Don’t Blame Violent Video Games

A debate rages on, around the topic of video games. Namely, “Are violent video games a bad influence on children?” There are many, over-protective, naïve and, frankly, pathetically under-skilled parents, who believe that, yes, this is the case. It is true that some video games are hugely, gratuitously violent, but no amount of sweet head shots in Black Ops 2 can compete with the horrific violence and human behaviour, demonstrated in reality. Gaming is a way to escape from the horrors of reality and, for a short time, live in a fantasy world, which enables a player to live an alternative existence and do the things that they cannot and would not do in real life. Anyone who is unaware of the difference between real life and games is not only an idiot, but mentally ill. For example, I can tell the difference between soaking a person with a water pistol and shooting them through the eye with a Desert Eagle. If this is a differentiation you struggle with, then don’t blame the media, the toy companies or anyone else for this, just blame yourself for being an inept human.

As an example, allow me to discuss the subtle nuances of one of the most popular games in history, namely Grand Theft Auto V. Now, Grand Theft Auto V is a showcase in intricate, compelling story-telling, centred around the fictional city of Los Santos and its surrounding desert and countryside, which is a beautifully-realised and highly-detailed parody of Southern California. Within the game, a player can chose from three characters: Michael De Santa, a retired bank-robber, Franklin Clinton, a gang banging repo man and Trevor Phillips, a drug-addled psychopath. The plot of the game sees the three characters develop as both individuals and as a team of criminals. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is the recipe for a Hollywood (Vinewood) blockbuster of a story and you’d be correct. It’s mega. Some people, however don’t see this. They, instead cannot see past the violent content of the game. For example, in Grand Theft Auto V, it is possible to do the following, all in the name of fun and completely unrelated to the main objectives of the game:

It’s sunset in Los Santos. The cloudless sky paints an awe-inspiring landscape of deep oranges and subtle purples, which skip across the soft ripples of the glittering Pacific Ocean, like glossy ballerinas.. The city is alive, teeming with people, going about their daily business, in the sprawling metropolis of the city. Joggers jog, workers work, commuters commute, dealers deal and gang-bangers bang. Los Santos truly is the land of opportunity. Among the crowds, Trevor Phillips is eating from a bin and shouting incoherently at passers-by. It should also be noted that he’s wearing only a pair of stained Y-Fronts, These stains, with their ambiguous and worrying array of colours, juxtapose perfectly against the beautiful, velvet tones of the sky. After dinner, Trevor begins to stroll along the pavement, with the sort of under-stated swagger that can only be the result of a life, rich with experience. Trevor silently ponders his life and how events have unfolded for him to end up where he is, doing what he’s doing. Suddenly, it dawns on Trevor that he’s incredibly bored. Not only that, but he becomes acutely aware of the fact he’s walking. Why is he doing this? He should be driving. At this point, a gleaming sports car trundles past Trevor, its massive engine purring like a dreaming lion, stopping to allow an elderly lady to cross the street. It stops for just long enough to allow Trevor to pull out his pistol, shoot the driver through the temple and splatter bone fragments and brain matter across the windscreen, like an exploding bowl of raspberry ripple ice cream. Trevor then hurriedly pulls the soggy corpse from the vehicle, dropping it on to the tarmac below and gets in. Before pulling away, he changes the radio station to some death metal, puts the car in gear and screeches away, directly into the path of the elderly lady, who is still crossing the street, launching her several feet into the air, with all the grace of an epileptic gymnast. She bounces off the bonnet like a basketball bounces off the face of the class nerd in PE and she hits the ground with a crunch of shattered bones. Trevor notices that, as she lay on the tarmac, she’s still moving, so, ever the perfectionist, he slams the car into reverse and drives directly over her face, creating a meat feast pizza of tarmac flesh. Once satisfied that death’s eternal embrace has enveloped the former old lady soul, Trevor is now able to drive away from the scene, basking in the self-satisfaction of a job well done.

As Trevor weaves through traffic, on the wrong side of the road, it suddenly dawns on him that the double killing he just committed has made him incredibly horny. Fortunately, there’s a cornucopia of prostitutes in Los Santos and it’s not long before he sees one, advertising her horrendous wares for the dark and desperate of society to feast upon. Trevor pulls over, honks his horn and waits, as the clinically obese lady of the night waddles to the passenger side of the car, like a sleepy hippo, opens the door and gets in. Now, this particular prostitute is nothing if she’s not classy, and will not partake in any pleasures of the flesh, unless Trevor finds a lovely, picturesque, secluded area, in which to do so. Trevor, impressed with her romantic streak, is happy to oblige and pulls into a side street, populated by rats, wheelie bins, a burnt out car and a group of hobos, standing around a burning steel barrel, discussing alien invasions, the orange glow of the flames illuminating the pock-marked skin and wiry beards of the homeless mentalists. If this isn’t picturesque, nothing is. Trevor stops the car and, at this stage, is presented with the carnal menu for the evening. There are three options; $20, $50 and, for the extravagant connoisseur of rented orifices, a $70 option. Trevor is in a middle-of-the-road kind of a mood and opts for the $50 service. To his pleasant surprise, the $50 option consists of ten seconds of indifferent and unenthusiastic fellatio. Perhaps, if his rigid member had been coated in cookie dough, her enthusiasm may have improved. No matter. Upon slimy completion, Trevor hands over the money and the prostitute wipes her mouth and alights from the vehicle. At this point, Trevor realises he doesn’t agree with the idea of paying for sex and proceeds to get out of his car. He then approaches the prostitute and punches her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground. Trevor takes a knife from his pocket and then proceeds to stab her through all parts of her body, over and over and over, a total of eighty times, until her gargling of the residual, still-warm man juice ceases and the death rattle subsides. He then gathers his money and walks away from the corpse and the ever-increasing pool of blood, which gathers from under her lifeless body. Trevor, in a moment of lucidity, realises the DNA implications of this particular kill, so he takes a few paces back and throws a hand grenade at her, which rolls and comes to a halt about an inch from her right arm. After five seconds, the grenade explodes, sending the dead prostitute at least thirty feet into the air. She lands on a nearby roof top and gently burns, flames gently lapping across her charred, dead flesh, like a suckling pig at a pretentious wedding. It really is quite beautiful. Trevor then returns to his car and drives off into the sunset, having enjoyed yet another fulfilling day.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a beautiful story. However, some people disagree and believe that games like this are a bad influence on their children. My first answer to this is to suggest that these parents should improve their skills at both reading and parenting. This game carries with it an 18 certificate. If you buy it for little Toby’s birthday, you’re a moron and deserve to be on the receiving end of whatever ‘influence’ little Toby takes from his gaming experience. If you’re prepared to subject your children to this sort of material, why not go the whole hog and just buy Toby an AK-47 and key to a school for Christmas? Secondly, I implore people to look into the past and realise that video games are not a new phenomenon. I grew up in the 1980s and spent much of my childhood playing video games. As a child, my favourite game was  Super Mario Brothers. This was a truly wonderful game. However, if parents are concerned about the influence of modern games, they should dissect the narrative of this seminal work, especially considering that Super Mario Brothers does not carry any age restrictions:

Super Mario is a very small, European tradesman. We know this because he wears dungarees and a hat. He also has a moustache, so he must be Italian. We have no further evidence of the fact he has a job at all, as he never, EVER goes to work. Instead, he travels a lot, to very unusual lands, where the hills have eyes and the flowers breathe fire. Mario is an unusually short man and has an exceptionally-concerning drug habit. He habitually eats magic mushrooms and seems to have some pretty graphic and invariably negative trips. They cause him to become very violent, sending him into fits of rage, manifesting in the violent and unprovoked murdering of tortoises. Not only will he murder them, but he’ll then proceed to pick up their dead shells and smash them into brick walls, still in fits of rage. One might question Mario’s motivation for his behaviour and wonder whether it is at least for a noble cause. Alas, no, for Mario’s sole motivation is the opportunity to have sex with a member of the royal family, a very unintelligent princess who repeatedly manages to get kidnapped by a giant, S&M-obsessed tortoise, who, for some reason, lives in a castle, which has a river of lava running below it and is never more than the flick of a switch away from falling through the floor, to his death.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Super Mario Brothers, but if you’re going down the road of blaming games for bad behaviour in kids, look to Mario. Super Mario has been played by millions of children, children who are now old enough to have their own children.

To conclude, stop blaming your child’s bad behaviour on games and simply realise that you’re an awful parent and thank your lucky stars that it’s not the 80′s any more.