Since 1983, when US surgeon General C. Everett Koop suggested video games containing violent content are a leading cause of crime and violence, there has been plenty of mass hysteria from the media trying to demonize games. But is that really the case? Is the cause of so much crime in the world due to the fact we are all desensitized to violence by a form of media used to burn time and have fun? Did Mark David Chapman kill a famous singer loved by many across the world simply because he sucked at Space Invaders? Is the human race doomed to become nothing more than braindead zombies killing each other? Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating somewhat here, but the point is, are video games alone responsible for violence?
The mainstream media has always found a way of vilifying video games and one of the first examples of this is when Death Race was released in 1976, a game inspired by the 1975 movie Death Race 2000. the objective is to take control of a car and attempt to run over pixelated gremlins who are attempting to flee from the vehicle, as you hit each gremlin, they would be replaced by tombstones which in turn would increase the difficulty as the screen would begin to clutter up and you have to avoid tombstones while chasing gremlins. It earned a spot on the CBS news show 60 minutes, showing the psychological impact of video games, it then went on to get covered by NBC’s weekend news show, the National Enquirer and Midnight magazine. Even up to this day, Death Race is still rated as one of the most controversial games in history.
One game that I certainly remember causing quiet abit of a stir was the 1992 released Sega-CD survival horror interaction movie game Night Trap, where you can use hidden cameras setup around various different locations to view events one at a time. As the player, you must make full use of traps in order to capture vampiric intruders who are looking to wreak havoc on an all female slumber party (yep, i know, the typical horror cliche). There is a small meter which lays at the bottom of the screen, once this meter fills up, it is a signal for the player to activate a trap in the room you are viewing via the camera. In my honest opinion, Night Trap was an awful game that would and should have been forgotten along time ago had it not been for the controversy surrounding it. You have to realise this was before a rating system was put in place, therefore gaming at that time was seen as nothing more than a childs pastime and along with it the very idea of violence in a video game was bound to come up eventually. One thing that cannot be denied however, is the sexist undertones presented in the game where you must protect the “helpless weak women”.
One of the biggest incidents to occur in the UK regarding video game based violence happened in 2004, when Warren Leblanc, 17, led 14-year old Stefan Pakeerah to a park and stabbed him to death with a claw hammer. It was later revealed that the method he used to commit the murder was the same as one found in Manhunt. Warren was said to have been obsessed with it, although no copies were found at his house. The game was found at the victims house despite the fact he was 14 and it was rated AO. The victims mother started campaigning to get all violent video games banned, the police later revealed it was a drug-related robbery. Now the first thought that came into mind when I first saw this in the news was isn’t this down to the parents to educate their child properly, and why was there a 14-year old child in possession of a game targeted specifically towards adults? Why didn’t the clerk check for ID before selling?
Over here in the UK we have a programme called The Alan Titchmarsh Show. What’s this got to do with anything you must be thinking? Well, I remember once watching a particular episode where video games where up for discussion (the term discussion being used very lightly). It wasn’t so much a debate as it was more of an assassination of video games, especially when you bear in mind the audience was mainly made up of mindless sheep who are willing to applaud anything that sounds the slightest bit conservative. “Actress” Julie Peasgood seemed pretty adamant that video games do nothing else apart from promote “sexism, racism, hatred and reward violence”, despite the fact she provided vocals for the dreadful sleep inducing horror game Martian Gothic: Unification; I smell a hypocrite. She then went on to pull out statistics from out of nowhere without any evidence to back it up. Editor of CVG Tim Ingham made a couple of valid points which fell on deaf ears because the audience would much rather have a panto performance where he’s the bad guy.
Back when I was 7 years old I can remember playing Mortal Kombat 2 on the Sega Genesis (Yes, I have indeed lived that long) but I never once felt the sudden urge while at school to run around on the playground ripping people’s heads out along with the spine, but then again every individual is different. Rather than making a scapegoat out of video games, movies or even comic books shouldn’t we be looking towards a combination of good parenting and education along with the human ability to decide right and wrong? Aren’t most forms of media a reflection on society, rather than the other way round? But then again, I am nothing more than a mere mortal with a voice (Keyboard in this case) and an opinion.