Anders Behring Breivik wrote about World of Warcraft and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in his manifesto, before he decided to kill 77 people in Norway on 7/22. Anders Behring Breivik is a raving lunatic who believes that violence is the best way to share his radical and esoteric viewpoints. And because of this madman and his mention of games, at least two major retailers in Norway are pulling games off their shelves. This is an absurd mockery of civility and a futile effort that only harms the good people of Norway.Our industry has had more than its share of bad publicity, and I’ll be the first to admit that some of it is our fault, especially in the realm of marketing. But then there’s an awful lot of it that isn’t our fault, and quite honestly, we don’t deserve at all. The recent tragedy in Norway, and the tragedies that followed it involving major retailers pulling violent video games from their shelves is just appalling. It’s the latest in a long history of pseudocultural knee-jerk reactions against games following violent actions and events. Sooner or later, as a cultural institution, we need to stand up and say enough is enough.
Games are not evil.
Violence has existed since the dawn of human history. Video games have not. The prevalence of violent video games is rooted deeply in the origins and marketing of video games to attract young male consumers. Pound for pound, though, we’re also not a particularly imaginative lot. There’s a lot of creativity that goes into a video game, but it also swirls around a central point of attraction: Conflict. It’s in conflict that our creativity breaks down; most games tend to fall back on violence as that oldest and noblest of human conflict. The important thing to note here is that video games are derivative of humans, not the other way around.
Humans are not shaped by their media.
I grew up playing Super Mario Bros on the NES, but I never felt it necessary to jump on a turtle. People are not born empty shells of personality and later “filled in” by the media they consume. Particularly notable, life-changing events (death, divorce, abuse, etc.) shape a person’s viewpoint because the world has changed forever, but after you’ve killed 100 boars in World of Warcraft, the world is still the same at the end of the day. There is absolutely no legitimate science to substantiate the claims that violent media causes extremist or even moderate violent activity in people that weren’t already prone to such violence. People have a long and glorified history of atrocities, long before violent books were printed or violent movies shown, or violent games played.
We deserve some respect.
So now we’re down to the core problem: as an industry, we’re not well understood and that’s partially our fault. There’s very little communication between our industry and the people who aren’t involved in our industry as gamers, or developers. We don’t have the $200 million dollar budgets of movies, or the hundreds of millions of sales of books, but we create the most technologically advanced and immersive entertainment experiences ever conceived played around the world.
The answer is in communication.
As I stated above, part of it is our fault for completely lacking in communication with the ‘outside world’. This responsibility doesn’t just fall on our socially acceptable prized ponies, it covers the gamut from E to AO. Universities should be conducting research on the positive effects of games, and we should be reaching out to them for that. The news should be reporting on major game releases the same way it does movie releases. We should have major critics doing real critical review on the value of games as a whole. And this is something we need to work on together.
[Stay tuned next time for VFX and U part 3.]