Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What's in a Video Game?


Today a video game has been banned from British shops on the ground that it encourages extreme violence and "casual sadism". The video game is believed to have images of the toddler James Bulger, including the unforgetable CCTV image of him being abducted.
Violent acts are commonly believed to increase after exposure to watched or television violence. There may be a reduction in the emotional response to violence, as brains become ‘desensitised’ to viewing on-screen violence. This leaves a potential problem for both viewers and film-makers. Film-makers need to escalate behaviour in order to get the same level of emotional response, whilst the viewer develops desensitisation to viewed violence. A study in 1974 by Drabman and Thomas found that eight year olds were less likely to tell an adult about a fight in the playroom after viewing a violent programme than if they had not seen it. The ongoing debate about the relationship between media violence and aggression is far from resolved. In Britain the link between the two was last in the spotlight following the murder of two year old James Bulger by two teenage boys in 1993. At their trial, Mr Justice Moreland said “It is not for me to pass judgement on their upbringing, but I suspect that exposure to violent video films may, in part, be an explanation.” Let's hope we've learnt from history.

13 comments:

simon said...

I have witnessed the behaviour of my sons after they have played certain video games.. it revs them up so much and I am not sure they can determine what is "real" to what is "fantasy".

The same for the stunt bike or street racing videos.. they watch them then try the stunts for themselves...

We activly discourage such DVDs/games etc in our house...

Persaonlly I think such games should be banned.

Midwife with a Knife said...

I've witnessed a fair amount of the aftermath of violence and a reasonable amount of actual violence at work. I have to say that exposure to real violence only makes me more sensitive. I can't watch violent tv shows or play violent video games (I guess I can... but it's not fun. They make me feel anxious and weird). I used to like those sorts of films and games sometimes. So, it's interesting to me how video violence can be desensitizing but actual violence is can sensitize people.

The Shrink said...

A tricky one, this.

The BBFC in censoring this didn't allude to evidence or causation of the video game causing violence outside the game.

Their issue was that within the game it was, well, just a bit too nasty.

“There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed and encouraged.”

I struggle here. Much material is graphic (many films and games, for example) but I'd rather adults and families determine appropriateness.

Personally I'd not be splashing cash on such a video game, I'd not want kids to play such a game and countenance that, "just for fun," wanton carnage and hurting folk is okay.

Although resistant to censorship, maybe it is wholesome for the BBFC to make a stand that this isn't something our society should lie down and accept.

Heck, if there's a need for slaughter and a cathartic blood fest, pick any of the zillions of games where you slaughter demons, aliens or other adversaries. But do it for fun when you're a mature adult with an intact, integrated, fully formed cohesive personality, rather than as a developing child!

Ellee said...

This reeks of bad taste. I'm fortunate in that the only computer games my sons are interested in are football and cricket.

Rachel Joyce said...

I can't stand this stuff. From watching my son and his games (computer and non-computer), those that are more like the old war games and lead soldiers of the past seem to be okay, but the ones where there is direct one on one fighting (like Tekken) seem to produce harmful effects. They are the ones we no longer allow.
I also think though that how children are brought up - ie with a set of morals, self esteem etc is going to have a large influence on how they react to these games.

leslie said...

Even movies of the fantasy genre specifically made to market to children can be a problem. As a teacher, I've had to break up "play" on the playground where boys (it's always boys) find sticks and are "pretend fighting." They have no idea how dangerous that can be. One false move and an eye is gone...or the stick would be inside the boy somewhere. It makes me ill to think of what could happen, especially when I've seen kids lose teeth on a teeter totter (which are not around much anymore).

Ian Lidster said...

I go back and forth on this issue, and the issue always begs the question, "Why don't all kids who view this crap or play these games turn violent?" I'd be really interested in your view, Michelle.
On the other hand, there is the fact that we have become a significantly more violent society. Or, at the very least, we have returned to the violence of the Wild West or Dickens' time.
Ian

ramy said...

you = the person i see on s3 everyday! i just realized it!

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Simon, Agree. Ban 'em.

Ian/Rachel, Youngsters need to be taught "proper" values. Regrettably, there's too much money involved in children's "games".

simon said...

I am with Jeremy. I think the "grand auto theft" style is repulsive too. On one hand we are trying to teach our children responsible driving etc..yet we allow them to play a game where cars "repair themselves" and people do not really die if you crash....

Rachel Joyce said...

Jeremy
agreed - they should be banned. Also agreed about values. Children from socially (not necessarily materially) deprived backgrounds show signs of aggression well before they start playing on computers. The report from Rowntree (which was already mentioned in IDS's publication months ago) shows how these children do the worst at school etc - where strong families, low income doesn't need to be a factor in schooling progress.
Michelle, I have linked you on my blog. Good stuff.

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Great to have such a debate about this one. A child's brain development is not an easy process at the best of times, so it's never an easy topic to discuss. Thanks for all the comments.
Also, thanks to Ramy - S3 is clearly the place to be!
Thanks again,
Michelle

Jeremy Jacobs said...

What's S3. Am I missing something?