A few months ago, after a day of hard graft in the Pixel Bandits office, we sat down and had a dinner that couldn’t be beat. After putting baby bandit to bed we saw Gamechangers, the BBC Documentary about the creation of Grand Theft Auto and thought it would be worth a watch. Our night went downhill from there.
Now it wasn’t a “bad program” from the outset. It has a decent cast, including screen bigwig Bill Paxton and Daniel Radcliffe who has certainly come a long way from the shoddy child acting when he starred as “The Little Wizard Who Could”, but from the outset something was jarring at me… Following a portrayal of Rockstar after the release of Vice City and working through the construction of San Andreas the program starts heavy and hard with Rockstar celebrating a staggering amount of profit on Vice City and quickly into a depiction of Devin Moore and his brutal murder of three police officers
Which leads us to the first point, that this “Docu-Drama” is, from the outset, less genuine than a cardboard Buster sword. Fiction quickly overtook fact in a poor and unsuccessful scramble for entertainment value. Seemingly within a few weeks Vice City is released, Moore is arrested, killing three officers and former attorney Jack Thompson steps in as the gallant hero on a crusade to
stop parents from buying 18 rated games for their underage children stop people making violent games.
In reality, Moore was arrested June 7 2003, around 8 months after the release of Vice City, and it wouldn’t actually be until 2005 that Jack “Righteous Thunder” Thompson came anywhere near this case. Again, in the BBC adaptation of the truth you’re led to believe that Jack Thompson has never been on a computer in his life, and yet the reason that he didn’t jump straight to Moore’s defense may well have been because in 2003 he was trying the same kind of thing with GTA 3 and a lad of 16 called Dustin Lynch, who murdered his friend in Ohio.
The big things in the program are right, Devin Moore did (inexcusably) kill three people, Hot Coffee was a (really rather naff) sex scene left on the disc but unreachable by normal players, however it is interspersed with misinformation and falsehoods which really brought down what could otherwise have been a factual look at the link between gaming and violent behavior, but that still would have made me angry. why?
Because the media keep asking that big question. Do violent video games make you violent. The very fact that this argument is still raging after 23 years, since the release of the first Mortal Kombat, perpetuates the myth. If there is no link, why are we still asking the question, the fact that headlines and click-bait ask this question regularly will lead anybody who doesn’t look behind them to the conclusion that they must do, otherwise, what’s the big hooha?
A psychological study recently revealed that playing violent video games can be a “risk-factor” to exhibiting increased aggression, however not only did they also point out that there was no evidence that this influence was enough to lead to criminal acts but let’s be honest here, the same desensitizing and copy cat behavior can be taken from anything from books, to film, to television, so why the focus on gaming?
To quote the Independent online newsblog,
“The findings have prompted a call for more parental control over violent scenes in video games from the American Psychological Association (APA).”
which again is absolutely absurd. The thing about these violent games is that, make no mistake, there is a brutal amount of gore and bodily destruction. In GTA you can pay for intercourse with a prostitute and then beat her to death with a double ended sex toy and get your money back. Do I want my eleven year old to play that, of course not. Do I want stricter parental controls on the game, also a no… because…
Video games, much like film, have something in the way of control already. It’s taken out of the children’s hands and forced into those not of the developers or retailers, but of the parents. The video gaming development community themselves work with various boards in order to ensure that children do not have the opportunity to perform any of these acts or even witness any of this violent content, and you’ve probably seen it a few times a day.
Each and every one of the games listed in court cases and studies is an age 18 restricted game in the UK. This means that it is illegal for children to buy it, much like alcohol, tobacco, or firearms.
So, who is to blame here. Who is the one to point the finger at when children are exposed to levels of violence that (most of us agree) they shouldn’t be seeing. Do we curse out the developers, who spend time developing an adult content game? Do we take to court the classification board who rate the game for sale (by law) to only adults? Do we ransack the offices of the retail stores who 99 times out of a hundred refuse to sell these items to children due to the massive fines and jail time they could serve for doing so? Or should we blame the parents, who buy age restricted games for their children because they are not legally allowed to buy it for themselves?
I’ll leave that last question with you. Let us know what you think.