When it comes to video games society seems to be obsessed with the content, but not necessarily whether the story is well-structured or the characters realistic. There is always a concern that any video game that hints at violence will do one thing, and one thing only: Make the people who play them violent. In today’s society, even the legal system is concerned with the question of how much government should protect its people from offensive material. According to reports, more than 85% of video games on the market contain some form of violence. The controversy surrounding topics such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Manhunt have made the games almost infamous for the violence and aggression that they show throughout game play.
The ‘No Russian’ starting level of Cal of Duty: Modern Warfare where the player is asked to gun down an entire airport.
However there could be debate over what exactly is deemed ‘offensive’ material: Are guns necessarily offensive, when places such as America deem it a fundamental right to be allowed to own them in your home? Is violence offensive, when sport shows such as MMA and cage fighting get higher ratings when they show more bloodshed? Is sex offensive, when series such as Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight and Game of Thrones draw in huge numbers of viewers with drawn out sex scenes and naked women? It can be drawn from simple common sense that the majority of these answers are based on individual preferences, as what offends one person can be relatively innocent to another and it is this balance along the spectrum that government needs to be wary of.
Naturally, there are games that are a no-go for anyone: Games that promote rape (such as the Japanese released Rapelay) or make a mockery out of current social tragedies (such as V-Tech Rampage) very clearly should not be allowed in the public domain as they are quite obviously only there to incite offense and upset, and not to provide a gaming experience. But with many games around today, violence is very much integral to the overall story that the game is trying to tell, with many containing an option to commit no violence throughout all of it. In the newly released Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, it is possible to simply run away from the majority of monsters and trap them in rooms so as to avoid having to shoot them point-blank with a shot gun.
The majority of games that have violent characteristics contain these features because they are based on (although admittedly they are exaggerated) real life situations: Call of Duty is a game built around war and so violence is unavoidable, while Outlast and Resident Evil are games inspired by horror and survival. In many action and adventure games such as the ones mentioned above, part of their whole appeal is the use of large guns and multiple explosive devices, if nothing else but to progress the story on with a rush of adrenaline and excitement to keep the player wanting to play more. The undeniable success of games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto show that the demand for these types of games has risen over the years, but it seems somewhat pessimistic to assume that this is because video game players are becoming more aggressive, more violent and more masochistic.
Anyone who has played a video game understands the thrill of a video game: For that time of game play, you are transported into a different world, living a different life with different goals. People who enjoy reading say that they enjoy the imagination of books and the ability of a good book to transport you to a new realm, so why can the same not apply for video games? Video games have become an integral part of our society and in 2016, the majority of people under the age of 30 were too busy running around outside trying to catch Pokemon through the Pokemon Go mobile app game to even think about violence or crimes.
Furthermore, it could be seen as condescending that the government simply assumes that video game players are mindless beings who are easily influenced: An average person won’t go out and steal a car just because they played Grand Theft Auto. If someone wants to commit violence, the fact that they play video games is irrelevant. Research has shown that while video games can increase levels of aggression, it also stated that this can only be problematic in situations of already heightened aggression due to personality type, family life, social factors and other such factors. Due to this, if a person does feel the need to express their frustrations or their fetishes in a violent manner, surely allowing them to do so in a virtual manner is a better solution than having them attack someone in real life. Perhaps that is why video games are as popular as they are, because they allow people to experience different walks of life without any consequences of their actions: Most people wonder what it would feel like to commit crime but are stopped by the fear of getting caught and, most effectively, going to prison. Therefore they play these games to see what it could be like, without having to actually step into the real world to do so.
It is clear that while video games may possess aspects that people find offensive, it is also clear that there is a huge demand for games that allow people to experience things that they never would in everyday life. Government needs to keep this all in mind when deciding just how much ‘protection’ they need to give to its people, as to some members of society these video games may be the only release they get that doesn’t involve actual harm or violence to other people.