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Kill Anything That Moves, For Fun

This article was originally published on the London Tribe web magazine in November 2000.

Kill anything that moves, for fun.

As computer games have developed over the years, the realism has increased so greatly that morality has been slapped into the discussion when a new release is issued. No one ever considered Pac man to be a violent game, even though it appears, essentially, to be a decapitated head floating around a screen eating fruit and being chased by ghosts!

Nowadays, however, the realism in games is such that psychologists fear that young people are being influenced into violent and abusive behaviour through playing violent games. Games often linked to violent behaviour are Quake, Doom, Mortal Kombat and Thrill Kill. There is no doubt that the realism in these games is unparalleled, but do they really make us want to go out and slash up our neighbours?

Here's what has been said on the subject up to now:

On September 13th, Peter Moore, President of Sega America, addressed the US Senate on the subject of video game violence, in reply to a report that suggests that video game companies are marketing violence to children, through TV advertising. In short, he claimed that it was the parents responsibility to ensure that children did not stay up late to watch adverts for violent video games and that parents and retailers should make sure that underage children don't buy hardcore games. The ads for such games are not shown during the day but they are advertised in gaming magazines. Kids always find a way to watch the 18 certificate films, so stopping them from playing the adult games is equally as difficult.

In 1993 the James Bulger study was set up, following claims that the two killers had watched the film "Childs Play" often. The report finds that young people who are violent criminals are more likely to enjoy violence on screen. The report, by psychologists at Birmingham University, was based on a two-year observation of 122 young men who had volunteered to watch violent videos. So, instead of film or video violence stimulating "real" violence, the report finds that a taste for violent films is more likely to be linked to the general social effects of poverty. A history of family violence and criminal behaviour are necessary preconditions for a person to develop a significant preference for violent films. None of the study subjects said that they had copied violent behaviour after watching the films and, four months after viewing the films, only three of the 122 claimed to have been influenced by what they had seen. Six months later all respondents said they were unaffected by the films.

A British Government report also states that there is no evidence that violent video films directly trigger violent behaviour among young viewers.

Way down in south America, on the other hand, authorities in Brazil have banned the sales of 'Carmageddon' and 'Grand Theft Auto', computer games which they say incite violence. The games are based on driving cars around and collecting points by committing as many traffic violations as possible; including running over pedestrians, killing police officers and stealing cars. Brazil's justice ministry ordered all copies of the games to be removed from shops and said that anyone caught selling them could face fines of up to nine thousand dollars.

Campaigners in Britain are calling for computer games to be censored this Christmas. They say parents may be shocked by the violent and explicit nature of some of the games and have called on the Government to protect youngsters. They want the classification of computer games to be reformed and efforts made to remove violence from the industry.

So, it seems that the jury is still out on the effects of violent video games. If you are naturally violent or come from a violent family, then you are more likely to enjoy the violent games. But, on the other hand, if you are not a violent person but enjoy violent games, you are not necessarily going to go out and slash someone's head off.

Jasen Quick

November 2000