Every time a new entertainment medium arises, a select segment of the human population will rail against it for content deemed inappropriate. By reflecting the true nature of humanity new platforms invoke the ire of those who feel obliged to protect others from what they view as a new affront to their morality.
Throughout the last decade video games were the medium that took the most abuse from these crusaders. As games such as the Grand Theft Auto series became more realistic, the violence contained within them hit harder and the outcry against them grew louder.
Now, however, much of the criticism of the games industry seems to be dying down. The latest Grand Theft Auto game contained a visceral, interactive torture scene that barely managed to raise an outcry at all. This is a demonstrable sign of what a new study has found with regards to violent video game criticism.
The study, to be presented at an International Communication Association conference in May, has shown that violence in video games is now becoming more accepted.
“Early in the ’90s, when video games were still a relatively new medium, journalists expressed quite a bit of concern about the level of violence in many of the games,” said Greg Perreault, lead author of the study and a doctoral studen at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “It is interesting because the simulated violence in these games was so mild relative to modern-day games.”
Perreault looked to GamePro Magazine, one of the most popular gaming magazines of the 90s, to see how the stance toward violent video games has changed over time. He found that gaming journalists’ concerns over violence in video games has tended to subside, even as the graphic nature of video games has increased. This trend also coincides with the aging of gamers who began as children but are now adults with adult tastes.
The study also found that the gaming community now uses the industry’s rating system as a defense against violent video game criticism. This is despite the fact that many gamers spoke out against the rating system when it was first proposed.
“As more and more parents and outside sources criticize violent games, gamers and gaming journalists point to the rating system and say that parents should not allow their kids to play violent games with explicit ratings,” said Perreault. “Ultimately, the trend in violent games is a reflection of what interests our society. Similar trends can be found in the increased number of ‘R’ rated movies as well as the popularity of gangster rap and other violent music. Video games are just another way our culture is expressing itself.”
Image via Activision