Those who know me know that I like to play video games. I like a variety of games, as the list of my favourite Xbox games shows, as well as many 360 games, such as Dead Rising, Oblivion, Mass Effect, Rainbow 6 Vegas and other games more commonly referred to as ‘kiddie games’.
I have been known to play through the entire night, on occasion even weekends when a new title I have been anticipating gets released and I don’t even want to think about how many hours I have spent on Halo 2 or Rainbow 6 Vegas combined over the years. In fact, I realised the other day that it had been two years since I had last played Halo 2 yet could still remember the locations and spawn times over every single weapon on all the Halo 2 maps [with the exception of Waterworks that is!], including specific strategies.
In addition to that I read about video games, listen to some video game music, talk about video games and have worked in the video games industry and will most likely do so again.
I have written about games politics on this blog before; once praising the state of Delaware launching a campaign to make parents aware that games carry ratings and another time on how Germany passed a new legislation disallowing games on the index to be advertised in shops back in May 2008.
It was speculated among people on Twitter early during the first news of the shooting In Winnenden that somehow games would be blamed for this and whilst it initially seemed like they were wrong and fellow students mentioned how he never had much to do with computers this soon changed and suddenly video games are everything people talk about.
Cue the arrival of the ‘usual suspects’ and right at the front of it all Christian Pfeiffer [do yourself a favour and read his Wikipedia article!] who I strongly believe to be someone on his path to becoming the German Jack Thompson. Coincidentally he has just completed a study into the behaviour of teens which has concluded that 15 year olds play around two hours a day on the computer, ergo addicted and are also xenophobic and prone to violence.
However, unsurprisingly all concentration since the weekend is on video games. Every now and then I hear in a debate the quiet whispers of ‘We’re still looking into gun laws’, but the majority of the media is about gaming. For example, the radio news in the late afternoon only briefly mentioned the letter Tim K’s parents had written yet spent a considerably longer amount on gaming addiction. Also curious where all the different outlets are suddenly finding all the supposed game addicts.
Phoenix, one of the political news channels in Germany, has dedicated much of yesterday’s programming on the issue of video games by calling up experts, broadcasting live from several press conferences and having discussion rounds. These are some of my tweets during the press conference and a documentation from 2007 [Gewalt spielen] that Phoenix broadcasted:
- Far Cry 2 a more brutal game than Counter Strike?
- Anyone in Germany interested in games should watch the pressconference on Phoenix and shake their head in disbelief..
- Yeah, right.. A documentary about gaming with a ten years old playing GTA SA. Cause it’s the game’s fault, not the retailer, obvs. /sarc
- Another: “I broke a kid’s jaw just ’cause.” He DIDN’T say he played games, so what’s that got to do in a documentary about violent games!?
- LOL: “He also plays real violent games” as they’re showing King Kong [that linear game to the film] and Jedi Academy in the background.
- “I want to feel like a man, so I play shooting games.” Just where did they find these people?!
- Kid’s theatre: ten kids all pretend to stab each other [Macbeth], somehow that’s meant to be better than playing a game? Really? How?!
And about a discussion group later on:
- Christian Pfeiffer is the German Jack Thompson..
- Apparently STALKER confuses history. I thought that game was set in the future in a different reality?!
- @capo42 It was yet anther joke. Pfeiffer, some random ex addict who wants to ban games, two defending games, but host didn’t give them much.
I have yet to see gamers make much of an impact in any of the documentaries or reports I’ve seen, this whole situation is again just people talking about gamers and not with them and journalists are scrambling to get anything together leading to badly done documentaries that don’t help the situation. Tell any gamer that King Kong is a ‘real violent’ game and they’ll laugh as a vast majority of us has seen much worse from BioShock to GTA to games depicting any of the wars.
Yet it seems like there’s not much coming from the gamer community. I see silent protests everywhere from gaming accessory companies giving away free T-shirts ["I don't vote game killers"] to flickr groups in which people post pictures of themselves with captions [For example: "I have killed many people with shotguns in Halo. I have never killed anyone in real life. Not because there are no people. There are no guns. Not in my life"], but nothing that substantial enough.
Gamers just have this instinct to get defensive everytime the topic turns to gaming which perhaps is a result of ongoing bitter console wars or perhaps it’s just a sign that they feel misunderstood by society at large that has yet again pointed the finger at them. Some reactions I’ve read on blogposts and internet forums over the last days have also been discraceful and almost made me ashamed to be a gamer. Some gamers just use expletives, others talk about illegally importing all future games and the like. How can gamers expect to be taken seriously if there are so many bad apples in our midst?
On the other hand I, too, have been getting angry at some of the comments I’ve heard over the last days from the people wishing to ban/restrict games, however that is mainly just aimed at the ignorance and uneducated nature of them. Some examples:
- Several programs claimed that the driving force behind gaming is that gamers are able to be God-like, control life and death, feel powerful and reign destruction all of which are things I wouldn’t even place on the list of top ten reasons why I game.
- It’s been mentioned that gamers have less social contact which I’m sure has been true at some point, but with more and more people having access to the internet and online gaming I believe that’s something that isn’t true any more.
- According to a documentary people playing games waste their time which may be true for some games [I do not believe Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing has any redeeming features, sorry!] yet not for most others. Sure, some see Counter Strike as a simple game to practice headshots, others will see it as a game that teaches communication, tactics, judging of situations and most of all teamwork.
- The fact people make up games that don’t exist, such as the game that pays 35000USD extra for letting someone bleed to death or where cutting off every limb with a chainsaw gives extra points.
- Specifically citing blackmailing/beating up shopkeepers in The Godfather as bad which after all is taken from a [arguably] Hollywood classic from 1972?
The main problem at the moment is, however, that the whole situation is nothing but everyone running around like headless chickens. A boy or rather teenager has gone and killed 15 people and committed suicide. People are scared as nothing appeared to be wrong with him and I doubt we will ever find out the real reasons behind his motives which can be anything or nothing.
Gaming isn’t a mainstream past time, most people don’t have access to a high end PC or consoles and it is a foreign concept to them meaning gaming has to be explained to them and gamers have to act responsibly and not just blindly defend their stance. It is still a new industry and people have a right to ask why there have been an increased number of shootings or stabbings in recent years when gaming has only now become so popular and weapons have been around centuries.
That’s why I do think gamers have to do a better job at, well, being gamers. There have been over 35 studies in the last years about the effects of video games and whilst most have been inconclusive some others have proven games increase the level of tolerance with violence or increase aggressiveness. Sure, others at the same time have disproven any findings.
Gamers have to participate in future studies, it is our responsibility to educate others about our hobby, just like it is the repsonsibility of many game companies. Active approach, active positive explanation of games needs to happen from gamers who have to enter this discussion with the politicians and the groups that are against gaming.
And at the same time all those calling for measures need to listen. The whole situation currently is a big mess with politicians abusing the fact it’s a major election year for their own purpose by demanding and condemmning whatever comes to their minds. Germany already has the strictest gaming laws in Europe and many games available in other countries aren’t available here and whilst many gamers would like games to be seen as culture they know not every game deserves to be called that just like a dime novel isn’t a great work of literature. Rushing into action without fully investigating the entire background of the shootings and having discussions about this isn’t what you have been elected for by the people.
I have to admit I’ve been finding it difficult writing this post as there has simply been too much information in the last days and I have not been sure what my opinion on the matter is. I don’t think the attitude of some gamers in defending every game blindly is commendable as there are many games I wouldn’t consider enrich anything, yet of course the same can be said from films. And others are works of art and again, the same can be said about films.
Some games are taking it a bit far; I was honestly shocked by Manhunt and have not played the second one and there have been moments during Condemned that have affected me a lot, although I have always been a ‘jumpy’ person and do not watch horrofilms. And there are gamers that actively wish their games to have more blood or graphical content which could be considered questionable.
And I feel rather angry at being chucked in this big pot of people that play games and having to be told I just play games to feel like God. Yes, I play a lot of games, but that’s not everything. I’m still an individual person with many interests including knitting [One day I'll blog about that, too. Maybe if they talk about banning wool soon..] or reading books.
And I hope that a tweet I made yesterday will not be true..
Mark my words: A large number of videogames [16+] will be banned in Germany by the end of 2009.
Some further reading touching up on things I’ve mentioned [some links are in German and you'll have to use a translator]:
- World of Bullshit [taz]
- Zu schnell geschossen [Die Zeit]
- Winnenden und der Mörder, der nicht in den Kram passt [Handelsblatt]
- Amok Koma [Spreeblick]
- Streit über Computerspiele neu entbrannt: “Killerspiele sind Pornos für die männliche Aggressivität” [Tagesschau.de]
- Comment: German shooting linked to Far Cry 2. Really? [Gamezine.co.uk]
- Violent Video Game ban requested in Germany [Gamezine.co.uk]
- Why Do Americans Own Guns Again? Teen Kills Mother Over Halo 3 [Gamezine.co.uk]
- Merkel für unangekündigte Kontrollen bei Waffenbesitzern [Spiegel Online]
- Programmhinweis [Stigma Videospiele]
- Killerspielverbot: Bayern entscheided Donnerstag [Stigma Videospiele]
- Sind Computerspiele „Kulturgüter“ oder handelt es sich hierbei um „Schund“? [Deutscher Kulturrat] [.pdf book download]
- Jeder siebte Jugendliche “sehr” ausländerfeindlich [Welt.de]
- Einen Amoklauf lernt man nicht durch Counterstrike [Welt.de]
- Neuntklässler spielen täglich 130 Minuten am PC [Welt.de]
- Niedersachsen drängt auf strengere Altersfreigabe [Haz.de]
- Schäuble: “Was läuft schief in unserer Gesellschaft?” [Deutschlandfunk]
- Schluss mit dem Gewalt-Tabu [Pfarrer Thomas Hartmann]
- Gehet hin und prügelt euch [Focus.de]
- Games do not kill. Guns do.
- “Ich wähle keine Spielekiller” [3Dsupply]
- Computerspiele unter Beschuss [piratenbrandenburg.de]
- Winnenden und die Schuld der Medien [Spiegelfechter.de]
- Researchers Suspect “Perfect Storm” of Political Opportunism in Game Violence Studies [Game Politics]
- Wird sich die Gesellschaft zu einem wirksamen Jugendschutz durchringen? [Zeit Fragen]
- Amoklauf durch Gewaltspiele? [Krawall Gaming Network]
- KFN profile for Christian Pfeiffer [KFN.de]
- Malte Behrmann, Vorsitzender GAME e.v. [Malte-Behrmann.de]
- Armin Laschet
- “Wir verkaufen nicht an Amokläufer!” [Bam-Stevinho.de]
- Wieder die ‘Killerspiele’ [Gamestar.de]
- Was Sie über Videospiele wissen müssen [Stern.tv]
- Über GTA und Aggression [dreisechig.net]