Is it time to re-examine game violence?

21:59, Feb 20 2013

Watching late evening news last night, I caught the end of an item about some report on the Sandy Hook shooting that indicated a ''trove of violent video games'' had been found in the basement where the young shooter apparently spent a lot of time.

I initially rolled my eyes, thinking "Oh, video games being blamed again" and looked at my wife, who had a similar expression, but today I thought about the issue after reading a report on VG247 saying US police investigators in Connecticut are looking into whether there was a link between the killer's love of violent video games and the shootings. VG247 writes that a newspaper report suggests that the shooter owned thousands of dollars' worth of violent titles and that the shooting was his way of emulating them.

VG247 goes on to say that the The Hartford Courant says the shooter was ''a troubled boy living under a mother who was obsessed with guns'' and that private investigator Richard Novia suggests that both "the guns and the violent video games [he] played may well have been an unhealthful combination for the troubled boy".

While the suggestion by the newspaper is pure speculation - no one knows what the gunman was thinking - in the wake of this latest shooting, where it can't be ignored that the shooter lived with a gun-obsessed mother, is now the right time for the video game industry to look at itself again and ask whether extreme violence in video games is absolutely necessary?

Should we, as gamers, also be questioning whether that extreme violence might just have an impact, no matter how small, on some young people?

Years of playing violent video games hasn't caused me to become a killer or be violent toward other people, nor has it done the same to anyone I know - we know the difference between what's real and what's just on our TV screen -  but for a small, small percentage, violent video games could perhaps be the trigger in what is an already troubled life. But talk about video games and violence in the same breath is sometimes a touchy subject for some gamers.


Many gamers get defensive when people suggest that violent video games could impact on some young people. Personally, I'm not convinced that violence in video games, or other entertainment forms such as action movies or graphically violent TV shows (The Walking Dead, for example), are the sole reason why people go on rampages: there are many more complex issues in their life compounding things, but despite my years of playing games, I'm still shocked sometimes by the level of violence in some of today's modern video games.

And I sometimes question whether excessive violence is necessary: Do modern video games need to be so graphic in their depiction of violence and is overly graphic content something we should be encouraging?

Take a game like Spec Ops: The Line, one that I liked immensely and enjoyed. It was unflinching in its war themes but did it really need the graphic finishing moves that the lead character could perform on downed enemies? Was that really necessary? Or do gamers really need to be able to chainsaw enemies in half in a game like they can in Gears of War? Would the game be just as much fun to play without the need to do that?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that violence needs to be culled from video games and we all go about saving the world by planting daisies and milking cows - and I'm still going to play games like Bioshock Infinite and Gears of War Judgement and Crysis 3 - but sometimes I just wonder whether extreme violence in video games is necessary and whether the industry needs to take a look at itself sometimes.

What do you think? Is it time for the industry to re-examine extreme violence in video games or are things fine the way they are? Just putting it out there.

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