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GameSpeak: VG Cats

GameCore is a weekly column by's William Vitka and Chad Chamberlain that focuses on gamers and gaming.

It's session three of the GameSpeak Q&A experiment about violence in gaming.

If you missed them, for the Q&A with gaming regulation advocate Jack Thompson click here and for Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del's responses click here.

Later in the week, Claude Errera from will lend his thoughts to the debate as both a parent and a gamer.

Scott Ramsoomair, gamer and author of the webcomic VG Cats sounds off now.

What constitutes violence in video games?

Whenever there's body fluids around, blood or otherwise. Seriously though, intent to cause harm would probably constitute such.

What percentage of all games made would you say are violent, based upon your previous definition of violence in video games?

Quite a lot, now that I think about it. I'd say roughly 80% of video games contain violence, but only a very small amount of that is intense violence. Your Grand Theft Autos and Mortal Kombats.

How many hate or violent crimes would you say are linked to or directly related to violence in video games?

None. Psychos will always be psychos; they don't need video games to help them. Though this one time my brother punched me in the arm when I beat him in Mario Kart. Does that count?

Does age or sex play a factor in violent, aggressive behavior?

In younger kids probably, because they're nutty that way. But again, they'd be like that anyway. I was a hellion when I was little and didn't have ANY video games then.

Is there a correlation between playing violent video games and acting in a violent manner?

Haven't seen any personally.

Is gaming escapism?

The good ones are, games that draw you into the experience are fun to play. Contrarily, if a game is violent for violence's sake, and there's no real gameplay, then you're going to pass it by.

Do you think the interactivity of game violence makes it different than violence on television, which is passive?

A lot of critics like to believe that since you're the one in control you're going try that stuff in real life. Ever fire a gun? I bet you it's nothing like a controller.

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?

They [Conservative groups, watchdog groups] are just going through the motions. They've never played, read, or watched these things but they'll be the first to condemn it. Take BMXXX, a horrible game, but not for its content. It was just a very bad game. But people hear nudity and everyone is up in arms.

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 ESRB has been working fantastically. Self-regulating is far better than relying on outside sources.

As far as black lists go, the only people who read these things wouldn't play in the first place. There have been games banned by a country however, i.e. Leisure Suit Larry in Australia.

This is why self-regulating is needed. People in the industry know this is a bad game. Banning it is really a moot point.

How does free speech factor in?

It does and it doesn't. Some of the best games out there are also the ones with the least amount of violence. Games like ICO, Mario, Zelda. If you're in it to make a good game, it'll show through. If you're making a cheap game with lots of violence that will show too, and it'll fail. Man, I must be sounding really redundant by now.

Are parents paying attention to what their kids play?

I hope so. Regardless, places like EB Games and Wal-Mart won't sell "M" rated games to kids.

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?

That's the nature of being competitive.

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?

If there is then there's no way to know for sure on something that. I haven't heard of anything like that.

Where does the accountability lie? Are parents responsible for their children's behavior? Society?

Problems are far too complex and individualized for any one scapegoat. As bad as Mario is, I think it's a little crazy to lay all the blame down there.

Author's note: Due to the volume of questions I've received about this GameSpeak Q&A series, I feel that I should clarify some points.

First, I purposely avoided follow-ups for this round (as I said in the first column, this is an experiment – one with no end in sight). There are reasons that I structured things the way I did: I wanted everyone to respond to the same questions and I knew I wouldn't be able to duplicate tangents with each individual.

I was also trying very hard to avoid adding any of my own editorial input. Since I personally have extremely strong feelings about this issue, I had to keep myself in check and not go on my own rant, hence the very cut and dry Q&A format.

The real purpose of this series is to open the debate floor and let everyone involved say what they want. I chose not to correct anyone interviewed. I wanted people to see what was said in the rawest form I can print.

And finally, this is not the end of the series. I'm looking forward to speaking with more authors, more gamers, more lawyers, anyone with a strong opinion.

I think we really need to hear from some politicians, don't you?

Everyone should sound off.

I encourage it.
By William Vitka