Bill MacKenty

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Violence and Computer games: a response

Posted in Games in education on 11 - February 2006 at 05:24 PM (18 years ago). 198 views.

I am never want to start any sort of flame war, or create controversy. However, when I encountered this utterly myopic and ignorant piece on the role of games and violence (with references to learning), I thought a reply was in order.

I’m sure the authors are good folks, with the right intentions, and I thank them for this invitation to clarify the role of games and violence. 

Ever since their escape from the arcades, electronic video games have claimed increasing shares of leisure time for teens and tweens (11-12 years old) from the tedium of homework, parental control and   daily life.

This is an overly broad, inaccurate, and wholly incorrect portrait of the life of teens and tweens. Perhaps a brief stroll through Google scholar may prove helpful in disputing the idea teens/tweens are unfulfilled?

  • Why have you equated video games with an unfulfilling life?
  • What evidence do you have EVERY SINGLE teen/tween has an unfulfilling life?
  • Why have games “claimed” leisure time? Why not “expanded, enhanced, broadened”  leisure time? What have they “claimed” leisure time from?

I also take exception to parental control being equated to a tedious thing.  I teach grade 3-8 (ages 9 to 14) and know many children who have vibrant, healthy, and satisfying relationships with their parents/primary caregiver. 

These children may well be the 21st century version of the droogie gangs depicted in the novel, “A Clockwork Orange.” Sadly, these teens and tweens (mostly boys) are soaking up dangerous lessons rooted in the social pathology of ultraviolence and addictive behaviors.

Sadly, you have no clue what you are talking about.

I offer hearty congratulations for clumping ALL teens/tweens in the same class as robbers, thugs and rapists (the boys in Clockwork orange were not normal chaps).  Again, overly broad, sweeping generalizations which don’t fit all teens. I think we’ll be seeing this theme resurfacing soon.

All games are rooted in the social pathology of ultra-violence and addictive behaviors?  Are you insane?

Here are some fantastic web-based games:

Here are some wonderful console/PC/MAC based games:

Shrek 2
Spongebob Square Pants Movie Game
The Incredibles
The Polar Express
Learn to Play Chess with Fritz and Chesster
Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game
The World of Harry Potter
Nancy Drew: Secret Of the Old Clock
Scooby-Doo Two: Monsters Unleashed
Finding Nemo: Nemo\‘s Underwater World of Fun

..there’s literally thousands of wonderful titles for kids.

As far as addictive behavior is concerned, does every person who drinks become an alcoholic? Where is your moderation? Where is your reasoned consideration of this issue?

Nourishing such behaviors are different genres of video games. One of the most common is the role-playing game in which the sole player is on a quest to save the world. Many of these games are medieval-themed because in these Dark Age games, it is easy to introduce every kind of fantastic magical element and demonic creatures as obstacles to a quest. What kid can refuse a quest?

What sociologist can’t refuse taking a cheap and easy shot at computer games?

“[D]emonic creatures as obstacles” aren’t the ONLY obstacle players encounter in RPG’s.  We also have logic puzzles, and a rich tapestry of Tolkien-inspired creatures. We also find classic monsters from Greek, Norse, Oriental, Native American, and Middle-Eastern mythologies.

So every kid who plays a Role Playing Game is going to be nourished into a thug or killer? How pessimistic!

Unfortunately, these quests usually pass through ultraviolent challenges like tar pits, death holes, ax and sword combat, and catapulted stones, with enough blood and gore to spare.

Have you ever PLAYED an RPG? I would not call the combat in Neverwinter Nights ultra-violent. In fact, the only “ultra-violent” games I have ever seen is a small percentage of first person shooters, and a couple of grand-theft auto style-games. What computer games did you look at? Do you even play computer games?

We can change graphic settings to be less graphic. Quests usually involve some type of challenge, or dramatic tension, but so does EVERY literally device. Does watching a clockwork orange make kids susceptible to committing the acts portrayed therein?

To paraphrase Little Alex, the protagonist of “A Clockwork Orange,” why is it that blood and guts seem most colorful and real on the TV screen?

What’s up with comparing a well known hyper-violent movie with computer games? I don’t see the connection.  It’s like you are only looking at one very small part of computer games, and comparing them to one very graphically violent movie.

Players are deliberately placed in situations where only fighting can solve the problems. What does this teach the player? The answer to all problems is violence.

Ah. of course. Let’s follow this thinking, shall we?

All games are violent => all players are effected by violence in the same way => all players learn violence is the answer to all problems all the time => all players then go out into the world, and act out the violence.

um, huh?

Again, you present this issue (games and violence) in overly broad, non-representational ways. You seem to make sweeping generalizations and sweeping conclusions. Your feet are firmly planted. In mid-air.

Both humans and their society are demonized and therefore worthy targets of wrathful destruction, from burning the homeless to slaughtering the cops. The efficiency of these enterprises might have raised both eyebrows of Little Alex and his droogs.

Some games portray this, I agree. But not all games, eh? Are teens able to discern and make sophisticated judgments about the difference between fantasy and reality?  Do you trust teenagers to make intelligent, moral decisions?

In this connection, we recall the horror of Columbine High School in Colorado. Both Columbine shooters were drenched in the play of ultraviolent video games. At the time, the murders caused a backlash against violent video games, but nowadays, the old ultraviolence has returned like an old friend.

You know, I wasn’t going to reply to this story. I was going to simply ignore it, the way I ignore most stuff founded in uneducated and simplistic opinion.

But in invoking Columbine, and equating that to all computer games, you have unwittingly contributed to the real fuel of todays malaise. Fear. I see it as a duty for all educated people to fight ignorance and fear - two things this article offers in droves.

The children who acted so terribly at Columbine were sick. They were sick. Sick. Games didn’t make them sick and games didn’t make them sicker. A very small percentage of people simply aren’t wired right. It’s been happening waaay before video games. 

Your entire article feeds the fear machine.

Now read this.  Some games are inappropriate (just likes some books) for kids. It’s a fact of life. But not all games are.  And not all people respond to all things in the same way. 

This is the key point:  there are to many variables involved to point to games and say, “this thing is singularly responsible for creating ultra-violent behavior”.

Graphic violence is not the only reason video games are a social problem. They are an obsession with many people. It’s OK to play a game once in a while, but when the play is for hours on end, that is not healthy.

..and you’ll be releasing the “amount of time you should play games” guide shortly?  Is reading for hours at end not healthy? What about writing, or playing an instrument?

Players become addicted, living to beat the game. Recently, there have been a number of deaths in Asia from playing video games for days at a time.

I think there were 3 reports of people playing until they died. That’s out of 100’s of millions of players.  It is inane of you to support your opinion with such shoddy statistics.  These players were predisposed to addiction!  Are you suggesting all players will become addicted? Are you suggesting there is no choice?  Playing a game equates with addiction?

Some kids even dress up as characters for Halloween, but often players do it just to look like or be the character. Is this healthy?

Yes.  I watch kids dress up like book characters all the time. When a person starts to identify with a game character, this is when we see troubles emerge. But this happens when the underlying psychology of the player is way off base, right? Do all players dress up like game characters? No.

Where is your moderation? Where is the “some games and some kids, and some times, and some types of violence” don’t mix thinking?

How many of our youth have become emotionally stunted from years of seclusion, unable to relate in normal fashion to the demands of ordinary social relationships?

How many of our


academics have become emotionally stunted from years of seclusion, unable to relate in normal fashion to the demands of ordinary social relationships?

Psychologists will be doing a brisk business. Eventually, the reclusive video-head must go to college, join the Army or get a job. But the only skill he or she possesses is the ability to rule a world littered with death and destruction, and perhaps a warped appreciation of classical music.

Yup. because when people play games, they are hopelessly tossed from their good-sense and life, only to be trapped in a fiery pit of utter damnation.

To be sure, not all video games peddle violence. Recently, manufacturers have been making learning consoles that teach kids math, English, science and other subjects. These games reinforce education in fun ways that a classroom might not be able to provide.

What? Educational games have been around for years!  I don’t think you’ve ever played games. Why are you writing about something you know nothing about?

If parents enforce rules that children should only play educational video games, we can mitigate the scourge of video ultraviolence.

If parents enforce rules that children should only play educational video games,

we can mitigate the scourge of video ultraviolence.

they will teach their kids to learn to hate a medium with revolutionary potential to change the way we learn and teach.

But parents are important to kids. What happens when kids don’t have parental guidance and support and clear. They suffer. But to say kids should only play educational games is myopic. What is an educational game, by the way?

There is plenty of room to design quests that involve strategic thinking toward moral, just and peaceful ends through concepts such as mutual understanding, negotiation, compromise and peacemaking. We hope such games will attract more girl players.

Yup. There are tons of great games which do this. To bad you don’t know about them.  Ever heard of the Sims?  Civilization? Sim City?

Say, how about developing an Internet game called Peace in the Middle East. Let’s project the energies of teens and tweens the world over in solving the most intractable problem of our age. Now that’s a quest.

Say, how about taking 5 minutes and thinking before you start writing.


You have written a poorly researched, overly broad, general op-ed piece with little basis in reality.  You have no clear knowledge about computer games, and have even less about the effects of games and violence.

The issue of games and violence is important. SOME kids playing SOME games in SOME ways will SOMEtimes be effected in SOME ways by the violence in them. This article does nothing to further the intelligent discourse on games in education with the only exception to demonstrate how not to talk about games in education.