From the first time you ever plugged in your Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console and played your very first game of Donkey Kong, violence was there staring you right in the face. Violence in videogames is not something new; it’s just that we’ve become desensitised to it because of its prevalence in films as well as on network and cable TV. But it’s a hot topic again with the release of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V: while the videogame has sold an impressive number of copies, it’s also garnered unwanted attention due to a point in the videogame in which a player has to torture a virtual human to progress.
An NBC News.com report described the fallout the videogame developer had to deal with after the videogame’s release, noting Grand Theft Auto V hadn’t even been out a full 24 hours before criticism started to mount surrounding the torture sequences and anti-violence organisations such as Freedom from Torture, Amnesty as well as the teacher’s union ATU and MP Keith Vaz condemned the scene just two days after its release.
In Defence of Violence
In the wake of the widespread criticism, Rockstar Games defended itself and the torture scene in an interview featured on the website the Inquisitor. Steven Ogg, the actor responsible for portraying the psychopathic character Trevor who performs the torture scene, feels that people play videogames to “escape from their everyday realities.” While that may be the case, the controversy surrounding Grand Theft Auto V’s graphic content brings up the age-old question: will someone who plays a violent videogame actually go out and commit a violent act based on what just happened, or many years later? The answer is unclear. The reality is that there is a very distinct line that separates the world of the videogame and real life. But as the power of processors increases and other advances in technology drive the way a videogame is created – and played – it’s possible the defining line has blurred for many.
The popular AMC show The Walking Dead, which is based on a comic book series, features a storyline with a zombie-like Apocalypse and a group of people brought together by circumstance and their need to survive in a world turned upside down. Obviously, The Walking Dead isn’t realty but the show’s videogame counterpart re-enacts similar acts of violence depicted in the TV show. In the videogame version, violence occurs within the context of a player’s ability to restart the videogame at a certain point, thusly performing that act of violence over and over again.
The Role of Parents
In a world where technology continues to evolve and fuel the experiences that we view on television, see on a theatre screen, experience in theme parks or participate in while playing an over-the-top, violent videogame the line between make believe and reality needs to be defined.
For parents, you have the right to do something that can’t be done in the videogame industry, and that’s to monitor what your children watch and play on your TV. The best way for young, impressionable kids to understand what’s real versus what is manufactured violence that appears in videogames as well on television is through parental involvement. Cable service providers such as Bundle TV provide parents the option to control the types of programs their children watch, which creates an opportunity to spend time with their kids and watch programs that aren’t violent or contain questionable content.
The most important thing parents can do in terms of monitoring videogame messages is take the time to explain to their kids there are consequences for violent acts committed in the real world – a world where you can’t hit a reset button, start a brand new game and commit that act of violence again and again.