The World Without Games

The World Without Games
Pastimes Defining a Civilization: Videogames

Dana Massey | 7 Mar 2006 11:02
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The game industry has to be careful. I am hardly the only one worried about violence in videogames and what it says about our culture as a whole. As such, I believe it's important that we continue to self-regulate the industry to ensure games are rated appropriately. I am also totally supportive of legislation that limits who can and cannot buy games, based on rating. Videogames are always going to be perceived - fair or not - as the most dangerous medium by virtue of the fact that they enable people to personally commit the violence, no matter how fantastical.

In the Valentine's Day issue of The Escapist, Editor Julianne Greer wrote that it is "the active nature of playing games together is what makes them special." She was talking about love and how they are, by definition, more social than TV, books or films. However, where the positives apply, so do the negatives. In games, you decide when and where to shoot. In a movie, you simply watch someone else do it. It is a fine line, but as games get more realistic, it becomes a greater concern. It is this distinction that has been at the root of the recent controversies about games.

At its worst, Hot Coffee showed nothing worse than I can see on late night TV. The difference is, on late night TV, I would simply be observing, not participating. This point may be negligible, but it must be kept in mind when it comes to creating games.

There is, however, the possibility that all this worrying is really meaningless. Take Canada, for example. Canada has the reputation of being a polite, peace-loving and relatively non-violent nation. Yet, as far as pastimes go, our favorite one is arguably the most violent of any mainstream North American sport. Hockey encourages throwing people into walls at high speeds, fighting and all other sorts of bloody activity. Not a year goes by where someone isn't maimed, prosecuted, paralyzed or even killed playing hockey at some level. Yet, Canadians have been lining up for years to watch and participate in this sport. If pastimes were totally indicative of a society's temperament, the United States would have a seriously belligerent neighbor to the north. Canada is anything but.

What does all this mean? Can we do anything? Can the videogame help turn the corner? Who knows? Probably not - and almost certainly not. This is a big question with very few answers. Perhaps, this is the natural course of things. Over time, as societies age, they become more and more enamored with violence. If the game industry were to take a stand and outlaw all violent content, the videogame industry would be doing a disservice to its investors - to whom they are ultimately responsible - and people would inevitably just find an outlet for their entertainment somewhere else. We're hardly the shepherds of the developed world's morals - and we should not be expected to be - but like all genres, we must continue the precarious balance between responsibility and freedom of speech.

It is all fine and good to say parents should be responsible for what their kids consume, but let's face it: Many are not, and it can't possibly harm anyone to put some rules in place to make it hard for a kid to buy the most violent or graphic of games. The lust for violent pastimes may be inevitable, but at least then, we could be contented to know we're at least not making things worse.

Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for MMORPG.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.

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