In this Guest Writer piece TSA member Dexter17 discusses violence in video games and looks at some of the best examples (or worst offenders, depending on your point of view).
Violence has been in videogames ever since the industry was born. It may have been in different contexts and varieties, but it has always been there. Whether it was shooting white lines at yellow aliens, or getting a bloody headshot on Killzone 2, it provides us with a short-term feeling of triumph. For some of us, nothing beats killing a best mate on the latest Call of Duty, and then taunting him relentlessly over the headset. It is all harmless, good fun, but what happens when someone takes their actions in a game and brings it into the real world? What consequences does that situation behold? I aim to explode that controversy that has surrounded gaming for all of its life, and ask, do games make people kill?
I think the best place to start is probably by looking at the history of such cases. The first major case of video-game related violence came in February 2004, when 17 year old Warren Leblanc brutally stabbed his best friend Stefan Pakeerah. This news spread like wildfire, as the media picked it up and dissected it until no stone had been left unturned. By six-thirty that night practically the whole of Britain knew, as the case appeared on the news on several different channels. But why? Hadn’t this been just another murder of Britain’s several? No, because Warren Leblanc had been “inspired” by the popular 18 rated game, Manhunt.
You are put into the boots of a man called James Earl Cash, who is a convicted killer and has been sentenced to death. Hours later, you are awoken by a man who says that if you carry out his “tasks” you will be freed. So, on the surface, a pretty psychopathic game, but that’s exactly the point – it’s only a game. Not in Warren’s case. Warren was an obsessive player of Manhunt, and wanted to act out a popular scene from the game. Needless to say, that he did. What followed was one of the biggest video-game recalls of all time. Dixon’s was the first big-name retailer to pull Manhunt off the shelves, and soon, PC World, Curry’s and GAME had all followed suit.
But was all of this really needed? Was it really the game that caused Warren to kill? Firstly, Manhunt was an 18 rated game. Warren was 17, and already an obsessive player. So, at the end of the day, Warren should not have been in possession of the game, let alone playing it. My first instinct is to blame the parents. Did the parents buy Manhunt for him themselves? If not, surely if Warren was an obsessive player, wouldn’t the parents know about it? Let’s not immediately blame the most obvious culprits. Scientific studies show that anybody below the age of eight re-enacts what they see or hear on screen. Would it be unfair to say that maybe Warren’s emotional growth was stunted? If so, he should definitely not have been playing one of the most brutal games on the market.
So, does this really mean that the game played no part in the murder whatsoever? I don’t think that the game played a major part in the murder, and if the UK law had been properly and efficiently followed this murder would never have happened and an innocent life would have been saved. However, I feel that the game did play a part in fuelling this poor boy’s ideas.
Another “video-game violence” case came about more recently, during 2008, in Thailand, when an 18 year old high school student murdered a taxi driver, because he wanted to find out whether “nicking a taxi in real life was as easy as it was in Grand Theft Auto IV” After the incident Thailand immediately removed every copy of GTA IV from the shelves, and it is now illegal to be in possession of the game in Thailand. As the country’s laws allow it, the teenager now faces the ultimate punishment: the death penalty. I personally think that GTA IV did not affect this teenager’s decision to kill because it sounds to me like he is trying to blame the game for what he did, on the purpose that he cannot handle the responsibility that the murder was purely his fault. As videogames are a relatively new technology, and little research has gone into them, they are a fairly easy scapegoat. Although, saying that, that “idea” philosophy has popped up again. Just like Manhunt fuelled Warren’s ideas, GTA IV has apparently influenced this boy’s ideas as well. So, should games become less violent and graphic? Is there a thin line between acceptable and just too much?
I feel that games don’t really cause people to kill, but I think that it would be ignorant of me to say that they do not have any effect at all. David Walsh, a child psychologist who is conducting a study into the effects of gaming, explains it perfectly: “You know, not every child that plays a violent video game turns to violence. That’s because they don’t have all of the other risk factors going on”. These risk factors that Walsh talks about include high levels of stress, and a troubled upbringing and / or background. “It’s a combination of risk factors, that come together to create a tragic outcome.” I understand these comments, but I have often played quite violent games when my stress levels have been through the roof, and if anything, the game helps them. At the end of the day, I think it is whether a certain individual can cope with viewing a certain game. Games should be played with discretion. If everybody was just that little bit more responsible and knew their own viewing limit, quite a few innocent lives would be saved.
Below I have rounded-up what I personally feel are the most violent games on the market. I have also given them a “Violence rating” which explains how violent they really are…
BBFC Rating – 18
Violence Rating – 9
Killzone 2 sets a new standard for the Playstation 3 fan-base. The time that only brought poor 360 conversions to our console, is gone. Now, we are beginning to get accustomed to expecting only the best of Playstation exclusives. Killzone 2 falls under this exact category. But, often, no top game comes without its fair share of violence. Killzone 2 provides this violence in spades, as blood flies, and comrades fall screaming. You are Sev, a member of the highly advanced war-team called the ISA, who are leading an attack on an alien planet, called Helghan. Your aim is to take control of the planet, and capture the leader, Visari. In your way stand thousands of alien species, appropriately named the Helghast. These guys soak up bullets like a sponge, as they personally decapitate your fellow fighters. Although it’s an extremely violent game, it never fails to give you a short-term adrenaline rush.
Grand Theft Auto IV
BBFC Rating – 18
Violence Rating – 10
The highly anticipated next instalment of the Grand Theft Auto series came on the 28th April 2008. Queues of people stood through the night to be one of the first to play probably the most hyped game of 08. However, it was probably also the most controversial. You play as Niko Bellic, a Russian who has gone to LibertyCity in search for that “American dream”. However, his search takes him on a road that crosses drug dealers, dangerous gang members, and the law. Set in the open world America, you can do whatever you like, and that is not an overstatement. You can rob shops, you can kill whoever you like, you can rob whatever car you like… and all of it is displayed in wonderful 1080p. So, when you do eventually kill someone to gain their car, you will see the full gore of your actions. This may be probably the most violent game released this year, but it is also probably the biggest technical wonder released this year. Never has a city been this realised, and this realistic. A true achievement.
Resident Evil 5
BBFC Rating – 18
Violence Rating – 9
The Resident Evil series has been around for a long, long time, and has captured the imaginations of dad’s everywhere. Resident Evil is known as “the dad’s game” and that definitely should be the only people playing it, because it is absolutely horrifying. Set in a fictional West African country, you play as Chris Redfield, a man sent out from a secret organisation to combat a new virus that is infecting people throughout Africa, and turning them into bloodthirsty zombies. As you can probably already imagine, this game involves a lot of extremely gory zombie-shooting. There are also quite a few “close up” scenes, where a man in a sack gets inventive with a chainsaw… enough said. Again, although this is extremely violent, it provides the older generation with something to lavish over.
BBFC Rating – 18
Violence Rating – 7
Another playstation-only exclusive that doesn’t fail to disappoint. Although it doesn’t do anything new, or add anything to the shooter genre, it does everything that has been done before, very well indeed. This is quite similar to Killzone 2, only the aliens are on earth, not on some foreign planet. Practically the whole human population has been turned into an alien called the “Chimera” by tiny bugs that crawl into humans ear lobes to infect them. You play as Nathan Hale, a one of the last soldiers left to fight. It’s your usual 18 rated game-quite a bit of blood and swearing, and a few guts flying about to top things off. Pretty good game though if you are willing to play through what you have played millions of times before.
So, if you are in need of a violent game, you probably couldn’t do much better than buying or renting these beauties. But just remember, it’s only a game. Or is it?
Leave your opinion in the comments below.