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Author Topic: Violence in Gaming  (Read 4259 times)
Nathan
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« on: September 14, 2001, 09:23:00 AM »

Violence has always been with us, and this week, it is especially in the thoughts of everyone across the world.

With the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, still fresh on our mind, let us take a moment to look at our hobby once more. Is there too much violence in gaming? Does the violence sensitize us when real tragedies occur? How has (if at all) our gaming experience shaped our view of violence, war, and combat?

The obvious answers to the questions may spring up immediately in your mind -- don't respond with those. Let this question sit with you for a moment -- has gaming sensitized or desensitized violence in your mind? Is gaming, however small, part of the problem?

I want to engage in some good discussion on this, so please feel free to share your stories, thoughts, and questions.

Thanks,
Nathan
http://www.mysticages.com/
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2001, 11:55:00 AM »

Well, after mulling this over quite a bit, I've decided that this is really going to be a personal issue. And the continuing debate over whether art reflects society or informs it will not be settled here likely.

From what I understand, there is some preliminary research (of what validity I am uncertain) that links the playing of RPGs with sane and stable development in adolescents. More on this subject can be found with organizations on the net and elsewhere that are involved in debunking particular theories about how RPGs may be harmful to those participating and other advocacy. Having experienced some small amount of violence in my life on occasion, I can say that the violence in the games that I've played have had no ability to inure me to violence. It still shocks me tremendously. Nor do I think that I've ever been incited to violence by anything remotely game related.

Then there is the theory that simulated violence is cathartic, and as such stops real violence. I don't know that I agree with this theory, but it may have as much validity as the informing theory. Who's to say? Neither seem to have much in the way of valid science behind them.

On top of all this, I can say that my games often have anit-violence themes. And I suspect that I am not alone in this. Unknown Armies is an interesting game in this regard, as it is almost a discussion of what happens to people when violence occurs. I think that games have a powerful potential to stop violence if applied in that direction.

So, am I worried about games contributing to violence. No. There may be other odd effects of gaming, but on the whole I'd guess that gaming is actually of benefit to those who participate and the community. Do I plan to show my son how to game when he's old enough? You bet. I believe that I am a better person for it. If you believe that your game is too violent, then change it. It's not hard.

If we want to do something positive in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, other than donating time, money, or blood, I think the next best thing that we can all do is get back to life as normal so that we can maintain a strong economy and prevent this from being any more painful to folks than it already is. Might it be a little scary to do so? Sure. Should that stop us? No. If it does then the terrorists have truly won. While not of great importance that we get back to gaming, it couldn't hurt, either.

Just my $.02

Mike Holmes
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Ryan
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2001, 12:22:00 PM »

I don't think that violence in gaming really sensitizes or desensitize anyone to violence in real life.  Yes, there is violence in gaming, I think that we're so far removed from the real thing that it doesn't really affect us.  I mean, there's a huge difference from rolling a D20 to shooting someone.

And as for this stable growth thing, I don't know about that.  I never saw a study one way or the other on that.  But I do know that gaming keeps kids off the street where they can do damage, instead keeping them in their house having (sometimes) intelligent conversation with his/her gaming pals.  In affect, gaming makes the gamers less likely to be the cause or victims of violence.

Remember, you asked. :smile:

-Ryan
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2001, 10:21:00 AM »

Stupid people will always find a way to take anything and screw it up.  Violence in games isn't the problem, I doubt we have too many gamers, battle ready with sleek bodies developed through hours of rolling dice, and eating the high protein nutrients of soda, pizza, and cheetos, running around destabilizing society.  
 
Violence in games is fun, just like action movies, Jackie Chan, sports, and knocking down buildings made of wood blocks.  We take satisfaction in  creating, but we also seek release in destruction.  We enjoy the fantasy power trip, its how men are.  And as long as we keep it in a world in our head, we don't have to run out buying supercars, carving our bodies into inhuman shapes, or trying to bully people around us, or our family to satisfy this dark side.

Violence isn't the only things games are good for, but I'm sure most male gamers played cops and robbers, army, or something similar, but never house.

We're still playing the same games.
Theres just less scraped knees now.

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Nathan
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2001, 08:14:00 AM »

Sorry it took me so long to jump in here.

I remember that Martin Luther King Jr said that violence was only an endless downward spiral. Looking at the world, I agree... One person punches someone, that someone punches him back, and things only repeat themselves with more brutality during each cycle. The only way to break that cycle is not punch back, but of course, society tells us that is a weak and unsafe response.

Of all my many games, I've never had one where a character that was a pacifist was anything but an annoyance. In Deadlands for example, you can take the Pacifist hindrance. Hardly anyone ever takes it. Deadlands is a combat-oriented game -- why take on an edge that makes it harder for you to put bullets in baddies? In D&D, why use a shortsword? It has much less damage. Perhaps the only advantage over a longsword, is of course, weight. How many D&D players worry about their character's weight though?

There is only one game which I know that does not "reward" violence, and that is Call of Cthulhu. Maybe that is why CoC is so unique  though, and maybe why many gamers never can really get it....

My point, to add to this discussion, RPGs reward violence.

That much is true.

Does rewarding violence effect us in life? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

So do I have any other point? I don't know. Maybe we should take an effort to reward alternate decisions to end conflict. Maybe we should include more anti-violence themes.  Maybe when characters clear out that dungeon and wipe out the goblin tribe, other goblin tribes in the area should prep for war and attack a human outpost in return? But if we include violence as a staple of our adventures, are we not contributing to the spiral? Are the players only going to respond with violence?

Ahhh... so many questions...

Thanks,
Nathan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2001, 08:41:00 AM »

Nathan wrote,

"My point, to add to this discussion, RPGs reward violence.
That much is true."

I am afraid that I see no evidence for your observation of "truth" in this statement.

In the essay/game "Power Kill," John Tynes presents the idea that most role-playing glorifies and encourages vicarious sociopathic behavior - looting, killing, victimizing, and so on. I agree with him (regarding MOST role-playing games). Another Hogshead game, Violence, satirizes the phenomenon, and although I think it represents an especially mean-spirited form of satire, it is generally on-target. However, these authors are referring specifically to VICARIOUS, IMAGINED violence, and its reprehensible qualities as a form of entertainment, compared with other forms of entertainment. They are not referring to ACTUAL violence in the slightest.

I cannot see how role-playing rewards ACTUAL violence. At this time, we have NO evidence that indulging in the imagined violence in role-playing leads to the increased potential of actual violence. (Similarly, we have no evidence that it decreases such a potential; I am NOT making the counter-claim.)

I suggest that you are drawing a link between imagined violence in role-playing and actual violence, of any kind, among persons - and I do not see such a link, in any way.

Best,
Ron
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Nathan
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2001, 08:56:00 AM »

Hi Ron,

You are right. RPGs reward imagined violence. I should have made that distinction.

Of course, we have to fall back then to the definition of violence. Ron, what do you consider violence? Is violence simply one person causing physical harm to another? Or does violence also extend to emotional harm? If someone shouts obscenities at me from across a road, is that also violence? If someone threatens to kill me if I don't hand over my homework, is that violence?

Can someone be violent to themselves?

I know this gets into semantics. I am only good at raising questions -- I don't always succeed at backing them up.

I have some more thoughts on this, but I will stew on them for a bit longer.

Thanks,
Nathan
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Serving imagination since '99
Eldritch Ass Kicking:
http://www.eldritchasskicking.com/
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2001, 01:33:00 PM »

Sure there is such a thing as emotional violence. But nobody does that in actuality in RPGs either. In fact, most people killing or being killed are having fun doing it, not being harmed emotionally.

Mike
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Ryan
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2001, 06:07:00 AM »

I'm going to have to disagree with that one, Mike.  There are games out there that specifically mess with the mind.  Sometimes it's just a simple game mechanic, other times it's actually a role playing issue.

Examples of each: Call of Cthulhu is a stat game.  I very rarely play the insanity stat, and I don't think I've ever seen it getting played.  Unknown Armies is the same way, only to a lesser extent.

Little Fears, however, is very role playing oriented.  The game is so light on mechanics it has to be.  I like games that way.  Yes, there is the innocence stat, but playing the child, I'd find it hard not to play the innocence attribute.

Well, that's my nickel's worth.

-Ryan
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2001, 08:58:00 AM »

Ryan,

But that's like saying that people are messed up by horror films. If so, it's their own fault. After seeing one you should know not to watch. If certain games mess you us emotionally, stop playing, or better yet, use your head, check it out before hand and don't play at all. It is not the fault of the designer that players who might be sensitive to the material are dumb enough to continue playing.

And how often does this really occur? How many people do you actually know who have been hurt by playing RPGs due to the system (unfair to point to cases where players were trying to mess another player up; unless the game promotes that somehow)? And if you did know somebody who seemed to get messed up from an RPG are you sure they weren't just messed up before hand and it came out in the RPG? I can't name a single person who was ever hurt by playing an RPG in any way, much less by the system as written.

Mike
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Ryan
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« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2001, 10:22:00 AM »

I guess I should have clarified myself a little better.  In Little Fears, if you run it to its full horror potential, you can accidentally bring up past childhood horrors.  If you don't know the childhood of the entire group, you may hit a soft spot when a character is physically abused by his/her parents.  

I run what I call "tactless horror."  What this means to me is that I don't pull punches.  If I know about a player's past, I may try to avoid situations in game, like the abuse thing.  I'm not sure if a player is completely at peace with it.

But for the most part, you are correct.  Most players can seperate the game from reality.  I am blessed with a very stable minded group.  Me being the nuttiest one there.  If you read the Rants, you know what I'm talking about (see: Toe Lint)

That's all for now.
-Ryan
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