Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ignorance and Video Games

Following on from Sneeze’s article about violence and fornication in video games, I’d like to take a closer look at the people who complain about this sort of thing. Jo and I were watching some videos of Jack Thompson and some other people complaining about Grand Theft Auto IV last night, and it was honestly one of the most ignorant, scaremongering piles of crap I have ever seen in my life. I’ve never played GTA IV myself, but I have played III, Vice City and San Andreas, so I know the basic precepts of GTA games quite well. Apparently, in this game (according to the talk show we watched) your child can pick up a hooker, have sex with her, then beat her to death with a baseball bat to get your money back. OK, OK, OK, let’s get one thing straight shall we. Your child can’t do these things because the game has an ESRB rating of M and a BBFC rating of 18. If a child gets their hands on a copy of the game it’s due to negligence, either on the part of the store who sold them the restricted item, or on the part of the parents, to provide their offspring with a video game that has been deemed unsuitable for them. On that note, many people have complained that the ESRB rating of M should be raised to AO due to some of the game’s content. For anyone who doesn’t know, M is for ages 17+ and AO is for ages 18+. I mean seriously, is one year really going to make that much of a difference?

Right, now on to the point of this article. Many people complain that some of the themes in video games, such as violence, sex and crime have an adverse effect on people who play them, causing them to go on mad killing sprees in schools with an AK47 or something. As a side note, if I was personally gonna go on a killing spree I’d screw an AK47 and take a HK47 with me instead. At least it’d add some humour to the situation. “Query: Shall we start with the blaster rifle or plasma grenades master? I do so enjoy the sound of meatbags in pain. Except you of course master. Haha.”
Anyway, random Star Wars references aside, how many reported sales of GTA IV have there been? I can’t seem to find an up to date figure, but according to Wikipedia, as of the 16th of August 2008 (a few months after the game’s release) it had sold over 10 million copies. So I guess we can assume that that figure has increased dramatically since then. Now, how many cases have there been of people running amok in schools with rifles? Yeah, considerably less. Oh and let’s not forget that hardly any of these cases can actually be directly linked to video games. People just seem to think that since someone has played a violent game before, that must have somehow trained them to become psychotic killers. As Sneeze, said in his article, these people also tend to be quite fond of statistics, throwing them out like confetti at a wedding, so here’s one for you: let’s take a high estimate for the number of school shootings linked to video games. Shall we say 50? Yeah that sounds like a nice high estimate. Now how many sales have there been of GTA IV? Well there were over 10 million sales in August 2008, so in May 2010, taking into account additional sales in the past nearly 2 years, plus pre-owned sales on eBay and the like, shall we say 17 million? Right now let’s work out the percentage shall we? Notice I’m being lenient here and assuming that all these violent rampages were linked to GTA IV and not to other games like Counter Striker or Manhunt. So, 50/17,000,000 * 100 = ~0.0003%. Wow, that’s a low percentage. Plus I’ve been lenient with this percentage don’t forget. Now let’s consider, out of all the people who have played GTA IV, how many are likely to have had a deep rooted psychological problem that would probably lead them to become violent with the influence of something like GTA anyway. I don’t know about you, but I’d reckon it’d be higher than the previous percentage. So the only people who would have been affected by violent games are the ones who are quite frankly mentally unfit to play them anyway. I mean what train of thought would lead you to the conclusion “Oh, I just killed someone in this game, therefore it must be alright to do it in real life too”. Sounds retarded doesn’t it? Really, if someone can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, then it’s obviously a case that needs looking at more thoroughly right?

For all that people complain about violence in video games, surely it’s better that people do it within the confines of a fantasy world rather than in real life. At our core, human beings are just animals that have developed the confines of society, making many of our animal urges unacceptable, for instance the need to hunt and kill. Animals do it all the time, it’s a perfectly natural part of life, and the old hunter-gatherer instincts are still there in all human beings. Take a look at the Freudian model for example. (I apologise for any inconsistencies here, but I briefly studied Freud out of a textbook at college 5 years ago after dropping out of Psychology for being too boring and taking Physics instead. They just weren’t covering the stuff I wanted to learn in Psychology, and Physics was a much more black and white subject, which suits my style of thinking more, so I decided to just learn the stuff I wanted to know out of a textbook instead. So I apologise if I’m wrong about anything here.) The Freud model states that the consciousness is split into three parts, the ID, the Ego, and the Superego. The ID is the animal instinct, self-gratification part of our mind that tells us what we want and that we want it now. The Superego is the part of our mind that tells us what’s right and what’s wrong, and that we should always do right by other people. The Ego sits between the two, and keeps them both in check, making sure we get sufficient self gratification, but that we are still decent people. Anyway, dragging this back onto topic, the ID part of our minds tells us that we want to kill things. Surely, a place where we can satisfy these urges without doing harm to anyone else is preferable to going out and stabbing someone in the street or something. I know I’ve actually found games where you can be someone else for a while terribly relieving, not having to worry about the real life consequences of my actions actually de-stresses me really well. So in that sense, violent games are surely good for people, provided they don’t have any prior mental instabilities. Maybe instead of age ratings on games they should have mental stability ratings, ensuring the only people who play these kinds of games aren’t the kind who are going to go crazy and start eating their socks or something.

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