Violent Video Game Criticism Has Decreased As Gamers Age - Update

Violent Video Game Criticism Has Decreased As Gamers Age - Update

Video game violence has intensified since the 1990s, but surprisingly, media concern about said violence has dropped significantly.

Update: In an email correspondence with The Escapist, Greg Perreault noted that while he hasn't extended his research to non-gaming outlets, he believes violent video games have become a trope to the mainstream news media.

"Non-gaming outlets tend to attach games to violent events," he writes. "It's a very convenient scapegoat whenever someone does something crazy and it prevents journalists (not always, but many times) from asking the harder questions. One thing my paper argues is that new technologies always create a sort of 'cultural anxiety' -- we're always as nervous as we are excited about entertainment technologies. And we have to remember that compared to film, television, print and radio, video games are still fairly new. That said, it has really taken our country by storm.

"Journalists are always very interested in knowing whether the perpetrators of violent crimes have played video games -- well, the answer is almost always going to be 'yes' because the vast majority of the country has played video games."

Perreault will present his findings at the International Communication Association conference this May in Seattle.

Original Story: Since you're reading a video game-oriented website, I expect you've become used to the standard media outcry over violence in games. In recent years, this debate even seems to have intensified, with various outlets linking violent games to real-world tragedies while implying the former causes the latter. As we've reported, it's not usually that simple, but 20 years ago, violence in games was commonly chastised by the gaming media itself. According to University of Missouri researcher Greg Perreault, criticism of violent video games within the community has dropped dramatically since 1990, even as the technological capabilities to render violence increased.

"Early in the '90s, when video games were still a relatively new medium, journalists expressed quite a bit of concern about the level of violence in many of the games," Perreault explained. "It is interesting because the simulated violence in these games was so mild relative to modern-day games."

For his research, Perreault studied back issues of GamePro Magazine to see how journalists reacted to violent video games of the time. In the 1990s, when games were marketed primarily to children and violence was limited by technology, journalists expressed a high level of concern over simulated blood and gore. But as the gaming population aged, criticism of violence quickly dropped, even as the technology that rendered violence become more sophisticated.

"As technology improved and the animations became more and more life-like, game creators had increased capability to design more graphic violence, including blood and gore," Perreault continued. "Despite this increasing amount of violence, journalists seemed to be less and less bothered by the blood and guts. This is important to note because journalism often mirrors the culture of the audience it serves. As technology improved, the entire gaming community became more and more comfortable with the levels of violence that were simultaneously increasing in video games. In a sense, the gaming community grew up. They aged from children using video games as toys to adolescents and adults using them as recreational devices. It appears that journalists reflected this trend in their writing."

Perreault's research doesn't mean that violent video games aren't being criticized by anyone; non-gaming media sources still malign the hobby from time to time. That said, it shows that the gaming media has gone through significant changes as its audience ages. For example, Perreault notes that the ESRB rating system was once largely opposed by games journalists. Now, we tend to embrace it when anyone says violent games aren't for children, pointing to the Mature rating and saying "Well, duh."

"Similar trends can be found in the increased number of 'R' rated movies as well as the popularity of gangster rap and other violent music," Perreault concluded. "Video games are just another way our culture is expressing itself."

Source: University of Missouri

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My tax dollars at work. :)

Which reminds me, I still need to file my taxes.

It's the old cycle of the target audience growing up and into positions of power, whilst the older audience that feel confused and frightened by the new media gets old and dies.

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

I'm not of the mind that violence in and of itself is something to be worried about - I think the problem is the combination of consistency and intensity. Before I played Arkham City, I was aware of the conversation involving the overuse of the word "bitch" in the game. Was I surprised that word would come up in a game involving hardened thugs? No. But, whether or not I would have known even if I hadn't read about the issue, I finally played the game: the word was in practically every other sentence. It was overkill and was a cheap way to denote "adult" attitudes and emotions.

I'd also like to point out, noticed or not by the site runners, that every single video here right now is pre-empted by a commercial for an anime which depicts a man being blown apart, complete with copious blood splatters, entrails flying at the screen, and the actual sight of the man's bisected body. Thank God I have some tolerance or else I would've been terrified to watch anything here at all.

So, the years of obvious reactionary scapegoating turned out to be obvious reactionary scapegoating?
No way!

I'm glad the fuel for that particular political craze is running out.

fix-the-spade:
so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

My moneys on news media and not just for the poetry of it.
There are all kinds of problems with those sensationalist wanabee brain washers.

Heh, I still remember the evolution of the ESRB rating system, the first game I ever had that first used it was Donkey Kong Country on the SNES and my first M rated game was Doom on the SNES, likewise, my first T rated game was Killer Instinct.

And sadly, I still remember (or rather, my mom still thinks it's recent) all the press surrounding Mortal Kombat and similar games of the time.

Yup, back in december, a LOT of people wanted to buy GTA V for their pre-teens and I eloquently pointed them to the big M letter in front of the box, about half of them listened and bought something else (I managed to sell the Ratchet & Clank Collection for a clueless father :) )

fix-the-spade:
It's the old cycle of the target audience growing up and into positions of power, whilst the older audience that feel confused and frightened by the new media gets old and dies.

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

Easy, VR ... "you're acting out these violent acts in person, the line between reality and game has been blurred too much. People are going from VR and killing actual people".

I don't think I will be far off the mark, come on ... can't you just see it?

omega 616:
come on ... can't you just see it?

That is the best tagline for selling VR in the history of everything.

But yes, you're probably right, I'd still like it to be something really left field.

fix-the-spade:

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next?

Texting, planking, and high-fructose energy drinks, of course.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/top-10-dangers-of-excessi_n_1034913.html
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/pm-appeals-against-dangerous-planking-craze-20110516-1eoik.html
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/133166-Gamer-Ends-up-Comatose-After-Drinking-4-Liters-of-Energy-Drink

fix-the-spade:
It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

I think video games will still be involved, just not quite how we have games today. Each new "threat" has been an increasing level of immersion. With new VR technology, motion capture, etc. that immersion is steadily moving towards the "holodeck" model, where reality and entertainment are virtually indistinguishable. Plenty of sci-fi shows have already speculated on the threat of fully interactive/immersive simulations dominating someone's life to the point where they no longer function in society at all.

omega 616:

fix-the-spade:
It's the old cycle of the target audience growing up and into positions of power, whilst the older audience that feel confused and frightened by the new media gets old and dies.

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

Easy, VR ... "you're acting out these violent acts in person, the line between reality and game has been blurred too much. People are going from VR and killing actual people".

I don't think I will be far off the mark, come on ... can't you just see it?

Hmm that plot rings a bell.

But hey who cares about being accurate when you can make headlines?

Who cares that it's really a psychiatric care problem most of the time, and that at least 90% of all mass killers in the last 30 years have been on, or withdrawing from "happy pills" (specifically: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as prozac)?

Makes sense... as the generation that previous generation dies off or falls out of touch with the day to day well the critique will also drop.

And yeah it's a much more sensational headline to link something someone knows nothing about to something they're afraid of. You could just as easily link crack pot shooters to watching CNN... actually... that'd be a fun thing to check. How many spree shooters watched cable news?s Is there a pattern? LOl!

Yeah, I'm also waiting for the axe to swing the way of Facebook and its newly purchased Oculus.

People can't distinguish between VR and Actual R!

omega 616:

fix-the-spade:
It's the old cycle of the target audience growing up and into positions of power, whilst the older audience that feel confused and frightened by the new media gets old and dies.

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

Easy, VR ... "you're acting out these violent acts in person, the line between reality and game has been blurred too much. People are going from VR and killing actual people".

I don't think I will be far off the mark, come on ... can't you just see it?

Yup, I think it's safe to say this will be our new scapegoat. I mean, the entire point of VR is to take the user's movements as controls, and to tie the camera to their eyes.

Really, we should be betting on when, rather than if.

This surprises anyone?

As gamign becomes popular most people have tried it now and saw that its not some kind of fourth reich coming. So the audience for the scapegoating is diminishing, which means the papers stop writing about it. because they dont write about thats objective, they only write about what gets clicks.

fix-the-spade:

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

the way it looks like - VR could easily be one. its not new, but itso nly now getting popular, it allows "simulation to degree not seen before" and will eaisly be a scapegoat for "killer simulators".

vid87:
I'm not of the mind that violence in and of itself is something to be worried about - I think the problem is the combination of consistency and intensity. Before I played Arkham City, I was aware of the conversation involving the overuse of the word "bitch" in the game. Was I surprised that word would come up in a game involving hardened thugs? No. But, whether or not I would have known even if I hadn't read about the issue, I finally played the game: the word was in practically every other sentence. It was overkill and was a cheap way to denote "adult" attitudes and emotions.

i think the "bitch" problem could be solved if viodegames were allowed to have actula swear words, then they coudl be appripriately put in place where needed instead of going around naming everyone "bitch".

SupahGamuh:

Yup, back in december, a LOT of people wanted to buy GTA V for their pre-teens and I eloquently pointed them to the big M letter in front of the box, about half of them listened and bought something else (I managed to sell the Ratchet & Clank Collection for a clueless father :) )

i amd deeply sadened by this. Rating system is a guide, not law and people are not limited by age. We are not sheep, age ratings dont work.

fix-the-spade:
It's the old cycle of the target audience growing up and into positions of power, whilst the older audience that feel confused and frightened by the new media gets old and dies.

It begs the serious question, now that video game are (very slowly) dieing out as the scape goat for every bad thing that happens ever, what's next? In the last hundred years it's bounced from racey novels to comic books to rock and roll to action movies to rap music and finally video games, so who or what's going to be the next cause of society's downfall?.

Probably something newish... like practical virtual reality. (seriously, headsets just don't work well for lengthy gameplay)

Or something else we have yet to even think of.

Anyway...

I think its also that during the 1990's, truly disturbing or even gory violence in videogames was incredibly rare. And since there was less of it around, that meant it was more surprising and shocking when it was there. Now that its commonplace, it isn't even worth mentioning anymore. And on the whole, I like to think its because most of us can recognize fake fantasy pretend violence when we see it, vs. real violence.

Still think Jim Sterling's episode on the issue said it best.

 

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