End of the road for violent games?

April 29, 2008

grand-theft-auto-iv.jpg“We make games for the people that play them. We don’t make them for the Daily Mail.”

So says Dan Houser, the producer who co-created the Grand Theft Auto computer game series, one of the most successful of all time.

While sales have gone through the roof, the gangster game has attracted waves of criticism from newspapers, parents’ groups and politicians, including Hillary Clinton.

She says the series demeans women and contributes to a “silent epidemic” of sex and violence in the media that could harm children.

“They’re playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them. You know, that’s kind of hard to digest,” she said in a speech in 2005.

With the fourth instalment finally here, Houser is unrepentant about its trademark mix of fights, car-jacking and bad language and says computer games are unfairly singled out for criticism.

Violent TV shows like “The Sopranos” or films like “The Godfather” win handfuls of awards, while games with adult themes come under intense fire, he says.

“Most of it’s just Ludditism and people having a fear of things they don’t understand,” he said in an interview. “We see games as being an emergent art form…that will eventually supplant or challenge movies.”

Supporters say there is no established link between computer games and violent behaviour.

And anyway, games with adult content are given a rating which means shops can’t sell them to children.

Do you think there should be stricter controls on violent video games or is the focus on games rather than TV, films and the Internet unwarranted?


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I have researched it and it is quite true that there has been no causal link between playing violent video games and real-life violent behaviour. Games should be rated and regulated just like movies and music. Games are a new, (often very) immature, but viable art form. They are the comic books, rock-n-roll, jazz, and “perverted” abstract art of our time. Those who are so histrionic about how they decay youth will be embarrassed when the next generation looks back on all the fuss.

If you think the movie Pulp Fiction should have been banned, then go ahead and say GTA 4 should be banned. Otherwise, play the game before stating your opinion that it should be banned from adults who want to play something befitting their age.

Posted by Matthew Ford | Report as abusive

All the bad press that the GTA franchise has always received from the media and from politicians is just revolting. The fact of the matter is, people love the Grand Theft Auto series, and politicians are supposed to be the peoples representation in the government. So if the people love the game, then the government should have no authority to say otherwise!

Censorship in all it’s forms is a terrible terrible thing. I’m dumbfounded that a country founded on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press is actually considering banning violent video games. Luckily I picked up my copy right away before anything crazy like this is actually enacted!

Posted by Alex Chanin | Report as abusive

All the news articles about this game result in nothing more then free advertisement. Proving “There’s no such thing as bad press”. The game will be a huge success, had this game arrived unnoticed it would have had a chance for failure.

Posted by Ed Smith | Report as abusive

If humans were not born so completely ignorant, then censorship wouldn’t be so much of an issue. The problem is too complex for the 3 minutes that I have but the heart of it lays within removing it from the minds of the young without allowing it to become cool in its badness. The best solution (simplist) is to remove it. What artistic statement couild possibly be made in the fictional world of GTA? are you starting to search for one now?

Posted by Jacob | Report as abusive

The research showing correlations between exposure to violent media and behavioural problems (including violence against partners) is emerging and is most likely correct. The likely reason this area has not been extensively researched to date is the same as for other longitudinal research — lack of funding, the need for substantively large samples, and the complexities of statistically controlling for other factors that accompany adolescent development. The hypothesis that the enjoyment of vicarious violence (e.g., fantasised violence) and the tendency to engage in actual violence is rational. Violent video games as well as “horror” films and films celebrating violence are likely harmful for the development of character. Whether these forms of entertainment should be controlled or banned is a socio-political question, not a scientific one.

Posted by Ansom | Report as abusive

I think that the law is fine. NO one over 18 can buy the game and there is nothing wrong with that. At the age of 18, every kid should be plenty mature to know rigt from wrong and make wise decisions. I think that parents blow things way out of proportion and if they are worried about their younger kid be controlled by a video game, then they should be parents and make sure their kid doesnt play it. Parents aren’t there for their kids anymore. Maybe if they explained the game to their kids instead of just waiting for something bad to happen or just saying NO to the kid (which will want him to play it even more) they just explain the situation. Kids don’t know unless they are told and parents think other people like schools should teach kids everything!!

Posted by Mike Smith | Report as abusive

All boys play war, very few grow up and want to be in one. Those with a propensity to violence will be violent and a video game is not going to change that one way or another.

Posted by Jimmy Parish | Report as abusive

I dont understand…..why cant an honest man make an honest buck? Just look at the sales – no one buying seems to mind the violence, so who is? Politicians? Cuz politicians are not people.
What….we’re supposed to drink tea and pick flowers all day?!? No one can have fun anymore?

Posted by Marco | Report as abusive

I agree with Mike Smith. If this is such a big deal, then perhaps parents aren’t doing their job. Instead of banning anything remotely offensive and trying to change the world, it might be better to use these opportunities to teach children about right and wrong. Cursing, pornography and violence all present valuable lessons for a parent to teach a child. Answering questions about why something may be wrong is far better than simply banning it.

Posted by Dan M. | Report as abusive

I find Jacob’s comment “If humans were not born so completely ignorant, then censorship wouldn’t be so much of an issue” extremely patronising. Why should one man, or company/organisation be able to determine what is ok for us ‘completely ignorant humans’ and what should be censored? I think that the 18 certificate, and the packaging/advertising for the game clearly show what the game contains, enough for any responsible adult to make an informed decision on whether it is right for them (and educate their children about right and wrong). I have been playing both violent and non-violent computer games since I was 7. The first game I ever played involved small lemmings frequently being crushed by 10-tonne weights and falling off cliffs. One of the most recent games was Call of Duty 4, a violent, realistic 1st-person war game. I can honestly say I have never felt compelled to act the same way in the non-virtual world.

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Despite the fact that I have been playing video games for the past 20 odd years, I have never gotten the urge to jump up and bump my head on a brick ceiling to receive cash, shot at an armored Space Marine with a Biorifle, killed a fire-breathing Dragon to save a damsel in distress, nor pulled a driver out of a car and stole it to increase my high score. The reason for this outstanding accomplishment: all the abovementioned is part of FANTASY land.
Those who have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy are at odds with society and will find justification for their anti-social behavior. Whether it be virtual pixels in a video game or a long line at the post office. The issue here is personal responsibility, not statistics. Anyone familiar with research studies can recognize the inherent bias in them-i.e. you can fit/manipulate them to fit your purpose.
The same outcry happened in the eighties in regards to Heavy Metal music. Again,some parents wanted to relegate the responsibility of rearing their OWN flesh and blood to the record industry, the state, or their local politicians.
If it takes a video game to push you over the edge, there is an 800 lb. gorilla that brought you to that edge.

Posted by Saba | Report as abusive

The average age of video game players is now 26 – 29. Adults perfectly capable of deciding what kind of games they are comfortable playing. This is a generation gap issue. The older politicians are trying to “protect the children”.
Isn’t that the job of the parent/guardian? We don’t outlaw
alcohol because a parent out there might buy vodka for their
7 year olds birthday party. Get with it people, let the adults play.

Posted by John W. | Report as abusive

Everyone is right, however I would like to support the idea that people are being narrow minded and do not like what they dont understand. Video games that are labeled mature HAVE to be sold to adults just like rated R movies. All types of media should fall under critisism.

Posted by Joseph | Report as abusive

GTA is targeted because when I watch I relate to the victims. I look just like the victims. My wife’s clone is smacked in the face. Power Ranger girls getting smacked is not as upsetting as seeing my wife’s clone getting smacked. (or the rest of the actions). GTA promotes criminal activity instead of just hinting at criminal activity as others do. Put monsters in the cars, NOT ME!!!!!!

Posted by Larry Chadwel | Report as abusive

The problem is that parents are being a tad ignorant – their child asks for this game, and then the parent buys it for them for Christmas. Then, when they eventually find out the game content, they claim the violence could have damaged their children.

Where were they when the child was locked in their room for 4 hours a night playing this game? They were just happy the kid was “out of their hair” after work, happy to not have to deal with it. If they would do what a parent’s job is – to spend TIME with their child (even an hour a day) to find out what the child is doing and take responsiblity for their child’s development, then there would not be this outcry and realization. It’s far too easy to blame others.

Posted by Ashley S | Report as abusive


That’s nothing.

If you want gratuitous violence without even a hint of plot justification, try the ‘Postal’ family of games

Violence for violence’s sake; and all the better for it – What do I want to be troubled by a plot and goals for? I just want to kill people.

Posted by Blank Reg | Report as abusive

There are reports that go both ways relating to violence, video games, and the development of adolecenst teens. Video games are probably a small factor in determining how violent a teen will or will not be, but there are also many other factors like the child’s enviornment at home, where they live where they go to school. We also have to look at the fact that millions of kids play these games everyday for hours at a time and don’t get into as much as a pushing match with another kid, and a few get into fights or worse, so the question is, is it really the game or do we have people in this society that at a young age are predisposed to violence and one way or another it will eventually manifest itself?

Posted by Stephen Davis | Report as abusive

This is simply a digital movie where the player is the lead actor and director (and to some degree set designer). This particular game is gangster-themed, but it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a game that uses the same technology, but is perhaps a science-fiction, drama or even a romantic comedy theme!

I guarantee that in the future you will be able to play a game similar to “Sleepless in Seattle: The Game”

Posted by Hugh Dillon | Report as abusive

Actually some researches had shown games relive stress and keep children from playing real guns. Games are not to be blamed, but the parents and incompetent law makers are.

Posted by Doby | Report as abusive


Sad, sad, sad.

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

I play GTA after playing D&D and listening to Ozzy!

Seriously though, parents *must* take time to figure out what their kids are doing. Then educate them, talk to them, and reinforce comprehension of fantasy vs reality. Regulating what your child does is not up to the government, the content producers, stores, schools, or (independent?) ratings boards. It is up to the parents.

Posted by Chad | Report as abusive

What really sickens me is the complete hypocrisy of the people running this country. Does ANYONE remember when (lots of) middle school kids were getting (really) hurt because they were trying to recreate WWE (fake wrestling) moves? Remember how much was done to ban the WWE? That’s right, none. Nada. Zip. No one did a damn thing. But here comes a video game, and everyone freaks out. Not to mention, as someone mentioned, Postal was a far worse game and received NO criticism. The only reason GTA gets ragged on is because of its popularity. That makes me sick too, cause obviously it’s not about how “bad” it is, it’s about how popular it is.

Posted by SwissArmyBud | Report as abusive

Violence in video games is little different than other forms of violence. Whether a movie, music or video games violence should not be glorified. I can’t understand how any sane person would want to mimick shoot and killing. You are what you do.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

The average age of a gamer is 28. Perhaps the perception of games are for children could be expanded on if the industry was given enough trust to build something for adults without all the constraints of people who know nothing about nor play games – Yet demand to regulate what gamers play.

It would be like the TV and Film board mandating that films and TV shows can only be made for under 18’s.

Utterly ridiculous. Personal responsiblity for children is the main issue – not what the MIGHT see or MIGHT do – Turn off “Sex & The City” or “Desperate Housewives” or any modern combat sport and yell at your kids for playing that “violent rubbish”.

The hypocracy and inability to deal with or understand the industry should not be taken out on gamers. We’re not gun owners, we own consoles. If you can buy a gun in the US easier than you can buy GTA IV – Then what’s really the problem?

Posted by Josh | Report as abusive

It’s not the game or the genre or the media type that concerns me – this sort of stuff which panders to the lesser minds has been around for eons – I’m just not convinced that prolonged exposure to high levels of graphic violence and certain behaviour types is not bad for ones balance and attitude. I certainly see adolescents mimicking behaviour genres and dress codes regularly and, no doubt, the Police would have a negative view about the number of adolescents who steal cars and try to avoid aprehension by endangering all and sundry in mindless and sometimes fatal car chases.

But, at the end of the day, some kids read comics, some kids listen or play music some kids play sport, some kids study or work and some kids play video games…it’s not the games that I object to it’s the lowlife stereotyping that these games and the very clever suits who market them promote. Rusty.

Posted by rusty | Report as abusive

If your sooo concerned about things that induce violance in poeple, Ban Alcohol and Guns. Stop wars, than go play a video game

Posted by Pffff | Report as abusive

i don’t believe video games cause violence. yes some of them are a bit over the top but if anyone suggested banning violent games then whats to say that news about violence should not be banned from t.v as children will see that.

Whether there are violent games out there or not it won;t stop people from being violent.

Posted by m thompson | Report as abusive

Animals are violent and kill each other sometimes… and they certainly don’t play video games!

Posted by Matt | Report as abusive

Yes, the violence in video games has been shown in studies to “normalize” killing for people who play them frequently. These games are much more realistic than the video games played 20 years ago and more realistic than a couple of young kids playing “cops and robbers” outdoors. I know of teens who come home from school playing these video games for hours with no supervision. I have no problem keeping these games from my kid, but I am worried about others from her generation being desensitized to violence. How will I protect my daughter from the next kid who decides to shoot up a school, or carjack a young woman at gunpoint? There is no need for these games to be on the market. The gaming companies are choosing money and greed over social responsibility.

Posted by Jennifer | Report as abusive

I think that there should be a firm control on violent video games. Nowadays, I think not many people play backgammon nor chess sets. They are into digital games and needless to add most are addicted to computers.

Posted by chesssetsuk | Report as abusive