I received an interesting e-mail this morning that I will share with you in a moment. The subject is video games. Yesterday, I touched on this topic in my post on “6 simple things parents can do in the wake of massacres without government.”
I believe it is parents’ role, not the government’s, to monitor their children’s online, smartphone, and gaming activity. Several politicians on Capitol Hill are making noises about new regulations on video games. I am against such post-Newtown political grandstanding. We don’t need kabuki. We need to take individual responsibility.
We parents need to keep ourselves up to date and informed on what’s out there in the marketplace. I’m part of the generation that grew up with Pong and Donkey Kong, witnessed the early days of bloody video games with the advent of “Postal,” then tuned out of the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Halo” era as we focused on raising our own children. I let my kids play “Burger Shop” on my laptop, “Family Feud” on the iPad, and “Wurdle” and “Tiny Tower” on my iPhone. My 12-year-old daughter has played “Big Buck Safari” at the arcade. My 9-year-old son gets an occasional kick out of “Kick the Buddy.” But that’s about as violent as it gets. We prefer interactive games offline that bring the family together — Boggle, Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, and Scattergories are our favorites.
Joseph, a 30-year-old reader and video gamer/aspiring game designer, wrote me this morning to share his thoughts and reaction to the new round of criticism of gaming. Parents, I hope this helps.
I’m writing you because I believe of all the talking heads, you might actually make this known…
A little about me, I’m a struggling game designer and artist. I’m 30, fit the ‘potentially unstable, quiet, smart guy’ profile to a T, and actually attended a different high school during the Columbine Shooting that was just two blocks down the road at the time. I’m a gamer, and if it hadn’t been for games connecting me to other people, I’m not sure I’d even be able to write you this letter because I would be afraid to reach out and contact other people.
In the wake of Columbine, basically everything about the sort of person I am was questioned, dissected, and essentially labeled as ‘signs of a disconnected person who might go on a shooting rampage.’ I’ve always been intelligent, I love video games, I’m quiet, creative, and possibly borderline autistic. Talk to me in real life and I get very nervous. I can’t help it, I’m socially awkward. And every time this happens, I feel like I’m being criminalized because I am awkward.
Now, back to the topic at hand-violence in video games. I keep seeing news personalities pick at it, but they aren’t asking any real questions. One of your partners on The Five said this new kid [Adam Lanza] played a lot of Dynasty Warriors, and how that’s a very violent game. I’m not sure how he measures violence because I’d rate Dynasty Warriors as a T, or to use a more familiar rating system, PG-13 level of violence. There is violence in it, but it’s generally toned down and not very graphic. I think you’re all looking at the issue wrong is the thing.
There is an activity in gaming that I would say DOES spark violence in people…I think it needs to be said. The people in your profession, and particularly the psychiatric profession need to take a look at Player versus Player game modes, more commonly called PvP.
Most video games in the past were single player. Those few that had multiplayer capability were generally co-operative, in which players helped each other, or competitive like a race or other sport. That all changed with games like Quake, which was a first person shooter (FPS) that was focused nearly 100% on a game mode known as Death Match, in which the primary purpose of the game is to kill your friends to win. The current games doing this the most are the Call of Duty (CoD) series, the Modern Warfare series, and the Halo series, but there are certainly others.
As someone who has gamed a lot, led guilds in massively multiplayer role playing games, and interacted with several hundred, if not several thousand players who are participating in several different kinds of games at once, I would like to say this. When I fight other players – PvP – I get a little hot under the collar and limit my play sessions because I find it stressful and I find that I get very, very angry. When I listen to people who are playing co-op, sometimes people are a little bored, but everyone is generally smiling. When I listen to people playing PvP, they tend to get more and more angry as time goes on.
When I talk to people who play games exclusively for PvP I don’t say this lightly-these people are sociopaths. They all demonstrate some level of unhealthy, anti-social behavior. They tend to be cruel, give themselves names that demean people around them, and talk trash about anyone for any reason. These are people that will hunt players down in open world games, kill them, and then stand around until they get back up (respawn) just to kill them AGAIN. They think this is the best thing ever.
…I simply feel that looking at all video games is a waste of time, and I think a great way to narrow the search for these violent triggers would be to start with PvP.
Thanks, Joseph, for taking the time to write and inform us.
From reader and gamer Ted:
In response to Joseph, the 30 yo game player/designer. He talks of PvP game as building his anger. It may just be frustration. I am 63 and have enjoyed Star Wars: The Old Republic. It is a MMOG where people have to join forces to win. You must co-operate and even let others take charge to succeed. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the side of good or evil, co-operation in the key. The socially awkward or outright loners will find these games difficult. Blaming these games IS not going to solve the problem. I will admit that I suck at video games. That does not keep me from trying. Nor does it deminish my enjoyment of the game.
The problem is the remorseless, unfeeling twisted and defective thought processes of the evil doer. Short of finding a DNA link to these kinds of people and testing everyone at birth, mere mortals will not solve this problem by blaming the instrument of the crime. These hoplophobes will never be satisfied.
BTW; the largest student fatality occurred in 1927 in Bath, Mich (I think) where 38 students 4 adults and the perp were killed by dynamite.
Thank You for listening
And reader Herb writes:
I once was a skeptic of the ties of video games and a causation for real violence. Then I read LTC Grossman’s book ‘On Killing’.
LTC Grossman is the author of the ‘Sheep, Sheepdog & Wolves’ analogy. Basically his argument is that the current video games increase the desensitization of taking human life and do not cover the ramifications of the taking of such life. I’ve been in the military for 12 years and have been involved in numerous training scenarios, some of them as video games. The military and first responders understand the ramifications of the taking of human life, as well as the issues surrounding PTSD. Some video games are very real, and very effective, conveying the initial auspices of killing, yet they do nothing in respects to the consequences.
Basically, read his book; its a short quick read. Check out his essay regarding the sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves.
My 0.02 worth….
Reader Zay adds:
After seeing the response you posted from Ted, I felt I had to weigh in as I’ve had years of first hand experience with all of the most popular FPS games be it PC or Console in addition to countless RTS’s and RPG’s.
I’m turning 30 next year and have been playing most genre’s (and FPS specifically) consistently for well over 10 years. Everything from the Counter-Strike series to Call of Duty to Battlefield and most of the lesser known/smaller FPS’s in between.
I’ve encountered my fair share of angry young kids online who get their kicks from saying the most disgusting and outrageous things they can think of, but I’ve seen that across the spectrum in countless game genre’s. In my opinion the issue is not specifically linked to individual game genre’s – it’s a cultural rot issue mixed with the “protection” of being able to say things while remaining anonymous online.
The subject matter being “violent” is a weak argument in our desensitized to violence society – I’ve had people fly off the handle in casual games of Words with Friends. It’s an easy scapegoat to scream about violence in video games yet we ignore equivalently (or worse) violent movies that Hollywood cranks out on a regular basis.
Appreciate the feedback! See, we can have a civil National Conversation About Video Games without Big Nanny government.