Why games are still violent, but we’ve moved on

One of the sites I subscribe to is The Brainy Gamer. The latest post talks about Xbox’s E3 presentation in terms of what what said and shown. It’s almost impossible to get information like this from the traditional ‘halls’ of Nordic and American game-scholars and I urge you to take a look.

What is interesting (to me: my blog: my interest) is how difficult the games-industry finds the process of dissemination when the audience are masters of social-reproduction. The audience are all experts, and worse, they share a depth of knowledge which they share instantly in response to almost every announcement and gaff. As much as the culture wants XBONE and Next Gen to be amazing, they hold everyone to the highest possible account. A post such as this is a great example of just how much gamers undertake critical analysis at every opportunity — and surely a skills every classroom says it wants to attain.

More interestingly is that over half of XBONE’s presentation was violent. In over fifty years and five thousand studies about media violence, there still in no clear connection between smashing Orcs in a game and actual violent behavior as a result of — smashing Orcs. In the work people are doing about games and society, the post-Nordic school still encounters ‘media violence’ arguments from the small number of psychologists who actively believe it to be true – the conversation is no longer about what media (games) do to use, and more about how we use media (games) in everyday life.

The point here is that ‘media violence’ is old hat. Games are often violent but this no longer occupies the spot light about moral and media panics. Even the psychologists have subsumed games into broader claims about screen time and the Internet more broadly. We know the primary socialisation of children is NOT from video games at all, and correspondingly, mediated violence in games is generally seen as peripheral, and less worrying that that which is seen on the TV or in movies.

So why are gamers still hung up on it? Well, one reason might be that games have moved past ‘action’ games and are exploring deeper narrative based games, where the story (including animation, sound, dialogue, script, acting etc.,) is of increasing importance culturally. Games like The Last of Us and Mass Effect have had such an impact that the game must not have a greater variety of pace, experiences and storylines — not just better mechanics, talent trees and guns. It’s one reason people are showing so much interest in game-design and game-experiences right now — because they are demanding games move even further into cinematic, interactive storytelling.

Anyway, go check out The Brainy Gamer — always find myself thinking about what get’s posted there.