Maybe The People Who Criticise Violent Games Should Play Them

Maybe The People Who Criticise Violent Games Should Play Them

IGN editor-in-chief Casey Lynch works on weekends and asked me last Saturday to chime in on the topic of violent video games. I present my replies here as well to highlight the two things I brought up which are my two main frustrations about the debate about video game violence.

He hit up some other folks too. So if you’d like to know what Adam Sessler, Ben Kuchera, Ben Silverman, Brian Crecente, Dan Hsu, Dan Stapleton, Francesca Reyes, Harold Goldberg, Ian Bogost, Jeff Gerstmann, Jeremy Parish, Jim Sterling, John Davison, Kevin VanOrd, Kris Graft, Leigh Alexander, Logan Decker, Ludwig Kietzmann and Sophia Tong had to say about the state of the debate about violent video games, go read Casey’s piece.

I’m in there too. Right at the end, because either Casey thought I should have the last word or because the list really is in alphabetical order by first name.

1. The people who criticise violent video games seem, quite often, to have not played violent video games (watching someone play them doesn’t count!)

Casey had asked: “What did you think of the tenor, the topics of discussion, and the outcome of meeting?’

My reply: “It’s hard to know what the outcome of the meeting will be until we find out what the Vice President is going to suggest to the President regarding violent video games. Our interview with one the attendees indicated that Biden didn’t seem to be attacking games, but, not surprisingly, he also has little first-hand experience with them. The latter never helps in arguments about video games, much less in the possible creation of policy about them. It would certainly be nice if some of the discussion about violent games was about gaming literacy, if the people involved in policy that affects games in any way would take seriously the notion that in order to understand video games, you need to play them.

“The discussion about video games is still far too rife with people on all sides who talk about games as if they’ve, at best, watched them but not touched them. I dare say Biden and the gaming industry leaders would have been well-served to play a round of Halo multiplayer and then think about how they felt doing it (not that dual-analog controls are that easy to grasp by newcomers).”

2. The people who make violent video games seldom speak up about them maybe, you know, once a year at least? Once a decade, even?

Casey had asked: “Where do we go from here?”

I replied: “I don’t consider the games media as part of the games industry. If the “we” you’re asking about is the games media, I’d say we should continue to report about violent video games as clearly and honestly as possible. We should strive to report not just the goings on of people attacking or defending violent games but we should share the insights of people who have played them and encourage open discussion about the amount of violence in games and the way playing games makes players feel.

“If the ‘we’ is the industry, I don’t consider myself a part of the gaming industry, but I would ask the industry to ponder who it is who sat at the table with Biden and who it is that speaks up for video games. Who defended Mass Effect on Fox News a few years ago? The game’s publisher? The game’s developer? No, it was someone in the games media.

“How many times did you see the makers of Doom, Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto defend or celebrate their creations in the face of recurring criticism about those games? It’s rare. The lobbyists and the CEOs are the people who meet with Vice Presidents, but where are the game creators who will loudly stick up for video games? No game company that was meeting with Biden last week would even admit it publicly. Their PR reps either declined to comment when asked or referred reporters to the ESA, gaming’s lobbyist group. For how many years now has this been the default position?

“At what point will game creators ever speak up for their work? When will they find the opportunity to? When will they MAKE that opportunity? Often I hear the excuse that to engage those who say your work compels people to commit murder is to immediately lose the argument. Entertaining that concept is legitimising it, the theory goes. Fair enough. But there comes a time when the silence seems deafening. There comes a time when the idea that violent video games are made by fathers and mothers and not CEOs and monsters seems implausible, because almost none of these fathers and mothers — not even the ones with Hollywood agents — has tried hard to put a face to it. Everyone wants the lobbyists to speak for them or just wish it all away. This many decades into video games’ existence, that seems bizarre and a bit sad.

“Maybe it’s time for the people who actually make video games to come out of the shadows, speak up and introduce themselves to the large part of America that doesn’t understand them or, worse, is scared by what they create.”

Play the games, critics. Talk about what you made, creators.

For a counterargument about why creators should continue to just about never talk, consider the Quentin Tarantino approach.

And for a great overview of what we’ve learned from a quarter century’s worth of scientific study into violent games, please check out our big report on the matter.

Finally, do go read Casey’s round-up. Lots of smart people in there are saying smart stuff.


  • I don’t see having the people who complain about video games (politicians and those somewhat “radical” groups) to play any games would change anything.
    I say this because typically those who blame the Video Game and/or Movie Industry are around about 40+ yrs old, grew up in a much different Generation to the rest of us and typically but not in all cases are technology illiterate. In addition to this they will believe in whatever their personal or party’s opinions are, regardless of the amount of studies that are done and what their results found.
    Hence, but seriously “to be honest” you would think that after the 1st serious civilian shooting in America for example, “The Columbine School Shooting”( can’t think of an earlier one), that someone with some common sense would have said, “The readily available and legal purchase of high power, capacity and rate of fire firearms and ammunition through retailers such as K-mart America, without the need for producing a license and/or the screening of a persons relevant criminal history, is a “Large” factor in one of the many causes for this shooting occurring. In addition it is unrealistic and totally unproven to place blame onto the Games and/or Movie Industry when it is more likely that this incident has occurred due to some form of mental trauma which could have been caused through abuse at home or though the influence of drugs to cause a change in a persons state of mind.”
    Someone making this simple statement could have changed things a long time ago, but because politicians who either don’t believe in common sense or have ties to Firearm Manufactures or have Financial interests (stocks and shares), will never allow for change to take place in America.
    So everyone should be prepared for something like this to happen again around the holiday times in America, that may sound harsh of me but that is also the most common time for something like this to happen recent history shows.

    • You’re also forgetting generations of ingrained sense of entitlement to a firearm.

      This mentality of it’s my “right” to have a fire arm has been the clarion call for every anti gun reform. The problem is the fact that the use of a firearm has been overblown over generations of not only not caring about the dangers of a very deadly tool but also “needing” to have this dangerous tool. When your not only brought up to think you need and deserve a fire arm then you get very defensive when your “right” is about to be taken away…. unfortunately while all this is going on people have missed the point that there is a fine line between a defensive tool and an offensive weapon. It’s like using a Construction Grade Bulldozer to dig a small hole in your yard when a spade would have sufficed

      A pistol can be used to defend yourself. A military grade assault rifle is used to attack someone. There’s a fine distinction there that very rarely anyone looks at. All they see is “guns” and it’s my right to have “guns”

      Oh and just as a disclaimer… no I don’t own a fire arm nor am I really keen on having one. That being said it is still w/in a persons right to have one for their own purposes granted that the person is capable of making the distinctions of its use responsibly as well as making sure that the firearms are reasonable w/in use.

  • Blaming video games and movies is deliberate misdirection. Americans know very well that it’s access to guns that is the problem, but the power of the NRA and the gun culture means that nobody will ever say it.

    Massacres and atrocities are nothing new and have been around for thousands of years before video games were invented. The solution is to keep the powerful weapons out of the hands of people who would commit massacres, it’s so stupidly blindingly obvious.

    Americans feel powerless to do anything about the guns since there are more guns than people in the US. So instead of making an effort to change the cultural landscape of their country, they make up fantasies about entertainment media instead. It’s rather pathetic.

  • Firstly any shooting is tragic for the people involved and the community.

    The immediate focus then seems to be a knee jerk reaction based on unsubstantiated
    theories which are peddled as fact throughout the media.

    For some reason there are groups are on a crusade to crucify video games.
    These groups will proudly display studies that THEY financed to show games are the sole
    cause of the actions of these people.

    This is not something new, decades ago they were saying Elvis Presley is a bad influence
    and that Rock’n Roll is the Devils work.

    If these people wish to go after Video Games they need to equally go after Movies, Music, Television and Books just like the Nazi regime, and the first book they need to ban is the
    Bible there is simply too much violence in that book.

    What we need to do is focus on the real cause of this.
    Time and time again it is shown that these people are either on Pharmaceutical Psychotropic drugs or coming off them, many are on multiple different drugs at the same time.
    These extremely powerful drug are bad for adults let alone for an undeveloped child’s brain.

    And it is all based on 100% opinion, they have zero scientific evidence.
    They use medical terms such as diagnosed, treatment and illness, but they simply sit
    around and vote what will be called a “mental disease” they are not doctors in any
    way shape or form, they are simply in the business of selling drugs.
    Years back for a while they had homosexuality labelled as a “mental disease”
    There is no blood test, no cat scan, no x-ray that they prove you are insane or sane.

    We need to point the finger at these corner drug dealers, dealing in death in the
    thousands each year around the world.
    These drugs need to be banned world wide, and and driven out of existence.

      • You mean one of those brainwashed people who believe something some science fiction writer labeled as a religion in the 50’s so he could collect money from said brainwashed people while sipping champagne on a boat?

        The answer is no and this CULT “Religion” also needs to go as time and time again people are held captive and threatened if they decide to leave.

        Religion should be about choice, being denied to see your family, tortured such as sleep deprivation, obtaining information and spying on members or opponents are clear signs that this a dangerous CULT.

        You only need to look at the damn labels of these Psychotropic drugs it lists depression, suicide and all manner of effects from taking these LSD derivatives , side effects should be read as unwanted effects because all drugs have effects.

        Now can we focus on these leeches and point the finger at the Pharmaceutical Drug Dealers?

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