Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here A history of violence Video games these days have a very violent core, from Call Of Duty, Battlefield, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil to the child friendly violence in the Lego games. The most popular first and third person adventures almost always see you wielding a gun or a sword, or some item that will bring pain on the denizens of the game world. When I started gaming it was the more mundane games of Pong and Pac-Man, and then platformers. With the introduction of the original PlayStation came the popularisation of the first person shooter with Medal Of Honor, and third person games like Resident Evil, where violence started to appear in a pretty basic way with pixels of blood splattering on screen. With the next round of consoles graphics became more complex and realistic, until the current crop of consoles, where in games like Fallout 3, you can dismember the various denizens of the post apocalyptic world in pretty gory detail. Age ratings have been introduced into gaming for a reason, just as they were with films, and there is no doubt gaming is a lot more immersive than watching a film, with the interactivity of the game world drawing players in. Whether this has an adverse effect on young impressionable minds is open to debate, but personally speaking when my son gets old enough to play games I will be making sure his diet is limited to what his age allows. As graphics move into photorealism, killing and maiming enemies could get quite disturbing, and I feel it would be wrong to subject a young mind to such graphic violence. Also the online connectivity of today’s consoles puts children in danger of online bullying, bigotry and predators. Peer pressure is another thing parents must deal with. When a child’s friends all have the latest Call Of Duty, there’s pressure put on parents to buy the game for them. Some will relent to get peace, while others simply won’t care and buy the game for the child anyway. There are also some who are ignorant and still think games are for kids, and don’t research what their child is about to play. I’m sure some parents would be horrified to see some of the sights and language in some adult games that they have unwittingly bought for little Johnny. You could say gaming has grown up with us, as the experiences have become deeper and the graphics have become more complex, and more adult themes are explored in games like BioShock and L.A. Noire. Violence plays a large part in both games, and like it or not, shootouts and fights will play a part in the majority of games in the future. Perhaps violence is part of the human psyche, that has been ingrained since our Neanderthal days, and is something we celebrate in our gaming. There is nothing to suggest that the violence in games makes us commit heinous acts in the real world, although the tabloids may disagree. In the movie The Matrix the character is given the choice of taking the blue pill or the red pill. The blue pill keeps you blissfully happy in the virtual world, but the red pill takes you back to reality. Thankfully we’re not plugged into the matrix… yet! Cubes (PSN ID), Cubes73 (Steam & OnLive ID) criticalgamer.co.uk Alternative solutions I’m going to come at this from a different angle, and not really the one that was implied by the initial question. I do think games are too violent, but this doesn’t upset me because I’m squeamish or worried about the effect on my children but because I think it just shows how immature and unimaginative video games still are. I like a good action or horror movie as much as the next guy, but I also like comedies, thrillers, dramas and romances. With only a tiny number of exceptions video games never stray into these areas and I think that’s just pure laziness and a fear from publishers. No one ever complains about puzzle games being too violent, or flight simulators, and I think we need more games that don’t have violence at that core. That doesn’t mean they can’t be exciting or they have to something soppy like Animal Crossing but it does mean that developers have to think outside the box a bit, and that’s the real problem. Dr What Formative years It always amuses me when people try to pretend that onscreen violence (games or movies) doesn’t affect people, as they try to pretend that everyone’s brain has some sort of automatic cut-off switch whenever violence is view from behind the glass of a TV screen. Obviously games don’t turn people into raving maniacs but also clearly it is nonsense to pretend that being subject to the same thing for hours every day, no matter what it is, will have a long time effect. And when you’re a kid and you’re brain isn’t nearly as full of experiences and influences that’s obviously going to have a big effect. If you let your kid play a violent game you’re bad parent, simple as that. Whether you let them because you’re too lazy to supervise them or (as I’ve seen numerous times) you just want to get more gaming time in four yourself via the backdoor you should be ashamed of yourself. There’s nothing you can do about it of course, but I’m convinced the people that do this know they’re doing wrong – and the (or more likely their children) will come to regret it. Dan Spooner Innocent times The main titles in the past were of a more innocent, or should I say less graphical, in their depection of violence and many kids could play most popular game – like the best platformers, bloodless role-playing games, and a more family friendly but challenging game, as these were the triple A titles of the time. But with the advent of more powerful machines and with the pushing of boundaries of what developers can get away with these days, games have seemed to have left the younger people’s and family mainstreams behind, and the popular hardcore games which are being played online like the Modern Warfare series, have excluded certain people from playing them. Never before have so many violent games entered the gaming world with so much realism and horrific scenarios involved, and the more popular ones are also wanted to be played by a younger generation, so as to not miss out. I have grown with the games getting more mature in content, whilst the younger ones have come to a different gaming world to the one I’ve come from, with all its lesser graphical violence but still challenging gameplay which dominated the eighties and early nineties. What’s my view on underage gaming? Well, parents should advise the kids and don’t forget the psychology of an individual differs from person to person, as some are effected by what they play, but in different ways. I do think parents should research the gaming world around them, and to find out what’s really up with this popular pastime. Alucard Child theory Kids should not play games that contain violence, on the surface it seems a reasonable point but I take a contrary view to many it seems posting on Inbox. I think the argument is too polarised and requires a much more flexible approach. I hope the points below clarify my view Certification not flawless – in a country where you can have sex and join the army at 16, you could argue 18 certification is a flawed concept in the first place. There is no way I will ever agree with anyone that Call Of Duty should be certificated at the same level as something like Manhunt. Blanket certification – Not all parts of games deserve the same certification, but accept it would be too complicated to apply an alternative, however I do believe there is often a distinct difference between online and offline shooters. The initial post that seems to have prompted this Hot Topic relates to not allowing a 9 year old to play Call Of Duty online with his friends. Playing a first person shooter online is rarely the same as the single-player experience, for example you are not faced with any moral decisions, it is a competition, might as well be paintball online. This does not apply to all such games, Killzone for example has an emphasis on close up gory melee attacks and Gears Of War is pretty brutal, however played. Educated censorship – non-gaming parents should stick by certification, without knowing it is not worth the risk and it is a shame that so many parents buy games for minors regardless of the certification. In contrast I think a gaming parent is much better placed to judge if the content is suitable. As much as people have said we should not tell someone they have to let their nine year old son play Call Of Duty, ‘it is up to him’. Well touché, it is also up to us to make that judgement in a different way, without wanting to sound childish, he started it. Assumed guilt – the way in which this subject is dealt with is one of my pet hates, it is just assumed that games with pretty much any violence (other than cartoon style Ratchet & Clank like carnage) must have a significant affect on younger minds, despite little (if any) evidence. Social ostracisation could be argued as a bigger dent in their mental state. And before I get the predictable ‘Oh, so we should give kids whatever they want just to keep in with their friends’ – err, no – I am saying if you have a console and maybe the game (Call Of Duty) already, they can play online with their pals without disaster and the point is not a map for life. Call Of Duty: Star Wars edition – dress the characters as stormtroopers and rebels, take away the blood but throw in a few brutal lightsabre attacks and all of a sudden you get a 12 rating – or less (surely such a game would go down a storm) What are we – I think the whole argument also totally misses the point of what we are (apologies to those with very strong religious beliefs) – we are pretty clever monkeys. We are where we are because we evolved complex social characteristics mixed with the ability to fight and kill. Basically we are here at the end of a long line of winners that did allot of killing. We are as tribal as we are social and the correlation between this and interest in sport is easy to see. Online gaming clearly pushes many of the same psychological buttons. I would go as far as to say it as natural for kids to enjoy such games as they do football or rugby and it does not have to be a negative. All in all, if I have a nine year old asking if they can play Call Of Duty with their friends I would use it as a trust building exercise. Allow an hour of play three or four nights a week, no mics and check on them occasionally. Break the rules, the privilege is gone. As they get older, you allow more flexibility. To me it is obvious that if they are a decent kid this will not affect them in any negative way, and in fact could be a used as a positive structure in their life. Appreciate my view is probably in the minority, but I am yet see or read a point that actually challenges my view beyond ‘certification is there for a reason’. I think I have covered that. albavar (PSN ID) E-mail your comments to: The small print New Inbox updates appear twice daily, every weekday morning and afternoon. Letters are used on merit and may be edited for length. 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