Culture Blog

Video Games and Violence

posted by the hanging out team - Monday, May 06, 2013

I must admit, I’m excited. After logging on to my favourite video game website I was greeted by three brand new trailers, teasing the arrival of the newest addition to one of my favourite game franchises: Grand Theft Auto. If you’re familiar with the series, then you know what to expect. Guns, robbery, murder, prostitution, swearing, and general wheeler dealer misdemeanours will all be featured. I’m also fairly certain I know what’s coming; a renewed ‘cause for concern’ as the press, parents and the socially conscious air their fears over the levels of violence that, if the trailers are anything to go by, is sure to reach some heights.

Grand Theft Auto V Box Art

Violent video games have had a long history with the press. If you read newspapers then you’re sure to have seen the ‘a study has found…’ article either condemning or excusing violent videogames of their effects, or even blaming them outright as the cause for a tragedy. Numerous school shootings and murders have been followed by a decrying of certain games which famously include the aforementioned GTA, Call of Duty, Doom, Counter Strike and Mortal Kombat; just to name a few.
It also seems there is a bigger concern for the effects of violence in videogames than there is in the cinema and on television. Indeed, violence on the cinema screen is much more prevalent than it once was, but there is still an emphasis on video games being more hazardous than those other mediums. This may be because video games, by definition, have an interactivity not present in cinema or television – in first person shooters such as Call of Duty, with enough suspension of disbelief (and the protagonist is generally silent), you are holding that gun. But whether this can be directly related as a cause to real life tragedies could be considered a stretch.
I’ve always considered video games to be a medium still in its infancy. Like the cinema of the early 20th century, its concerns are with escape and fantasy, providing both images of beauty and the grotesque. And cinema seemingly had magical powers to make things disappear or teleport across the screen, frightening audiences who had never encountered the like before, video games hold a similar power, absorbing its player into another world, one in which almost anything is possible.
I believe the medium is growing; their stories becoming more important, and their in-game worlds more fascinating. This is what I find so exciting about GTA, why I’m so looking forward to the fifth game in the series, and why I play other games which also happen to be violent. Without its engrossing fictional world and story, I wouldn’t be looking forward to it – and I’m certain neither would anyone else.

By Nicholas Beer.

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