Last week the long-debated subject of violence in video games hit a crescendo of sorts. A topic often debated among game makers, game players, parents and politicians found itself at the center of a discussion in the White House about the broader topic of violence in America.
Is the video game industry, as the National Rifle Association recently claimed, a “callous, corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people?”
Of course not. The more reasonable question is: Are video games too violent?
Video games, like many forms of artistic expression, sometimes deal with the struggles of society. Games like “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” or “Medal of Honor” are in some ways the byproducts of America’s current War on Terror. They exist in part to explore a fascination with military conflicts in the Middle East and abroad.
“Media always has something to say about our society,” said Leigh Alexander, Gamaustra editor-at-large. “Popular high-end television — say, ‘Girls,’ or ‘Game of Thrones,’ to grab some easy examples — currently deals with social roles, class issues and the position of women in society, across an election year that had much to do with social issues and the politicization of women’s rights. We can always take the pulse of our times in popular media, and in light of that I think violent games can never be ‘just for fun,’ meaningless or existing in some context-less vacuum.”
Kate Edwards, president of the International Game Developers Association, says that game developers are very aware of the use of violence in their games.
“Developers consider many complex social issues that may arise in their games,” she said. “On the issue of violence, I think most game designers are cognizant of the role that violent actions serve in their games’ stories, very similar to how a film’s scriptwriter or a book’s author leverages such acts to serve the stories they wish to tell. Having worked on many major game titles over the years, I can attest firsthand that the writers, designers and developers are usually very conscientious of their craft and how certain actions — violent or not — serve the purpose of their games.”