Magazine article Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology

Violence, Games & Art (Part 1)

Magazine article Technos: Quarterly for Education and Technology

Violence, Games & Art (Part 1)

Article excerpt

`One of the most difficult tasks people can perform, however much others may despite it, is the invention of good games ...' * Carl G. Jung

What this column is not about is whether computer games have an effect on human behavior. All media have an effect on human behavior; otherwise, why would we have advertising budgets in the billions? Why would the WB channel feature an iMac in every other scene? Why would most of America be wearing NIKE's Air Jordans? Media are always about making an effect with a point of view. Some points of view are deadly serious, some are humorous, some are frivolous, and some are just plan dumb. Some points of view are well-constructed, logical arguments; some points of view have no logical consistency. Media in all forms can move people to consider things they had not considered before. But media cannot take over a mind and make anyone do something he's not predisposed to do. Media are, at best, a nudge.


In 1969, Simplemente Maria, a Peruvian television soap opera, aired. This was a Cinderella story about a household domestic who buys a Singer Sewing machine, learns to sew, and changes her life. This was television; it was not real life. But this show became very popular ... a lot of Singer Sewing machines were sold as an unexpected result of the show. Mafia, who was trying to take charge of her life and raise her standard of living, was a woman many other women could identify with. She showed them a reasonable way to change their lives, so they followed Mafia's example -- and bought sewing machines.

Recently, the movie A Clockwork Orange was re-released for the first time in 25 years in British theaters. In 1975, just after the movie premiered, a street person was kicked to death by a 16 year old in the same manner as depicted in Stanley Kubrick's movie. Kubrick received death threats and felt responsible, so he pulled the movie from distribution. But it turned out that the person responsible for the brutal killing had not seen the movie; he had read Anthony Burgess's book, on which the movie was based. In this case, you might say, the book "inspired" the killing.

Supposedly, the computer game Doom was the game favored by the Littleton, Colorado, shooters. Violent video and computer games had already been implicated in school shootings in Bethel, AL; Paducah, KY; and Jonesboro, AR. After it was learned that one of the perpetrators of the Columbine High School killings was an avid player of Doom, there was an immediate call for action on many fronts. The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into the marketing practices of game producers and distributors. Hearings were held in Congress, in state legislatures, and in town halls. There were discussions about the effects of games on talk radio, talk TV, and over kitchen tables across America. Practically every major newspaper and magazine in the country started paying closer attention to the impact of violent video games with feature articles. A rash of legislative proposals to control violent games was introduced in a number of states.

The media seem to have implicated Doom and other "first-person shooters" (fps) in a number of shootings around the country. It seems that if any shooting involving anyone who is white, between the ages of 12 and 18, with even a hint of computer game playing in the story w a variation of Flip Wilson's old "the-devil-made-me-do-it" routine gets trotted out as "the-game-made-me-do-it." One "expert" who does not play or even own computer games was quoted to the effect that "we have a problem in society, and the problem is the computer game."

This has always amazed me since it seems like we have a pretty good gedankenexperiment going on between the United States and Canada. Essentially, we have the same culture and we "consume" the same media in the same amounts. The obvious variable is that there are about 270,000,000 guns running freely through U. …

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