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Should Violent War Game Videos Be Regulated Just Like Hard Core Pornography?

Friday, August 20, 2010

I have a bumper sticker on the back of my little Honda Civic that says, "KILL your TV!" That gives you a purdy clear picture of my position on the quality of television and the miniscule amount of it that I think is worth watching. This segues easily over into the video games arena in the sense that what we are putting into our minds impacts our behavior and who we are in terms of our values and priorities. I feel strongly that the level of violence in this country can be closely correlated to these phenomena.

What is your position about all of this?

"A new video game set in modern-day Afghanistan coming out in October simulates war. The game's multi-player format allows some gamers to be in the role of the Taliban, while others play the part of the coalition forces. Karen Meredith, whose son died in Afghanistan, told Fox News, "My son didn't get to start over when he was killed. His life is over, and I have to deal with this every's just not a game." Jim Sterling, a writer at gamer website Destructoid thinks the war game is fine, "No, war is not a game. But games about war...they are games. Nobody made Meredith's son become a soldier just like nobody will make Meredith buy Medal of Honor." Now you can blast to smithereens allied troops while news filters through on your radio or TV of another young soldier killed by a car bomb.

"This new Afghanistan war game raises two questions. The first, of course, is whether it's appropriate for a major corporation to be giving our children an opportunity to play the role of Taliban killing American soldiers. The second and larger issue, is whether these games of violence - which were first developed three decades ago by the US military to help train US soldiers learn to overcome the cultural prohibition against killing - should be considered as neurologically dangerous to young and developing minds as hard core pornography.

"Just as with pornography's influence on young people, there is conflicting science on both sides of the argument. But in the face of this uncertainty, shouldn't we regulate games that teach and show murder and violence the same way we regulate actual and even cartoon depictions of explicit sexual behavior?"

In the Dhammapada the Buddha taught:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    My BF studied video game design in school and is looking for a professional job in the industry. He says many of these games do give you a special sort of feel for the atrocities of war, and the good ones are thoroughly researched and historically accurate. In that regard, they have (potential) merit. The interactivity can drive home the terribleness of war, not just glorify it. It's all in how the user interprets the medium and its content -- just like books and movies. Why automatically assume this game is meant to glorify? The U.S. Army created a war game as a recruitment tool. Is that any better or worse?

    That said, I would never buy this game. I would never play it either. Of course, to be fair, I am not a video game fan. I have a hard time being interested enough in my Wii Fit! Still, I can't bring myself to support censorship of nearly any kind. I say let your dollar be your voice. Don't like it? Don't ban it -- just don't buy it. That's my humble take!

    2770 days ago
    Thanks to one of my friends for this powerful of the blog posters, who commented to me --

    "Some strong folks out there, speaking out against the madness:"

    2772 days ago
    Difficult issue - when is too much regulation too much?
    I fear we all have become desensitized and the game industry has played a large role in the process.
    2772 days ago
    I agree about the games. It is still up to the parents and like in the UK, even though we have restrictions on the games, kids will get it somehow.

    Tahnk you for the lovely quote from Buddha. emoticon emoticon
    2772 days ago
    In the UK video games are given age ratings like movies are. Violent games or other ones with concerning features are rated for 18+. Some games have been banned for being over the top. This means that children can't buy them, and in theory only adults with fully formed minds access them.

    Unfortunately, as with DVDs and TV, parents will buy these things for their children/teens.

    IMO that's not an issue for more government control or censorship - the system here is a good one - its an argument for parents to stop being so stupid and be responsible for their kids!
    2772 days ago
  • _VALEO_
    (rephrased as it was way too long)

    I work in the video games industry. I don't think I would have localized this game as it is meant to recruit new soldiers, and is designed by the Army, nothing to do with gameplay.

    I think I have a stronger position towards wars and army than you, Maha. I don't think video games are responsible for all that violence, wars have sadly always existed even before the era of video games.

    I don't think the games influence the young generation, but society.

    Video games are played throughout the world. Why don't we have so many recruits across the pond, or more Colombine if they had such a great influence or violent effect on people?

    Soldiers in the US are praised like heroes serving their country, and they are "blessed" and "thanked". Who wouldn't want to be a "hero" in that case?
    Many American families are proud of having a son in the Army.
    They are brainswashed by society, and even religion, making them think they protect " their freedom" (never got this one, but I guess it is cultural.)
    Army and war have nothing to see with freedom, on the contrary.

    I don't think it's the video games which should be regulated, but a change in mentalities would be great.
    2772 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/23/2010 5:08:15 PM
    I’m from the UK, so I’m commenting from a similar and slightly different culture.

    I’m right there with you about violence breeding violence. In our country we have seen chilling examples of children torturing and even killing other children because they were copying on-screen violence. I detest the idea of war games and of violent images and I have a perception that public behaviour in the UK is getting worse.

    That said, I think that in our country there is a distinction between the medium and the message when it comes to TV. The fact that violence and poor quality exists in books doesn’t make me hate books in general. The issue in the UK is about the quality of programming. There are some shocking ‘real life’ programmes that ‘normalise’ anti-social behaviour. 24-hour rolling news has led to more celebrity tittle-tattle and ‘newsertainment’ such as the extended live commentary on the last hours of a murderer who ultimately shot and killed himself on live TV. That said, There are also some wonderful factual programmes on travel and the natural world.

    The comparison between junk and healthy food and TV programming seems spot on to me.

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking blog and apologies for the long response.

    2772 days ago
    At some point it's up to the parents to regulate what their children own and play with, just as parents need to monitor what their children watch on TV, listen to on the radio and read. If enough parents refuse to buy these games, they won't be sold. But sometimes the best thing to do is to keep your kids busy with other, better pursuits, than to forbid something out right. Forbidden things can be very appealing to children.
    2773 days ago
    I'm with some previous posters. This whole "war game" industry goes way beyond just our mentality and moves into our programming. My father used to rant when game stations first came out that the controllers themselves were war training. As a kid I rolled my eyes, but wouldn't you know I was listening to a story on NPR about drone warfare and the guy they were interviewing admitted that the controllers for the drones are modeled after game controls. "Just because it was convenient" of course. Having said that, I'm not sure violent war games should be regulated. At some point, we the people have to step up and regulate ourselves. We can step up and demand that our tax dollars not be spent to make video games. We can refuse to purchase them and not allow our children to play them. We can kill our gaming systems along with the TV's.
    : )
    2773 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/20/2010 10:13:03 PM
    Horrible, horrible stuff! The military no longer needs the's far too insidious for that...besides, the draft got everyone's dander up in the 60's and 70's.

    Let's just promote this war stuff as so COOL and IRRESISTIBLE that we will collect all the cannon fodder we need and THEN some!

    I remember reading an editorial by a father who was OUTRAGED upon hearing his ELEMENTARY school aged son telling him about this "guest speaker" they had in class. *IT* was a Military Recruiter! Speaking about how COOL it was to "Serve One's Country" yadda yadda...! Let's plant these seeds of war at an early age...

    Many of the military video games are SUBSIDIZED by OUR TAX DOLLARS as the US MILITARY hires game developers to create games which will entice all the young men necessary to continue to fuel their wars! Apologies for the rant...but this is all too frightening, maddening and crazy-making for me...

    Here is another story to illustrate my points:

    I like your bumper sticker...but I'd add a line:

    "KILL your TV!
    Before It Kills YOU!"

    2773 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/20/2010 9:45:54 PM
    Oh, Maha, this is a terrible and very depressing phenomenon. Depictions of violence are searing themselves forever into the minds and souls of too many young people today. But whether we're young or old, what we take in through our eyes and ears is just like the food we eat: It cannot fail to profoundly affect us. Violence is the most devastating junk food! I've seen that wonderful bumper sticker you have on your Civic, and each time I have, I've smiled...or said, "Right on!" DH watches TV, but whenever he's not here, it's never on. News-wise, I get everything I need from the radio. The 1% of my time I do watch, it's the Food Channel...never a good idea! emoticon Thanks for a wise and provocative blog entry!
    2773 days ago
    ...makes me sad, the seeds of destruction we sow; I can--at the very least--work on my own attitude and my cursing "stupid" people to evolve into a more compassionate and tactful communicator.
    2773 days ago
    It is a sad commentary on what direction our society has turned. I have an odd combination of children under my care... some who have no TV or video games, and others who have unrestricted time with both and have some of the most violent video games, even though they are preteens. Can you tell the difference between the children? You bet!
    2773 days ago
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