Over the past decade or so the advancement in technology has led not only to a greater realism in the gaming industry, but into belief that these modern games are having an influence in the younger generations.
This theory, whether we agree or not, is that certain genres of games have led to children growing up and developing violent or abusive tendencies, therefore mirroring the characters that appear in the games. A belief that playing something such as GTA or Hitman will make them think that this behaviour within the game will affect the way they mature into their lives.
I will tell you now that my own opinion, I’m not convinced.
Now this is my own belief and I’ll explain why. I’m a child of the late 80’s and 90’s, when video games were being played on Commodore, Atari and Spectrum, then onto the immense 90’s battles of Sega VS Nintendo. I know what some of you will be thinking: “Games back then weren’t as violent as they are now.”
Weren’t they? Are you sure?
Now I’ll accept that the advances in CPUs, AI, graphics, etc. allow for an unparalleled gaming experience that can be almost true to reality and trick the senses. But does this make more modern games more influential than the more classic game? Games like Super Mario, Double Dragon and Doom (yes, old school) may not seem the most violent and laugh you may, but they still have elements in them which can be easily perceived as violent. From jumping on heads, shooting up aliens or beating up totally strangers, these seem like violent acts to myself.
OK, so maybe a Plumber in a make believe land isn’t that bad as I was making out (sorry Mario), but my point is that these games didn’t make me want to go out and hurt others in real life, even if at times certain bullies deserved it. Three of my favourite games as a teenager in the 90’s on the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis to my US friends) were Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Streets of Rage. There was a great feeling about doing HUGE uppercuts sending your opponent flying through the air, using an energy bolt to knock someone down (I always liked Sub Zero!), and was there a better sound than ‘Finish him’ at the end of the battles, when you could use your special move?! But for all the hours of my wasted youth, which are not my words I may add, that I spent doing battle in video games, I think that I had a quiet nature and didn’t like violence. I never once got into a fight or hit out in anger as a kid, which is something I hope I will never need to do. So for me a game was a fictional platform where I could just relax and have fun. Isn’t that the whole point!?
Jump forward to 2014 and, as I’ve mentioned, the advances in technology have increased the realism in games to the point that they can mimic real life, such as the physics involved when someone is shot or even the way a car moves on a surface depending on the weather, creating a somewhat eerie symmetry with our world.
But this realism isn’t always a negative as some may make you believe. Take the case of David Anthony, a writer and producer of the critically acclaimed Call of Duty franchise. He has been asked by Washington to help military planners visualise future wars by helping them to think outside the box.
Use my own family as an example of the point I’m trying to make. My kids LOVE games like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat on our Xbox 360, as do I. They like the way you can run someone over with the Batmobile or use X-ray mode when performing a special move. But due to the way they have been bought up they know it’s merely a game for entertainment and that is why they like these parts of the games and they would never do anything in reality to injury someone in that nature. In fact, my youngest has been bullied, so at times I wished she would fight back, but she is a fun loving child and wouldn’t.
As a parent I choose not to let them play any games that have extreme use of language or violent acts in them, and if I’m unsure I simply play them first and judge what is suitable. Game are issued age restrictions also, which should make it easy. To simply blame the games for the way certain people act in society is too easy, and in my belief video games are being used in situations as a scapegoat so others can rationalise some of the senseless acts that one person inflict on others. I concede that sometimes bad people can use ideas from them and use them in in a way that was never intended, but surely these people would find another way of creating chaos if that’s what they wanted to do.
In saying all of this, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason that video games, be it on any platform of console or PC and for any genre, were created for the sole purpose of entertaining and having FUN!! Bad people will always find a way to do bad things, and that’s what I teach my children, plus with so much negativity it’s easy to get swept away with the tide and to a certain extent I fully understand the issue that arises from certain gaming titles. But as I have said, there can also be a lot of good that come from them, certainly I have had many great years of gaming without doing harm to others, apart from in a game. Surely in world where there is so much pressure and stress in our daily routines we can allow time to unwind and just enjoy ourselves.
After all, life’s short and if we can’t have fun once in a while, then what’s the point.