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Criticism of violent video games has lost credibility

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By Stan Rezaee

Despite advancements in technology along with the inclusion of mature content and themes, criticism of violent video games in the media has been on the decline according to the research of Greg Perreault.

The research attributed the decline to the core demographic became older (average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 13 years) and violence in video games having become accepted. Giving credit to where credit is due; kudos to Perreault for conducting the first study on a trend many old-school gamers have started to notice, that is the controversy regarding violence in video games has died.

Perreault is correct that the core audience has matured and with it has video games as a media while the culture has grown to become a major element of pop-culture. In the 90’s it was just an expensive toy but today they are generating more revenue the movies at the box-office while attracting the talents of Hollywood icons.

During the progression; real scientific studies were done on the effects of video games on the audience and they have killed the myth that it “breeds killers”. Meanwhile studies have unveiled the positive effects video games have on the player such as rapid decision making, better overcoming complex problems, helping to develop effective organization skills.

The end result has been that any outrage about violence in video games can no longer be taken seriously while anyone who brings up the junk science is dismissed.

Such an example to look at would be Cassie Rodenberg and her in-depth critic about allowing gamers to have interactions with prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto. According to her observation of students who played the game; such a feature mentally justifies violence against women while recanting the struggles of a real women who are forced into such a life.

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Rodenberg would have made a strong case were it not for one minor problem, she wrote her critical analysis in 2013 about Grand Theft Auto V. In no time readers began to pick apart and destroy her entire argument based on a naive approach to an outdated troupe of moral outrage.

Given how critics have praised the game for its thought provoking story that presents an in-depth analysis of the American Dream in a post-2008 crash society in a style influenced Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, Rodenberg decision to focus on a controversy that is a decade old and very insignificant to the story gave the impression that she was too stupid to understand the games significance.

The very few times a video game has been criticized for its violent content was because of some very disturbing element that should always concern audiences. The content in question have been the obvious issues of rape and gruesome torture. No matter how mature the audience becomes; rape and torture will always be something disturbing while its presence in video games will never be tolerated.

The most resent example was the attention that Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes received after the ESRB listed “Sexual Violence” and “Intense Violence” as a listed content. This of course is referring to audio recordings of Paz being raped along with the open surgery she undergoes after being rescued. Despite the act not visually featured; the context of rape in any media is always going to be disturbing to the audience.

Several months earlier; Grand Theft Auto V was criticized for a plot point that required the player to torture a suspect. While some accused it of glorifying torture, many gamers found the moment to be very disturbing and hard to play.

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Finally who could forget the controversy regarding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and the option of playing “No Russian”.  What made this level disturbing was not the fact the player participates in a terrorist attack against civilians but the atmosphere of the environment with screams of terror in background while people are being butchered as they flee or begging for their lives.

These examples attracted controversy because the content was a subject that the general audience will always find disturbing. It was not a game of simple blood and violence but a moment that the player would never forget.

As video games continue to the advance the story will explore darker and more mature themes that is going to attract controversy. However bickering about the simple of violence is an outrage that nobody is going to take seriously as the culture has moved pass that point.

What are your thoughts on Greg Perreault research? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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About Stan Rezaee (404 Articles)
Stan Rezaee is the founder and Editor of 8Bit/Digi. He is a journalist and gamer from the Bay Area who has been writing about the medium for over five years.

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