Tech Features

Survey rebuts videogame influence in real violence

By Stevie Smith Apr 19, 2007, 21:00 GMT

In light of the recent horrific Virginia Tech massacre and the resulting knee-jerk condemnation of videogames as bearing responsibility for 23-year-old Cho Seung Hui’s hatred-fuelled rampage, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has revealed that videogame fans believe that violent games are little more than “exhilarating” escapism.

While some of the survey’s respondents admitted there was a likelihood of people “unhinged in some way” being pushed to breaking point by obsessive videogame play, in the main they maintained that videogame violence did not cause desensitisation when viewed in relationship to violent real-world events.

The BBFC survey of one of the entertainment industry’s quickest growing – and massively profitable – sectors included interviews of gamers, parents, and industry figures concerning the possible effects of videogaming.

In terms of dangerously emergent gameplay consequences, one survey respondent commented: “I no more feel that I have scored a goal than I do that I have actually killed someone,” regarding the possibility that gamers brought back violent tendencies from fantastical game worlds. “I know it’s not real,” the gamer added.

In complete contrast to certain opinions regarding the influence of videogames, one participant noted: “Sometimes, when I get angry, I go upstairs and play some games and it calms me down.” However, a proportion of gamers below the age of 15 did claim to be upset by particularly gory in-game violence, even to the point of suffering with resulting nightmares.

The BBFC concluded that: “The violence helps make the play exhilaratingly out of reach of ordinary life,” while active gamers “seem not to lose awareness that they are playing a game and not mistake the game for real life.” That said, the Board did advise parents to exercise extra vigilance in order to ensure that their children were “protected” from videogames with violently adult themes and content.

With regard to some of the violent videogames that the BBFC canvassed in its survey, the likes of Manhunt, World of WarCraft, and Grand Theft Auto met with mixed responses.

More pointedly, while one player said of Grand Theft Auto, “So much violence… you can become a pimp and collect prostitutes and you can have sex with one in a car,” the BBFC claimed that, “The sex clearly makes a contribution to the exhilarating sense of trashing the tedious constraints of everyday life.”

And, when assessing Manhunt, which is largely seen as one of the most singularly violent games in existence, one player commented: “You really were sticking an axe in someone and taking a couple of chops to their neck until their head fell off. I was quite addicted to it.” Conversely, the BBFC’s official standpoint was that, “Some gamers see Manhunt as exceptional in the amount and vividness of its violence. However, those who get into the game play often respect it as a brilliant game despite its violence.”

The BBFC’s survey may not sit well with certain videogame critics in its apparent tolerance, especially in the U.S. where the videogame industry is once more under fire following the 32 innocent deaths in Blacksburg, Virginia.

More pointedly, the likes of psycholigist and television personality Dr. Phil McGraw and fervent videogame activist Jack Thompson have been speaking out this week against game violence in direct relationship to the Virgina Tech tragedy.

Speaking on CNN’s Larry King Live, popular Dr. Phil pointed an accusatory finger at videogames, saying: 

“We are programming these people as a society. Common sense tells you that if these kids are playing video games, where they’re on a mass killing spree in a video game, it’s glamorised on the big screen, it’s become part of the fibre of our society. You take that and mix it with a psychopath, a sociopath or someone suffering from mental illness and add in a dose of rage, the suggestibility is too high,” while he also offered that, “the mass murderers of tomorrow are the children of today that are being programmed with this massive violence overdose.”
 
Controversial Miami-based videogame activist and medical malpractice attorney Jack Thompson spoke to FOX News shortly after reports began emerging of the Virginia Tech massacre, reiterating his belief on the detrimental effects of violent videogame content on society.

By contrast, news broadcasters in the UK were instead discussing the modern day relevance of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and the American people’s subsequent right “to bear arms,” while also asserting that gun laws and gun control in the U.S. remain unchanged despite a spiralling trend of school massacres in the past ten years, the last of which saw 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts IV shoot and kill 5 girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.

Today’s news on the Virginia Tech shootings reveals that Cho Seung Hui mailed a package to NBC News before embarking on the second deadly phase of his killing spree, which led to the killing of 30 people. According to NBC, the package contained disturbing photographs, video clips, and written statements by the crazed gunman, with the video footage seemingly carrying his apparent hatred toward the more monetarily comfortable of his Virginia Tech peers:

“You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn’t enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfil your hedonistic needs. You had everything.”
 
Cho went on to say: “You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenceless people.”

Cho made absolutely no mention of videogames inspiring his actions.



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