Blood, Violence,Videogames

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In the past few weeks a mini-furor arose when it was discovered that there is even more sexual and violent content hidden in the game which can be unlocked by players once they download modules from the internet.

Maybe when you bought the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for your children or grandchildren last Christmas and you didn’t know what was in it.  Maybe you didn’t know about the graphic hyper-violence and sex scenes, the murder of police officers, the racial stereotyping.  Maybe you didn’t understand the cryptic rating system which gave it a “matureâ€? rating instead of an “adults onlyâ€? label. 

Maybe you didn’t know that then – but you should know that now.  In the past few weeks a mini-furor arose when it was discovered that there is even more sexual and violent content hidden in the game which can be unlocked by players once they download modules from the internet.  These scenes are explicit pornography in which the player directs the activity, as if the player was actually part of the game.  These extra scenes have been promoted on teen-oriented websites, which means that many teens know about it, although their parents were totally ignorant to this fact.

At first the makers of Grand Theft Auto blamed some unknown computer hacker on the internet module, but they were soon forced to admit that these hidden scenes were put there by the creator.  Last year Grand Theft Auto was the best selling video game globally, selling at least six million games since its release late in the fall.  This game is part of a series which has sold more than 21 million games and the parent company that makes Grand Theft Auto is expecting to earn at least $1.26 billion during this fiscal year, according to PC World magazine. That was billion with a “b.â€?  Violent video games have become big business, with some entertainment analysts expecting them to surpass the movie industry in the not-too-distant future.

But who are these games focusing on?  Young men, it seems.  A recent Associated Press article pointed out that men account for 70 percent of the players of video games and also mentioned that most of those creating the games are young white males, with only a handful of women involved in the game industry. 

While many in the video game industry argue that the violent video games may be a release for male aggression, three major national studies have confirmed a connection between viewing violence and increased aggressive behavior.  These go back 30 years to the Surgeon General’s Commission report, along with studies by the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychological Association. 

Perhaps the most sobering observation comes from a retired military officer, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, US Army, who wrote, “Violent video games hardwire young people for shooting at humans.  The entertainment industry conditions the young in exactly the same way the military does.â€?

One of the most frightening aspects of Grand Theft Auto and other violent and sex-filled video games is that even when they are rated so that children can not theoretically purchase them, secret shopping studies find that three-quarters of children were able to buy the games anyway.  That is why some states are trying to ban its sale, although federal courts have been ruling such bans as unconstitutional.  In just the past few days Australia outlawed it altogether.  Moreover, since the most recent revelations about the hidden module, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been taken off shelves at such chains as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Target.

Censorship is not the only possible response to the issue of violent video games.  There is much that parents must do when it comes to video games and their children.  First, parents must know the content of the games themselves.  Secondly, parents can let violent video game manufacturers and sellers know how they feel by not buying these games for children and asking for other kinds of video games.  Finally, parents can visit local retailers and find out if they are enforcing regulations regarding the purchase of video games meant for adults.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility has been looking at the violent video game industry for the past few years.  It has created its own list of mature-rated video games as well as a list of alternative non-violent video games.

(Note: for more information on violent video games, go to www.iccr.org.   For more information on nonviolent video games go to www.nonviolentgames.org.)

 

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