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I attended a pot luck dinner last night. Lucky me; I got the Sinsemilla surprise. Kidding. But my gracious host did grace me with the knowledge that her second grader plays Call of Duty. I live in an urban enclave in the heart of liberaland, but still . . . what happened to all the outrage over violent videogames? Modern first-person shoot-em-ups are pretty serious stuff in the killing people and watching them die sense of the term. No doubt there’s worse (e.g. Battlefield 3). No doubt the eight-year-old lad has them too, and plays with his pals online. Is this true in the heartland? Is the warning sticker system a farce? And if kids are getting unrestricted access to hard core killing games, is that a bad thing?

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  1. Been lurking for a couple weeks now. Decided to post as video games are something I hold as a dear hobby of mine.

    Speaking as one who identifies as a liberal, I honestly don’t get what outrage there is over video game violence. As far as warning stickers: It’s for parents. Plain and simple. A vast majority of retailers self-regulate the sales of Mature-rated games. They won’t sell to anyone under 17 without a parent present. Of course, even if they did, it’s kind of hard to say that it’s “unrestricted,” as parents should take care to watch what their kids are watching and playing.

    That said, I don’t believe that video games desensitize us to violence or make us more likely to kill someone. More efficient at it, maybe, but not more likely to do so. That’s stuff that humans have pretty strong mental barriers against.

    • “it’s kind of hard to say that it’s “unrestricted,” as parents should take care to watch what their kids are watching and playing.”

      This. Too many parents do not set boundries when and where they should due to any number of excuses.

  2. I remember in the 90’s when Mortal Combat and other such games provoked action from congress and a plethora of lawsuits popped up. After all these complaints from stupid parents who buy the games for their kids in the first place, retailers finally enforced the “Rated M for mature” thing by asking for ID. I haven’t heard about massive hype over it in years. I do remember buying the last Battlefield game and the clerk behind the counter, who was easily younger than me, asking for my ID. I showed him my FID card and said “I’m mature and responsible enough to own an AR-15, I think I can handle digital representations of their full auto siblings.”

  3. I grew up with parents, not friends. If parents parented, they’d be on top of any mental issues as they arose or would be teaching their kids discipline, respect, and the self-control to use violence only when necessary, as opposed to always.

  4. Long-winded reply here, apologies in advance. Bona fides, long time shooter, ex-Infantry sergeant, long time gamer. The fall of resistance to violent games is not total, but it is notable. In large part, it has to do with two separate issues, one social and one political.

    On the social front, gamers have aged. Those of us who played the first First Person Shooters (Wolfenstein 3d anyone?) are close to 30 now, many of us have kids of our own. Most parents today grew up with video games, and are far less likely to restrict them. The lack of crime waves linked to video games was far more persuasive to my generation than the lack of crime linked to gun ownership. The hype that shooting virtual polygons turns kids into psychotic killing machines has been pretty well laid to rest.

    Politically, there’s just no percentage for either side. Gamers tend to be young, and tend to be quite liberal, meaning they are the Democratic Party’s natural base of support (very annoying for the exceptions like me). And gamers are jealous about their games, and react quickly (internet). With age has come organization, and some measure of market and political power. When you add in the threat from hacker groups like Anonymous, any liberal trying to restrict games is painting a target on their back, and pissing off their base. On the conservative side, the political shift has been largely libertarian (Tea Party, Ron Paul, etc.) . It’s a tough sell to advocate gun rights and then for restriction of video games. The social conservatives are losing ground and saving their ammunition for other priorities (gay marriage, DADT, pro-life, etc.). The result is that neither side of the political spectrum has the energy, will or resources to really target games here in the US. And that’s just ducky by me:)

    P.S. Some countries are bored enough to still take cracks at games, check out Australia’s bizarre laws sometime.

  5. As someone who grew up playing Wolfenstein and all of the Doom games, I was accustomed to pixelated gore by age 10. My thoughts are the same as those given above. In a much shorter form, we were told that we would all be mass murderers for playing those games, and we turned out just fine.

    I hope that concealed carry will end up following the same path as violent video games. Fear and hysteria at first(we are currently in or passing that stage), followed by acceptance and integration into the mainstream as soon as those who disagree with it are proven wrong by the facts. Those who were anti-violent video games in the past are still there, but have just been reduced to the importance of hearing protection to that wannabe Russkie kid. Maybe the gun grabbers will eventually end up there as well.

  6. I have noticed the same trend in my neck of the woods… elementary school kids playing Call of Duty/Battlefield/etc…

    The reason seems to be that parents just dont realize that the games are inappropriate. They see that other parents are letting their kids do it and they just figure that its no big deal. I’ve talked about it with them and they were genuinely surprised when I informed them that they are pretty violent and mature. They just figured it was right on par with Mario… seriously. So, I think it all goes back to parents that arent involved and dont parent.

    Now, I am not saying that video games are the root of all evil and that we need congressional investigations or anything (I’m a gamer, BTW)… but they are violent, they are profane, and they are not something for little kids. The online gameplay is not as bad as the single player, but its still not something for young kids. I equate it to being on par with a violent movie… if you are not going to let your kid go watch a rated “R” movie with violence, sex, and profanity, than they shouldnt be playing COD. My kid wont be allowed to play something on par with these games until they are of pretty significant age.

    • I’m sorry, but where is there sex or excessive profanity (there might be the occasional word, say less than 5% of all words in the game) in Call of Duty? Have you actually PLAYED any of these games or are you like the gun grabber who’s never seen a gun yet thinks they know all about them?

      I can understand not wanting kids exposed to sex and somewhat understand the profanity part (seriously though, they hear it at school and outside the home / school PLENTY), but fake violence is just that – fake. Very little kids (like 6 and under), sure, they have a hard time telling reality from fiction, but kids that are in 4th grade already know that movies and video games aren’t real. That’s why my very conservative parents had no problem with me playing violent games or watching movies that were rated R for violence when I was in late elementary school / early middle school – because they were aware that I knew it wasn’t real.

      • Ha! Thats cute… You accuse me of commenting without knowing anything about FPSs all the while its obvious that you have no idea how often I blog about gaming. Bless your heart.

        No, there is no sex in COD, but there is in a great many other games that are right on par as far as maturity of game play… I’d say its pertinent to the conversation.

        Also, yes, COD is too profane for young kids. Sorry, but IMO the language is just too strong for young ears. YMMV… raise your kids however you like.

        • No, read a little closer. I ASKED if you had played them or if you spout off about them without having played. Asking a question is NOT the same as “accusing” someone of doing something.

          No, other games are not relevant when you start claiming that things that aren’t in CoD are in them because “they’re in related games”. That makes me question your mental state and your claim about frequently blogging about games.

          So you’re saying that 5% of the words being profanity is “too bad” for kids who hear much worse in school each day? Interesting.

          • 1.Ummmm… Read a little closer yourself. I never claimed there was sex in COD. I said: “I equate it to being on par with a violent movie… if you are not going to let your kid go watch a rated “R” movie with violence, sex, and profanity…”. Yeah, it does pertain to the discussion. The OP was about unrestricted access to adult video games. Not just COD.

            2.Yeah, I don’t think kids in the second grade should be playing video games with the F-bomb in them… and the fact that they hear it in school does not really justify it either.

            3. *Are you certifiably retarded or do you just act that way on the Internet?

            *I ASKED if you are certifiably retarded or do you just act that way on the Internet. Asking a question is NOT the same as “accusing” someone of being something.

            I’m done with you now… and I regret every moment that I wasted with this worthless back and forth.

  7. Pong, tetris, and Mahjong. My total history of video games. Oops, forgot Microsoft’s freebie solitaire game.

    However, the violence in the games as in movies and TV shows, requires that parents monitor this stuff.

  8. Call of Duty/Battlefield are very tame in the violence department. You point a gun at another player, click your mouse button, and he falls down. There’s maybe a puff of red smoke coming out of the character, but in CoD the action is going so fast you don’t really have time to notice.

    Compare that to classic shooters of the 90’s and 2000’s. In Unreal Tournament you could use a rocket launcher to explode other players into pieces, complete with detailed bloody organs flying around. An old game called Soldier of Fortune’s main draw was that you could blow enemies’ limbs off.

    The goriest games I’ve played recently were Far Cry 2 (your player character had to “realistically” heal gory wounds by pulling bullets out of his own limbs) and Fallout: New Vegas, which, oddly enough, is a slow paced role playing game that still features limbs flying everywhere and heads exploding. Really though, the reason the new Fallout is so gory is because the original games from the 90’s were.

    Excessive gore and extreme violence are a holdover from 90’s era gaming, and including excessive gore in modern games (Dead Space, God of War) is seen by myself and at least a few others as retro, quaint, passe. Compared to the violence/gore exploitation games, CoD and Battlefield are prime time television.

  9. I think that my child watching CBS, NBC, reading Huffpost, or attending any given American college has more of a chance of irreversibly warping his mind than if he played violent video games from age three.

    I’ve always had this perspective when it comes to games and which ones my kids would be allowed to play: I care more about the content than the visceral qualities. For instance, if you look at Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row or any of those gang-glorification games, they’re actually relatively light on gore. Violent, yes, but not particularly gory. Now take a games like the Resident Evil series. Gory, yes, but you play as more savory characters who convey better values, like facing fear for what is good.

    To a young mind, perhaps it’s the message of the game that should be considered rather than simple blood and profanity.

  10. It seems to me that some games (Alien vs. Predator, maybe CoD 4) are about about violence and cruelty. Others (Halo, original CoD) are about heroism. Makes a big difference.

    I’ve got no dog in this fight; I stopped playing videogames when I became an adult a few years (or was it weeks?) back.

  11. The Gerrmans have a term “Zeitgeist” or “spirit of the age”. It refers to strong underlying currents within a society that shape or direct it in unseen but real ways. It seems to be that our Zeitgeist is preparing us for apocolyptic war. Look around you. Thousands upon thousands have assault rifles bought with millions of rounds of ammo to serve them, sitting in homes across the world. Especially in the USA. I say, look out.

  12. According to the Center for Successful Parenting research at the Indiana U School of Medicine shows that excessive exposure to media violence causes measurable abnormalities in the brain’s activity for emotional versus higher thinking. The emotional and cognitive areas function much less normally than for children not exposed to excessive media violence.

    How much is excessive? How much violence drives one to form calluses over their emotions, to start a slide into antisocial personality disorder (ASPD)?

  13. When I was a kid the only video game was pong, so we all used toy guns to kill each other. I think it was a lot more fun running through the woods and playing war with your friends.

  14. I grew up on DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D, Blake Stone, and Rise of the Triad. For the limited graphics, they were still quite bloody. I think it’s very possible that today I am desensitized to violence and death, however, some of that is still a part of our natural psychological tendencies. In other words, even without violent games, I still read a lot of novels that contained acts of violence, i.e., Without Remorse, Rainbow Six, and enjoyed them.

    Video games, novels, movies, TV, all of these contain significant amounts of blood, gore, violence. But none of those have caused me to kill someone.

  15. Videogames that feature rewards for hitting players with headshots are not exactly wholesome but additional elements need to be added before kids have a desire to kill.

    Now if you’ve ever been bullied then its different. I know after a sucker punch on the playground I really wanted to kill me a stupid kid as a child. I wished I was bigger and stronger so I could pull it off but if I played CoD and had an affinity for the M4 then yes, I would wish for the AR-15 instead as it’d be a more easily envisioned happy outcome of bully removal. But same token, my parental figure would likely have the big liability causing rifle locked up in accordance with prudent safety precautions and I would go earn a split lip in due time and swing as much as I wanted to, bully be damned.

    Change a factor or two, temperament of kids or parents or other outside factors THEN CoD is taking part in a tragic event and making a murderer out of a child. Still, seems far-fetched to me and I got my share of split lips.

  16. Kids have played Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Rome; Total War Barbarian Invasion, Medieval Total War, Gladius, Age of Empires, Elder Scrolls, Fable, and all sorts of other games. Good gory fun. Probably less gory then the Vietnam War we saw on the evening news back in the 60s, and that was not a video game.
    Surprisingly, a lot of kids really don’t groove on Grand Theft Auto. I think kids realize that this type of lack of morals sleeze behavior is not really going anywhere in their lives or even in real or fantasy life.

  17. If a parent if properly involved in their kids life and upbringing it shouldn’t be any problem. We didn’t have the video games at the time but our son watched the Missing In Action movies repeatedly. Usually while playing with his legos or doing puzzles. He did these two activities by completly disassembling all his legos or puzzles and putting all the pieces in a pile then putting them back together. He would also take breaks to run through the house reenacting the scene that was showing. We got the same arguements about letting him watch those movies as was given for videos games. The boy is now 25 and about to complete his Masters program. He has proven himself a well adjusted young gentleman and still enjoys shooting and now video games.

  18. I’ve played these games since Atari (I am mid 50s) and played with both my kids, from their ages 5+, restricting them from the gory stuff until 11 or 12, and I dont see them becoming un-controlled, or violent.

    I also note there is a LOT more objectionable language, including ignorant racist, homophobic, gang-y wannabe BS slung by kids and adults in the player chat, so we have to watch that and educate them how NOT to be an idiot, and they get it, too. but

    I do notice what happens when they play more than an hour at a time- as anyone can attest who has suddenly realised the sun is rising, that its compelling to the point it can be addictive, and I see some loss of focus on less exciting things, like homework.

    They are hip to the fact its just a game, and frankly I have to monitor what they watch on TV, more to be sure they are not getting into stuff too far ahead of their development- have you watched MTV or Disney Channel lately???

    So, we got a Nook, and a Kindle, and restricted the XBOX more, to just a couple hours on weekends, as a reward for As and Bs, and turning in all their homework,
    and my biggest challenge now is how to teach them how not to stay up too long past bedtime reading.

  19. For the last three years on New Year’s Eve I have gone to a friend’s home to play Call of Duty with my friend’s two teenage sons and a bunch of their friends. While the parents are off talking and munching on pizza rolls and potato skins, I play the whole night. Apparently I am the cool adult. Anyway – I have also been shooting for 40 years (started with a BB gun when I was 3). I talked to the kids about my experience. Most of them don’t like guns. One kid shoots with his grandfather but he was the exception. One tried to convince me that guns are dangerous, and should be outlawed. This same kid was in the top three almost every game we played. From my observations of friends with kids I just don’t see the connection at all.

  20. I agree that violent video games do “not” make someone more likely to kill someone, I have to question the desensitization, though. You expose anything enough to someone and they need to escalate the content to continue their “feeling” or “reaction”.

    I definitely agree that it falls into the parents hands on what they let their children grow up with.

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