Jimquisition: Desensitized to Violence

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Jimothy Sterling:

:( Jim, I was hoping you'd do the gag with the brown paper bag at the end again.

That was a condition of me being allowed to show the footage, although in fairness, I wasn't interested in doing that bit again. I felt it more helpful to just stay on point this time.

:) You made the right choice.

Well, "real" news may be crap, but with people like you and the ones who run the Escapist.
I don't think we need them anyway. Again, thank you Jim.

(Also, the dance at the end helped lighten the mood. Thanks.)

I didn't really find it all that disturbing or shocking, mostly because your warning played it up so much that I was expecting something much more graphic. You're right though, video game violence is far removed from real life violence. I recall once seeing a old black and white photograph of a war torn region that featured a child horribly burned by napalm on a road with a tank behind. Now that disturbed me.

I will never forget a fellow movie maker cite that clip as an example of how to do a "realistic headshot" for a movie. Even reality is not reality to some people Jim, and I respect the point you are making even though you had to show that horrible event.

I didn't really find it all that disturbing or shocking, mostly because your warning played it up so much that I was expecting something much more graphic.

I was worried about this. I underplayed it last time for that very reason and people got upset at me, so I figured it far more prudent to err on the side of playing it up than playing it down. For most, it still seems to have retained its effect, so I'm happy with the decision.

My brother had disturbingly high levels of anger issues for a number of years. He chased me down with a knife so many time I lost count. My life was in jeopardy nearly every other week and their was nothing I could do. To this day I'm so nervous to be around other people I can't hold a job for fear of violent reprisal. You know what I do to avoid the violence and fear in my life? I play video games. People who equate real violence with video game violence are the ones who are sick because they're the ones that apparently can't tell the difference. I know the difference and trust me video games are not to blame. Great Jimqusition always a fan but this one was especially important and poignantly said too.

I skipped it, because well why wouldn't I? Like many here I was surprised at the age gate. I thought it would be something funny (in a dark sort of way with the subject matter). I was wrong, I calmly skipped ahead to 1:50.

Jim you laid out your point incredibly well. It couldn't have been said in a better way. I just wish that everyone else understood this and quit blaming games for these absolute abominations. The violence in this world makes me sick.

Mister Sterling, I believe the entire internet needs to rise up and applaud this video. Honestly, you continue to hammer the nail straight on the head with these kinds of videos. My reaction to the man's taking of his own life was dulled by your fair warning, but I'm certain that it would have been far greater if you had shown without any warning. I myself am not an advocate of violence in the slightest. It took around ten years of day in, day out bullying for me to even push someone to say that enough was ENOUGH.

So, both you and the Escapist staff get a standing ovation from me, myself and ... my cat.


I'd never actually seen the Dwyer clip before. It was definitely disturbing, even though I've seen similar things online before. Point well and truly made, Jim. Mad props to you and the Escapist for doing this. Some Anvils Need to be Dropped, indeed.

As I learned from this book, as recently as a century ago people in the Western world were still being hanged in public while people watched in a carnival-like atmosphere. Our so-called "violent entertainment" is nothing compared to that.

Am I worried about Modern War Shooters desensitizing real players to real violence? No. Am I worried about them reinforcing the idea of 'brown, foreign people are the inhuman enemy, and the world's problems can be solved by sending American soldiers oversees to kill them' through their unspoken assumptions? Somewhat. Because average, everyday Americans don't ever need to face real violence and death to cause it elsewhere, they just need to pull a lever at the voting booth in favor of interventionist politicians.

Likewise, while I don't think video games directly cause violence, misogyny, or racism, I do think the pervasiveness of the "chosen, special, white man saves the day from the monstrous/inhuman/brown/foreign enemy through violence and is consequently 'rewarded' with the woman to which he is somehow 'entitled'" narrative isn't a good thing, regardless of what medium is delivering that narrative.

Do video games cause violence? No. Obviously not. But the idea that these things we devote so much of our time and attention to have purely positive effects on us, or no effect what so ever, seems... naive. If not disingenuous.

Video games aren't any different from any other media. They shouldn't be unfairly blamed for real world behaviors as if there was any sort of direct cause and effect relationship. Video games deliver a story or experience, and in doing so will deliver, intentionally or not, a message about the world, about humanity, or about the players themselves. Some of those messages will be worth while, and some will be garbage, and deserve to be called out as such. As with any other media, individual games are not and should not be exempt from criticism, both of quality and of content.

I watched this video right after playing the last level of Spec Ops: The Line.

...I'm just gonna go sit in the corner and cry for a while.

That clip will always leave me with some kind of uncomfortable feeling like when you get a shiver down your spine. Not a "omg I'm gonna throw up" level but that's likely down to seeing it a few times over the years and cause when you're on the internet long enough, you see some messed up shit.
But that core feeling that something isn't right never fades.

My grandmother was a psychologist and for a while a social worker. Her jobs stretched from interviewing inmates and murderers to determine if they're actually nuts or not to jobs like helping disturbed children who came from abusive families. One time her and a few other people were asked to do a "social experiment" with cartoon violence. There's more to it but I honestly can't remember right now.

One of the things was watching a shit ton of Tom & Jerry and figuring out if the violence was dangerous to either children's minds or even adults. They had kids come in at times and watch too, then ask them questions. I don't think this was government related (UK btw) but rather some 3rd party. All I know is she took the job that lasted 2 months because it paid a lot and she got to watch cartoons for it.

Anyway, by the end they had to make a decision on whether it has any effect. Apparently this lead to a few arguments but my Grandmother said she was in the firm belief that cartoon violence and real violence has a very, very different impact on us. That somewhere inside we know the difference. Like with the uncanny valley, we can tell the difference between fake and real way more easily than we give ourselves credit for.

Caption: Sleep Tight

Well, thanks, because I won't!

I play violent videogames all the time. I especially love Hack 'n Slashers like Ninja Gaiden 2. Hell, I'm also a death metal fan, listening to songs describing ludicrous torture techniques! When that clip rolled around something just kinda snapped in me. I had to sit down with a glass of water for a second, while the rest of the episode mostly passed me by.

Jim, dude, you've always been about sending out your messages as blunt and clearly as possible, and this has to be the zenith. I'm genuinly shocked.

I'll say what I've always said about violence in media.

Video games, and every other piece of media for that matter, can have effects on people, positive or negative. To say that there is absolutely no effect on people who play violent games, watch violent movies, read violent books, etc... is ludicrous because we so readily accept that they can have a profound effect on us emotionally already. Is it so hard to believe that video games may cause some short-term aggression in people when we readily accept that they can make us laugh, cry, feel releif, all sorts of emotions, and just angry in general? Video games and other media are usually not the causes of negative social behavior but rather an outlet, and in fact most of the studies that are shown on the Escapist from both sides state this fact.

There was an article on the Escapist about a study on violence in video games, and for the most part the study itself was fairly neutral. The article, however, was wrought with bias and self-inserted opinion, bullshit ad homeniem against the scientist, and overall so much crap that it was a disgrace to The Escapist and journalism in general. The studies on both sides or the scenario are nowhere near as biased or partisan as people might think, most of them agree that there is some short-term effect with video games as most media tend to have.

Just because it's fantasy does not mean that it can't have an effect, whether positive or negative, whatever the effect may be, and to say so discredits the very reason why we pursue these escapist mediums in the first place and their effects they have on us personally. This book has influenced millions of people, for good or ill, throughout history. John Lennon's killer cited this book as an influence. Hell, this movie influenced film itself despite it's racially charged subject matter. Media clearly has an affect on people, positive or negative. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thank you for this video. The fact that you had to fight so hard to show the video is, I agree, pretty damning evidence that we as gamers are not desensitized to violence by our games; otherwise, nobody would care about there being real violence on it, because in theory it would all be just more of the same stuff.

For myself, I've seen so much stuff online (mostly through Mucho Sucko) that I'm basically desensitized to everything I see presented on a TV or computer screen - when I saw Hostel my reaction was "eh, I've seen worse" - but the one time I saw someone genuinely mad, which only involved him kicking a cabinet drawer very hard, it shook me for about 3 hours.

I'm going to say that again: I am fully desensitized to violence on a screen, but when someone near me kicked a drawer too hard it affected me severely. And people think video games desensitize people to real life violence? Give me a break.

The people who carry out tragic shootings probably would have done it regardless of whether violent video games existed. Video games don't make people carry out mass shootings, severe mental illness makes people carry out mass shootings. It's a shame nobody's bothered to point out that the majority of people who do such things have never played a violent video game, and instead they just focus on the few who do in order to decry them.

It's a great argument made in the episode, I just worry about how a media outlet like FOX could turn the point of this around and turn it into, "Gamers looking to up their desire for violence, a video gaming site shows a person actually killing themselves."

Because they'd never do that would they?

That being said, good episode.

:/ I think you're using the wrong phrase.

Unless by "Turn the point of this around..." you mean mash it into a Play-doh like mush, and then make it look like whatever they want it to look like. Becuase they would do that.

Also, to add to the topic: Sometimes even when the violence IS video game violence people still talk about getting disturbed by it.

One Example: After the demo of The Last of Us at E3. The one that ended with the head shot....

I remember not really liking Perfect Dark because of some of the subtle things they did about its violence, actually. I mean, it felt like the enemies weren't just baddies to kill to death, they still talked a little after you shoot them and just sounded in pain. It was kinda scary.

For some reason I was hoping the disturbing footage was Jim giving the camera a lapdance while wearing a mankini. It would have been a lot less disturbing than the actual footage he used.
Thanks Jim...

Also glad to see that someone other than me is blaming media overexposure of murderers and other guys like that for the sudden over-abundance of those creatures.

Hey, folks--

Just wanted to chime in about the age gate, the warning, etc. When Jim originally asked about doing this, I had complete confidence he would be making a strong and dramatic argument, but I also wanted to make 100% sure that nobody saw that footage by accident. It would be very easy to go into the episode expecting the usual shenanigans, and it was important to me that we took every reasonable precaution to make sure that if you saw that footage, it was because you chose to.

Some people will undoubtedly find the overcaution a bit excessive, but I believe enough people will appreciate it to have made it the right approach.

Huh, well, that's an episode I probably won't watch more than once, for obvious reasons--at least not without skipping a fair chunk of it.

Really though, if there could be any criticism over the episode I'd have to throw at it is that the impact of the footage tends out overpower one's ability to observe your argument; I spend the remainder of the episode contending emotionally with what I just saw more that reflecting on the discussion.

It's a sort of flaw that succeeds too well in making your point for you, I suppose, almost to the point where you have to say absolutely nothing after showing it.

In regards to the discussion of the influence of violent media, I'd probably cite Dan Olson's work where he briefly talks about it in one of his videos; Namely that violent media can't really make you more violent or desensitize you to real violence, but it does a reasonable job at making you okay with the idea of violence--particularly the idea of violence as an appropriate response to certain circumstances (Loosely quoting him); however, his statement wasn't really framed around the discussion of violent media itself and more the matter of media representation of straight, white males.

Really, I'll take any opportunity to promote Dan's work, when I can.

So today in gaming, I killed roughly 3 digits worth of people with guns, ran over at least 20, executed someone who was already holding their blown off genitals in agony and loaded up Crysis and threw a motherfucking tree at someone and their house, crushing someone else inside the crumbling house in the process.

And I felt dreadful in the moments before he shot knowing what was going to happen and found it hard to look at. I didn't even notice anything had happened before I saw the blood and him slump the the ground and that was not anything that I wanted to see, ever.

I often rewatch your videos Jim, but I don't think I'll be rewatching this one. Your point is proven.

Hey Jim, you know what's really sad? The fact that you are absolutely right about the human brain being able to tell the difference between serious real life stuff and the cartoonish over-the-top stuff....and the fact that your videos with the stupid suit and the V for Vendetta backdrop and the "thank god for me" narcissistic attitude is just as cartoonish and over-the-top as to be not taken seriously. If you took a minute to stop the act, you might actually be able to make a point to people other than those who wholeheartedly agree with you already.

I find the most disturbing thing about the footage, having not watched it until now, is the manner of the man, the way he acted before he pulled the trigger. Something haunting about it.

Anyhow, I thought I was more desensitised than I am. I don't know if I consider that a good thing or not.

I don't usually comment videos but when I do I type something like this:

Jim, don't go into that fucked up territory of "any sane civilian should be afraid of guns." As a gamer and a gun enthusiast I am sick and tired of both sides trying to stomp one another. Gun nuts claiming that those so called violent video games cause the trouble and gamers suggesting that something's wrong with owning a firearm when being a civilian. This benefits no one, it only makes the valid points of discussion seem a bit less valid when mangled together with sich crap. I post same things every time someone from the gun community suggests that maybe "they" should look into that videogaming thing instead of guns owned by law abiding citizens. Of all the places containing gaming related opinions Jimquisition is least suitable for containing invalid arguments.

Jimothy Sterling:

Do you reckon you could edit it what the graphic content is in the description so people know what it is?

Can someone explain to me what the purpose of what happened in the content was? As in why the person did it?

I explain in the video intro what the content is, which I think does the job. As for background on Dwyer himself, you can get all the info from the usual place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._Budd_Dwyer

In video games, you kill someone, and move on in one second. Someone asking you for the background of the man that killed himself with the intent of humanizing him, and dwelling on the event that occurred serves to further illustrate the cognitive dissonance between a game and reality. A shocking, but well done way of getting your point across, Jim.

As for violence, even video footage of violence doesnt compare to actual violence seen with ones own eyes. Ok that guy shooting himself was bad, but seeing that in real life....as in you were there to see it face to face in front of you. So much worse. Ive seen the aftermath of someone who was hit by a train, and seriously, no game ever made will ever compete with how fucked up that made me feel.

Well.. I really expected it to look worse, but at the same time I.. Well, now I've seen that. I didn't like.

On a lighter note: What is the game that started at around 3:05? It looks awesome!

That really is disturbing. I've been unfortunate enough to be in the same room as some idiot who found and was playing a video of a man who was captured by terrorists and beheaded online. That really disturbed me, despite the fact it wasn't done in a single wide swing with blood gushing out like a Tarantino film.

As CyborgGinger pointed out, we've not really become desensitized to violence. Hell, we're more sensitive to it. Hangings, beheadings and burnings at the sake were public events only a few hundred years ago and people went to early Grand Prix to see crashes that resulted in some pretty horrible deaths.

I'm a massive fan of motor racing and I've seen some of these horrible deaths in documentaries about the sport's safety and every time I was disturbed (Formula 1: The Killer Years by the BBC is an interesting insight to how attitudes have changed). I was even present at a British Superbike round when a young rider in a support race sadly lost his life in a same accident to MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, an incident that resulted in the race being cancelled. I played Carmaggeddon when it came out in the 90s as a teen and I've spent plenty of time on GTA games yet these events still shock and sadden me.

It's a shame there's so many idiots who seem to think a person pushing a buzzer a little bit longer means they're a danger to society, especially when said idiots are the ones with the most influence.

The casual, gratuitous, ubiquitous violence in video games doesn't have to directly cause real world violence, or desensitize players to it, for it to be worthy of some amount of criticism. Video Games are an artistic medium, there's a lot more to human experience that they can explore. this is less a criticism of the game creators and more one of the gaming audience that seems to want to be sold the same experience over and over rather than experience anything new.

Well said Jim.

I remember seeing a clip of the guy who beheaded by the Taliban. For a few days, every time I closed my eyes, the image and the sounds of that clip haunted me.

Real violence, real gruesome violence, seeing someone killed, has never been similar to video game violence.


Was hoping you would talk about the video game burnings still really liked this episode.

Skipped it. :/ Good argument though.

Jim, while I ultimately respect this video because it was very well done and hit the nail on the head, the only point I would make would be that the sort of audience that a website like the Escapist attracts, mostly the regular internet user who knows their way around and has plenty of experience with it, all of us already know the Mainstream Media are scum and are truly to blame for this. You're preaching to the choir there. Your video needs the sort of exposure that virality provides.

Could I suggest that you upload this video to Youtube, just to give it a chance at a broader audience.

While I agree that true actual violence does not resemble in the slightest the over-the-top cartoon-ish spectacle of violence in games and most media. I must admit that the clip did not really get a strong reaction out of me, I had seen it the last time Jim showed it and don't recall it getting much of a reaction out of me then.
But then again, despite not being moved by seeing real life violence on screen (curiosity and the internet can be a bitch), I am still extremely averse to real life violence, despite hobbies that include karate and Medieval Re-enactment.

I know it's a little off-topic, but any word from Cliffy B as to whether he liked last week's video? I MUST KNOW!

OT: Y'know, that point about how incredibly un-fun and un-amusing real life violence is is something that makes me wonder why we feel video games need to so slavishly and frequently sacrifice fun to be "realistic". Because Realism certainly isn't something I seek during my entertainment sessions.

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