LET’S TALK GAMES

Screenshot from CNN Report (CNN, 2018)

While gaming has been there since the 70s, it wasn’t as powerful as today. Nowadays, with more than 2.3 billion active gamers (Wijman, 2018), we recognize a community for Gamers and there’s a whole debate over the ethics that this community follows on its blogs and whether this behavior is affected by the video games they play. Video Games, indeed, cover an important time from their daily routine and might become a person’s most addictive activity since a very earlyage, so shouldn’t we focus on its content and its effect on a young person’s mind?

A study done at the Georgia State University found that people who had low leadership experiences improved their team communication skills with their involvement in the online gaming community (Jagad, 2011, p 34). However, the problem isn’t with the way that the games are being played which is very progressive but with their content. The ESA’s report reveals the top 20 best-selling video games of 2013 with GTA 5 on the top and many others following it from the same violent nature (ESA, 2014, p 11). The realistic-looking game “Grand Theft Auto V”, or GTA 5, has violence as its core element and involves a lot of sexism within its structure. It is clear that despite the criticism, the game has a lot of positive sides like the use of the latest technology to create high definition locations, and an innovative structure to switch between three independent protagonists. GTA 5 is an open world in which three guys interchangeably explore Los Santos while accomplishing some exciting missions or discovering some unrevealed sides of the game. Games blogger Carolyn Petit critiques on Gamespot website, the game’s unnecessary misogyny while still giving it a 4/5 rating: “GTA V has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.” (Petit, 2013).

Violence and misogyny in games like GTA 5 might be unexcused but isn’t the game protected by Freedom of Speech like any other audiovisual material? In what ways are games different from films or publications and should they have more severe restrictions?

A comparison of GTA versions (Kotaku, 2013)

On February 22, 2018, after the Florida school shootings, President Trump announced that the level of violence in video games and movies has a negative influence on kids and should be treated. However, many disapprove such as Samuel Zeif, a survivor from the shooting, who believes Trump’s argument is just a distraction, (CNN, 2018) and Dr. Louis Kraus, a child psychiatrist, who believes video games aren’t correlated with gun violence. (Associated Press, 2018). Furthermore, a study by the American Psychological Association finds insufficient research to link violent video game play to criminal violence but links it to increased aggression in players (APA Task Force on Violent Media, 2015, p16). Psychological studies are numerous when it comes to this issue, but it is clear that children should not be exposed to it as signaled by the label “Mature-Content Rated”. Even when accessing the official website of the game, the user is asked to declare their birth date to prove that they’re over 18, the legal age to play the game.

Therefore, adults should be fully capable of making a distinction between the real and the virtual and play the game without being affected by the violence. However, violence doesn’t seem to be the only issue with the game. In 2014, Australia’s Target and Kmart removed GTA 5 from their stores because of customers’ feedback about explicit violence against women (Stuart, 2014). Also, the game was released in Japan with several edits made to its most sexual and violent aspects. As mentioned on the gaming website Kotaku, genitals are covered by outfits, sex scenes are edited out, sex scandals are replaced by smoking scandals and so on. What seemed to be the most interesting edit is the elimination of interactive abilities when reaching the torture scene: the player can watch but does not get to take any choice about the actions. (Kotaku, 2013).

The elimination of the interactive abilities reminds us of the difference between films, publications, and games. Many researchers believe the effect will be reduced if the torture is being watched but the user doesn’t get to engage in it by taking a choice (Pawar, nd, p 8). A contradictory argument goes in favor of the assimilation of gaming to catharsis by which the player could be relieved from a criminal fantasy by achieving it in a video game: a study found that children who played the violent video game were less defensive while others tend to blame others and deny any wrongdoings when frustrated (Pawar, nd, p5).

A study about gamers in 2013 (ESA, 2014)

In 2011, while many tried banning the sales of violent video games to children in California, the case was closed and the sales were protected under the First Amendment due to the lack of clarity and research about their effect on minors (Mathews, 2015). For that reason, we can’t oblige gaming companies to make major changes to their games, but we can request a more inclusive gamers community for women and minorities in addition to other adaptations.

Screenshot of Haifa Wehbe in Invasion (ET BelArabi, 2017)

While women contribute to 48% of gamers worldwide (ESA, 2014, p3), they still get sexist attacks on gamers blogs. If games such as GTA 5 had female characters and female designers, the gamers community might become more inclusive and less of a male-only space for misogyny. In 2017, WIZZO chooses the female Middle-Eastern artist, Haifa Wehbe, to promote the new update of the war game “Invasion”. Moreover, with this update comes also several other female characters to choose while playing which encourages female players to engage more inclusively in the game (ET BelArabi, 2017).

Furthermore, many players opt for games like “Call of Duty — Black Ops 4” over GTA 5, for the protagonists aren’t human so, it feels more surreal and for that reason, the violence in it is more alienated from reality. While GTA is located in a replica of Los Angeles city, the other game is about machines and zombies (Mamiit, 2018).

While violence isn’t an argument to ban a game, many countries have stopped the sales of several video games over the time because of political reasons. Cuba stopped Call of Duty because of a mission in its eight-title franchise that dictated to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Also, Australian law prohibits video games that promote any illegal activity which could be as simple as graffiti. Moreover, Germany prohibits any game that uses Nazi imagery or symbols even if they’re portrayed as the antagonists. (PRI, 2010).

A still from GTA 5 (Stuart, 2014)

In an era when Virtual Reality Games are almost going to knock our doors to become regular household entertainment, the effect of regular video games hasn’t been thoroughly researched yet. This wait might be dangerous and is worth taking some precautions when it comes to the younger ones playing with these well-constructed games. Companies might have the privilege of the First Amendment to preserve their freedom of creation, but parents have no excuse in lacking surveillance to their kids playing Adult-rated games. While we can’t really ban every discriminatory game, it would be interesting to look for games that encourage a more inclusive community and there are plenty of them out there.

REFERENCES:

APA Task Force on Violent Media. (2015). Technical report on the review of the violent video game literature. (p 16) Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/families/violent-media.aspx

Associated Press. (2018, March 08). Psychiatrist: Video Game Focus a ‘Red Herring’. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ2Rjwj1ZMg

CNN. (2018, February 22). Trump blames video games, movies for violence. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RKZn2Sf7bo

ESA. (2014, April). The 2014 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry was released by the entertainment Software association. (pp 3–11) Retrieved from http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ESA_EF_2014.pdf

ET BelArabi. (2017, October 18). Haifa Wehbe in an Action Game. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6bWYjIaUy8

Jagad, L. (2011). Online Gaming and Teamwork. (p 34) Retrieved from https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1079&context=communication_theses

Kotaku. (2013, October 25). How GTA V Was Changed For Japan. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmZgOfBRZn0

Mamiit, A. (2018, November 11). Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Zombies Secrets Revealed by Fired Treyarch Employee. Retrieved from https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/call-of-duty-black-ops-4-zombies-secrets-revealed/

Mathews, R. (2015). Ethical Responsibility of Video Game Manufacturers. Hearst Newspaper.

Pawar, K. (n.d.). Video Game Violence: Is there any Truth to the Catharsis Hypothesis? (pp. 5–8) Retrieved from http://www.psychology.nottingham.ac.uk/staff/ddc/c8cxpa/further/Dissertation_examples/Pawar_15.pdf

Petit, C. (2013, September 16). Grand Theft Auto V Review. Retrieved from https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/grand-theft-auto-v-review/1900-6414475/

PRI. (2010). Blacklisted: The world’s banned video games. Retrieved from https://www.pri.org/stories/2010-12-29/blacklisted-worlds-banned-video-games

Stuart, K. (2014, December 03). Grand Theft Auto 5 banned by Australian chain due to violence against women. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/dec/03/australian-store-bans-grand-theft-auto-5-violence-against-women

Wijman, T. (2018, June 20). Newzoo’s 2018 Report: Insights Into the $137.9 Billion Global Games Market. Retrieved from https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/newzoos-2018-report-insights-into-the-137-9-billion-global-games-market/

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