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Video Game Violence

Last post 08-04-2006, 9:14 AM by randomturtle. 3 replies.
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  •  08-02-2006, 4:00 PM 2950

    Video Game Violence

    Do video games make people more violent?  It seems like this topic has a way of coming up every few months in mainstream media.  Usually it's in reference to a crime someone committed whom happened to also play video games.  (with Doom and Grand Theft Auto as the frequently cited culprits).

    Now, I'm a gamer, and I have been a gamer all my life.  I've built a budding metropolis in SimCity, ripped people's heads off in Mortal Kombat, played capture the flag in Halo, and discovered the Fate of Atlantis in the classic LucasArts Indiana Jones title.  Sometimes I get angry playing video games, but I've certainly never committed a crime as a result of one, nor has anyone I've ever personally known .  In fact, I think video games have played in intricate part in my cognitive (and even kinesthetic: hand/eye coordination) development.  Nearly every video game is simply a puzzle that requires some critical and creative thinking to solve.

    Yet the fact remains, it's a hotly debated issue, and sometimes people influenced by games do go out and commit crimes.  Some studies even show that gaming tends to stimulate areas of the brain generally associated with aggression.

    So what's going on here?  Are video games just the latest type of media to be grilled? (as literature, music, film, television have been).  Research tends to either go heavily one direction or the other, but isn't it likely there is some sort of middle ground?  How might video game violence be interpreted from an AQAL perspective?

    Could my interior level of development have something to do with how I react to violence in video games?  (therapeutic versus destructive).  Might the community I'm a part of also affect it (if we culturally valued princess-saving plumbers, would that make me more likely to go out squashing turtles)?  The physiology of my brain?  (maybe a criminal that plays games already had some violent tendency before playing the game).  Might my surroundings and economic status also affect how I respond?  (i personally have no need to go out and carjack someone, I can walk to work)


    (This debate could also easily extend to Television & Film Violence)

    I'm thinkin' of something orange. Something orange. Give up? It's an orange.
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  •  08-02-2006, 5:49 PM 2969 in reply to 2950

    Re: Video Game Violence

    I'm not sure if you saw it, but there's another thread about this very subject somewhere else in this labyrinth that is the Multiplex forums :-)

    As far as I'm concerned there is absolutely no neurological/psychological/UL/plain old scientific doubt that there is a significant effect on the brain from observing and/or participating in violent acts, even if only in the imagination (which has been shown to have almost the exact same biological effect on the mind as in meatspace!). And from a more UL view, you literally wouldn't play such games if you didn't get some kind of intense reaction out of it, right?

    So what does that neurological/emotional effect have on your choices in life? Well it will increase your stress levels (at least in the short term), and will train you to more easily think of violence in the future. Just like learning to ride a bike trains you to ride a bike easily, playing violent games trains you to feel violent easily. And knowing that society promotes these games, and their violence, trains you to bring the violent themes of the games into the public sphere (LL and LR). Your frame for percieving the world shifts to seeing and accepting violence more then you would if you hadn't seen or participated in it in the first place.

    Obviously, thinking violently (UR) isn't the same as acting violently (UL), but it's not that far off and they are intimately connected. You may have more intense training that prepares you for healthy, successful, and non-violent action, even when confronted with high stress levels. This can at least partially compensate for your violent training and more violent (not rose) colored glasses.

    But we all have our breaking points, and training in violence may lower our threshold levels somewhat.

    So yeah, we don't all become serial killers just from playing violent games, but I believe that participating in the violence does push us just a bit closer to having the same neuronal pathways as a real serial killer!

    As someone famous most definitely said at some point in the history of the world: The greatest test of character comes not in peacetime, but in war time. If we can play violent games and still react rationally, productively, and respectfully when confronted with threats and danger, then I'd say it's cool. If not, then it may make sense to reconsider the promotion of such games, especially to young, not yet emotionally mature kids and young adults or people who are likely to be faced with a lot of stress in their daily lives. (There's a reason that the military uses violent video games to train soldiers they plan on sending into a war zone!)

    Oh, and I will add that there is a signifigant difference between violence that is not rewarded vs. violence that is rewarded. If you have to be violent to win, you are more likely to think of violence as a healthy way to succeed, whereas if you lose points for being violent, you are more likely to look for better ways to get what you want in life. I think a more realistic, AQAL way to deal with making fun, yet healthy games would be reward healthy, shadow-free problem solving skills. Make it real, so that the higher up you get levelwise, the more Integral your techniques must become to move on in the game.

    How about this for a potential Integral video game structure...

    - Your character starts out at Beige, just observing the world and experimenting with the available tools and learning basic skills (like walking and jumping around fun playground things!)
    - then you become Purple, and get to explore and discover all kids of wild and crazy things in the world
    - then you become Red, with egocentric aggressive power games (you win the level when you lose almost everthing and have to ask for a truce!)
    - then you move up to Blue ethnocentric defensive and team building games
    - then onto Orange creative and intellectual games
    - then Green games of sharing the wealth, meeting new people, and expressing your individuality
    - finally (?) your character gets to be all second tier like and play intricate political management games where you have to keep everyone moving up the spiral smoothly, and keep people's shadows from literally eclipsing the sun (and turning the planet into a real "dark age").
    - All the while there are little quadranty subplots going on just to keep things balanced and realistic

    As I mentioned in the other video game thread, I think the new Sim game Spore (scheduled to be released in 2007) has potential for this, though I think it's still pretty much geared towards Orange, with some Blue and Red emotional levels thrown in because it's easy to create action and adventure in Blue and Red! But who knows, maybe the Sim folks have stumbled onto KW's books? It could happen...

    Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
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  •  08-03-2006, 11:38 AM 3092 in reply to 2969

    Re: Video Game Violence

    I would like to respectfully disagree.

    Lots of people seem to think that playing video games builds the habit of using violence to "solve" problems. But much more than people are thinking violently while playing a game, they're thinking critically.  Playing video games teaches you to learn the rules of a system, to learn what you are capable of and what challenges you can expect, and find creative means of using your capacities to overcome those challenges. I think the worst thing that can be said of the way video games make one think is that they teach you to solve problems by pressing buttons.

    GTA3 was a wildly popular game. Part of the reason, certainly, is that you get to shoot hookers and steal cars. But a much larger reason is that the game perpetually forces you to be creative in overcoming its challenges. It's a very open-ended game, with a lot of freedom to explore possibilities and create interesting situations. If it were a straight-forward hooker-killing game that simply required performing the same action over and over again until you ran out of hookers to kill, people would laugh for five minutes then get bored and want their money back. I think it's upsetting that people would spend that five minutes laughing, but it isn't cataclysmic.

    The violence does get one's blood pumping. It does build a habit of enjoying testosterone and adrenaline. But it also teaches you to enjoy these things in the safety of your living room, getting along well with your buddies. It makes an actual violent situation seem very foreign.

    I've played a lot of video games (though not as many as Jason), and it was a very strange experience for me to hold a gun for the first time. I know other folks who feel the same. Playing video games teaches us that violence is fictional. Actually witnessing it is very different.

    All of this, I think, is my way of getting to the point that violence is the surface structure of the game, always. The deep structure is creative solution-finding, generally on an orange or higher level of cognition. And it takes getting used to violence as a deep structure in order to get violent in the meatworld.

    There are certainly occassions when this is all wrong. There are times when people don't get the fiction/fact distinction, and find themselves holding a gun and thinking as if it isn't real. But the loss of that distinction is the real problem there, and needs to be solved in its own way. It amounts to a contracted self, not realizing that others are people too. That isn't the fault of the game, it's the fault of the player.

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  •  08-04-2006, 9:14 AM 3216 in reply to 3092

    Re: Video Game Violence

    First of all, I definitely don't want to give the impression that I think video games are inherently bad. I honestly love the idea of games, no matter what medium they take. And I agree that games are a great way to challenge your mind and encourage logical and creative thinking.

    But I don't see the violence being at all necessary, or even relevant, to teaching creativity and logical thought. As you say, Yotam, the violence is the superficial element of the game. So it's mostly unnecessary!

    Of course, violence is a very real part of life, but not always, and certainly not the the extent that we see in most video games. As I said, a more realistic, Integral way of accomplishing a fun and healthy game would be to use violence as a challenge for overcoming our egocentric and ethnocentric tendencies. Do we want to teach people to wallow in their shadow-filled Red and Blue thinking, or do we want to teach people to explore the healthy side of Red and Blue?

    Oh, and I think that theory of people "not being able to tell the difference between fact and fiction" is far more complicated than most folks imagine. We may very well be able to tell the difference in our intellectual, conscious, UR minds, but in our emotional, subconscious, UL minds it is much more difficult if not impossible to tell the difference, and that effects not only UR, but UL too. As I pointed out, your body quite literally reacts to much of this violence, even "superficial" (non-deep structure) violence, in a very real way by upping the adrenalin and tensing the muscles and so on. To UL [edit, sorry, I originally said UR], imagination is absolutely real! And those chemicals that are released into your brain have a very real effect on both your brain and your body (which eventually seeps out, via your actions, into LL and LR).

    And, as I also said, many people are quite capable of overcoming (subconscious) thoughts of reacting in a violent way, but those reactions are most definitely there and they continue to grow as they are fed by more and more education and training in violent activities.

    So the physical gun may feel quite different in your hand than the joystick and buttons did (and they clearly are different), but the feelings of harming others to get what you want are no different, and your beliefs about yourself and others reflect this.

    Oh, and by the way, I really loved much of the base structure of GTA, but I obviously didn't appreciate or need the superficial violence that the game designers added to make it appeal to the angry young men (and women) with lots of spare time and money on their hands :-) Oh, and of course, I really just wanted to have the option of riding a bike...

    Peace, Love, and Bicycles,
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