Grumpy Gurevitz: Stupid People Lead Me To Violence!

What causes violence? If you are a fan of George Lucas then you know that ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to anger, and anger to violence. I ask this as currently we are going through the yearly attack on gaming, largely caused by Modern Warfare 2; but most probably an attack which would have attached itself to another game had MW2 not been released. It’s the time of year when everyone wants a game and hence gaming is big. It used to be films which were attacked at this time of year, but hey, compared to games they are so small fry.

Its the fault of these guys. If only they had gone by Easyjet and left the guns at home. Stag parties are getting too complicated these days.

It's the fault of these guys. If only they had gone by Easyjet and left the guns at home. Stag parties are getting too complicated these days.

Now whenever I see a news report discussing evidence of how games might make a player violent, I see quotes relating to how those who play games demonstrate increased adrenalin and hence are ‘pumped up’. I can accept that. I can also accept that the same symptom might be displayed by those watching or taking part in football, rugby, boxing, X-Factor, Crufts, ballroom dancing, viewing the news, horse racing, motor sports and, for those who get a kick out of it, fishing.

Are we suggesting we ban those? Of course those commentators who are either stupid or just set out to be, might argue that their point is that only games have you committing acts of violence. I would point out that the violence though has to be triggered through some kind of condition or state of mind. Adrenalin is an indicator normally associated with such a situation. There is little evidence out there of players actually going to commit violence having just played a game. The research instead relies on indicators which might lead to violence, such as adrenaline. Well doesn’t that mean many activities have the potential to turn quiet, peace loving individuals into maniacs?!

In a month where six pupils at a school almost poisoned themselves for copying a plot line from the the pre-watershed BBC drama Waterloo Road, it’s amazing that the industry that got attacked was gaming! Now Waterloo Road is popular, but in the big scheme of things many more millions of young and old people are gaming than watching Waterloo Road. I would suggest that perhaps gaming is less dangerous compared to other activities such as watching EastEnders, Coronation Street, or possibly Countdown. It’s certainly worth examining on that level – i.e. looking at its effect on behaviour proportionally to the amount of gaming content consumed.

What is even more amazing is that the media have no problem with allowing lies about games being circulated. They seem to feel that it is fair game to drop all journalistic training and principles when it comes to attacking gaming. Hence, we see repeated quotes about how MW2 allows you to play as a terrorist – most shockingly played out on Fox TV. For those that have not played the game I have something to say. No you cannot!! You play a CIA operative embedded into a terrorist cell. You witness an attack and, if you feel it’s part of the character, can take part in a massacre; but ultimately you are a bystander to such an attack with limited control over the game at that point. It is crucial to the plot and at the end (spoiler alert) you yourself are then shot dead. It’s dramatic and has been seen in countless movies before. So why the problem now? You even get the choice to skip the scene – ever been offered that by a TV show or movie?

Now this isn't potentially violent at all is it? I mean he is actually a member of the National Association of Local Butchers

Now this isn't potentially violent at all? He is actually a member of the National Association of Local Butchers

Perhaps it’s because we call them games? Games are meant to be fun, and for children – right? That’s another lie the media propagate of course. They continually allow commentators to remind us that most people buying or playing the games are children. For sure, some are – but most people playing these games are 18 or above, and many are 25 years plus.

In the USA we hear people say that even if a game is bought by and for an adult, if there is a child in the house then they are sure to gain access and play it. Perhaps they are right. However, if they are, perhaps they should start by not keeping handguns in their house! I’m thinking (and correct me if you feel I’m missing something here) that this may be a more immediate and dangerous problem. And you know, you can even lock out your kids from your console very, very easily if you choose to.

I’m not saying there are not games out there with bad taste, nor am I suggesting there should not be age limits or even some games banned. If you can ban a film, then you should be able to ban a game. However, there should be parity between the art forms. In the UK the BBFC initially banned Manhunt 2 and fought to try to stop it being released. Why?

Now, apart from the pictures of men in masks holding guns AND this picture of a fist, what actually IS there on the packaging to alert parents to the fact that some games might contain shooting and violence?

Their own research concluded that players do not think that events in a game are real. We no more think we are really scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup than we think that we too have three heads and live on the planet Zog whilst playing a fantasy game. Indeed, they found that the fact they are interactive and we have to push buttons often brings us out of the drama and narrative, reminding us they are only games. This is something movies cannot do, and we can get lost in them and become ‘pumped up’ in a sustained way without having a release until the end of the film. So, why oh why, when it comes to violent games, suddenly all that research goes out of the window? What is the logic and reasoning for this? When films like SAW and Hostel are released, why then fight to ban Manhunt? Are the individuals in charge of these organisations stupid?

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"I see stupid people, they're everywhere. They walk around like everyone else. They don't even know they're dumb!"

I don’t think they are. Well, I hope they aren’t anyway. I think it’s far more likely they are running scared. Those that are in the industry and those that are associated with it, such as the BBFC, still lack the self confidence to describe and communicate what gaming is to those that do not yet play them, as we do. This is a huge problem as it allows the issue to be hijacked by the Keith Vazs of this world. There are people, often important and influential people, who latch onto these issues without first thinking them through. People who, fuelled by their own ignorance, let their own emotions get carried away, eating away at their fear until they explode violently against an industry, artform and past-time which contributes greatly, in a positive way, to millions of people’s lives.

Maybe George Lucas had it right all along.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner CriticalGamer.co.uk. He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to CriticalGamer.co.uk.

3 comments

  1. Michael J /

    Nice read and it’s completely true, the issue is about ignorance and misunderstanding as much as anything.

    Check this piece of horrific journalism out.. mainstream media still up to their old tricks.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6922201.ece

    I especially like the part where it describes WoW. “in which the player takes the role of a fantasy warrior from the Middle Ages.” If they can’t get the simple facts anywhere near right, they shouldn’t even be attempting to write these ludicrous articles, that link two unrelated facets of someones personality together and attempt to draw conclusions. It was probably his unmentioned hobby as a fisherman that did it really.

  2. rustynuts /

    true, all so true, the ignorance of the human populace astounds me. would these people let their children watch saw or the ring just before bed.

    parents need re-educating in the gaming industry i’ve said it so many times and will keep on saying it. people games are now adult based not just for little kiddies anymore yes there are super marios of this world but there’s also nico bellics of this world too.

  3. steven g /

    Well as if to remind us that there are more stupid people out there than we care to acknowledge:

    http://www.trial-ch.org/games.html

    Are they going to insist that we get warnings of which laws are being broken when watching shakespeare or Rambo?!

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