So many emails. It's safe to say, I think, that this experiment is working out well.
What's on the horizon for GameSpeak? By popular demand (seriously, my Inbox is weeping, it's so stuffed), we'll be hearing from a few of the many readers who wrote in and a gigantic that has some of the email readers sent in when they themselves tried to contact .
And, last but certainly not least, a talk with Hal Halpin, the president of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association.
On to the business at hand.
Hailing originally from Canada, Jeff McAllister knows plenty about video games and violence in gaming. He was a reviewer for GameShark.com, the former webmaster of Quake3world, the Phobos Lab and now is the site director for PlanetDoom.com.
The Doom series often stands side-by-side with GTA when discussions about violence in video games erupt because, well, they're bloody as hell.
What constitutes violence in video games?
I would say any game that includes game-driven objectives of killing living creatures or a game where you are required to inflict physical injuries on other characters as a violent video game. Of course, some may also stretch it further to say that any games that include making you use destructive behaviour in constructed world environments could be considered a violent game as well.
What percentage of all games made would you say are violent, based upon your previous definition of violence in video games?
I would safely say that 75 percent of all video games would fall under that category in some shape or form. Everything from Mario Brothers to SimCity could be considered violent with that definition.
How many hate or violent crimes would you say are linked to or directly related to violence in video games?
Perhaps enough to count on one hand. I would agree that there are very few isolated incidents of violence that could look to be blamed on video games, but hardly enough to justify a revolt against video games in general.
Is there a correlation between playing violent video games and acting in a violent manner?
I don't think so. Playing video games is a way to relieve stress and a great way to relax. I can't see that someone would decide to go out and gun down a street full of people because they had just finished playing a game where they killed off a house full of zombies. If someone can't see that a violent video game is just that, a game, and they think that what happens in a game should be reflected in real life, then they have other issues to deal with.
Is gaming escapism?
It's an interactive entertainment source and in a way, a form of escapism. It's fun to play, to try to better your scores, compete with friends or to play through an interesting story that you wouldn't find anywhere else. It's a good way to unwind after a long day and it does help channel and alleviate natural aggression that one may feel from time to time.
Do you think the interactivity of game violence makes it different than violence on television, which is passive?
It does, because you can choose what you wish to do and you are controlling the action as opposed to sitting in front of a television and just watching. You can choose the path you wish to take, where not all games require you to take a violent path and you can choose to or not. Television you sit in front of and are fed the images you see with no way to change the outcome. You sit and watch what unfolds where as video games give you the opportunity to do as you wish. Also the graphics in video games can't compare to the realism of television even though both are not "real."
Different mediums, as they've come along, have had their share of controversy. From pulp horror, graphic novels, to movies, music and television; is this part of a cycle?
It really is. They [certain groups] move from one medium to the next and try to pin the blame on the flavour of the month. These groups didn't start with video games and they won't end there either. This is just a stop along the way. After video games there will be a witch-hunt after the Internet or something equally ridiculous.
Is the self-imposed rating system for video games enough? Is the ESRB working? What is the relevance of a rating system for video games if the powers that be will black-list certain games because of their graphic content?
The self-imposed rating is the first step. For it to work, however, it needs to be enforced. Stores need to be held accountable for selling certain games to certain age groups and parents need to be aware of what rating the games are that their kids are playing. As for blacklisting and banning certain games like New Zealand did with Manhunt, it defeats the purpose of the rating. You can have one or the other, not both. If countries are just going to ban whatever games they choose and disregard the fact that there is a rating on them, then having the rating itself becomes pointless.
How does free speech factor in?
Free speech should be factored in for video games just how it is for everything else. It's a right for the game makers to express themselves how they want and so far they have been doing a pretty good job of it.
Are parents paying attention to what their kids play?
I hope they are, but I think it's safe to say not as many as them are that should be. I know a few parents who let their kids play games that are violent but that's their choice to allow it or not. As long as the parents know what the games are like and what they contain, then it is up to them ultimately. Sadly there are a large number of parents out there that really have no idea about the games they play. Kids are kids and if they don't want their parents to know, then they won't find out, but the kids getting a hold of those games in the first place should not be happening.
Do you think that video games are similar to sports? There are much-touted statistics that link aggression levels to video game playing, but isn't that precisely what happens in any kind of competition?
Of course it is. Any competition will raise your aggression levels. The difference is in sports you are out on a field or an arena and within close contact to other human beings. With the adrenaline rush and the pressure to succeed, it sky rockets that aggression level far past video games ever could. Watching a hockey game on any given night and you will see two players punching each other in the face if they dislike something the other player did. When I'm playing NHL 2005 on my Xbox and I don't like that my buddy gave me a cheap shot me in to the boards, I don't grab him and start wailing on him.
According to the Center for Child Death Review, 1,242 kids were murdered with guns and 174 children died from accidental firearm-related injuries in 2000. Aside from stories that get covered in the news [like Columbine], there are few, if any, actual statistics that show how many children's deaths are directly linked to video games. Do the facts speak for themselves? Or is it just that nobody is really keeping tabs?
I think the facts speak for themselves. If those unfortunate events were directly linked to video games, you can be damn sure that everyone would have heard about it. As many of us gamers know, video games are used as a scapegoat for a certain few of those cases, such as Columbine, but the fact is, in Columbines case where the game DOOM was blamed, hundreds of thousands of gamers have played that game since it's release 10 years ago and no other such incidents have been reported in that time.
Where does the accountability lie? Are parents responsible for their children's behavior? Society?
Ultimately, I believe the parents are responsible for their children's behaviour. They raise them to teach them right from wrong and should be there to guide them back on the right path when they start to stray off it. A large part of that includes knowing what your child is doing, what they are playing and what they are watching. Sadly there will sometimes be someone looking for a scapegoat when something awful happens involving kids and whether its music, movies or video games, it's usually whatever the loudest or most influential person says it is.
Previous GameSpeak columns:
By William Vitka