true.
Kids always have gotten their hands on adult material. I saw "Interview With the Vampire" in a theater when I was 13. I've never killed anyone and then drank their blood for sustenance, not once. I also never grew my hair out to outrageous lengths.
Second, industry spokespeople downplay the youth problem's relevance, pointing to surveys that suggest that the average gamer is somewhere between the ages of 29 to 32. This is comforting?
Let's assume that's true. Is it supposed to be comforting that millions of grown men get their "entertainment" from pretending to blow away cops and hook up with prostitutes?
See, Katie has just granted a new premise, one that defeats her original argument about kids playing violent video games. So I guess the first half of this column is no longer relevant. Besides, didn’t most kids play “Cops and Robbers” when they were young? Doesn’t that involve pretending to shoot cops?
Anyone who has raised a child, or worked for a boss -- or looked honestly at his or her own shortcomings -- knows that we human beings have both good and bad instincts and impulses. We have the potential to be kind, generous and self-controlled, but we also can be selfish, power-hungry, violent and cruel.
Katie has told us that simply telling kids to say ‘no” is enough to stop the most base instinct, to have sex. Why not simply tell your kids not to kill cops? It’s worked for me. And what’s with the boss comment? I see a bad performance review in Katie’s future.
History amply illustrates humanity's dark side. In ancient Rome, crowds of thousands of people -- not too different from us -- cheered with frenzied blood lust as animals and human beings were torn to pieces.
So humans have craved violence since the beginning of time. What does Kersten think would happen if we removed all opportunity to view violence from Americans? Maybe we’d make our own violence. Video games give people a chance to take out their frustrations in a way that doesn’t lead to multiple life sentences.
In the 15th century, public executions took on a festival atmosphere as victims were disembowled or burned at the stake.
Katie like her executions nice and private, I guess. I'm guessing she decried the public hanging of Saddam Hussein somewhere, though.
Our own age has witnessed the horrors of genocide in Nazi Germany and Rwanda. These atrocities were not perpetrated by a handful of human monsters, but by thousands of ordinary people.
The Nazis were notorious video game players, as we all know. Rwanda has always been more of a “World of Warcraft” place, but that’s still violence, I guess.
Games like GTA IV stimulate and glamorize our dark impulses. They create a taste for the psychological thrill that can come from dominating and degrading others.
That’s a taste that Katie has already admitted exists in humanity. Claiming games create this impulse is simply ludicrous. Everyone knows it comes from evolution.
The hazards of violent games will only increase as new, more advanced technologies like the Wii system take hold. With Wii, for instance, you can go beyond punching buttons or manipulating a joystick -- you can act out a game physically.
I can punch another person without any game system whatsoever. I don't need a game to tell me to do it.
We all have a dark side
Especially this wizard teacher in Florida. (Not Kersten related, but the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time.)Here's the deal. If parents can raise their kids right, they'll know that video games are fantasy, and killing people is wrong. If not, then people won't need video games to be violent. I'll continue to suggest that video games are a positive outlet for violent impulses that exist in all of humanity.
I'll give the last word to Peter Griffin of Family Guy:
"But I'll tell you what's not cool--killing strippers. Strippers are people too; naked people who may be willing to pleasure you for a price you negotiate later behind the curtain of a VIP room. Besides, there's no reason to kill them, 'cause most of them are already dead inside."
Your Ask Questions First, Shoot Later leader.