Bulldog19892

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Is Jack Thompson Right?

Jack Thompson is a name that sends waves of frustration and anger through the minds of gamers, but truth be told, not everything he says is misinformed bull crap. (though most of it is)

Jack has made the point that it is quite easy for kids to get a hold of violent video games. Most game advocates will tell you that it's not their fault, and that it's the parents' duty to watch over what their children are viewing or playing. This is also true, but to a degree. Even if you are a good parent, and you make sure your children don't get hold of media that you have expressly forbidden, you can't cover all the bases. When I was younger my parents would not allow me to play Grand Theft Auto at all. However, if I rode my bike to a friends house, Grand Theft Auto III would be there prepped and ready for me to enjoy. The point is: unless you bar your children's windows and lock them in their rooms forever, they will get into things you don't intend them to. And it's not just media. It's just part of life.

In this respect I believe there should be laws to prevent children from buying games that are above their age requirement. However, if a parent choses to buy a mature rated game for their child, that is their choice, not the governments. I promote video game awareness, not censorship or banishment.

Video games, just like movies, drawings, and music, are protected under the first amendment of the Constitution. These games have every right to exist and be sold, but just like movies, drawings, and music, it should be difficult for small children who aren't ready to hear or see mature materials to get hold of them.

Another point that anti-video game activists use, is the idea that video games "train" you to be an efficient and deadly killing machine. This is quite a jump. It is undeniable that violent images will instigate violent thoughts, but it does not necessarily translate into real life violence. Playing GTA for three hours won't influence a guy to jump in his car and go murder someone. It might however make them more likely to resort to aggression over a more peaceful solution. Also, violent video games don't "train" you to do anything. The most they can do is improve your eye-hand coordination, but as far as I know there is no square button on an AK-47.

One of the big questions about violent video games is 'why do they have to be so violent in the first place?' The answer is, they don't. If people only wanted blood gore and violence, Manhunt 2 would be a considerably more respected game than Portal. People don't play games for the blood, they play them for the thrill. In GTA IV, which is more fun? Killing someone with a knife, or careening at high speeds, on a bike, into a tree, just to catapult Niko high into the air? It's the same thing people look for in a roller coaster, or an action flick. They want big, loud, crazy, over the top, adrenaline pumping action. The blood in Gears of War is awesome, not because it is realistic, but because of how ridiculously unrealistic it is. It's the chaos people are after, the over the top extremities and wild craziness that these types of entertainment can provide. Hopefully developers will start to make games for the younger crowd. Unfortunately that requires a lot more creativity, which most developers shirk in favor of another shooter. Perhaps more people will set off down the creative road after the success of Portal.

(I wrote this blog on Gamespot a really long time ago. I decided to post it here on GiantBomb, unedited from it's original form, as a way to start my blog here, and to get some discussion going. Feel free to tell me what you think, even if you think I'm a jackass.)

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Bulldog19892

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Edited By Bulldog19892

Jack Thompson is a name that sends waves of frustration and anger through the minds of gamers, but truth be told, not everything he says is misinformed bull crap. (though most of it is)

Jack has made the point that it is quite easy for kids to get a hold of violent video games. Most game advocates will tell you that it's not their fault, and that it's the parents' duty to watch over what their children are viewing or playing. This is also true, but to a degree. Even if you are a good parent, and you make sure your children don't get hold of media that you have expressly forbidden, you can't cover all the bases. When I was younger my parents would not allow me to play Grand Theft Auto at all. However, if I rode my bike to a friends house, Grand Theft Auto III would be there prepped and ready for me to enjoy. The point is: unless you bar your children's windows and lock them in their rooms forever, they will get into things you don't intend them to. And it's not just media. It's just part of life.

In this respect I believe there should be laws to prevent children from buying games that are above their age requirement. However, if a parent choses to buy a mature rated game for their child, that is their choice, not the governments. I promote video game awareness, not censorship or banishment.

Video games, just like movies, drawings, and music, are protected under the first amendment of the Constitution. These games have every right to exist and be sold, but just like movies, drawings, and music, it should be difficult for small children who aren't ready to hear or see mature materials to get hold of them.

Another point that anti-video game activists use, is the idea that video games "train" you to be an efficient and deadly killing machine. This is quite a jump. It is undeniable that violent images will instigate violent thoughts, but it does not necessarily translate into real life violence. Playing GTA for three hours won't influence a guy to jump in his car and go murder someone. It might however make them more likely to resort to aggression over a more peaceful solution. Also, violent video games don't "train" you to do anything. The most they can do is improve your eye-hand coordination, but as far as I know there is no square button on an AK-47.

One of the big questions about violent video games is 'why do they have to be so violent in the first place?' The answer is, they don't. If people only wanted blood gore and violence, Manhunt 2 would be a considerably more respected game than Portal. People don't play games for the blood, they play them for the thrill. In GTA IV, which is more fun? Killing someone with a knife, or careening at high speeds, on a bike, into a tree, just to catapult Niko high into the air? It's the same thing people look for in a roller coaster, or an action flick. They want big, loud, crazy, over the top, adrenaline pumping action. The blood in Gears of War is awesome, not because it is realistic, but because of how ridiculously unrealistic it is. It's the chaos people are after, the over the top extremities and wild craziness that these types of entertainment can provide. Hopefully developers will start to make games for the younger crowd. Unfortunately that requires a lot more creativity, which most developers shirk in favor of another shooter. Perhaps more people will set off down the creative road after the success of Portal.

(I wrote this blog on Gamespot a really long time ago. I decided to post it here on GiantBomb, unedited from it's original form, as a way to start my blog here, and to get some discussion going. Feel free to tell me what you think, even if you think I'm a jackass.)

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ahoodedfigure

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Edited By ahoodedfigure

I think this argument could be expanded to movies.  At least games are more expensive, and must be played in SOMEONE'S home.  Movie theaters are notorious for letting kids past, and movie distribution houses are great at pushing their violent gems through PG-13 sized doors when I'm betting a lot of people disagree about their judgment (though if you don't have a big movie house behind you, forget it).

I think it's hard to argue against awareness.  If parents still feel their kid is able to handle what they see in the game, that's their deal.  People who want to keep their kids in some fantasy wonderland until they're 21 are going to have a harder time of it unless they turn off the TV, the radio, forbid them to play games and watch movies... 

One fact you state here I'm not sure is true.  Weren't games recently ruled by a lower court NOT to be considered speech?  Correct me if I'm wrong here.  If it's true, though, I think games need a bit more protection than average against thuggish behavior.  Maybe that's why we're a bit more defensive about games than we would be otherwise.

 I also think that I was more influenced by my parents and my school bullies about how violent I could possibly be than anything I saw in games and TV, violent or not.  True, if society doesn't teach me about alternatives to violence I'm not going to know that there are other ways to deal with problems, but I don't think media influence will necessarily make you more likely to resort to violence.  It's more the spectrum of influences that you respond to.  If all I was doing was playing violent video games, I might see the things depicted as the only alternatives, although I feel like arguing that I'm simply attracted to these sorts of things because I either already identify with them in the first place, or maybe I'm looking for a way to vent so I can go back and face the world like the honest citizen I usually am.

When I'm breakin' the law in GTA, it's most definitely the latter for me.

I think if violence serves the game experience, it has a right to be there, realistic or not.  If it's there satirically, hyper-realistically, or for plain comedy, as long as it works, it should be in.  If it's done to pander, it sure as heck shouldn't be there.

For all the griping about the Wii, I think it has the greatest potential to have software that'll reach the younger crowd.  And for all my talk about GTA, one of the games I'm looking forward to seeing released the most is the new Animal Crossing. 

You're right, though, about the lack of necessity in violence.  There's a place for it, but I think gaming as a whole would benefit from stronger representation from other gaming styles. 

Good article, thanks for posting it.