Marine Vet Justifies His Argument For Xbox As ‘Anti-Empathy Machine’

Today on televison, somebody said something reasonable about violent video games. Karl Marlantes, an author, marine veteran and author of the book “What It Is Like to Go to War” fielded a question on C-Span2 about the long-term effect that unrealistic depictions of war in media and specifically gaming will have on the military.

Despite referring to them as ‘anti-empathy machines’, he was quick to make a level-headed argument which is all too absent in the current media landscape: that the focus should not be on violent games, it should be on how parents react to and interpret that violence to their children.

“It’s not just the effect on the kids — it’s the effect of the parent’s interpretation of those machines on the kids.”

I’m not saying I agree with him on the empathy bit, but I will say that it’s one of the most rational statements I’ve heard about video games on television in a while. And honestly? We should be listening to our veterans.

In the hemming and hawing over depictions of war in games, the mainstream media very rarely goes out and asks the people who would know best: veterans and soldiers. It’s a perspective we just don’t get as often as we should, and a conversation we should be having from people that might know a thing or two about war. Maybe if we did, we’d learn a thing or two.


  • I can agree with points in this. At least it IS a rational argument, and it’s placing responsibility where it should be, on the parents. I don’t even play CoD or Battlefield, and they have still had an impact on what I think about war.

  • Parents get it too easy. If their kid does something wrong, it’s a movies fault, or music’s fault or a games fault.

    It’s almost never the ones who provide this stuff for the kids and leave them there unmonitored.

    XBL is not a babysitter!

  • Was it Kotaku a couple years back that linked a story about US soldiers who were playing Call of Duty in their spare time to relax? I can’t find it, but my remembering goes that when a confused reporter asked the soldiers why they were playing a war simulator in their downtime to relax, they laughed their asses off and said video games are about as far from the reality of war as it’s possible to get and they like them because of that. Halp me link-kenobi!

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