Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Games & The Killer Instinct

So yesterday, I was meeting with a group of fellow gamers. We have a group that meets to discuss how we can integrate gaming theory into educational settings. (Yes, this is 73 Percent Nerd for a reason).

This group is made up of primarily traditional gamers who like such diversions as World of Warcraft, Diablo, Guild Wars, console games and the like. More recently, we have added folks who play all sorts of games from old school board games and card games to the newer smartphone-based app-style games.

One such member expressed a concern over video game violence. We were discussing the new WOW expansion and it rolled straight into a conversation on the various approaches we employ as we play the game. Our non-MMORPG friend was clearly horrified at the casual way we discussed dispatching thousands of mobs and even chuckled at the thought of how easy it was to seek revenge on those elite mobs that had thwarted us on the ladder to level 85. (Blog note: if any of this 'graph is not making sense to you, it's okay. We will pick you up in the next one)

Hearing such gleeful banter about smiting foes and leveling hapless opposing armies, our non-MMORPG colleague had to (ironically) enter the fray.

Non-MMORPG: I don't know about all that violence. It's sick.

Guild warrior:      Well, there's no blood.

Non-MMORPG: Oh great, so then kids learn all about killing without the consequences of killing?

Guild warrior:      0_o

Okay, so awkward, right? Well, as it turns out, our friend, since she is our friend after all, emailed us all to say that she had had a think about it and she felt bad. She did not mean to judge us and realized that she was guilty of slaying a few hundred zombies and/or plants herself.

As with many things in the media, and especially technology related, video games become a target whenever acts of violence erupt. However, as many people before me have pointed out, if simply witnessing violent acts, watching violent movies or playing violent video games made people violent, then we should have riots every single day.

Maybe our over sensitivity to violence is an ironic reflection of how peaceful our lives actually are. Year in and year out, we get statistics that tell us that we all perceive our country to be far more violent than it actually is. Those of us who have studied media know that the incidence of actual crime is far lower than the perception of those crimes based on media influence. (Good article here: http://crimeinamerica.net/2010/03/17/does-local-television-news-mislead-the-public-about-crime/ )

There is one interesting statistic I like to trot out when a friend starts to worry unnecessarily about being murdered on a business trip to a new city. I tell them that they are 5 times more likely to be murdered by someone they know than a stranger jumping out of the bushes. http://www.top5ofanything.com/index.php?h=8a1bf3d1

I once mentioned this to a friend whose college-aged daughter was hiking the national parks on the West Coast with a new beau. I ended with, "If I were you, I would be far more worried about the boyfriend."

This did not go over well.

The point is that it has been decades, if not centuries, of society blaming other parts of society for making people violent. The truth is that the jury is still out on the actual effect these diversions have on any one individual's violent acts.

More to the point of games and violence is that this exchange among my friend highlights that we truly don't believe there is a connection between video games violence and actual violence. If there really was a connection between violent games and people being violent, wouldn't it be foolish to antagonize them? As our colleague illustrated, no such fear exists. After all when was the last time you heard someone say, "Don't mess with Billy. He's really good at playing Mortal Kombat?"

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